Crossroads

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Chapter 25

Chapter 25: Lincoln

“The simple thought of doing this awakes the demons in me. I hear them screaming, licking their claws, ready to take over again. They know I’m a lost cause without her, and they’re just waiting for me to dive into the darkness.”

PAST

I’m speechless, once again.

Because that’s what happens every single time Mia enters my peripheral. And the second she walks into the apartment today I almost fall apart from how beautiful she looks. Somehow sad and exhausted, too. But I guess that’s what living with a suicidal egoist does to you.

It’s that exact thought that gives me the courage to pull through with this. “We should talk,” I squeeze the words out of my lungs, hoping she can’t hear how fucking nervous I am about this.

Mia looks at the pamphlets I left on the sideboard and picks them up, waving them around as she walks toward me. “What is this?”

The thought of having her close to me kills me. I know I will give in to her, will forget about my resolve the second she touches me, and so I get up from the couch I was sitting on and walk right behind it, bracing my hands on the headrest.

Deep breaths, Lincoln. In. And out.

“I’m moving out,” I croak out the words, my heart thundering in my chest as I try to steer my words into the needed direction. This might very well be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

“Okay… Good… Okay…” she almost speaks to herself when she nods her head, running a hand through her hair as she positions herself behind the armchair.

She looks almost defeated when she braces her forearms on the head on the chair, her fingers playing with the pamphlets in her hand as she just looks at me, her gaze almost empty.

“I got a job. I’m starting next month,” I speak again, knowing I need to get this over with. Soon.

“Okay… That’s good! Good…” Mia whispers the words, although I see the pain in her eyes. Fuck. This is not how I wanted to tell her this.

But seeing just how exhausted she looks, how tired and empty her eyes are, I know that I’m doing the right thing. I’m physically breaking her, she looks more fragile than I’ve ever seen her. And it’s all because of me.

“I need to leave.” I try to speak with as much conviction as I can muster up, and she immediately looks up at me, studying me as if I talked to her in another language.

“What? To the new apartment, you mean? That’s fine, we can…”

“No, Mia. I need to leave. Completely.”

She just looks at me for a second, standing still as a statue, and for a second I think I actually broke her. But then she shakes her head, walks out from behind the lounge chair, and throws the pamphlet on the table, her eyes still firmly set on me. “Why?” she asks, her legs moving forward, causing me to take a step backward.

I can’t be close to her now. I just can’t.

My movement makes her stop in her tracks, and she looks at me with wide eyes, wide eyes that hold so much pain all of a sudden, that I almost throw my reservations overboard and just take her in my arms. Knowing that I’m the one who caused it is the only reason I can hold myself back, really.

“Why, Lincoln?” she asks again, this time almost whispering.

“Because I have to. We’re not good for each other, can’t you see that?”

“That’s a load of bull,” she scoffs, taking another threatening step toward me. I continue moving backward, now almost reaching the lounge chair Mia occupied only minutes ago.

“It isn’t… Dr. James was right. We’re not good for each other. We’re unhealthy, toxic…”

I don’t believe my own words, and it hurts so fucking much to just say them. But I need to. She needs to stay clear of me.

“Since when do we fucking care about what other people think of us, Lincoln? I don’t get it. You’re hiding something. What is it?!” she looks almost livid now, her cheeks flushed on her otherwise pale looking skin. Good. I can work with anger.

“I’m sick of the secrets, Mia.”

“What fucking secrets?! What the hell is going on?!”

“You know which secrets, Mia.” I’m almost getting angry, too. Whatever exactly it is she’s hiding from me, it hurts to know that she did. “I wasn’t a stranger to you when we met on that bridge, was I?”

I know it’s true. I’ve had this suspicion earlier on, I even asked her about it, but she avoided my questioning. Maybe I should’ve been more insistent.

Mia doesn’t say anything, she just blinks a few times, obviously coming to terms with the fact that I know about this. “It’s true, then… Fucking hell, Mia. Really?!”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she sounds angry again, arms crossed in front of her chest.

“No, I don’t. Because you fucking keep things from me left and right! Because you don’t even bother being honest with me.”

“Don’t you fucking say I’m not honest with you!”

“Then tell me the truth, Mia. Just tell me, for fuck’s sake!” We’re almost yelling at each other by now. And as much as I don’t believe that we’re not made for each other, this right here shows how toxic we really are.

“Fine! Fuck. It’s not that big of a deal, Lincoln. I did an internship at the hospital you worked at. I noticed you. You didn’t notice me. Simple as that.”

“What?” I blurt out, somehow not believing her words. Not because she’d lie, but because I can’t believe I wouldn’t have noticed her before. Mia is the kind of woman you just see the second she walks into a room. She’s radiating, beautiful and just simply present, wherever she goes. “That doesn’t make sense,” is all I can really say to that. Because it doesn’t. I’m wracking my brain thinking of where exactly I could’ve seen her before.

“It does. I was eighteen, Link. You wouldn’t be interested in someone like me. I worked in the psychiatric ward for 10 weeks, and I just… I watched you from afar. Even spoke to you every now and then,” she admits, and I can’t help but widen my eyes at that. How the fuck could I forget her like that? “As I said. You weren’t interested. And that was fine. Until… Well, until you met Dr. Riviera.”

Fuck.

I can almost hear the click in my brain, that’s how obvious it is now.

Dr. Riviera and I had a very unprofessional and unethical affair, back then. We sneaked into janitor closets during our shifts just to release our stress, until one day… “It was you,” I remember. Why do I remember now?

Mia just nods her head, and I’m still standing here, looking at her with wide eyes. “You were the one who saved that man’s life.” I suddenly remember the day we sneaked off again, and we were right in the middle of it when someone hammered on the door, yelling at us to help. I also still remember how pissed I was when I saw her standing behind the door, telling us there’s a patient who needs our help. I snapped at her. I remember that. I snapped at her, asking why she’d interrupt me, only wearing my jeans at that moment. Fucking hell...

One of Dr. Riviera’s patients swallowed a bunch of pills to kill himself, and I still remember that someone apparently saw him doing so. Mia was that someone. Mia was the one who took shit from me for doing something we should’ve done.

“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me, Mia?”

“Would it have changed anything? No. You didn’t need to know you broke my heart back then,” she says, her voice almost factual, unemotional, “It wouldn’t have done anything but give you a guilty conscience. You didn’t need that when I met you again,” she almost sighs when she takes a seat on the couch, resting her head in her hands for a second.

God, she looks so defeated.

“Is that why you stopped me on that bridge?”

My question makes her shoot her head up, her eyes looking so, so empty, that spark that always allured me has vanished from her irises. The ocean blue in them seems almost grey now.

“No. I didn’t even know it was you when I stopped. I only saw someone standing there… I just wanted to help.”

Fuck. This is even more chaotic than I thought. It just keeps on getting more and more complicated. The fact that she didn’t tell me this just shows she didn’t trust me, after all. Or at least she didn’t trust me to be able to handle this, and that just shows how fucked up this relationship is. She shouldn’t have to hide things because she thinks I might not be able to handle them. It’s unhealthy.

I start pacing up and down the living room, trying to think of the right way to end this.

The simple thought of doing this awakes the demons in me, and I hear them screaming, licking their claws, ready to take over again. They know I’m a lost cause without her, and they’re just waiting for me to dive into the darkness.

“I need to leave…” I say, but Mia immediately shoots up at my words, and she takes a few steps toward me until she staggers and then steadies herself on the bookshelf, closing her eyes as she takes a few deep breaths. I can’t help but rush over to her, wanting to see if I can help. “Are you okay?” I ask, but she immediately stretches out her hand, gesturing for me to stay away.

And when she opens her eyes I see that she, indeed, is not okay. She looks fragile, almost. It’s a look so uncharacteristic for someone so strong as her, and I can’t deny that it worries me. “What a fucking question that is Lincoln… Of course, I’m not okay. I was looking forward to see you finally, and you keep on telling me that you need to leave me! And then you won’t even give me a proper fucking reason!”

She’s right. I need to give her a reason.

“I told you. We’re not good for each other. Most of all, I’m not good for you, Mia. You’re twenty-one years old, for fuck’s sake. You should be out there and have fun, live your life to the fullest. Not be stuck at home with me.”

“Don’t I have the right to do what I want?” she asks, apparently getting some of her strength back, “Shouldn’t I be the one who decides on how I want to spend my time? What’s so bad about wanting to spend my time at home with the man I love?!”

Her words stop my heart for a second, and I have to blink a few times to register them, to understand what she said. Fuck. This morning I would’ve loved to hear those words, but right now it only sends me into a spiral, a dangerous spiral that will probably cost me my heart.

I didn’t expect her to fight so much for us. I didn’t expect her to say those words. Those words that I feel so fucking much, it would absolutely destroy me to say them back.

“I… I have to leave,” I realize it’s the only thing I can do to prevent her from my chaos. The longer I stay here, the harder it gets to actually leave.

My feet drag me across the living room and into the hallway, but Mia catches my wrist just as I reach the door. “You made me a promise,” she whispers, the feeling of her skin on mine immediately stopping my heart. And when I look into her eyes right at that moment, when I see the plea in her eyes, the last of her strength asking me to stay, I just can’t help myself anymore. I need to feel her, even if it is for one last time.

She doesn’t even protest when I suddenly jerk her to me, immediately reach for her face, pull her closer, and brush my lips against hers. Her fingers dig into my neck, moving me so there’s not a single molecule of air between us. It’s just us, just our lips on each other’s, feeling each other’s feelings. And I suddenly feel how much she loves me, her heart thundering right against my chest as she almost urgently pulls me even closer, begging for more.

But I can’t give that to her.

“I shouldn’t have made that promise…” I whisper against her lips as I pull back.

It’s true. I shouldn’t have. It was irresponsible. We both knew this was a bad idea, that this was going to end badly. “You should forget me, Mia.” I quickly move away, needing to get some distance between our bodies.

After slipping out of her brother’s jacket I just now realize I’m still wearing, I throw it on her couch, the need to get away from her growing stronger and stronger. I don’t know how long I can survive this. “Forget this. Forget me,” I repeat my words.

“So you can just forget me?!”

I stop in front of her door as I turn around, and now I actually see the tears in her eyes, though she doesn’t let them fall. She just stares at me, demanding answers I can’t give her. “I did it before,” I say, and I instantly see the way my words affect her. But I know I need to push her away. She needs to stop fighting for us.

Suddenly the tears dry, and the only thing visible on her face is one simple emotion.

Rage.

I can almost see the fire returning to her eyes as she takes another step toward me. “Yeah, you did. I guess you should go then. Throw me away - you got what you wanted, didn’t you? Wouldn’t want you to be trapped here any longer than you need to, now that you’ve got it all figured out, huh?”

I know why she says the words, and I know she doesn’t mean them, but I have to admit they sting. And maybe that’s why I say the most hurtful thing I probably will ever say to anyone, but I regret the words the second they leave my lips. “You know what, Mia? Maybe your brother was right. You are ice cold, not warm like I thought. Just took me a while to see that.”

As soon as I see her eyes widen, the pain in them obvious enough to flood the whole room with its intensity, I feel this sharp pain in my heart. I know I just lost her. I know it’s what I wanted, but fuck. It hurts.

“Get the fuck out,” she whispers.

“Mia…” Fuck. Fuck, why did I have to say that?

“Get the fuck out!” she yells now, her voice acting as a mirror to the hurt she endured by my words. I notice how she’s shaking when she reaches around me to open the door, the other hand shoving me outside. “Get the fuck out of my life, Lincoln, and don’t you fucking dare remember me. As far as I’m concerned I don’t know who you are anymore.”

One more push and I’m standing outside of her apartment, watching how she speaks her last words, “Stay the fuck away from me, Lincoln Grey.”

And then the door closes shut.

I stand there for a minute, looking at the lock of the door, listening to anything she might be doing or saying behind it. That was a grave mistake, though, because after a few minutes I hear something slump against the door, and seconds later her sobs echo through the hallway, the pain in her voice catching me off guard, and I immediately feel the tears in my own eyes.

Fuck.

I just lost the woman I love, and along with it my heart. Because it belonged to her the second she stepped on that bridge, the second she stepped into my life.

And I don’t know how to survive without her.

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