#17 Moody girlfriend
Today was not a good day. When work is finally over after three more walk-ins after hours, I slump down behind Peter’s desk. He stands behind me, his hands on my shoulders, squeezing gently.
“It’ll be okay,” he says, yawning. “Tomorrow is a new day. Not all days are this hard.”
He has no idea. Absolutely no idea.
For him, today was just a tough day at work, but for me it’s way worse than that. The second I woke up, I knew today was going to be shit. That happens to me every few weeks, with no warning. I wake up feeling like there’s a n elephant sitting on my chest, and all I can think about is that I’m all alone in the world, with no one who loves me unconditionally, the way family is supposed to.
I don’t have any family. Even Uncle Greg is gone.
I know Michel loves me, but his love is conditional, or we wouldn’t have broken up a million times already. No – that’s not fair to him. He does try to love me unconditionally, but love isn’t enough when it’s about romantic relationship. I need to open up to him, or he will leave me. Again.
But fuck me, it’s hard.
Normally, I would curl up on the couch with a book and a glass of wine, and not talk to anyone all night long. I would eat take-out, and I’d go to bed early, snuggling with Pumpkin. And I wouldn’t call Michel. I wouldn’t even reply to his texts. I’d just pretend he didn’t exist until I’d wake up tomorrow morning and feel like myself again.
I promised him, though. And I keep my promises.
“Hey baby,” he says when he picks up. “How was your day?”
“Still at work,” I say, trying to push away my sadness and sound like everything is okay. Then I remember that this is exactly what Michel doesn’t want me to do. He wants me to share my emotions with him, even when I don’t want to feel them myself. Okay, here we go… “I’ve had a bit of shit day,” I confess.
“Oh?” he asks, and in that one word – which is more a sound than a word – is so much hope that it hurts my heart. I normally keep him at arm’s length, and he’s so eager to dive in and be there for me on days like these. Poor Michel. He has no idea what he’s in for.
“I’m in a mood,” I say vaguely. “And you said you want all of me, so… do you want to come over and have dinner with me?”
“Absolutely,” he replies, sounding excited. The poor man is excited to spend time with his girlfriend when she’s moody. Why doesn’t he just find himself a normal girl to love?
“Just to be clear: I’m in a foul mood, I don’t want to have sex, and I might not even talk to you very much.”
Michel laughs. “I think I can take it, baby. You know what, I’ll cook. I’ve got some great new recipes I want to try out. You can be my critic.”
“Bring wine,” I order, not looking forward to this at all. If I need to be nice and all girlfriend-y, I’m going to need some booze.
“And this is the same appetizer, but with eggplant instead of duck breast, so I’ll have a vegetarian option,” Michel says, handing me back my plate, now holding two tiny bites of spicy goodness.
“Tastes good,” I compliment him when I’ve tried one.
“Does is tastes the same as the one with the duck?”
I shrug. “Kind of.”
“Which one do you like better?”
“The one with the duck,” I say with a small smile. It’s a fake one, but it’s a smile.
“Okay, this next one is another vegetarian option, but it’s with tofu and some…”
I tune him out, in no mood to keep listening to him. This is the tenth tiny little appetizer, and I’m so goddamn hungry. I just want some pizza. And sushi. And Chinese food. I want to stuff my face and hang out on the couch in my underwear. Instead, I’m at the kitchen table, and Michel keeps giving me these tiny bites that won’t fill me up at all.
“So?” Michel asks, looking at me expectantly.
“Erm… it’s good?” I say, not sure what question I’m answering.
He laughs. “I asked if you wanted more wine, baby. I’ve got five more appetizes coming up.”
“Oh God, no,” I say, unable to keep this up. “Look, I love you, but I told you I’m in a mood. I don’t want twenty tiny little appetizers, presented to me on separate plates, with this whole goddamn backstory of what sort of pepper you sprinkled over the fucking duck. I just want a huge bowl filled with comfort food. And I can drink the wine straight from the bottle, no glass needed.”
We stare at each other for a moment, and then Michel hands me the bottle of wine and motions to the couch. “One huge bowl of comfort food coming right up.”
“Look, I’m sorry-”
“No, don’t be,” Michel says, leaning in to kiss me. “You said you were having a bad night. I just wanted to distract you.”
“You can’t distract me when I’m moody,” I grumble, moving to the couch with the bottle of wine, taking a swig. “I just need food. And a long, hot shower later.”
“Let me see what I can do.”
While Michel moves back to the kitchen, I take off my pants and socks, slipping off my bra while keeping my shirt on. In nothing but panties and my T-shirt, I snuggle under a blanket in the corner of the couch, pulling Snoopy into my lap and patting her while I connect my phone to the Bluetooth speaker in the corner, blasting Cute but Psycho through the living room, so loud that I can barely hear myself think. Just the way I like it.
“Honey?” Michel shouts, struggling to be heard. “Could you turn it down a bit?”
With a sigh, I do, taking a swig from the bottle of wine and slump down further. I’d give anything to have my Dad with me. When I was a teenager, I had horrible mood swings every few weeks. Sometimes it would just be PMS, but other times there was no logical explanation. He wouldn’t let me off the hook, though, telling me to tough it out and forcing me to go to school, do my homework, and help with the chores around the house. At the end of the night, when I was spent, he would get us take-out and pull me against him, rubbing my back while I ate, and we’d watch a movie together, not talking at all. After dinner, I’d take a long hot bath, and go to bed early. Dad always came to my room, kissed my forehead and told me that he was proud of me.
It’s been ten years since Dad last told me that.
In fact, I think it’s been ten years since anyone has been proud of me, aside from Michel.
“Here,” Michel says, handing me a plate of steaming hot meatballs with a fork sticking out the middle. He has a bowl with curly fries with him as well, and an entire tray of mini pizzas. “Can I eat with you or do you need a moment to yourself?”
“Come sit,” I say, patting the couch next to me. “You wanted to see the real Tracy. Well, this is her. Moody as fuck, rude to her boyfriend when he’s trying to distract her, and sitting on the couch in her underwear, trying to get drunk as soon as possible.”
“I like this Tracy just as much as I like fun Tracy,” he assures me, feeding me a meatball. “I don’t get why you’ve been so hesitant to let me be here on nights like these. It’s not that bad, baby. You’re a little off, but you’ve seen me in way worse moods than this.”
He’s right, I have. I’ve seen him stressed out over work, screaming at the walls, and I still love him. It’s not that I think he will suddenly want to run for the hills, but… well, honestly, I’d still rather be alone. He’s here because he wants to be, not because I actually like having him around right now. That’s horrible, I know, but that is the way it is.
I stuff my face with food for a while, feeding tiny bits of meat to Pumpkin, who is looking up at me with puppy-dog eyes. The bottle of wine is almost empty by the time we’re both done eating, and I know Michel only took one sip. I’m feeling the alcohol, and the buzz is more than welcome.
“Come here,” Michel says, pulling me against him after he’s cleared the plates.
“No, sorry,” I say, pushing away from him. “I don’t want to cuddle.”
“I know you said no sex, and I’m not going to try anything,” he says, twirling a stand of my hair around his finger, looking at me fondly. “Just let me hold you for a moment.”
With a sigh, I slump against him, allowing him to rub my back and play with my hair for five minutes. It feels wrong to me to let him touch me, for some reason. We’ve never done this before, and I don’t care for it. I don’t want to feel like this when I’m with him. I want to enjoy every second of being with him, which I can’t do when I’m this out of it. All I can think about is Dad rubbing my back and telling that he’s proud of me. If he could see me now, he wouldn’t be proud. He’d be appalled that the daughter he raised is letting life beat her down this much, and that I’m looking to alcohol to comfort me.
“I’m gonna take a shower,” I announce, getting up and scratching Pumpkin behind his ears before heading to the bathroom.
“You don’t like me holding you, do you?” Michel says, sounding a little hurt while he follows me, leaning against the doorframe while I strip and turn on the faucet.
“It’s not you,” I tell him, waiting for the water to turn hot. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Maybe it would make you feel better to tell me about it,” he says, and I feel his hand on the small of my back, trying to comfort me. “It’s okay, Tracy. You don’t have to be strong all the time.”
“Yeah, okay, I’m going to shower now.” I step away from him and into the shower, closing my eyes as the hot water cascades down on me, relaxing my sore muscles. “Could you leave?”
“Fine,” Michel bits out, finally sounding annoyed.
I don’t even care that I’m being rude, to be honest. I told him this would happen. I’m not even showing him my true colors. Part of me wants to yell at him to get the fuck out of my apartment, but instead, I’m trying to behave like a normal person. Why do people want others around when they’re hurting? I don’t get that at all. I want to be alone so badly, but I know that if I don’t want to lose Michel again, I need to try to be okay with him being here.
After my shower I wrap my red robe around me and pull on some panties, heading back into the living room, still feeling buzzed from the wine. Michel is watching a movie, and he looks up at me with an uncertain expression.
“I’m going to bed,” I tell him, giving him a peck on the lips. “Are you staying the night?”
“If you’re okay with that,” he says softly, his dark eyes searching my expression. “Look, Tracy, you obviously don’t want me to be here. I’m not gonna lie, that hurts, but you did warn me that you’d be moody and out of it, so I don’t know what I was expecting. I guess I hoped that I’d be able to show you that I could make your night better by being there for you. I feel like I’m making it worse, though, and I hate that.”
“Nah, it’s not worse,” I say, grabbing the wine bottle and gulping down its remains.
“I’m also not making it better, am I?”
“Look, no one can make this better,” I grunt. “I’ll be okay in the morning. Stay if you want. Or go home if you’re fed up with my moodiness. I honestly don’t care. I just want to sleep.”
“I’ll stay,” he decides, turning off the TV. “In fact, I will come to bed with you. I’ve got an early morning with the catering business, so I could use some sleep.”
I drop my robe to the bedroom floor and slip into bed, turning to my side and staring at the wall while I hear Michel rummaging around in the bathroom, using the toilet and brushing his teeth. I wish he’d go home. Normally, I’d have Pumpkin in bed with me right now, but Michel doesn’t like it when the dog sleeps in here with us, so he’s in the living room instead.
Michel crawls in behind me, spooning me and kissing my neck. I shift so there’s some more space between us, and I hear him sigh.
Fucking hell, what did he expect? I’m just not in a lovey-dovey mood.
“Good night,” he whispers, dropping his arm from around my body and rolling onto his other side. His back is to me now, and we’re not touching. As hurtful as it must be for him, I prefer it this way.
I close my eyes and try to fall asleep. Memories of my father wash over me, and before I know it, I’m asleep, and I’m dreaming. I’m at his funeral, and Uncle Greg has his arm around me, crying silently while he squeezes my shoulder. We watch the casket disappear underneath the earth, and I choke back my tears before they can make it out.
“Packards don’t cry,” my father’s voice says, echoing all around me.
“It’s okay to cry,” Uncle Greg says, taking my face in his hands and looking at me with tears streaming down his face. “I miss him too, Tracy.”
“Packards don’t cry,” I bite out, squeezing my eyes shut.
It feels like I’m falling backwards, and when I open my eyes, I’m in an open casket, and Dad is standing above me, using a shovel to pour dirt over me. Behind him is my mother – the way she looks in the pictures I’ve seen of her – and she’s shaking her head, looking at me with nothing but disappointment in her eyes.
I wake up gasping for air, and I sit up, trying to control my breathing.
“Tracy?” Michel asks, flipping on the light on his nightstand. “Did you have a nightmare?”
Trembling, I pull the covers around me, still having a hard time getting myself back in check. The look in my mother’s eyes cut through me like a knife, and I know that if I close my eyes again, I will see nothing but her disappointment.
“I’m fine,” I bite out, shrugging off his hand on my arm. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the gesture, but I know that if I let him comfort me, I will break. I will cry.
And Packards don’t cry.
“It’s okay now, baby,” he says in his soothing, deep voice. “Let me be there for you.”
“I don’t need you to do anything,” I grunt, getting out of bed and walking to the kitchen to fill a glass with water and down it immediately. Pumpkin is awake as well, and he rushes over, licking my face when I lower myself to the floor. “Hey honey,” I whisper to him, burying my face in his fur. “Tonight’s not a good night.”
Pumpkin barks quietly and rubs his nose against my cheek, comforting me more than Michel ever will be able to. I stay like that for a long time, and it’s not until I look up that I see my boyfriend leaning against the counter, staring at me with a sad look in his eyes.
“Nightmare?” he asks again.
“Do you want to tell me what it was?”
“No,” I choke out, still fighting the emotions surging up in me.
“Does this happen often?”
I shake my head and push myself up from the floor. “Once a month or so. Nothing to worry about. I’m fine. Let’s go back to sleep.”
Michel closes the distance between us and pulls me against his warm, naked body, his hands moving over my back in soothing motions. I want to melt into him, but my body won’t cooperate. I stay tense until he steps back and gives me some space.
“Look, don’t worry, this is just the way it is,” I tell him as we slip back into bed. “I feel a little better already.” That’s a lie, but I can’t stand the worry in his eyes. I roll over so I can press myself against him, and the skin-to-skin contact is almost soothing this time.
“I wish you’d talk to me about it,” he breathes when I drape my leg over his and press my face against his chest.
“I don’t need to talk about it. I just need some sleep.” I inhale his familiar scent and I sigh, my eyes falling shut.
“Tracy?” Michel whispers, running his fingers up and down my spine, making me shiver. “I’m proud of you. I know this is hard for you, to have me here when you’re hurting. Thank you for letting me be here, even though I can’t do anything to help.”
He’s proud of me.
Before I can help it, a tear spills out and lands on his chest, making him jolt. I inhale deeply, trying to keep the next ones at bay, and I manage to stop at just that one tear.
Packards don’t cry.
“Are you crying?” he asks, his hand touching my face gently, trying to feel if its wet since the room is too dark for him to see anything.
“No,” I say, my voice sounding almost normal. “You know I don’t cry. Good night, Michel.”
“Good night,” he says softly, pressing his lips to my forehead. “I love you, Tracy. Remember that.”
“Love you too.”