After Mrs. Funar’s attack, things grew uneasy between me and Davy. The morning after had been really bad. Max came back with the news Mrs. Funar had died (“heart attack”), and refused to let me tell Davy he and Mr. Fluffy were one and the same. So when Davy found out that whatever I intended to tell her about Max couldn’t be said, she threw another fit and accused me of hiding things once more which okay now I was hiding things but it wasn’t really my decision. I couldn’t betray Max, could I? I figured sooner or later he’d come around and let her know.
When Mrs. Gilbert called to let Davina know about ‘Poor Mrs. Funar’… man, things went downhill. Davy grew depressed, blaming me for the passing away of the ‘confused old lady’. Poor and confused my foot. She had tried to kill me. I pointed this out and Davy just cried, begging me to shut up. Begging me not to talk about the incident anymore.
“It’s in the past, as far as I’m concerned,” she told me stiffly.
September turned into October and we both spent a lot more time with our studies and our friends than we did with each other. I talked to Noah a little bit, unable to really go into details. I should tell him too, I realized and so shortly before Halloween I did. I broke down and told Noah pretty much everything, including why Davy and I hadn’t been seeming too close for the past month.
“Aw, man,” he said, rubbing his chin. “I mean, I get why she’s mad if you hid it from her. But it’s not like, your fault the old lady attacked you. It’s been a month?”
“Yep,” I sighed, slumping back in the chair. “A friggin’ month and she still sometimes glares at me. Half the time I’m sleeping downstairs on the floor in a sleeping bag.”
Noah shook his head. “You can stay here if you need to.”
“Thanks, but I think that’ll just make things worse.” I raked my fingers through my hair then covered my face with my hands. “I love her, Noah. I do. I just… I’m scared this is gonna mess things up. I’m scared I messed things up.”
“Have you told her?”
“Yes!” I got up and went to the wall, giving it a little bit of a punch, not enough to even hurt my knuckles. “I’ve told her that and she keeps saying she knows, she understands, she loves me too–but then after a while she starts giving me these weird looks, and she’s always asking about Max now.”
“That he can shapeshift into a cat?” Noah inquired. I froze, completely taken aback by this since I hadn’t told him. I made a few confused sounds and Noah began laughing. “Dude, we lived together three years! I’ve known for about two of them now. I just didn’t say anything since I figured it wasn’t my business.”
I thought about several different responses then settled on, “Yeah. She knows something is up with Max, but Max doesn’t want her to know so… I mean, either I lie to the woman I love or betray the–one of my best friends. I–I don’t like this. I’m being forced to choose between two people, two of the people I care about most in this world.”
Noah rubbed his chin. “Which one… would you rather hurt?”
“NEITHER OF THEM!” I shouted. “Sorry. I–I’m sorry, I just. Neither of them. But I’m going to have to. And it sucks.”
“Dude, I don’t know what to tell you,” he said, shrugging nonchalantly. “It does suck. But. You’re going to have to make your choice.”
I had to, I had to hurt one of them. And I needed to make my decision now because putting it off longer would just cause more tension between me and Davy and Watcher knew there was already plenty of that. So, which one will it be…?
Davina looked like she might bury me. She didn’t speak for a long time then finally let out a slow, controlled breath. “So, you just… won’t tell me. About Max.”
“It’s not my place to tell!” I protested in distress. “It’s Max’s secret. Not mine. I don’t want there to be lies between us but this is his–“
“Fine, fine. I get it. I do,” she said in a tone that clearly stated she didn’t. “So. Anything else? Anything else you can or… can’t tell me?”
My eyebrows and lips went down at that. “Hon, I’m trying to make things better. I know I screwed up royally but I want to make things better. I want us to go back to how we were before. How we… should be…”
“And how is it we should be?” she asked softly. “Happy? Financially stable?” She stormed down the stairs and I followed, suspecting if I didn’t she’d get even angrier. She went to the end table by the door and yanked open the draw, holding up several envelopes. “How are we going to pay these? And look at the house.” She waved the envelopes around. “The bathrooms are disgusting, we haven’t done laundry in ages, the sink and counters are awful, the trash compactor is full–“
“I’ll clean things,” I said, feeling my blood pressure rising from the stress.
“When? We’ve barely had time for anything since the semester started, with our jobs and–and everything else and–we can barely afford this place anymore and I just–I just–” She broke down into sobs, soaking the bills.
I went over and took the paper from her hands then tugged her into my arms. She sobbed into my chest now and I rubbed her back, not knowing what to do. When would I have time to clean? And the bills, I knew we could pay some of them but not all. Our part-time jobs couldn’t cover them plus our rent and everything else. We had been struggling, true. During the summer even when we both worked more hours we had been working a lot to pay the hospital bill for the abortion and as soon as we got that paid off, fall semester started and we had less time to work. We had rent, bills, groceries, gas… not to mention all our text books were extremely expensive and had cost us a lot of simoleons, since neither of our families were paying for them.
“We’ll cut back and get the bills paid, don’t worry,” I said.
“Cut back on what?!” she demanded, yanking away from me. Then she got this weird look frozen on her face. “I know something that would help us financially. But you won’t like it. But I think it would be best.”
“What is it?” I asked, figuring it wouldn’t be anything too bad.
“What if your family took back Mr. Fluffy?” she asked.
I just blinked at those words. “No. I–I can’t–and the cat food isn’t that expensive!” I said, not liking this sudden thought of hers.
“His flea medicine cost a lot,” she pointed out with a loud sniffle.
“Th-that’s true but–I can’t just get rid of Mr. Fluffy,” I said, trying not to sound whiny.
“We have to do something–“
“Look, we can cut back on food!” I went to the fridge and opened the door, giving the meager contents a once-over. “We can eat ramen more often. Ramen is cheap. And–and cut back on the pop, drink more water. We should, anyway. It’s healthier. We can shower together, that’ll save on water and stuff, and if we can’t I’ll start taking lukewarm showers instead of hot showers, or even cold showers–“
“All that would help but look at this.” She opened one of the envelopes from where I had set them down and shoved the bill in my face. “That’s pretty much my entire paycheck from last week. This one… this one is another week. This one is both our paychecks combined. We can’t go on like this. What are we even doing? We have grades to worry about, classes to worry about–we have to study! I. I have to study!” She let the bills fall to the floor like broken balloons. “All I could think about last night was the fucking phone bill. I have a test on Thursday, an important exam, but I just kept reading the same line over and over worrying about the phone bill!”
I took her hands gently but she pulled furiously away. “We’ll figure something out.”
“I keep thinking about the–the abortion. About how selfish it feels to be so happy I got it. Because look at us!” She gave a crazy sounding laugh. “We can barely afford a cat! One of us would have had to drop out if we had kept the baby and it would have been me, because one more year of getting a physical education degree is a helluva lot cheaper than a law degree and–and–“
I strode towards her, kissing her hard. She started to pull away but then pressed forward, kissing back. We held onto each other desperately, kissing harder and harder. We stumbled back towards the couch and fell down, removing our shirts and I started to go for her shorts when she grabbed my hands. “What we we doing?” she whispered, pressing her forehead against mine. “Sex can’t fix this.”
“I thought it might help relieve your stress a bit,” I admitted awkwardly.
She pushed me off of her and got up, rebuttoning her jeans. “I need to study. I should clean. But I have to study.”
“I’ll clean,” I promised.
“I thought you needed to finish that one essay.”
I tossed her shirt to her and then picked up mine. “I’ll finish it tomorrow…” Though it was due in two days, and I had barely touched it. And I had to work the next day… Maybe I could call off. Except that would make the money problems worse. I’d just have to stay up tonight and work on it. But that meant no sleeping potion and therefore most likely those supernaturally sent nightmares… I sighed, pulling my shirt on and then going to look for the cleaning supplies while Davy went upstairs to study.
The next few weeks were horrible. I barely got any sleep, ran more on caffeine than ever before, got in trouble constantly for falling asleep in class, and sold several of my video games and my game system so we could pay bills only to have November’s bills rear their ugly heads demanding our paychecks. We did pretty much live on ramen. Even Max, who ate less kitty food and more ramen when Davy wasn’t around until she demanded to know how I could go through so many packages a day, then he returned to kitty food even though he preferred human food.
He made it clear that he worried about me, but what could I do? Davy and I could either break our backs working, studying, and cleaning… or else move back in with Noah, Lumie, Noah’s girlfriend, and Lumie’s possible-boyfriend-not-sure-grey-area. No room there for another three people or even two people and a cat. I tried to make ends meet by posing for art class but when Davy found out she pitched a fit about me being naked around a bunch of strangers. Sooooo instead, I donated blood to the point of being weak and dizzy.
Max did help clean sometimes but he was terrible at it and usually made more of a mess, so all he really could do was take out trash and put away dishes.
I began to fall behind in my classes so I focused more on them but then the housecleaning started falling behind. At one point I snapped at Davy for barely doing any cleaning and it resulted in a major fight between us about how she spent her time studying to become a lawyer and how much more important a lawyer was compared to a P.E. teacher and how she was sorry but she did do the dishes two nights ago. I called her a snob. She called me a liar for not telling her about the supernatural thing before.
“Oh, THIS again?!” I yelled. “You gonna bring it up every time–“
“Yeah, I’ll bring it up, it’s a BIG lie, you kept a HUGE thing from me–“
“I’ve said I’m sorry HOW many times?! You can’t keep crucifying me over this–“
“YOU LIED TO ME!”
“I DO MOST THE WORK AROUND HERE!” I pointed to the light bruises on my arm. “I’m GIVING BLOOD to help pay bills the least you can do is do the dishes more than once a week, and maybe wipe down the toilet once in a while–“
“I MAKE DINNER ALL THE TIME!”
“BIG WHOOP THROWING NOODLES INTO BOILING WATER, TAKES FIVE MINUTES AT MOST AND I FIX MY OWN BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES!”
On and on we went until she stormed upstairs and I had to sleep on the tiny couch. No. Thank. You. I took Max and left the house, going to Noah and Lumie’s place to sleep on their couch since at least I could mostly fit on it. At three in the morning Davy called me, demanding to know where I had gone. I tried not to get into another shouting match since everyone else slept, but we did argue for a good half hour before I hung up on her and tried to go back to sleep–and failing. I wound up falling asleep in my first class and barely being able to focus during my job, causing quite a few mix-ups and getting a severe warning from my manager. I stormed home and told Davy if she didn’t want to share the bed with me, she could sleep on the couch. I then went upstairs, ignoring all the work I needed to do and instead taking a sleeping potion and slept for a good ten hours.
Our fights became more and more frequent the closer we got to finals. The house became a mess again and we pretty much lived on sandwiches, or cheese and crackers, or whatever we could get cheap that didn’t take any time to cook. We didn’t eat our food together anymore either. She often sat at the table to study while she ate and I stretched out on the couch to watch TV while I ate. She constantly snarled at me to turn the TV down and I politely told her she could go upstairs to study if she so desired.
We tried to make things work out. We did. But our relationship just spiraled down no matter how hard we tried. I brought her flowers, she told me I could water them. She brought me some chocolates and I told her she could eat them. We had sex for the last time at the end of November and neither of us got any enjoyment from it.
I think I knew then, but it still came as a hurtful shock when Davy approached me in very early December and said, “What are we doing?”
“I was going to get some popcorn and–“
“No. Not–I don’t mean that,” she sighed. “I mean us. Zaid. Summer was wonderful but since our classes started–look what’s happened to us?” She spread her hands out. “We’re fighting all the time or else we don’t talk.” She stepped closer to me and kissed me, pressing her lips against mine for several seconds before pulling away. “What do you feel, Zaid? When we kiss?”
“I don’t know,” I mumbled, not wanting to say it.
“Do you love me? Honestly.”
I turned around, my stomach churning with a sharp, acidic feeling. “Watcher. Davy. We have so much to do right now and you–“
“BecauseIdontknowifIloveyou. Any… more…” The words hit me hard, slicing into me like a dull blade. I swallowed, trying not to throw up. “I did love you, once. Last year. Last spring. This summer. This summer, oh this summer. But… look what happened.” I felt her fingers against my arm. “Look at me. And tell me.”
Now I faced her once again. Her blue eyes bore holes into mine and I had to answer. But what did I answer? “Davina.” I took her hands, bringing them up to my lips. “Davina. I don’t know.”
Her lips twitched a bit and she nodded. “Is an ‘I don’t know’ good enough for this? Because I don’t know either. And I don’t know if I have the energy… or desire to continue on. Do you? Honest? Because I still have a couple more years to go through. And you’ll be trying to find a job. And…” She burst into tears at that, hunching her shoulders. “I wanted us to work, I did! I swear I did! But I don’t think I love you anymore and you can hate me all you want for it but we can’t keep this going, we can’t, we c-c-c-caa-a-annn’t!”
My hands raised to hug her but then I backed away. “I wanted us to work too.”
“We shouldn’t have gotten married,” she said through her sniffles.
I now hugged myself and looked out the window, at the snow drifting down. “No. We shouldn’t have.”
“I loved you, when we married.”
“I loved you too. I truly did.” I reached up and began drawing little designs on the windowpane. “We rushed into it though. We panicked. Jumped in.” I scraped my fingernails along the glass. “We screwed up.”
“We should get a divorce.”
It hurt so much, despite knowing that our short marriage had been failing for a while it really hurt. I closed my eyes tightly, clenching my jaw, trying not to make a snap decision–whether begging her to let us keep trying, or agreeing to the separation.
“You know it’s true. What are we going to do? Keep struggling? Keep fighting? Keep up this–this energy-sucking atmosphere?!” She came up behind me, grabbing hold and spinning me. “I can’t do it. We made a mistake and we have to try and fix it while we can. And staying married… that’s not going make anything better!”
“No. It won’t.” I took her hands, pushing them off of me. “We can’t make it work.” She waited and I released her hands, looking down at my wedding ring. I pressed my left thumb against it and gave it a little push to spin it around my finger.
Because of finals we didn’t have time to do anything until afterwards. Then we filed for divorce and began our separation period. She lived in the house while I moved back in with Noah and Lumie. Because of room shuffling, I now had the smallest room and spend my time curled up in the tiny single bed, petting Max and wondering how the hell things came to this. I ran through the summer over and over and over. I had thought I loved her, and I did… didn’t I? Maybe just not as strongly as I thought. I had proposed because of the pregnancy and married because of the pregnancy.
“And I lied to her,” I whispered to Max one night. “I did. Most the blame lays on my shoulders, and I know that.” I bent down, pressing my face into his fur and crying as he began desperately licking at my cheeks. I clung to him tightly and cried for a long time that night. I didn’t want the fault to be with me and I knew not all of it lay with me but I had fucked up big time.
Christmas didn’t hold any cheer for me. I hadn’t told my family (besides Lumie) about the divorce so when I came home without Davina it came to a surprise to everyone. I told them a bit about the reasons behind our divorce, although not everything. I certainly kept back the pregnancy. Presea and Gladdy gave me big hugs and promised to give me all the emotional support they could during this. Pa frowned but then assured me it’d be okay. Later Dad took me aside to talk about it further and told me, privately, he was glad I wasn’t trying to force something that wouldn’t work.
Despite the support the holiday dragged on and I grew more and more depressed, especially when Vilkas and his pregnant wife showed up for the day. I tried not to feel bitter jealousy but I couldn’t help it and just spent my time avoiding them when I could.
Because I just felt so miserable I returned to Redbloom the day after Christmas. Noah wasn’t there since he had gone home for a week, so Max and I had the house to ourselves. We ate pizza most nights, watched movies until dawn broke, and Max said nothing about the fact I spent a lot of the time drunk. When Noah came back we got drunk together though I usually drank a bit more than him and always wound up crying into his shoulder. I accidentally let spill one night about the pregnancy and abortion but Noah just comforted me as best he could and didn’t say anything–not even a ‘I knew it’. He just pat my back and brought me a wet washcloth after I vomited into the kitchen sink.
My final semester started but went slowly, probably since I just wanted this to be over with. I was sick of college, sick of Redbloom, sick of classes, sick of everything except for Max and Noah. Even Lumie got on my nerves since she blamed me for the divorce. She didn’t mean to, it sat in her subconscious and she apologized for unintentionally thinking it but it still annoyed me to the point of wanting to avoid her. Barriers up, and not many spoken words. That is until she got her heart broken by some jerk she had been dating.
Lumie hadn’t been dating a whole lot in college but finally, slowly entered the dating world. For a few months she had been seeing this one guy on and off and at the end of January, just after she and I turned twenty-two, she agreed to make things official with him. Annnnd just before Valentine’s Day she caught him in bed with another girl.
That night she took a bottle of beer from the fridge and drank through it very quickly, and then a second, and a third. I joined her and it turned out she became the same type of drunk I did: the sobs-about-everything type. We bawled our eyes out over our problems for a long time before passing out and in the morning, I forgave her for all the things her subconscious had said since I knew she couldn’t control her subconscious any better than I could mine.
Shortly thereafter my divorce was finalized and Lumie and I swore off dating vehemently. No more girls for me until after gradation, no more guys for her for probably longer (so she claimed). When Noah got dumped he joined our hating-dating group and we continued on through our final semester.
I didn’t see Davy around much as she had classes elsewhere but one day I did see her. The sun shone down, the sky spread endlessly above in a blue expanse, and the birds seemed to be concocting a symphony. It had been a pretty good day. I actually whistled a little tune as I headed towards my class and then I spotted her and froze in my tracks. We hadn’t seen each other since the divorce hearing, which had been in February and now it was April. At first she didn’t see me but when she did she stopped in her tracks too.
We stared at one another from opposite ends of the outer building… needing to cross paths if we intended to get where we were going, it seemed. I sucked in a deep lungful of air and began walking. Soon she did as well and when we approached one another we slowed down.
“H-hello,” she said.
“Hey.” Awkward silence. My brain jumped back to the last time we had had good sex and I began blushing, as if she could hear the moans somehow. Luckily my barriers were up so Lumie couldn’t. “How’re, uh… how’re things?”
“Good,” she said instantly then her face tightened. “You?”
“Good,” I said instantly back.
“Good. I’m glad.”
“Yeah. Me too.” More awkward silence. I cleared my throat, shifting weight to my other food. “How’s classes going? Studying, uh… studying going well?”
“Yes.” She straightened up a bit, shoulders going back as if she expected something to happen. “Yours? Are they going well?”
“Pretty good. Be glad when it’s over though,” I said and a faint smile crossed her face. “Are you still, um, living in uh, in… in uh…”
“No. I’ve moved out,” she answered. “I’m living in an apartment now with two other law students. You’re in that house with your sister? And Noah?”
“Yep. And Max,” I added without thinking then regretted it as her lips formed a thin line. Oops. “Uh. Um. I better go. I uh–“
And off we went to our classes, and I didn’t see her again before graduation rolled around. I doubted I’d ever see her again, really. While a part of me still felt anger that she never seemed to understand Max’s secret wasn’t mine to share, I felt sad that I’d probably not see her again since I did like her. Sometimes I even missed her as a wife. I still had my wedding ring; I kept it in the bedside table drawer even though Max kept telling me to just get rid of it. I tried, just before I graduated. I held it over the trash can then put it back in my drawer deciding one day I’d just sell it and use the money to buy a crap ton of tuna for Max.
“Cheeeeeeeeseee!!!” Lumie, Noah, and I all drew out, arms around one another as my pa took a photo of us in our graduation robes.
I took photos with just Noah, ones with just Lumie, ones with my dads, ones with Grams, and of course ones with Max.
The ceremony had been over for a good while and all of us were back at the house to celebrate. Even though my mood had been pretty low for a while I couldn’t help but grin, feeling excited I managed to do this–I graduated college! Okay maybe at the bottom of my class and with the lowest grades out of my other college graduate siblings but still I didn’t care. I graduated. I had done it. I wanted to get this diploma, and I did. I felt very proud of myself!
I poked at my food, thinking about the past four years. I thought about losing my virginity with Zoe. My months with Lucja. And my time with Davy. Married and divorced before graduation didn’t seem to be the start of a good record but it could have been worse. At least nobody tried to kill me, except for the one attack. Four years and only one attack. Would it get bad again going to Midnight Hollow? I hoped for another year at least before things got bad again. I hoped to find a job. Find a place to live–the first plan upon returning, naturally. Find a place for me, Max, and possibly a third to live in (because unless it was a tiny, cramped apartment I doubted I could afford a place of my own). I wished Noah lived in Midnight Hollow. He talked about moving there sometimes but he’d be living in his hometown of Twinbrook for a while longer.
Maybe Clay’d move in?
In any case, I had a lot ahead of me. The past four years had been a break. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. I learned a lot–and not meaning what I learned in the classes–and dealt with more I ever imagined I’d deal with. But I survived, somehow.
And I really hoped I could say the same in another four years, wherever my path took me.