The Bad Things

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Chapter 7. Full Attention

“Wow,” I said and laughed. “You’re really good at surfing. Where did you learn it?”

Hayden shook some of the water from his hair. “I did it a lot after I got out of the hospital,” Hayden said. He sat down next to me on a beach towel. Drops of water fell from his hair and rolled down his face. His dark skin glistened as the sun dried him.

“But you don’t now?” I asked. “Why not? You seem to enjoy it.”

“I love it, but I don’t always have time. Between Mateo’s place and the coffee shop, I’m pretty busy.”

“I’ve noticed,” I agreed. “You’ve been out late.”

Hayden shrugged off what I said. “Alright. It’s your turn,” he said and gestured to the surfboard in front of us.

“No way.” I giggled and snorted. “I haven’t got that kind of balance.”

“You said that you would try anything once,” he argued.

I put my sunglasses over my eyes and laid back on the beach towel. “Some things are out of my league,” I said. I kept my eyes closed. The sun disappeared, and I knew that Hayden hovered over me. I opened my eyes and moved my sunglasses to the top of my head. “What?”

“Okay, if you won’t try surfing, I’ll teach you to drive a motorcycle,” he said.

“Oh my god,” I said and chuckled. “Forget it, Hayden. I’ve never even been on one. Besides, you need good balance for that too, and that thing is huge.”

“That’s not fair,” he muttered. Frustration clouded his eyes and pierced mine.

“What?”

“Well, I learned how to use that stupid cellphone to talk to you,” he smirked.

I bit down on my lip. My eyes danced with humor. “Did you really do that just for me?”

“Just for you.”

I sighed. “Okay, fine. At least take me for a ride—”

“Sure,” he said and smirked. “I’d love to.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, and he laughed. “On the motorcycle, and if I like it, I’ll try to drive it,” I finished.

He pursed his lips and nodded. “Perfect. Let’s go.”

My eyes widened as Hayden pulled me to my feet. “Hayden, wait! Not right this second.”

“Why not?” he argued.

“We haven’t even been here long.” That wasn’t the reason, but there was no way that I was going to admit to being a coward. I mashed my lips in a flat line.

“Are you afraid?” he teased.

“No,” I scoffed.

His expression filled with disbelief. “Come on. I won’t let you get hurt,” he said. The sincerity in his eyes left me speechless.

How could I argue that? I sighed. “Okay.”

“Yeah?” he asked excitedly.

“If you get me killed, I’m going to haunt you for the rest of your life,” I vowed.

Hayden pulled me up the beach. He couldn’t seem to contain the excitement he felt. Over the last few weeks, I saw a completely different side of Hayden, and I liked what I saw. Things were going well between us. Stormy grew more attached to him with each passing day, which concerned me a little. She would be heartbroken if things didn’t work out.

***

“That was horrible,” I muttered. I could barely do a circle around the parking lot. I killed the motorcycle and nearly crashed it into one of the parked vehicles.

“Eh, you’ll get better,” he said. Hayden put the kickstand down for me and helped me off the bike. Hayden pulled me into him and pressed his lips to mine. He broke the kiss and smiled at me. “It’s not easy at first.”

“Nothing ever is,” I muttered.

Hayden chuckled. “Not usually.” Hayden’s phone vibrated against my leg. He pulled it out and looked at it for a brief moment. “Shit,” he muttered. He put the phone back into his pocket and looked at me. From the look in his eyes, it seemed as if he almost forgot I was with him. “I-I have to go. Mateo needs my help with something. I’ll come to the apartment later if you want.”

“Oh,” I said. Disappointment flooded through me, but I pushed it back. We were supposed to spend the entire day together. Stormy stayed with my mom for the night.

“I’ll be back,” he promised. He kissed my cheek and climbed onto the bike.

“Bye.”

Hayden backed the bike up and peeled out of the parking lot. The sound of the motorcycle disappeared. I turned and went into the apartment complex. We had a good day together, so I couldn’t be too upset that he had to leave.

However, Mateo’s garage closed around seven o’clock on weekends. I wondered what Mateo needed help with, but I didn’t want to ask. Hayden wasn’t used to having to justify or share things he did. He never seemed to like it when I got nosey.

When Stormy and Hayden weren’t around, I didn’t know what to do with myself. So, I started to clean things that didn’t really need cleaning. I swept my floor and barely got anything off of it. I mopped the floor and wiped down my counters.

By the time I finished tidying up the already clean apartment, it was close to ten o’clock. I cleaned as much as I could, probably going a little overboard.

I sat down and turned on Netflix. I didn’t watch a lot of TV shows, but I recently started watching Sons of Anarchy—thanks to Hayden.

Three episodes later, my eyes grew heavy. I started to wonder how late Hayden would be out, but I didn’t want to bother him. He had been gone for over four hours.

My phone buzzed. I grabbed it to check the text message. Hayden’s name flashed across the screen.

Hayden: I just got home.

Me: Are you coming over?

Hayden: I need to clean up.

What Hayden said in the text piqued my interest. I knew it wasn’t like him. He had a shower before we did the bike ride earlier. Hayden showered once a day. Why would he shower twice? I got off the couch and walked out of my apartment. My bare feet got dirty from the carpet in the hallway between my door and Hayden’s door. Damn, I should have vacuumed this hallway too.

I considered knocking on Hayden’s door, but a week ago, he told me to quit knocking and just let myself in. I opened the door and closed it softly behind me. I walked down the hall and noticed his bathroom door ajar.

Hayden stood in front of a mirror. Blood stained the white washrag in his hand. Blood dripped down from the side of his head. Purplish bruises were starting to form on his jaw and temple.

“Hayden,” I gasped and pushed the door open.

His eyes widened, and he swallowed hard. His eyes turned cold. “What are you doing here?”

“What happened to you?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. Get out.”

“What? I thought you went to help Mateo? You were gone for hours, and you come back all beat up?” My eyes swept over his bare chest. Bruises formed on his chest, which was shocking—Hayden’s skin was dark and didn’t bruise easily. His lips were busted and bloody too.

“Just go home and go to bed,” he snapped.

I moved closer and grabbed his face. “Let me help you,” I murmured.

“I said to go home!” Hayden spat. The venom in his voice made me stumble back slightly, but I set my chin stubbornly.

“No,” I said. “Tell me what the hell is going on with you. You have been gone late almost every night. You always say it has to do with work. What the hell are you mixed into?” I didn’t ask for the sake of being nosey this time. This time it had to do with Stormy. Stormy couldn’t see Hayden like this, and if it were recurring incidents, we would have a problem.

Hayden ignored me. He spun around and cleaned the blood off of his head. He moved past me across the hall to his room. I followed after him. Hayden grabbed a clean shirt from his closet. His back faced me. He put his head through his shirt.

A gasp escaped me. Before Hayden could get the shirt on the rest of the way, I noticed the scars on his back. I put my finger to one of the long pink scars. They were old and faded scars—nothing like his new markings.

Hayden’s shirt dropped. He spun around and caught my wrist before I could move my hand away from him. He pulled me against him. His eyes were angrier than I had ever seen them before. “Don’t touch my fucking back,” he spat. He gripped my hand tightly, not enough to hurt me but enough to scare me.

I ripped my hand away from him and stared at him in shock. “What the hell got into you?”

“I told you I had to clean up,” he started.

“Well, of course. You look like you just stepped out of a horror film!” I shouted. “You’re not going to get away with not giving me some kind of explanation when you spend time around my three-year-old daughter.” My chest rose and fell angrily.

He knitted his eyebrows together. “It’s not any of your business.”

I nodded. “Fine.” I threw my arms in the air and backed away from him. I spun around and started for the door, but I stopped in the frame and turned back to face him. “You know something? I’ve had jobs before that I’m not exactly proud of either. I haven’t told you everything about me, but I don’t go out of my way to keep secrets from you. How could you expect me to trust you if you can’t be honest with me? Trust is earned, not given.”

Hayden bowed his head, but he didn’t speak.

I turned and walked out of his apartment. I slammed the door behind me in anger. I went back to my apartment and locked the door. I leaned against the door as I slowly fell apart. Why the hell does he do this to us? Every time we get close, he pushes me further away, and I can’t take much more.

***

The week that followed, I barely spoke to Hayden, and if I did, it was work-related. Hayden put no effort into talking to me or telling me what happened either. I grew tired of playing games with him and chasing him. People shouldn’t have to fight for a person that won’t fight for them, and as far as I could tell, Hayden hadn’t put up much of a fight for me.

Stormy and I ran into him more than once—it was impossible not to run into him when we worked together and lived near each other. When I moved into the apartment, I signed a year lease, so I had no choice but to endure it. Stormy wanted to talk to him and play with him, but I pulled her away from him, and I felt bad for it.

Hayden and I would lie to her and tell her that he hasn’t got time to spend with us. Neither one of us knew what to do. Right and wrong didn’t make much sense, especially for a couple like Hayden and me. We didn’t call it completely off, but we weren’t seeing each other. We were at a standstill.

The entire Saturday I spent with Stormy. We went to the beach and out for dinner. Both of us were exhausted by the time we got home. I tucked Stormy in and reached for the pink lamp on her bedside table.

“Mommy?”

I paused with my hand on the light and looked down at her. “Yeah?”

“Are you and Hayden fighting?” Stormy asked. Confusion clouded her eyes.

I sighed. “Okay, you’re a big girl, and I don’t like hiding things from you,” I started.

Stormy frowned. “You are fighting,” she muttered. “Just like you and Daddy fought. Can’t you say you’re sorry? I love Hayden, Mommy.”

Stormy’s words caught me off guard. I knew she felt strongly for Hayden, but I wasn’t expecting that. “Oh boy,” I breathed and looked away. It took me a long moment to gather my thoughts. I looked back down at Stormy. “Baby, what happened with your dad and I isn’t the same thing as what happened with Hayden.”

“But he was your boyfriend,” Stormy said.

“I—” I stopped and sighed. “Sort of,” I agreed. “We’re not exactly sure where we stand right now. There are just some things we don’t agree on.”

“You don’t have to agree on everything.”

“You’re right, but these things are big things. In order for us to work out, we have to come to some kind of agreement.”

Stormy sighed and rolled over. She looked as if she were angry with me.

I didn’t know what else to say, so I turned out the light. I went into my bedroom and changed into pajamas that I bought from Victoria Secret. I crawled into bed. Thoughts of Hayden wrestled around in my head. Lightning flashed through my window, and thunder shook the complex. I turned my head and stared at the window as rain splattered against it.

Usually, I slept fine when it stormed, but the timing and irony of the storm kept me awake. I wanted to crawl out of bed and go to Hayden, but my pride kept me in the bed. If he felt for me the way I felt for him, he would come to me, wouldn’t he?

I tossed and turned for more than an hour. Sleep wouldn’t succumb me even though I was exhausted. I considered getting some Nyquil just to fall asleep. Suffering from a broken heart is the worst kind of pain.

After another hour of tossing and turning, I finally fell asleep.

***

Loud knocking woke me. The alarm clock on my bedside table read 3:04 A.M.Who in the hell? I swear if it’s Sean, I’m going to strangle him. I crawled out of bed and stumbled through the dark apartment. I unlocked the door.

Just as I opened the door, lightning flashed and lit up the face that stood in the frame of my door. I gasped and stumbled back.

Hayden came into the apartment and closed the door behind him. The mix of emotions that played on his face and in his eyes confused me.

“H-Hayden? What are you doing here? It’s three in the morning,” I murmured.

His blue eyes swept over me. “I did something bad,” he whispered. “I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t—” he stopped and swallowed hard.

I rubbed my eyes and squinted up at him, confused. “What are you talking about?”

Hayden stepped closer to me. Most people would have stepped away from the look in his eyes, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. His blue eyes held mine so intensely that I forgot how to breathe. Hayden raised his hand and brushed my cheek. My gaze flickered to his hand, and I gasped. I stumbled backward. Hayden caught my arm and steadied me.

His knuckles were bruised and covered with blood. It reminded me of the last time I was at his place.

“What did you do to your hand?” I asked worriedly. I grabbed his hand and looked it over. The blood on it had dried.

“It’s not my blood,” he whispered.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and looked into his eyes. My eyes searched his for the answer, but it wasn’t there. “Then who?” I stuttered.

“Ryan. . .” he trailed off.

“You beat up Todd’s son? Are you crazy? Did you kill him?” Shock rocked through me like ocean waves. How could he do something so crazy? And what reason could he possibly have to want to hurt Ryan?

Hayden rolled his eyes. “Well, I considered it. It isn’t like I haven’t killed before. What is one more skeleton in my closet, right?” Sarcasm coated his tone.

“Hayden,” I said sternly.

“I only beat him up,” Hayden said. “I might have like broke his nose, and he might be missing a few teeth or something like that.”

“Why would you do that?” I whispered.

“He was drunk, I shouldn’t have done anything, but the things he said. . .” Hayden trailed off and gritted his teeth.

“About?”

Hayden’s eyes flickered to mine. “You,” he murmured. “And Stormy.”

“Tell me.” Ryan barely knew me and had never seen Stormy. He had no right to say anything about either of us.

“I can’t, okay? It was bad. What’s worse is he said the shit in front of a bunch of other guys that he was hanging around. The only reason he even said the shit is because you wouldn’t go out with him. I’m sure it was just out of jealousy. He did mention one thing, though. I almost kind of wonder if it’s true.”

“What?”

“He said. . .” Hayden trailed off and shook his head. “You know what? It doesn’t matter.”

I forced him to look at me. “Just tell me,” I pleaded.

“Were you a stripper?” Hayden asked.

My cheeks heated up instantly, and I dropped my hands from his face. I wasn’t going to deny it when he asked me outright like that. I wasn’t a liar, but I wasn’t proud of it either. “I told you I had jobs that I wasn’t proud of.” My eyes flickered to his. “You beat him up for that?”

“No,” Hayden murmured. “He called you names. He said he was happy that he didn’t wind up with you because once a girl has a kid, sex isn’t as good. He called Stormy a crack baby or something like that. I barely had time to register some of it because I lost it and—” Hayden stopped and showed me his hand as if to tell me the rest.

I gritted my teeth in anger, and tears pooled in my eyes. I turned and started to walk away from him.

Hayden grabbed my arm and turned me around. “It doesn’t matter to me,” he murmured. “My past is far worse than anything you have ever done. Ryan is a fucking idiot. You’re a good mom, and he doesn’t know that as well as I do because he hasn’t seen it.”

“Hayden, she isn’t a crack baby!” I spat. “I was drinking a lot before I was pregnant with her, but I didn’t do drugs. That was the type of crap that Jason did. Not me—”

Hayden grabbed my face between his hands and smashed his lips to mine. He broke the kiss but held my face close to his. “It. Doesn’t. Matter. Nothing he says matters. He barely knows you or her. Nothing anyone says could change my mind about you. You’re perfect. You’re too damn perfect,” he murmured. “I haven’t done anything good in life to deserve you and her, which is why I’m going to tell you what you want to know. I can’t lie to you. I can’t keep fooling myself. I always knew we wouldn’t work.”

“W-what?” I stuttered.

“You wanted the truth, so I’m going to give it to you. I didn’t before because I was selfish, and I didn’t want to lose you. I knew that if you knew the truth, I would never see either of you again,” he said. Tears built in his eyes. “And I’m going to miss the two of you so much.”

“You don’t even know that it’s going to change my mind about you,” I said and reached for his hand.

He moved his hand before I could take it in mine. He took a step back from me. “But I do know that bebé,” he argued. “If I thought for even a second that I wouldn’t lose you over it, I would have told you much sooner. I’m sorry.” Hayden mumbled something in Spanish that I couldn’t make out. I knew a little Spanish, but not a lot.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Nothing, it’s not important. Listen to me,” he said and grabbed my hands in his. He closed the small space between us.

“I’m listening,” I said. I arched my head back to look at him, so he could see that he had my full attention. At this point, I didn’t think for a second that what he had to say would change my mind. Maybe it would have if I knew a long time ago.

Hayden didn’t seem to believe or comprehend what I felt for him. I spent days on edge from missing him. I didn’t care what he did. I just wanted him to trust me and fight for me the way that I fought for him.

“Maybe you should sit down,” he suggested.

“Is it that bad?”

“Pretty much.” Hayden pulled me over to the couch and forced me to sit. He stood in front of me. His eyes held mine as he opened his mouth to speak. I gave him my full attention but no doubt that some part of me didn’t want to hear what he had to say.

My feelings for Hayden were strong but I wasn’t sure if they could withstand whatever he was about to tell me.

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