Chapter 34: Libby
“He loves you, y’know.”
Jimmy’s comment comes out more as a statement than a question.
“He’s just stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
He’s got a beer in one hand and his arm is draped around my shoulders as we’re walking down the back streets to who-knows-where. My heart is pounding and my chest is straining from the deep urge to just break down and scream. What the hell is wrong with this situation?
“He wants to make you happy-” I interrupt him with one of those one-syllable laughs, but he doesn’t let this stop him, “-but wants to keep you from getting hurt in the process.”
I shake my head, a sad smile hanging on my lips. “If he wanted me to be happy, none of this would be happening in the first place.”
Jimmy shrugs his free shoulder, squeezing me tight by his side before letting me loose once more. “You gotta admit - Liam isn’t the smoothest snake in the kingdom.”
“But he’s also the most sensitive son-of-a-bitch I’ve ever met, so as much as this is killing you, he’s going down under too.”
I wrinkle my eyebrows, trying to understand what the hell this means. Is Jimmy just talking from his ass, or is he actually being insightful?
Jimmy’s hand cups my chin and he turns me to look at him. His blonde hair is an unruly birds nest, but still somehow looks pretty attractive, and his blue eyes are piercing mine with such an intensity that I’m confused.
“He’s hurting, Lib. Don’t forget that,” he says, and the way he says “Lib” sends shivers down my back. Only one person calls me that, and they haven’t spoken it in weeks.
“He’s acting so offhand about everything, though. So...” I try to form the words, but he’s already got them in his pocket.
“Indifferent? Dismissive?” Both words send jolts to my stomach.
“What are you getting at, Jim?” I ask, tired of him being so discreet.
“It’s August,” he states, sending another jolt of panic. August. I nod. “When were you planning on going back home?”
Home. It’s as if Texas isn’t home anymore - this is home. This is where my happiness lies. Jimmy, Jere, Debby, Bentley... Liam.
“Lemme reword that for you: When were you at first planning on going home?”
I swallow the lump in my throat as I recall the date. “Sunday.”
He nods slowly. “Two days, right? Today’s the tenth?” I nod. He lets out a sigh and pulls his arm away from my shoulders, stepping off towards the edge of the curb.
I look around and realize that I have no idea where we are. He leans down and sets the empty beer bottle onto the cement, and when he reaches out to me when he stands straight, I realize the obvious: He’s drunk.
“Dance with me,” Jimmy sighs, and my heart plummets to my stomach.
“Dance with me.”
I remember these words clearly, as if I have heard them only moments ago.
Without a second to spare, his hand is in mine and pulling me towards him slowly, as I am going the fastest I can in these heels. His other hand slides to the small of my back, light as a feather, as if scared to hurt me in the slightest bit.
I squeeze his hand, reassuring him that he doesn’t have to be so gentle with me - doesn’t have to be so stiff. “It’s okay,” I whisper, as we are less than a foot apart from each other. My hand rests on the back of his neck, and I’m for once happy that I’m wearing the friggin’ heels - I can actually reach it without straining to.
“I know,” he whispers back, pulling me closer. I smile, and when he starts singing along with the lyrics, I laugh. “C’mon,” he says, his voice full with smiles, “sing with me.”
I don’t realize I’m crying until I feel someone engulfing me in their arms. “Libby, shh,” Jimmy consoles, but it only makes me cry harder. I’m drowning. Where is he? Why isn’t he here? I voice these pitiful concerns and he only shakes his head, and rubs my back up and down. “He’s with Jere, Libby. You know that.”
I shake my head at him but only wrap my arms around his waist tighter. “Not here here, stupid. Here, as in, y’know, Liam. Why isn’t he the same?”
But Jimmy only sighs and squeezes me against him, holding me tight. “I don’t know, Libby. He’s an asshole. You deserve better.”
No, I almost say, I deserve him. I deserve the Liam that loved me in every way there is - the Liam that called me his.
And then Jimmy says the two words I never thought I’d hear in this state - especially not from the one person who told me to stay nearly three months ago: “Go home.”
I freeze. Go home. “What?” I ask, stepping away from his firm hold on me and looking at him to see how drunk he really is.
Only mildly, I conclude, but this doesn’t make me feel any more comfort than I hoped.
“Go home, Libby,” he says, stepping forward and placing his hands on my shoulders. “I think it’s time.”
“But... this doesn’t make sense. I just got here. This is only a blip, I swear it! It’s not like-”
“-he’ll stay like this forever, I know. That’s why I’m telling you to ‘leave,’” Jimmy smirks as he puts the air-quotes around the word “leave.”
“I’m not catching on.”
He sighs, exasperated. “When we get to the apartment, pack. Immediately. Make a big show on booking your flight at Juke’s tomorrow - have Bentley help you. Don’t let Jere know, though, he’ll be crushed. Don’t involve him in this.”
I nod as he goes through all of this in a rush, trying to catch onto where he’s going but still walking in blind.
“Liam’s going to get pissed. Okay, not pissed, but you get what I mean - he’ll be shocked and scared as hell, and probably going to be speechless the entire time. Don’t be scared if he doesn’t say a word to you or try to stop you at the time. He’ll just wanna ‘talk.’”
I have no idea what is going on anymore. “Jimmy, slow down. What’s the point to all of this? Why don’t I just wait it out to see if he snaps out of it himself?”
“Because what if he doesn’t?” And I’m convinced. He can tell, because he continues. “If he follows you, then he’s back. There’s no way that the real Liam would ever let you leave, y’know?”
I hesitate, but know that I have to ask. “But what if he doesn’t?”
He sighs, picks the beer bottle from the ground, and drapes his arm around my shoulders once more. “Then it was never meant to be.”