Always Alone

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Chapter Twenty-Five

"GENNY," DEVIN WHISPERS into the crook of my neck. "Baby, wake up."

"No," I say sleepily, my lids too heavy to open.

I feel my shirt raise midriff and a stubbled mouth on my bellybutton. He intakes a sharp breath and applies pressure to my stomach with his lips. A ripple of farting noises echo around the room and my eyes spring wide at the unexpected sensation of bubbles popping in my tummy. I twitch and squirm in place, trying my hardest to get his face off my belly, but he keeps blowing raspberries.

"Dev—" I erupt into uncontrollable giggles. Shifting and kicking in place, my ankles tangle with the cotton sheets until I'm wide awake and fatigued.

He finally stops and topples over me with a fun smile on his lips. "Good morning."

Catching my breath, I say, "Good morning."

His head dips so his forehead rests on mine. His green eyes hide behind their lids as he sketches my cheek with his nose. His lips barely brush against mine as he continues to tickle my face with the tip of his nose.

Tilting my chin up in want, our mouths touch for the second time today. Soft and gently he kisses me with such precaution as if asking if this is okay. How can it not be? His kisses are what I picture heaven to be. Blissful perfection.

He pulls apart slightly. "How are you feeling?"

"Okay, I guess." My eyes shift around the room, squinting at the blazing afternoon sun peeking through the curtains. "What time is it?"

"Almost three." Devin pushes himself off the bed and sits next to me. "Everyone works early tomorrow, so they all went home. Mason and Ava left me the keys to lock the house."

Except from getting out of this house and into a yellow cab, I don't remember anything else that happened last night. Oh, my God. I pull the comforter to my face, hiding the shame tainting my cheeks.

The fact that I don't remember anything makes me feel like I did something extremely embarrassing. Is that why they all left without saying goodbye? Did I offend someone without meaning to?

I've heard of the dangers of drinking and driving, but never of drinking and drinking. I guess I always thought that The Hangover was just an overexaggerated movie about bachelor's partying way too hard.

Not anymore.

For the life of me, I can't remember one thing and the pounding inside my head is tripling the size of my headache.

"Hey." Devin pulls the covers off my face, catching my chin so that my eyes are to his. "Don't be embarrassed. We've all been drunk before. There's nothing to feel bad about." His thumb traces my cheek, wiping a stubborn tear. "Just answer me this, did you have fun?"

"I don't really remember..."

"Close your eyes and think of last night." I do as he says and close my once heavy lids, trying my best to bring memories of last night into the present.

Strobe lights. Loud music. Alexa asking questions. Devin getting mad. Smoke. Men asking me to dance, to buy me a drink. The empowerment that ran through my blood as I turned each one down. Vodka. Dancing. Ava and Alexa grinding on each other. Laughing. Shots. Chloe and I dancing.

The small club shaking with the intense sound igniting from the talented hands of the DJ.

Alexa showing me how Cubans dance reggaetón. Laughing. The bartender calling us a cab. And then, my brain shuts down before I come to a conclusion. I must've had fun with all the laughing I remember. Gnawing my bottom lip, I nod in answer to his question.

"That's all that matters." Getting off the bed, he walks to the door and says, "I made brunch. Do you want me to bring it up?"

"Yeah, my head's still booming a little."

"I'll be right back."

Devin walks out of the room just as I get out of bed. Planting my feet on the soft rug, I make sure my head isn't dizzy and my knees aren't too weak to hold my body up. Once I make sure I'm steady, I stroll into the bathroom and release my full bladder. My gaze roams the charming room decorated in blues and whites, landing on the hairdryer by the trashcan.

Hmm, I'm sure I placed it back under the sink when I was getting ready last night.

Next to the dryer are the shoes I'd bought from our girl's shopping trip. What are they doing here? I don't remember taking them off. I don't remember taking my dress off or putting Devin's shirt on.

Without warning, recollections of yesterday flood my consciousness.

Running into Devin's arms. Giggling. Vomiting. Laughing. Falling asleep. Giggling.

No, that can't be right. I raise Devin's t-shirt to my nose. It doesn't have the repugnant smell of vomit. How can I run into his arms with shoes I couldn't even walk in? How can I have thrown up if this shirt smells like fresh linens? Why would I laugh after I've fallen asleep?

This isn't adding up. Nothing's making any sense.

Wiping myself, I pull up panties I don't remember wearing, and brush my teeth. The reflection of my hungover eyes hunts my actions as I rinse my mouth and gather a handful of water to splash my face.

Water. Shower. Soap. Naked.

My eyes spring open and I almost drop to the floor at the most recent image of Devin seeing me naked. Devin washing me clean, running his soapy hands over my body while I was unconscious.

Hands cover my mouth to prevent myself from screaming in shame. Remorse fogs my vision with streaming tears for getting drunk like a twenty-one-year-old celebrating her drinking age without thinking of the consequences of her inconceivable actions.

"Breakfast's here," Devin's chirpy voice says from the other side of the room.

No one has ever seen me naked, not even my own mother. My body belongs to me. No one else should see me in my most vulnerable state.

The rasp of knuckles on the wooden door has my heart drumming in my chest.

"Genny, are you okay?" his voice drips of concern. "Are you throwing up again? I can get you some Advil."

I clear the shame in my throat. "I'm fine. Can you pass me my jeans? They're in my bag. Actually, can you just get me the bag?"

"Uh, sure." A minute later, he knocks again.

Without looking at him—because I can't—I grab the bag and close the door but not before seeing the worry lines on his forehead. When I get out of the bathroom, the bed's been made and I catch Devin setting up breakfast on the two-person table that rests on the porch.

Briny air ruffles my hair when I step outside. The wind is so strong that I can see yellow grains of sand dancing around us.

"You haven't eaten?" I ask, noting two plates of pancakes and eggs.

"No, I was waiting for you."

"You didn't have to do that." I scoot the chair back and waste no time buttering my pancakes.

Awkward silence surrounds us as we eat brunch. I don't know how to bring up the conversation. In all actuality, I don't ever want to bring it up. To some extent, I feel...violated.

Is he undressing me with his eyes like he did yesterday with his hands? How long was I in the shower for? How long was he looking at all my imperfections?

"I didn't touch you," he growls as if reading my thoughts.

The fork clatters on the plate, my hands shaking as he continues, "You had thrown up on both of us. Twice. I carried you to the bathroom and asked if you could shower, but you said your arms were too heavy and asked me to help you. My hands didn't touch you, Genny. I used the scrub, washed your hair, and tried my best to dry it."

"It's..." I pause, speaking slowly. "Why couldn't you ask one of the girls?"

His mouth opens and closes as if he's looking for the right words to say. He reaches forward but I back away from his touch.

"One of the girls? You were all drunk." He lowers his voice, "Genny, why are you acting like this? I didn't do anything wrong. I...I didn't rape you."

"Don't say that. That's such a strong word to use."

"You're acting as if I did, though. I was just trying to help. That's all. I'm sorry, next time I'll just let you choke on your own vomit." He pushes the uneaten plate and stomps into the room. His shoulders rigid statues as he harshly closes the door.

All I can think of is him pinpointing all my flaws. My cellulite, my stretch marks, my breasts, all to the last detail of the soft blonde hairs on my lips.

It's something different when I look at myself in the mirror. I know they're there and I accept them—with the squats I've been doing, they've actually gotten a lot better, but still. The worst part is that I don't remember a thing and that's what makes my skin crawl with humiliation.

I'm not even hungry anymore.

I push aside the plate and pace the roundup porch. I just want to go back home and roll into a ball with Angie.

My eyes wander to the beach where I spot Devin slowly walking by the shore. His hands in the pockets of his shorts. The once rigid shoulders now dangle sluggishly from the neck and his head is down in a thinking act.

Am I mad at him or at myself for being reckless?

Am I mad at him or am I being self-conscious about the body God's given me?

I do remember throwing up and now that I think more about it Devin was sweet to me last night. But my brain won't allow any more recollections from the shower and the unknowns are killing me.

Something in the back of my head is shouting at me to trust Devin, the person I love and adore. He would never take advantage of me, whether it be physically or mentally.

We've slept together in the same bed before, he's seen me in only his shirt, and not once has he tried for more. Whenever I've told him to stop, he has.

Another man would've left me on the porch without a blanket to keep me warm. Someone else would've been disgusted and broken up with me as soon as I awoke. An apathetic man would've raped me with no mercy.

Devin did none of those things. I don't feel sore between my thighs. I have no bruises. My hair smells like vanilla and because the curls are so frizzy, I know he took the time to comb them. Something I never do because I know they'll frizz up like a scared porcupine after they've dried.

He took care of me, not all men would have done that. He hasn't made me feel embarrassed about anything.

What have I done? Devin has nothing to apologize for. I should be doing all the pleading. I need to fix this.

Sprinting back to the room, my foot collides with something as I land on the floor. Looking around the space, I notice I tripped on Devin's bag, letting all his stuff scramble on the wooden surface.

Crap.

Getting on my hands and knees, I begin to collect all the contents that slipped out and fold his clothes into the bag when I notice an open pill organizer under the bed. Blindingly reaching for the organizer my hands touch small capsules and tablets as I bring a handful of pills into the afternoon light.

These can't be vitamins, can they? Maybe pills for his muscles to get bigger? I've never seen him take any medication, though. Is he dying? Is this his big secret? I bring the pink and white capsule closer to my eyes, trying to decipher what they're for but only see numbers imprinted on them.

"Genevieve, what have you done?" My eyes land on Devin. His body has shut down, his face as pale as the walls. Harmony and peace have left his eyes as he looks to the pills circling around me with horrification and shame.

"I—"

He doesn't waste time getting under the bed and collecting his medication. His large fingers tremble as he splays them on the mattress and counts each one before simultaneously placing them in their corresponding place and closing the tabs.

"What were you doing going through my things?" he asks, more to the room than to me. His hands run through his hair.

"I thought we took care of each other. Isn't that what people do in a relationship? You've made me feel like a rapist ever since you woke up and now that I walk into the room to apologize for making you feel uncomfortable around me I find you rummaging my meds?"

"No. I saw you on the beach and was running to say sorry and tripped over your bag. I wasn't snooping around." I walk to him, getting on my knees in front of his legs. "I'm sorry about how I acted earlier. You're right, I should be thanking you for looking after me. I'm sorry."

He's not listening to my apology; his head is shaking away thoughts that are running through his mind. I can see demons hunting his downcast eyes. I'm losing him. Somehow, I know this.

"Devin, are you okay? What are the pills for?"

"It's getting late, we should be on our way home."

Gathering the rest of his things, he looks rapidly around the room to make sure he hasn't left anything and walks out without a second gaze at me. I do the same, collecting my belongings and walking behind him.

We say nothing during the four-hour drive back home. The only sound is the soft Spanish music sounding off the radio. I don't dare look at him because I know all I'd see would be disappointment and fear.

Disappointment at my reaction. Fear of losing me.

My mind swirls from meds to naked showers and from naked showers to meds. Is it such a big deal he saw me naked? Not really. So why am I so worked up about it? Ugh. Screw this. It isn't like he's never seen a woman naked before.

Right now, I'm more curious about those pills slipping from his bag and his reaction to me seeing them.

What's he hiding? Those must be the meds Camila mentioned in the New Year's party. But why would Devin need so many pills? He hasn't even mentioned them; that has to be a clear sign that he doesn't want to talk about it. He wants to pretend like that didn't happen. I'm not okay with that. It's time for us to have a chat.

"Did you hear me?" Devin's loud voice shuffles my internal struggle.

I blink back against the blinding sun.

"Huh?"

"Isa said she's not home right now, so she'll drop Angie off later tonight."

"Yeah, that's fine." Then a thought runs through my mind and I ask, "She's coming to my place?"

"Yeah."

When we reach the apartment complex, Devin helps me with my bags, taking them to my room. I don't want him to go to bed thinking I'm still mad at him.

Letting out a shaky breath, I say the apology that's been boiling inside me through this drive and the thank you I should've said as soon as I woke up.

"No one has ever seen me naked, seen my flaws and imperfections." I shift nervously on my feet. "I'm sorry for how I acted earlier and thank you for looking after me when I couldn't."

His eyebrows scrunch together, making it look like he has a unibrow. But he doesn't answer and if it weren't for the small nod he gives me I would've sworn he hadn't heard me.

I close the door and enter an empty house with no one to welcome me back. No barks screaming how much she's missed me. No tail wagging with happiness welcoming home.

Nothing.

Just quietness.

Tomorrow will be a new day and Angie will be with me soon. Devin and I will fix things like we always do and all will be right in the world. I scoff. If only it would be that easy.

Over the last few months, I've gotten to the conclusion that being in a relationship equals drama. I hate drama; never even picked it as an elective in high school. Unfortunately, the drama will continue until Devin tells me the truth about those pills.

Sighing, I enter the bathroom and change denim for cotton. Making myself a cup of green tea, I settle into my comfy bed. It's almost nine at night and Isa is nowhere to be found. The knock on the front door stops me from dialing her number.

Rushing out of the bedroom, almost slipping on the floor with my fluffy socks, I unlock the door.

"Where is—oh." I stop when I see Devin, not Isa. "Hey, do you want to sleepover tonight?" I ask as my eyes shift to the box he's carrying, hoping he'll say yes, so that I can fix my mistake from earlier.

"No. This is for you." He places the box inside my living room.

"What's that?"

"Earlier you mentioned that I had seen all your flaws. I don't understand how a religious person like yourself would have such focus on the human body when it's just that."

He points to the scars on his wrists.

"This body isn't who I am. We're so much more than that. I didn't fall in love with your body, Genevieve. I fell in love with this—" he touches my temple, "—and this." His fingers land on my chest. "Only you see those 'imperfections' only you see your 'flaws' because to me you're perfect. You're flawless don't ever think otherwise.

"I don't care about people seeing me naked, so taking off my clothes right here would not be fair since it wouldn't affect me the same way it did you. That box, however..." He lingers for a second.

"It holds all my imperfections. No one has ever heard my thoughts. So this is me, completely naked, but know that I've grown from the person I used to be. I'm much better now. I'm in control. Don't let my flaws change your love for me."

With that, he turns around and leaves.

Shell-shocked, I close the door, get on my knees and curiously open the cardboard box resting on my living room floor. My knees dig into the splinters of the wooden floors as I stare at the plethora of journals neatly stacked atop each other.

He said this box held his blemishes.

These journals hold all his secrets, the secrets I've been wanting to know for so long. But am I truly ready to uncover the enigma that is Devin Green? Why would he ask for my love to stay the same? What could he have possibly done in the past that would make him think my feelings for him would alter?

I could never unlove him. The only way to go from here is up. Higher and higher my feelings for him grow; cultivating our love day by day. Yeah, it might falter at times just like it did a couple of hours ago, but we always come together stronger than we were before.

I'm finally ready to know the truth.

I think.

I hope.

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