This chapter contains possible triggers, read at your own risk.
We sit in a corner of the bar, a few shots have already been taken, and the negative voices in my head have quieted down and I don’t hear them. We are both on the edge of being drunk and I can’t hear the voice telling me to end this before things get ugly.
“Thank you for coming with me,” Zander says as he swirls the liquid in the glass in his hand.
“I’m your PA I had to,” I respond with a shrug.
“No you didn’t, you could have said no. In case you didn’t realize, you kind of just sat around at the restaurant, I wanted you here.”
“Why?” Curiously fills me and in my state, I’m more vocal, seems like Zander is too.
“I like you,” he shrugs.
He likes me, could Cassandra have really been right all along, or is this the alcohol talking, am I looking into this too much? I try not to let the questions consume my mind too much.
He finishes the liquid in his glass before throwing money on the counter more than enough to cover our drinks with a very generous tip behind. “Let’s go,” He says getting up and holding his hand out to me before I grab it and follow him out the door and into a cab.
We walk into the suit, but I stumble as I attempt to take my boots off. Zander’s hands wrap around me once again and a warmth spreads through me at his touch.
I look up at him as my body is pressed up against his and I bite my lip.
His fingers lightly touch my face, tucking a wild strand of hair out of my face. “Zan-” before I can finish his lips are on mine. My arms automatically wrap around his neck and entwine my fingers in his hair.
He runs his tongue along my lips and I open my mouth, his tongue explores my mouth while I rub my tongue against his.
My back is suddenly pressed against a wall and Zander moves his assault on my lips down to my neck. A groan escapes my lips as my core warms.
His hands run down my hips and towards my legs, running back up to cup my ass. Flashes from 2 years rip through my mind and I can feel his hands on me and remember the smell of cigarettes in the air. “Stop, please.” Zander’s movements freeze at my words and tears fall from my eyes.
“Freya,” he whispers my name and my eyes stay close, “what’s wrong?” His hands move from my ass and he carefully places them on the sides of my face, his thumb wiping the tears.
“I - I -.” I can’t get the words out. I’m drunk, he’s drunk, and my past is messing with the present.
“Oh, Freya.” I can hear the sadness in his voice but when I finally look at him, his face doesn’t show pity for me, he’s worried and concerned. He brushes his nose against mine softly before resting his forehead against mine. “I’m sorry I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t...” he trails off.
He sighs before letting go of me and walking away, leaving me alone.
More tears flow from my eyes and I lean against the wall, lifting my head up towards the ceiling as I take a breath, trying to pull myself together.
I slowly walk into the bathroom, wash my face, and brush my teeth after composing myself. I can’t stop my eyes from looking towards Zander’s room, his door is opened and I fight the urge to walk inside. Instead, I walk into my room and change my clothes.
I sit on my bed, an internal debate is happening in my head and I’m fighting against all the negative thoughts screaming through my head. There is something wrong with me, I am broken, battered, and tainted
I want to find Zander, apologize, and explain but my body doesn’t move where I want it to, instead, I lay on the bed, turning my back towards the door and allowing the tears to take over.
The feeling of my bed dipping brings me out of my thoughts and strong arms wrap around me. Zander. His scent covers me; spices and mint. “I’m so sorry, Freya.” His words are soft and gentle.
I turn around in his arms, my eyes fixed on the edge of his short-sleeved shirt, through the small light coming from the window I can see a tattoo sticking out and I can see vines - maybe barbwires - covered in flowers and birds. It’s a distraction from everything going on in my mind. My hand moves up and lightly traces over some of the vines that stick out.
I’m not sure what to say or do, and it doesn’t seem like Zander does either. I move my hand from his arm and bury my head into his chest and over time sleep consumes both of us.
When I wake up in the morning I am alone and my heart drops inside my chest. It shouldn’t but it does.
The truth is, last night shouldn’t have happened, any part of it.
I should tell him the truth, tell him everything, lay all of my cards out on the table. He needs to know I’m damaged goods, tainted, and ruined.
I decide as I get out of the bed I’m going to lay it out for Zander, tell him everything. Before this turns to anything more than light touches, small glances, and drunken kisses.
I step out into the living room to find Zander in front of two carts covered in different foods, “I ordered breakfast but since I don’t know what you usually eat for breakfast I went a little crazy.” I can see the nervousness in his eyes and it makes my heart flutter in my chest.
Before I can chicken out I say the four words someone like me dreads, “we need to talk.”
If the words hurt him he doesn’t show it and before I lose what little nerve I have left, I start talking, my eyes cast downward, not trusting myself to look at him while I open up the deepest parts of me to him.
“A few years ago my dad, brother, and I were in a car accident. It was my fault, I left behind my favorite book and demanded we go back for it. But on the way back, some idiot was texting while driving and hit us head-on. I don’t remember much from the accident, but I remember the smell and taste of blood, the sounds of the police and ambulance. My dad died on impact, my brother...“I force down the lump in my throat, “Josh lived for a day before he died. I guess because I was in the back seat I was lucky, a broken bone, a sore neck and back, and some bruises and cuts from flying glass.
“When I got out of the hospital they gave me narcotics and I got addicted, it numbed me from feeling everything and I reveled in it. It did something nothing else did, it gave me a sense of peace. But it turned into something worse and I was looking for other stuff; harder drugs. I craved more and more but then one night, while chasing my high, I ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.” I can hear the dip in my voice as I talk, another lump in my throat from holding back the tears of that night as the memories flash through my head.
“I was raped, and he took everything from me, the little bit that was left of my soul and my virginity. I don’t really remember getting home but I felt so dirty, so broken. My brother and my father both dead, my virginity stolen from me; I didn’t want to live anymore. My mother was at some stupid function, she was always busy, she didn’t even notice I was falling apart. I figured she wouldn’t be home for hours. So I started a bath, climbed in, clothed and everything, and slit my wrists.
“But I must have been wrong about when she was coming home because when I woke up I was in the hospital. I spent a year and a half in a rehab facility and mental health clinics.” I swallow the saliva in my mouth to try to help my dry throat before I say the last few words he needs to hear, “I’m not alive because I changed my mind or because I chickened out at the last second and got help. I’m alive because my mother found me before I was dead, I’m not alive for myself and I think that damages me more and more every day.”
I finally move to gaze up to Zander, to his light blue eyes that are full of so many emotions I’m not even sure what I am looking at. I can see Zander take a step towards and I speak again, causing him to stop. “I don’t need fixing or mending, I don’t want it. I don’t need to be saved because there is nothing left to save. I’m just not worth it.”
“You don’t get to decide if you need saving Freya,” His voice is soft and calm and the dam that has been holding me together, that has been stopping the flow of tears from my eyes, breaks open. I want to be angry at his words but the way my name falls from his lips erases the anger I feel.
“Why not? Isn’t it my life, my choice? Who are you to decide that for me?”
“Don’t act like I don’t mean more to you.”
“You don’t get to do this Zander, I’m just your assistant, and you’re just my boss.” I spew the words out, ignoring the feeling of regret that fills me as I speak them.
“You don’t really believe that,” he takes a step closer. “You are trying to shove me away and I won’t let you Freya.” he takes another step. “You don’t get to decide that there is nothing left to save,” another step closer.
“There isn’t,” there’s a falter in my voice, the words don’t come out as strong as I hope.
“Tell me you don’t care about me, not even a little, not even in the slightest.” He takes another step and lands right in front of me. My face tilted up towards him, his pale blue eyes shine with emotions and feelings I can’t accept.
I can’t talk anymore, my mind is belittling me. I am not worthy of what he is offering, what he is trying to give me. I can’t accept it. The voices in my head screaming that he doesn’t see me as who I am, just who he thinks I am, who he wants me to be. But I am not that person, I am broken, bruised, damaged, and tainted. He doesn’t know me...
The voices scream that I am just some project he thinks he can fix and the second he puts me back together he will get rid of me, tear me back down with words of heartbreak and sorrow. The pieces of myself cannot be broken more, they will be shattered into oblivion if I try. But as his hand touches the side of my face, my eyes close, and for a moment I allow myself the peace that rushes through my body at his touch. There is so much wrong in this moment, the voices scream at me to run away but I am frozen in place at his touch, in this false sense of peace that surrounds me and I can’t move away from.
His lips brush mine and I can’t stop myself as I lift myself up on my tiptoes, pressing my lips into his. His hand drops from my face and wraps around my waist pulling me in closer and closer as my arms wrap around his neck. Zander deepens the kiss right before pulling away, his forehead pressed against mine, our breathing heavy. I can’t bring myself to open my eyes just yet as I savor the feelings surrounding me, I’ll have to break the spell soon but I just need to enjoy it a little while longer before I crash and burn.
“Tell me you didn’t feel anything,” Zander’s voice comes out breathy as he speaks, his breath hitting my face slightly as my heart hammers in my chest.
There are no words, I can’t speak or say anything. I want to lie, scream at the top of my lungs that I felt nothing. Maybe if I did that then he would go away, leave me in this pain and misery I feel every day. But I can’t, that part of me has been muted right now. There is nothing to say, my words would betray me the second they come out. So instead, I drop my arms from around his neck, turn and walk away.
I can hear him call my name as I get closer to my room, I can’t turn around and look at him. I will break if I do.
I close the door as I step inside, leaning against it. I want to scream and throw things but I can’t. I can’t make a single sound as the tears fall down my face as I slide to the floor. I am broken, and it’s my own fault.
This chapter is extra-long bc I rewrote a large portion of the beginning of this story and am too lazy to relabel eleven chapters.