Authors: Lena Bourne
Not Looking For Love: Episode 5
Copyright © 2014 Lena Bourne
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
I'm on the beach, the one with the broken pier. I couldn't run any further. The sand is moist and sticky under my feet, and I'm standing right at the edge of the surf, the waves licking the tips of my boots. This is the beach where I see my unborn baby drown, the one where we sit when Mom visits my dreams. The one where I first threw myself at Scott.
Thoughts are whooshing across my mind harder and louder than the winter wind messing up my hair. I can't make sense of any of them, but one is loudest of all, the one that made me drive here, stop the car and leave it parked at the edge of the sand.
There's so very little for me out there in the night. All I want I left behind when I fled Scott's apartment. And if it weren't for rational Gail throwing a fit in my head, I'd be back there now, not stuck on this beach of nightmares, with no clue where to go next.
The wind is seeping right through my jacket, but it seems like hours, years since I last felt it. Scott answered all my questions, and everything right back to that first night on this beach, atop the broken pier, makes perfect sense now. Yet my choice is still the same as it was in the beginning. Only the variables are different.
I'm not crying anymore, for the first time in years it seems, my tears frozen along with everything else. A convict? Of all the things I ever imagined Scott's secret to be, that wasn't even on the list. A criminal? It hardly crossed my mind and didn't linger. Though it should have. The fat envelopes of cash, a cop warning him to change. How did I not see it? Why didn't it matter more?
But I know why. My heart is screaming the answer, but somehow rational Gail is still yelling louder. So I'm standing on this deserted beach in the middle of the night, waves rippling menacingly in front of me, who knows what kind of monsters lurking behind me in the darkness.
And there is only one place I want to go, only one place where I can go. Anywhere else, the terrible abyss will open up before me, swallow me whole and never let me leave.
So it's not really a decision, it's more of a surrender to the only way things can be. My future will unravel whatever I do. At least this way, I have a fighting chance left. At least this way, I don't have to go through it all alone.
Scott's apartment is almost as cold as the alleyway below, now that all his locks are broken. I'm holding my breath as I enter, my heart thundering in my chest, because what if I'm too late? What if Mike came back and finished what he started?
I have no idea how I fought my way through all the visions of finding Scott dead on the floor to get here. But I did it, and my eyes are dry once I'm standing in his living room.
He's still sitting at the kitchen table, the cat purring so loudly in his lap that the sound is filling the entire apartment. The cat's as large as a sofa pillow now, so she can't be far from giving birth.
His eyes fix on me somewhere between my lips and my forehead, somehow not meeting mine. They're bloodshot and swollen, and a tear trickles down the side of my face. Because I never should have left, never should have run away. Not back in the beginning, not tonight.
"Did you forget something?" he asks and my breath catches in my throat, his tone the barbed wire stopping me from inhaling.
"Yes, I forgot something," I say, matching his tone, because, somehow, messed up, crying-all-the-time Gail stayed on the beach tonight.
His eyes shoot open wide and I'm sorry immediately. I close the distance between us. The cat's angry meow fills the room as she's dislodged from his lap, then Scott's towering over me, close enough to touch, but not reaching for me.
"How did you expect me to react?" I ask more softly, my fists shaking slightly. This close, I can see the dried tracks of tears on his cheeks.
"I didn't think you'd just run away," he mutters, and rests his hand on my upper arm, just below the shoulder. It's like all the cold is running from the heat passing into me through his touch.
"Well, I did come right back this time," I mutter, the edges of my lips curling up into a smile, ice crackling in my chest as it melts.
He lets me go, and stumbles back to his chair. "But maybe you should have stayed away."
I wish he'd smile. I want us to go back to this morning before any of this happened, I want him to tell me everything was just a big joke, and it's over now, so we can start feeling good again. But he can't, and I know when things are not about me. I got that from my dad too. And half his family is cooking meth out in the Ozarks, or killing each other, and he managed to steer clear of it. I can steer clear of Scott's problems without leaving him.
I wrap my arms around Scott's neck and pull his head into my stomach, running my fingers through his hair, down his back.
"You just really blind sighted me with all this, Scott," I whisper. "But everything will work out, you'll see. It will all be better in the morning."
He struggles free of my grasp, and I stumble backwards, almost trampling the cat, which is bumping its head into my legs. "What the fuck are you talking about? Tomorrow morning all this shit will only be worse. You should go."
But that's not going to happen now, and I'm certain he knows it as well as I do.
"If that's how you want to see it," I mutter. "But you're wrong."
"No, I'm not," he snarls at me. "And I certainly don't need this patronizing bullshit from you."
He pours more vodka into his glass, but I snatch it away so the liquid forms a puddle on the tabletop, seeping into the pile of newspapers I left there this morning. His eyes get very wide, then narrow as he takes a long swallow of vodka straight from the bottle.
"Alright, Scott, I get it," I say and hold out the glass to him. "I can't force you to stop drinking. I can't force you to do anything really. But drinking is not going to solve anything."
He takes the glass from me, sloshing the tabletop again. "You're probably right. It's just gonna make me slur worse and walk unstraighter."
"And use words that don't actually exist, apparently," I mutter, and he finally smiles, a light flickering in his black eyes.
"We can't all be as smart and proper as you all the time," he says.
His implication stabs me right in the heart, and he's not smiling anymore, his eyes as black as the sea I just left. But he can be as mean as he wants to, I'm not leaving again.
"So?" he asks.
"So?" I echo.
"Will you be going now?"
I place my hands on my hips. "We both are."
"Right," he mutters and takes another drink. It's all I can do not to smack the glass away from his lips.
"It's not safe here with all the locks broken," I say instead. "We're going to my house."
He squints up at me, his upper lip curled up like I just said the dumbest thing. "And you figure that's a good idea?"
I take his arm and try to pull him to his feet, but I might as well be trying to move a mountain. "It's the best one I've had yet."
He shakes my arm off and all the fight left in me deflates like someone popped a balloon. It's not even what he's saying, it's his tone, the way he's looking at me. Like there's nothing between us, like I just met him out by Kate's pool, and he never wants to see me again.
I sit on the chair, and move the pile of newspapers so it soaks up the spilt drink, my hand shaking. "I don't know what more you want from me. I shouldn't have run away. I should have stayed, but I'm back now and I'm not leaving again, so can't we just go to my house?"
I look up at the question, shivering as his black, shadow-filled eyes bore into me.
"You did the only sane thing by running out of here a few hours ago. I would've done the same thing."
But it's a lie. He took me back when I aborted our baby, stayed with me at a time no one else would. He'd never just leave me.
"Please stop saying that," I whisper, willing the dark shadows to leave his eyes. "I won't pretend that what you told me doesn't change things. But I also can't pretend I'm capable of just leaving you."
I watch his eyes soften, darkness receding like night giving way to the sun. "You're actually serious?"
It's more of a statement than a question, but I nod my head anyway.
I stand up and fish my car keys from my pocket, holding a hand for him to take. "Are you coming now?"
He gets up, and wobbles toward me. I wrap my arm around his waist, my knees buckling as his weight presses into me.
"You weren't kidding about unstraighter were you?" I ask, his cast digging into my shoulder.
He guides my head up and kisses me, clumsy and wet. I can taste the bitter alcohol on his lips, but the sweetness underneath is stronger, more intoxicating, fills my mind with memories of the first time I tasted cotton candy, the first time I ate chocolate.
"You sure your dad's not home?" Scott slurs, leaning against the wall by my front door.
It's the tenth time he's asked me, and I just roll my eyes, unlocking the door. "My dad won't be home until Wednesday."
The house is stuffy and silent, and for the first time in almost a year, I know I won't hear my mom's coughs echoing down the stairs as soon as I enter.
"Do I need to worry about you passing out and choking on your vomit?" I ask once I finally get him up to my bed. I'm pulling his pants down and he's not doing much to help me.
"That's a good fear. I wish I'd thought of that," he mutters and my hands freeze.
He pulls his pants down all the way, wincing as his left arm smacks against the edge of the mattress.
"That's how my friend David died," he elaborates, drawing the comforter back and climbing under it. "And it never even crossed my mind when I left him all drunk to go party with what's-her-name."
His eyes are screwed shut, and he's adjusting the comforter so his cast is resting atop it comfortably. A sob escapes my trembling lips. My mom's death is hanging in the air, thick as fog. And he just added a whole new layer to it by speaking of his friend dying.
His eyes are fixed on mine, his parted lips gleaming in the light. "Don't worry about it, Gail. I'm not even that drunk. And I'm not sick at all."
I take off my own jeans and snuggle close to him, the room spinning like I'm the one who drank too much. If I just wrap my arms around him tight enough, he won't be able to turn away and lie on his back.
"Was it very horrible, finding your friend like that?" I mutter into his chest, because none of this is really about me.
"Yeah, it was very horrible," he whispers, his breath rustling my hair. "I couldn't sleep for weeks, because every time I closed my eyes I'd see him dead with dried puke all down his neck."
I know exactly what he's talking about. Only I can see my mom's sightless, gleaming eyes even with mine wide open.