May 4th, 2017
Angels fall - Breaking Benjamin
“I said I can’t, Anna.” Chris rolled his eyes.
“Why? You promised!” She crossed her arms over her chest, tilting her head, trying to peek inside the apartment.
“I know, but Leah... She needs me.”
“She’s a grown-up, she can handle herself. Come on, Babe...” She pouted, sliding a finger inside his sweatpants. “We’re both free today...” She bit her bottom lip.
“Stop it, alright? I can’t.” He stepped back. As much as he wanted to try some new kink with that woman—because, damn, she was always experimenting—given the situation he wasn’t going anywhere. “She’s going through a rough time.”
“Jesus! When are you going to start putting me first?”
“Excuse me?” Chris’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“You’re always Leah this, Leah that... It’s annoying, she’s not your girlfriend, I am!”
“Woah! Stop it there. We”—Chris flicked a finger between them—“are not a couple.”
“But we’ve been together for almost a year!”
“And we’ve had fun together, but that’s it. I told you at the beginning that I don’t do relationships and nothing’s changed.”
“Is it because of her? Because you like her?”
Here we go...
It wasn’t the first time a chick accused him of being in love with Leah. It was annoying. Couldn’t they really just be friends? She was like a dude with tits, that was as far as his acknowledgment of her being a woman went.
Okay, he’d had a crush on her when they were younger, but it wasn’t serious because the moment she started dating Paul, he let go and didn’t even care. He was just used to being around her so much—and hell; she had always been gorgeous—he got confused and for a while, thought it was something else. Teenage hormones fuck up everything.
“For the billionth time, I don’t like her like that and there’s nothing between us.” Chris huffed.
“Then why is she so important? I’m never first... I’m getting tired of this, Chris.”
“That’s your problem to deal with.” He shrugged. At any other time, he’d have acted differently, but Leah had come back five days before and she was a devastated mess. He hadn’t seen her so disheartened and crying so much since the day she told him about what had happened with Ryker. “We have fun together, but I’m never going to fail her because of a fuck-buddy.”
“That’s all I am to you?”
Chris sighed. “Look, I like you, you’re nice and kind, and honestly I’ve never been around the same woman for so long, but I’m not that man.” He had always been honest about his intentions. He had never felt anything deep or strong enough for anyone to give something serious a try. Yeah, he had wondered several times if he was broken inside or something, but that was the way it was. He had learned to accept it and live with it.
“Then we’re done!” Anna cried, storming towards the stairs without letting him add another word.
It sucked because she had great tits and after so many months they already knew each other pretty well, and she had close to no boundaries. But the head on his shoulders still ruled over the one between his legs, and there was no way he was leaving Leah alone.
“You should have said yes,” his friend mumbled as she made her way to the kitchen.
“I’m fine and I could use some alone time. You’ve been a pain in my ass since I came back.”
She could keep saying whatever she wanted; he knew it was pure bullshit. She had barely eaten or slept since she came back, and the dark circles under her eyes were very prominent.
“Too bad, ’cause I’m planning to be even worse,” he said as he walked towards her.
“Ugh!” Leah rolled her eyes as she grabbed her offensive cat mug—it really matched her morning mood.
“We can do something fun. We can go to Marc’s or something.”
“Nah... I have lots of work to catch up with, so I’ll probably just do that,” she said while pouring some coffee in her cup.
“Come on, we’re gonna start touring again in two days and our weekends will be spent between the road and the stage until the end of June.”
“Sorry, Chris. I’m not in the mood.” Her voice sounded harsh, but he knew she was just trying to push him away, burying herself in that hollow and safe place inside her mind. That was what she always did. After opening up and letting it all out one day, she would act strong and collected the next. But the almost permanent smile on her face had faded away.
When she got home that day—he knew she was coming beforehand because Søren had texted him—she was out of it, catatonic. Chris was really worried because during the next day she did nothing but sleep until very early on Monday morning, when she had a breakdown.
The way she howled in pain froze the blood inside his veins. She could barely utter anything coherent as tears rolled down her face, soaking his t-shirt as he hugged her, trying to be the comfort she couldn’t find.
He didn’t know what had happened as the metalhead hadn’t been able to explain, and she was such a train wreck he didn’t understand a single word she said. But it must have been bad because Leah would never crumble like that in front of someone otherwise—not even him, not anymore.
When she calmed down a little and told him about the picture of a ten-year-old Søren with her ex when he was still a teenager, Chris couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The world was a really cruel place. Out of the seven and a half billion people on the planet, the monster that had destroyed her once, leaving her physical and mental scars that wouldn’t allow her to forget about that period of her life, had to be the brother of the man she loved? Talk about a bad joke.
A sudden crash in Leah’s studio snapped him back to reality.
“I—I had forgotten...” she stuttered, chin trembling, eyes watery as she stared at the acoustic guitar hanging in the wall in front of them.
It was a guitar she had been working on for weeks before she went to Norway. It was still naked, no paint or strings on it, but it already had a carved Celtic knot around the soundhole. She was so enthusiastic about it, had already planned to paint the whole thing in matte black with the rosette in an old bronze, matching the color of the frets and turners she had used.
She knew she would never be on time for Søren’s birthday, but still wanted to do it for when she met him again.
“I-I-was supposed to-give him this in three weeks when...” She sniffed, voice dying in her throat. “He was supposed to come in three weeks.”
And then, like a crystal when someone throws a stone at it, she shattered.
Leah stumbled, already out of breath, crying her heart out as Chris walked her out of there so she wouldn’t step on the broken mug with her bare feet.
“Leah, listen to me. Breathe, okay? Breathe,” he said as he laid her down on the couch. She wasn’t having a panic attack like she’d had in the past; it was even worse. He could literally see her twisting in agony as fear covered her face.
She had ripped both their hearts out by running away. She knew she had hurt Søren in the worst way, keeping things from him, betraying her own beliefs. But the past trampling her like a truck was shattering each and every single bone in her body.
“Why...” She sobbed.
“I’m sorry you’re going through this...” Chris whispered, unsure of what to do other than caress the top of her head as he sat on the floor, facing her. She needed space, he knew, but he wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be alright. But he also knew there were no words to help her deal with such heartbreak.
Watching her in so much pain was killing him. He had never given a fuck about feelings and that shit. If it hadn’t been because his mother went down the spiral of depression for some time, he wouldn’t have cared that his father abandoned them for a bimbo that could have been his own daughter. But that... Seeing a friend, a family member, a person he would trust with his life suffering like that and not being able to do anything was the worst.
After two hours of endless weeping, Leah was so exhausted she had fallen asleep—probably because there was nothing else she could let out, not air or a single tear.
Feeling the need to calm himself a little, Chris left the apartment and went to the shop around the corner to get some tobacco and maybe... What the fuck? Yeah.
He took his phone out from the pocket of his sweats and dialed Søren’s number. Whatever had happened, they were still friends, and he was probably going through a rough time himself.
“Hey...” His voice sounded way too raspy and deep—not even a fucking demon in Purgatory would have that tone.
“Hey... Happy birthday, old man!” Chris said with a chuckle as he lit his last cig, trying to lighten the mood.
“Thanks.” The smile at the other end was weak, but it was there.
“How are you doing?” He knew the question was stupid but still had to ask.
“I don’t know...” Søren sighed. “How’s she doing?”
“... Did she say... why?”
Of course she hadn’t told him why she ran away like that. If he was in her position, he didn’t know what he’d do. It was so messed up. “I don’t think it’s my place to tell you...”
“Besides, she’s barely talked since she came back... So...”
“I get it, don’t worry. I just...” He huffed. “I don’t understand shit.”
“This sucks,” Chris admitted.
“At least tell me she hasn’t gone back to her ex.”
“What? Why would she go back to that bastard?” His brows creased together.
“She said something about having to go back and that it was related to her ex... I don’t know anymore.”
It was related to her ex, but not in the way he was thinking.
“She wouldn’t go back to him even if she got paid, and that asshole’s still in jail, anyway.”
“How’s Alex doing?”
“He’s good, better than we expected.”
“He’ll be able to play in Paris?”
“Don’t think so, but probably in the next.”
“That’s good.” Chris let out a cloud of smoke.
“I gotta go,” Søren said. “Take care of her, okay?”
“Will do, don’t worry. And you take care of yourself...” He wanted to tell him he wished they could work things out because they were meant to be, but what the fuck did he know? Leah was still trying to put herself together after smashing her face against the crude reality, and so was he. Hope would only cripple them more if their lives didn’t walk down the same path anymore.
“Sure. Thanks for calling.”
“No prob. And if you need anything... text or call, whenever.” He meant it.
“Thanks, dude. I appreciate it.”
“Take care, yeah?”
“Will do. Bye.”
Staring at the screen of his phone, Chris took one last puff before putting the stub out. He had two months to make sure Leah stitched her heart back together, tying everything strong enough so she wouldn’t break the day they met again.