Soundtrack To My Youth (book 1)

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Better Man

Lucas 1999

I’d spent all week trying to avoid Veronica, which wasn’t easy because we shared two classes together and the same group of friends, and then Saturday came and every tiny thread of self esteem that I’d been building on to hold myself together came unravelling when I saw her sitting behind the reception desk at the clinic.

She looked gorgeous as usual with her head down, reading intently, her golden hair flowed freely down her shoulders, the familia scent of her bodyshop vanilla perfume hit my senses and made me nostalgic for happier times, when she was mine, lying next to me, my arms wrapped around her waist, the sound of her sweet voice filling the space of my bedroom, telling me how much she loved me.

We hadn’t spoken in weeks, not since I’d found out she was with Sam.Now he got to hear her sweet voice, he got the I love you and the sound of her laughter when he he told her a funny story and his pillowcase would smell like vanilla long after she’d gone home.

When I cleared my throat to get her attention I didn’t miss that look of distain as her eyes met mine before she gathered herself and adapted her possessional persona. She’s the last person I’d want to see me here, with her perfect life coming together while mine fell apart spectacularly.

One saving grace was that she didn’t know I was coming in today, or so it seemed anyway, which told me that there’s no way she would of gone through my file. Daniel had assured me in my first session last week that my file would never be read by anyone other than him and as much as I trusted Veronica there was still that niggling piece of doubt that was eating away at me.

“I didn’t know you worked here, if I’d known I wouldn’t have...” turned up, wanted to come here. If it was up to me then I wouldn’t even be here to begin with.

“It’s my first day, Nick got me the job to help out now that my Dad has to step back from work” Hearing that her Dad is stepping back from work floored me, Mr Kreslin was a workhorse, unlike my step father who lounged around the house all day. I wanted to ask her more about her Dad but I saw the receptionist girl from last week approaching the desk with a tray, she was staring at me like she wanted to either rip my clothes off and throw me down or just rip me apart...or both.

I took her return as my cue to retreat, finding a chair as far away from the desk but I could tell I was the topic of conversation between the two girls when they kept looking at me. Thank fuck that Daniel came out right on 11, saving me.

Daniel’s small office was painted pale blue, he explained to me last week that the colour was picked to promote a calming and inviting environment. There was a two seater brown couch which had two sandy coloured cushions on either end, a tiny window which allowed just enough fresh air fill the room and a leather chair which Daniel sat in that faced the couch. The walls were cluttered with motivational posters, all brightly coloured with upbeat messages like “Life is about the journey, not the destination”

I took my seat on the couch, grabbing one of the cushions and placing it on my lap, hoping it could act as a buffer between myself and the direction Daniel could take this session in. Daniel took his seat on the leather chair, my file in his hands, he took a moment to study the notes he made the week before, pen in hand, ready to make more.

“Morning Lucas” He says, a welcoming smiling crossing his face, if I had to take a guess I’d say he’d be mid to late twenties, he was pretty laid back and easy to talk to, which surprised me a lot because I’m not someone who just opens up and talks about my feelings. “How was your week? Any changes since we spoke last week?”

“I quit the school captaincy” This made him sit up straight, pen writing furiously on the writing pad in front of him. I needed to add in more, he would ask me why so I decided to save him the time of asking and just explain. “I’m pretty popular, I get invited to all the parties and everyone knows my name but not one of them could tell you a thing about me. When I had my...”

“Overdose, I need you to use the word, to recognise what led you here Lucas”

“My overdose” I give him what he wants to push on. “Not one of them was there for me because none of them know shit about who I am”

“Who knows you Lucas, who knows the real you, who is the one person you trust”

“Veronica, which I guess is why I tried to take my own life, I lost my favourite person, the one person who I’d confide in and she always knew the right thing to say and I fucked it all up” I pull imaginary fluff from the cushion, my head hanging low, I’d finally admitted what I knew for months out loud, I pushed Veronica into Sam’s arms. “I lost my girlfriend and my best friend because I was too proud to admit that I wasn’t the guy for her”

If I had never gone after Veronica, knowing how Sam felt about her then I’d still have his friendship. I let this stupid competitive bullshit destroy the only friendship I’d ever made and now I had no-one.

“You touched on that last week but didn’t go into detail, why do you feel you were never right the guy for Veronica? Did she make you feel that way or has this come from someone else?” He probed, pen poised like this would be the key to unlocking everything.

“Veronica is perfection, she’s hella smart, can be super sweet and loves with a pure heart”

“Lucas I’ve seen your grades, you’re pretty intelligent yourself. When did this insecurity in your relationship start?”

“It was always there, right from the beginning, I knew Sam liked her, he admitted it to me on several occasions which put her on my radar, as shit as that is to say but once I got to know her I was hooked and then this fear of losing her to him would eat away at me so I set out to make her as insecure as I was, make her dependant upon me, make her believe that no one else would ever want her just so she’d never leave me.” I’m an arsehole, I know this now but it’s too late to change what I did, I can only hope that one day she can forgive me.

“Is that also why you cheated on her? Because you never felt good enough for her?” His question didn’t come with a side of judgement like it did when it was asked by my Mother but he had to be thinking I was an absolute prick for how I treated Veronica, how could he not?

“Pretty much, she’d go to her Mum’s house every second weekend and I’d get myself so worked up that she was going to be away from me, that’d she see the light and find someone else or that Sam was contacting her, trying to get in with her. I liked the attention the girls would pay me, it was an ego boost” My Mum called the girl’s ‘low hanging fruit’, she adored Veronica and would often tell me that I was going to lose the best thing I ever had but cheating gave me a thrill.

“Lucas have you ever heard of the term ‘going out for a burger when you’ve got steak at home’?” What the actual fuck? I’m bearing my soul to this dude and he’s talking about food?

“No?”

“It means that you have something great yet you still felt the need to go for a cheap, easy, less desirable option” He explains and it suddenly make sense to me, Veronica was nothing like the other girls at school who threw themselves at me, she had class and she knew what she wanted in life. “Do you love her?”

It was a question I’d asked myself repeatedly since we broke up. I was 16 when Veronica and I first started dating, I had no clue what love was back then, I still don’t know really.

“I think I was infatuated by her, I hadn’t had a lot of good in my life until I met her and she was just so pure and I just wanted to feel that little bit of joy for once. I believe I love her but I’m not in love with her, does that make sense?” I probably sound like the biggest dipshit, raving on and on about this girl and then admitting that I’m not in love with her. I have feelings for Veronica but none of those feelings are the sensation of being in love, I know that for sure.

“That actually makes a lot of sense Lucas, I think you wanted to be in love with Veronica, to reciprocate the feelings she had for you but because you convinced yourself that you were never worthy of her love you went looking for others affection” He says, looking up from his writing pad. “I feel that there’s a deeper issue though for why you feel you’re not deserving of love and why you can’t return it and I think it has a lot to do with what you told me about your biological Father”

The subject of my Father is a sore point, he knows this because he managed to drag it out of me in the first 10 minutes of or session last week. My Dad, Will got my Mum pregnant in their final year of high school, My Grandparents wanted my Mum to give me up for adoption but Will convinced her that he was going to be there for her, that he was ready to take on fatherhood and for the first year of my life he was true to his word. After school was done he managed to get a full time job as a mechanic and by the time I was born they had a place of their own and Mum tells me things were great at first, they were happy, I was a happy baby but by the time I was a toddler that all changed, they were fighting a lot, Will started going out more and coming home late and then one night he never came home at all and Mum was left to raise me alone.

We moved in with My Grandparents and Mum worked two jobs to support us both and put herself through school but it paid off in the long run, she managed to score a job as real estate agent and eventually saved enough money to get us the house we now live in.

Things were going great, it was just us two and I loved it like that but Mum felt she needed to find me a father figure, someone to look up to, who could teach me how to become a decent man as I got older. I just wish she’d looked a bit harder than Roy.

Roy had worked in construction for years, He and Mum met while she was showing a house in the new estate area. He was charming and knew all the right things to say to win over a single Mother with a teenage son, like offering to take me to football games and buying me shit to keep me occupied while he moved in on my Mum. I was an inconvenience, the thing in the way stopping him from getting what he wanted, her full attention.

They got married about 5 years ago and Mum got pregnant soon after, much to Roy’s dislike but unlike Will he stuck around, although, by the time Charlotte was born he was out of work and laying on the couch every day, drinking beer and critiquing everything I did, like he was some expert. Yep, Mum sure knows how to pick winners.

As for Will, well he came back into my life last year, he had a new family, a new wife and baby but he said he wanted to make things right by me because I was still his kid too. I told him to fuck off back to what ever hole he crawled out of and I haven’t heard from him since.

“What would my Dad leaving have anything to do with Veronica?” I never even mentioned to her that Will even existed, she just assumed Roy was my Dad and I never corrected her, Sam’s the only person who knows the truth.

“You have strong abandonment issues Lucas, it’s why you chase after Veronica even though you know you will never love her, not in the way she deserves to be loved. You also started cheating on her around the time that Will made an appearance back in your life because you felt the need to feel wanted and adored, to fill that void that Will left in your life”

“But I had everything I ever wanted with Veronica, she gave me comfort and support and I was happy. She wanted me, that should have been enough” I protest, I not saying that he’s wrong but theres got to be a greater reason as to why I destroyed my own relationship.

“But you were never in love with her and you knew that, deep down inside you knew that. Cheating is symptomatic that there’s something missing in your relationship, something that you’re searching for.” I rotate the cushion between my hands. If I had been in love with Veronica I wouldn’t have needed the others to feed my ego. I hurt Veronica for my own selfish pleasure, she deserved so much more than me, she deserved Sam, he would treat her like a Queen.

“There’s aspects of my relationship with Veronica that I miss terribly, not the romantic side to things as such but more the deep, intense conversations that we had. I’ve never allowed anyone to see that side to myself and in so many ways I felt like I was spilt in two, I could be myself when we were in private but I had a reputation to upkeep and couldn’t bring that side out in front of anyone else”

It’s so exhausting, trying to be who they expect you to be. If any of them knew me like Veronica and Sam did I doubt they’d idolise me as much as they did but Sam is just himself, what you see is what you get and they accept him, although they do make up bullshit about him being a player, rumours that I never played down because I never wanted Veronica to know that behind the rumours, he was the true good guy and I was the piece of shit.

“Let’s talk about Sam, you mentioned you feel that you have a persona that you only allowed Veronica to see, you’re vulnerable and lack trust in your peers while you crave their acceptance. Did Sam know the real you?”

Sam never gives a shit what anyone thinks of him so it was easy to let that guard down whenever we hung out. We share a lot of similar interests, soccer would be the one thing that brought us together though. He wasn’t like any of my other friends who just wanted to spend their weekends getting drunk and talking shit about how far they got with some girl, he had goals that he wanted to achieve, like joining the school’s soccer team and working his way up to being captain. He never talked much about his plans after high school but I sensed that he wasn’t going to be held down, working some dead end job in Claremont.

“He helped me escape the chaos of my home life, he’d heard enough of the shit talk that Roy would heap down on me, he never brought it up though but I knew that he knew that I was unhappy and so he’d invite me over to watch the game or just play Super Nintendo” I never realised how much time Sam and Veronica both spent trying to make me feel whole and in return I just fucked them both over. I never deserved either of them.

“Were you jealous of Sam’s home life?”

“Extremely, he had everything any kid could ever ask for and he had a Dad who loved him and they’re really close too. I wanted that so badly” Thinking back on it all though, I realise now that Sam didn’t have everything, he’d lost his Mother only a few years before, not that he ever talked about it but you could tell that it was a wound that would never heal.

“Tell me about the competitive side to your friendship with Sam, how did that start and when did Veronica get dragged into it” I was dreading this coming up, I knew that how I got with Veronica in the first place was unethical and a giant slap in the face to Sam.

“It started out as small, we’d make bets on the premier league games. Sam’s extremely competitive by nature, I think he likes to earn the prize rather than have it just handed to him so we made bets on everything, from grades to who had the faster car, when he bought his truck I knew my shitbox couldn’t compete with that thing” I laugh to myself thinking back on the race we had down at the industrial estate in January, Veronica would have had a fit if she knew we were racing. I kept so many secrets from her but this was the only one I kept just so she wouldn’t worry.

“The bets became the foundation of our friendship, we didn’t go a day without one. I knew he liked Veronica, he was always checking her out when we had PE, I knew that if they started dating that I’d be pushed aside and go back to how my life was before Sam came along. I was a selfish little prick who was only thinking of my own needs when I made the bet that whoever scored a date with Veronica got to pursuit her and the other person had to back right off.” Yep, I’m that dick.

“And you obviously won this bet” Daniel states as he scribbles down on his notepad, probably about how much of a douchebag I really am.

“I did, I had the advantage that I knew most of the kids in our year, I knew how to plant the right rumours and have them travel back to Veronica. I told Petra that Sam slept around, that he liked to pump and dump, didn’t take long for his reputation of being a player to be spread all over the school and Veronica, being a virgin at the time, showed no interest in being his next conquest so it was almost an easy win for me” A win that backfired in the long run and now I’m exactly where I never wanted to be, on the outside, no friends, no girlfriend, just all alone and I have only myself to blame.

“So, once again, you let your insecurity dictate the outcome instead of just allowing things to play out how they should?” Daniel summarises before continuing, “You’re very self destructive Lucas, you’re so afraid of being alone but it drives you to burn bridges with the people who do actually care about you”

“I don’t want to be like this anymore, being alone sucks, I lost everything because of my own stupid, jealous behaviour and it made me want to...” I trail off, not wanting to admit it out loud but Daniel needs me to be honest, it’s the only way I can improve, by admitting my faults and learning from them.

“Kill yourself” He finishes for me. “That’s what you were trying to achieve by taking the overdose. You needed help Lucas and from what you’ve told me it sounds like you’ve needed that help for a very long time, long before Sam or Veronica. I believe you when you tell me that you don’t want to be that person anymore but I need you to want to change because otherwise you’re going to be stuck in this cycle for the rest of your life”

“I want to change, I want to let go of who I was and I want to become someone who is liked for just being myself” No more bullshit, no more trying to please the masses, no more insecurities, I want to leave it all behind and start fresh. “I want to be friends with Veronica and Sam again, actual friends”

“You’d be surprised how far a simple apology will take you in achieving that, I’m not saying it’s going to be easy but if you can show them both that you’re actually sincere and wanting to change then they may be willing to forgive you” He suggests. Neither one of them wants to talk to me at this point so I have no idea how to even start that conversation but I’m willing to try. “You are worthy of giving and receiving love Lucas and when you meet the right girl than you will know, you won’t feel that you have to go looking for that ego boost outside of the relationship, you would be getting everything you need from her and giving yourself to her without any doubts clouding your mind”

I need to stop wasting my time on the wrong girls so that I can be a better man for when the right girl comes along.

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