Chapter 19: Fuck You
The steady beeping of the heart monitor keeps my mind at ease, but every now and then what happened at the party flashes by and I feel the deepest level of guilt. I wait impatiently for Gemma to wake up. I need to know we’re okay, I need to know I haven’t laid our friendship down in a grave.
It was an accident.
The white walls of the hospital room make me feel like I’m in limbo because the whole world goes on and no one stops to be with me and tell me how to deal with this. It’s just me in a room with Gemma and saturated feelings of guilt and wasted time. If I had known, if I had been there for her, none of this would have happened. She wouldn’t have ever been at that party. I wouldn’t have let her.
It’s hours into the cloudy morning with a forecast of scattered thunderstorms when Gemma wakes up and I almost crumble.
“I’m so sorry,” I say before she can even come to her senses. “I didn’t think that would happen...”
I hope she’s going to smile at me, forgive me like she always has whenever I mess up, but she scoffs and mumbles fuck you, her throat sandpaper and scourer. She helps herself to the cup of water on the side before it crosses my mind I should offer it to her as a half decent person would do. I feel guilty for that too.
“Your...baby... is okay,” I tell her, avoiding making this about me and about whether she wants me in her life or not. I pray that isn’t even in consideration. “The doctor said everything was fine, and you’re fine too...”
She looks at her stomach. I can’t tell how she feels about being one of those girls, like this in education, careless and full of mistakes.
“Shut up,” she says, but I can’t because I need to know if what I’ve been thinking is true. If she’s only here because Dom of all people got her pregnant in the first place, and if so, I’m torn between telling her to give it up or being humane and a good friend by letting her make her own life-impacting decisions.
I take a deep breath and risk sacrificing what friendship we might still have left (I don’t know if she’ll ever get past this) by asking, “Why were you really at the party?”
She looks me in my eyes, her own cold, and it’s all too coincidental that while I’m in the process of ruining Tommy, this will probably ruin me. I can’t lose her as a friend. It was an accident.
Then she says, “I was watching Dom,” taking an eraser to the hostility in her voice and rubbing it out like she’s looked at me and has remembered it’s me and I would never try to hurt her.
I would never.
“Why?” I ask softly.
“To see if he had changed,” she admits, laughing at her own self for how stupid it sounds.
“Dom is one of those people who just don’t change,” I say. “He’ll be thirty and stuck in his ways, fifty and stuck in his ways, dead and stuck in his ways.”
“Yeah...” There’s a heartbreaking silence in her voice; I wish she’d told me everything from the moment she found out. This isn’t meant to be an ‘alone’ thing in her life. Her parents will probably make it, them being religious and all, church-every-Sunday, attend-all-other-services-too kind of religious, but that’s why I’m here. That’s why Tommy’s here... For her.
I let the silence between us have its moment, and I let myself prepare for what I want to say in the most sensitive way possible, but ripping the band-aid off is less painful, or so I tell myself.
“Dom is the father, isn’t he?” I say.
Gemma stays quiet, fiddling with the paper cup. That’s all I need to know her answer. That’s why she didn’t tell me, because the shame of it being a literal psychopath over anyone else... My blood’s steaming. Knowing how my life is presently coiled with Dom’s, I want to crack every bone in his body. He can try and mess up my life, my morals, my identity, but not Gemma’s. We both know she can’t be walking around as The Girl Who Dom Knocked Up, so I shut my mouth, zip it up, splinter the key, and send off every tiny piece to all the corners of the world.
“He doesn’t care... At the party, it didn’t even click in his head that it could be his. He doesn’t care at all.”
“It’s Dom...” I try to comfort Gemma’s racing mind which I can hear from here.
“All he cared about was fighting you,” she says. “Why was he fighting you? Why were you fighting him?”
I don’t tell her the truth. I can’t. I know what she will say:
Do it the hard way, tell Tommy the truth, tell Dom you’re done and actually be done, then suck it up and deal with the aftermath.
But every option is a hard way. Every option is going to hurt one person or more, and I’d prefer hurting one person over more, and that one person is going to be someone else instead of myself.
Gemma would call me selfish. I’d tell her it’s human nature, then I’d tell her that despite my selfishness I’m going to end up hurting myself anyway because I like Tommy. Then I’d tell her hurting myself by breaking the deal with Dom is an option, but hurting myself by liking Tommy isn’t, and it’s easier to endure doing the things you have no choice in doing because it’s not your fault. She’d still call me selfish and tell me to be honest.
To have morals.
To have decency.
To have a heart.
I have a heart. It’s wilting.
“I’m in a bad situation with him,” is all I say to her. She raises her eyebrows and then the cold look is back in her eyes.
“You hit my stomach - my kid, Christian - because of a ‘bad situation’ with Dominic-the-fucking-dick and you can’t even tell me what it is? Where the fuck are your morals? Your decency?” At least she still thinks I have a heart. “Did you fucking donate your heart or something pre-death? No, fuck you, Christian. Fuck you. Fuck you for thinking this world doesn’t need good people anymore. Fuck you for losing yourself when I need you the most. Fuck. You. Christian. Fuck you.”
I go to open my mouth but she’s got her middle finger up and the coffin our friendship is getting shut in is at the ready to be lowered into that grave dug for it.
“I’m done with you, Christian,” she says. I don’t soak it in. “I’m fucking done with you, and if you ever blame this on the hormones I will rip the skin off your face.”
Then I do soak it in and I feel weird and out of my body. “Gemma-”
I laugh in disbelief. I’ve been catapulted into the body of shock and I’m casually holding hands with pain. Yeah, my stomach’s turning, she already ripped my skin off with the words out of her mouth. Puke is creeping up my throat.
“But we’ve always been friends...?” I say. She laughs at me. There’s too much laughing for a moment in our lives that isn’t funny.
“Grow up, rethink your dumb decisions, and fuck you. And fuck off too.”
I’m going to be building a ladder long enough to reach Hell because I’m pretty sure that’s how far the coffin of our friendship goes into the ground.
“My mom said it’s not down to circumstances,” I tell Doctor Olson through gritted teeth. He keeps clicking his pen, rubbing his chin as he’s deep in thought. This isn’t even the therapy session I booked which is in about two weeks time, this is a doctor’s checkup for the pills I was given and I’m being studied like I should be in a museum of psychos for educational purposes.
“I’m not an advisor, I’m not a therapist, but I’m your doctor and I care, and I need all the background information I can get before I’m able to make the decision of giving you Xanax. I can’t decide that off you saying to me the pills I prescribed you ‘aren’t good enough’,” he says, a sentence made for a massive internal scoff from me.
He probably only cares about the *little* money he’s getting, not your wellbeing. If he’s got kids then I don’t blame him. But you don’t see any pictures on his desk, do you?
“So, I need to know when and why your anxiety progressively got worse. Getting worse is usually always based on circumstances, but we often have the choice to change our circumstances.”
I sigh. I could be getting coursework done, or finally looking for a job - I should be leaving college with a degree in Procrastination - not sitting in this dusty room. I also know that honesty will get me out of here sooner, and help me get better.
“When I started college,” I say, my knee bouncing as I crack my knuckles which he winces at. Now I’m taking on a new form of physical outlet: giving myself future arthritis in my fingers. “I got better over the summer when I got away from high school, and the prospect of going to college hours away from everything that made me miserable and anxious was meant to be an escape. Got here, realized I only feel worse because I don’t know what or who I’m dealing with, therefore anxiety galore, and now I’m sat in this room. At least back home I knew what and who I was dealing with.”
“But that’s life,” Doctor Olson says. “You’re never going to know what you’re dealing with. We can’t tap into the future and find out when things will go wrong and plan in advance to avoid that, so there’s no point in wasting your energy on anxiety, is there?”
Scoff. My gosh. Like I have a damn choice. Great. I’ll just take that advice and my anxiety will magically poof into the air. Oh, I forgot, he’s not a therapist... Yeah, go easy on him.
“I’m assuming college isn’t necessarily a circumstance you want to change with all the money gone towards having further education, even with the oppression in today’s society because of the notion you need college and university to live a life and be successful.”
When he says that, something clicks in my head. The whole getting good grades and graduating thing doesn’t stress me out or cause anxiety as much as it should do. No, it’s Christian, and Dom’s presence, and being connected to people I don’t need to be connected to... That’s what’s causing my anxiety. That’s a circumstance I can pluck out, and then I should just be fine. Right?
But I’ve always been here with you, way before college, way before high school. Even in your happiest moments, I’ve always been here. Don’t listen to a stranger. They have experience. And Mom raised you, day in day out. If she says I’m not down to circumstances then I’m not. Besides, why would you want Christian out of your life? You like him and he knows your secret, so you should keep him close. You contradict yourself. Your whole existence is literally so that I shut everyone out. It is what it is.
“I would suggest you consider all the specific things making your anxiety worse...”
“...And make the decision about whether you need them or it in your life or not...”
Not, but I kind of want him in my life.
“Xanax will be the last resort after therapy and after many checkup sessions. On that note, did you receive the referral letter and book an appointment?”
“Yeah,” I respond, too far up in my head to know what’s going on around me anymore.
“Alright. I’ll have you in for regular checkups to track how you’re doing. In the meantime, from analysis, I’ll increase the dosage of the capsules you’re taking. That is much safer than Xanax.”
And that’s just the subtle way of saying you really can’t cope on your own. You’re weak, but you got to exist if not live, so here’s a pill, take it, feel better, let’s move on.
But I’m tired of just existing. I’m tired of giving everything up to my anxiety and moving on. I don’t want to give Christian up to my anxiety and move on.
Meet me in the courtyard
Yeah I know there’s a thunderstorm and it’s raining
I rub my eyes and reread the text hoping my tiredness hasn’t conjured up the greatest message of all history... maybe. But nope, there it is on the screen, from Tommy, from imgoingtoignoreyouforamonth.com. A freaking meet me in the courtyard text making me think about when I kissed him there for the first time because I had to. Thinking back to it now, I don’t think it ever was because I had to. I wanted to.
It’s nine p.m. and the frat house has been loud for ages because everyone’s in from the thunderstorm, but I was still able to take a nap after getting back from the hospital. A really depressing, miserable nap caused by falling asleep thinking of ways to get through to Gemma and coming up empty-handed. That nap turned into eight hours and I’m still tired.
Not tired enough to reject that offer/demand though. I text back sure and leave the house quietly, passing the lounge room swiftly so Dom, who’s smoking as Brad and some others spend their time gaming, doesn’t see me and question where I’m going. Not that it’s any of his business...
He definitely sees me.
The courtyard is empty. Only Tommy is special enough to suggest outside in a Florida thunderstorm. I’m getting soaked, but it’s worth seeing him after so long. Getting ignored this time has been different.
“Why outside?” I ask when I make it to him, talking as if we never stopped.
“I needed fresh air.” And apparently, his butt wet on the bench. “Going out in a thunderstorm seems therapeutic too.”
I willingly sit on the bench, getting my butt wet. He looks at me oddly, a muffled laugh following, and pulls out half a roll of toilet paper and it’s the most strange, quirky thing I’ve ever seen. A really cute guy in a nicely designed courtyard holding half a roll of toilet paper instead of pocket tissue, and in a Florida thunderstorm getting both him and it wet.
“Couldn’t find any regular non-ass related tissue,” he says, offering it. I feel the air rip out of me as I laugh.
“Yeah, but it’s wet now, isn’t it?” I say on behalf of my butt and the tissue. “How have things been lately?”
“I’ve been thinking about how I don’t want to be that person who gives up living for existing. Existing is the default for someone who has mental health issues and I just don’t want to be in that percentage of people who never change that.”
“Well, it’s America. You can be free, you know.”
“I would laugh because I like you but that’s a terrible joke.”
But we’re laughing anyway.
I think about how I wish Tommy would look me in my eyes more often when he talks. Then again, eye contact barely exists in our generation, but either way, my wilting, blackening heart turns a little red at his words and I forget about whatever deal I have with Dom.
“I want to be with you,” he says quietly as if anxiety is out to get him. Watching the droplets of rain sit on his soft skin, I take his hand as the place lights up with a flash of lightning.
“Yeah? Sure about that?” I ask. “Isn’t indecisiveness a common side effect for people who have been diagnosed with Tommy Carpenter?”
“Don’t insult me.” He shrugs my hand away, then takes it right back and into his with a smile. He finds interest in my wrist, tracing my veins as he just sits there. Even though it’s clear the rain is making him cold and I’m cold and life is cold, we don’t move from the moment that’s been designed so perfect. “I made my decision. Don’t know if I’ll regret it - don’t make me regret it - if you do, fuck you... but I want to be with you.”
I go to answer but the lights in the courtyard blackout, and so does every other light on campus it seems like. The happenstance of the power cutting out when Tommy finally decides he’s going to be with me is one big you’re going to Hell for your sins, Son from God himself and yeah, yeah I am.
“Ditto,” I say. “Be with me then.”
“Who even says ‘ditto’ anymore? And yes.”
When I get back to the frat house, it’s ten times louder than before. Apparently, a blackout means going apeshit and acting like children. I plan to enter as I left, quickly, quietly, and trying to go unnoticed. This time I’m sure I do, but when I reach the top of the staircase and one of the guys go flying past me and sliding down the banister, I’m pulled to the side by Dom. It’s like our fight didn’t even happen.
“You pulled yourself together yet?” he questions.
The only highlight about being ignored by Tommy for a month was not being able to continue with this deal. If I could just escape Dom without any consequences...
I nod and he gives a corrupt grin.
“Update me,” he says.
You’re going to Hell for your sins, Son. “He likes me. We’re together.”
“I’ve got access to a lake house. Here’s the location.” He hands me a piece of paper with an address scribbled on it. “Take him there.”
With that, Dom disappears downstairs to the lounge room leaving me in internal agony, and the only thing I can say long after he’s gone is, “Fuck you.”
Hi everyone! I realized from my readers comments on Wattpad that they were getting confused about the deal between Dom and Christian, so I asked them if they would like a prologue explaining things a bit better. Most of the responses were yes, so I created a prologue which is now up on here right at the beginning where it should be :)