Chapter 26-A Shot of Oblivion
“And all of a sudden, I felt really tired. Like the world had drained me for everything I had.”
The spot wouldn’t come off the counter.
Scrubbing even harder, I focused all my energy on removing that one…fucking…spot.
“Lan!” Doug eyeballed me from where he was setting up extra tables for the Saturday night rush. “It’s okay, that blotch has been there longer than I have.”
“Ugh,” I grunted, throwing the rag into the bucket. Of course. Why would something go right for once? It was against cosmic law.
Kylie and Brent shared a glance and continued their work. They’d been studiously avoiding me and my foul mood for the last few days. I wanted to care, but I didn’t.
My phone buzzed in my pocket, but I didn’t glance at it. Undoubtedly it would be Jesse, checking to make sure I hadn’t lit the joint on fire. Would be poetic, actually.
“Is the fridge stocked?” Doug checked. I nodded, and he rounded the corner to his office.
People started trickling in. I prepared drinks quickly, hoping someone asked for something complicated as opposed to beer. I desperately needed the distraction. Girls lined the counters, but I found myself unable to plaster the usual charming smile or perform the song and dance I usually did for tips. Most of the night passed in a blur. I worked tirelessly, would’ve gone right through my break if it wouldn’t have prevented Kylie and Brent from taking theirs. Fifteen minutes of idleness didn’t pass peacefully. My mind agonized over every detail of the demise of my relationship with…her. Whether there were any signs that could have warned me how close she was to the edge.
“Is she more important than me? Is she more important than you?”
My hands formed a fist around the table. I rubbed my temples, forcing the cloud of anger and guilt to the backburner. The second my break was over, I jumped back to the counter and tried to lose myself in my work.
The rush peaked at midnight, stemming the tide of fun-seeking college students. I was washing dishes when I heard a throat clear behind me.
I turned and was disappointed to see dark eyes watching my every move. “What do you want?” I bit, scrubbing a mug with more force than necessary.
Naomi shifted on her barstool. “Just wanted to see how you were doing. You haven’t been Mr. Social Butterfly the last few days.”
“That’s because I don’t want to talk to you. Ever. But I have no other choice, because you have the self-control of an infant.”
She sighed. “Is this because of what happened at the house party Thursday?”
I froze. “You remember?”
“I wasn’t sure if it was real or a weird trip, but yeah. I heard and saw most of it. She went nutso on you for coming to help me. Pretty selfish, if you ask me.”
The mug handle snapped off in my hand. I tossed it quickly into the bin and spun to place my palms flat on the counter in front of Naomi. She startled, recoiling from the waves of fury rolling off me. “She had every reason to react the way she did. You don’t have any ground to judge her. You’re nothing like Sophia.”
Naomi held her hands up in a gesture of surrender.
“Woah, calm down. All I said was she a little harsh.” She slid her hand down my forearm. “Giving you up shouldn’t have been that easy.”
I yanked my arm away. “Just stop talking. Or leave.”
Kylie and Brent popped up next to the counter.
They’d changed into thick coats and were glancing warily at
Naomi. “We’re going to head out; you need anything?” Brent asked.
Surprised, I glanced at my watch. It was already one a.m. The night had flown by. “Nah, I’m good. See you guys.”
They left, and I was alone with Naomi. “The bar is closed,” I said, drying the glasses. “You should go.”
She pouted. “Why do you keep trying to get rid of me? It’s not my fault your girlfriend dumped you.”
Giving her my back, I listened to the soft music playing overhead and cleaned, doing my best to ignore her. Unfortunately, my mind had decided it would rather be restless and tormented.
“I’m done being your second choice.”
I rubbed my chest absently. As if she would ever be my second choice. She was everything. Turning away from her had taken a lot out of me…and in the end, it taken it a lot from me too.
I’d called her at least a thousand times between then and now. But I hadn’t gotten a single sign from her. All I knew was that her cat was home and that she wasn’t really talking to anyone. Typical. She repressed and repressed until she exploded.
“Aren’t you going to top me off?” Naomi raised her empty glass and arched a brow. “I’m parched and way too sober right now.”
I didn’t bother with a response.
She groaned, fiddling with the edges of her frayed shorts. “C’mon, Lan. Let’s have a drink together. You need to get out of your headspace for a little while and loosen up.”
I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol since that night, and Naomi knew it. “Why the hell would I do that?”
She gestured around us. “Nobody’s here! It’s just you and me. We can get shitfaced and stay here till it wears off. No harm done. But you get a break from mooning over your ex and I get a break from having to deal with it.”
My jaw clenched. I wasn’t going to lie and say I hadn’t been tempted to numb this misery in the easiest way I knew how. But the memory of last time I’d lost control haunted my every moment. Hell, the only reason I was in this mess was because I couldn’t let go.
“You do enough drinking for the both of us.”
Naomi released a mini-shriek. “Why are you so fucking stubborn? I’m not going to rip your clothes off and molest you, okay? I care about you, hard as it is for you to believe. Seeing you in this much pain isn’t fun. So please, just listen to me for once.”
She rose from her stool and rounded the edge of the bar. She clinked through the bottles until she came up with two beer cans and set them on the counter. Resuming her seat, she popped the tab and took a long sip. “Ah, that hits the spot.”
Before I knew what I was doing, I’d turned towards
her and braced my hands on the counter. I stared at the bottle.
So innocuously deadly.
“How long are you going to hate yourself this much?”
I popped the tab and raised the can to my lips.
“Me and you, this relationship, it’s over. I want no part of this-this sickness.”
And for the first time in a long time, I drowned my troubles.
Naomi was curled on the floor, laughing hysterically. “My nose is so weird. Like I have two breathing holes.
What’s the rest of it for? Why don’t we just have holes in our faces? It would save space!”
I watched her and popped open my fourth can. The world had started to tilt and whirl around my third drink. Apparently staying sober for a few years really screwed up my tolerance.
“You should have seen the look in her eyes,” I mused. “Like flashing thunderclouds. So betrayed, so vulnerable. And I did that to her. I knew exactly how she would feel.”
I laughed. “But what can I do? You’re a mistake I can’t ever forget!”
Kicking over a chair, Naomi struggled to her feet. A long strand of hair was stuck to her cheek, and she was going insane trying to blow it off. “Excuse me, you’re not the only one who has to deal with Rex’s death. If it wasn’t for me banging you, he’d still be alive.” She took a long swig and tottered on her feet. “I knew the dumb fuck had a temper and would try to fight you if he found out. But how was I supposed to know what would happen? How?”
She shook my shoulders, and we both wobbled. “And then you tried to kill yourself. Also because of me!” She giggled. “I’m like a one-woman poison. Everything I touch dies.”
I bit my finger contemplatively. “Do you think she even cares right now?”
“I knew better than to fall in love,” I chuckled. “Look at my track record with women. My mother, you…I’m a real Romeo. And now Sophia won’t even call me back.”
Standing, I threw my arms wide and spun in a circle.
“I love her so much it hurts, and she won’t even bother calling me back.”
Naomi twirled around the dance floor, beer sloshing around the can in her hand. “Why do you like her so much? She always looks like she got caught with her hand in the cookie jar whenever I see her. And she’s pretty, but she’s not all that.”
I chuckled, tripping and using the wall to steady myself. I stared at my leather wristbands. “That’s her ‘fightor-flight’ face. Sophia likes to cocoon herself in safety, and anything that tests her emotions isn’t something she wants to deal with. As for the pretty…she’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”
Sliding down the wall, I sprawled across the floor and rested my flushed cheek against the cool linoleum.
Naomi dropped to the ground and started playing with my hair. “You’re so damn dramatic. Who knew that when the mighty, holier-than-thou Landon Sinclair fell, he’d fall so hard? I feel cheated. You haven’t even slept with her.”
A knock on the front door interrupted our drunken confessions. I glanced at the door, but made no move from my sprawl on the floor. “She reached into my fucking chest and grew roots in my lungs. And now I can’t cut her loose.”
Petting my hair as the door continued to rattle, Naomi clucked her tongue. “There, there. I’ll buy you a pillow pet and make it all better.”
Someone rounded the corner of the hall. Vaguely, I noticed Doug, hair matted from his pillow and sleep lining his forehead. He took one look at us and did a double-take. His gaze hardened and he went to the door.
“I’m assuming you’re here for him?” he drawled, stepping back for the persistent knocker to enter.
Jesse and Medusa rushed in. I rolled to my back, leaving my head cradled in Naomi’s lap, and pointed. “Hey! I know you!”
“Landon, you idiot,” Jesse whispered. “What have you done?”
Medusa’s mouth pursed in disapproval and disgust. I tried to get to my feet, but I’d momentarily forgotten where they were. I made a circle with my thumb and forefinger and held it up to my eye. “I spy a dirty traitor and a vindictive bitch!”
Medusa was texting, only looking up to send me a disdainful glance. Jesse spared a sneer in Naomi’s direction before crouching to haul me to my feet.
“Woah!” I cackled. “There those are!”
He grabbed my arm and started pulling me through the door. He halted in front of Doug as I swayed.
“Have him call me when he sobers up,” Dough
ordered. “He’s not fired, but he’s in a shit-ton of trouble.”
“Thank you so much. He’s not normally like this,” Jesse apologized.
Doug nodded and hooked his thumb over his shoulder. “She can sleep it off in my office and I’ll drop her off where she needs to go. Take care of him.”
I waited till we’d passed the threshold of the bar to mutter in Jesse’s ear, “Who are we taking care of? I forgot.”
“Wow,” Medusa said. “You are not a functional drunk.”
“I’m not drunk!”
She redirected her attention to the guy dragging me down the sidewalk. The wind was making my eyes water. My mouth tasted like cow crap, and goosebumps were spreading over my arms from the temperature.
“We’re going through the main road to get to your room?” Medusa inquired.
Jesse nodded and removed my finger from his
mouth. “This is going to be a long night.”
I was getting tired and nauseous. “I wanna sit down.”
We were taking a very difficult bend towards the dorms when a figure sitting on the architecture building’s stair was illuminated. It leapt to its feet and ran towards us before stopping abruptly.
I blinked the haze from my eyes and nearly swallowed my tongue.
“Sophia?” Jesse balked. “What are you doing here?”
She looked at me before quickly focusing on Raven.
“What the hell, Raven? I don’t see a mob of frat boys chasing you!”
“Wait a minute…” Jesse propped me against the wall and spun to face Medusa. “You texted her? You texted her to come here so she could see him in this condition?”
“Is he drunk?” Sophia whispered.
“Nope!” I interjected, pushing to my feet. “Just trying to tape up the shreds you left me in. But you go about your day, seriously, no big.”
I saw the sadness in her eyes replaced with wrath. She turned her head away abruptly and crossed her arms over her chest.
“She’s been a mess since Thursday, Jesse! She needed to see with her own two eyes that he isn’t the victim in all of this.”
“I can’t believe you! It’s not enough you strong-
armed me into taking her out there in the first place, but now this! How conniving can you be? Even if you don’t like Landon, you’re supposed to care about me. I helped your best friend. And now you want to kick mine when he’s down? What’s wrong with you?”
Sophia stared at the ground. I approached her and she skittered away. “Don’t touch me, Landon.”
“Do I disgust you that much? You can’t even be near me?” My voice broke, and I ran my hands through my tangled hair.
“I’m disgusted by what you’ve done to yourself,” Sophia murmured. “I thought you were stronger.”
“Don’t come near me-near us- right now, Raven. I don’t trust what I might say.”
“Jesse…” Raven whispered. A tidal wave of nausea hit me, and I doubled over, lunging towards the nearest bush in time to vomit violently.
My body shuddered, and I wiped my mouth with my sleeve. My head felt cottony, but clearer. I wasn’t sober quite yet, but it felt good to have less poison coursing through my veins.
Sophia was crying quietly, tears tracking down her cheeks and dripping down her chin. Raven grasped her elbow and pulled her away. “Let’s go,” she said. “We’re clearly not needed here.”
Jesse helped me up, but I didn’t need as much support. I pushed him a few feet away as I struggled to catch my breath. Bracing myself on my knees, I inhaled deeply, hoping the air would sweep away the last dredges of intoxication. I started walking in the direction they had gone, determination keeping me on my feet.
“Where are you going?” Jesse called.
“I’m doing what I should have done in the first place,” I said, fixing my gaze ahead.
“I’m going after her.”