Something wasn’t right. Scott knew that before he even opened his eyes the next morning. His mattress felt too hard, his pillow too soft, and the intoxicating smell of flowers made him want to throw up.
Slowly he opened his eyes, the sunlight instantly blinding him. What idiot had opened the fucking blinds? He wondered as he shielded his eyes with his hand. Peering through his fingers he took in his surroundings. He was in a bedroom, but it wasn’t his. It was much smaller, just big enough to fit the double bed he lay on inside it. The walls were bare, the paint chipping, and an old ceiling fan swung dangerously on its hinges above him.
Where the hell was he?
With a groan he sat up on the bed. Almost immediately the headache hit him, a strong piercing pain that pushed him back onto the soft pillow, so strong the idea of moving sent a whole new wave of agony shuddering through his body. His head had never felt like this before, it felt like it was crushing him, like he’d shoved it under the tire of a truck.
“Good morning.” Came a female voice he didn’t recognise. “I was wondering when you’d wake up.” An arm snaked its way over his chest and a head propped itself onto his shoulder, the girl’s hair tickling his chin.
She couldn’t have weighed much, but he felt like she was crushing him, smothering him. Everywhere she touched hurt.
“Easy there.” He groaned, easing away from whoever she was.
“Hurts doesn’t it?” She commented. “I have something that can help.”
She shifted away from him for a second and he savoured the relief. A second later she was back, digging her nails into his hand as she slipped him two small pills.
“What is it?” He asked.
“Does it matter?” She countered.
“I don’t know you.” He pointed out. He didn’t even know what she looked like, he hadn’t opened his eyes since that headache had struck. Hell, he didn’t even know her name. She could be giving him anything right now, ibuprofen, E, maybe they were just tic-tacs for his breath. He was stupid, but he wasn’t stupid enough to take them without knowing what they were.
“After last night you know me better than most.” She pressed her cold lips against his, again pushing down too hard, making his head throb harder. She pushed harder, trying to mash his lips open with hers. He gave in, in too much pain to fight this, knowing that opening up to her was the quickest way for it to end. Her tongue plummeted inside his mouth, and she continued her assault as he lay there unresponsive, wishing his head would stop thumping.
He felt her hand brush against his dick, and he groaned in protest, this was the last thing he wanted right now. She took the groan as a good sign and became more confident with her touch, wrapping her cold claws around his length, trying to stroke him to life. Nothing happened, his dick just as uninterested as he was.
“Do you need a moment?” She asked, easing her hand away.
“No, just my pants.” He replied, pushing her away and forcing himself to sit up. His head screamed in protest, and he only stalled slightly before continuing to his feet. He opened his hand to inspect the pills, long white ovals he instantly recognised as Vicodin sat in his palm, an addictive pain killer many of his old football teammates took when overcoming an injury.
He brought the pills to his mouth and downed both in one swallow before reaching for the clothes that had been strewn across the floor, flicking away the used condoms and wrappers.
What the hell had happened last night?
Scott racked his brain trying to piece the night together, but all he had were flashes of himself sitting at a bar, downing whiskey shot after whiskey shot, charming the cute bartender every time she tried to deny him another drink. He didn’t remember anything beyond that, not picking up the girl currently lying naked in her crappy bed, or the late night aerobics he apparently participated in.
“You’re not going are you?” The girl asked. “Just give the Vicodin some time to kick in.”
“I have work.” He lied. “Later.”
The walk to the street almost killed him. With every step the pain in his head only grew stronger. God he’d had hangovers before but none had ever felt like this. He squinted against the sunlight as he fumbled down the street, unable to walk straight as the pain in his head grew stronger with every step.
He didn’t know where he was, or where he was going. He only knew one thing, he had to get away from here, maybe get checked out at a clinic. Just make it to that street lamp, he told himself, stumbling forward. Just a few more steps, a few more steps.
He collapsed the moment he reached it, his knees hitting the pavement with a loud crash, the pain in his knees briefly distracted him from the pain in his head. Then it was back, and he carefully lowered himself onto the sidewalk until his head was pressed firmly against the warm concrete.
He didn’t know how long he lay like that for, he just knew that he couldn’t move, even just breathing was enough to bring on a whole new wave of agony. How much had he drunk last night? Too much, clearly. He’d gone to that bar determined to drink himself blind, wanting nothing more than to forget everything.
Boy was he regretting it now.
“Yo, dude, you okay?” Someone asked.
“Ya.” Scott replied. “Where am I?”
Great. James Street was a small strip on the outskirts of Spring Fields, known for its party scene. Growing up this was where all the parties were thrown, in the park at the end of the cul-de-sac, or by Dawn Lake just further past it. It was gonna take him an hour to walk back to the manor.
“You don’t look good. Is there someone I can call?”
Scott had two options right now. He could either wait the headache out and then walk the hour to get back, or he could swallow his pride and call his brother. Both options sucked. Why had he drunk so much last night?
“Sure.” He said, opening his eyes and forcing himself into a sitting position. A young guy, probably around 16, crouched beside him and handed over a phone. Scott took it, grateful, and quickly typed a text to Pete, he didn’t think he’d be able to talk right now.
“It must have been some party.” The stranger said.
“Thanks.” Scott replied handing back the phone.
“I hope it all works out.” The boy said before taking off down the street.
Scott settled himself back down onto the pavement and closed his eyes, waiting, and praying that the lecture Pete was sure to give him would be put off until he could breathe without his head feeling like it was being crushed by a trash compactor.
Time passed excruciatingly slowly as he waited for his brother. A couple more people passed by and asked if he needed help, but all he could manage were a few grunts in response saying he was fine. After about the fifth person the Vicodin started to kick in, slightly dulling the thumping in his head.
Cautiously he sat up, testing the waters. The pain remained the same, still present, but now bearable. He could hear the steady rhythm of tires turning over tar and he turned to the sound to see Pete’s car pulling up beside him.
He rose to his feet and swung open the door, carefully easing himself inside before shutting it and turning to face his brother.
It was Eliza who sat before him, avoiding his gaze as she put the car into drive and carried on toward the end of the street. She made a U-turn at the cul-de-sac and together they rode back up James Street and turned onto the main road.
“You missed dinner last night.” She said.
“Sorry.” He replied, leaning his head against the cold glass, thankful she’d cranked the air-conditioning.
“I’m sorry too.” She said, startling Scott.
“About what?” He asked.
“Natalie.” She replied. “I’ve been in your shoes Scott. I’ve been the girl no one took seriously. I know how it feels when someone you care about rejects you because of that. So I’m sorry that happened to you.”
“I brought it on myself.” He said. And he had. He’d pushed Natalie away. He’d hurt her. He’d betrayed her. He deserved a hell of a lot worse than her yelling at him, and she deserved a hell of a lot more than him showing up on her doorstep because he hated the fact she was avoiding him.
“So did I.” Eliza commented. “Doesn’t make it hurt any less.”
“Pete was an idiot back then.” Scott said. “He came to his senses.”
“Yeah, sure.” She replied. The subtext of her words wasn’t lost on him. Her tone made it perfectly clear she didn’t believe those words for a second, and Scott understood why. Pete hadn’t come to his senses, Eliza had just become the girl he wanted.
Natalie inspected herself in the mirror, wondering if this was too much. She wore her tight red camisole, a matching red thong, and garter straps that held up the lace stockings that came to her thighs. She owed Ryan one. She’d been acting like a nutcase since Scott had come back, and although Ryan was putting on a brave face she could tell he was worried. They were supposed to have their ‘talk’ tonight, and in the interest of putting all this nonsense behind them she’d dressed up for the occasion. Well, dressed down.
She took one last look at herself in the mirror before slipping her silk robe over the lingerie. She stepped into their living room and found Ryan sitting at the table going over some papers. He was an investment banker, and he always seemed to have some work to do. He never let it get in the way of them though, always putting his work down whenever she needed him to.
“So…” She said stepping toward him. “This talk we’re supposed to have…”
“Yeah.” He replied, setting the papers aside and looking up at her.
“I’m sorry I can’t say yes.” She said, thinking it was better to just jump straight in and get this over with. “I want to, I want to be with you, but I can’t say yes yet.”
“Can I ask why?”
“It’s…Not really something I can explain. I don’t know. You caught me off guard, I’m still wrapping my head around it you know.” Already this wasn’t going well. She just didn’t know how to put into words why she was hesitating. “You’ve been contemplating this for I don’t know how long, and you decided you were ready. I just need a little more time to figure out the same thing.”
She wasn’t lying exactly, most of what she said was the truth, she really did need some time to figure out if she was ready for marriage. But there was more to it that she was keeping to herself, the Scott part of it. She just felt like there was something unfinished between them, nothing romantic, just some closure they were missing. Now he was back, they could talk about everything that had happened, put it all the past, and she could eventually marry Ryan. She just didn’t want Scott hanging over her when she did.
“I get that.” Ryan said, nodding as he accepted her reasoning. “To be fair I wasn’t going to just spring it on you like that. I just walked in and you were holding the ring, so I asked.”
“Your drawer was locked.” She replied with a shrug, and he laughed, humoured by her lack of self control every time she got curious about something. “There’s something else though.”
“Scott.” She said. She’d debated whether or not to tell Ryan about him showing up last night, about how she’d already seen him at school. Talking about it with Ryan just seemed wrong somehow, but she had to be honest. She had to do this. “I’ve seen him.”
“And nothing really.” When you thought about it nothing had actually happened. They’d seen each other, it had been awkward and weird, and that was it. It felt like so much more, but that was yet another thing she would be keeping to herself. “It’s just weird.”
“When did you see him?”
“The first time was the start of last week. He showed up at school.”
“Is he why you didn’t come to the barbecue?”
“No I really was sick.” The lie was out of her mouth before she could stop it. It was an instinct. She just saw Ryan’s face, all annoyed and suspicious, and it came out. So much for being honest. She just didn’t want to make things worse. Scott was back, it was time she accepted that. She needed to stop being so jumpy every time his name was mentioned. “He thought I was avoiding him though, and last night he showed up here, to confront me.”
“I don’t believe this.” Ryan muttered.
“Nothing happened.” She said quickly.
“I know.” He said. “I wasn’t talking about you. I was talking about him. I knew he still had feelings for you.”
“No he doesn’t. It’s been eight years.”
“Its all over his face.” Ryan replied. “He treats me like crap Natalie. Everything he says is polite and friendly, but it’s his tone. He just sounds smug all the time, he acts like he doesn’t care about anything. He’s such a dick.”
Her instant reaction was to defend Scott, go off at Ryan for talking about him like this. It was just an old reflex, because back when they’d been together she’d spent all her time defending him to everyone who warned her he was bad for her. Old habits die hard.
“He’s still in love with you Natalie.”
“I don’t think…”
“He’s gonna try mess with us.”
“He has this look in his eye.”
“Ryan. Look at me.” She said loudly, catching his attention. “Okay, I know you don’t want to hear this, but I do know him pretty well.”
“You’re right, I didn’t want to hear that.”
“My point is, he’s not trying to win me back. He’s just…” She trailed off, Ryan wouldn’t understand, and he’d just make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal. The thing was, Scott wasn’t trying to win her back, he wasn’t trying to do anything, he was just existing. His eyes…they were dead. It wasn’t like that blank stare he did, where he shut everything out to hide what he felt, this was different. It was like there really wasn’t anything there. Like he really felt nothing. She felt sad for him. She hated that’s how his life had turned out. All she wanted was for him to be happy. She’d hoped one day he’d realise he deserved to be and would finally turn it around. Now she saw that he’d just been going through the motions all these years, and she was sorry he’d ended up like this. She just thought he deserved better. If only he’d see that too.
“He’s not trying to mess with us is all I’m saying.” She finished, passionately defending her ex-boyfriend wasn’t exactly going to get her anywhere with Ryan.
“I don’t know.” He said, shaking his head.
“Lets just stop talking about him.” She suggested. “We could, I dunno, occupy ourselves some other way.”
She slipped the rope off her shoulders, letting it drop to the floor, the red lingerie instantly catching his attention. Ryan’s breath caught in his throat, and his eyes trailed down her body, an appreciative gleam in them. He stood up from his seat, and made his way over to her. Within seconds he was kissing her, leading her back to the bedroom. It was nice. Pleasant. A perfectly good way to end their night.