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30. Avoidance

The next day and a half was practically unbearable. Hawke made it a point to steer clear of Patrick and I since his return for obvious reasons. It’s physically painful not seeing him around and I’m incessantly wondering what he’s thinking or what he’s doing. After the two nights we spent together, he’s seemingly forgotten about me, or is actively trying to. He’s been completely absent and it pains me in a way I’ve never known.

Patrick kicked his shoes off, getting comfortable on the couch, finally finding the time to spend with me after needing to go back into the office again today to finish reports from the trip.

I’ve tried talking to him since his return, tried explaining that things are off between us and not headed in a good direction, but it’s like every time I open that door, he willingly shuts it, stating that now is the wrong time to talk about it. There’s never a good time.

“Come over here, angel. I missed your smile this morning.” He pats the space next to him on the couch with a big grin. “We’ve got lots of Survivor to catch up on.”

I swallow, licking my lips while looking down at the floor, before getting up and sitting closer to him, the guilt still radiating off of me.

“Listen, Patrick...I’d really like to talk to you about something,” I start with a shaky voice.

I’m twisting my sweatshirt in my sweaty fingers, clearing the throat that feels full of nothing but sand.

He turns his head, looking at me with furrowed brows seemingly figuring out what I’m doing. “Nic, please, don’t start. I literally just got home for the day. I want to relax, hang with you, not need to think about any type of drama. I’m exhausted.”

“It’s not drama, Pat, it’s legitimate concerns that I’m trying to voice to you but you won’t listen to me.”

“What concerns could you possibly have. You are living the dream. I work hard for us so you can sit here and go after your dream of writing and bartending. You don’t have to worry about anything. I literally pay all the bills. Hell, you can’t even afford to be without me at the moment.”

I close my eyes, sitting there with what I knew was going to be a mountain before me to climb. I take in a large breath, attempting to do this again when he startles me.

“Look! I told you Colby wouldn’t make it!” he laughs, patting my thigh, watching the TV, clearly disregarding my entire message.

God, he just isn’t getting it.

“Patrick, please, we really need to—”

“Nic, c’mon, not now.” He brushes me off again, kicking his legs onto the table before him. “Whatever it is can wait, let’s just enjoy this. Here, this one’s for you.”

He hands me another donut he grabbed for us on his way home from the office, popping one into his mouth for a bite, eyes still on the screen. I set the donut down on the table and sink back into the couch, crossing my arms across my chest and sighing loudly.

“Also, I was talking to my dad and he mentioned that they’re hosting a family brunch on Thursday and want us to attend. I told him we’d be there.” He smiles as my stomach clenches.

I can’t be at this family event with him. Not when I don’t even know what I feel for him anymore. His family is literally the worst, most powerful, influential family in this small town. Not being there is going to insinuate something bad, yet being there is going to be physically painful.

“I told Sean you would make your famous cheesy potatoes. He’s been begging to try them after I told him how phenomenal they were.” He pulls me into the side of him.

I offer a light smile in the moment, even though Sean is literally the last person I’d want enjoying my potatoes. I stare aimlessly into the TV, feeling such a sense of entrapment in every way possible.

I’m not sure if it’s from the overwhelming amount of stress that I’ve been internalizing or the sleepless nights I spent with Hawke, but before I know it, I’m dozing off on the couch. I fall into a deep sleep on the other end of it, while Patrick continues watching Survivor.

I wake to soft voices and humming around me, before I even open my eyes, still in a haze.

“Yeah, think we’ll order in. She’s cooking for my family tomorrow so I’m sure she won’t want to tonight.”

“Tomorrow? What’s tomorrow?”

“Family brunch.”


“You heading out?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess I am.”

“Alright, later.”

I hear the door slam, causing me to sit up and fully wake up.

“What was that?” I ask, rubbing my eyes, finding myself on Patrick’s lap, his arm resting over me, his hand rubbing circles on my ass.

He must’ve put my head on this pillow on his lap after I fell asleep next to him.

“Hawke, he came back a bit ago, just left with Kid.”

My heart drops into my stomach when I realize he saw me here, in this position with Patrick. His words still in my head, I replay their conversation. He told Hawke I was making food for his family tomorrow at the brunch. My heart is aching at the thought. I need to tell him it’s not what he might think it is, because at the moment, it looks like we’ve made up and all is well again. But that’s far from the truth. The truth is Patrick is denying me the ability to even talk to him by actively avoiding my concerns.

“Where did they go?” I ask abruptly.

“What? Why? Who cares, probably the cabin to do whatever foolish shit they do there.” He scoffs, distorting his face while he shakes his head.

I glare at him, then get up and head towards the shower.

“Where are you going, babe?” he asks to my back.

“Work,” I reply simply.

He sits up, throwing an arm around the back of the couch, turning to face me. “I thought you didn’t work tonight? I was hoping we could spend some alone time together.”

The way he says it, I know what he’s insinuating. We haven’t done anything physical since his return. I didn’t even sleep in the same bed with him last night. I told him I fell asleep on the couch after getting caught up in some new show. Truth was, I was waiting up until Hawke’s return. A return that never came.

“I do work tonight. I switched a day with John last week, not that you would know or remember.” I snap at him, then immediately feel guilty.

Obviously, he wouldn’t be able to know my schedule or remember, he’s been on the road. But this aggression and pent up anger are coming out in unplanned ways.

“Don’t get snarky with me,” he says sadly. “I don’t even know why you still have this job. It’s a little beneath you, Nic. It’s not even necessary.”

Once I get to the bathroom, I slam the door at the comment. It’s supposed to be a compliment, I get that. But the idea that being a bartender to him is beneath his status and his assumption of mine, makes me want to bartend the rest of my life just in spite of him.

I think about people like John, needing to do this to make more money for his growing family while going to school, and am saddened by the carelessness in his response. Patrick just doesn’t get that, he’s never been in a position where taking a job like that was a necessity. I take a deep breath, stabilizing my shaking hands on both sides of the counter. I’m about to implode. I feel it coming.

I eagerly get ready to leave the house without another word to Patrick, who’s since fallen asleep on the couch during my shower. Clearly our little squabble hasn’t bothered him enough to withhold a nap.

I stand there above him, watching him sleep. I hate that I can’t just be an awful person to him. I hate that I can’t stand up to him the way I want to. I hate that he’s right. I can’t afford to be on my own if I wanted. The money from the little dive bar truly isn’t that much and the editing gig was more of a shoe in for attempting to build my own career in writing one day. Becoming so dependent on Patrick since this move hasn’t helped me at all in this situation. I’d need to move back home, but the thought of leaving Hawke distresses me even more.

I swallow down my tears, knowing what I’ve done on the exact spot beneath him with Hawke. I rake my hands down my face, feeling the weight of how messed up my life and situation is at this moment.

Arriving a bit earlier than I’d normally be there on a Wednesday night, I walk into 9-5 Slide to a mild crowd, ready to take over the rest of the shift for John.

He’s hosting a little dinner for his girlfriend and her friends so it was the least I could do to pick up the rest of his hours, especially after covering for me for the concert.

“Hey John.” I huff, dropping my bags on the bar, tipping my head and giving him a weak smile.

“Oh no,” he says, immediately surveying my mood. “What happened?”

I sigh, then pick myself up, bringing my stuff behind the bar. “Just drama, and lots of it.”

I don’t exactly want to divulge in the situation. I’d hate John to think of me as low as I think of myself.

“Spill it. Let it all out. I’m here to listen,” he says, leaning against the bar with his forearm, crossing his legs at the bottom, getting comfortable.

I shake my head, looking at the row of bottles on the wall adjacent to him. “I can’t.”

His brows lower as he studies me, before standing and moving in closer. “Is everything okay, Nic? You’re kind of scaring me. You’re not in some sort of trouble are you?”

“No, nothing like that. I just...I just have things I need to figure out,” I say, biting my bottom lip.

“Are you thinking of breaking up with Patrick?” he asks softly.

I wince slightly at the mention of it.

“You are,” he says knowing. “And you’re scared of how it will all go down.”

I look up at him, my eyes telling him the answer he’s looking for.

“Aw, Nic,” he says, pulling me into his side for a hug. “That’s tough. Especially knowing that family. I’m not even originally from here but I know the kind of power they seem to have over this little, Podunk town.”

“Yeah,” I sigh, licking my lips.

“It’ll be alright. I’m always a phone call away. Shit, if you need a place to crash, let me know. Anna would love it if you’d come over and hang out with her,” he says with a kind smile.

“Thanks, John, I seriously appreciate it. But you get outta here! Go have fun tonight.” I urge him out of the door with a forced grin.

“One day at a time, girl. You got this,” he winks, grabbing his stuff. “You gonna be alright?”

“Yeah,” I nod confidently.

“That’s my girl!” He high fives me, making me giggle and roll my eyes. “I’ll catch ya later. Call if you need anything!”

I think of that as an idea. Maybe I could crash with them until I found something more stable? The thought of asking to move in with them seems a bit intrusive, especially since they are about to have a baby. Who wants a new roommate while welcoming your first child? He’s just too nice. John finally heads home for the night as I begin my shift. I help a few customers, do a lot of cleaning, and anxiously await who may or may not come through those doors.

I’m constantly looking towards the front door every time I hear it creak open. I can’t help but to hope Hawke comes in here tonight. The bar is a place I know I can count on for conversations with him without the guilt or worry of getting caught.

A few, boring hours later, the door opens and I see Kid walk in. Immediately, my stomach gets the nervous butterflies, looking for a certain man to follow him in. A few more of their guys come in and take their normal seat at the table near the back.

I wait, hoping he’s outside smoking, when Kid approaches the bar.

“What’s up lady?!” he says excitedly, running his hand through his wild, discheleved blonde spikes.

“Nothin’ much. What can I get ya?”

“Besides a chance, I’ll take a Jack on the rocks.” He smirks waiting for me to catch on.

I roll my eyes at his forever attempts to flirt with me before turning to get his drink.

“Where’s your buddy?” I ask, needing to know where Hawke is.

“Which one? Hawke?” he asks, as if I would actually want to know where any of his other friends are, I don’t even know them.

“Yes, Hawke, where is he?”

He props his elbow on the bar, cocking his head to the side with a mischievous grin. “Why do you wanna know?”

“Oh, please, stop. He’s my roommate. And he’s always hanging around with your ass for some reason. Why not tonight?”

I’m starting to get frustrated now. Where the hell could he be? He doesn’t have a car and Kid is here. I’m really getting worried about him, especially after knowing what he saw on the couch today and the fact that he never came home last night.

“He’s at the cabin. Or was, last I saw.”

My first thought is he’s there with Marion, doing things to forget me. The thought literally driving me insane.

“Oh,” I comment, trying to remain cool. “There a party tonight?”

I’m fishing for information, just hoping he gives me something to work with.

“Nah,” he responds blandly.

Thanks for the help, Kid, really appreciated it.

“Ooh, a date?” I smile acting like I’m excited about it.

He looks at me curiously with a weird, mysterious kind of grin on his face. I feel for a moment that he knows I’m acting and the need to swallow has never been more apparent.

“Nah, nothing like that.” He shakes his head. “But there are a few people out there. He’s probably on his way to drinking himself into a coma.”

“What?” I question abruptly, feeling a level of anxiety throughout my body.

“Yeah, I don’t know, he’s acting all weird and wired out." He chuckles, clearly not seeing this as the serious situation that it is. "He picked up a bottle of Henny to head to the cabin, then as soon as we got there, told me to run here to meet Toad.”

Goddammit. He can’t afford to get in this kind of trouble.

“Guess he’s finally letting loose again, ready to party with your boy! So, here I am, with you, and Toad.” He nods his head towards the guy I’ve come to know as Toad on the other end of the bar, the dealer.

“Ah, I see.” I nod, acting as nonchalant as possible, then try to change the subject to distract him. “Well, you guys want a round of shots? On me.”

“Ooooh, girl, you always know the way to my heart,” he says, grabbing his chest.

I grab a round of shots, walking alongside him while I take them back to their table, trying not to worry about Hawke.

“You know, if you ever dump that bible humper, I really think we’d hit it off,” Kid comments as we walk.

I take the opportunity to playfully smack him in the back of the head.

“Damn girl! See!? I like that shit though...”

“Enjoy,” I tell the table, setting the shots down in front of them, then retreat back to my place behind the bar.

I count the last hour of work by the second, until it’s finally time for me to close up. I can’t stand not knowing what they are doing. Kid and the other guys left shortly after meeting up with Toad and I can only imagine what kind of trouble they are all getting into back at the cabin. I get into my car and immediately make my way there.

I have to talk to him. I need to see him.

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