Crossroads

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Chapter 8

Mia

"I can literally see the pain and heartache radiating off of him, see the tendrils of darkness wrapping around his being, pulling him in and swallowing him whole."

PAST

I stare at the ceiling of my bedroom, trying to get my mind to calm its raging train of thoughts.

Lincoln has been avoiding me since the night of our little game of truth. My heart is aching for him, for the pain he’s enduring, and I would just love to help him, to get him out of his head for once.

But it’s obvious he’s trying to deal with this on his own. And believe me, I get that. I get that he doesn’t want to seem weak in front of me, or anyone, for that matter. I know I wouldn’t want that if the roles were reversed. That being said, I also think he doesn’t have any other choice.

And I have to admit, despite all of his avoiding techniques we actually got to know one another during the course of last week. We talk a lot during the meals or he tells me about new medical techniques he’s studying with help of the old smartphone I gave to him. He doesn’t tell me why he studies them or what he wants to do with them, considering right now he doesn’t work as a doctor. Every single time I ask him about that he immediately closes up, and then I don’t get anywhere with him for the rest of the night.

It’s tiring, really. But we’re taking baby steps, and I guess it’s something. I’m just glad he accepted Finn’s clothes, which he stored in my closet for whenever he wanted to stay at my place after a night out. It at least gives him a sense of normalcy in this less than normal situation. He hasn’t left the house ever since the bridge incident, while I only left once to get some groceries, and I can still feel how scared I was, thinking that he might be gone when I get back.

“Mia?” A knock on the door interrupts my thoughts and I quickly jump out of bed, giving myself a once over in the mirror to make sure I look decent enough.

“Meh, it’ll do.” I say to myself as I take in my white pajama shorts and the black oversized sweater I wear at nights, my hair all over the place from the restless sleep I’ve had.

He knocks again and I can’t help but roll my eyes before I open the door, mentally noting impatience as another character trait of the strange doctor living with me.

“Hi.” His voice sounds tired when he looks at me, just like it always does. He sleeps half the day and still seems to be tired as hell. I guess mental instability is exhausting.

“Good morning. Everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah... I was just wondering, if, uh... If you wanted some breakfast?”

I blink a few times at the question, being slightly confused by this change of routine. “Breakfast?”

“Yeah, I figured it was my turn now, considering you’ve served me all the time...”

He scratches the back of his head and I can’t help but grin when I see the color flushing into his cheeks.

“Link, are you blushing right now?”

I see the way he reacts to my usage of his name’s short version, his eyes widening for just a split second before he composes himself again, a quiet mumble leaving his lips.

“Shut up.”

“Oh my god, you are! Aww, Lincoln.” Without thinking much I lean forward and brush my knuckles over his cheek, finding it extremely cute and also really, really thoughtful that he’s actually bothering himself with this.

“Could you like... Not do that?” He rolls his eyes at me, and I just shoot him a quick smile before pulling my hand back.

“Sorry. Yeah. Uh, give me a minute to get dressed and I’ll be right there, okay?”

“Sure. I’ll get the tea started.”

I can’t help but smile at the fact that he remembers my affection for tea, and soon enough he walks back into the kitchen, leaving me to change into some clothes. I throw on a blue maxi dress and quickly comb my hair with my fingers before ruffling through it, trying to give it some volume. It ends up worse than before though, and I decide to just tie it into a loosely braided queue, which is not an easy task with my shoulder-long hair, but it’s not like I care all too much about how it looks.

After slipping on my socks I finally make my way into the kitchen, the smell of coffee and bacon filling the whole apartment.

“That smells good.”

Lincoln has already set the table, showing off a variety of eggs, bacon, and grilled cheese sandwiches on every plate. He looks up at me, his eyes quickly taking me in as I lean against the doorframe.

“Yeah, I basically tried doing what you always do, but uh... I don’t know if that worked...”

He’s off today. I can feel it. It may have only been a little more than a week since he basically moved in here, but I came to notice the things he shows without speaking, the crease between his brow appearing every time he’s skeptical, the way he scrunches his nose when he’s uncomfortable or disagrees with something.

And then there’s his most prominent quirk, the one that’s also obvious right this moment as he places the teapot on the table: The way he chews on the inside of his lips when he’s nervous or anxious.

“It looks delicious. Thank you, that’s very thoughtful.”

I try going with the gentle approach, testing the waters. I’ve learned that cornering Lincoln doesn’t get you very far, he feels pressured very easily and the only chunks of information I got out of him were bound to some sort of monologue he held after hearing something I shared with him.

He awkwardly takes a seat opposite to me, pouring himself a cup of coffee before filling my own with the green tea he brewed. I shoot him a quick smile while he scratches the back of his neck, the anxiety seeping off of him in waves. It’s hard not to call him out on it, honestly, but I want to give him the chance to open up by himself. I still haven’t lost hope that he’ll confide in me when he feels ready.

We start eating our breakfast, which tastes surprisingly good, and I note how Lincoln throws me glance after glance, watching me while I eat, how I react to it.

“This is really good.”

He smiles shyly at me, the faint hint of disbelief on his face as he slowly shakes his head at me.

“I mean it. It’s really delicious.”

“Thanks.” This time his smile is a little broader, even though I still notice the crease between his brows when he redirects his attention to the food on his plate.

I’m biting my tongue so hard, trying not to scare the elephant in the room with how thick and tense the atmosphere has gotten. But I pull through, because one thing I realized pretty quickly is that Lincoln’s mood is unpredictable. Sometimes it seems like he doesn’t know what he feels himself, and so I’m trying to let him take the reins today.

After I finish my food I lean back on my chair, grabbing the cup of tea from the table and bringing it to my lips, watching as Lincoln takes the last bites of his sandwich.

The more I look at him the more I notice how freakishly handsome he actually is. His hair is a deep coal black, the dark color accentuating the heavenly light blue portrayed in his eyes, framed by thick lashes which are just as dark as his hair. When I saw him on the bridge he had a slight five o’clock shadow decorating his features, but by now it has developed into a pretty decent beard, immediately making him look years older. Although the age difference might also be caused by the gloom that’s basically wrapped around him, the obvious darkness that just comes with his very being, the one I’m still trying to decipher.

“Something on my face?”

His voice startles me and I gently shake my head, finding my focus back on those baby blue orbits which are observing me with caution.

“I just wondered how you managed to grow a beard so quickly.” I speak part of the truth, deciding he doesn’t need to know I was mentally drooling at his handsome face.

“Italian roots. It runs in the family, I guess.” He says it so factually, and yet I notice the pain whenever he mentions anything regarding his relatives. It makes me want to ask about them even more, but again I bite my tongue, letting him take the reins.

“I’m half Italian, actually. ” I smile at him. “Even though my Italian sucks, for some reason. Languages are definitely not my forte.”

“Che sfortuna.” He replies, and I cock my head at him, my eyebrow raised as I notice the faint smile on his face.

“During my Latin course, which I had to take to get through medicine, I started seeing the allure to languages, and since my grandparents speak Italian I figured I could start with that...”

His explanation makes me smile, and he slowly leans back on his seat, taking the coffee cup in his hand before placing it in his lap. I can literally see the way his mind is working on overdrive suddenly, his thoughts basically roaring through the room, and yet being so deafeningly silent that it physically hurts not to know what’s bothering him.

“You’re going to visit your parents tonight, right?” He suddenly asks, his voice quiet and hesitant.

“Yeah, that’s the plan.” I reply, suddenly becoming aware of what might be going on with him.

He nods his head, his eyes watching me intently as I take a sip of my tea, trying to think of the right way to approach this.

“I thought about that, actually.” I sit up straight now, gauging his reaction to what I’m going to say next. “You can come with me. If you want to, that is.”

That makes him mirror my movements, sitting up straight as he studies me with wide eyes, running his fingers through his hair before tapping them on the kitchen table.

“What? No. No, I can’t do that. No way.” He rambles, and I can’t help but place my hand above his own, trying to calm the storm in his eyes, my suggestion obviously having caught him off guard.

“Hey, it’s okay. It was just an idea. You don’t need to come, I just thought maybe you’d want to get out a bit.”

“I don’t want to get out.” He immediately snaps at me, and I just squeeze his hand, trying to stay calm and ignore his mood swing, despite the anger rising within me from the tone in his voice.

“Don’t!” His voice startles me, and I almost flinch with how hastily he pulls his fingers away from mine, the friction burning through my skin like a slap to the face.

“Lincoln...”

“No! No. I don’t need this!” He suddenly jumps up, his voice booming through the kitchen as he paces around the room, his eyes never meeting mine when he starts rambling. “I don’t need you! I don’t need this. I don’t need your niceties. I don’t need the pity!” The pain is obvious in his screams, in the way he grasps the hair at the back of his head, almost pulling at it as he continues.

“I. Don’t. Fucking. Need. This!” He slams his fist on the kitchen counter with every word he says.

“STOP!” I yell at him in an effort to step in, but he just stands there, his hands balled into fists as he glares at me, his sudden outburst still reverberating around us.

“NO!” He suddenly yells back at me, his face so close to my own that I feel his ragged breath traveling down my skin. I try squaring up to full height, even though I’ll never even get close to intimidating him with my size. It’s the only goddamn thing I got from my mother.

“I will not let you yell at me in my own home, Lincoln. This is a sacred space for me, and if you keep talking to me like that we are going to have a serious problem, do you understand? I get that you’re frustrated, and I get that you’re overwhelmed, but nothing I ever did gives you the right to speak to me like that.”

If it were anyone else I would’ve already lost my temper, but I can literally see the pain and heartache radiating off of him, see the tendrils of darkness wrapping around his being, pulling him in and swallowing him whole. It’s so painfully obvious he’s trying to fight them, not wanting the demons to take over and turn him into the irrational beast that’s evolving right in front of me. But he fails, and soon he’s towering over me again, exerting his height in the most prosperous way.

“You don’t get anything. You don’t know anything!” He growls at me, his voice now quieter but filled with malice as he stares me down, his eyes a raging storm in this quiet morning.

“No I don’t, Lincoln. I don’t know anything, because you don’t tell me shit!” I can feel the rage running through my veins, the frustration of these last days burning through me like a wildfire, threatening to explode right into his face.

“I don’t have to tell you shit!”

“No, you don’t. And I don’t have to listen to you anymore, not unless you decide to treat me with the kind of respect and trust I have shown to you.” My rage is scorching hot, my whole body feeling like it’s on fire, and I have to suppress the full wrath of my fury as I speak to him in cold, calculated words. “I don’t want to see you if you can’t speak to me like a decent human being. My number is saved on the phone I gave you, give me a call before you decide to do something stupid again.”

“I’m not a fucking charity case, Mia! Stop treating me like one!” His words cut through me like a samurai sword, and I feel myself physically staggering back from the blow of his statement when he reaches into his jeans, his fingers pulling out the phone I gave to him. He throws it through the door into the living room, and my eyes flick to the couch where it now bounces off of and then falls to the floor, the dampened thud feeling like a kick to the gut.

“Keep your fucking handouts, Mother Theresa.” He once again spits at me, and I have to ball my hands into fists in order to contain my rage and irritation, the weight of his words hitting me like a freight train.

“Fuck you, Lincoln. Act like a child if you want to, but I can’t do this.” I can literally feel how my voice trembles from fury, the level of self-restraint I’m displaying right now is beyond belief.

But I know my self-control is wearing thinner and thinner with every second I stay in the same room as him, and so I storm out of the kitchen and into my room, quickly grabbing my wallet and throwing it in the gym bag I have stored beneath my bed. I haven’t worked out since he got here and I already feel how it’s affecting me. I need to get out of here, or else I will say or do things I regret, I’m certain of that.

When I stomp back into the hallway I don’t see him anywhere, but I notice the bathroom door is closed, so that’s probably where he’s hiding. I can’t deny that I’m glad though, and so I quickly slip into my sneakers, throwing my keys and phone into my bag before slamming the door shut behind me, the potent noise echoing in the hallway.

And as I storm out of my apartment, my first destination being the park next to the gym, I can’t help the raging storm in my brain, the emotions crashing down on my sanity and smothering me with its weight. I finally find a park bench between two large apple trees, holding my head in my hands as I lean forward, my elbows resting on my knees as my brain fights to function normally, again.

I don’t know how long I’m sitting here, gathering my thoughts and processing whatever the hell is happening with my life right now. I know I didn’t have to invite him into my home. I didn’t have to get him off that bridge. And I honestly understand that he must feel like a charity case at times, in the end he is living off of my hospitality, so to say. But I don’t see it that way. I just want him to get better, want him to see that life is worth living, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.

And I meant what I said. I know I come off as strong and unemotional at times, but I never ever disrespected him, and the way he spoke to me today... I can’t deny that it hurt. I know he’s thinking irrationally, I know he’s not in his right mind, but I thought I managed to get through to him.

But maybe I’m overestimating myself. I’m not a licensed therapist or anything like that, and I’m sure he needs more professional help than a second-year psychology student.

Then why am I so hellbent on being the one who helps him?

Maybe it’s time I stop trying to fix things I can’t, and start working on something I can actually work on.

Starting with my family.

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