I was still bawling as I threw open the door of my apartment; I was glad to see that neither my mom nor Mark were home. Slamming the door as loudly as I could, I hurried to my room. I paused for a moment near my bed, an awful sob escaping from my chest.
What had happened back there?
I was sure that I’d made a mistake by leaving, but I couldn’t stand to be with him for one more minute.
This last thought brought on a whole new round of tears. Blinded by them, I fell backwards onto my bed, curling up into a ball and pulling my blankets up over my head until I could no longer see the world around me. It was the closest I would get to actually making it disappear.
In the distance, I hear muffled voices talking, although I don’t strain myself to make out words. My head is throbbing, and thinking would be asking too much of it.
Someone takes hold of my hand, rubbing it gently. “There’s no hope, is there?” I heard the voice nearest me say. It was definitely male; the words were strangled, whispered and mixed with tears. I recognize the voice, but I do not attempt to remember where I’ve heard it before.
A second voice, a woman, replied, “There’s always hope. It’s just a matter of believing in what you hope for.”
The room goes silent once again, and I allow my mind to rest. I feel so tired, and I wish that I could fall asleep, but it seems impossible.
Then, slowly, darkness creeps in around me. And like every other time, I give into it, because giving into the dark is always easier than holding onto the light.
“Arielle, Sweetie, are you sick?”
My sleep-filled eyes opened slightly, enough to take in my mom sitting on my bed beside me with a glass of water and a bottle of Tylenol.
I groaned, reaching for the black coverlet so that I could pull it over my head once more. Before I could reach it, my mother bent over and pressed her lips to my forehead.
“I think you have a fever,” she said in alarm, straightening up and speed-reading the label on the bottle. She opened it quickly, pouring out two tiny pills into her hand. “Here; take these.”
Sitting up to taking the pills and water, I obeyed, trying to focus my vision enough to see my clock across the room.
My mom followed my gaze. “It’s just after nine. What time did you fall asleep?”
I struggled to remember. “Five-thirty,” I said finally.
“You must have been exhausted.”
We slipped back into a comfortable silence then, and after a few minutes, I leaned my head against her shoulder, letting my eyes droop closed. Memories of the afternoon were beginning to return, and I wanted nothing more than to fall asleep and forget them all over again, at least for a little while longer.
After a good amount of time had passed, my mom said, “Do you want to talk about it?”
I shook my head slowly, and she didn’t press the issue. I’d say that was only nice thing about having an indifferent mom.
Griffin didn’t call. Saturday and Sunday passed slowly, each second ticking by, nearly unbearable, as I built up the anticipation of the ringing phone. But it never did.
I walked as slowly as possible to English, completely alone once again. I didn’t even care if I was tardy. Anything was better than having to sit alone with him in the empty room, possibly even having to talk to him.
Because, really, what would I even say? What was there even to say? I’m sorry that I want our relationship to be at least somewhat more physical?
In a way, I was glad that I had been the one to walk away. Better to walk away than to be walked away from. My breathing staggered as this thought registered. It was over. My weeks of bliss had ended. My perfect, dream-like world had come crashing down around me. All because of a stupid little fight?
It was over, wasn’t it?
Of course. If it wasn’t, he would have called. He would have let me know in some way that it was still there.
What still got to me was that I had absolutely no idea what had caused the destruction of my fairy-tale paradise. Was this merely because of the tiny little issue of sex? Had Grif- I couldn’t even bear to think his name, pathetic as it was- he simply realized that he didn’t feel the same for me as I did for him, or had I done something?
It was overwhelming, trying to make sense of it all, so I stopped myself. I turned into My Narson’s class.
He was there, as was expected, his worn copy of Romeo and Juliet open on his desk.
I took the few necessary steps to get to my desk, setting my books down with trembling hands and sliding into the seat.
I tried desperately to keep my gaze facing forwards, but I couldn’t help but glance over at him occasionally. It reminded me so much of the first time we’d met, when I’d be unable to stop staring at him. So much had happened since that fateful September day. And irregardless of the outcome, I wouldn’t have done a thing differently.
“Don’t you just love Romeo and Juliet?”
The voice beside me caused me to jump- whether from being startled or from the initial shock of the impossible happening, I wasn’t sure. I would not turn my head, although I did reply. “No, I find it to be the most unlikely story ever written.”
Silence was the response, which was fine with me. Why did he have to torture me so?
And yet, I found myself wanting nothing more than to hear his angelic voice again. I was standing on the edge of a knife, unable to jump.
“Well, I personally find it to be the second-most romantically tragic story in the history of romantically tragic stories ever,” he murmured.
I blinked slowly. “What’s the first?” I asked unsurely.
Griffin reached out and rested his hand lightly on my arm. “Arielle,” he whispered. “I am sorrier than you could ever imagine. I was… overwhelmed with the situation. But that’s no excuse. I just don’t want our relationship to be torn apart by waves of passion.”
Finally, I turned my body around in the chair to face him. He was looking down at where we were touching, his entire face the image of melancholy.
“Griffin, I-” I stopped myself from saying the words that had been in my head: I love you.
Before I could decide what to say instead, Griffin had continued. “I know, Arielle, I hurt you. But I need you more than anything. You are my everything.”
My voice caught in my throat, my eyes filling once again with tears. Oh, God, I loved him so, every part of him completed me. We were merely one being pulled apart into two bodies, waiting to be rejoined in union.
“I want to believe you, Griffin,” I whispered unsteadily.
“Then believe me.”
Seven hours later, Griffin and I found ourselves back on the couch in my apartment. It was entirely different than the last time we’d been here, though; this was much more tentative. I sat beside him, his hand entwined in mine, but that was as close as we would come to each other. The television was on, although neither of us was watching.
I had never felt awkward around Griffin before, and yet here we were, drenched in the uncomfortable silence, my hand trembling in his.
“Are you cold?” He asked quietly. I merely shrugged, and Griffin was up in an instant, heading towards the linen closet and pulling out a neatly folded blanket. I didn’t ask him how he knew where our linen closet was; I simply watched him as he returned to me and dropped it over me carefully before sitting down once again.
“Thanks,” I muttered.
And on and on it went for who knew how long, until the door finally pushed open at five-thirty. My mom came in quickly, a euphoric smile across her face as she set her briefcase down beside the island.
“Hey, Mom,” I called, so she would know I was home.
“Oh, hello, Arielle.” I could hear the surprise in her voice- I seldom came home right after school. She appeared in the doorway a moment later. “Griffin.” She acknowledged him with a nod.
“Mrs. Crayton,” he returned the greeting. Then, letting my hand drop, he rose to his feet once again. And I sat there dumbly, my eyes wide as I watched him walk towards my mom. “I really should be getting home,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure, Mrs. Crayton, as always. Arielle,” he added, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
And, just like that, he was gone.
My mother studied me for a moment after he left, and I was sure that she could tell it was taking all I had not to burst into tears once again.
“I’m sure it’ll all work out,” she told me calmly. I did not reply.
My mom let out a sigh. “I suppose this would be a bad time to tell you I’m taking a trip next week?”
I looked at her, my gray-blue eyes laced with glistening tears. “Not at all,” I lied. Then, because I knew she would monopolize the conversation if given the chance, I asked, “Is it for work?”
She launched into a full-blown explanation of how the head of the firm had chosen her out of everyone to attend a weekend-long seminar in Chicago. I nodded at all the appropriate times, listening without ever really listening.
Her phone rang, then, and she left me alone to take the call. I couldn’t help but wonder where Griffin and my relationship would be in a week. Would we ever fully go back to the way we’d been just three days before? Was that even possible?
I grew bored quickly, and I headed for my room.
It was just as bad in there, if not worse. The constant silence that trailed behind me like death was getting to my head. Try as I might, I knew that I could not escape the hurt welling up within me.
Grabbing my worn black pea coat from where it lay in a crumpled mess upon my floor, I hurried into the kitchen. My mom was still on the phone, so I pointed at the door in hopes that she would understand that I was going out, and then, grabbing my apartment key off the counter, I left the apartment quickly.
Chaos is such a wondrous thing. The last time my thoughts had been this erratic, I had been holding my mother’s hand as I watched her go flat-lined. That time, I hadn’t been able to control the thoughts of death and blood and murder, or the images of the fire burning behind my eyes.
This time, I found my thoughts to be much more repetitive.
Well, Griffin, I thought bitterly. You really did screw up this time.
The self-loathing was back, bringing on a whole new round of depression. And all the while I was left hating myself for hating myself and not knowing how to end this cycle.
I was walking down Fifth Avenue with only a few blocks left till I reached the townhouse. The air around me was chilling me to the bone, but it helped to bring me at least some sense of clarity. Much like the kiss of a razor, it allowed me to focus on something beside my insane tangle of thoughts.
Everybody had their out. Some people shot up or smoke up or whatever. Some people slept with as many people as possible in hopes to drown out the pains of life with ecstasy and passion. Others, like me, found release in the perverse practice of sadomasochism. Like the druggies and the sex-addicts, I felt my sufferings fade away into a sort of high, my very own pleasure brought on by the splitting of veins.
The problem with addictions- for that is exactly what it was- is that the addict in question thinks himself invincible. Capable of anything. Just one more hit, just one more engagement, just one more cut. A little deeper, maybe, a little longer. And as the blood rushes to the skin, spilling over and cascading like a river of rubies, like a thousand souls crying in agony as they are released from the shackles of Hell.
The thing about Hell is that it’s so much easier, so much more attainable than Heaven. Anyone can go to Hell, but only those few really good ones can get into Heaven. And most people can’t be bothered to try.
Is there was a Heaven or a God then I was screwed. If not… then what? What came next? After I was dead and gone, what would happen? Eternity was staring out at me and I was slowly accepting that I could only spend so long hiding from my fears. Someday I would have to face them head on.
The town house was silent as the grave. I let myself in and headed to the kitchen. My depression had rekindled my obsession with cooking. Hmm. It was a much gentler out.
I started off brewing a simple pot of coffee. Nothing too elaborate, but it would suffice for now.
In the mean time, I distracted myself by diving into Hamlet. The tragedy-bound prince made my life seem somewhat less dramatic. And the madness that surrounded him… well, it seemed to mirror my own dark shadows. And Shakespeare did such a beautiful job of portraying it.
The timer beeped on the coffee pot, so I set down the aged copy of the play to fix myself a cup. And by fix I mean pour myself a cup. I took my coffee black on the rare occasions I took it at all.
I was sipping tentatively at the cup, swallowing the bitter liquid, when there came a soft knock from the front door.
I set the cup down quickly, sloshing a little over the edge.
My heart rate elevated at the possibility of who could be on the other side of the door.
I was in so far over my head.