I sighed, looking from the piece of paper to the small restaurant. The last day of the convention had gone well and I had decided to meet up with Christopher afterward.
I stuffed the yellow piece of paper pocket before running a hand through my hair to make it look more presentable. I felt my face heat up at what I was doing and I quickly took away my hand. It was irritating that I still cared to some degree about how I looked like to Christopher.
I bit my lip thinking to earlier this afternoon. Ethan hadn’t spoken to me all day. He’d said more words to Ethel than he had to me, and the only full sentence that he’d uttered to her was that he was starving. I shook my head, deciding not to think too much about it. I was here to see Christopher for probably the last time although a part of me wished otherwise.
I walked in to find Christopher at the far corner table. It was a habit of his when we were still dating. He didn’t like to sit anywhere else.
“I don’t know, it gives me this idea of power. I can observe without the fear of equally being observed.”
I smiled, remembering Christopher’s explanation from years ago. He was fond of talking in bits and pieces, like he wanted to hand over information but not too much so your mind was still in a void.
I was smiling oddly at myself when Christopher’s blonde hair lifted to look straight at me. He gave me a wide grin before beckoning me over.
I stood there awkwardly, a little embarrassed at being caught smiling before my legs eventually willed me to move.
“You came. I thought you were going to chicken out.” Christopher teased as I took the seat across from him.
“Well I didn’t,” I said, taking my gaze off him to look at the rest of the restaurant. “Do you come here often?”
“You could say something like that. I live here for part of the year, so I take my meals here. I can’t cook to save my life, remember?” Christopher said as a small smile played at the corner of his lips.
I smiled, remembering well. He couldn’t do anything for himself. I’d done his laundry, made his meals and cleaned up his apartment in-between my classes at college.
I’d met him when he was a teacher’s assistant. He’d graduated with honors a year before I got admitted. I’d adored him immensely at our first meeting. He’d been sweet and charming. He’d turned down the passes I made at him during my first year and I accepted the sick pity he started to show me in my second year. I started to do things to try and keep him... Including losing weight. My mother didn’t like Christopher for good reasons. He’d made me cry often and that’s what led my mother to send me to the college Ethan was presently attending to keep me away from him.
I thought deeply about how stupid I’d been. I’d thought he’d stay in touch, wait for me.
“Andrew,” I heard Christopher say, bringing me out of my thoughts. I gave him a questioning look before looking up to find a waitress standing next to our table.
“What would you like?” she asked, her pen pressed against her notepad. I shook my head, muttering a small nothing. She nodded before walking away.
“You’re still starving yourself?” Christopher asked, chuckling lightly.
“I’m not hungry,” I stated, fidgeting with my hands on the table. Chris gave me a surprised look before scuffing.
“You’ve changed,” he said with a grin. “You’re no longer the crybaby they shipped away,” he finished, referring to my sudden transfer of schools all those years ago.
I stiffened visibly as I felt Chris hand take mine. I stared at it intensely, remembering when I used to beg for this simple gesture in public and it hadn’t been given to me.
I remember bombarding his facebook with messages when I’d been transferred. He hadn’t answered any of them, and it had taken me a photo of him and his new boyfriend to realize he didn’t want me anymore, that it had been all a lie to get me to do things for him and that I was only proving a nuisance.
I sighed when they brought his plate of crab for him. I chewed idly on the toothpicks as I watched him eat. We engaged in small talk, but his method of dice communication lead to sudden breaks and odd silences.
I was in a foul mood. Just seeing Christopher had invoked memories that I wasn’t quite pleased with.
“Do you want me to take you back to your hotel?” Christopher asked, probably noticing my discomfort. I nodded, getting up immediately. I really shouldn’t have accepted his invitation to this outing in the first place.
Getting into the passenger seat of his BMW, I rested my head on the seat with a sigh. Christopher got in, starting the engine before asking where we were heading to.
I muttered the address of the hotel before turning my attention to the scenery outside the window. It was getting late, and I and Ethan hadn’t even had a reasonable conversation throughout today.
I frowned, realizing we weren’t heading to the hotel.
“Christopher...?” I trailed, turning to look at him. He ignored my call, continuing down the path.
“Christopher!” I called more firmly giving his right shoulder a little nudge. He shook my hand off him before pulling the car to a sudden stop at the side of the road.
“What? Are you going to play hard to get right now?” he asked, giving me an irritated look. I frowned, not quite understanding what he was trying to imply.
“I’m taking you to my place...” Christopher trailed, starting the car again.
I blinked in worry. I didn’t want things to go that far. “I don’t know Christopher, maybe I should just leave—”
I jumped at the sound of locking doors threw me off my train of speech.
“Christopher, I want to leave,” I said turning to meet his stone look.
“Stop that, it’s not attractive,” Christopher said, pulling back to the road as he continued to move the car up ahead.
“You can’t make me,” I muttered trying to keep my cool. The truth was that every molecule in my body was jumping about in fright. I didn’t quite believe what I said. Christopher had made me do things before, what makes me think he can’t make me do them now?
I didn’t plan for this evening to go like this.
“I’m not making you do anything,” Chris sighed, running a hand through his hair. “We both know you want it, it’s just unattractive to pretend otherwise—”
“Let me out,” I demanded, cutting him off.
Chris stopped the car abruptly again. I clutched to the seat to make sure I didn’t hit the car’s bonnet head first.
“So let me try to decode this,” Chris muttered calmly as he drummed his fingers against the steering wheel.
“You think you’re better than me now, don’t you?” Chris said, giving me an irritated look. I opened my mouth to talk but he just turned away.
“Just because you’re having a little success doesn’t make you any better than me—”
“Shut up Andrew.”
I shut my mouth before looking away. I knew I should be screaming back, but I was so used to Christopher treating me like this that my reaction was in a way self-programmed.
“Or do you think you’re now some sort of catch?” Christopher asked, giving me a mocking look.
“You lost weight, so what?” Chris scoffed, rolling his eyes. “You just went from looking like a cow to a stick insect,” he said, looking towards me with an odd smile.
“Either way you’re still not slightly attractive,” he said with a shrug.
“Andrew,” Chris called, looking straight at the road. I didn’t answer him, I was still in shock, and I thought he’d changed.
“Andrew, are you deaf?! I’m fucking calling you!” He suddenly yelled, turning to face me. I muttered a small no, trying to look at anything but him at the moment.
“Good,” he said, satisfied with my frightened reply. “As I was saying,” He sighed rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand.
“You’re like an opportunity cost in a scale of preference,” Chris muttered biting his lower lip. “Not exactly what you want to buy but what would do for the meantime.”
“You get that, don’t you?” he said, achieving a programmed nod from me.
“Good,” he said as he unlocked the doors of the car.
“Get out,” he ordered plainly. I nodded, feeling for the doorknob with my fingers before stumbling out.
I watched as his car disappeared into the darkness, leaving me behind in the cold. I walked away, heading for the hotel by foot. I took the occasional break to wipe tears from my eyes, and to nurse my aching ankle. I didn’t let myself break down in pity. I deserved it. I ignored everyone’s warnings and went after him — again.
I walked into the hotel reception with my tear stained face and a limp I couldn’t possibly hide anymore. The attendant behind the counter gave me a worried look but I ignored it and continued on my way to the room I shared with Ethan.
I opened the room door to find him sitting on the bed with a book in his hands. He looked up at me when I walked in but didn’t ask any questions.
“Shit!” I groaned as my foot made contact with a roller of a box that was in the way.
“Are you okay?” Ethan asked, closing his book before getting off the bed.
“No...” I admitted as he came towards me. He laced his hand under mine, helping me to the bed.
“What happened?” he asked, taking off my shoes and socks. I pulled my leg away in reflex when his hand tried to massage against my ankle. It hurt badly, and I wasn’t sure a massage was what I needed now.
“I’ll be gentle,” Ethan promised, taking my foot in his hands again.
“I—I did something stupid,” I admitted, feeling the need to talk to someone — to Ethan. “But I’m okay now. I’ll never make that mistake again,” I concluded, shutting my eyes at the numbing pain that came with the massage.
Ethan didn’t say anything, but the silence had this sort of assuring feeling attached to it that was a million times better than a two-sided conversation.
“There,” Ethan said, letting go of my foot. I thanked him, curling up into a ball in the bed ignoring the fact that I was still in my outing clothes.
“You should take off your clothes,” Ethan advised, getting off the floor to walk over to the drawers.
“I’ll do that later,” I said, closing my eyes. The trousers and button-up shirt I had on was undoubtedly uncomfortable, but I just didn’t want to leave the comfort of the bed. I was sure I was going to break down into a sobbing mess if I even let myself change position.
I heard ruffling and moving about but I never heard the anticipated sound of the bed sinking with Ethan’s weight.
“Ethan?” I called out opening my eyes. I sat up to find his lying on the floor on a makeshift bed made out of a duvet and pillow.
“Are we... are we still not talking to each other?” I asked, placing my feet on the floor.
“No. I just wanted to give you some space,” Ethan said, looking up at me. I sighed in relief as I got down on the floor to join him.
“I’m not in the mood for space,” I said, cuddling up to him under the light bedspread he used as a blanket. I let myself pull Ethan closer, drawing in some warmth from him.
“Ethan, do you think I’m second rate?” I asked as my skin shivered as his hands began to unbutton my shirt.
“In what sense?” he asked, running his hands over my chest.
“I don’t know, any?” I offered, whimpering at his touch.
“No, why would you think that?” he asked as I let my lips graze his chin.
“I don’t know...” I muttered as Ethan returned the gesture, pecking me lightly as he pulled my shirt over my shoulders.
“Andrew?” Ethan called out asking an unuttered question as I began to kiss down his throat.
“Is something wrong?” I asked looking up at his cloudy eyes. He shuttered, shaking his head. We kissed and touched each other tenderly and somewhere between the foreplay I got up to turn off the lights. Ethan didn’t ask me why; he just received me willingly when I joined him on the floor again.
I gasped in shock when he turned us over and propped me on top of him. I sandaled him as he encouraged me to grind against him.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” I heard him murmur in the dark. “You know, your leg,” he said as his hands found mine.
“You won’t,” I muttered as I felt his hands run over me. I was touched. He’s wanted this for such a long time and he still had time to worry about me.
I figured what Ethan showed to me that night was what lovemaking ought to be like. He’d been considerate, gentle and loving. All the things Christopher had failed to be. Ethan had filled an emptiness all those brief one night stands I’d had after Chris and I broke up couldn’t.
He said he loved me at the end of it all. Usually, I’d get mad when he said things like that, but this time I didn’t. This time my heart fluttered in a funny manner and my mouth almost uttered the same words back.
I think I’ve fallen in love with Ethan. It scares me.