Authors: Sarah Elizabeth
Digging him in the ribs, I shake my head at his reaction. Is he always this shy when a girl’s involved? “Who is she?”
“Nobody,” he answers, breaking what little eye contact we had and springing himself off of the bed. “She’s nobody.”
“You just have random photographs of women sitting in your top drawer?” I chuckle lightly, watching him as he throws on a tank and begins making his way over to his bedroom door. “You don’t need to be sh
y about it, Neil. You are allowed to date you know.”
Jumping up from the side I was sleeping on, I follow him out into the living area and make a
beeline for the coffee machine, “I’ll make us a coffee,” I tell him, noticing that he’s beginning to look increasingly distracted by whatever it is that’s playing on his mind.
… we haven’t been together long …”
“What’s her name?” I ask, stilling my movements and turning back towards him
when he begins talking. “Is it serious between the two of you?”
He doesn’t answer me right away
, but I see a slight smile forming over his lips as he appears to be thinking hard about how to answer my question, “You could say that,” the smile soon fades away from his lips as the vibrations from his cell phone sound over from his room. “I think I’ll take that coffee,” he says, throwing a wink my way as he heads back into his room.
Placing the two coffee mugs down on the breakfast bar, Neil comes back out from his room. He’s wearing a vacant expression over his entire face, and continues to fiddle with his cell phone as he walks over to take a seat beside me.
“Are you ready to tal
k about last night?” he asks, taking a sip of his coffee before turning his whole body around to face me. “You said something about Brandon?” his eyebrows are knitted tightly together as he asks, and I feel him gazing at me, studying me even, as he awaits my reply.
“Last night I
went to the lake. I heard Harry on his cell phone. Neil, his name isn’t Harry,” I begin to explain, while looking down and fiddling with my fingers in my lap. “He met with Brandon, and Brandon called him Zach. I followed him to some place and when I saw them—“
“Wait a second,” he bolts up from his seat and begins pacing the space in front of me. “You saw Brandon again?
… Zach … Zach …” Neil places his hands behind his head, and lets out a deep breath, seemingly becoming even deeper in thought than he had been previously.
Nodding, I watch him walk back and forth as he brings both of his hands down to his face, covering his nose
with them as he continues to think.
“I knew I recognized that
motherfucker from somewhere,” he whispers, although I’m not sure whether I was supposed to hear his small outburst. He looks slightly worried, stressed even. “Did they see you?”
“Neil, what’s g
oing on? You said you knew him … How? Do you know him or who he is?”
“Yeah, yeah I do
. Dammit I knew I recognized him from somewhere, but when I asked him, he told me his name was Harry. I just assumed I’d gotten mixed up somewhere,” Neil begins chewing at his nails, his eyebrows furrowing as he continues to pace the floor.
After a few moments,
Neil pauses his steps and takes out his cell phone, tapping on the screen a few times as though his life depended on it, “What are you thinking?”
“Tell me what happened after yo
u saw them. Did they see you?” he walks back over to where I’m sitting, resting his hands on the breakfast bar while leaning closer towards me. “Alex, did they say anything? Tell you anything at all?”
“No,” I answer, my voice becoming
scratchy as worry begins to flood through me. “I didn’t really give them a chance to … I asked about my mom, if he knew she was working on his case, and … well it appears he knew. His eyes said a whole lot more to me than his words did.”
Nodding, he takes a hold of my hand, squeezing it gently before sitting down beside me, “And then?”
“I left. I didn’t stick around,” I shrug my shoulders and feel the sadness washing through me once more. “I thought he was going to tell me I’d gotten it all wrong, and that he was in love with me. He tried to tell me something, but I couldn’t stay any longer. Neil it hurts so fucking badly,” tears are beginning to pool in my eyes. I wrap my arms around my stomach, hugging myself as I will for the nauseas feeling to subside.
Rubbing me on the back softly, he throws me a sympathetic smile,
though he still seems agitated over something.
Do you think Brandon and—?“
“Let me handle it,” he says sternly,
before standing and grabbing his keys from off of the coffee table. “I’ll find out what’s going on, but I just need to know one more thing.”
Flickering my eyes to where he’s now standing
, over by the main door, I see the determined look spreading across his features, “Anything.”
I need to know where you saw them.”
Trying to remember which way
he lead me, I keep drawing at blanks. It was dark outside and I wasn’t exactly thinking straight.
“I don’t remember!” I blurt out, my voice higher than normal, with my hands beginning to shake. How can I not remember? I was there for crying out loud!
“Hey,” Neil says softly, walking straight back over and stroking my hair gently. “Hey, hey, come on, it’s gonna be alright, Alex. I promise. Everything’s gonna work out.”
“It just doesn’t make any sense, I mean, do you think I should tell the cops?”
No, there’s no need for that just yet,” his face becomes tight at my concerns. “I just think we need to find out what’s going on first, and then hopefully we can get all of this figured out.”
I watch as he grabs his
jacket and makes his way over to the door, promising over his shoulder that he’ll call me if he manages to find any answers.
“You’re the asshole, not me!” I hear Alyssa call from her room, just before Ryan closes it firmly behind him.
Raising my eyebrows at him, he rolls his eyes over in my direction, “Trouble in paradise?” I ask, moving over to make room for him
, so that he can come and sit by me. He takes a seat and throws his head hard against the back of the couch, while staring up at the ceiling in silence. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“She’s being a bitch,” he sighs. “She said I’m not spending enough time with her, I mean come on! We’ve practically moved in together for fucks sake!”
“She’s pretty serious about you, Rye,” I smile at him, remembering all the times when Seth had moaned at Alyssa for not spending merely enough time together when they were dating. She had exactly the same thoughts and feeling towards the whole thing as Ryan has right now.
Blowing out a breath, he sits forward, resting his elbows on
his knees while turning his head to the side to face me, “You and Brandon didn’t live in each other’s pockets and you guys were fine.”
My stomach immediately drops to the ground when he uses what Brandon
and I had as a comparison to his own relationship, “Yeah, and look where we are now,” I manage to squeeze the words out, passed the lump that’s resting within my throat again. “At least what you had was real …” I mumble, stand, and head towards the main door.
“What are you talking about? What you and Brandon had was real, anyone could see that, and besides, even though he left, it doesn’t mean to say he won’t be coming back, Alex.”
I wish I could believe the words he has just spoken, I really do, but Ryan isn’t yet up to speed on what has happened over the past twenty-four hours.
Walking back over to join him, I take a seat and begin to explain everything. I tell him about the Harry guy, the fact that he’s actually not a Harry but a Zach, and then tell him abou
t my mom being involved with Brandon’s case. With those things and what the cops had implied the other day, he looks surprised, but remains adamant there’s a misunderstanding.
“I never told you this before, Alex
…” Ryan looks slightly uncomfortable, keeping his eyes away from mine as he speaks. “I actually believe that Brandon loves you more than he ever did—“
My mouth falls wide open at what he was about to say. By the look on his face, he stopped talking because he feels guilty
for thinking his words out loud, “No, no I don’t think so, Ryan. If that was really the case, then he would be here with me now.”
he agrees quietly, shrugging his shoulders lazily. “I think I prefer the single life. That woman in there is driving me fucking crazy!” shaking his head, he lets out a small laugh.
“I don’t know, it gets pretty lonely when you’re used to being with someone for a while,” I tell him, noticing the slight look of remorse washing over his features. “Hey
, have you seen Neil?”
It just dawns on me that he hasn’t been around
at all this morning, although where it’s the bands gig tonight, it’s most likely he’s with Corey, “Nope.”
“Did you know he’s seeing someone?” I ask, a smile creeping over my lips when I see Ryan shoot me
a quizzical look. “I saw her, well, I saw a photograph of her. He closed up and went all shy though,” I tell him, noticing his face beginning to perk up with interest.
It’s about time he proved he wasn’t gay, I was starting to worry. I even thought about hiding my underwear once,” he smirks, before standing and making his way over to the breakfast bar.
The main door swings open, and I feel relieved when I see Neil walking through. I haven’t seen or heard from him sinc
e he took off yesterday morning, “What’s this I hear about a girlfriend, dude? You kept that quiet! Is she a she, or a he?” Ryan jokes as he heads towards his room.
“Hey!” I say, sitting up straighter
and waiting for him to come and join me, but he doesn’t.
He heads stra
ight to his room without even so much as a hello, but the brown paper bag and strong smell of alcohol doesn’t go unnoticed.
Jumping up from the couch, I go over and knock on the door he just slammed closed, “Neil, are you okay?” I ask through the door, but he doesn’t answer me. Usually I would walk away, b
ut he really didn’t look okay at all. He looked upset about something. “Neil?”
After waiting couple more moments for him to answer me, there’s still nothing
, so I knock again before opening the door and stepping inside.
He’s sitting on his bed, clutching hold of an almost empty whiskey bottle in one hand, and a piece of paper in the other. He doesn’t look up, and when I take a seat beside him, he doesn’t avert his gaze away from
… from the photograph. The same photograph I saw yesterday morning.
“It’s rude to just walk into someone’s
personal space without so much as an invitation,” he spits, before taking another sip from the bottle. “Did you mom never teach you any manners?”
Wow. His words leave me speechless and make me wonder what the hell I did
to him that was so wrong.
Glancing over to me, he lifts the bottle and offers it over to me. Shaking my head in reply, I notice the smirk crossing over his face as he places it
back down beside him.
“Did you two have a fight or something?” I ask hesitantly, not wanting to make him any more upset than what he already is, but because he’s been around for me when I’ve needed him, it’
s only right that I would want to be there for him too.
“Ha! You could say something like that,” he sni
ckers, lifting the photograph closer to him while gently tracing his fingers around the outline of the girl. “She and I … we were supposed to have a forever. Then she went and fucked it all up.”
From the way h
e’s talking, it definitely sounds as though they’ve had a falling out of some kind, “You and she aren’t seeing each other anymore?”
Only shaking his head
in response, I watch as he tucks the photograph into his pants pocket, before turning to face me.
He looks sad, pissed, and co
mpletely wasted out of his mind, “I’m sorry, Neil,” I tell him, lightly placing my hand on his knee to show him I’m here for him, like he was for me.
, but right now I think I just wanna be left alone,” he doesn’t look at me when he says the words, but I sense that that’s his polite way of asking me to leave.
“What the hell is up with Neil?” Alyssa asks, a curiousness entering her eyes as we try to find a seat as close to the stage as we possibly can. “I mean, look at him!”
Focusing my attention
over to where the band are about to begin playing their set, I can see exactly what she means, and I’m starting to become increasingly worried about him.
He didn’t come out of his room until we needed to make our way over here for the gig, and although he must have sl
ept off most of the alcohol he’d consumed this morning, he looks rough as hell. When we first got here, the first thing he did was head straight over to the bar.
“I think he’s having girlfriend trouble,” I say, shrugging my shoulders as I turn back to face her. “Speaking of relationship problems
, have you and Ryan kissed and made up yet?” I ask, taking a sip from the bottle of beer I just ordered a couple of minutes ago.
mischievous grin that’s formed over her lips tells me that they have, and it’s most likely they did a hell of a lot more than just kissing. “Well, if you class me kissing his—“
“Too much!” I say rather loudly over the music, holding my hand up to her so she won’t continue
her line of discussion. “Way too much!” she laughs into her glass of wine, and I notice her cheeks beginning to redden when Ryan looks over in our direction.
“You know that feeling you get, Alex
, the one where you’re just completely and utterly in love and …” she stops talking and grimaces, most probably aware that she knows that I know exactly how it feels, or at least I did. “Sorry.”
Throwing her a small smile, I turn away from her gaze, allowing my eyes to land on anything but the kissing couples, the loved up couples, and
just the couples in general that are standing all around us.
As my eyes roam around the bar area, I still when I see Harry,
or Zach, whichever one he has chosen to be today, standing over in the corner of the room and watching our table closely, “You have got to be fucking kidding me,” I mutter, all of a sudden feeling really uncomfortable about being here.
“What is it?” Alyssa looks puzzled and turns around in her seat, t
rying to find out what my sudden outburst was all about just now.
Leaning over and quietly telling her who has decided to make an appearance, tonight of all nights, she sh
akes her head and is starting to look pissed.
This afternoon we both spent time together, catching up on ever
ything and of course he and Brandon were the main topic of conversation.
Alyssa thinks that I should report him to the cops, and under normal circumstances I would, but there’s something holding me back from doi
ng so, mainly Neil, but mostly Brandon. Yeah,
still thinks we need to be absolutely sure on how to approach this, and at this present moment in time, he doesn’t think the cops are the right way to go about it.
The guys have almost finished their two hour set, and as the time has progressed, both Neil’s face and his mood appear to have lightened along the way. He actually looks as though he’s enjoying the evening, but that may be due to the number of shots he and the rest of the band have been indulging in over the course of the evening.
You want another?” I ask her, even though there probably wasn’t any use in wasting my breath. Her eyes are planted firmly over on her drummer boyfriend, and his are on her. The plunging feeling in my stomach makes the drinks I’ve had already tonight roll around, making me feel slightly nauseas. I can’t believe I’m jealous over Ryan and Alyssa’s relationship.
Jealous of my best
friend’s happiness. What the hell is wrong with me?
Standing and making my way over to the bar, I feel someone grasping at my hand and when I turn around, I see Nei
l smiling at me, “More shots!” he says excitedly, ushering me over to the bar as though he hasn’t got a moment to waste.
Handing me a shot glass
that’s filled up to the brim with a purple substance, Neil grins devilishly at me, “To fucked up relationships,” he clinks his glass with mine, before throwing it down in one.
going to have one hell of a hangover by the morning, “Neil, maybe you should ease up on the drinks,” I say, and with that, he grabs my hand and proceeds to drag me across the room, only stopping when we reach the dance floor.
A new band has already started to play their set as Neil places his hands around my waist, pulling me closer to him as he begins his moves, “I never saw you as a dancer, Neil,” I say, leaning up to his ear so he can hear me over the music.
“You never saw me as a lot of things, Alex,” he answers, leaning back and watching me as I try to understand what he meant by his words.
Lifting one of his hands up to my face, he cups my cheek and leans closer, his smile wide as his other hand wraps firmly around my waist, “You know what I think, Alex?”
“You’ve had way too much drink, maybe?” I laugh in reply, stopping when I see his face turning more serious and noticing him stilling his movements.
“You. And. Me,” he says, and in that next moment, before I have a chance to ask him what he means or try to figu
re it out, his lips are on mine. With both hands clutching at the hips, bringing me as close to him as he possibly can, I find myself unable to react.
Shit, what the hell does he think he’s doing?
Placing my hands on his shoulders and trying to push him off of me, his grip tightens as he presses his mouth with more force against my own.
No. No. No. What the hell is he even thinking?
Struggling to breathe, I open my eyes wide, seeing that his are closed tight. He doesn’t even seem to be registering that I don’t want this.
He’s drunk. He’s on the rebound. He’s hurting.
These are the only things I can think of that would make him do such a thing. Apart from the drunk part, I can totally see and feel his pain, because that’s exactly what I’ve experienced over the past weeks, but this really isn’t going to solve anything.
he tries to push his tongue inside my mouth, I feel something tugging on my jacket, before I’m knocked sideways and clean out of Neil’s hold by somebody passing by us.
I’m stunned, and find myself not being able to do anything but stare wide eyed at Neil
as I watch him take a couple of unsteady steps backwards. Noting the angry flare in his eyes, I soon realize they’re not aimed on me, and when I turn to see why he’s looking the way he is, I begin to understand.