#29 Good to be back
“What do you mean, you want me to stay at my own place for a few days?” Michel looks at me like I’m crazy. “I’m supposed to cancel my lease this month, baby. We talked about this. I thought you were ready for me to truly move in, without a contingency plan.”
I take a deep breath, determined to not let him talk over me this time. I need a break. I need to curl up into a ball without him slipping into bed behind me to pull my legs apart and slide into me. I need to have a nightmare without his arms caging me against his chest, making me feel even worse than before. And the nightmares are so frequent by now that I am tired all the fucking time.
I need a break.
“Look, I’m not asking you to move out,” I explain. “I’m only asking you to give me… three days, maybe four. You know I’m trying here, Michel, but I’m exhausted. I need a moment to just… be.”
“Why can’t you do that with me?” he asks, his eyes sad as he takes my hands in his. “Why do I need to leave for you to be okay? Tell me what I need to do, and I will do it.”
“I need you to leave me be for a few days, and not be here, at the apartment,” I insist, even though part of me wants to take back the words the second I see how much they’re hurting him. “I’m sorry. I just… I can’t, okay. We’ll talk after, but I can barely drag myself through a day at work, and that’s not me. I’m usually way more… energetic, or something.”
Truth be told, I don’t feel like strong, tough, ice queen Tracy Packard anymore. I haven’t felt like myself in months. In fact, I haven’t felt like myself since I let Thomas walk out the door and started trying to make things up to Michel. I feel like I’m not even close to enough anymore. Michel loves me, but he obviously isn’t happy with what I did, what I like, who I am.
I feel like I’m not even sure who the fuck I am anymore.
“It’s because you spend all your spare time in the gym,” Michel bites out, dropping my hands. “With those cops you’re friends with.”
“William, Elijah and James have nothing to do with this,” I say, sounding stronger now. It’s actually James who made me realize that I need this break from Michel to gain some perspective. He’s been telling me about his past after our gym sessions, how jealous he used to be, how controlling, and that he proposed to his girlfriends really fucking soon, just because he couldn’t stand the thought of being alone. He lost his sister. And while that is not the same as me losing my parents and my uncle, he does get my pain better than anyone I’ve ever met. He doesn’t truly get me, my sense of humor, or the things I like, but he does get my pain, and that is something I’ve never had before. I haven’t told him much about myself, but he has no trouble sharing his past with me without expecting anything in return. He’s a good friend.
“I just don’t get where this is coming from,” Michel grunts, his hands balling into fists. “I’ve been patient with you, Tracy. For six years now, I’ve been so fucking patient. I’ve loved you, I gave you space, and I waited for you to get to your senses. You still don’t share your whole self with me, but the fact that you try is enough for me. I don’t get why you’re punishing me when you’re the one who-”
“If you tell me one more time that I’m the one who cheated, I will throw you out right now.” I feel some of my old fire returning, and I sound fierce. I am so done with him throwing Thomas in my face every time we fight. “I know I fucked up. Either you forgive me, or you don’t. If you do, then stop telling me off for it. And if you don’t… well, then I guess this is it, isn’t it?”
His eyes go wide and he shakes his head. “You don’t mean that. Fine, I won’t bring up the fact that you cheated on me anymore. I will move out for the remainder of the week. I’ll be back on Sunday, around six, right after my catering gig. We’ll talk then.” He gets up and looks down on me with a weird look on his face. “Please don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone.”
Even though he just promised he wouldn’t, he’s talking about Thomas again, without saying his name. He seriously thinks I am going to use these days apart to cheat on him. Does he even know me at all? I wouldn’t do that. I feel so fucking guilty about doing it that one time, even though I know I was drunk and horny, and not in control of myself. That was no excuse. I will never put myself, or Michel, or Thomas in that position ever again.
“Okay,” I say, feeling relieved now that he agreed. “I’m going to take a shower.”
Michel grunts, and his expression changes. “Can I join you? Get it on more time before I leave?”
“No,” I say, suppressing a shudder. “Sorry. I’m tired and stressed. I just want to shower and go to bed. Could you… could you leave before I get out of the bathroom?”
“Sure.” He moves over to kiss me, and I let him, not wanting to hurt him even more. I love him, but everything about us feeling wrong lately.
I shower for a long, long time, wanting to make sure he’s out of the apartment before I get out. I wrap my robe around myself and check every single room, making sure he left. Then I lock the door, put on the deadbolt and crawl into bed, feeling utterly and completely exhausted. My phone buzzes, and I smile when I see it’s James.
How did it go? he asks, plain and simple.
He left for four days, I text back. Just me in bed alone tonight.
Good for you, James shoots back right away. Proud of you, Tracy. See you at the gym tomorrow, okay? Bright and early.
I smile. Tomorrow is Saturday and we’ve both got the day off, so we agreed to meet up at the gym, like we do about five times a week. I still wish I could box with Thomas, Dylan and Aston again, but James and his friends have taken me in as one of their own. The girl James is dating, Dara, tags along sometimes, and she jumps on the treadmill while I box with the guys, not concerned about a girl working out with her man at all. I like her for James. She seems nice, and he told me that he needs to take things slow to make sure he won’t make the same mistakes he made in the past. Dara is chill, skipping through life like a careless little girl, while at the same time being mature and grounded. I hope she’s it for him, but even if she’s not, it’s good for him to have a healthy relationship for once, because honestly, some of his exes sound like bitches. One of them cheated on him with another guy and got engaged to the other guy while still with James, and another slept with someone else only a few hours before she was going on a date with James. What the fuck, right?
Being in bed alone feels good, and I stretch out like a starfish, the way I used to before Michel and I got back together. Two minutes later, I’m out for the count. I make it through the night without a single nightmare, and wake up refreshed, ready to kick some ass.
“Fucking hell, Tracy, you’re on fire today,” William grunts, trying to block my advance and failing miserably. He may be a tall, tough police officer, but he’s no match for me today. Elijah and James are too buff for me, but I’m finally able to kick William’s ass and I’m damn proud of it.
I fight Elijah next, and within a few minutes, I fall over because my footwork is getting a bit sloppy. I land on my ass, wincing a little from the pain.
“Sore ass?” he jokes, winking. “Courtesy of your boyfriend, perhaps?”
I glance at James while Elijah pulls me back to my feet. “Actually… it’s just me this week. I asked Michel to move out for a few days because I needed a break.”
“Oh,” Elijah says, wiping sweat from his brow with the back of his arm. “Good for you. Is this the first step to breaking up with that asshole?”
“He’s not an asshole,” I bite out. “You’ve never even met him.”
“He’s got his girl looking like a zombie, so he can’t be that great a man,” he replies, shaking his head. “Seriously, Tracy, you look better today than you have in all the weeks we’ve been sparring now, and I bet it’s because your boyfriend isn’t home. Break up with him already. If you get lonely, I’d be happy to keep you warm at night.”
My anger dissolves when he winks at me, and I smile. “You wish, E.”
“Fuck yeah, I do.” He cups his cock through his shorts and grunts. “Haven’t gotten laid in four months. I’m not even sure if I still know where everything goes.”
“If your right hand needs directions to your crotch, let me know.” I grin. “My bed is a no-go zone, though. I’m finally getting a good night’s sleep without Michel feeling me up every single night.”
“You have sex with him ever night?” James asks, frowning a little. “That’s… a lot.”
I shrug. “We live together, we’re in love. It’s not that much.” Still, as I say it, I realize that to me, it sure feels like a lot, especially since he doesn’t make me come anymore. The past few days, he didn’t even try. And I’ve stopped caring if he does. I’ve always been a very eager participant with Michel – and definitely with Thomas, who I was way more vocal with – but these past weeks, I’ve become the kind of girl that just lies there and waits until it’s over. Being a called a whore has lost all its appeal since I’m actually starting to feel like one. And a bad, cheap one at that.
“You don’t look like you’re happy about it,” William observes. “Fucking hell, Tracy, why are you with this guy? You hardly ever talk about him, you always stay at the gym for another hour or so after the three of us leave, probably so you don’t have to go home to him, and you seem relieved that he’s gone for a few days because you don’t have to sleep with him. If my girlfriend ever talks about me like that… Damn, I pray to God she never will. When is the last time you were actually happy to see him?”
That’s a good question. “A while ago,” I reply after a long pause. “Let’s get back to our workout, okay? I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
Elijah and James share a look, but they don’t say anything. William squirts water onto his face and gets ready to take me on again. Before I can get in position, I hear my phone buzz, and I turn to the small bench we’ve all put our phones down on.
“Really?” James asks, looking down at my screen from where he’s standing. “He’s only been gone one night and he’s already texting you? I thought you told him not to?”
“I did.” With a grunt, I open the message. He says that he loves me and tells me not to do anything stupid while he’s gone. Instead of replying, I delete it, and put my phone back down.
“Atta girl,” James says, winking at me.
We work out for another half hour, but then the guys need to get ready for lunch with their girlfriends or a shift at the station, or whatever they’re up to today. For the first time in a long time, I don’t have anything going on. Peter gave me the day off because I apparently look like shit – which I do, I guess – and he thought I needed to rest. I’ve never needed to take time off, not even during the week my parents died.
Michel is making me weak, and the worst thing is… I’m letting him.
Not anymore, though.
“Like I said before, I’m home alone tonight,” I tell the guys when they get out of the locker room, showered and all wearing jeans and white T-shirts, looking like a boyband. “Wanna come over? I’ve got beer.”
“Sweet,” James says, smiling. “I’m game. Can I bring Dara?”
William and Elijah agree to come as well, and they all hug me before leaving. I text Delilah and Peter as well to invite them over. Peter says he feels too old to hang out with a bunch of guys and girls in their late twenties or early thirties, so he’s out, but Delilah lets me know right away that she will be there.
And then I realize something sad.
Those are all the people I know who I can invite over to my place. I don’t have any other friends, not even acquaintances or anything. My mind goes straight to Thomas, but I know I can’t text him anymore. Michel and I would definitely be over if I did that, and I don’t want that. Besides, I don’t want to lead Thomas on. He’s probably over me already – why would anyone be hung up on the likes of me? – but still, I’ve already hurt him and I hate that.
Aston and Dylan however… I could invite them, right? Or would that be a dick move?
I grunt, hating how I’m suddenly overthinking every single thing. I text both guys that they’re welcome to hang out at my place, and hit send before I can question myself. They were my friends at one point, and I hate that I had to give them up when I cut Thomas from my life. I don’t have many people in my life, so I should hold onto the ones who can actually stand my complicated, fucked-up nature. I’m done with the drama. Dylan and Aston are my friends, or at the very least I would like them to be.
Thanks, but I’m busy tonight, Aston shoots back right away. Wanna come to my wedding next month, by the way? I thought you didn’t want to talk to me anymore, but in case you do, I’d love to have you there.
I feel tears stinging in my eyes, but I choke them back down. Aston is so utterly uncomplicated. The guy doesn’t do drama at all. He doesn’t beat around the bush either.
I’d love to. Sorry for not being around lately.
No need to be sorry, he texts back. Life is a pain in the ass sometime. Trust me, I’ve been there. Good to have you back, Tracy.
It’s really fucking good to be back.