I woke up and looked blearily at the clock. 2:03 am. I had been asleep for maybe six minutes. My eyes were burning from the tears I could no longer shed. There was a hole in my chest… and hot lava was pouring in…
I sat up, pressing my fingertips against my eyes. Why? I wondered for the zillionth time. Douglas had cheated on me. I went over the facts many times but no matter how I tried adding them up, I couldn’t figure out the answer. He was drunk… but that wasn’t really an excuse. There was no excuse. Of course, he hadn’t pretended there was one.
He didn’t have to tell you, I thought yet again. This kept cropping up in my mind. For a while I had ignored it but now it was able to creep past my defenses. It was true–he could have kept me in the dark, none the wiser. He confessed to me, admitted he regretted it. He wanted to be punished for it. I wanted him to be punished, he should burn for what he did.
I looked at the clock again. 2:05. This was going to be a long, miserable night.
I woke up at around 6:37am and gave up trying to sleep. I had only snatched a few minutes of sleep occasionally, and I felt as crappy as he should. I rinsed off my face and stumbled into the kitchen, glancing at the cookies. I grabbed a few and shoved them in my mouth before going to the study. After staring blankly at the computer for a moment, I staggered to the living room and fished my phone out from between the couch cushions. Loads of messages. Voicemail and text. Vi, Zari, Hal, and Douglas. I went to his texts. There were four of them.
5:11pm, about twenty minutes after he left: Seb im sorry im rly sorry.
7:33pm: Sebastian, i dont expect any replies but just wanted 2 say i really am truly sorry.
8:28: I wish I could go back and change things. Plz know id do anything to change that dumb mistake.
And finally at 11:43: I love you.
I tossed my phone back onto the couch then rubbed my forehead. I’d do anything to go back and change it, too. But I couldn’t. Neither could he.
I grabbed my phone and texted him. You can’t change the past. That’s all I said and then I sat down on the couch, waiting for a reply. It didn’t take long. But we can fix the future…
I sighed, the phone slipping out of my hand again. I needed advice, but who to go to? Zari would want to beat him up. Vi would want to to kill him. Hal would want… But I guess it doesn’t matter what anyone else would want. I rubbed my forehead again, my head pounding. It just matters what I want.
My phone chirped from a text. Douglas again. I can’t fight it anymore. I ran away from you once, I can’t do it again. I was angry that he said that, since it made me almost smile. Then even worse was the next message he sent: It may not be Paris, but we’ll always have the beach?
Stupid Douglas. I texted back. Stop texting me. I’m still angry. I’m turning my phone off now so don’t expect any more texts. But I didn’t turn my phone off. I sat and waited to see if he’d reply. As the seconds turned to a full minute then kept going towards a second minute, I grew really mad that he wasn’t texting me. And then…
I really do love you, Seb. With all my heart.
I didn’t reply. I just lay back on the couch and closed my eyes, stewing in anger till I drifted off to sleep.
I love him. I don’t want to lose him. But he cheated on me. Once. A regret. He didn’t have to tell me. He wouldn’t do it again… he does love me. But how can he love me if he did something like that? Does sex not mean anything special to him? He was drunk. He loves me. He didn’t have to tell me.
“He did what now?” Hal asked, looking rather suspiciously at me. I shrugged, paying more attention to the swirls in my water as I rotated the glass.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said, eyes really focused on the water. “He did something to hurt me. Really hurt me. I don’t want to go into detail…”
“Okay, you don’t need to,” Hal said gently. “I’ll do my best to give you advice though. So, he hurt you. Badly. And… you don’t know what to do now?”
I sat up a bit more, sliding my gaze up from my drink to his face. “He didn’t mean to hurt me. He does love me. And he didn’t have to tell me, but he wanted me to know the truth. That says something. Right?”
Hal rubbed his chin, eyes narrowed. “I guess a little. But maybe he told you just to, I dunno, gauge your reaction to him doing something like–whatever it is he did.”
I shook my head at that. “No. It’s something he really regrets doing and he’ll never do again. And I wouldn’t have found out, so there was literally no reason to tell me.”
“But you’re hurt by his actions,” Hal pointed out and I nodded miserably.
“Completely,” I moaned into the table. “The only other person I’ve ever been this mad at was myself. I just wanna grab Doug by the shoulders and shake him or something. It hurts as much as–” I stopped and then banged my face against the table. “It’s one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had. But he says he is sorry. And he didn’t have to tell me.”
“Sounds like your mind’s made up,” said Hal, very low. “Are you going to forgive him?”
“I really don’t know.” I sat up again, rubbing my nose. “Part of me wants to but part of me is scared and anger, and just wants to… I don’t know… not risk being hurt by him again.” I tilted my head far to the side, my neck muscles pulling. “I don’t know what I want. I really want to forgive him but how can I trust him again?” Now I tilted my head the other way. “I don’t know if I can.”
Hal sat still for several minutes, his eyes on the wall behind me. I could tell he was thinking but I had no idea what. Finally, after forever, he said, “I understand…” He stood up, giving me a quite serious look. “I want to continue this conversation. But I need to go do something before we… start talking really seriously. I think you should just stretch out on the couch or something and just think about things for a while. I–I need to go do something, and I’ll be back in a couple hours. Sebastian,” he said very, very seriously. “Don’t make any rash decisions you’ll later regret.”
I nodded, wondering where he had to go to all of a sudden. I felt rather abandoned by him but I just waved goodbye as he left the house. Feeling even lonelier, I grabbed my water and trudged to the living room. Don’t make any rash decisions. He was right. I shouldn’t just jump into something that I’d later regret. And I knew what I would regret.
Setting my drink down, I reached for my phone.
“Why did you tell me?”
I had texted Douglas, asking him to come over. He was at the door within minutes and now we were in the living room, the tree’s decorations seemingly mocking us as we faced each other. The cheeriness felt so wrong right now.
“I told you because I love you,” he said, holding up his hands. “You deserved the truth. The rotten, stupid, ugly truth. I didn’t want to hide anything from you.”
I rolled my eyes towards the tree. His answer annoyed me, though it was what I wanted to hear. “What does it mean to you?” I asked, reaching out to touch one of the pine branches. “Sex, I mean. Does it mean anything to you?”
He was very quiet. “Yes and no,” he finally said. “I used to think it wasn’t anything important. Just… physical desires. Until you.”
“You’re just saying that,” I muttered, tearing off one of the pine needles.
“You’re right, I am just saying it. I would show you, but I know you’d probably hit me if I kissed you. I want to show you. You mean more to me than I ever thought anyone would.” I felt him step closer so I didn’t dare turn. “I’ve done some stupid things, and I’ll probably continue doing stupid things. But I will never do what I did again.” He sniffled but I still did not look at him. “I need you, Sebastian,” he whispered.
Now I did turn and as soon as our eyes met, I was in his arms.
He wrapped his arms tightly around me, holding me against him, clinging to me as I clung to him. “I need you too,” I replied, the words coming out of mouth along with a sob so it probably sounded more like ‘Ieendodo’. But he just kept holding me, whispering my name over and over.