Begin Again

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Seventeen: Self Destruct

The end of the day was much later for me than anyone else. Everyone, including Mason, left at 5:00, but I’m still here at 8:00 finishing up some emails that I’ve been behind on. I’ve gotten so caught up with Violet that I’ve allowed my work to suffer which is never a good thing to admit, but I can admit when I’m wrong. Something I’ve become good at.

When the clock reaches closer to 8:15 I decide to call it a night and grab my jack off of my chair, throwing it over my arm as I head towards the elevator, turning the lights off as I go. It isn’t uncommon for me to leave late, but lately I’ve been leaving earlier than everyone by a few hours.

I pull my keys from my pocket before reaching the door and seeing that it’s pouring, the worst rainfall so far this year and there’s something about the rain that I find relaxing. It allows me to see what I feel, in some odd way.

As I lock the front door, I head towards my reserved parking spot. My car is the only one left in the parking lot, except another ugly looking buggie a few spots down from me. I squint my eyes to see if I’m seeing correctly, a blonde leaned over the hood of the car, struggling to figure out what’s going on.

“Ella?” I ask, walking past my car and directly towards her, “Car problems?”

She lifts her head to look at me, sighing heavily before nodding in response, “Yes. I’ll be fine, it’s just a flat tire.”

“Then why are you looking under the hood?” I ask, becoming confused by her logic - whatever logic there is in the situation. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that looking under the hood of a car doesn’t fix a flat tire.

Ella pauses before standing up straight, blinking away from of the rain rolling down her face, “I initially thought the problem was under the hood and my ring slipped off. I’m not looking to fix the tire, I’m looking for my ring.”

“Ah... Because that definitely makes sense,” I tease, walking around to the trunk and popping it without saying anything else. Just as expected, a spare tire and a jack.

“What are you doing, Thomas? My dad taught me how to change a tire so I don’t need your help,” She becomes defensive and I’m not sure why she doesn’t want to accept help from a man, I can obviously get the job done faster and I have experience with working on cars.

“Chill out, Eloise.” I roll my eyes, tossing my jacket into the trunk and walking to the flat tire.

As I put the jack in place, Ella quickly slams the hood of the car down and glares at me, “Don’t call me that.”

“It’s your name, isn’t it?” I arch an eyebrow, a smirk playing at my lips as I realize how much she hates being called her legal name.

“I’m getting it legally changed,” She responds, her arms folded over her chest with irritation clear on her face. Unfortunately for her, the more I realize I’m annoying someone, the more I’m going to continue.

I remember in high school, she always went by Ella, however, during attendance the teacher’s always referred to her as Eloise which caused laughter from the entire class each time. It never failed, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that Eloise is a terrible name for a young girl. A teenager especially.

I don’t blame her for one second for wanting to change her name.

I begin to jack up the car, using my arm strength to maneuver the handle and lift the car up steadily, “Well, until then, I’m going to have to call you Eloise. Legal reasons.”

“Give it a rest, Thomas,” She begs and I see the chubby teen in her eyes, the one who sat at the front of the classroom with her head down while people joked about her size, or name even.

I never gave a fuck about her name, I was the student in back of the class sleeping or observing the things around me, usually when people would laugh I had no idea what was going on. Her weight was something I remember joking about. A shallow bastard was someone who I could once identify with, now it’s only regrets of hurting someone who was already being hurt enough.

“You don’t look like the Eloise,” I tell her, taking a bolt off one at a time, “Ella suits you, I think.”

She seems surprised by my change in tone but only nods her head, not forgiving me that quickly. I don’t blame her, I don’t deserve to be forgiven for all the tormenting I’ve done, but I can work to earn forgiveness.

As I take off the last bolt, I look up at Ella, seeing her blonde hair getting drenched from the rainfall, “Did you really lose your ring or were you lying?”

“I didn’t see the flat tire,” She admits, “I was looking under the hook to see if there had been a different problem.”

“Ah,” I nod my head in response. I knew she had been lying, who loses a ring under the hood of a car? I pull off the tire, reaching for the spare and I begin to adjust it onto her car, “I’ve been meaning to tell you that your work has been exceptional. I don’t really have a lot of time to go through employees individually but I’m impressed by your organization skills.”

“Excuse me for saying this, Thomas, but you don’t have time because you leave early on most days or don’t show up at all...” Ella shrugs her shoulders, “I respect you because you’re my boss but if your employee’s opinions matter, I just want to say that I think you’re more caught up with Jade’s cousin than you are with your business. Of course that’s your business, not mine, but I’m the one cancelling meetings or answering various calls from people looking for you.”

I click my tongue, unsure what to say. She isn’t wrong; Violet has consumed much more of my time than she should, but that’s my own fault for being completely infatuated with her. If Ella had noticed, surely there were other people noticing.

“Thank you for bringing that to my attention,” I tell her, trying to focus on the tire but now I’m only able to think of how to fix this mess that I’ve made within my own company, “Do you think I’m a bad boss because of this?”

She seems surprised by my question and doesn’t respond right away. After realizing that I’m asking a serious question, she shakes her head, “No. I think you’re preoccupied, but I know you care about your business. It’s clear why you’re so infatuated with Violet, so it makes sense.”

“What’s clear?” I question, not sure what she means by that.

“Well, she’s Jade’s cousin... I’m just assuming that you feel a bond with her because of that,” Ella shrugs her shoulders and even though I know she means no harm, I feel slightly triggered by her assumption. Why does everyone assume that?

I scoff, moving my arm to tighten the bolts faster, “That’s really not something you can assume from your spot behind the desk, Ella. You don’t know me or my relationship with Violet. So don’t put your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

She falls silent and I’m too late at realizing that I reacted negatively, “Same goes for you, Thomas. Instead of interfering with my business and coming over here like some kind of alpha male who can save me from the rain, how about you stop acting like a hero and back off?”

“Whoa,” I hold my hands up in defense, her response surprising me and I attempt to talk her down a bit, “Calm down. I’m trying to be nice and help.”

“No. You’re doing what you always did, even in high school, everything revolved around you. You talk about whoever you want but if someone said a single thing about you, you beat them up,” She begins to explain to me, reminding me of my harsh demeanor in high school. I didn’t like getting talked about, nor do I now, “You have no problem acting like you know my life or anyone else’s, but anytime someone gives you an opinion about your life, you’re a baby about it.”

“Chill out,” I mutter under my breath, feeling like the annoyed teenager that I once was. I’ve been slightly unstable since losing Jade and my temper lies barely beneath the surface, so I get ticked off pretty easily. I can admit that.

I finish putting on Ella’s spare tire and after putting the car back down, I stand up and turn to her. She’s refusing to look at me and as I wait for a thank you, I know it isn’t going to happen. This girl is stubborn.

“You’re very welcome, Eloise.”

Ella finally looks at me, irritation clear in her eyes, “Look, I appreciate the help but again, I didn’t ask for it. I also didn’t ask for you to be rude every time you’re around me, so excuse me for not being polite. Have a nice drive home, I’ll see you in the morning.”

She walks around to the driver’s side and opens the door. I ignore the rain that is drenching me and I close the door before she can get in, “I’m an ass, I get it. I’m not good with apologies but I’m sorry for being a dick to you. I get touchy when it comes to Jade and--”

“I’m sorry for what happened to Jade, everyone in freaking North Carolina heard and grieved, but you’re not always going to get off with things by using the same excuse, Thomas. You can apologize as much as you want but does it even count if you don’t change your behavior?”

Ella’s words make me feel like I’m being lectured by Jade again. A speech about morals and making good decisions is exactly what I would be hearing if Jade were here, and much like Jade, Ella can hold her own. The thought of them being similar cause me to feel bad for how I’ve acted, but I feel bad for all of the wrong reasons.

I don’t feel bad because she’s Ella, I feel bad because Jade would be disappointed in me. All of my problems circle back to the same thing - my entire life revolves around my loss and now I’m beginning to think that maybe everyone is right.

I’m holding onto reasons to be unhappy. When life is going good I self destruct and I’ve been blinded by it until now.

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