After

30 - Jessica

Okay. Okay, I am officially moving.

I don't care about how desirable this apartment is, I don't care about how much money I spent on the contents. I am not letting whatever happened to Matt get any closer to me.

"Jess," Matt looks frazzled, hissing as he rubs his forehead where he'd hit it on the floorboards. "What are you doing?"

"Leaving," I state bluntly, already having grabbed a duffel bag and stuffing it with as many clothes and personal items as I can grab a hold of.

From what I catch of Matt's face as I hurry past him, bewilderment is twitching his features, his bruise shifting as he scrunches up his eyes. "What?" he asks sharply, that single word encapsulating his disorientation and confusion into a tight, four letters. It looks like, for a moment, that his skull is too heavy for the rest of his body, like he's going to topple over himself.

I snap. My body spins around to face him. "Whatever joke this is!" I spit, panic shooting up my spine into my skull, my knuckles white from gripping the duffel bag's hand in my hand, my nails almost bursting my skin. "It's not funny!"

But just as I push past him, his body still rooted between the living room and the hallway, to hurry into the bedroom, Matt reaches out to clasp my wrist.

I freeze, glancing in shock at his hand on my skin – almost like he's betraying me by even trying to stop me – but it isn't his grip that stops me. Last night, I'm sure that if he had tried to grab me, even slurringly drunk, his fingers would have bit into my skin, cutting off circulation. The hand that he holds me now is flutteringly soft, afraid to even hurt me. It is like a bird, wing broken, feathers shivering against my skin.

So different. He's so different.

And all it took was to forget that Emily was dead.

"Tell me," he mutters, his voice husky. Matt's eyes are black as mine travel up his arm to his face. His features are sharp, but there's a softness about them. An understanding, a pleading. His anger has dissipated with his memories.

An odd calmness swells over me, my fingers relaxing and uncoiling, dropping the half full duffel bag with a thump. My heart stops rattling inside my ribs, settling there, like amongst pillows.

For the first time, I really see Matt. His fungus of a bruise can't cover the kindness in his eyes, the compassion seeped into his dark skin, the genuine worry in the black pools of his eyes. And, for once, I don't want to break that.

"Thank you," I whisper, gently resting my hand, despite myself, against the one he holds against my wrist. His skin is warm. It travels down from my fingertips, through my arm, down into my torso, fluttering in my stomach. His eyebrows fold in bewilderment, like he feels it too. For a moment, I think I can see him hold his breath, swallowing, stiffening.

He yanks his hand back. Like an electric shock. His gaze jerks away, a hand scratching at the back of his neck just to do something. And I harden in response, stepping back. Emily. Of course, always Emily. Whether she's dead or alive, she's messing with both of our minds.

Matt thinks he's betraying his girlfriend by being here with me, by touching me, by being even ten feet away from me. And the sound of Emily's voice out of his mouth that was threatening me to stay away from him ricochets inside my skull like a tennis ball, a sharp tinny shrill in my ears.

As soon as Matt had woken up after collapsing on the floor, he didn't remember any of what had happened. He hadn't even been aware that Emily's voice had been manipulating his.

Yet even I don't know if I believe that even happened. If it really was Emily possessing him. It sounds ridiculous, like some stupid horror film. I keep hearing her voice, haunting me. Yet the energy in the apartment has lifted, like a weight has been pulled away. It is eerily quiet. Right now, if I'd been on a stage for one of my gigs, I'd be stating that these kind of things are just our nightmares and fears manifesting themselves. And we have to fight them to move forward.

But I never believed rubbish like that. It doesn't work. No matter how many times I tell myself something like that, those things were still real. They almost killed me.

And someone like Greg will never believe it.

It is only people like Matt who will. The same people who went through it with me.

The people I have abandoned.

Guilt hits me in the stomach. I stumble back, regret creasing my forehead, my eyes falling, my hand covering my face. They did everything for me. Mike ran after me, throwing all preconceptions out of the window. And he came to my rescue.

And he helped me afterwards, paying for rehab, insisting on my recovery.

And what had I done?

Turned my back on him. On them.

I shake my head, blonde strands of hair falling over my eyes. I don't even care anymore. I'm a mess, okay? This is how I am. And I hate pretending I'm not. I hate being shot at from all angles, bashed against, because people think I can take it. Because they think I have it all together. Because I had no one else who knew what it was like.

My eyes glance up through blonde strands of hair at Matt who is clutching his head, frustration tugging at his features. He's fighting with himself and his memories.

He doesn't need to know. He doesn't need to learn that he is the reason I'm still alive. At least I was able to say it, at least once. When it most mattered, when I really meant it; thank you.

My cellphone buzzes in my pocket. With an energy-less sigh, tired of fighting my own fight, I pull it out of my pocket. Greg.

I don't even have to say anything as I bring the phone up to my pocket. "Okay," Greg argues, laying out his points for me. "There's a talk show that want you on. I won't fire you if you come to the studio now. They want to discuss this freaking case."

I shrug, accepting setting in. Better late than never.


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