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Loneliness and Reconciliation (Short Story; Complete)

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Chapter 3

“Actually, yes,” Seth replied. “That was fucking terrifying.”

“But, worth it?” Tristana suggested as she slowly twirled herself away from him. The band had stopped playing, the audience was clapping enthusiastically, and the multi-colored dance floor lights highlighted beads of sweat on Tristana’s face, neck, and arms so that her body glowed radiantly. Only once she had moved away from him did Seth realize that the mixture of her perfume and natural scent smelled of summer flowers.

“Completely,” he replied, dumbfounded.

Tristana smiled beatifically and laced her hands around Seth’s neck. Even though the song that had just started was quicker than a slow dance was appropriate for, the intimacy of the moment made it feel completely natural.

“So…” Tristana began. “What do you do in your spare time, Seth?”

Seth was having a hard time keeping his blood above the equator. “I... uh… like to… walk?”

Tristana giggled wholeheartedly. “A real nature boy. I like it. Do you ever go to the mountains?”

“I’ve never really been… Never had anyone to go with, and I was afraid I would die out in the wilderness by myself.” Maybe I should have done that instead of jumping in the river. Then I would have never met Damon… but I wouldn’t be here either.

“Are you ok?” Tristana asked. “You got distant all of a sudden.”

“Yeah… I…,” Seth shook the darkness out of his head. “Things have been pretty hard lately. I’ve had a hard time just finding reasons to… stay alive. N-not that being here isn’t one, believe me… It’s just that I… I guess I had given up.”

“It’s hard not to,” Tristana agreed. “There’s so much in the world that is painful. And it can be hard to trust in anything good again,” she added as she tucked her head under his chin. She was short enough that even though Seth was of average height, she fit comfortably in his embrace. “Like this. To tell you the truth, it’s been a while for me too. I was in a relationship for years. And then he just left, without a word. He didn’t even take all of his stuff. And it messed with me for the longest time. Felt like I wasn’t even good enough to say goodbye to, or to be given an explanation. But we are more than what others think of us. Infinitely more, if we let ourselves be.”

Seth didn’t exactly know what she meant by that, but he was just grateful to be in contact with her, to hold and dance with such a delicate, strong, vulnerable, and resilient creature that wanted nothing more to love and be loved.

Just like me.

Several songs came and went. People hooted, cheered, drank, sang, and cavorted around the two of them, and Seth barely noticed. The two of them had found their own rhythm to a gentle melody they made together in the slow cadence of their steps and the gentle way they held one another with care and affection. The darkness that had once strangled Seth’s emotions and drowned his hopes slowly relaxed its grip in the quiet tranquility of their dance.


Seth suddenly remembered that they hadn’t come here alone. “Hey, shouldn’t we go find Damon and your friends?”

“Hmm?” Tristana mumbled hazily. “Oh. Yeah, I guess.”

There weren’t many people left on the dance floor, so they returned to their table easily to find Damon, Sara, and Alanna were no longer there.

“Of course, he’s gone,” Seth muttered to himself. Not that I blame him… There was money underneath a glass next to a receipt. Seth checked, and it was more than enough to cover the tip.

“Hey,” Tristana said. “Do you wanna go for a walk?”

“Now? Uh, sure…”

As they walked out of the bar, Tristana took Seth’s hand and pulled him in the direction of the river, which they walked alongside for several minutes in silence. Crickets and night owls sang their own chorus. Compared to the boisterous music they had been dancing to, it was pleasantly haunting.

“Tell me about yourself,” Tristana said after a while.

“What do you want to know?” Seth asked as he stared up at the moon.

“What was your childhood like? What dreams do you have? What keeps you up at night?”

“Well, I grew up a-” Seth almost said ‘single child’, but caught himself, “... loner. My parents divorced when I was young, and I didn’t know how to cope with it. I kind of lost my ability to trust people. I just didn’t want to be hurt anymore. But isolation pretty much sums up my childhood.”

Tristana sighed. “Yeah, same here. I mean, my parents are still together but… they aren’t exactly the warmest people. Didn’t really impart a lot of social skills onto me, and I basically grew up with my nose in books.”

“Hell, better than I did. I just spent my days playing video games by myself. Wait, how long have you known Alanna and Sara?”

Tristana suddenly tensed like a startled deer. “Oh, uh, a while. It’s hard to tell really. What about Damon? He’s your brother right? You guys seem really close.”

Too close,” Seth chuckled, dismissing Tristana’s odd behavior as having had too much to drink. “You could say he’s been in my head all my life.”

“That’s sweet,” Tristana sighed, twining her fingers around Seth’s. They shared an awkward smile, and Seth squeezed her hand a little tighter. “It’s cool to have someone who knows you inside and out.”

“Huh, You have no idea.”

“So… if you don’t mind my asking,” Tristana said carefully, “why were you so afraid to dance with me?”

A part of Seth knew that some form of that question would be coming, and he didn’t want to sound self-pitying and pathetic. But anything I say other than the truth will sound disingenuous. Fuck it, this is the first time I have talked with a girl in literally years. Might as well go all in. “The one girlfriend I had. She… kinda tore my heart out. Made me feel inadequate… worthless. Like discarded trash.”

“What a bitch,” Tristana remarked.

“Yeah, you could say that. But it’s hard for me to feel like it’s not true. Seems like every guy I see has something to offer, and I don’t. I don’t have a job, I’m not good looking, not good in bed…”

“And I take it you’re not well-endowed, either?” Tristana teased.

Although Seth knew that the joke had been well-intentioned, it hurt. “No,” he said tersely, letting go of her hand and stepping away to create some distance between them as they walked. “Thanks for reminding me.”

“...I’m sorry, that was cruel of me,” Tristana said, staring at the murmuring river running beside them. “I just wanted you to not take yourself so seriously.”

“Yeah, well when you’ve been alone for seven fucking years, it’s a little hard to not be pissed off about it,” Seth said through gritted teeth.

“But, you’re not alone now,” Tristana said, taking a step closer to Seth. “We were-,” then, her face twisted. She sighed in exasperation, folded her arms and continued walking ahead of Seth. “Forget it.”

They had been approaching a bridge lit by a street lamp, illuminating a few passersby on foot or in cars returning home from their nighttime entertainment.

They walked in silence until they were directly beneath the light, and before Seth could apologize for lashing out, Tristana said, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Thanks for the dance, but I’m gonna head home.”

Seth was once again torn between his pride and the emptiness in his chest that wanted to beg and plead for her to stay. But he knew that would just be as pathetic as his self-pitying. “Alright,” he said finally. “Do you want me to walk you home?”

“No thanks, I’ll catch a Lyft.”

The awkward pause that followed made the pain in Seth’s chest even more poignant, but he knew the night was beyond the point of repair. “I’m… I’m glad I got to meet you,” he said, extending his hand.

Tristana nodded and politely shook his hand before walking in the direction opposite his home, taking her phone out to queue a ride.

Seth watched her go and felt her take the soft glow of happiness that had been radiating within him for a short time. He knew it was his fault for taking what she said so personally, but it had hit him right where it hurt most.

She wouldn’t have wanted to be with me anyways, Seth reasoned. Even if it had gone further, she would have just been disappointed and left me in the end. Guess it’s better to avoid all the heartache. With that, Seth ignored his heartstrings pulling him in Tristana’s direction and forced himself to turn and start walking home, the gurgling of the river a now painful reminder of what he had pushed away, and a temptation to avoid future heartache altogether.


Seth was sitting on the sofa, playing a videogame with melancholy while chugging the last of a six-pack to wash down the sandwich he had eaten, both up at the gas station on the way home, when Damon burst into the living room.

“How the hell did you fuck that up?!” Damon demanded, his face contorted with rage.

“Shut up,” Seth replied morosely. “Neighbors are sleeping.”

“I don’t give a fuck,” Damon barked as he stormed over and ripped the controller from Seth’s hands. “You were right there. I could feel the connection you two made on the dance floor from across the room!”

Frustration and resentment finally got the better of Seth and he stood up and punched Damon in the face. Even though Seth had put all of his strength into the strike, he knew it had hurt his own hand more than Damon, but he didn’t care. As Damon turned back to regard Seth with cold eyes and a bloody lip, Seth growled, “I. Said. Shut. Up. You don’t have to worry about being vulnerable in front of women. You look at them the right way and they fall in love with you. You think I like being alone? You think I enjoy watching other people connect, have fun, and be intimate while I waste away alone in my head? I fucking hate my life, and I hate you for saving it and judging me for things I can’t control,” Seth finished, and then walked back to the sofa and dropped himself into his seat.

Damon didn’t move for a long time, but Seth refused to look at him. He could feel Damon’s icy stare, but he ignored it.

“You’re right,” Damon said. “I have a lot easier time making women want me. But that’s it. You want to know why I want you to have a life so badly? To learn to love? Because I can’t. I can’t connect with someone like you humans can. I can’t find the exquisite pain and joy and vulnerability of intimacy because I am what you made me to be: a sex-machine. Not a being with depth, personality, and the capacity to love, but just a fuck toy. That’s all I can ever see women as. That’s all you imagine sex and intimacy to be now. Just women flocking to whoever has the most money, the best looks, or the biggest dick. You’ve completely lost sight of the connection that gives sex meaning, that makes all the pain and frustration worth it just to look into the eyes of the one you love. I will never have that. And neither will you if you don’t get yourself together.”

“Fuck off,” Seth replied coldly. “I’m done with you.”

“... Is that really what you want?” Damon asked.

“Oh, now you fucking care what I think?” Seth laughed. “Get the fuck out of my sight.” Seth didn’t hear anything for several minutes afterward, not even the door opening, but when he turned to look, Damon was gone.


The next two days passed without Seth moving from his couch. He didn’t have the television on. He just stared at the textured drywall ceiling, forcing himself not to care about anything, not to think about Tristana, Damon, or the life he was giving up on. Day and night passed in front of his eyes, light and shadow played across the bumps and patterns in the ceiling, making an ever-changing tapestry out of the plain white molding. Eventually, Seth rose, ignoring the painful gurgling in his stomach and the painful dryness in his lungs and opened the door. As he started making his way across town, he realized he didn’t remember if he had closed the door behind him. And also that he didn’t care. Slowly, he made his way back to the bridge he had first tried to take his life at. The journey took longer than expected, but it was the one thing Seth allowed himself to want.

Ironic that all my life energy is being directed to ending it all, Seth thought grimly to himself as he watched the rushing water below. It was the middle of the day, but there were no cars on the road. Seth remembered vaguely that it was Monday, and that most everyone would be at work.

Everyone’s going about their lives as if there’s something that matters, that makes this all worth it. All this misery. All for nothing. As Seth moved to pull himself onto the parapet, he felt the small part of him that wanted to live. It was weaker than before, more gentle, more pleading, and try as he might, he couldn’t bury it beneath anymore, could no longer ignore the pain he had been hiding beneath his callous attitude, to himself and to the world. Of their own accord, his shoulders shook as he began to sob, and then he collapsed onto the concrete, and leaned against the parapet, unable to stop his cries from escaping him uncontrollably.

A part of him was grateful no one passed by as he wept. A part of him desperately wanted someone, anyone to come and tell him everything was ok. The rest of him was so tired he couldn’t pretend that he wanted anything else but for someone to hold him, for Tristana to come back and give him one more chance, to embrace him as they had on the dance floor, just holding one another.

I’m such a fuck-up. I… she… who am I kidding. I’m not worth her time. I don’t have a job-

Seth suddenly growled and smacked the back of his head against the concrete railing behind him. Pain shot through the back of his head. He groaned and touched the back of his head tenderly, but when he pulled his hand back, there was no blood.

I’m so sick of this bullshit I keep telling myself, Seth thought as he rubbed the back of his head. No wonder I hate myself.

Seth sighed and let himself settle back. The sun was almost directly overhead and the warmth, despite his dehydration, felt soothing. It touched the mass of pain he felt in his chest, and he flinched away.

But then, he let the warmth touch him.

Almost immediately, the pain shot through him like lightning and he curled into himself. But he also let the warmth in deeper. Slowly, the feeling of slithering agony writhing within him began to subside and the warmth slowly seeped into the cracks in Seth’s heart.

I want to feel good. I want to be good. But… how do I know if I’m worthy of it?

He opened his eyes and stared up at the sun, though he had to blink away almost immediately.

Heh. Maybe goodness is like the sun. You can’t stare at it directly, or it burns you. And yet… it shines on, just the same.

Then, Seth’s face went slack as he understood that he didn’t have to prove himself to let good into his life, just as the plants and animals didn’t have to prove themselves for the sun’s warmth. Seth had fallen to his current state because he chose to destroy himself, to make the pain lesser by obliterating himself in it. Everything he had done, from hiding his emotions from his parents, to letting bullies and April to walk all over him, to lashing out at Tristana, to trying to commit suicide had all been a way of running from that pain. The world swept him up and knocked him down even in his shell, and rather than standing in the face of it, instead of letting himself be naked and afraid and accepting the pain with the joy and mystery of life, he had chosen to believe his life had no meaning because he was worthless. It was a vicious cycle of him being hurt, shutting down, and hating himself because he made himself smaller and smaller until he was almost nothing.

He felt broken, and the pieces of his heart seemed to grind against one another like pieces of fractured glass. But as he felt the numinous glow of life flow through him, those pieces fell away. As he let go, the vibrant light of himself began to shine through the pieces stained by the colors of his experiences. He knew then he could make all of his pain beautiful, if he accepted it as a part of the tapestry of his life, which could have meaning again, if he let himself shine.

Seth laughed hysterically for a moment at the sheer ludicrousness of the thought. He had searched so long for meaning outside of himself, in pleasing his parents, philosophy, April, religion, self-destruction, and even, to some extent, Tristana. Now, he didn’t know what the meaning he had been so desperately searching for was anymore. But he felt it.

So… what do I choose? ...I choose this. I choose life.

“Pizza?” a cool voice asked him as a hand waved a greasy slice of cheesy goodness in front of him.

Seth looked up wearily to see Damon staring down at him with a compassionate smile on his face and a slice in each hand.

“The pizza in this town generally sucks,” Damon lamented. “But, as a wise person once said: pizza is like sex. Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.”

Rising on unsteady legs, Seth practically fell onto Damon as he gave him a hug.

“Woah, you almost made me drop the sexy pizza!” Demon exclaimed, but he returned the hug as best he could. When they separated, he asked. “Are you ready to try again? For real this time?”

“Yes,” Seth said with conviction.

“Good,” Damon said, handing him a slice. “Luckily, I got Tristana’s friends’ numbers.”

“That’s not really what I meant,” Seth said as he rested his hands against the parapet. Even though he felt radiant, his legs still threatened to buckle beneath him. “I’m… ready. For everything.” Seth didn’t realize until now he had been smiling, which made him smile even more.

“Fair enough,” Damon said as he hopped onto the ground. “Do you want to try again with Tristana? I wasn’t exaggerating when I said I felt your connection from across the room.”

“That doesn’t mean she wants to see me,” Seth replied, suddenly unsure of himself.

“There’s a certain magick in the world that can bring people together,” Damon said slyly as he handed Seth his slice. “If you let it.”


That night, Damon and Seth sat at the Sun Room’s bar again, in nearly the same spot Tristana and her friends had been sitting. Seth almost let himself be superstitious enough to interpret that slight misalignment as a bad omen, and almost asked the people sitting where Tristana had been to move, but thought better of it.

This depends on me, not where I’m sitting, he thought to himself. The stiff new shirt and slim leather jacket Damon had bought him felt suffocating in the hot summer air, compounding his anxiety. No words of wisdom occurred to him to give himself comfort. He had given up trying to think of what to say to Tristana, opting instead to gamble that he would know what to say in the moment.

“Don’t think about it too much,” Damon advised him as he sipped on a black russian, winking at the female bartender who had given him an overly generous portion. “You’ll know what to say when you see her.”

“Easy for you to say,” Seth chuckled as he pulled his collar and wiped the sweat from his forehead. “You don’t have to say anything, half the time. By the way, how did you convince… Never mind, I don’t want to know.”

“You really don’t,” Damon agreed grimly, taking a long pull from his drink as he pivoted in his seat toward the entrance. “Tristana’s friends are… well, terrifying is putting it mildly. Hey, speak of the devil.”

Alanna and Sara just then approached them, with Tristana close behind. All of them were wearing slim jeans and t-shirts, but Tristana was the only one with minimal makeup. As Tristana saw Seth and Damon, she frowned and turned to leave, but Sara and Alanna each grabbed one of her arms and pulled her back.

“Funny you should say that, Damon,” Alanna confided as she and Sara positioned Tristana in front of them. “ Since I think of the devil every time I think of you.”

“He’s a distant cousin,” Damon replied. “Sadly, he doesn’t get out much. Really strict dad.”

Alanna and Sara chuckled, but Tristana remained stoic, looking everywhere but at Seth.

“Tristana…,” Seth asked sheepishly, but then dove in fully into his words. “Would you like to dance?”

Tristana looked at him with indifference. “Not particularly.”

“How about-” Damon began, but everyone looked at him so pointedly, he shut up immediately.

Probably the first time that’s ever happened, Seth thought to himself. “Could we walk then? I… I would like to talk to you.”

Tristana looked vaguely annoyed. “Whatever you have to say-”

“Is best said in private,” Sara interrupted. “The river should be cool and relaxing I think,” she added, pushing Tristana toward the back gate she and Seth had walked through before. Seth rose from his seat, and for the first time, Tristana looked at him with naked dejection. Then, she began walking toward the gate, and Seth followed.

“Good luck,” Damon whispered. “I’ll hold down the fort.”

“You’re going to hold to your promise,” Alanna said as she and Sara approached Damon. “We have a long night ahead of us.”

“Certainly, ladies,” Damon agreed. “After we know our mission is completed,” he added, nodding for Seth to follow Tristana, who was almost out of the gate.

Seth jogged up behind Tristana just as she was about to leave, looking around as if to find an escape route. She looked at Seth for a brief moment before walking toward and then alongside the river, and Seth walked behind her. After a few moments, he pulled off his jacket, as not even the cool air around the river was making it tolerable, and almost dropped it his hands were shaking so badly. If Tristana noticed, she didn’t show it.

The awkwardness stretched into painful uncertainty before Seth said, “I’m sorry. And I’m sorry I can’t think of anything else to say. But I am. You gave me a chance, and I fucked it up.”

“Yup,” Tristana agreed plainly. “That you did.”

“Look,” Seth said, pausing in his tracks and facing her. She noticed and stopped too, but didn’t turn to face him. “I don’t know what women want. Some people say you like to be chased, others say you have to be cold and distant and let them come to you, but I don’t know. And I don’t care. I just want you to know that I want to be with you. I’m not going to lie and say that I’m over my insecurities or promise that I can be all you could ever want, because neither of those are true. All I can do is show you all I am and hope that you… accept me. As I am. Baggage and all.”

Tristana sighed with her eyes closed and then turned to face him, watching him with suspicion. “You have a lot of baggage. Surprised you can walk straight.”

“Same here,” Seth chuckled, though he clutched his jacket tightly with sweaty hands. “But I’m done with letting it weigh me down. And I know you have your own story and your own baggage. And I’m sorry I’m such an asshole that we haven’t talked about you, but I know that you’re hurting, too. I couldn’t look past my pain and selfishness to see that. I know now that I can only see you as you really are when I accept myself as I am. We’re both fragile. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to break into a thousand pieces. But I want to take the risk of you breaking me, even if I have to pick up all the pieces by myself.”

“Of course you would think I’m like that,” Tristana laughed, and Seth could sense her walls coming back up.

“It’s not that,” Seth said hurriedly. “But… you’re human. I’m human. We make mistakes. We hurt each other. It’s inevitable. But… I think we can also learn to love each other. And that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”

Tristana was silent for a long time. Seth thought he saw her eyes watering, but didn’t comment or move to comfort her, not wanting to presume to know what she wanted.

“You know what drew me to you?” she asked eventually, her voice cracking a little. “Why I looked at you instead of Damon? It’s because you felt more real. Sure, Damon’s beautiful and all that… but there’s more to you beneath the surface. And I want something deeper than just sex. But, I honestly don’t know if I want to let you in any more. You hurt me. Asshole,” she added with a sad small smile.

“I know,” Seth said, taking a step closer. “And I’m beyond sorry. I did the exact thing I was afraid you would do to me. But… could we try again? Please?”

Seth was surprised how quickly Tristana moved to kiss him, and his nose felt slightly bruised as it crashed into her cheekbone, but he didn’t care. He dropped his jacket into the dirt and fell into the kiss, pushing his body gently into hers, letting their skin, muscle, bones, and warmth press into one another. He felt her, trembling and precious, and felt his own fear and joy burst together in a moment of agonizing ecstasy. When the kiss ended, both of their cheeks were wet, their tears blended together on one another’s faces.

“Let’s… take it slow,” Tristana whispered, still holding herself close enough to Seth for him to feel her hot breath on his neck. “If that’s ok with you.”

“I’m happy just to be with you,” Seth replied, pulling her in closer. “All I want is what you give me. Nothing more.”

Across the river, Seth saw a lighter flicker which then ignited a cigarette, illuminating Damon’s face for a brief moment. Damon waved casually, and Seth smiled in return. Even though it was so dark Seth couldn’t make out Damon’s expression, he somehow knew Damon could see his. The dark silhouette turned around and began walking away into the night, until all that was left was the smoke dancing in the moonlight, slowly rising from where the daemon had stood.

Tristana laughed quietly as she pressed into Seth’s chest, and it made Seth’s smile even more. Her right hand left him, and he thought he saw her wave out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned, he saw no one.

“Was someone there?” Seth asked.

Tristana shrunk back and whispered, “I’m not sure you would believe me if I told you.”

Seth did his best to keep from laughing as he kissed her forehead and held her face in his hands. “Try me.”

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