Chapter 33: Liam
I’m smoking on the terrace outside of Jere’s bedroom, and the smoke feels dirty in my lungs. But it’s warm, and that’s all I need right now. Warmth. If I can’t get it from Libby, cigarettes will have to do.
I haven’t kissed Libby since the day of the “truth or dare” session with Jimmy, and there is no way I will let myself be closer than that. She’s tried on multiple occasions to be with me, and I’ve let her. But lately... lately I’ve been busying myself to where she can’t.
I can’t let her love me when I’ve been so terrible. I need her to hate me, despise me, so the break-up won’t be as harsh for her as it will be for me.
Breaking up.... I’ve never done such a thing. I’ve only been with one person, and that ended pretty badly; Rose left and I don’t even know where she is anymore. I didn’t want to break up, although I understood why she fled. I ruined her life, considerably, and there’s no taking back something as significant as a newborn life.
But she left, and I stayed with the life that she abandoned. I don’t regret Jere, although I do regret scarring that girl. It wasn’t intentional, it was just stupid.
I think of this as Libby opens the glass door to the terrace, closing it quietly behind her. It’s nightfall, and Jere is sleeping. “Hey, stranger,” she murmurs, swaying back-and-forth in front of the door as if hesitant to be any closer to me.
I begin to reach out to her so we can be closer, but stop short. I can’t hurt her. She sees this and her shoulders sag, and I know that I’m hurting her either way I go. Why am I doing this?
Mom. Dad. The people I’ve been missing in my life for over five years now. Where the hell are they?
“Hey,” I sigh, a puff of smoke forming a ghost in front of me. My goal is to be nonchalant and clueless, as if this is the way I’ve been treating her since day one. I glance at her and catch her staring at the cement. Why am I doing this?
She deserves so much more than me and my lifestyle. She deserves a world where I don’t hover over her and muddle her thoughts. She deserves her old life back - a life without me.
“I think that’s becoming a problem,” she tries to joke, breathing out a laugh that is stuck in her chest. I look at her curiously and she taps her lips with two fingers, motioning how smoking is the “problem.”
“Problems?” I notch a brow as I steal another intake of smoke from the cig. “What problems?”
She rolls her eyes and crosses her arms in front of her torso. I take the chance to steal a glance at her appearance, and like what I see. Her cropped blonde hair is an unruly, wet mess from a recent shower, and she’s in a white tank-top and a pair of my gray sweatpants she’s claimed as her own.
Beautiful, I want to say, but I don’t. I can’t.
She saunters closer to the edge, closer to me, and holds out her hands. “Can I help you?” I ask, struggling to fight off a smile. Why is she so beautiful?
“Smoke me,” she commands simply, and I look from the cigarette in between my fingers and back to her. She’s never asked to smoke before.
Hesitantly, I meet her halfway and hand her the cigarette. She looks at it with pursed lips and then sticks it between her perfect lips. She carefully takes in a breath, and inevitably, coughs like hell. “How in the world do you breathe in that shit so often?” she asks incredulously, followed by another round of coughing.
I rush over to her, but don’t even bother to hide my laughter. It’s been awhile since I’ve let myself do such a thing. I pat her back and rub it soothingly, and when she’s done I feel her shiver. I know it’s time to step away, to let go, but I can’t seem to be able to do that. I love her so much.
I step away and she holds out the cigarette for me to take. I lean down to die it into the cement, walking over to the trashcan that needs to be taken out and dropping it onto the pile.
My lips go into a thin line. What do I say to something like that?
“And you know it, too.” I stare at the buildings around our apartment complex and wonder what the people who live in them are doing at this moment? Most likely not breaking a heart. “Liam....”
I take in a long breath, trying to form words that won’t give me away. I can’t do this right now. “I don’t know what you want me to say.”
We stay quiet for what seems like an eternity. The air between us is stiff and all I want is to engulf her in my arms and say how sorry I am for being so stupid.
She deserves so much more than what I can ever give her.
She deserves to be happy.
“I can’t lose you like I’ve lost everyone else,” she whispers, and for a second, I think I’ve imagined it. But when I dare to turn and look at her, I find her broken. And, without another word, she slowly turns back around and walks to the door, silent and in pieces.
And when the door closes, I find myself more alone than I’ve ever felt before.
No one knows how much I cried that night.