The most awkward of awkward silences is plaguing the room at this very moment.
Darcy stares at me, and I stare at her. We’re both unable to say anything; the lasting effect of Sebastian’s wrath renders us speechless.
“I’m sorry you had to see that, Darcy.”
She forces a smile. “Don’t apologize, Leslie. I should be the one apologizing; I’m the one who lied to you.”
I sigh and pace the room. Darcy’s eyes, big and curious, follow my movement.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m sure you couldn’t say no to him anyway. Then again, who can say no to ‘Sebastian Harrison.’”
I catch myself saying his name like an upset five-year-old. Christ, what have I become?
“Did he threaten to end your job if you didn’t lie for him?” I ask her.
Darcy shakes her head. “No, actually. As a matter of fact, he was very nice to me upon coming in here.”
“Yup! Of course the last time we talked was that one time he came to visit his father, and that time—I admit—he was very flirtatious and quite disrespectful. But this time? He was really kind. He had nothing but nice words to say about you.”
Goosebumps arise on my arms. “What…what did he say about me?”
“Nothing definite. I started off the conversation, going on about how great you are and how I wish to be a publicist like you someday, and he agreed with everything I said. It’s so strange—it’s like he’s a completely different person. But in a good way.”
It is then that I realize that I fucked up. I mentally beat myself up as I go over everything I said to him; how I attacked him in a way that seemed so intrusive. What Ingrid told me is enough for me to question the person that he really claims he is, but I still have some ways to go; my journey hasn’t ended yet.
I need to apologize.
“Darcy, I’ll be right back.”
Darcy steps aside from the door, semi confused but confident that she knows what I’m about to do. I go over what I’m going to say to Sebastian in my mind, but in all honesty, my blue print for my words never goes according to plan whenever I speak to him.
“You don’t have to tell me about what’s in the journal.”
“I know sometimes I can be a little too intimidating.”
“I didn’t mean to yell at you.”
“In truth, I’m more of a liar than I like to admit to you.”
Okay, maybe not the last part.
I grab the handle of the door and twist it open. But to my surprise, a man—a fairly familiar man—is standing in the door way.
My throat tightens. My heart beat quickens. And everything I suggested to myself that I would say to him immediately leaves my mind. The anger he had mere minutes before is gone from his face. All that remains is the deep, narrow look in his eyes that he gets when he’s thinking hard. Yet when he looks at me for a longer while, his eyes soften to a calm, sad look that contradicts the masculine appearance of himself. There’s only one word that comes to my mind:
But apparently the same word comes to his mind, too.
“I’m sorry,” we both say in unison.
He actually came back.
“I’m going to go get lunch,” Darcy says from behind me. Squeezing through the small space between Sebastian and I, she scurries out into the waiting area.
I invite Sebastian inside my office and close the door. Then I lower the blinds on my windows and head to my purse to turn off my phone.
“Before you say anything,” I start, facing him. “I just want to say that I apologize for being so forward. I shouldn’t have attacked you like that, especially with Ingrid and everything else. These past several weeks have been very—”
“Complicated?” Sebastian finishes.
I nod, chuckling. “Yes, that’s the exact word I’m looking for. I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”
“I shouldn’t have yelled at you either,” he says. “I do trust you. A lot. The funny thing is, I actually came to L.A. for the sole purpose to tell you everything.”
He gestures to the couch against the wall. He sits first, and I sit next to him. He then runs a hand over his mouth and sighs. I stay painfully quiet.
“I don’t think it’s a secret to you that I’m not a stable human being,” he begins. “My actions speak for that. I was different when I was younger, but I still didn’t have the simplest childhood. I was bullied a lot, both at home and at school, and I was reserved; the only thing I cared about was art and—”
He pauses sharply, looking away from me before shaking his head.
“Anyway, I only had a few things in my life that made me happy. Those things I held very close to my heart, and I became protective over them because I knew that if I lost them, I would have nothing left. I survived my later high school years with the help of my only two friends, my passion for art and someone else that I cared about—most likely more than anything else. One night when I was 17, I had lost one of these things that I cared about. One minute they were there, and the next…the next they were just gone. It took me a week until I realized that they weren’t coming back. And for weeks ahead I couldn’t help but feel like it was my fault. ‘If I would have had just given them a ride home, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place.’”
I have never seen Sebastian so open and vulnerable before. He stares into the carpet, lost in his own thought; I see a younger version of himself in his face.
“I began to battle with my own emotions. I didn’t know who I was anymore. My friends tried to be there for me but it just wasn’t the same,” he shifts uncomfortably. “My family was worse, but instead of falling victim to them, I tried to carry on the legacy that she left behind. She wanted me to get into art school and she wanted me to be someone; she believed in me more than I did. So I worked even harder, painted even more, stayed after school in my art class to work on my studies and read almost every model book my art teacher had. If I wanted to get into the art program at Yale, I had to work harder than I ever had before. And of course, my father wasn’t too happy about this. He wanted me to major in business. And I basically told him to go fuck himself; he wasn’t too happy about that.
“One day I came home from school and went into my room as usual. Something was off; my closet where I hid all of my art pieces was completely empty. I could feel my heart drop down in my chest, and the room began to spin around me. I knew the only person who would take them would be my father, so I looked in my parent’s room—nowhere in sight. I looked in the attic and the basement and every other possible place where he could have put them. But they weren’t there. Finally, I ended up asking one of our housekeepers where my dad had gone and he told me he went off into the woods behind our house. Fuck, I never ran so fast in my life.
“In a clearing in the woods, I found him along with his assistant standing next to my art work. My pieces were piled on top of each other like they were scraps of trash. I remember looking at my work then looking at the bottle of lighter fluid that was empty on the ground by his shoes. I got down on my knees and begged him not to; I fed him every lie I could possibly think of—I told him I would go to business school, and that I would be the man he wanted me to be. I told him that I would never disobey him again; I told him that I wouldn’t be a disappointment anymore. But it was too late. The look in his eyes when he dropped the match was so haunting to me. But I don’t think it was because it was unfamiliar, but because it was exactly the look I expected out of him.
“His assistant held me back as I watched it burn. I just had to sit there until my canvases and sketch books were a crisp black—fragments floating into the air with the smoke. Years of work destroyed in less than an hour. Everything seemed like a blur until the flames were gone and I was left alone. There was nothing left to salvage, but of course I tried to put pieces together even though I couldn’t distinguish which art piece was which. My father had thrown some photographs of her and I in there from when I was little. Luckily I still have a couple of them with me, but most of them were burnt, too. I think I was in a state of shock so bad that I couldn’t move for a good hour. I never told anyone about it after that because I just had a feeling that my dad would take away the only thing I held close to my heart if I told someone.
“From then I became very…lost. My friends didn’t know how to be around me. They assumed it was because of her but it was so much more than that. Since I was young and stupid I started hanging out with a different crowd to fill the void inside of me that my friends couldn’t fill. It wasn’t their fault, but I just couldn’t be around them like I wanted to. The new group of friends I hung around invited me to a house party one Friday. I had never been to one before, but I figured that for me to be trusted by them, I needed to familiarize myself with their world. That, and I needed something to numb me. There was drugs and alcohol everywhere. Everyone was older than I was and the music was just so fucking loud. I knew I had made a mistake going there. Just when I was about to leave, the leader of the group I hung out with gave me some tablet. And to this day I have no idea what that drug was—I’ve tried my fair share of shit but this was something so fucked up. I just remember feeling very weightless. The rooms were spinning; my mind was yelling but I couldn’t say anything. It was kind of like I was lobotomized but trapped inside of myself. They gave me alcohol and a whole bunch of other drugs; I was so fucked up and scared. I was scared out of my mind, Leslie.
“I had no control over my body. It was almost as if I had surrendered it to them willingly. I was their play thing. I was tossed around from group to group, given drinks that make me sick and used up like I was just a sport to them. I gained my senses for about thirty seconds and cried my eyes out. I huddled myself in a corner and cried and cried for her, and when I would remember that she was gone I would just keep crying…and crying—no one could hear me because everyone was so fucked up and the music was so loud. Then I passed out and woke up—”
Sebastian stops talking suddenly. His eyes are red, glistening in the light of my office. I don’t think my will is strong enough to keep myself together.
I grab his hand. “You don’t have to continue.”
“No, it’s fine,” he rubs his face. “It’s fine. I woke up in a room. It was dark but not dark enough to where I couldn’t completely see anything. There were…um…there were people in there, and they were around me so I knew that I was laying on something. The drugs were deep in my system so I couldn’t really move and I couldn’t speak, either. I heard the voice of a woman who sounded so fucked up; you could smell the alcohol on her from the other side of the room. I remember her voice so well that if I were to hear her voice today there wouldn’t be a doubt in my mind that it was her. She was older than I was, and she wasn’t…she wasn’t…decent. Eventually her voice and laughter became louder until she was right above me and—and she…um…w-well I’m pretty sure you get the picture.”
I close my eyes and picture anything but the descriptiveness of his words. But the truth I’ve been looking for is right in front of me. I can’t accept it, though.
This is what you’ve been waiting to hear.
“All I remember is waking up at my friend’s house. I woke up and lashed at her. I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t control it; the pain I was in was so fucking unbearable. I lashed out on her and I lashed out at my other friends whenever they asked about how I was and what happened but they still stuck around. I found myself getting caught up in cocaine after that night from one of the guys who knew a guy. I couldn’t stop; it was the only way I could numb the pain. My friends found out and tried to stop me, and I lashed out so badly that it was something I couldn’t take back. That was the last time we spoke to each other. The ironic thing is, I was so afraid of my father taking them away from me, but it was my fault. The more I think about it, the more I believe that most of this is my fault. It’s my fault I became a drug addict. It’s my fault I lost my only friends.”
I hold onto his hand tighter. “Hey! None of this is your fault. None of it.”
“That’s a nice testament,” he says unenthusiastically. “But there’s really no one to blame but myself.”
Say something, Leslie. Anything.
Sebastian pulls out the journal from his pocket and gives it to me. “Here. Everything I wrote in here is from when I first turned 17 to when I finally graduated from college,” he laughs a bit. “I feel kind of weird, now. I’ve never really told anyone this shit before. I didn’t think it would be this hard, but at the same time there’s something about you that makes it a little bit easier. Maybe it’s because you remind me of her—she was the only person I could talk to like this.”
I have so many questions. So many damn questions but I can’t bring myself to ask them.
“To be quite honest with you,” he starts. “I feel a little sick. I’m gonna go.”
He avoids my eyes as he gets up from the couch and leaves the room. Just like that. My mind can’t currently process everything he told me to where I can believe it.
I open the journal to the first page. The date, “October 14th, 2002” is written messily in teenaged-boy hand writing. Below it is the entry. I don’t read it yet.