She flew in on Monday. I expected that she visited with her mother for a while, before heading home. I almost stopped by. Contemplated waiting, watching for her car. I knew too many people in the old neighborhood. People who would recognize my car, recognize my pathetic excuse of a body. I knew my parents would know it was me. They'd freak out if I came back.
Suddenly, my mind was on her. I pictured her sitting on her bed, staring at old photos and memories. I wondered if her parents had gotten rid of all of our stuff after she left, cleared out her room, converted it into a spare. Or maybe she'd burned it all, disposed of it all in her own special way, trying to stomp out every last memory of me.
Tuesday's sunrise shined brightly through the small window. As bright as it was, I wasn't fazed. Time loses meaning and value when you're fueled by crank. Days run together, hours last for seconds and everything accelerated. Everything you thought you knew distorts into something new, something beautiful, something never before seen. Then, it all slips away, even you.
I had to work an hour from then. I only knew that because Lana had just gotten home, and like clockwork, I started an hour after she finished. Every day. She smiled at me when she stepped through the door. I knew that this meant she made lots of creep-free tips. And from the twist of her lips, I knew she wanted something from me. I'll give you three guesses as to what that something was.
"Hey, baby." Lana nearly purred. She dropped her jacket and purse by the door, locking her eyes with mine.
"What?" I stared at her eyes, lustful desire of the most intense kind pouring out of them. She sidled up next to me, smiling her predatory smile.
"I miss you." She whined.
"I'm sorry to hear that. You told me to get a job." I leaned away from her. My mind was focused on Violet, far away from Lana.
"Come on, baby. I need ya real bad." She ran a hand through my hair before clumsily pushing her lips against mine. Fuck. She wanted it, and she'd shit bricks if I said no. I let her kiss me, remembering the tender lips of my last year's love. Lana pulled back, smiling, and with her eyes she told me to follow her to the bedroom. And I did.
When we finished, I lit up a cigarette and checked the time. I rolled over but felt her hungry eyes burn holes into my back.
"What is it, Lana?" I said, cigarette between my teeth.
"Nothing, honey. I was just thinking, is all."
"Don't hurt yourself. You know what happened last time you tried that. Nearly landed in the hospital."
"Ha. Ha. You're so funny." She threw off the sheets and began to dress. "I was thinking about life, in case you were wondering. Do you ever wonder why you are where you are? Or how you got there?"
"I know how I got here. I fucked you, and fucked up my life."
"Gee, thanks." She scoffed, not wanting to fight about the comment. Smart girl. "Do you ever dream?"
"Everyone dreams. It's natural to dream when you sleep."
"No, Brady, not those kind of dreams. Real dreams. Like aspirations? Jeez, and you graduated with honors."
I stayed silent, waiting for her to answer her own question. She never wanted to talk to me, for me. She talked to me to voice her own opinions and convince herself I was a good boyfriend because I "listened".
"I always dreamed of being married to a nice guy, having a kid or two, living in the country. The whole American dream, ya know? My parents never had much. Never really gave a damn. I wanna give my kids the world."
I stood up and pulled on my jeans. "well, I hope you can pull that off on a stripper's salary. Let me know when Mr. Nice Guy stumbles in to watch you dance."
"You're such a fucking asshole." She replied, nearly in tears. I pulled on my shirt. "At least I have dreams."
I strapped on a pair of boots before exiting the bedroom. Under my breath I mumbled, "I have dreams too. They just don't involve you."
It was Wednesday, the third day I'd been in town. My room hadn't changed. Although, I did slightly wish it had. It was still naked from when I'd cleared out anything that had to do with Brady and me. The green walls had hooks where photos used to live. My desk was bare, except for a layer of dust. And my bedside table hid nothing. Everything had disappeared into a big cardboard box that my mother hid from me.
My father was basically living at the hospital with my mother and her sister. The house was empty and unfriendly. The silence got to me, and all my music was back in my apartment. I wondered how it was back in the city, across the country.
Since I'd left, I'd received three phone calls from New York. Two from Tia and Melena and one from Chance. He had called but I was with my mother at the time. I just never bothered to call him back. I'm sure school was fine as well. I missed it so much.
I showered and got ready to go visit mom. She'd warmed up to having me there, but not for more than a few hours at a time. She was scheduled for surgery that morning, and if all went well she'd be in recovery by the time I arrived. The drive was short, but I was a little anxious. Something didn't feel right. I'd woken up with a strange feeling about the day, I just hoped that it had nothing to do with mom's surgery.
Dad was pacing outside of her room when I showed up a little after noon. He looked worried and sad. I called to him, "Dad!"
He looked my way and half-smiled. "Hi, dear."
"Hey." I hugged him. "What's up, shouldn't she be out by now?"
He sighed, obviously irritated. "They had to reschedule her surgery. She just went in about fifteen minutes. I'm sweating bullets."
"Why?" I asked. "These doctors do this all the time."
"I know. It's just, what if it goes wrong? What if they remove the wrong thing? What if –"
"Dad, you're getting hysterical. Have you eaten yet?"
"Okay. Get yourself some food. It'll make you feel better. Relax. Drink some decaf tea. Freaking out helps no one."
"You're right." He breathed. "Are you coming?"
"No, I already ate. Besides, a little time alone could only benefit you at this point."
"Yeah." He sighed. "Okay."
I watched him walk toward the elevator before I stepped into the room. Aunt Nancy had disappeared for the afternoon. Probably went for a walk. She always enjoyed Arizona air. I sat in the chair closest to the window, letting the slivers of sunlight shine on me through the blinds. My eyes closed as the present took a backseat to memory. The scene morphed from a dreary hospital room in death-filled cancer ward to a gleeful autumn morning a year previous. Brady had promised to stop by, saying he had a surprise for me. I remembered sitting in my room, admiring a framed photo of us, when he knocked on the door. Hiding his face were a bouquet of purple flowers.
"Hello, Violet." And my heart nearly stopped when I flicked my eyes open and realized I wasn't imagining his voice. The scene changed immediately, and I stood, facing the open hospital door. I blinked. Was I dreaming? No, yes. I had to be. Standing in the doorway, watching me was my ex-boyfriend. And, boy did my goddamned heart swell with delight. It swelled and beat so hard that it threatened to beat out of my chest. My lungs constricted and muscles tensed up. Anxiety overwhelmed me.
"Is this – are you really here?"
"Yes, I am." He stepped into the room, getting closer with every step.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, staring at him, jeans too loose, dark hair askew, tired expression.
"I heard your mom was sick. Thought I'd stop by and see here."
"She's, uh, in surgery right now. Perhaps you can stop by later." I replied, loosening up a bit. "Or maybe next week, when I'm not here."
"No, Violet." He sighed, throwing himself in the chair across from mine. Fuck. He's right there. So close that I could reach out and touch him. "I – that's not totally the reason I'm here."
"Are you high?" I said, more accusatory and defensive than I hoped.
"Not that it's any of your business but, no. That's why I'm so lethargic."
"Anyway, a friend told me your mom was sick, and you'd be coming back in town to see her." He was right there. I wanted to reach for him, I felt my hand shaking. I wanted to grab him, to strangle him, to kiss him. To forget everything, and erase the past. More than anything, I knew I wanted him gone.
"Well, she is my mom." I retorted, not wanting to listen to another word. I couldn't stand it. Couldn't stand being in the same room, so close yet so far. It made me miss him even more. Why was I even listening? Why hadn't I thrown him out?
"I guess I deserve the attitude." He sighed again more pathetic and desperate than before. "Listen Vi, I came to see you. I lied about being your cousin, because I needed to see you. I needed to know that you're okay. Because, at least one of us needs to be okay."
"Stop, Brady. Stop. Please. I – I can't handle this. I really can't right now." I shuddered in anxiety. "I'm not okay, Brady. I haven't been for months. But right now, I need you to leave."
He stood and stared at me. "Alright. But I didn't come out here to be dismissed without at least telling you this. I miss you, Violet. I really do. I can't stand being away from you."
A pang of longing and guilt tied my stomach into knots. "Brady, I have a boyfriend now. I can't do this. Don't make me."
He stared at me, seemingly shocked for a moment. Then he hid all the emotion away, forever. With a sigh, he cracked the door and locked me out once again. And so badly, I wanted the key. I wanted to unlock him, make him mine again, fix him. "I wish things would've been different." Following that confession was the quiet close of a hospital door and the simultaneous end of a chapter in my life.
"More than anything, so do I."
And it all seemed to be going so well. Then came those four detrimental words.I have a boyfriend.Why had I gone? What had I thought would happen? That I'd magically be clean and sober, and she'd want to be with me again? Besides, she had a boyfriend. Who would leave their boyfriend for me? He was probably a great guy, better be a phenomenal guy. No guy deserved her. Especially a guy like me. I was still with Lana, still snorting brain cell assassins, still a fuckin' loser. No girl in their right mind would want me, especially a goddess like my Violet, mine never again.
I drove around with no destination in mind. I let my instincts take me, drive on autopilot. I thought that showin' up sober to see her would've made a difference, but it didn't. It just made me act more irrational and stupid. I must've looked like a fucking moron, babbling on about past relationships.
Before I knew it, I was pulling up into a parking space at the park. Our park. I stared at it, wondering where the time had gone. I should've known I'd end up here. Automatically, I shut off the car and stepped out. Inhaling a breath of fresh air, I realized it smelled like the past. Autumn was in the air and despite the dry heat of our Arizona town, it was peaceful. Mindlessly, I walked over to our bench, trying to find the spot where I'd carved in our initials. Bingo, under the left side. Cheesy, yes, but I was a high school junior. Sue me.
It had been an unusually cool afternoon, summer before my senior year. Vi and I were going out for a picnic in the park. On a whim, I'd tossed her cell phone over by the bench to mess with her. When she jumped up to get it, I ran over, playfully grabbed her and tickled her. She pretended to beat me off while laughing. I leaned down and kissed her, and in a moment of vulnerability, she managed to flip me onto my back and straddled me.
"Pinned ya." She chuckled, mimicking Nala when she wrestled with Simba. The Lion King was her favorite Disney movie. I stared up at the bottom of the bench that I'd narrowly missed hitting my head on. I looked at the large spot that had yet to be vandalized. I pulled out my pocketknife and began to etch our initials into it.
"What are you doing?" She asked just as I finished carving a poor heart around them.
"Nothing." I smiled, tucking the knife away. She stared at me and I surprised her by flipping her onto her back again.
"Pinned ya, again." I chuckled at her. She ran her hand over the bench graffiti. Her eyes moved from the wood to my eyes. I smiled at her, blushing. She pulled my face down to hers, meeting my lips with her own.
"I love you." She smiled, pulling back.
"I love you too, Violet. Always."
A beautiful memory from a beautiful point in my life. With a sigh, I left the bench, letting it rot in peace. I strolled over to the creek a small wooden bridge connected the two sides of the park. I remembered Violet and I strolling over the rickety bridge on many occasions. We walked hand-in-hand, before she'd break away and spin in the breeze, letting the air blow her hair all around her face. And then she'd smile her beautiful smile, just for me and I swear, I'd melt.
Collapsing on the chair, I let out a breath that I hadn't realized I was holding. I had to get out. Had to think and process. What had Brady been thinking? I mean, what had he been talking about? If he'd missed me why hadn't he tried to call, write or something? My parents told me that he got kicked out after I left. Since then, they hadn't seen or heard from him, neither had I. Then, out of nowhere, he just showed up. Where had he heard about my mom anyway?
I needed to get out. I was suffocating. Needed to breathe, needed to think. I scribbled down a note and left it on the table. Grabbing my cell phone, I snuck out of the room. There was a small secluded area around the left of the hospital, for the smokers. I figured I could snag a bench seat and contemplate for a bit.
Just as I'd hoped, there was a small bench surrounded by bushes, across from a small concrete platform. The place reeked of smoke, and there were a few dozen butts that had missed the ashtrays and designated disposal bins. I sighed, settling on the bench and staring at the sky. Just as I began to relax, my phone blared. I flipped it open, half-expecting to hear Brady's voice.
"Hello." I answered, leaning my head back.
"Hey." Chance's voice poured into my ear. I should've checked the caller ID. I really didn't want to talk to him. Enough was already going on.
"What's up?" I asked, not really listening for a response. I was more concerned with my current Brady predicament.
"Nothin' much. Just got outta class. Thought that I should call you and check in. How's your mom?"
"Good, considering everything. She's in surgery right now. Dad's a mess though."
"And how about you? How ya holdin' up?"
"I'm okay. I'd be a lot more worried if my parents weren't loaded." I chuckled. "But they've got the best doctors in Arizona working on my mom. We're hoping that she'll be okay."
"Good. Send her my best. Why didn't you call me back the other night? I wanted to make sure your flight landed safely."
"I'm sorry. I got your message. I've just been really busy. I sent you a text though. I told you everything went well."
"Did you get any of my other texts?"
"Yes." I couldn't lie to the poor boy, even if I was avoiding him. Wait, was I? "It's just been crazy, Chance. I'm not really focused on anything in New York. My mind is totally submerged in everything going on here. Sorry I didn't respond." I snapped, instantly regretting it. When he didn't reply, I spoke once more. "I'm sorry for snapping. I didn't mean to do that. I'm just stressed out."
"It's okay. My bad. I was just worried about you."
"I know." I sighed. "And I really didn't mean to snap at you. I shouldn't have. Sorry." He was really just trying to be nice. I was just irritated. One more thing to thank Brady for. For another few minutes Chance and I chatted, discussing plans. Friday was the last day before the holiday break. I planned to leave on Thursday night, because my family always celebrated with a "just us" dinner on Wednesday. One or both of them often had a banquet or appearance to make on Thursday. Chance said he was planning on staying in New York for the break. He even offered to have a romantic dinner for us. Although my heart wasn't really in it, I couldn't bring myself to decline. The conversation ended on a light note, and upon shutting the phone, I let out a sigh. I was exhausted. Life was draining me.
"Why do you do this to me?" I said, my head in my hands. As if my balance wasn't shaky enough since the break up, he just waltzed in and threw me off entirely. Sometimes just the memories set me off, but seeing him, hearing him, being close enough to smell his familiar scent…All the control that I'd convinced myself that I had was totally obliterated. For a good ten minutes, I retreated into my mind, leaving my head cradled in my hands. In a search for answers, I found nothing except more questions. Did I miss him too? What was happening to me? Was I questioning my decisions? Did I still love him?