Of Thorns and Lightning

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Untitled chapter

City Slicker


Peter was not having a happy-go-lucky time. He snuck out of the compound after William’s interrogation and took an Uber onto the East Side just because he had nothing to do but wallow in self-hate. He couldn’t stay at the compound tonight, he had too much to think about, too much unfinished business, and he needed some air, some time and some distance away from it all. He didn’t even bother changing out of his suit.

He sat in the cab thinking about every mistake he made that night, replaying in his mind how things would have gone and how it would have ended up being different if he only took alternate actions. His thoughts just about caused him to implode.

The cab pulled over and let Peter out at his requested destination, even though it wasn’t really where he wanted to be. That, he didn’t know. He had no business being out on the city streets: he should be home in bed, but he felt like he didn’t belong there either. Peter tipped the cab driver and opened the door, tripping as he got out of the backseat and he stumbled onto the sidewalk in his expensive suit William gave to him.

“Damn it!” Peter muttered, knowing the fabric of his suit was bound to be worn where it scraped against the concrete. One more thing he could add to the list of why William would be mad at him when he got back home, which paralleled the list of all the reasons why he didn’t want to go home in the first place. Nothing felt like the right thing to do.

Around the corner, MJ stood frozen in time. She had to think to herself, is that really Peter Lannigan? She was startled to see him, it had been quite some time since she had last seen him, and she didn’t know if she was ready to face him. After all, he hurt her. She was bound to hesitate around him, she still had feelings harbored that she convinced herself she worked through but never did. She had her distance, but her emotions still were rampant sometimes when she thought about him, her and where things went wrong.

He never called, he never wanted her, and most of all, he didn’t chase after her.

MJ didn’t want to be chased. She didn’t want to be the type of girl to need a man, but she needed Peter to want her enough to stay. She needed to know if Peter loved her enough to fight for her. Instead, he let her go, he let her walk right out of his apartment and right out of his life. It didn’t feel quite right. It wasn’t supposed to end like that, she knew that for sure. It had to end, they weren’t on the same page in their relationship, but that was not the way to end it. Maybe it was her fault, too. But she knew, and Peter knew, that he was the one to blame.

MJ understood that she might never see Peter again. Hell, she didn’t even know that he was a God until he came and saved the school. In her mind, he disappeared entirely. She had already let go, she went through that once before. But yet, here he was, laying on the sidewalk looking helpless in the middle of the night at the same street MJ was lurking on because she had no better place to be.

She had to pass him, she wasn’t going to backtrack her route or add blocks to her meaningless walking just so she wouldn’t have to see him.

But then, she thought, there is no way that this isn’t meant to be. It is too much of a coincidence for them both to be on the same street in New York City in the middle of the night, just because. She shoved her fist in her pocket, trying not to crack the plastic of her iced coffee cup with her other hand. She was angry, every single emotion she had felt when they broke up was bubbling up and threatening to boil over. Instead, she remained calm knowing that something shitty happened to Peter, and she felt a little bit of schadenfreude that helped her approach him.

“Did it hurt when you fell?” A familiar voice asked Peter, the person it belonged to standing over him that had been walking but stopped when they were close to him.

“What?” Peter asked, confused.

“When you fell out of that taxi. I saw you trip over your foot and kind of just lay on the sidewalk for about 10 minutes.”

He realized it was MJ. She was drinking an iced coffee, acting just how Peter remembered her. His breath caught in his throat.

“God, I’m an idiot.” Peter groaned, laying on the sidewalk. There was more than a moment of silence between them.

“If you’re waiting for me to disagree with you, it’s going to be a while.” MJ spoke, wanting to make her remaining feelings clear.

“I wasn’t asking you to... it’s just been one of the worse nights I’ve had in a long time.”

“Do I want to know because I’m interested in your feelings? No. Do I want to know just so I can know for the sake of knowing because it’ll bother me if I don’t? Yes. Let me take a guess, you fucked something up really bad again.”

“Vague, but correct.” Peter affirmed as he pulled himself up from the curb to stand face to face with MJ for the first time in almost a year.

“It’s a long story, MJ.”

“I’ve got all night, Lannigan. Besides, what are you doing in a place like this looking like that? Since when you became Mr. Designer Suit, Too Good for His Friends?”

“I didn’t think we were... friends anymore.” Peter said, pausing and looking down at his shoes before clearing his throat and changing the subject. “But the suit is part of the story, so let me start at the beginning.”

They walked down the avenue at a mild pace, but they kept their distance from each other. Neither were willing to get too close to each other again. Peter explained how he got in his position that night. MJ knew that it had something, if not everything, to do with Maize and she swallowed her emotions since she knew it was coming. She would have to hear her name. She would have to repeat the many situations where all Peter was talking about was Maize, despite how much that hurt her. She could only blame herself for this one; she could have gone out of her way and changed her course, but no. She decided to help Peter whom she owed nothing to.

“William Townsend threw this party so all of his fancy business friends could mingle with the Gods and so they could meet us, the young Gods. William has a daughter named Talia who never liked Maize, and she’s always doing something to ruin her life. So, at this party, Talia noticed that I was lingering by the bar and decided to take advantage of me just to get back at Maize. Maize cried, Meaghan beat me up in the bathroom and I’m actually supposed to be in my room, grounded right now. But Maize hates me because she thinks I willingly was making out with her arch enemy, when I really wanted to be making out with her.”

MJ stopped walking.

“Wait, you’re telling me after all this time you still haven’t gotten together with Maize?! She ruined our relationship because you wanted her over me, but you didn’t even want her enough to ask her out? So, what was I? Because I’m feeling just about as good as that gum you stepped in three blocks back: used and discarded on the streets because somebody was done with it and didn’t want it, but didn’t have the courtesy to throw it away like a normal person, with respect!”

“MJ, it’s not like that!”

“Do you have a better explanation for it, then?” She asked. Peter didn’t.

“MJ, you know I loved you.”

“But not anymore, right? You didn’t love me enough to end things right. You didn’t love me enough to chase after me and tell me how much you wanted me to stay, even though I was right and maybe you didn’t want me to stay but you should have said it anyway. You didn’t love me enough to let me walk right out of your life. You didn’t love me enough to call me, or text me or check up on me or even tell me “happy birthday”! I know you don’t love me anymore, but you don’t have to pretend, Peter.”

“What is enough for you, MJ?! I thought you wanted me gone! I thought you didn’t want me to call! I thought you didn’t want me to chase after you, because you were right! I thought that when you left, it was for good and I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to read your god damn mind to figure out what you wanted! Don’t discredit everything I felt for you! Even though it was in the past, I loved you so much and don’t you dare tell me it wasn’t enough. I didn’t have anything else to give to you, MJ!”

“But Peter, when your friends said I was a complete waste of time, you couldn’t expect me to not take that to heart, because you didn’t deny it. I left it up to you to find out on your own if you thought they were right about me, but when it came down to pick a side then you decided where to go. You chose the path that didn’t have me in it, and that’s something you have to live with.”

“But I-”

“Peter, stop.” MJ said, standing still. Peter’s stomach dropped, he knew what was coming before it even happened. He swallowed hard.

“You and me? We’re not friends and we certainly aren’t lovers anymore. Peter, like it or not, we’re strangers. And that’s how it’s meant to be.” MJ broke, without sugarcoating the truth for Peter. “And by the looks of it, you’re getting exactly what you deserve. I don’t have much pity for you, Peter. Not anymore. It’s over, for real this time, Peter.”

She hailed an Uber and went speeding off into the night, once again leaving Peter alone and without answers. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened to him with her. Peter, for the first time in a long time, shed hot tears that streamed down his face and dropped off his chin. He sunk against a wall and sat on the sidewalk, crying under the moonlight.

But now he knew how it was supposed to be. He had closure. It still hurt that he lost MJ, he thought that they would be friends through everything. Nothing seemed to be able to break them apart. He thought they were the strong ones. But Peter happened to find the one thing that shattered it all, and he learned the hard way that you can glue the pieces back together, but the big picture isn’t the same anymore. It’s not what it used to be, and it never will, because in its purest form, it was broken.

Through all of this, Peter realized that he had to face the truth and face his problems or else everyone else that he cared about, every relationship would end up like him and MJ. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake over and over again. He had to make it right with Maize or else she would be gone too. If he never fixed the problem, he was going to lose her. And as much as it hurt to go running right into the flames, Peter was willing to set himself on fire for Maize. He would do whatever it takes to make things right again. He wouldn’t make another bad decision. He stood up, wiped the back of his hand across his face in an attempt to dry his tears and he got an Uber to take him back Upstate to the compound.

Doing what is right is never easy, but it is always the right thing to do, and Peter was ready to let the flames begin.

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