The Angel,The Devil,The Nerd

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Chapter 52 - Abandoned

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I was sitting in the café, corner booth next to the window, next to Chase, who was holding my hand, telling me it was going to be fine, while we waited for this man to arrive.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he ditched us." I muttered resentfully. He hasn't deigned to contact me in 21 years, I don't even understand why does he want to see me now. Actually, I don't even know how did he find me. Well, I do know he asked mom, but for no reason did she tell him, she didn't even tell me he'd contacted her at first.

Chase gently rubbed the back of my hand, to soothe me, of course. "If he does, it's his loss." He stated while his hand travelled up to my neck to caress it. Yeah, he does this soothing thing a lot ... and I like it, but sometimes it gets annoying, because sometimes he uses his psychologist techniques and I don't need that, I already have a therapist that does that, though I see her every three months since last year. Since I started dating Chase, to be precise.

You see, I didn't want to see a shrink, but my cousin insisted, saying there was this friend of his and she was great and everything. I kept saying I didn't need a damn shrink, my problem couldn't be solved like that. I don't have some worrying complex, even if Dr. Lambert says part of my issues are due to my biological father abandoning me when I wasn't even born.

When I started seeing her, it was only because I could barely keep enough of a façade to look fine while inside I was dying, which is why my cousin insisted. I decided I'd follow his tip when, that one time too many that he offered to introduce me to his friend the psychologist, I snapped at him too, yelling that I had no issues to be solved but one, and that one could be dealt with in one way only, which was never going to happen.

The only solution to my malaise was the return of who caused it, I yelled at my cousin. Only if my heart came back I could be fine again, but no, that wasn't going to happen because if he was nowhere to be found, he was no more in this world, so only by doing something extreme I could get over such malaise, because only by being reunited with that same person would save me, and since he wasn't in this world anymore.

That had him force me to see this therapist. I was more than brushing the limit, I was deep down the gutter and only with some help I could get over it. I knew that letting myself die for love was stupid, but I couldn't even feel my heart anymore, I couldn't even live. How do you live without your heart? My heart was and still is there with him, I told you. So I couldn't go on.

Those were the very first months after I found that note. Jake forced me to see this therapist and, like every shrink, she analyzed me and said that my deep pain was also due to my boyfriend being another important person in my life abandoning me, namely, it all started with Landon Pierce, my biological father, leaving me without even wanting to see me. She said I felt like everybody abandoned me, that it's easy to seek in a boyfriend the father figure you've lacked of, so it was obvious that I saw Eric abandoning me as a double blow.

I would have wanted to retort that my stupid biological father had nothing to do with it. I just lost the person I loved more than anything else in the whole universe, it was obvious to feel like shit, but I kept my mouth shut, feeling so empty inside that even talking was useless. They couldn't understand me, so why should I waste my time?

As months and therapy sessions went by, I started feeling a little better, well, no, I still felt like shit, but at least I started fighting a bit more. Be it only because Kyle repeated me that his brother wouldn't have wanted me to throw everything away for him. Live your life. He said. Forget me. How stupid of him to ever think I could forget him. How could he ever think I'd be better off without him?

I flinched when Chase rubbed my back up and down, taking me off of my painful thoughts as he repeated me for the nth time: "You owe him nothing, Nat. It was his choice to contact you and seek a meeting."

I couldn't help but snort. "Do not psycho-talk me, Chase. I know how it is."

He sighed, dropping his hand, clearly frustrated. I sighed as well, reaching for his cheek as I caressed it, knowing I shouldn't be so mean to him. It's not his fault. It's just me. I don't even know how does he put up with me. Every time I ask him why is he so lenient he says it's because he loves him and knows it's hard for me.

My boyfriend has a truly heart of gold. Sometimes I wish I'd met him sooner. He'd have had all my attention, which he does, but that attention is always split. Because I'm trying to give him the most I can, but my heart refuses to go on. It's been three years but my heart is still blocked there with that same person, and I think about that specific someone more than I should, even if I know I hurt myself.

I know I just hurt myself but re-reading his note every week. I know I shouldn't even keep that note, but it's the last thing that remains of him and I can't get rid of it. I haven't even deleted his messages. I've changed phone and number but the old one is still there, in my nightstand, next to that note, so that now and then I re-read his messages too. It's masochistic, I know, but I can't avoid it.

Chase is seriously too lenient with me. I mean, what man would accept that his girlfriend still pines over a past love? And not just that, he even puts up with me when I get moody and mistreat him. What man would do that? Yet he keeps telling me he loves me, that's why. He says that, as a wannabe/almost psychologist, he knows these sort of reactions are normal. I hate it when he treats me like his very first patients and in one of my moody moments I've even accused him of simply using me as guinea pig, but in the end I know it's not that. He's sincere. But I've changed.

Years ago I would have been flustered and touched, now I'm just cold and impassive. I feel like I don't have a heart anymore. And it figures. It's with him. Wherever he is. When she tried to comfort me, Tara said she'd been through a tough heartbreak too, and she was my age even when she did. Said she knew the things couldn't be truly compared, but she'd felt just as broken, as if she couldn't trust anybody anymore. Said she knew how tough it was to be in such situation, and she'd been much coward, but in the end ...

Silvia too, she recounted me that before being with my cousin, she'd been in a brief but intense relationship with a boy that broke her heart. Jake was able to mend it because she let him. What my friends were trying to say was that I should give Chase the chance to heal me, and I'm trying. Really I am. But maybe I should try harder. Starting from getting rid of everything related to Eric. Starting from that note. And I've tried to, but I never succeeded. Because I kept reminding myself that that was the last thing of him I had left, his last words to me, so I couldn't throw it away.

For months I've tormented myself because the last words I said to him were out of anger. I mean, the last words said in person, because, of this I am glad at least, the very last words we told each other were the sweetest ones. We reminded each other how much we loved the other. Looking back, those words sounded so much like a farewell.

And I have thought about it. I mean, what if he already knew he was leaving and that's why he told me those words? But no. He's never missed one chance to tell me that, so it wasn't out of the ordinary for him. And he even told me we needed to talk about my eventual pregnancy, so no, he didn't know he'd leave when he last talked to me. Something must have happened after that. But I don't know what. I just know that it involved me too, I was in danger, and Eric left to save me.

I've mulled over it many times, thinking it might have to do with his stepfather, because that's about everything Eric ever told me about his past: if it was painful, it was due to his stepfather. What did that horrible man do to him, I don't know. Maybe Kyle does, but he didn't want to tell me. He always avoided the question. Maybe Eric made him promise he wouldn't give me details. It'd be so typical of him. To always think of protecting me. Even emotionally. I mean, he never told me about his past because he always saw me upset when he tried to talk, so he might have as well made his brother promise not to reveal anything.

One thing it's ironic, though. Eric always felt nobody ever cared for him. Yet his loss has caused many people to suffer. Starting from me and his brother, obvious, but then his father, and Dana, and even Aisha and my mother, even if on a scale. I mean, if there was a ranking, Kyle and I would be first. My mother and Aisha didn't know him enough to be hurt, but they did care about him too, at least mom told me she did care, even if she'd seen him so little. It was indirect caring. I mean, because he loved me and cherished me, she appreciated him and cared about him. Same goes for Aisha and even Jamie. As for Dana, well, she was in love with him. Nothing more to add. And his father ...

I've met Charles Romano just once and it was enough to see how distraught he was too. We talked. He tried to cheer me up but I could read it on his face that losing his son for the second time took a huge toll on him too. He didn't tell me why did he leave Eric in the first place, just that he had to, and he regretted it every day of his life. But in the past weeks he's started building a bond with his son and he was so happy about it, hoping he could mend to all those years of absence, but right when things were going so good, he lost his son for the second time ... I can only imagine how it feels like.

I've made the mistake of believing I was the only one hurting, but there were other people that missed him. I just egoistically assumed I was the most broken one because he had my heart. And he still does.

But ... I ought to think of the present. At least when I'm not alone. So, like I was saying, I sighed and caressed Chase's cheek as I spoke: "I'm sorry ... I'm just ..."

"Frustrated, I know." He filled in.

I cracked a small smile. "You always know my moods somehow." I pointed out. Be it his professional bias, be it that he really knows me, Chase always know how I feel and acts consequently. It's like he can easily read me.

He grinned at that, his hand coming back to my neck. "I just love to observe this amazing little thing that is you, honey." I grinned as he leaned his forehead on mine, pecking my lips.

Words like that could make any girl swoon. Only a heartless girl as I am could be impassive. Though I am not, I just can't feel enough. Not as much as he deserves. A few months ago, when he confessed he'd fallen in love with me, even while smiling as best as I could and thanking him, I admitted I wasn't ready to love again, there was this past relationship of mine that caused me problems ... I told him almost everything about Eric. Well, the general lines.

The things we've lived together, no, I don't tell anybody. Those are memories I cherish too much to share them. It's what links me to him and I cannot separate myself from them. That's why I still have everything related to him. Even the yellow rose he stole for me from Mrs. Bane's garden on our third date. I scolded him that it wasn't right, but he said the old woman had plenty of those. Though she busted him and I was afraid she'd call police or something, but Eric talked to her for a moment and pointed at me. The old woman perused me for a moment then smiled and nodded, giving him some daisies too, with which Eric crowned my head. Little things like that, I remember them too perfectly and I can never forget them.

Chase left his lips against mine, eyes half closed, forehead always against mine, whispered for the nth time: "I love you." I don't know how does he do that. How can he be so patient with me? I mean, I have never told him I love him and yet he's fine with it.

When a few months ago I explained the situation, I also added that, if he felt like moving on, I was fine with it, but instead of being pissed or sad or anything, Chase just perused me for a long moment and then simply asked me if I felt at least something for him. I said I cared, really I did, and he half smiled, saying that was a start, maybe he could hope to get more.

I honestly told him my heart was taken, but he argued that I ought to move on, even if not entirely, maybe just step by step. I've tried telling him that one like him, he shouldn't waste his time with me, there are girls that could really love him, because he's such a great boy, but insisted that he wanted nobody else but me and even if it would take him years to bring me to at least feel a tiny bit of love for him, he didn't mind.

No other girl had ever made him feel like I do and he couldn't let me go. The skeptical part of me kind of bitterly pointed out he was that hopeful only because he knew the one and only owner of my heart had gone missing since two years already and the chances that he would come back were very little, but I figuratively smacked that part of me over the head and forced her to be as compassionate as someone told me I was.

Besides, Chase made me smile and laugh. It was rare. So, as my friends pointed out, he was definitely a keeper. After all, Chase could cheer me up and was endlessly patient ... what else could I ever want? They meant it in a good way, but I took it as a very simple truth: the chances I'll ever love someone else are very limited and I already care about Chase deeply, so if he was the one I'd share my life with, then so be it. A bit of making do, one could say.

I wanna say I might fall for Chase at some point, and maybe I will, but for now ... psychology manuals, those Chase sometimes forgot at my place and I kind of went through, say that, me not being able to say those three magic words to my boyfriend might be because those words are, for me, for my heart, still connected to someone that belongs to the past, and that maybe that someone hurt me, so my subconscious still fears pain.

I'd like to think it's all bullshit, but let's face it, I might have moved on, but part of me hasn't, especially because I never had my closure. He just disappeared. Though more than fear of being abandoned and hurt again, as also my therapist says, it's the very simple fact that, as I've already pointed out, my heart is still with that same boy that caught it three years ago.

Chase kissed me a bit more deeply and I let myself go to it, closing my eyes and losing myself in time and space. Better said, forcing myself to forget about the rest. But you know how it is, only one person was able to make me do that just with a kiss.

Chase and I's moment was interrupted by someone clearing their throat and when I looked up, I saw a pretty tall, well built, fortyish man in a cheap suit. His hair as on its way to be completely grey, his eyes deep brown, going for hazel, his face was a bit puffy and he had a light stubble and a pretty tired but also kind of flustered look as he observed us. No need to wonder, I guess.

"Natalie?" He spoke in a low, raspy voice. I nodded without daring to say anything and I felt Chase holding me tighter. The man let himself smile, even if crookedly, and held out a hand to me. "Nice to meet you, I'm your father."

Now, my first instinct was to smack that hand off and yell "no! you're not my father! You left me when I wasn't even born! Michael Green is my father, not you!" but I retained myself as I simply nodded and the man sat down, retrieving his hand, a little disappointed. If he thought I'd welcome him with open arms, he's dead wrong. After 21 years, there's nothing he could ever expect from me.

"I'm Chase. Natalie's boyfriend." The boy beside me introduced himself and they shook hands. I could see the man scrutinizing him for a moment, like searching for something in particular, but in the end his eyes turned to me and he smiled. Obviously, I didn't smile back. I remained as stern as I had decided I would be. Mom is right. He deserves nothing from me.

"You're so pretty. Just like your mother." He complimented.

I mumbled a thanks through gritted teeth, but didn't show signs of any emotion. He inhaled deeply and asked me to tell him about myself, but I couldn't hold it back: "Me? I've been just fine with my new father. While you? Where have you been these past 21 years?" He looked taken aback as I snapped, Chase trying to calm me down, but not really succeeding.

The man remained silent for a few minutes, just nodding, and in the end, all the excuse he could find was: "I was a kid, Natalie. I was scared." That was enough. I stood up without warning and rushed out of the café, knowing Chase was on my tow as I could hear him call me, but I didn't listen, I just ran and ran ... where? I don't know. I stopped when I was face to face with trees, which meant I was at the park. I sat down on a bench, trying to calm myself down.

How dare he? Comes back after 21 years and with such a crappy excuse! How dare he?! Like I haven't been through too much already. Like my damn heart hasn't been shattered already. This I was missing! Ugh, why did I even accept?! Why did I even come here?

I wanted to look him in the eyes, but then he comes up with such a crappy excuse and all my calmness flies out of the window. He was just a kid. Ugh. Yeah, I was a kid too and I spent my life conscious that my father didn't even want me. Then my damn boyfriend abandons me too and just underlines that I'm made to be abandoned!

Oh. God. No, I didn't mean that ... I mean, yeah, it's painful to think that Eric too abandoned me, but ...

"Here, take a tissue." A male husky voice said from beside me. I didn't even realize I was crying when I noticed the tissue held in front of my face. I turned to my side, only to see a pretty ... suspicious man sitting on the bench beside me, black sunglasses, woodsman beard that covered almost all his face, cap that covered his hair, which I could see was dark blonde anyway. Unconsciously, I backed up, because I didn't trust the man one bit ... I know, I shouldn't judge by appearances, but he looked rather suspicious and ... well, he looked scary, actually.

"I don't have bad intentions, keep calm." The man assured me and ... for some reason, my heart skipped a beat because ... there was something in that voice, something familiar, something that ... but no, that's impossible. After all that wouldn't be new. Throughout the years, I've seen him in every blonde man I spotted in the streets, sure it was him, only to have, always, the painful negative response.

I grabbed the tissue from the stranger's hands and thanked him, but he simply nodded. I sniffled and tried to regain my composure, also not to look too pathetic in the eyes of a complete stranger, but he didn't seem to care, he just sat there, gazing at the bright blue sky, leaning back on the bench. There was something calm in his stance, as if, for a moment, he was peaceful, while the rest of his life was a mess.

As if sitting on that bench with me gave him a tiny moment of peace in the middle of the turmoil that was his life. But I guess I just tend to romanticize things too much, which is that bit of old Natalie that's remained. That tiny bit I guess I've preserved simply because my only love told me it was one of the things he loved most about me ... my being a dreamer. Well, the dreamer has set her feet on the ground once for all but has kept that tiny bit of her old self just because.

The stranger and I didn't talk. He was lost in gazing at the sky, I was trying to regain my composure. A couple of minutes late I heard Chase's voice calling for me, and I sighed, slumping my shoulders. My boyfriend's caring and everything, but times like this, I need solitude.

Even though, I wasn't alone, considering there was a quite scary stranger sitting right beside me. His shabby aspect gave the idea he was a bum or something, but his clothes weren't as dirty and stinking as the ones of a homeless would be (with all due respect), and he wasn't even a hipster or anything, just ... a man not really caring about his outfit, or possibly hiding from someone ... hiding from ... no. No, Natalie, no. You've been through this already. I've seen him in every blond man I spotted in the streets, every sort or resembling silhouette and disappointment only worsened every time I found I was wrong. So no. It's useless to hope.

"Boyfriend?" The man beside me asked, kind of startling me, so that I, recalled Chase looking for me, his voice still easy to hear in the distance as he looked for me. I thought he might have called me, but I fled so quickly that I didn't even take my bag, so no phone, of course. I nodded at the stranger's question without looking at him, just wiping my tears, unable to push back the desire for someone specific to be here to console me like he always did.

"Is it him to make you cry?" The stranger asked. I shook my head violently at his assumption. Chase never makes me cry, if anything, he makes me smile, well, tries to, even when I'm not in the mood. He's really an incredible boy and I don't think I deserve him. He deserves much better than one like me, with all her inability to love anymore.

"Good." The man beside me muttered and I looked up at him, confused, but he stood up, towering me with his frightening height, which gave me one more odd sensation, but no, I was certainly wrong. After all, of all places, he'd be here, in Springfield, Massachusetts? Mmh. Hard to imagine.

"Take care, Natalie." The stranger said, moving to go away.

I blinked my still watery eyes, confused, and asked: "Wait, how do you know my ..."

"Your boyfriend called you Natalie." He cut me off.

"Oh ..." I only muttered. He shrugged and left, simply waving goodbye. That's odd, to say the least. Though it was a mindful thought of his to spend a few minutes beside a crying girl, even without talking. Well, maybe he was already there when I sat on the bench, I just didn't see him. Though that voice ...

In a few minutes Chase was beside me, fussing about me escaping without a word, worrying him because we were in a new city and things like that. He's not overanxious of his own, he just worries about me. A lot. Mom says it's one sign he really, really loves me and I appreciate that.

"Where is he?" I asked, referring to the man I should call father, my tears now completely dried.

"No idea. I ran after you the exact moment you escaped, but Gee, are you fast!" I chuckled humorlessly at that, abandoning my head on Chase's shoulder, which was the go for him to cuddle me. Really, sometimes I have no idea what would I do without him. He's always by my side, no matter what. And even when I make him mad, when we fight, he's the one to come around first, because, he says, he can't risk losing me. Malevolently, one might say he's kind of a chump, but he can be tough too when he wants, you know, it's just that I am more stubborn than him.

I wasn't, I just grew up like this after high school ... colder, sour, bittersweet, disillusioned ... I guess you could say the Natalie that used to space out so often, the dreamer, is long gone, leaving her place to the feet-on-the-ground woman I am now.

Chase and I remained there in silence for a moment. My eyes darted towards the direction the stranger had taken. I was wrong. Surely I was wrong. Though with that beard and cap and everything, it wouldn't have been tough to recognize him ... no. No, it wasn't him. He wouldn't have been so cold, right? I

know it's been three years, but even if he's out there, he hasn't ... maybe he has. Maybe he is out there and he has forgotten me already. Maybe I'm the idiot that still cries for him while he's gone on with his life. Maybe he solved whatever was the issue and he's gone on. Without me. Because I was a burden, with all my fragilities. I'm not saying he escaped because of that, I'm just saying that maybe, things were solved and he simply chose not to come back to me.

No. No, Eric wouldn't do that. He loved me. He wouldn't have left if it hadn't been the only solution ... right? I kept gazing at that far spot, even while being in my boyfriend's arms. Whoever that stranger was, he gave me a tiny sensation of peace.

Even only sitting there beside me. He gave me a very brief sensation of peace. The kind only one person could give me. Too bad that same person is gone. Maybe forever. For me anyway. Maybe he's out there or maybe no. But sure is, he's not thinking of coming back to me. In the end, it's the painful truth: he promised not to, but in the end, Eric too abandoned me.

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