Xander: Life Went On...
It’s crazy, right? Hurting someone who loves you? Or that’s what I’d always believed. But I’d been hurt so many times, I had started to think that that was all you could expect from people. Pain. Suffering. Everyone was just another regret, waiting to add their scars to the beautiful, wretched mess that had once been my heart.
I rolled over for what must have been the millionth time, grabbing my phone to check the text that had just come in. I forced myself to ignore that tiny little flip in the pit of my stomach. The one that told me this time might be different. My past experiences with girls had all been the same. I said what I had to, did what I had to, had my way with them, and moved on. Better than allowing myself to get attached. Attachment only led to departure. And goodbye was only a synonym for anguish. And besides... none of them were her.
Only, it had given me sort of a reputation as a womanizer. Everyone knew that Xander Ocher was only trying to get some. Which meant that no one wanted to be in an actual relationship. How could they trust me? I couldn’t even trust myself.
I’d spent nearly all my free time talking to Alessa, be it over text or on the phone. She was definitely scarred, though the reason why remained a mystery. But compassion was in my nature, whether people believed that or not. I would do what I had to in order to solve it. I found her unnaturally easy to talk to, spending hours on the phone with her, telling her secrets I was quite certain I'd even been keeping from myself. And in turn, she told me a few of hers, of the scars that lined her arms and legs and anywhere she could easily hide them. She told me that late at night, she wanted nothing more than to die. And I believed her too. Because I felt the same.
I was dreading school the next day, not that that was anything new. But the memory of Alessa’s lips pressed to my own was still fresh in my mind. The feel of her arms wrapped around me. She’d clung to me like no other, held as if I were her final source of life support. Like Reina would have, I thought, and then I hated myself for that too.
There was a rising darkness within me, a voice telling me the time would come for pain to dominate once again. Ignoring it did not seem to be an option. Instead I was left to wait for an answer, or a sign, or a miracle I’d lost hope in long ago.
“Bend your knees more, Xander!” My father’s voice penetrated my concentration, but I’d lost control of the ball two steps back. I retreated from the lane as it tumbled down and crashed into the pins, taking out a pathetic number of six.
“That was pitiful,” he scoffed. I only nodded in agreement. I knew better than to disagree with him, especially when it came to bowling. He’d taught me everything I knew, and apparently that still wasn’t enough. And if I thought he’d go easy on me because of my not-so-recent touch of madness, I’d had another thing coming.
“I’ll pick it up,” I assured him.
“Damn right you will.”
I did, and after I went to the table where Cole was leaning. He greeted me with little more than a nod of the head.
Unlike Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays were serious bowling days. Cole and I belonged to the school team, and here more than anywhere, I had to be the best. These practices determined my position in tournaments. Not to mention in my father’s eyes. Perhaps he’d spawned a fucked up kid who thoroughly enjoyed toeing the line of insanity, but if I carried out the bowling legacy, I supposed that counted for something.
“How are you doing?” I asked my best friend, to which he only shrugged. Cole had never been a man of many words, but when he did speak, it held so much meaning, it made up for all the silence. However, I got the feeling he didnt quite know how to talk to me sometimes. I wondered if he blamed me as much as I blamed myself. I wondered if he knew how sorry I was.
By then I was up again. I approached the lane, positioned myself, and threw the ball. I knew my form was perfect. I could practically feel my father’s smile radiating as all the pins fell. The crash was like a bullet to my heart.
Alessa: Life Was on Standby...
The good thing about being raised by your grandparents is that relationships like that don’t just go away. My mom’s parents had been my primary caretakers through most of my childhood, and it had given us a sort of unshakeable bond. I owed them so much more than I could repay. The following Friday night, I slept over at their house. I could tell Nana knew that something was different in me. I spent a great deal of time under her speculating gaze. Her eyes went wide in shock and confusion every time I smiled.
I felt much the same about the matter. Here I’d spent a solid two months in a depression so deep it had very nearly tipped me over the edge. And in just a matter of a short two weeks, I’d managed to shed that, to step out of the shadows. All the corners of my mind that had been occupied by the past had now been swept, cleaned, and dusted. I liked to think that maybe I’d moved on, but I knew that Xander had really just filled those holes. And that scared me.
He called me that night, and we talked until the December moon was high above the world, until its terrestrial lights had washed over us both, and the stars were watching us in their resolute way. I listened to him as he talked quietly about things he'd done, people he'd known. I could hear something in his voice, something that stuck. I didnt dae ask him why he ws so shattered, or about the scars on his arms I pretended not to notice, or about the immeasurable sorrow in his crystalline blu eyes. And although the temperatures had plummeted, I felt no chill. When I crawled under the thick down comforter, my eyes drooped shut, and I fell asleep.
As far as places to be alone went, Paul’s Alley had few. I knew this place like the back of my hand, and I knew that there was only one place that was shielded from the eyes of coaches and fellow bowlers. So when I caught Xander’s eye from across the alley, and I followed the flicker of his gaze to the hallway that led to the bathrooms, a chill ran up my spine. I’d never stoop so low, I told myself, for anyone but him. I looked to make sure no one was keeping tabs on me, and then I slipped away.
I’d barely turned the corner before Xander grabbed me and pulled me to him. There was a moment of hesitation in which our eyes met, ocean blue to acidy green, and then it was our lips that were meeting. Later, I thought that these stolen moments each weekend were the only things dragging me through the weeks. But at that moment I wasn’t thinking of anything but Xander. And all the while my wretched heart was fluttering away, and my stomach was doing flips, and I just wanted to smile or dance or something, because the pounding in my chest was proof that I was still alive.
I knew we had to go back, even though I hated the thought of being out of his arms. There was something about him that made me feel safe, protected, and not so alone. Like maybe he understood the darkness just as well as I did. Like maybe, together, we could find an escape.