#33 Stronger than yesterday
Michel is in the bedroom with an icepack against his nose, still in a lot of pain even though he got some serious painkillers from the ER doctor. Dylan is okay, thank God, with only some cuts and bruises. Michel will be okay as well, but it will take a while for his injuries to heal. Thomas bruised two of his ribs and his nose is broken, so he’s off way worse than Dylan.
Honestly, I’m not even mad at Thomas, not at Michel. I feel bad that Dylan is hurt, but it was all just a misunderstanding. Michel finding Dylan in my bed, holding a sex toy… Yeah, I get that he flipped. That doesn’t excuse violence, but after everything we’ve been through the past year, I understand that this was the final straw. Thomas kicking Michel’s ass for hurting Dylan is perfectly understandable as well, although he should have stopped way sooner than he did. There was no need to such excessive violence, but I guess he had some anger towards Michel that he could finally get out.
It’s hard to believe that not that long ago, Thomas and Michel were fucking me together. Or that Dylan offered to participate if Thomas didn’t want to. It feels like a lifetime ago.
While Michel rests, I pull a couple of cardboard boxes from the storage unit in the building’s basement and start packing up all of Michel’s stuff. His kitchen appliances, DVDs, clothes… Everything he has been taking over to my place since moving in. Good thing he’s still got his own place and didn’t cancel the lease yet.
I think I’ve been done for a while, but the second I asked him to move out for a few days, I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. And now this, the fight, all the drama coming to a big explosion in my goddamn bedroom, with Dylan caught in the crossfire… I can’t keep doing this. I love Michel, but we’re horrible together.
Maybe things would have been different if we had truly started trying years ago. If I had been ready to open up to him during the first year of our relationship, before I met Thomas, before we broke up and got back together sixteen times… Maybe we’d be living together right now, truly and completely, without him holding onto his own apartment. Maybe we’d be madly in love, without jealously issues. But fact is that all of those things did happen, and are still happening. We didn’t do things properly back then, and we did break up a million times, and I did meet Thomas. It’s no use looking back at what might have been, and it’s time I faced the facts.
Love isn’t enough. It never was with Michel and me.
He may have felt like home six years ago, but right now, he feels like my prison guard.
Obviously, I can’t dump him while he’s asleep, but I’m also not waiting until he’s all healed up. I can’t take him being here anymore. I can’t fall sleep next to him ever again. Having the bed to myself these past two nights was heaven. And Dylan talking to me after my nightmare felt better than having Michel hold me. As soon as Michel wakes up, he will find all his stuff in boxes, already stuffed in the back of his car, and I will ask him to leave his key and get out.
Maybe that’s harsh, but that’s just me, I guess. It took me forever to come to this decision, and now that I did, I want him gone.
My phone rings, and I sigh when I see it’s Thomas.
“You picked up,” he says, sounding surprised. “You actually picked up this time.”
“How is Dylan?” I ask.
“Good,” Thomas replies with a smile in his voice. “He’s claiming that he’s the one who caused half of Michel’s injuries, even though the guy didn’t have a single scratch on him when I came in. Things looked worse than they were, since he was bleeding so much, but that was because he got a cut above his eyebrow, which apparently gushes like a motherfucker. There was no permanent damage done, and he’ll be back to normal in two weeks or so.”
“Thank God.” I haven’t been able to talk to Dylan at the hospital, since him and Michel got separated, since the hospital staff seemed to think they were the ones in a fight. Which I guess was a fair guess. Thomas looked perfectly okay, aside from some scrapes on his knuckles, whereas he managed to fuck Michel up real good.
“How mad are you on a scale from 1 to 10?” Thomas asks, sounding a little worried. “At me, I mean?”
“About a 3,” I say, laughing at his relieved sigh.
“Can we talk?” he asks hopefully. “My place, dinner?”
“I don’t think so.” I’m determined to do things right this time around. I have no idea what I want to happen between me and Thomas, and I haven’t even broken up with Michel yet. I am certain that I want to be single at least for a while, to figure out what I want and who the fuck I am without Michel. In fact, I’ve already texted James to give me the name and phone number of his therapist. I think it’s time I went and find some help, just like he did. Not for Thomas, and definitely not for Michel, but for me. It’s time I choose myself over anyone else and get my ass in line.
Maybe… just maybe… I’ll figure out a way to be a semi-sane person and I’ll be able to have a normal relationship without all this drama.
Who knows, maybe it’ll be with Thomas. I sure hope so. I’m not sure if that would be wise, though, but I do know I’ve missed him like hell, and I like him as way more than just a casual lay. Right now, I’m just not in the right headspace to start something new, and he deserves better than that.
I deserve better than that.
“Did you dump Michel yet?” Thomas asks hopefully.
I almost reply “not yet”, but I don’t want anyone to know I’m breaking up with Michel before I actually do. That wouldn’t be fair. He deserves to be the first to know. I owe him at least that. He hasn’t been the best boyfriend lately, but he’s not an asshole. He’s just… confused. Hurt. Fucked-up by the whole situation. He will make some girl very happy, but that girl won’t be me.
“Tracy?” Thomas asks when I take too long to answer. “You still there?”
“Yeah, but I need to go,” I say, sighing. “Tell Dylan I’m sorry. I had no idea Michel was going to be here. He was picking up something he forgot – a charger for his laptop – and it was all just one big misunderstanding. Michel feels horrible as well. He wants to know Dylan’s favorite wine so he can send him a case to apologize.”
“Dylan is a beer-lover all the way.”
“I know, I already told Michel that.”
We’re both quiet for a long time, not hanging up. It’s comforting to know he still cares about me.
“Look-” we say at the same time, cracking up.
“You first,” he decides, urging me to go ahead.
“I just wanted to say that I regret what happened between us,” I say, trying to find the right words and failing.
“You regret sleeping with me?” he asks, sounding hurt.
“Not at all.” I shudder at the thought of him pushing into me while looking into my eyes, whispering dirty things. “I regret asking you to be a part of a threesome with me and Michel. I regret not realizing you wanted more than just casual sex. I regret hurting you. I regret throwing away our friendship and cutting you out of my life without ever talking to you about it. I regret a lot of things, but I don’t regret meeting you, or starting something with you, or being friends with you.”
“I don’t regret anything,” Thomas breathes, sounding like he means it. “Sure, most of what happened since we met was pretty damn fucked up, but I’m getting you back now, right? As my friend, I mean? I’d love to be more, but I get it if we can’t be. I get it if you need time. I can wait. I just want you back in my life, Tracy. I’m going crazy over here, not knowing how you are, worrying about you, thinking about your tight little ass without ever getting to see it.”
I laugh at that last part, happy that the old Thomas is still in there, waiting until he can come out to play. “I’m not sure how things will play out the next couple of months, but I’d like to be your friend again,” I agree. “I’m gonna need lots of space, though, and I would never expect you to wait for me, Thom. I’m not sure what I want and when I’ll be ready for something new. I don’t know if we’d be good for each other.”
“I can wait, because I do know,” he insists.
I hear Michel grunting in the bedroom, and then his footsteps, so I tell Thomas that I need to go, hanging up before he can reply.
“Hey,” Michel says as he walks into the room, sinking down on the couch with the useless, lukewarm icepack in his hands, playing with it. “Who were you talking to?”
“Dylan,” I lie, not wanting to hurt Michel more than I’m about to already. “He’s doing fine, and he said he’s more of a beer than a wine guy, just like I told you.”
“Then I will send him so much beer that it’ll last him a year,” Michel vows, leaning back and touching his nose carefully. It didn’t need a cast or anything, but it does look painful. “I’m so sorry, Tracy. I saw him in your bed, with your vibrator in his hands, and I just… snapped.”
“I get it,” I assure him, sitting down on the coffee table so I’m across from him, and I put my hands on his knees. “You know I love you, right?”
“Still?” he asks, sounding hopeful.
“Still,” I repeat. “But Michel… that’s not enough anymore. We make each other miserable.”
“You’re breaking up with me, even though you love me?” he asks, throwing the icepack to the side and grabbing my hands. “Baby, I promise this will never happen ever again. Dylan is okay, I’m okay, and we will be okay too.”
“I’m glad all of you are okay, but…” Oh God, here we go. “I’m not okay, Michel. I haven’t been okay in a long time. I think… I think I don’t even know what being okay means, to be honest. Maybe I’ve never truly been okay.”
“We can get you there,” he says, taking my face in him big, strong hands. It feels so familiar and safe that I almost cave, but I know I need to do this. “I can make you feel okay, baby. I will do whatever it takes.”
“No,” I whisper, looking into his deep brown eyes. “I want to be alone.”
“Alone?” Michel’s expression changes, and he scowls. “Does that mean you’re going to head over to Thomas’ place soon? Let him help you fuck me out of your system?”
“This is exactly why I can’t do this anymore.” I push his hands away from me and pull my hands through my hair. “You don’t trust me, and you seem to think I’m some kind of insatiable whore. I’m not, Michel. I’m just a girl, with a shitload of emotional problems, obviously, and I’ve made many mistakes, but I’m not a whore. I can control my urges. I’m not a cheater, even though I did fuck up once before. And you’re not this horrible, possessive asshole that I’ve turned you into.”
“I love you,” Michel murmurs, looking lost. “I’ve loved you for six years, Tracy. I thought that this time, we would make it. I would do anything for you. I’ve tried to give you everything you needed, but it’s never enough. Why can’t you just let me in and let me be enough for you?”
“Because…” I don’t know how to answer that question, so I shrug. “I just can’t. Michel… I need us to be over. For good, this time.”
“No,” he says, his voice stronger now. “No. I won’t let us end like this, Tracy. No way.”
“It’s not up to you,” I say, sounding tougher than I feel. “I already packed your stuff in your car. You’re on pain meds, so you can’t drive right now, so either you can call someone to get you, or I will stay at Delilah’s place for a few days until you feel better and are able to get yourself home.”
“No,” he says again, taking my face in his hands again. “No, I’m staying. I’m not giving up on us.”
Before I can say anything else, he presses his lips to mine, and starts kissing me. Really kissing me, letting all of his love and hurt pour out, and I kiss him back, unable to help myself. I’ve loved this man for six years, and he feels like he’s a part of me. A sick, twisted part of me, but a part of me nevertheless.
“See?” he murmurs when we break apart, one hand moving down to cup my breast, rubbing his thumb over my nipple, causing it to grow hard. “Your body still responds to me, baby. It belongs to me. It’ll never stop being mine.”
A few months ago, I’d have melted into him and begged him to fuck me, but not today. Not now. I push away from him and get up to put some distance between us. “I’m deciding to stop,” I say, my voice coming out all hoarse. “I’m not yours as of now. We’re done, Michel. I’m sorry, but we are.”
He gets up as well and closes the distance between us, pulling me flush against him again, grabbing my ass. “Come on, Tracy, you know you want to. Let me remind me how good we are together.”
I give him a hard shove, right in the ribs, and he doubles over in pain, clutching his side.
“Don’t put your hands on me again,” I bite out. “I know this is how we did things all the other times we broke up, but I’m over it. I’m going to leave now. I’ll be back in two days, and you’d better be gone by then. Leave my key on the kitchen counter, okay?”
“You’re going to regret this,” he vows, his eyes following me as I grab some stuff and put it in a bag before pulling in my shoes and coat. “You’ll be back, begging for me to be yours again.”
“Don’t hold your breath.” I don’t even look at him one last time before walking out of my apartment and closing the door on us, literally and figuratively.
Tracy Packard is single again. I find myself smiling as I get into my car, and when the radio plays Stronger by Britney Spears, I break into a wide grin, feeling like the whole universe is telling me that I made the right move just now.
“I’ve had enough. I’m not your property as from today, baby. You might think that I won’t make it on my own, but now I’m stronger than yesterday,” I sing along, tapping the steering wheel as I pull out of the parking lot. “Here I go, on my own. I don’t need nobody, better off alone!”
Except that I’m not alone, not even by a long shot. I’ve got James, Elijah, William, Aston, Dylan, Delilah, Peter… and Thomas. I’m not in a relationship anymore, and I don’t know when I’ll be ready for my next one, but I’m not lonely nor alone. It’s not me against the world. It’s me and my friends fighting against my own issues, and I’m determined to get some professional help and to finally except that I’ve got people around me who care about me, and who will be there even when I fuck up, which I will.
“My loneliness ain’t killing me no more,” I sing along with Britney. “I’m stronger than yesterday.”