See my face; hear your voice in the dark.
She was tired of the routine that had taken over her life for the last few days. Everything was flavorless, from the orange juice she drank in the morning to the flat water from the water fountain outside her office at work to the tequila that she downed in shot glasses at 11 p.m. God, she couldn’t feel any more numb—even the hangovers she always had in the morning weren’t painful anymore. At least it made her feel something, anything.
God, she missed him so, so much.
She hated crying herself to sleep at night. It made her pillows wet, and she hated sleeping on wet pillows. So she stayed up as late as she could, hoping that the alcohol could make her stop. She never stopped. She never stopped remembering his eyes that night, the way he shook in her arms, the long way home…
Tonight, she couldn’t drink the alcohol. She had already set out the shot glasses. They were ready for her, laughing at her, as if they were saying, “Come and get us if you dare! You will drink yourself into oblivion eventually.” She had a bottle of chilled vodka in her trembling hand. She had already poured some into three of the glasses. Now all she had to do was to drink them and to keep on going until it was New Year's. Maybe then she could start over. But she just couldn’t put the damn bottle down.
Of course I can, she thought. She wouldn’t drink.
She put the bottle away and sat at her kitchen counter, staring at the vodka blankly. Then the phone rang. She started, nearly pushing all the cups off the edge of the counter, and reached for her phone. “Hello?”
“You left your purse at my place,” his voice said.
She had to take a breath before she could do anything. She couldn’t start imagining his face again—she had ended up in tears in the middle of the day the last time she thought she saw his eyes as she stalked the streets of New York City. She could pull through this. She would.
“I’m sorry.” So that was why her favorite tube of lipstick had been strangely missing. “I can… come pick it up during one of my lunch breaks.”
It sounded like he was in the car from the background static. “No, it’s okay. I can drop it off.” Why did his voice sound so flat?
She resisted the lump in her throat. “No, it’s okay. I can survive without it. Don’t waste your time.”
She wasn’t sure how to respond, so she kept silent for a second. Then, she said, “I’ll come over. Please. Let me get it myself.”
He took a breath and let out slowly. “If you insist.”
The static on the phone was deafening. She reached for one of her shot glasses now. Still, she couldn’t down it, not like this. Not with him listening to every sound she made. She set it back down. “Are you back?”
“I’m driving home right now,” he said.
“Your work isn’t going to be disrupted?” She cursed herself the moment she said it. Why would he care if he missed any work? It was his mother, after all. What in the world was she thinking?
That was the problem. She hadn’t been thinking at all these past few days.
As if he heard her thoughts, he responded, “It’ll be okay.” And he stopped, like he hoped the silence would speak for him.
He sighed. It absolutely broke her heart. She clutched at her phone as she leaned her elbows on the surface of the countertop. Finally, he said, “She’s sleeping. Still.”
And from the sound of it, she was afraid that both he and his brother would never wake up from their nightmares. “I… wish I could be there. With your family.”
He sighed again, this time with something else in his voice. Was it wistfulness? She shook her head. She couldn’t live if she kept hoping like this. “Hailey…”
“No, we can’t.”
There was silence. In the background, there was something playing. It sounded like one of his favorite alternative bands with the low, rumbling strums of the guitar embedded in the vocals. She wanted to be next to him in the car… maybe she could stop feeling so empty.
“Can you at least think about it?” he asked.
The silence came back again. She couldn’t bear it, not like this. So, with shaking hands, she pressed the “end call” button.
Then she dropped her phone on top of the shot glasses, spilling alcohol all over the counter, and let her tears fall into her hands helplessly.
It took her forever to clean up the mess. Next time she wanted to drop her phone, she would make sure it wasn’t going to fall on some glasses filled to the brim with expensive alcohol. She placed away the cups in her sink and sighed. Maybe she should call it a night and head to bed.
Immediately, her vision blurred, and she fell down to her knees, her head in her arms. She couldn’t do this. Why was she trying to pretend? Of course she couldn’t do it. All she really needed was to see him, him and his stupid green eyes. She wanted him to hold her, like he did that night in the woods, like he loved her.
What was love now? It had to be simply infatuation, delightful when it was mutual between two parties. But that wasn’t all of it. It couldn’t cover everything that she’d felt when she was with him. It had to be the fuzzy feeling in her chest she got every time she looked at him. It was the way she lost her mind whenever she spent too much time with him. It was the ache all over her body when she didn’t see him.
She had to say it. She still loved him. She loved him too much.
The fact that she couldn’t get over a relationship that she herself had broken didn't hurt too much. What hurt her the most was reality. In reality, nothing lasted, whether they had vowed it would or not. In reality, everything ended eventually, and she would have to hold the pieces of her shattered heart every single time she had to walk away.
He must not love her now.
Again, for the tenth time that day, her tears won out.
She stayed huddled on the ground next to her sink for a while until her calves began to feel numb. She stood up. Her hair was a mess, and her makeup was probably nothing short of an artistic nightmare, even in abstract art. She needed sleep now, even if she had to force herself to pretend, just for one more night.
Her eyes remained wide open even though she had been settled in her bed for hours already. She was going to be so tired the next morning. At least she had gotten enough sleep last night, even if she had drank herself into a stupor. Her boss wouldn’t care. No one cared.
Next to her on the nightstand, her phone pinged. A text. She hoped it wasn’t his. She had had enough tears for a long, long time.
Hey. Are you all right?
Her brother. She had neglected him and his family for so long. Suddenly, she wanted to see Vincent and his wide brown eyes again. She wanted to see Allison, her little niece, who had just started speaking her childish gibberish which only Vincent could understand. And Mark, her brother, and Maddi, his wife… they had helped to push her through all her difficulties—college, loans, rent money…
She typed back, I’ll be okay.
All right. Come over for New Year's? The kids miss you.
She hesitated. I don’t know if I can make it.
She couldn’t let the little ones see her like this. She was an aunt. She was their supporter. She was a babysitter, a best friend, and a second mother all in one. She wasn’t supposed to be a mess.
Her phone pinged again. All right. The offer still stands, though. Good night.
Good night, she wrote back.
She put the phone back on her nightstand and closed her eyes. She could not keep living like this. This was something out of the movies. She was in reality, where she had few to no friends, a very close relationship with her brother, and a jumble of feelings in her heart regarding him. She would get her head back in the game. She had to.
Headlights broke through the darkness of her room. She sat up in her bed, eyes squinting as she tried to see the driver. It was too dark for her to see for sure. But she knew that she had not mistaken the dark hair and bright eyes.
The car paused, as if the driver was making a decision. Then it drove on into the night, its taillights fading into oblivion.
She collapsed back into her bed. She hoped too much.
Almost automatically, her arms reached out toward her open window, which only showed the bend in the road and the trees around it. No one was awake now, at least in her quiet New Jersey neighborhood so close yet so far away from the city at the same time. She wished someone was there, whether it was one of the deer families that frequented her front yard so often or one of the vagrant black cats. But no one was there.
The driver looked so, so familiar. Calvin…
Oh, God, her heart would kill her one day.
Calvin, Calvin, Calvin, it will all be okay. Come back to me, she called out in her mind. Come back to me; chase me down in the pouring rain. Convince me that we're meant to be together. I'll be here, always.
Out loud, she said, “Why did you let me go, Calvin? Why?” Another tear slipped down her cheek.
Bring the purse to me, Calvin, she thought. Ignore everything I ever said to you. Don't you know that my brain never functions correctly when it comes to you? It was all a lie. Call me again and demand the truth from me. And I'll tell you. This time I won't hesitate.
After a while, her tiredness sank in. She turned her head to look at the clock. It was already 2:00 a.m. She had to get up at 6:00 a.m. She had to sleep now; no excuses.
She fell asleep with his face in her mind.
Hailey, I feel you too! So yes, this is a messy chapter, mostly because emotions are messy and so am I right now. Hang on tight; next chapter we'll see some actual action!
I edit my stuff sometimes; don't worry.
Calvin loves you too.