Sunday, September 11, 2011

chapter seventeen

Sometime around one in the afternoon I wake up on the floor.  I’ve been sleeping on my side, my head tipped at a horrible angle and only part of my forehead resting on the floor.  My bottom shoulder aches from being compressed and my top shoulder from being unsupported.  I’m almost afraid to move and find out what else hurts.

I roll onto my back.  There’s a soreness in my abs like I’ve done a hundred crunches - if only throwing up could be considered exercise.  But at least I feel like I’m all cried out for the time being.  My purse is on the couch, and a short crawl brings me to my blackberry.  No pressing work emails.  The only voicemail is from Miranda.

“Hey you, calling to see if you want to have dinner tonight.  Though you might have plans with Patrick... double date?”

Oh dear God.  I can’t tell her.  She’s too delicate for my breakup - if you can even call it that.  Either way she is way too nice for any of this and it will kill her to think she set it all in motion.  Which she did, of course.  But I can’t be mad at Miranda.  So I take a deep breath and do the necessary thing.

“Hi Jane.”

“What’s wrong?”

I guess it’s obvious.  Those are the first words I’ve spoken since running Patrick off, and the first to anyone else since getting the photo.  The concern in her voice makes me a liar - I am not cried out.  I sniff once, make a little mewling sound and lose it.

“Oh my God Kristen, what happened?”

“Patrick slept with some other girl last night.”  It’s barely understandable, like one of those tests where you only have to hear half the words because your mind knows what to expect.  Everyone knows what to expect of Patrick Kane.

“That piece of shit!” she whispers sharply.  “I will fucking kill him.  Are you okay?  Where are you?”

“Home, stayed home today.”

“Did he tell you about it?  What happened?”

I think the only real way for her to understand is to see.  So I forward her the picture.  “This is what woke me up last night.”

Not since a pirate ship has such a string of swear words been uttered.  They’re under her breath, chanted like a curse made over a voodoo doll before you put it through the lawn mower.  Jane might be invoking the powers of dark magic.

“I’m coming over.”

“No, wait.  Wait please, Jane.  I need a little more time.  To just....”

“Are you laying on the floor?”


“Did you sleep there?”

“More of a nap,” I laugh through my tears.

“Kristen, no.  No.  This hurts, I know it does.  But it’s not the same.  It’s not Tyler.  It’s not two years.  It might feel that way today but you’ve only known Patrick a few days.  You liked him and it was so, so good for you honey.  He wasn’t worth it - better to find out now, right?  You will be fine.  But you can’t freeze.”

Jane is more scared than angry.  The very dark days of my post-Tyler life are fresh in her mind, all the work she did to help pull me through.  And she did, right into something new.  

No, it’s not her fault either.  Jane did a good thing, she is a strong and patient friend.  Thank God for her.  I will not call on that again so soon.

“I know,” I say, the weakness in my voice no match for the words.  “I just need a little while.”

She sighs.  “I will give you until dinner.  Then I am coming over.  Seven on the dot, I’ll bring food.  And promise me, Kris, promise please that you will go at least for a walk this afternoon.  Don’t sit in that little place you associate with everything bad and let this bring it all back, okay?  Don’t let him do that to you.”

“I promise.”  It sounds a little more believable.

“Love you,” Jane says.

“You too.”

Jon changes the topic away from my inevitable disaster, and no more is said.  I eat in silence with my stomach churning.  When the meal is finally over, Brent and Duncan are sympathetic but confused - they don’t know how to handle me when I’m serious about a girl.

“What are you going to do?” Jon asks when they’ve gone.  If he’d met Kristen, he would be squeezing my windpipe between two fingers right now while banging my head against the wall.  He would love her.  Maybe I should have done what he said and saved her for him.

I’ve been thinking about what to do.  It probably doesn’t matter, since I can’t undo last night.  So it’s worth a try.

“Ask for Kristen,” I say, holding out my phone to him.  Her work number is already ringing.

“Hello, could I speak to Kristen please?”  He watches me with those dark brown eyes, disliking his role in a play where he doesn’t know the scene.  “Oh, she is?  Yeah, I will.  Thanks.”

He ends the call.  “Working from home today.”

We sit for a moment.  I look away.

“Do you know where she lives?”

I nod.  “Went there this morning.”

“Talk to her?”

I nod again.  “Then she called the cops on me.”

“Did they come?” Slight panic from the Captain.

“No, she just reported someone suspicious.  Took them at least ten minutes to bother coming, probably just drove by.  But it got me out of there.”

The effort to keep a straight face is heroic.  Jon would murder any member of our team who got even questioned by police.  He cannot tolerate irresponsibility from people privileged enough to play at our level.  Even so... it starts with his mouth.  His lips purse, then curl, then purse again.  Finally he breaks.

“Shit, man.  That’s fucking awesome.”  And he laughs away.

I snicker along with him - it was brilliant.  She really got me good on that one - and she let me get away.  She could have waited until they were pulling up and just pointed to my face.

“She’s awesome,” I say.

I never talk like this, and Jon knows.  He knows everything about me and sometimes I think he’s the best person, besides my family, who could ever love me.  He’s like my brother, but he doesn’t have to be.  He’s better than me.  The tone of my voice brings him back to the problem at hand.

“And you’re a complete fuck-up.”  He pauses.  “So go get her.”

On the way to her house, I try not to think of what to say.  Chances are she won’t talk to me anyway, and wasted words feel heavier for not having been spoken.  Plus, in my mind her voice is always forgiving.  It always wants to put this right.  Why on Earth would real Kristen want that?

Her doorbell goes unanswered.  Either she’s ignoring me or she went out.  I get into the driver’s seat of my truck at the curb and wait for the cops to come.

Twenty-five minutes later, as I’m thinking about giving up, I see her turn the corner two blocks away.  My heart stops.  I don’t want to scare her so I get and lean against the car it in a non-threatening way.  I don’t want to get punched like she did to the last asshole who cheated on her.

Her step falters when she sees me.  I bite my lip to keep from breaking down.  If she wants to get away she can.  There was a time, in a funny romantic story about how we got together, when she ran and I followed.  Twice.  But now I promise myself I will leave the moment she asks.

After a pause, Kristen keeps walking toward me.  She’s wearing the same sweats as before, holding a coffee cup in one hand.  Sunglasses cover her eyes despite the overcast sky and I know she’s been crying.

Of course she has.  Her boyfriend is a dick.

She stops ten feet away, nothing to back against this time.

“Don’t call the cops?” I try to break the ice.

Kristen pushes her glasses up into her hair.  The delicate skin around her eyes is swollen and I see the effect of my work.  She wants me to see it.

“Nah.  Next time I’ll call the newspaper.  Juicy story gets ‘em here faster than a Peeping Tom.”  Her voice is tight and clipped, she sips from her cup.

“Do you want to talk here?”

The street isn’t busy, but it is about two in the afternoon.  People will likely happen by and I’d rather they not see me like this.  But it’s up to her.

“I don’t want to talk at all,” she says flatly.

“Just listen then.  Please?”

Her eyes narrow as she considers me.  I am not worth her time, but I’m asking for it.  I’m not worth her breath or her thoughts but I must have them.

“I need you,” I say.  It’s a pretty flagrant foul right now but it’s true.

She looks away, disgusted, but heads for the passenger side of my car.

Patrick is waiting outside my building.  Of course he is.  I’m in some kind of movie - either a romantic drama or a slasher flick, the end hasn’t been written yet.  His posture is slumped against the side of his truck, but he wears clean jeans and a plain black t-shirt.

I could run.  I don’t think he’d follow me this time.  But that nagging need to find out what happens next, to skip to the close of the chapter and I can hopefully end this story and find a new one, pulls strongly.  So I follow it up the street toward him.

Now I’m getting into his car.  Definitely a slasher movie.

I don’t buckle in, and Patrick carefully watches and does the same.

“Here?” he asks, like he’d rather leave.  Of course he would: captive audience.

“I’m not going anywhere with you.”  

My voice is so harsh that I recognize it as the same one I used on Tyler.  It’s a little rusty for having been packed away four months.  Patrick sighs and turns toward me in the big, comfy front seat of his SUV.

“Kristen, I’m so sorry.  I went out with two of the guys last night and got really drunk.  I haven’t been drinking this past month and my tolerance is way down - I didn’t notice till too late.

“But that is no excuse.  I wish I remembered that girl coming up to me, Duncan said it was like she knew me.  Well, she does.  They said that we left and they left and that was it.  I remember waking up this morning barely in time to puke my brains out and realize I didn’t know where I was.”

Every word is like a punch to the gut.  I just stare out the windshield at the same street I’ve lived on since the last time this happened to me.  Except Tyler didn’t bother to explain and I wouldn’t have listened.  Maybe that means something?  I push the thought away.

“I...,” he hesitates.  “I know you know about me.  About what I’ve been like.  But I don’t like that person.  I don’t want to be him anymore and I obviously can’t do it on my own.  I fucked up and I’m so, so sorry.  You hate me now and you should hate me - I know what happened to you too.  I said I wouldn’t do that and I lied.”

“Try,” I say before I even realize I’m speaking.


“You said,” I stop to clear my throat,” you said you would try.  I wouldn’t let you promise.”


Here’s the part where he’s off the hook.  If he didn’t promise, then he didn’t really break a promise and this isn’t really so bad.  We’re still over, and I’d still like to kick him in the balls, but it all gets scaled back a notch.  Except that he doesn’t take the out.

“Well I meant it, even if I didn’t promise.  I hate myself for hurting you.”

I’m so surprised I look at him.  I don’t want to look at him, it makes me weak.  It makes me want.  It makes me think that we can get through this and move past and I could maybe really help him... stop.  Stop.  I thought the same thing with Tyler when I forgave his first affair.  All that bought me was a wasted year until I got hit again.

Patrick has tears in his eyes.  I swear to God I’m going to die.  He looks like a puppy who knows he ruined that amazing looking dessert when he pulled it right off the table and gobbled up the whole thing.  He didn’t think.  He just acted.  And now the only thing he feels more than sick is sorry.

“That girl,” he says and my stomach flips like a pancake.  That girl will be the first life I take.

“I deserved it, I guess.  The whole thing, from her.  I want to kill her, but she probably wanted to kill me after the park.”  His voice is quiet.

“It was me too,” I admit.  I hadn’t meant to talk and here I am doing it again.  “I always said I would never hate the girl.  I didn’t hate the ones Tyler fucked - even if they knew about me, they didn’t owe me anything.  But this girl knew and she did it for spite.  I think it’s okay to want to kill her.”

There’s a long silence, Patrick looking at me and me looking away.  Pain radiates off him like heat and his regret is palpable.  He didn’t mean to do this.

“Kristen, I’m crazy about you. I don’t deserve any of the things you’ve given me so far.  And I don’t deserve your forgiveness.  But if there’s any way....” He reaches out to touch me over the console, his hand so close to mine.

I get out of the car.  I shut the door, I walk inside and I don’t look back.


  1. Oh thank goodness, a quick update! This is really fantastic writing--I think you've captured the pain and regret and heartache on both sides of something like this. Can't wait to see whether this turns out to be a romantic comedy or slasher flick!

  2. I'm so torn I don't want her to forgive him but I love them together so much. I love who he is with her. Please update soon

  3. I just can't get enough of this story, you're such a talented writer. Can't wait for the next update!

  4. I think she's handling this the best way anyone could, being big enough to hear him out but not immediately forgiving him. I was glad there was a quick update! Can't wait to read the next one.

  5. Whew all caught up - amazing :)