M A B E L
He’s silent in the backseat, his beautiful dead eyes closed tight like he’s in a great deal of pain. I’m scared, scared for his health, and my poor floorboards in the back. Hayes is clutching his chest, trembling like he’s cold, but also in endless amounts of agony. I want him to smile in the rearview mirror at me– that same smile that doesn’t reach his dead green eyes, but the only thing that comes from him is a groan when I hit a bump in the road.
“Mabel, he needs to take off his sweatshirt, he’s overheating.” Riley glances behind her, notices the sweat coating his pale forehead.
She probably just wants to see him shirtless.
I turn back to look at him, nearly driving into oncoming traffic, but I’m quick to slam on the breaks. Hayes goes flying forehead, face crashing into the back of my seat. He groans.
”Shit!” I yelp, my forehead nearly colliding with the steering wheel.
Riley is quick to unbuckle her seatbelt, easily sliding over the center console, and into the backseat with the barely conscious man. She’s muttering angry profanities under her breath, rambling on about hot guys, and the stupid decisions they make as she shakes his shoulders.
“Should we take him to the hospital?” Riley questions out of breath as she struggles to sit the man upright.
She slaps his cheek, leaving a sweltering, angry red circle on the sweat coated skin. I glare at her before unbuckling my own belt, and lean over into the back, clearly not caring that we’re stopped dead in the road.
“No,” I nearly raise my voice in panic. “They wouldn’t think twice about putting him in jail. Get behind the wheel, and I’ll take care of him, okay?”
My best friend wastes no time, shoving past me to climb into the driver’s seat ungracefully, and nearly kicks me in the jaw with her boot heel. But I manage to scramble in the backseat without any bodily harm, and I collapse into the plush seats halfway on top of Hayes. The poor man is sweating through his sweatshirt, his skin more pale than normal, and his eyes don’t even have that barren look to them anymore. He’s hardly himself.
“As much as I would love to remove your clothes, I would prefer it be under totally different circumstances.” My mouth seems to be working on its own accord, and I’m spitting out nervous rambles that have my cheeks burning with embarrassment.
A low, breathy noise is forced passed the man’s lips, something between a laugh, and a pained cough. I wet my lips before quickly averting my gaze when my fingers curl around the frayed hem of his navy sweatshirt. We’re speeding down the street again, going well over the speed limit that could surely cost me my license, but I could honestly care less right now. I force myself to tug on his sweatshirt, pulling it over his head, so he doesn’t nearly cook to death. He sighs in relief when the cool air hits his bare, sweaty chest. I swallow.
“It’s rude to s-stare, Pooh Bear.” Hayes breathes out, and I think he means to laugh, but he inhales sharply instead.
He’s definitely drunk.
He’s thin for a man his age, but not lanky, just not as much muscle as I thought he would be underneath all the baggy sweatshirts, and jackets he wears. Without a word, I force him to lay down by pushing on his bare shoulders, and his mouth opens like he’s about to refuse, but I clamp a hand over his lips. Hayes gives in, his body trembles as he drops his head into my lap unexpectedly, and my own shoulders tense up.
“I had a best friend once, ya know?” He slurs, smiling up at me.
The smile that stretches across his face is slightly unnerving to me, this smile actually reaches his eyes. Sad and broken and dead.
“Oh yeah?” I force my hand down to smooth back the wild strands of black hair from his forehead.
He nods once– twice, his dead smile becoming a tight lipped one. The man rolls over onto his side, the back of his head pressed against my stomach, and his long legs bunched up uncomfortably against the door. He breathes out a sigh.
“Yup,” I can feel the warmth of his breath against my legging covered thighs. “He overdosed last June.”
Riley gapes at me like a fish out of water through the rearview mirror, her bright eyes wide with disbelief. If I were the one behind the wheel, I probably would have slammed on the breaks again, my heart in my throat. Part of me isn’t quite sure how to react to Hayes’ drunken confession, so all my worthless brain can really think of doing is shushing the poor man, and raking my fingers through his sweaty hair. He closes his eyes, almost as if he’s savoring the feel of my hand in his hair, as if it’s all just some figment to him.
“He liked me, Mabel.” Hayes sighs, his words are no longer slurred, or stuttered, but he still is far beyond himself. “Not as a friend, but he liked me, then I told him I didn’t feel the same way, and then I got a phone call several weeks later. He killed himself.”
I should try to shush the drunk man again, I don’t want him telling me things he wouldn’t tell me while sober. This doesn’t feel right, listening as he tells me something completely private, and personal, but I can’t seem to stop him.
“Maybe I could have forced myself to try,” now he’s looking up at me with his drunken green eyes, and I don’t know how to respond when I press my lips together tightly. “Maybe I could have forced feelings onto myself, and he wouldn’t have died.”
I can’t take it anymore as we pull into the driveway of my house, my heart pounding in my chest as I stare down at him, shake my head vigorously in hopes it will stop the raging thoughts. I rub my aching eyes with the backs of my fists, hoping it’ll chase away the soreness, and tears I refuse to admit exist. Without a word to the green eyed man, I shuffle out of the back of the vomit smelling truck, my hair already whipping in the cold breeze.
I help Hayes out of the backseat, throw his arm over my shoulder since the poor man can barely stand on his own. He takes one look at me, and he smiles a drunken smile, a breathy laugh pushing past his cold lips.
“And now you like me,” he sighs, followed with a strangled groan, and he scrubs a quaking hand through his hair. “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I like you back? I can’t like anyone at all.”
My shushing is clearly doing no good as I help him across his front yard, and he continues to ramble on, even as we step onto his porch. Riley is following silently behind us, and I know that later she will be asking a shitload of questions– questions I probably will try my best to avoid.
Thankfully, Hayes left his front door unlocked, and we stagger inside, stumbling into the living room. The drunk man tries to head toward the ratted couch, but I pull on his bare arm, tugging him towards the staircase.
“Come on, Hayes,” I breathe. “Let’s get you to bed.”
Riley, much to my surprise, lingers down in the living room, standing awkwardly by the broken TV in the corner. It’s dark as I help Hayes up the stairs, so dark I can’t even see the man’s drunken expression as he looks over at me. I wish I could understand what goes on in his head, I wish I could help him. But part of me knows Hayes doesn’t want to be helped, he just wants to drink and pass out on his shitty couch and pop pills until he can’t remember why he started in the first place.
“Which room, Hayes?” I’m panting by the time we get to the top of the stairs.
“Last door on the left.”
I wrap my arm tighter around Hayes’ side, pulling him along with me as I walk down the hallway. I can feel his warm breath against my ear the moment he rests his lolling head on my shoulder, the smell of Jack Daniel’s, and Hayes filling my senses.
“I want to like you, Mabel.” Hayes says when I push open the bedroom door.
Part of me wants to tell him to shut the fuck up, to tell him I don’t want to hear this right now, but I force my words down my cotton filled throat, and walk into his room.
“But I don’t even like myself.” He continues with sad, barren green eyes.
I sigh, press down onto his shoulders so he sits back on his bed, and it dips under his weight. He stares up at me, his attractive face completely stoic as he brings his trembling fingers up to touch the cold metal in his nose. I can’t seem to break away from his gaze as he sighs, wets his lips, and then swallows.
“Why do–” He stops himself, breathes in a deep breath. “Why do people like me? I don’t even like me.”
Without fully registering what I’m doing, I reach up, push his hair up off his forehead to stare into his hooded eyes. I doubt he’ll remember any of this tomorrow, and remember calling me in a panic– remember confessing things he never would while sober. The thought honestly makes me sad for some reason, but I force the feeling down– force myself to lean down, and plant a gentle, friendly kiss to the space between his furrowed brows.
“Because you’re real, Hayes,” I answer, pulling the grey comforter back for him to slide under. “And you get what it feels like to be alone in this shitty life.”
Hayes protests, pushes away my hands to stagger upright on his own without my help. I can’t help but scowl, and push at his bare chest to get him back in bed, but he grumbles out his rebuttals– sidesteps away from me.
“I need to brush my teeth.” He wets his lips, then snarls his nose at the taste on his spit-slick skin.
I breathe out a sigh, giving in to his drunken stubbornness, and allow him to stagger into his bathroom that is conjoined with the room. The fluorescent light flicks on, spilling across the white carpet like smooth nail polish. His bare back is on display for me, hooded green eyes watching me in the mirror over his shoulder. The man’s skin is almost ghostly pale, and so perfectly stretched over his hard, strong bones that I have to look away. I can hear the sound of water against marble. I can hear the sound of bristles against teeth. I can hear the sound of my racing heart in my ears.
His body is a perfectly clean canvas, but it’s more intriguing than any art by Monet. He may not be built of muscle, or decorated with an infinite amount of tattoos like any other male character in every other book, but he’s still so alluring– so tragically beautiful.
There’s a shift in his shoulder blades when he leans down to spit out toothpaste into the sink, and I settle down on the side of his unmade bed– cross my legs beneath me. He’s watching me again, just stands there in the bathroom with his back turned to me and his dead eyes bore into mine over his naked shoulder and his toothbrush between his damned lips.
Those damned lips will be the death of me.
He spits into the sink again, refusing to break eye contact as he rinses his toothbrush, and drops it onto the counter carelessly. I swallow down the butterflies that fly up from my stomach and into my dry throat, and I have to clasp my hands together on my lap to keep myself from fidgeting under his green gaze.
Stop fucking looking at me like that, I want to say to him, it’ll be the end of me.
Hayes is made up of nothing but barren green and pale skin and cheap liquor. He’s nothing but sadness and turmoil and thunder just before lightning. He is walking back into the room now– no, stumbling, and he collapses onto his bed with as much grace as a rock. I smile down at the man, chuckle when he rolls over onto his back with a dramatic groan.
But then he grows serious again and my smile falters and he’s sitting up slowly to raise his hand. I know what his intentions are, of course I do, I’ve seen this in about a million different romance movies, and read about it in about a million more books. But this is different– this is Hayes and he’s drunk and he has definitely taken some kind of drug I’m not aware of.
I stop him when he leans too close, a cold hand pressed against his even colder chest, and I shake my head just as his lips brush over the skin on my cheek. I have to hold my breath to keep myself from giving in.
“Hayes, no,” I whisper against his cheek that is tinged pink with cold. “You’ve been drinking, this doesn’t feel right.”
He nods, four fingers splayed out behind my ear, and one single thumb brushing over the length of my cheekbone. The man looks like he’s about to say something, but his eyes are still as dead as always, which makes me think again.
He’s just drunk.
“But nothing ever feels right anymore.” It’s a whisper of a response, and I never used to understand why people would whisper when their faces’ were closer in the movies, but now I do, and it has my heart pounding through my chest.
I shake my head again for some stupid reason. Maybe it’s because I can’t think of a good response, or maybe it’s the fact that I don’t want to respond at all. But all I know is that the tension is so thick in this Hayes smelling room that it could be used to cut a knife. Not the other way around.
“Just one kiss.” I can smell the mint overpowering the cheap liquor when he whispers those three words, and without my consent, my hands are raising to cup his neck. “Fuck, Mabel, just one kiss, I want to– I want to try.”
I was wrong. Hayes isn’t just the thunder before lightning. He is both and he is beautiful and he is electrifying.
“Try what exactly?” Somehow I manage to muster some sort of sly humor.
Just one kiss.
My leg is partially in his lap. How the hell it got there is something way beyond me, but I know I’m enjoying the feel of his body heat through the thin layer of my leggings.
“To try, and let you show me exactly how you kissed Lena fucking Hughes.” His smile is wicked– wolfish.
I want to take a picture of the expression on his face, and lock it in a box to hide beneath my bed for only me to know of its existence. The piercing in both his nose, and lip have caught the moon’s light through the open window that looks out into my parents’ bedroom.
Thank the heavens they have their curtains closed.
“Fuck it.” I’m saying, and swinging onto his lap.
I’m tugging at his hair before he even has the slightest chance to lean in, and his eyes are squeezing shut as his damned lips part to breathe out a groan. His hands are fisted in the sides of my baggy shirt and he’s pulling me closer to force my arms around his neck and then he’s kissing me. He’s kissing me more wildly than the day he took me against the living room window, his lips tasting of mint from the toothpaste he just used to brush his teeth, and Jack.
I’m pushing at his shoulders and he’s lying back on the bed with arms wrapped around me like Saturn’s rings and I’m gasping into his mouth the moment his teeth bite down on my lower lip. He doesn’t waste a second, tongue darting out, and flicking over the roof of my mouth– runs along my teeth. I pull away for the quickest of seconds only to lean back down quickly– too quickly, and press my lips hard against his– harder than I mean to, but the noise he makes deep within his throat is enough to tell me he enjoys it.
“Shit.” He grits when I’m grinding against him by accident.
Then I’m kissing down his neck and biting and hoping it’ll leave angry red splotches like he had done to me. He’s hard against me, and I suck in a startled breath at the foreign feeling of hard male.
He must be made of steel.
Hayes is hissing for me to take my shirt off, and growls something against my raw lips– something filthy, but my brain can’t fully register it. I’m shaking my head, knowing this has already gone too far– way too far. If I took off my shirt there would be no going back, I wouldn’t be able to control myself, and hell, Hayes wouldn’t be able to either.
“Just one kiss.” I remind him, sliding off his lap.
But he’s reaching out to me again, his hand brushing along the now heated skin of my cheek, and I can’t help but turn my face into the palm of his cold hand, and then I see it.
It’s a long scar down his bare forearm– vertical, pink. I’m shocked– frozen when I see it, and my heart is pounding in my chest so loud I’m afraid he can hear it. I push myself up off the bed, hold his thin, pale wrist in my hand as I inspect the scar. There’s a small tattoo just above it, black ink not even inches away from the pinkish healed wound.
I want to read what it says, but the lighting in this damned room is so poor I can barely make out his shocked expression.
“Hayes.” I breathe out, and he pulls his arm out of my grip quickly.
“It was my first attempt.” Is all he says.
He looks away, stares out the open window, and his stoic features are drenched in beautiful, blue moonlight. All I can think is that I would like to kiss him again, kiss across the pink scar on his arm– the unknown tattoo, but I know it’s something he’s insecure about. I can see it in the way his dark eyebrows furrow– in the way he rubs at the bridge of his nose awkwardly.
“Hayes,” I say his name again, crouch down before him so we’re at eye level. “I–”
“Can we please not talk about this?” His voice is desperate– raw. “I just. . . I just want to go to sleep.”
I nod, stand upright before pressing the back of my hand to my lips. I can still taste him– everywhere. He’s on my tongue, at the roof of my mouth, and in my nostrils– my lungs. I want to taste him again, but I know now is not the right time, and I have more self-control than that. So I breathe out a heavy sigh, nod again for some stupid reason, and mutter that I will be right back.
I’m turning around so quickly I nearly topple over, and I know Hayes doesn’t let it go unnoticed as he watches me walk ungracefully out of his bedroom door. My boots clunk against the wooden steps of the old staircase, and I’m quick to skip the last two steps. Riley is standing in the same spot, staring at me like she’s surprised I’ve made it out alive.
She’s shocked, but the words I’m about to speak to her are going to shock her so much more.
“I’m going to stay with him tonight,” I speak softly, out of breath from the sight of his scars, and from the mad dash down the stairs. “I don’t want to leave him here alone like this.”
The poor man is still drunk off his ass, but what I’m most worried about is the thoughts running through his roaring head.
Riley grows wide eyed, stepping towards me, and swatting at my arm.
“Do you have any idea what you are dealing with here?” She nearly shrieks. “That hot piece of shit is drunk off his ass, and he was all drugged up when we found him! You are stepping on very dangerous ground here, Mabel. You could even get in trouble for helping him.”
I push her arm away, glare at my best friend with as much hatred that I can muster.
“You don’t get it, Riley!” I yell back, not caring that he’s right upstairs. “You don’t fucking get him. You haven’t spent time with him like I have.”
She laughs, bitter and loud.
“Oh don’t play the ‘he’s different’ card. That’s fucking bullshit, Mabel. He will get you into some serious ass trouble, or even fucking hurt you for that matter, and you know it.”
I stare at her for the longest moment, trying to come up with my next reply. My nostrils flare, that raging storm beginning to stir in my chest. I want to set it free, and break something– break anything for the anger and the sadness and the turmoil that clouds my brain.
“You’re right, I do,” I grit. “But I couldn’t give a shit. And if you can’t accept that, then don’t fucking wait up.”
I turn on my heel, making my way back up the stairs again, but the sound of footsteps behind me has me halting.
“I can’t just do that, Mabel dearest,” Riley says softly. “Best friends don’t do that.”
I’ve begun to dread that moment when the night meets day. When the sun begins to rise over the treetops, and spread over Seeder Grove in its orange and yellow rays. It’s pretty, I won’t deny that, but night is more peaceful– more beautiful.
I used to find peace in the mornings. In the way the birds would begin to chirp, and fly at the first sight of the rising sun. But now it’s different– now I find peace in the stars. I find the smell of dewy grass so alluring, and the moon so magnificent.
I like the night because it’s quiet and dark, but so damn beautiful and three a.m thoughts are honestly the best. You are the real you at night– at three a.m. But when the sun rises you’re expected to get out of bed with a smile on your face and a pep in your step and a want to succeed. That just isn’t how it is for me anymore. I’ve lost that smile. I’ve lost that pep in my step– that want to succeed.
I guess I know how Hayes feels now, though I can’t be so sure since he doesn’t ever express how he feels. I don’t judge him for it though, I know exactly why he doesn’t speak his mind, or put down his liquor for a single second.
Because he’s afraid.
He’s afraid and tortured and when he’s drunk is the only time he can allow himself to feel. The green eyed man is afraid to feel, and I honestly don’t blame him.
And when the sun begins to go down is the only time he allows that smiling facade to drop, and he drinks away his pain. I honestly don’t know how he does it– how he can spend almost every waking hour with fake happiness and pills and cigarettes to calm the panic in his chest.
But when the sun begins to rise is when he plasters that smile on his face that doesn’t reach his dead green eyes and he pops a few pain killers when he thinks I’m not noticing and he stays in bed for longer than he should. I’ve slept over at Hayes’ house once before, but somehow I manage to catch onto him when no one else is. I don’t tell him to stop what he’s doing though, because we all do different things to forget the pain.
And when I stare at him now the pain he endures is clearly evident to me. Even in his sleep his brows are furrowed, and eyes squeezed shut tightly like he’s trying to push something from his retched mind. I want to know what goes on in the mind of the man with green eyes.
I can’t seem to stop myself when I reach out, press a thumb to the scar across his eyebrow, and try my best to straighten it out. He grumbles in his sleep, pushes my hand away before rolling over onto his bare stomach. I’m not sure why I’m attracted to this man, he’s just different, he’s a lot thinner than most men his age.
Does he even eat three meals a day?
I honestly would be surprised if he did, since the man is thin enough to see the first three of his ribs– thin enough to make the cheekbones in his cheeks more prominent. There is no way in hell this man is both mentally, and physically healthy.
I touch the inside of his pale wrist that is available to me, the same wrist with the single pinkish scar. His skin is warm against my cold fingertips, and I can’t help but seek out for more warmth. My fingers are sliding along the scar, his scar that he makes looks so terrifying, yet beautiful– tragic.
V E N I; V I V I; A M A V I
His tattoo– three words punched into his warm skin with typewriter font. I’m confused with what it means, why he would want three foreign words typed into his beautiful skin like it’s some kind of message.
Maybe it is.
But I don’t have time to decipher it because Hayes is rolling back over, and is staring at me with his dead green eyes.
Who knew dead green could be a color, but now I think it’s my favorite.
I want to ask him what those words mean, but the furrow in his brow deepens when he realizes I’m in his bed, and he’s sitting up slowly with more confusion than I would like. He’s looking around his room, doesn’t say a single word when he sees Riley lying sound asleep on his bedroom floor in nothing but her t-shirt, and then he glances over at me again.
“Did we have a threesome?” He questions aloud, and his voice has that manly husk to it.
I gape at the man, mouth dropped open in shock, and I don’t even have the time, or dignity to answer because he’s already turning away again, pulling open the nightstand drawer. He delves his hand into the drawer, fishing around for who knows what. But then he pulls out a bottle of pain killers, doesn’t even bother to read how many he’s supposed to take, and he’s popping three small red tablets into his mouth.
“No.” I guffaw, scramble to sit up in his bed, but then realize I’m in nothing but a t-shirt also.
Okay, I can see where he thought we did.
He grunts, and runs a hand through his disheveled hair before falling back into the bed. The man doesn’t spare me a single glance before burying himself beneath the warmth of his covers and wraps his bare arms around his pillow and then,
“Well, the offer is on the table then.”