Xander: The Cold Front...
I’d been there for some time when she showed up, sitting and thinking. I let my gaze follow her across the alley. I could tell she was doing everything she could to ignore my presence. Even after all this time I could read her like an open book. She was nervous; that was evident in the way she carried herself. Maybe even scared.
I forced myself to turn away, to think of anything but her and her self-created hell. I’d escaped from there once before and wasn’t planning on returning, no matter what miserable smile or downcast look she threw at me.
For the most part, I did alright. Maybe my scores were a little shaky. Maybe I could feel Cole watching me or the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when her laugh reached my ears. But I managed to get on with it, just further proof that I was fine without her. I didn’t need her and I sure as hell didn’t want her.
Cole was talking to me about something school related. Naturally, I wasn’t listening.
"You’re not even listening to me," he snapped.
"What?" I replied quickly. "Sorry."
Cole extended a hand to place on my forearm. "Xander, don’t do this to yourself. Let her go, man."
I opened my mouth to reply, but not before I felt it. The shift in the atmosphere and the sudden smell of vanialla and caramel that infested my nostrils. The tension, the angst, the burning in my throat. And then the tap on the shoulder.
I turned to face her. "Hi, Xander." That’s it, Just hi. Like it was no big deal whatsoever. Like we were best fucking friends. Something inside me snapped.
To her, I only said, "Hey."
Alessa smiled, a pitiable thing streaked with hope. She was wearing light blue skinny jeans and a tight Nirvana shirt. The word stretched across her chest. It revealed just enough of her midriff to tantalize.
She just kept standing there, staring. And I knew that I was fucked. I could lie to myself and I could lie to my friends but in the end I was fucked. There was not a part of me that didn’t ache for her. I was a different person now. Broken, yes, but sloppily stitched back up. And I thought that maybe Alessa wasn’t so shattered anymore either. And I thought that maybe, just maybe, the reason things fell apart was so that better things could fall together. And with Alessa, I’d have fallen forever.
Alessa: The Heat Wave...
I didn’t know why I kept standing there. But it was impossibly to look away, Xander’s eyes were striking me through, tearing me to shreds right there. He was calculating, contemplating, wondering what was coming next just like me.
A booming voice brought us both out of our trances. Xander’s dad was shouting at him to bowl. Xander turned from me without a second glance.
Halfway through bowling, Ellie had showed up to keep me company and keep me sane. She was still sitting at the lane after bowling. Ellie stared at me for a long time, her brown eyes scrutinizing my face. "What?" I asked at last, trying to keep any agitation out of my voice.
She shook her head. "You’re not over him."
I tried to be angry, to throw her a scowl, but as soon as I met her gaze, I crumbled right there in the middle of Paul’s, my face fell, and tears pushed their way out.
It felt good to cry. Like I was letting out everything I’d been holding to, all the silent pain and longing for Xander. There it was, manifest on my face, swirling with the eyeliner streaking my cheeks.
"I . . . think . . . I love him."
Her lips parted in what would have been a response. But then a shadow passed at the edge of my vision and Xander stood before me.
"Alessa," He said, sounding slightly breathless, "What’s wrong?"
I shook my head. "Nothing," I told him, though of course it was terribly unconvincing. "I’m fine."
Xander was unfazed. "Alessa."
"She’s upset," Ellie pointed out.
Xander never took his gaze from me as he replied. "I can always get her to smile."
Sure enough, at the simple complexity, or the complicated simplicity, a tiny grin snaked its way onto my lips.
"There," he said with a warm smile of his own, then he stepped toward me and took me up in his arms and held me to his chest. I reveled in the feeling of being in his arms again, in his warmth and the beat of his heart. I thought that maybe that heart wasn’t so far out of reach after all.
Gavin kissed me fiercely, his hands gripping my hips, grinding his own against them. The air was cold but together we created our own warmth, one that wrapped around us and kept us from the rest of the world.
And in the back of my mind, I knew it was wrong. I knew it was so very wrong, because he wasn’t Xander. And it was Xander who was consuming my mind. It was Xander’s face haunting my dreams, Xander’s touch I so deeply craved. Xander’s lips I wanted to be pressed against my own.
I pulled away, smiling at Gavin as if nothing was wrong. I may have hated myself at that moment. I may have hated the matchstick lies I was building my life upon. So frail, so delicate. So easily knocked down.
The next week may have held more emotional turmoil than I’d ever endured in my entire life. Ellie spent every waking minute trying to convince me of one thing and one thing only: Xander needed to know the truth. And I spent the nights tossing and turning, hating him and her and myself and Gavin. Hating everyone. I knew there was no easy way out of this. Every time another tear fell, I knew it would only get harder.
The bottom line was that no matter what I did, somebody got hurt. And that killed me. I could no longer deny that in my head there was only Xander. For too long I’d pushed him out. For too long I’d repressed the ache I felt for him. But I also cared about Gavin enough to want to keep him from harm. Telling him the truth, especially seeing as it was Xander Ocher… I may as well have ripped his heart out.
Ellie had made her opinions abundantly clear. Gavin was nothing but trouble. He was a cocaine addict, for God’s sake. I needed to get my head on my shoulders. Blah blah blah. Xander was absolutely perfect for me. Xander was protecting his heart. I’d hurt Xander before and he didn’t want to take a chance. I had to make the first move.
Of course, there was always the chance that she was wrong. That was what held me back. I was happy with Gavin. And if I were to dump him only to find out Xander wanted nothing to do with me… I was out both of them. Maybe I was using Gavin. Maybe. The truth was that my head had been spinning round for days, and I didn’t even know what was real or imaginary.
Absolutely nothing was certain. Except maybe that I loved Xander. But can one truly love someone that’s no longer there? Or was it merely the memory of what we’d had that I so longed to return to? The perfect love that I’d given up. All the more reason to hate myself.
I closed my eyes, begging whatever supernatural force there was for eve an ounce of sleep. Anything to take away the pain of thought. Anything to make Xander’s face fade from my mind.