Mending Heart

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Chapter 25

Confrontation

“It’s not how we make mistakes, but how we correct them that defines us.” – Rachel Wolchin


Stepping foot outside onto the busy street, it was unusually warm for an early September morning. The breeze coming from the lake tousled my hair, and all of a sudden, a walk around downtown didn’t sound so bad.

It was better than going home to an empty apartment, confined by four walls.

I couldn’t even call Zoey to come over anymore because she had already settled into her dorm at Penn State two weeks ago, and my friends – well let’s just say I don’t take pride in telling them I was sent home on administrative leave until further notice.

Which is how I found myself walking around Michigan Avenue, completely taken by the luxury design stores. I should have known better than to walk down this way – I can never refuse a pretty pair of shoes, I thought to myself as I pushed against one of the doors.

“Welcome!” A chipper sales associate greeted me as soon as I stepped foot inside. She was dressed in all black, her hair tightly pinned in a perfect bun. “Can I help you find something?”

I don’t know – can you help me find my dignity?

Of course, I didn’t say that. Instead, I politely returned her smile and allowed her to guide me through the store my eyes hungrily scanning the designer labels.

Time to do some serious damage to my bank account.

......

Three hours later, with countless shopping bags and a cramp developing in my right hand, I finally walked through my apartment door. After kicking my shoes off, I made my way over to the couch and dropped all of the bags. Plopping down on the cushioned seat, I began taking out items one by one.

After very little internal debate and even less persuasion from the sales associate, I had finally settled on a black Chanel purse I’ve had my eye on for years but never had the gulls to buy, a pair of nude Christian Louboutin pointed toe pumps, some new sunglasses, and a bunch of clothes I didn’t need.

While my bank account certainly wasn’t too happy with me, there’s nothing a little retail therapy couldn’t fix. After all, a woman can never have too many pairs of shoes.

Of course – that was a lie.

Sure, I felt slightly better and I had calmed down, but deep down I still felt like crap.

The car ride home also gave me a chance to think about everything that happened today, and of course, I realized a little too late that my hasty personality once again got the best of me. When I was younger, I always thought that I would mature with age, but that clearly hadn’t been the case.

Sometime in between trying on my new favorite pair of shoes and flipping through Netflix, I had fallen asleep on the couch. It wasn’t until I heard the insistent knocking on my door that I finally woke up, my neck stiff and eyes still tired with sleep.

“Coming!” I shouted, shoving some of the shopping bags out of the way. I also noticed it was noticeably dark in the apartment compared to when I drifted off. How long was I out for?

Jerking the door open, I found myself asking, “What are you doing here?” Honestly, what is it with him just showing up all the time. Do I have to move to get some peace and quiet?

“Get changed.” Ethan slipped past and came to stand in front of me. The first thing I noticed about him was that he wasn’t wearing his usual suit and tie. Instead, he had on a pair of navy blue basketball shorts and a white t-shirt.

“Excuse me?” I scoffed, still holding the door frame.

“I said get changed, McKenzie.” He gritted, his jaw clenched with impatience and his eyes hardening.

Despite his intimidating stance, I wasn’t backing down. When it became clear Ethan had no intention of leaving any time soon, I closed the door behind me and turned to face him. “No.” I rolled my eyes.

“Can you for once not make things difficult?” He let out an exasperated sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Can you for once just stop being pushy and leave me the fuck alone?” I retorted, hands on my hips.

“I swear to God McKenzie – you can be such a bitch sometimes.”

“What did you call me?” My eyebrows shot up.

“I called you a bitch.” He stepped closer until he was only a couple of inches away, towering over me. “Get over it.”

“Who do you think you are,” I jabbed my finger into his chest. “Coming into my home and calling me a bitch?”

“Oh I’m sorry,” He snorted. “Did I say something that wasn’t true?”

I opened my mouth to reply, but nothing came out. Ethan took this as an opportunity to continue. “Does it ever get old, just sitting around and moping all the time?” His sharp gaze was trained on me, making it impossible to look away. “I’m sorry to break it to you McKenzie, but nothing is going to change if you don’t grow the fuck up. If you want anything in this life, you’re going to have to work for it.”

“That’s rich coming for you!” Throwing my hands up in exasperation, a sarcastic laugh escaped my lips. “You’re going to inherit your dad’s company when he retires for good. Hell – I bet you went to private school all of your life, and never had to worry about anything because mommy and daddy always paid for it. You’ve never had to work a day in your life, so don’t stand here lecturing me about working hard.”

“You know nothing about the way I was raised,” Ethan said in a deadly quiet voice, anger flashing across his face.

His words hit a nerve. “Just like you know nothing about my life either!” I found myself yelling.

“I know enough to tell you that you need help McKenzie.” I opened my mouth to protest, but he was quicker. “Everyone’s walking around on eggshells with you, but enough is enough.”

My eyes welled with tears and I silently begged them not to fall.

Not in front of him.

Not again.

God – all these stupid fucking emotions. I missed the days when I could just stop myself from crying... when I wasn’t so weak and broken.

“When are you going to realize this?” He asked, this time his voice calmer and gentler.

“I DON’T KNOW HOW TO GET HELP!” I shouted, and as if on cue, my vision blurred and I felt my cheeks become wet with tears. Using the back of my hand, I wiped my eyes furiously. “Do you think I enjoy being this vulnerable all the time? Do you think I like just randomly crying? News flash – I don’t! All of these emotions, all of these feelings – they’re too much!”

Ethan’s eyes continued to soften as he reached out, taking my hands and pulling me closer so that I was pressed against his body. He caressed my cheek gently with one hand, using his thumb to wipe the tears that kept falling. “It’s okay not to be okay.”

“Why do you keep trying to help me?” My voice continued to crack, coming out raspier than normal as I tried to wiggle out of his grasp. It felt wrong to let him comfort me. “Can’t you see I’m a lost cause?”

Ethan sighed, running a hand through his hair after having let me go. “You’re not a lost cause McKenzie. But drinking so much and closing yourself off sure as hell isn’t going to help you get any better.”

“I don –”

“Yes, you do.” He glared. “You think nobody notices, but...”

“Why do you care so much?” What I intended to be an angry retort, came out as a whine.

“Because I care.” He gritted, an exasperated sigh escaping his lips. “Because you’re worth it!”

“I SLEPT WITH SOMEONE ELSE!” I blurted out, the words falling out of my mouth before I could stop them. And as soon as the words left me, I felt a weight had been lifted.

“Wha –”

“It was during Megan’s wedding, and I was lonely. Everyone had someone, and they were all so fucking happy. I was Ionely and he was just there, and I didn’t stop it.” I let out in one breath, looking anywhere but at him. “So you can just go now.” I pointed to the door.

“I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’m thrilled,” He glared in my direction. “But I also can’t fault you.”

“What?” I asked in disbelief. “God, are you serious?”

I’m not sure what I expected his reaction to be, but it sure as hell wasn’t this. I at least expected him to be angry and not so... so calm!

“What?” He continued to stare at me, an unreadable expression on his face, before scoffing. “Did you expect me to storm out of here? We’re not in fucking high school McKenzie. We never said we were seeing each other exclusively. You’re an adult and you can do whatever you want. Unfortunately, that includes fucking someone else. ”

“That’s all you have to say?” I huffed, irritation prickling at my nerves.

I wanted him to be angry.

I wanted him to yell at me.

Because then, it would mean that he cared and this wasn’t all in my head.

“What else is there to say?” Ethan shrugged, reaching into his pocket to pull out a pack of cigarettes and a silver-plated lighter.

“Just get mad!” I shouted, ready to throttle him. How is he so calm right now, I thought. If he told me he slept with someone else, I’d be pissed. “Say something!”

Pulling out a cigarette from the pack, he held it between his index and middle finger knuckles, leaning against the back of my couch. Pausing to glance at me, Ethan said, “I’m not going to get mad.”

“I give up!” I mumbled to myself, walking over to the kitchen to get some water.

“I’m not your boyfriend McKenzie.” Reaching for a glass, I nodded. I’d love to pretend like his words didn’t just cut through me, but they did.

Did I want him to be my boyfriend?

“Then what the hell are we doing here?” I found myself asking, glancing between him and the water pouring out of the Brita and into the glass. This seemed a good a time as any to get the future of our relationship out in the open. What was the point of beating around the bush any longer when everything was out in the open now.

Had we done this from the very beginning, maybe we could have spared each the heartache along the way. But neither of us were perfect – we each had our own issues.

“Right now?” Ethan arched his eyebrows. “Right now, we’re two adults having an adult conversation.”

I cocked an eyebrow in his direction, watching him slip the cigarette in his mouth and light it. “Are you going to share?” I found myself asking.

“I thought these were a death trap.” He scoffed, a dry smile playing on his lips as he walked the short distance to the kitchen. When he reached me, he extended the pack towards me and I feebly reached and grabbed one.

Unsure of what to do with it, I stared at it until I heard Ethan laughing. Placing the cigarette between the second and third knuckle of my index and middle finger, he guided it towards my mouth. Parting my lips, my mouth went dry as he continued to hold my gaze. Smoke filtered around us as Ethan took another long drag from his own cigarette, blowing out the smoke.

Using his free hand, I watched as he brought the lighter close to my face. With a flick, the flame came to life and the pungent smell invaded my nostrils. “Suck,” Ethan said, stepping back and walking the short distance to the sink where he flicked the stale ashy end of his cigarette bud into the sink.

At first, I didn’t properly inhale, just sucked some smoke in and held it in my mouth before blowing it out. Ethan rolled his eyes, continuing to lean against the sink, amusement creasing his face. “You’re wasting it.”

With a glare of my own, I reattempted it, this time erupting into a coughing fit as soon as the smoke went into my lungs. It was very dry, and it burned my throat. The hardest part about the whole experience was probably getting over the psychological sense of breathing something that wasn’t air, kind of like breathing underwater. And don’t even get me started on the taste. It tasted terrible, like a bunch of household chemicals – or at least what I imagine them to taste like.

I don’t know why anyone would willingly do this on a regular basis.

“Satisfied?” Ethan raised a brow as I walked over to where he was leaning to put out the remaining cigarette in the sink. It’s safe to say I’ll never be trying that again.

“Very.” I glared, and before I could walk away, Ethan’s hand reached out to stop me.

“Look Cupcake,” He took my right hand in his, his gaze pinning me in place. “There’s nothing more I want than for you to be mine and only mine. The thought of anybody else looking at you, let alone touching you, doesn’t sit well with me.”

“But?” I found myself asking, my heart rate quickening. Of course, there was a but.

“But, I don’t think a relationship is something you should be focusing on right now.” Ethan sighed.

I faltered a bit, feeling the sting from that cutting remark. “Right.” I pulled my hand out of his, all of a sudden finding the loose string on the hemline of my shirt very interesting.

“Look at me.” He commanded, lifting my chin to meet his eyes. “I’m not going anywhere. I want to be by your side while you figure this out – if you’ll let me.” I bit my lip, chewing the inside of my cheek. My chest continued to constrict with panic, and my breathing quickened.

It’s what I wanted him to say all along, isn’t it? So why do I all of a sudden feel panicky?

Ethan must have picked up on my reaction because before I knew it, he had pulled me against him once again and wrapped his arms around me. We stood like that for a good five minutes before Ethan spoke. “You know I can’t let you come back to work, right?” He asked hesitantly, continuing to hold me tight. I nodded against his chest, letting out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. “I don’t know if I want to come back,” I mumbled.

“You can take a sabbatical until you figure out what it is you want to do.” He replied, continuing to stroke my hair. “On the condition that you start going to therapy.”

Therapy.

“Therapy?”

“I’m done beating around the bush McKenzie.” He pulled back, now holding me at arm’s length. “You can get mad at me all you want for bringing this up again, but it’s what you need.”

I sighed, briefly closing my eyes. “You’re right.”

“If after a few sessions you’re st –” He stopped, mouth opening and closing. “Wait – what?”

“I said you’re right.” I wiggled out of his grasp, putting some distance between us.

“You’re not going to fight me on this?” He asked in disbelief, continuing to eye me wryly.

“No.” I shrugged, wrapping my arms around myself.

I’ve tried drinking.

Drugs if you count weed as a drug.

Crying my eyes out until there were no more tears.

Meaningless sex.

None of it seemed to make me feel any better, so maybe it was time to start listening to other people.

After a few moments in silence, I peered up at him through my eyelashes. “Do you really think I’m a bitch?”

“Do you want the truth,” Ethan smirked, lifting his finger to push a strand of hair out of my face. “Or the version where I spare your feelings?”

“Jerk!” I poked his side which caused him to let out a deep laugh.

___________________________________________________________________________

Slowly but surely, we’re going to start seeing some improvement in Kenzie.

Thoughts on this chapter?

Don’t forget to Like, Comment and Review!

-Kat

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