Word count: 1,552
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Trigger warning! Contains some moderate violence/abuse.
The following day I wake up early to go to the swimming pool. There’s nothing quite like it when I’m feeling stressed, or sad, or angry.
The turquoise blue of the tiles and the coolness of the water sliding on my body never fail to calm me. I’ll just swim until I reach my limit, and then I’ll swim some more, until all the negative emotions have left my body. When there’s a lot of them, I settle with ‘most’.
I still don’t understand why Adam had to go through all the trouble of telling me he wanted us to be ‘official’, only to go and make out with some other girl the very same night. In the same club I was in. What is the actual point?
I honestly don’t think his intention was to cause me pain — despite his flaws, I’ve never seen a sadistic streak in Adam. When he hurts others he does it recklessly, not intentionally. Yet I can’t help but wonder, how can you cheat on your girlfriend less than two hours after you start dating? If he even waited that long.
The truth is the more I think about it, the more time passes, the more a certain awareness grows inside me. It was just a niggling feeling in the beginning, but now it’s too big to ignore. The truth is I’m beginning to feel relieved. I’m still trying to figure out exactly why. All I know right now is that a part of me is happy it’s over with Adam.
No more uncertainty, no more pain. No more feeling like second, third, or fourth best. I’ve always known, deep deep down, that I deserve better than this. Even if I didn’t deserve it, a part of me is realising that this is not the kind of relationship I want to be in.
I want to be with someone who has eyes only for me, someone who makes me feel valued and safe. Not someone I have to chase, someone who makes me spend days and nights hoping he’s not getting with another girl.
He’s been calling me. It started late last night after Jess and I got back from That’s Amore, and continued through the whole night. I never replied. To be honest, I’m not ready yet. I wouldn’t know what to say.
Or maybe I would know exactly what to say, but I’m afraid.
I get out of the water and go into the women’s changing rooms. I like showering here, it’s clean and there isn’t Jessica’s blonde hair clogging the drain, or her fake tan splattered everywhere. I towel dry my hair, moisturise with a green tea and white jasmine cream, and step outside the swimming pool building onto the near-empty high street.
It’s a Sunday morning in mid-July, schools are closed, the university is now closed,too, and most people are either at home eating breakfast or off on holiday. But I immediately spot an incongruous, lone figure.
Sitting on a bench with his back to me, hunched over and holding his head in his hand, is no less than Adam.
I roll my eyes. Is he stalking me now? I don’t know what to do — whether I should sneak quietly to my right and run to the bus stop, or go up to him and see what he wants.
A misplaced sense of guilt makes me pick the second. He looks so pathetic sitting there; so sad. I walk up to him and tap his shoulder lightly. It’s damp with sweat. I instinctively wipe my finger on my skirt. Ew.
He stands up with the speed of a bullet. “My-my!” He leans over to hug me but I don’t want his sweaty body on mine. I’m clean and I smell like green tea and jasmine. He looks disappointed, but he seems to understand and takes a step back. “I’ve been up all night. I haven’t gone to bed yet.”
What does he want? A medal? A pat on the back?
“You haven’t been answering any of my calls or texts.” Oh, really? I wasn’t aware of that. “I hoped I’d find you here,” he continues. “I didn’t want to try your house in case I ran into that bitch, Jessica.”
“Um, that what?”
“Didn’t you hear what she said to me?”
“Yes, and you deserved every single word. She should have said worse. I wish it had been me saying all that stuff, and I would have if only I wasn’t—” My voice is growing louder, shakier. I don’t want to cry. I’m not going to cry for Adam again, especially not right in front of him.
His tone hardens. “Right, so you’re saying I deserve to die, to actually physically die, because of one stupid mistake—”
“Oh, Adam, stop twisting everything! No-one wants you to die. Jessica was angry, I was angry too, it was just a figure of speech.” Adam has this habit of subtly warping the truth to suit his needs. “Anyway, is this why you’re here? To talk about Jess?”
Almost imperceptibly, Adam seems to withdraw into his own body again. He shakes his head, looking at the ground.
“I didn’t think so.” I look at my phone, willing for Jess or my mum, or anybody really, to call me, because Adam is starting to make me feel uncomfortable. There’s something about his exhausted appearance, in his body language, that I can’t quite read. “Then talk.”
Adam exhales deeply. “Well, you’re still angry at me, which I take as a good sign.”
“I’m not angry. I just want to get this over with and go home. Jess is waiting for me, actually. We’re going for a picnic.”
Adam looks unimpressed. “In your backyard?”
“Just get on with it, will you?”
“Okay, okay. What I did was stupid, My-my. It was so, so, so stupid. But it was nothing more than that. Just a really stupid thing. Meant absolutely nothing.”
“It was stupid, as in it made me feel really stupid for believing you in the first place.”
“But you still have to believe me! I want to be with you.”
“Oh, look! There’s a girl up the road and she’s walking our way. If you run up to her and start kissing her right now you can break your own record! Wouldn’t that be something?”
“This is not funny, Mila, can you please not joke about it? My feelings are—” He scoffs. “I’m hurting. It hurts. I don’t want things to be like this between us.”
“You do realise ‘this’ is all because of you, don’t you?”
“What do you mean all because of me? I’ve texted you a hundred times that what happened with Rebecca meant nothing to me! Ze-ro” He holds up his index finger and thumb to better convey his meaning.
“Adam, after the year we’ve had, after all our history, you ask me to be your girlfriend and then start humping another girl the very same night, in the very same club? Couldn’t you at least go outside or something?”
“What part of ‘it meant nothing to me’ don’t you seem to understand?”
“Um, what part of ‘it doesn’t make the least bit of difference to me how little it meant to you’ don’t you understand?”
“Oh. My. God. Can you stop being sarcastic. I’m fucking upset here!”
“Me, me, me, me, me. I’ve had enough of this. I have no interest in talking to you. Ze-ro.” I hold up my fingers in an O shape. “I’m leaving.”
Before I even have the time to fully turn around, Adam roughly grasps my upper arm.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
I wonder if he can see the shock in my eyes. We’re in a public place, it’s day time, I try to rationalise. He wouldn’t do anything.
But I’m afraid. I’ve never seen that look in his eyes. They’re cold.
“Adam, let me go.” I can feel each of his fingers digging into my flesh.
“I’m not letting you go until you agree to be with me. Or at least to forgive me and take it from here.”
“Please, it hurts.”
“I’m not giving you up, My-my. I’m not.”
“Adam, let me go—” I struggle to get away from him but his grip is like iron. “Let me go or I will start screaming, I swear.”
His features twist into a ghoulish smile. “You want me to let you go? Fine then. Off you go.”
Without giving me the time to grasp what’s happening, he releases my arm and simultaneously pushes me back backwards. I hear my gym bag hitting the ground hard, and then my back. For a second I feel nothing, and then my whole body is flooded with pain.
I hear a commotion. Too scared and confused to look, I try and see if I can get back on my feet, and I almost manage to do so before I see Adam lying on the ground next to me, looking dazed, blinking his eyes. What the…?
The last thing I see is a face hovering above mine. It’s not Adam. I must be dreaming because it looks a lot like the hot guy from the VIP area.
Then, I lose consciousness.