I END UP getting home around noon, and as soon as I open the door I see Dion sitting on the bottom step of the staircase putting his sneakers on. He looks up at me for a moment before he breaks out into a smile. “How’d your night go?” He teases.
After leaving Waffle House with Elena I just feel upset if I can be honest. I was starting to think we might actually have something between us, but it seems as if she doesn’t care whatsoever who I choose to spend my time with. Would she get jealous? Would she be sad?
“It was alright.” I finally decide to say. “How was your night?”
I go to tug my jacket off but quickly remember the bandage, so I straighten back up and lean my shoulder against the wall.
“It was...” He trails off, covering his mouth with his hand to cover the smile. “Pretty damn good.”
“You finally slept with her!” I begin to laugh when he pokes the inside of his cheek out with his tongue from being so embarrassed. “It’s about damn time.”
“I know, but dude, it wasn’t like sleeping with other girls. It was...different. It was with someone I have an actual connection with, you know? It was different. Definitely a good different.”
Memories of Elena in my arms race through my mind, and I try to block out how much I want to agree with Dion. I know that if Elena and I ever slept together it would more than likely be the best sex I ever have. I don’t know why I’m feeling jealous of Dion, but I am. I wish Elena and I could have what him and Amelia have right now, but it just seems impossible.
“Anyways, I’ve gotta go to the library to pick up some books. I’ve got this test tomorrow and definitely didn’t study. This weekend went by so fast.” He stands up from the step, slaps me on the shoulder and keeps that same smirk plastered on his face. “I’ll see you later bro.”
Once I’m surrounded by silence, the crippling anxiety and nerves start to seep back in. I hate being alone for this exact reason. After I’ve relapsed, being alone isn’t the safest option for me. I need to be around people, otherwise I think too much. And silence is deafening.
Just as I’m about to head upstairs, my phone in my pocket starts to buzz. I immediately get annoyed because it’s most likely my mom, but when Elena’s contact pops up on the screen I almost feel frozen.
“Hey.” I breathe out nervously. I pause at the bottom of the staircase, unsure of why she’s even calling me in the first place.
“Hey! Um, I was just calling because I’m leaving for my group in a few hours, and I just... well, I don’t know. I don’t want this to be offensive to you at all.”
“What is it?” I can’t help but fight back a smirk at how nervous she sounds. Her voice seems all rush-liked, and I can almost picture her blushing.
“Would you maybe want to... come with me? I know that you just left, so if you have plans that’s fine, but I just... well, last night. I know you’re struggling, and I think this could help you.”
Her inviting me to go to a therapy group was certainly the last thing I expected her to ask, but as I contemplate going I honestly can’t help but think about how much I’d probably get to know Elena if I went to these group sessions with her. I think therapy is a sack of shit. I’ve said this ever since day one when I was forced to endure therapy the first time I cut myself. I think it’s a place where someone who doesn’t know what the fuck you’ve been through tries to get you to spill your memories out for no fucking reason. And for what? For people to feel sorry for you? It’s fucking bullshit.
I snap out of my thoughts when I realize I still haven’t replied, but all I can do is clear my throat. “Sorry.” I mumble. “Isn’t this a group for sex addicts though? How will this help?”
“It’s just a group for addictions in general. It’s off campus, so there won’t be anyone that you know. It’ll be just between us.”
Just between us. A secret for Elena and I to keep. I feel like we have so many secrets of our own already that now we’re just forming new ones together. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing.
“Fine.” I sigh, giving into her. “How bad could it be?”
It’s one thousand times worse than I imagined. This room is filled with complete strangers, and every single one of them has been staring at me like a hawk since I’ve walked in. I know I’m new to this place, but it’s making me uncomfortable as fuck.
I stay by Elena’s side as we make our way down a hallway. This group is held in the downstairs of a rec center, which I find really strange. It smells musty and I’m already sweating through this stupid shirt that I put on.
“You look really nice.” Elena says, almost as if she can read my mind. I decided to change out of the leather jacket from the heat and put on a long sleeved plaid shirt instead. I’d never admit it to her, but I’m really glad she noticed.
“So do you.” I reply. Her leggings and oversized t-shirt have been replaced by a pair of jean shorts and a crop top that just barely covers her belly button. She’s so tan from this sun that she honestly doesn’t realize how fucking gorgeous she is. It makes those freckles become alive on her perfectly clear skin, and her long hair is practically gleaming.
All of the chairs are set up in a circle, and I inwardly groan at how much this is just reciprocating a movie. I don’t want to have to say my name, or tell my addiction. I just want to sit here and listen to what Elena has to say. That’s it.
“Hey Beverley!” Elena runs over to hug an older woman who embraces her into her arms. She’s got thick, grey hair, and these thick-brimmed glasses are perched on her nose. “This is my friend Xavier.” She waves me over and grips me by the arm when I reach her, causing all of the hairs on my body to stand on end. “He’s just testing out the group today.” She smiles.
“Well it’s lovely to meet you.” Beverly shakily sticks her hand out to me, so I meekly shake it and send her a shy grin. I’m not the best in social situations. “It’s good that you came.”
I don’t exactly know what to reply to that, but after a few more seconds of awkward silence Elena pulls me towards the chairs in a circle and we both take a seat. “She’s like, the sweetest person ever.” She gushes. “She was the first person I met when I started coming to this group. We’ve been through a lot together. She’s my sponsor.”
Before I can respond, a man with a bald head sits down in one of the chairs with a clipboard in hand and sends a smile to the fifteen or so of us surrounding him. “Welcome.” He smiles warmly. “It’s great to see everyone.”
Surprisingly, nobody goes around and does introductions. But I’m assuming that’s because they all know each other. The man with the bald head -who I now know is the person who runs this group- says that his name is Steve and that he’s been sober for ten years from alcoholism. When his eyes finally land on me I just know that he’s going to speak to me.
“And you are?” He asks. Fucking joy.
“Xavier.” I reply unevenly.
“It’s nice to meet you Xavier, and welcome. Would you like to tell us why you’re here today?”
I swallow, hard. Every single person is looking at me to wait for an answer and I can do nothing but sit here with sweat beginning to trickle down my neck. I just wanted to watch. I never wanted to participate.
“It’s alright if you’re uncomfortable.” Steve assures. “But just know that this group is a safe place for you. Nobody is here to judge you.”
“We’ve all got shit stories.” Beverly mutters, and that causes the entire group to let out a chuckle. “There’s probably nothing you can say that we haven’t heard before.”
I glance over at Elena, and she’s giving me this look of encouragement that almost makes me believe that I can talk about this. Do I want to open up about this? Do I want to let her and this entire group of strangers know about the painful memories I’ve been dealing with for the past two years?
“I cut.” I decide to say. “I was doing pretty well, but this past week I relapsed. It’s not something I’m really proud of. I don’t know.”
“That’s a really big thing to admit.” Steve says. Elena puts her hand on my knee and I look cautiously at her, then back at her hand. “It’s not easy admitting that we have a problem. Relapsing is a never-ending cycle, Xavier, but putting a stop to that cycle involves dealing with the demons that cause it. That’s why we’re all here.”
I nod and stare down at the floor, trying to not let thoughts of Mia seep into my head.
“Admitting what our demons are can be quite difficult.” Steve says. “Sometimes we don’t know what the demons are, and sometimes we do know, but overcoming them can be a great feat.”
“I know what mine is.” I say bitterly. “It’s not multiple demons, it’s just one.”
“Would you like to talk about it?” He asks.
I look up at him now, then look around the circle at the faces of strangers who all seem to be giving me glances of encouragement. Then I see Elena who is looking at me in a way that I’ve never seen her look at me before. She’s nodding her head for me to continue, and for a brief moment I forget about why talking about my past matters so much. The worries seem to disappear, and all I see is her.
“My girlfriend and I were at a party one night.” I clear my throat and break my gaze from Elena to look down at the floor. If I’m going to get this out, I won’t be able to look at a soul. “Uh, we both got pretty drunk and she thought we should stay the night at the house the party was being held at, but I...” I clear my throat again, ignoring the memories that are dying to pour into my head.
“I told her I’d be fine to drive us home. I convinced her that she’d be safe.”
Mia’s crying comes into my head all at once, the sound of her begging me to not let her die. Her blood being all over me, the fucking silence that never seems to stop haunting me.
I bring my eyes up to the group once I realize I’ve just been sitting here, and that’s when I feel the wetness on my cheeks. I hate to cry. I especially hate to cry in front of Elena, who is staring at me in complete shock. She probably can piece two and two together. She knows how this story ends. I wouldn’t blame her if she never wanted to see me again.
“Excuse me.” I mutter. The chair screeches when I move it back and I move quickly down the hallway to get the hell out of here. I never should have come with her. Therapy has never helped me. I can’t even talk about the situation for two sentences before I break down into a sob like a fucking child.
Pushing the door open, the musty smell becomes replaced with fresh air as I collapse onto the concrete steps and continue to sob. I can’t get her face out of my mind. I can’t seem to let her go no matter how hard I try. I don’t think that I will ever forgive myself.
I hear the door push open behind me but I can’t seem to stop crying. I just keep it muffled when I feel her sit down beside me, her leg pressing up against mine.
She doesn’t say anything, she doesn’t try to get me to talk about it, she just rests her head on my shoulder as if she knows exactly how to handle me. I’m thankful that she doesn’t pressure me into saying the rest of the story. It’s just not something I’m ready to fully share yet.
Not wanting to seem like a girl, I stuff my emotions back inside and let out a final sniffle, wiping my nose with the sleeve of my shirt. “Sorry.” I finally breathe out. “I get it if you hate me.”
“Why would you think I’d hate you?” She lifts her head off of my shoulder and stares up at me.
“Just because. It’s not hard to figure out what I did, Elena.”
“The only thing I’m piecing together is that you made a mistake. It happens to all of us. Sure, your mistake was pretty severe, but it was also a mistake. You didn’t do that intentionally.”
“Yeah.” I nod, unsure of what else to say. A gust of wind blows between us suddenly, and I can’t help but be distracted when Elena’s hair whips around her face.
“Can I just ask one thing?” She asks.
I nervously lock eyes with her and nod.
“Did she make it? Or did-”
“No.” I finish for her, choking back another sob. “She didn’t.”
I want to stop crying, I want to be a man in front of her, but when she just stares down at her sneakers I lose it again. I’m a fucking wreck. I don’t know why she wants anything to do with me, or why she wants to continue to pursue whatever the fuck this is with me, but I’m not worth it. I’m not worth a second of her time.
“You’re going to be okay.” She mutters into my ear. “Xavier, you’re going to get through this.”
When I’m still not able to talk she climbs into my lap and I bury my head into her shoulder, allowing her to see the most vulnerable side of me. The side that only Dion has seen. I want to find the nearest razor right now. I want to press something to my fucking wrist and just open up all of these wounds that are trying to heal. I don’t deserve to heal.
“I’m sorry I said anything else about it.” She purses her lips for a second when she notices that my tears are beginning to slow up again. “But you need to know that whenever we hit rock bottom, that’s when we manage to get back up again. At least that’s how it is for me. You are so strong, Xavier.”
“Yeah.” I scoff. “That’s why I’m crying right now.”
“Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you can’t show emotion. You don’t have to bottle everything up inside of you. What happened to you is horrible, and I’m so sorry you had to go through that, but running away from it isn’t going to heal you. Not dealing with it isn’t going to make it go away.”
“But what am I supposed to do if I can’t even talk about it? I’m not supposed to bottle up my emotions, but whenever I begin to talk about what happened everything just floods into my head all at once.”
“It gets easier.” She reassures. I watch her hand move up to my face before she gently begins to trail her fingertips along my jawline. “It was hard for me at first too. I could hardly get it out without wanting to vomit. But, the more you talk about it the more it just kind of comes out. It’s almost like not talking about it makes it not real. Then when you’re about to say it to a room full of strangers you just kind of realize that this shit actually happened to you, you know?”
“Yeah. I know exactly what you mean.” I let my eyes wander over those freckles, then down to her lips before they make their way down to her collarbone, finally settling on the outline of her breasts.
“Stop.” She bites on her lip to hide a smile. “You’re distracting me.”
“Distracting you from what?” I bring my gaze up to hers again and she clears her throat before she diverts her eyes away from me. I know my eyes are boring into her. I know that she can tell I want to take her on these steps right now. I can fight the urge to do it, but I can’t help my thoughts. It’s not my fault that she can see right through me.
“From helping you.” She smiles and then sucks in a sharp breath when I run my fingertips up her shoulder to move her hair to one side.
“You do help me.” I say sternly, because it’s true. I no longer want to cut. The feeling has faded, and it’s being replaced with these newfound emotions for her. “I’ve stopped crying, right?”
She nods when I run my fingertips along her jawline now, causing her eyes to flutter shut from the feeling. “Can I ask you something though?” This question has been in my head for the past couple of hours, and I just need to know how she honestly feels.
When she doesn’t answer, I take that as a yes. “Would you really not be upset if I did stuff with somebody else?”
Her eyes pop open at the question before she gulps, hard. I watch her collect her thoughts for a moment before she clears her throat and says, “Why? Do you want to?”
“I just want to know an answer. That’s all.” I say.
“It wouldn’t be fair to you to say that I would care.”
She whispers and stares down at her hands again. It looks as if she might cry, but I know she rarely ever shows her emotions. The only time I’ve seen her cry is when she’s drunk.
“And why’s that?” I push her chin up so that I’m looking into her eyes again.
“I can’t ask you to give up sex for me when I don’t even know what I want yet. I don’t know if I’m capable of a relationship at all. I’m still a recovering addict.”
“A relationship, huh?” I arch my eyebrow up at her and her face turns a deep shade of red. “Wow.”
“What?” She giggles nervously and begins to play with the ends of her hair. “I’m not saying I want to be in a relationship with you, I’m just saying like, in general.”
“Sure.” I grin. “Whatever you say.”
“Shut up!” She erupts into a fit of laughter and punches me jokingly on the chest. “I mean it, Xavier. I don’t want you to have to give up those things for me. I can’t ask that of you, so I’d understand if you went to somebody else.”
“But would it hurt you?”
The smile fades when she looks into my eyes once more, tugging a little on her bottom lip. “You don’t think it would? Of course it would.”
“Why?” I plead.
Her chest begins to rise and fall more rapidly, and I can’t help but tug her closer to me. I don’t care anymore about the feelings I have for her. I’m done fighting them. I’m done trying to act like she doesn’t matter to me. This girl matters. She matters a lot.
When I tug her closer she falls more awkwardly into my lap, but adjusts herself so that either knee is straddling me, her arms hooked around my neck. She can’t do anything but stare at me, and it’s almost like in this moment she’s said what I’ve needed her to say without even saying it. The way she’s looking at me says it all.
In seconds she’s tugging me towards her, her lips on mine. It’s so hard to fight it. It’s so difficult to not put my fingers in her hair even though I am. We are both utter disasters, but for whatever reason this right here always feels right.
“Elena.” I moan into her lips and move my kisses to her collarbone. Her hands keep raking through my hair, which she knows drives me mad, and it just seems like my hands can’t stop touching her.
“Fuck.” She sighs heavily and rests her forehead against mine while my hands continue to roam. “Why can’t we ever seem to stop doing this?”
“Because it feels right.” I mutter and attach my lips with hers again, pulling her back in. The tips of her nails put pressure onto my shoulders while I let my hands slip into the back pockets of her jeans shorts. I grasp tightly, earning another moan from her in return.
When she begins to give me a hickey I realize where exactly we are. We’re in a public place. Granted, nobody has walked out of this building because the meeting isn’t over yet, but the last thing that needs to happen is her getting caught making out when she’s a recovering sex addict.
“Hey.” I pull away slightly, and almost as if she knows what I’m about to say, she slinks back with a frown on her face. “I’m sorry,” I try to explain. “But I just think-”
“I know.” She sighs. “You’re right. I get it.”
The awkward silence overwhelms us, but neither of us make a note to move an inch. Holding her feels nice.
“I love sunsets.” She mumbles randomly, looking up at the sky. It’s a bunch of different colors of pinks and orange wrapped up into one. “It just reminds me that there’s a new day tomorrow. Even if I’ve had a shit day, I can look up into the sky and see... that. It’s extremely calming.”
“Yeah?” I ask, and she nods against my chest, causing me to hold onto her tighter.
I don’t know why I’m enjoying a conversation with her about sunsets, but I almost get excited about the fact that little by little I’m getting to know underneath that facade she tries to put up. I’m getting to know the real her, and I can’t decide if I like it or not.
After another five minutes or so, I stand up from the steps and grasp her hand to help her up. I’m not sure what exactly we’re labeling this, or what exactly it is we’re doing, but all I know is that this will end terribly. It must. Nothing good in my life ever lasts, so until this ends I’m going to enjoy every second that I possibly can.