Picking Yourself Back Up
“Feels good, doesn’t it?” Tyler smirks from across me, on a couch of his own, obviously referring to the fact that I quit - that I can enjoy some liberation for once in my life. I’m no longer enslaved to myself or imprisoned to others. I’ve succumb to an open mind set.
After my little episode, Tyler and Caleb led me to the flat they share. Not really much of a surprise there. Everyone who knows them figured that they’d even live with each other when they’re both married with kids. They’re both currently renting it out. It’s small, suited specifically for three people, but satisfactory none the less. At least they’re out there doing something, making something out of themselves, while all I’m doing is making excuses.
Things are kind of awkward between all of as of now, just as to be expected. We’ve drifted. It was all my fault really. After Matt died, I pushed everyone I cared about out of my life in fear of losing them too. But in doing so, I lost them all anyway, just not in the way I’d expected.
“It does.” I admit it aloud. “I’ve been wanting to quit for a long time, I just never had the courage to do it.”
It feels really good to be able to talk to people, really talk to them. I’ve missed this. I’ve missed them. Why did I ever let any of my friends go? I see now that I need them.
“You’re welcome.” Tyler flashes me his kilowatt grin that he used when trying to pick up a girl. For some reason beyond me, it usually worked.
Caleb, sitting beside me on the two-seater couch, lets out a loud yawn before stretching. “I’m tired.” He whines, pouting like a seven year old. He’d always pout when he found something to complain about and believe me, Caleb is the biggest whiner you’ll ever come across. He even complains about five star restaurants. He always wants absolute perfection. I feel sorry for his future girlfriend. She’s going to have to live up to his ridiculously high standards.
To be fair on Caleb, I had just been working an evening shift, so it is actual fact quite late.
“You’re always tired.” Ty - Tyler points out much to my amusement. Just another true fact about Caleb, he’s damn lazy.
“Yeah…and you’re always pointing it out.” Caleb finishes his stretching coming to rest his right arm behind me over the top of the couch.
Tyler brushes his comment aside as he lies down on his three-seater couch, resting his arms behind his head as he closes his eyes, “If that’s your way of pointing out my flaws, you got to try harder bro. I’m practically perfection at its best.”
“Also arrogant.” I murmur on impulse, not meaning to be heard.
I’m heard alright.
Tyler’s eyes immediately snap back open as he sits up straight, “Did you, Gabriela Hill, just insult me?”
“Ooooh snap!” Caleb intervenes as he high fives me for my comment. He then turns to Tyler with a wide grin, “She’s back, b*tch!”
I wince at Tyler’s expression, “Sorry.”
Caleb’s face falls, “And…she’s gone again.”
I used to insult Tyler on a daily basis, but things are different now. I can’t just jump right back into acting how I use to with him.
“Sorry.” I say again, this time directing it to Caleb.
Caleb scoffs, “How dare you apologize to us? You sick sicko.” He ends lamely before putting his feet up on the couch.
“Feet down.” Tyler remarks quickly. Caleb ignores him. “Off.” Tyler says again in an intimidating voice.
Caleb pouts, crossing his arms over his chest, “But-“
“Off or I cut them off.” Tyler reprimands yet again and threatens him in the process, just like old times. I’m glad that these two have at least stayed the same. They haven’t changed and I find comfort in that.
Chase, Brent and I had changed immensely and nothing worked out well for any of us.
“But you just had your feet on.” Caleb points out, but takes his feet off the leather couch in any case, listening to bossy Tyler as per the usual. Tyler owns his ass.
“Yeah, but my feet are clean. Yours are filthy and they stink. Mine smells like I’ve been walking on buttercups all day.” Tyler’s comes up with a bizarre defense - nothing new there. He always came with whack theories when he had nothing else to stand by.
“We both paid for these couches.” Caleb sits up straight with a frown implanted onto his boyish baby face.
Naw, he’s still such a cutie. I just want to pinch those cheeks. But he’d shoot me. Caleb hates it when we baby him, or when I babied him.
Tyler used to say that I only babied Caleb and not him, because I was going to end up having babies with him. I’ll never forget that. The pervert.
Tyler raises both eyebrows as if challenging Caleb to just try and go with that. “The couch you’re sitting on cost 620 dollars and I paid 615 of it. Thus, my rules shall be applied in this situation.”
Caleb furrows his eyebrows as if thinking back, “That’s not fair. You know I was broke back then.”
“You’re always broke Cal.” Tyler points out.
I stifle my own laughter. It’s true. Caleb never seems to have money, ever.
“Nah uh.” He shakes his head, protesting, “I’m just a cheapskate.”
You have a barbecue and you tell everyone do bring their own drinks, what does Caleb do? He comes empty handed and leeches off the rest of us, not that I ever minded.
Basically, Caleb can commit murder and he’ll still find a way to justify his acts. He’s just so…innocent. It’s refreshing. He’s one hell of a unique individual. There’s only one Caleb and I’m lucky enough to know him.
“More like a leech.” Tyler comments with a smirk, that dark mischievous smirk he always seems to carry. On him, it’s quite fitting.
“I’m going to find a girlfriend soon enough and then I’ll have money again.” Caleb tries to defend himself, but fails hopelessly.
Tyler purposely coughs, “Leech.”
Caleb only gets girlfriends for one reason. Sex? No. That’s Tyler’s department. Caleb finds girlfriends so that he can leech off them and use all their money. Then when they’re also broke, he dumps them. He’s a gold digger - probably his only flaw.
“Here’s a thought. Get a job, not a girl.” Tyler suggests as I casually sit back and watch this exchange. I prefer it when I don’t have to participate in conversations, unless it voluntarily that is.
“Job is work. Girl is fun. Besides, ain’t nobody got time for a job.” Caleb stands by his old ways. I thought he would’ve at least grown up a teeny wee bit by now. I was wrong. I should have known better. This is Caleb we’re talking about.
Tyler shakes his head at Caleb with a small smile curving his lips, “You’re such a doofus.”
“A tired one.” Caleb yawns, making me feel guilty. I should really go. I’m keeping both of them up. But I don’t want to face the music when I get home. If my mother finds out I quit my job, she’ll have a fit. I support her and myself. Right now, there’s no cash flow or income to pay rent.
I stand up, Tyler standing up with me like a gentleman whilst Caleb stays seated comfortably like the lazy ass he is. “I should really get going. But I just wanted to thank you both for all you did back there. If you two didn’t show up when you did…well I don’t want to think about it.”
Tyler offers me a rare genuine smile, “You don’t have to think about it.”
“Awe, don’t go. We just got you back.” Caleb interrupts as always, a habit of his.
I would love to stay and catch up, but…
I glance to Tyler to try and get a read on him. Before I can, he’s already yanking me by my hand and pulling me down into the three-seater beside him so that Caleb has the whole two-seater to himself. It’s not even a second before Caleb takes full advantage of it.
“Don’t leave just yet. We barely spoke.” Tyler says aloud, agreeing with Caleb for once.
“Caleb’s tired. I don’t want to overstay my welcome.” I try to reason.
“That can never happen. You’re Gabb Gabbs. We love you. Did you forget Dumbie?” Caleb pitches in and that’s all it takes, I’m smiling - actually smiling. A giddy feeling fills my insides at hearing Caleb call me ‘Gabb Gabbs’ again. I didn’t think he ever would. “There she is.” Caleb grins at seeing me smile, “Gosh damn I missed seeing that smile.”
Still smiling, Tyler catches my eye before saying, “We never stopped caring Gabs.”
And just like that my resolve dies as I agree to stay longer and avoid my mother’s wrath in the process. “I’m sorry for pushing you all away. Please forgive me.” I sigh, finally ’fessing up my mistakes and asking for forgiveness for what I did.
A single traitorous tear slips from my eyes and I curse myself for being so weak in front of them. They’d seen enough of the weak Gabriela.
I never meant to hurt them. I was just trying to protect myself from the pain of losing others whom I love to death. I couldn’t go through all of that again. They way I saw it back then, was that if I had no one I cared about in my life, then I could never suffer pain like that again - the pain of losing someone close to you.
I felt that pain even more so when I abandoned my closest friends.
“Hey, hey, hey.” Tyler soothes softly, placing an arm over my shoulders and tugging me into his chest in order to comfort me, “It wasn’t just you. We didn’t fight hard enough for you. We all just kind of let you go.” I wince at the last part. It’s what Chase had said he was doing now and it hurt hearing it. I’ve come to dread those very words. “We could have fought harder. We could have been there for you. But instead we backed off and let you go through it all alone. We should have known that you weren’t yourself. We should have known that you didn’t mean it when you said you were fine. We should’ve known that you needed us more when you said you didn’t need us at all.”
I shake my head against his chest, “Don’t do that.” I start crying by this point, feeling undeniably guilty and responsible for stuffing up so many lives, “Don’t take the blame. You guys didn’t do anything wrong. It was all me. It’s always me.” I sob, wetting Tyler’s shirt and feeling guilty about that too.
Guilt is the worst emotion to feel. It’s not like rage, joy or sorrow. It’s different. It starts small. It’s starts from the inside and grows and grows and grows until it’s eating you from the inside out. There’s nothing you can do to stop the hurt it brings.
Distracted from my thoughts, I hear sniffing from across me. I lift my face from Tyler’s chest, only to see Caleb with watery eyes, “Stop crying Gabb Gabbs. You’re making me cry you little b*tch!” He huffs, wiping at his eyes as Tyler bursts out laughing at the both of us - mostly Caleb.
“You’re such a baby.” Tyler mocks Caleb, laughing so hard that I can feel the muscles in his chest vibrating.
Tyler’s always been that typical one from our friend circle who laughs at absolutely anything and everything. He finds everything amazing and hilarious and I’d always envied that about him. He was always so happy and carefree, whereas I was anything but.
Caleb has always been a giant softie at heart. He’s always been more in tune with his feminine side than other guys. When I first met him, I was sure that he was gay. But the guy is as straight as a damn ruler. Yet, he still cries through chick flicks. He’s just overly sensitive. Nothing wrong with that. He’s also a drama queen and melodramatic - that, I don’t have a reasonable explanation for. At least he can still pack a punch when he’s mad.
I begin laughing in pure bliss and joy through my own tears at seeing Caleb feel my sorrow and cry with me. That’s a true friend. He feels what I feel. “Stop laughing!” Caleb frowns, not impressed, which only causes me and Tyler to laugh all the more, so much that I hide my face in Tyler’s chest to try and stop. Tyler’s just about dying at this point, crying in laughter - not sorrow. “You guys are jerks. Insensitive asses.” Caleb says through his frantic tears.
He sounds like such a girl…
I laugh out my stomach this time and that’s when everything freezes. Tyler stiffens from beneath me and Caleb stops crying, both staring at me, eyes wide in shock.
I stop laughing, thinking something to be wrong, “What?” I ask, reaching up to my face on natural reflex, “Is there something on my face?” I ask hesitantly.
Caleb begins nodding with a gigantic smile, “Yes. It’s called joy and laughter lines and dimples and all wonderful Gabriela things.”
Tyler sees my confusion and elaborates, “It’s just nice to hear your laugh again is all. We missed hearing it.”
It’s true. I haven’t laughed properly for sometime, going on two years now. But all in one night, I’m suddenly smiling and laughing uncontrollably. It’s all thanks to these two idiots whom I love dearly.
“I missed you two making me laugh.” I reply back, sending them both sincere smiles in gratitude for all they’ve already done for me within the span of two hours.
“You mean me, I’m obviously the funny one. Everyone knows that.” Caleb smirks proudly at the label we’d all given him as the years went by.
“No. You’re just the one everyone makes fun of.” Tyler corrects, well lies, because it’s not true…okay maybe a little true. But come on, it’s my Caleb, I don’t want to admit to mocking him. He’s like a puppy.
“Lies. We all have our parts to play. See, Duke is the macho, manly, possessive, over-competitive one. Chase…” I cringe at hearing his name. He’s not one of us anymore. “Chase is the cool, popular, intelligent one with temperamental issues - or was the cool one. Same difference -“
“I’m the cool one!” Tyler buts in, feigning offense.
Chase ignores him and continues, “No, you my friend, are the ladies guy, the flirt and man-whore of the group.”
Most would take offense by this point, but not Tyler. He flashes Caleb a satisfied grin, “I think I can live with that title after all.”
Of course he could. He would thrive with that title.
“Stells is the hot, compassionate one. Gabb Gabbs has always been a little on the feisty side.” I cross my arms over my chest, sitting up and moving off Tyler as I narrow my eyes playfully at Caleb. Caleb sees this and holds his hands up in a surrendering motion, “You’re only proving my point Gabriela.” I glare at him more until he gives, “Okay fine, you’re also…uh…” He trails off dumbfounded as if he can’t think of another trait of mine.
He suddenly snaps his fingers as if coming up with something else and my eyes brighten in interest to hear what he says, “You’re definitely the most courageous from all of us, even beating Dukie and Chase. You’re the best at overcoming challenges.”
I hadn’t been expecting that. His words warm my soul as a small smile filters it’s way over my lips. He’s so wrong, but nevertheless, I’m touched. “Thanks.” I mumble shyly, breaking eye contact for a split second.
Being ever so perceptive tonight, so ‘un-Caleb’ like, he sees my every action, “Oooh and you’re also the shy one. But don’t worry, it’s really cute.” I blush at this, not use to compliments as I hadn’t heard one in a very long time, “Ah! You’re also the blusher, but that’s also adorable so-“
Tyler groans, “Enough with Gabriela. You sound obsessed Cal. What of the others?”
Caleb scoffs at Tyler’s audacity, “That’s rich coming from the guy who had a major crush on Gabriela for years. I mean you were the obsessed one. Knowing you, you probably still like her. Gabriela this, Gabriela that. ‘Gabbie my hottie. Gabriela is so hot. Did you check her this morning? Looking fine. Hot damn! Oh look there’s Gabriela, let’s go say hi’.” Caleb repeats things Ty apparently had said at one point in time, “All your words. I got sick of it man. You were a lovesick puppy, love-struck. You even had pictures of her all up in your locker and your bedroom was covered in posters of her and you’d sing about her in the shower and-“
Tyler quickly throws one of the couch pillows at Caleb’s face to shut him up and to stop him from revealing anything more. “You just don’t know when to quit, do you?!” Tyler hisses.
“And neither did you.” Caleb winks at me, but replying to Tyler, clearly referring to the fact that Ty didn’t quit on me.
Tyler is clearly embarrassed as his neck begins to turn red, spreading upwards to his face. Tyler never blushes, he’s never been one to blush, so this takes me by surprise.
I’m too scared to meet his dark eyes right now. Damn you Caleb for telling me this. I’ll never look at Tyler the same. I mean, Tyler would always flirt with me, but he flirted with every single female that walked past. All of them seemed to catch his eye. I never thought anything of it because it was Tyler. He’d never made a direct pass at me.
How was I suppose to know that this has been going on in the background for years?
Feeling awful now, I take my chances and peek up to find Tyler ridiculously tense and still red in the face. I’ll admit, it’s kind of cute seeing him blush so furiously like this. Caleb sees his best friend’s anxiety and quickly adds, “But that’s all in the past when you were young and stupid - well just young actually. You’re still stupid.”
I remain silent, speechless really. What was I suppose to say to all that?
When I sense the lapse in conversation, I’m quick to change the subject for Ty’s sake, “And the others?”
Caleb nods, “Right right. Where was I? Oh. Jacob and Matt were the surfing obsessed as well as the dreamers with their heads constantly in the clouds. I’m the ‘jokester’ and fun loving one and ‘awesomestest’ by default. Oh and Brent was the laid back, friendly, hopeless romantic and effortlessly late one.”
Now it’s me who turns rigid like a block of wood.
I can take hearing about Matt. I’ve had time to move past what happened, but bringing Brent up just made my stomach do a flip. I haven’t had time to heal yet. What happened to Brent was recent and the tragic memory still replays in my heart over and over again. I need more time to let him go.
Tyler closes his eyes and shakes his head as if asking why Caleb is so stupid. “Caleb.” He says in a low tone, motioning not so discreetly to me.
Caleb, being Caleb, shrugs, “What? What did I do?” He asks, clueless.
“Nothing.” I mumble, but only because it is true.
My words must strike something in him, because suddenly his eyes widen as it dawns on him, “Sh*t. I’m sorry Gabriela. I didn’t mean to bring him in to the equation-“
I offer him a weak smile, but it falters, “It’s okay Caleb.”
I know that I’m not the only one hurting. They’re all also hurting. Brent was their friend too. It would be selfish to not acknowledge their pain too. I’d seen them all at his funeral as well. They showed up because they cared. They never stopped caring. Tyler was telling the truth.
Tyler clears his throat as he glances over at me with a sympathetic stare, “I’m sorry that you had to lose him too.”
And now I’m crying all over again.
These boys have my emotions flowing like a wild roller coaster. First I’m happy, then I’m crying, then I’m laughing and now I’m in tears again.
Tyler leans closer and wipes away my tears with his thumb.
“We all lost him.” I whisper, feeling with them to. I didn’t lose him on my own. We all lost him. We all went through the hurt.
Caleb swallows and averts his eyes from Ty and I, “Yeah. That’s true. I miss him. But him being gone just doesn’t feel real. Hell, Matt being gone still doesn’t feel real. Plus, you, Chase and Jacob all kind of left afterwards so that hurt and-“
“I’m sorry.” I repeat, needing Caleb’s forgiveness. I rejected my closest friends and yet they still have my back. “I’m so sorry, for everything.”
“You can stop apologizing. I forgave you when it happened. I was just implying that it’s been lonely without the whole gang. I mean, I’ve been stuck with this jackass for the past three years now.” Caleb jokes as he points to Tyler, successfully making light of the moment.
“This coming from the guy who uses girls for money.” Tyler reminds Caleb, thoroughly enjoying having the upper hand.
Caleb frowns at Ty as we all fall into a silence, deep in thought. I’m pretty certain that we’re all thinking about Brent, Matt and all our other loved ones that left us - including my father. My mother and I might not get along, but she’s all I have and she’s never left my side. I love her for that.
I break the silence this time, the awkwardness in the beginning long gone, “So what are you two studying or doing?” I ask out of curiosity.
I don’t know much about them anymore, but friends are always friends. We haven’t spoken for three years, yet now we are talking and it feels as if we were never ever separated to begin with.
Ty cocks his head to the side, “Well, I’m in my second year of law.”
“Good for you Tyler. You ‘go-getter’.” I say happily, overjoyed at this news. Tyler always wanted to be a lawyer and now he’s finally going and achieving his biggest dream.
“Thanks.” He flashes me a charming grin, “And I have a part time job at a law firm. They are willing to employ me fully after I get my degree. At the moment, I’m just doing filing and stuff, but hey, they give me a salary to pay the rent. I need to pay rent seeing as Caleb sure as hell doesn’t.”
“Speaking of Caleb…” I turn to Caleb, “What have you been up to?”
“He’s a professional couch potato.” Tyler smirks, mocking Caleb.
Caleb glances my way, “Actually, other than sitting around all day, I’ve recently been asked to do surfing photoshoots for that magazine we all love and read - ‘BackWash’.”
I smile, genuinely proud of him for such an achievement, “Caleb! That’s fantastic!”
Caleb shrugs coyly, being modest, “Yeah…I guess. Stells is doing it with me. We’re going to pose and take shots together. Chase, unfortunately, has also agreed. He gets a solo and the front cover, obviously. I mean, it’s Chase Fuller. The town loves him.”
I ignore the part about Chase and encourage Caleb further, “You’re going to excel at this Leb. You have the face for it, the typical surfer look going on - you know, the blonde hair, the blue eyes and the all round baby face. Girls will go gaga over you.”
“Ah, but don’t they always?” Caleb winks at me playfully, blowing me a kiss.
Caleb has always been one for cameras since a tot. He loves them. He loves photos and he loves attention. He’s naturally photogenic. This opportunity is big for him.
And Stells, she’s so beautiful and she’d always wanted to model; this could be her big break.
“I’m really proud of you two.” I say softly, a little envious that they were getting somewhere in life while I was stagnant. However, they deserve it, they all do.
“What about you?” Ty asks the dreaded question.
I really didn’t want him asking me that. Of course I have my ultimate dream, but it’s never going to happen. I’ve accepted that, but I haven’t quite let go of it just yet.
“Yeah, didn’t you want to be a marine biologist or something?” Caleb adds his input.
I shrug, “Things didn’t exactly go as planed. After Matt died and my father left us, I had to stay behind to support my mother. She was really a mess, a broken spirit. I couldn’t leave her like that. Harvard excepted me. I got in. But um…I just couldn’t go.” I explain my story and it hurts to explain it. I try not to think of my missed opportunity too much.
They both stay quiet in response, until Ty says something that I can’t help but agree with, “Gabs, you once told me that if you want something in life bad enough, you’ll do everything in your power to make it happen.”
Wise words, words I once used on Tyler when he wanted to give up on his dream of being a lawyer. He almost flunked out of school. After we spoke, he pulled up his socks and started to do well in classes again. His grades improved. Now he’s majoring in law; he made a complete turn around.
“If I could do it, then you can too.” Ty concludes with finality to his words. I can’t argue with him. He is being forward with me and I appreciate his opinion and honesty. “You need to get back out there Gabs.”
Don’t I know it…
“And Duke? Still into computer science?” I question, changing the subject. I don’t want to talk about my life anymore.
Caleb shakes his head, “Nah, he kissed that goodbye a year ago. He studied sport science for a year. Now he’s just working as a personal trainer at the local gym.”
I don’t ask about Jacob because I already know he’s just finishing up his final year as a senior in school. My brother was the same age as him, hence why they were best friends. Matt would’ve been graduating this year too, but I’ll never be able to see it. No one will.
It’s a few minutes of silence until I hear soft snoring. My eyes follow the sound until I see Caleb passed out on the sofa with his head back, completely gone.
I stifle my laughter when I see him drooling. He’d always had that nasty habit for as long as I can remember.
“Just you and me now Gabs.” Tyler remarks as I turn to face him. He offers me a gentle smile as he places his hand over mine, “Caleb and I are going to help you pick yourself back up.” He concludes in conviction - a silent promise made.
They weren’t going to give up on me this time.
“We’ve got your back.” He says softly, but in fierce determination.
Hey all :)
So who do you prefer? Ty or Cal? :D
Pic on side is Tyler :)