"I just don't understand why the whole world seems to be against me. It's like I'm not allowed to be happy, except with my music."
I was having a pity party with my therapist, Opal. Bless her heart, I know it was what she got paid to do, but she was always so patient and kind. I felt like she genuinely cared.
She leaned forward in her chair and asked, "So tell me, what would make you happy, Ashton?"
"That's easy. To have the woman I love back in my life."
"Have you talked to her recently?"
"What's stopping you from talking to her? If Brandi is no longer in your life, what else is holding you back?"
I could have given her a long list of reasons, but summed it up in one statement. "I'm afraid."
One thing I learned about therapists, is that all they do is ask questions. You end up figuring out how to solve your own problems by answering their multitude of questions. It's all just a matter of saying what you already know out loud.
I knew what Opal was going to ask next before she asked it. "What are you afraid of?"
I shifted in my seat, thinking of the answer in my head before speaking. There were so many reasons, I didn't know where to start. "I'm afraid she doesn't want to talk to me. I'm afraid she doesn't love me anymore. I'm afraid of losing her again. I'm afraid I'm going to screw shit up again. I mean stuff, sorry. I'll just screw stuff up again."
I noticed that she grinned subtly at my self-correction. Then she asked, "Do you feel like you've learned from your past mistakes?"
"Yes, I really do. But how do I convince Aubree? I mean, she was going to give me the chance to prove it to her, but then Brandi..." I groaned in frustration, as I had every time I thought of Brandi ever since I confronted her about the abortion. I didn't know it was possible to dislike someone so much. I didn't think I'd ever be able to forgive her. "What should I do? If I do talk to her, should I wait a while longer? I don't want her to think that I'm just jumping from one relationship to the next again. But I've loved her all along."
Opal laid her pen and notebook on the table beside her and removed her glasses. She suddenly appeared much less professional. Even the tone of her voice got lighter. "Then tell her. Talk to her. But try being her friend first, by getting to know each other again. Let her take the lead and don't overstep any boundaries that she sets. Don't rush anything."
Holy shit, she was actually offering advice instead of answering with another question. I thought it was good advice, but it still didn't help the fact that I was chicken shit. I knew what I wanted to do, but I had to find the courage somehow.
I decided to move on to a different topic, one that I'd been struggling with the most the past week. "Does it make me an awful person that I was kind of relieved when I found out that Brandi had a miscarriage? You know, before I found out the truth."
She put her glasses back on and picked up her notebook again. "Of course not. But why do you think that you felt relieved?"
"I guess because I knew if there wasn't a baby, there would be nothing to connect me to Brandi the rest of my life. But what really made me feel bad, was that one of my first thoughts was 'maybe I can be with Aubree again.' My baby had died, and I immediately thought of Aubree. That made me feel so guilty. It still does, actually."
"You may be surprised to know that it's perfectly normal to feel a sense of relief in a situation like yours, if the pregnancy wasn't planned. Also, it's very common to feel guilty. But you should know that nothing you thought or felt could have changed the outcome."
She was right, and I knew that. I just needed to hear it from someone who didn't feel obligated to say it to me, like Michael and the other guys.
We wrapped things up, and I left there feeling much better than I did when I arrived. I expect to go home to an empty apartment, but was pleasantly surprised to see that Calum was there. He was lying on the couch with a leg propped up on the back of it, watching television.
"Oh, hey, Calum. I didn't expect to see you."
"Yeah, I got bored."
I found irony in that. "You were bored so you came here to watch T.V. by yourself?"
He either ignored me, or he was so engrossed in whatever he was watching that he didn't hear me. I went on to my bedroom and face planted on the bed. I didn't move for a few minutes, and probably would have fallen asleep if Calum hadn't called for me. I dragged myself off of the bed and went back to the living room.
"What's up?" I asked, sitting down in the chair and propping my feet on the oversized ottoman.
Calum muted the television and turned over onto his stomach, propping himself up some with a pillow to face me. He blew a big breath through pursed lips before speaking. "I'm bored."
"Yeah, you already said that," I laughed at him for stating the obvious.
He shook his head. "No, I mean I'm bored, with Natalie. With groupies. With all that shit."
"Oh." What the fuck? That was random.
"Okay, I know I sound like a damn girl, but lately I've just been thinking how nice it would be to, I don't know, fall in love."
"You don't love Natalie?"
He snarled his nose so hard I expected him to growl. "No."
"You've been with her all this time, and you don't love her?"
Calum cocked his head to the side and asked, "Really? As if you don't know how that is. Need I remind you of - "
"Never mind," I interrupted him. "Please don't even say her name."
"Sorry. I know your situation was a little different, but still. You understand what I mean, right?"
Did I ever. "Yeah, I do. Except I am in love."
Calum sat up and threw the pillow at me. "Yeah, but you're not doing anything about it, asshole."
I so did not want to talk about my one-sided love life anymore that day. "Well, this conversation isn't about me. So, let's get back to you. Does Natalie know how you feel?"
He shrugged slightly and said, "I kind of talked to her about it. But I'm not sure she listened. You know how she is. She's so flighty and doesn't pay attention to anything for more than a few seconds. She's like a damn hyperactive dog, distracted by every little movement. Every time I try to have a serious conversation with her, she interrupts me and changes the subject like I wasn't even talking. I want to be with someone who listens and cares what I have to say. Before I left earlier, I told her I was going to spend the rest of the break with you. Well, if that's okay with you, of course."
"Of course it's okay. You don't have to ask permission. You live here, too."
It was quiet for a minute before I asked, "So, is there anyone that you've ever thought you loved, or could fall in love with." We definitely sounded like a couple of girls. It was so weird, but not exactly uncomfortable. We'd had plenty of heart to heart talks. But it was usually me carrying on about Aubree.
A grin crept up on his face. "Yeah, maybe. I mean, no, I've never been in love. But you know I always had a thing for Traci from the first time I saw her."
Traci. Good choice, Cal. "I knew it! Man, you never went back to anyone like you did her. At first I thought it was just convenient because she was always with Aubree. But you were different around her. You were yourself, you know?"
He was looking into the distance, as though he was deep in thought, and slowly nodded his agreement. "Yeah, it was different with her. I've never had anyone get to me like her. And it wasn't just the sex. I loved her sassiness, and she was so passionate about life. Like, she didn't dwell on anything negative, and she was so carefree and lived in the moment. That was cool. I wish I could be like that."
"That's how I felt when I was with Aubree. I couldn't give two fucks if the world was falling down around us, as long as we were together."
"What the fuck are we doing?"
"What do you mean?"
"We're sitting here pining over a couple of women like love sick puppies and not doing a damn thing about it." He picked up his phone, which was on the table, and started going through his contacts, I assumed. "I still have her number. I'm going to ask her what's up." He stood and headed to his room, typing while he walked.
If only I had that much confidence. But hey, if Calum and Traci started talking, maybe in a roundabout way it would lead to Aubree and me talking again. I said a silent prayer, asking God to perform a miracle for me, even though I didn't really deserve it.
Calum stayed in his room forever. I could hear him talking and laughing, and was tempted to eavesdrop, but refrained. If it was Traci who he was still talking to, then it sounded like things were going well. I crossed my fingers and hoped that it worked out. And, selfishly, I hoped that Calum would find out some things about Aubree, specifically if she was seeing anyone and if she still cared about me after everything I put her though.
I really was being such a pussy. All I had to do was ask her. I don't know why I wouldn't just do it. Even in the worst case scenario, I'd end up exactly as I already was: alone in love. Whatever happened couldn't make me feel any worse than I already felt. I sat there and stared at her name on my phone pretty much as long as Calum was in his room talking to Aubree's best friend. I'd type out a message and delete it over and over.
Finally, Calum came out, with his arms raised in victory, his phone in his hand.
I was beyond jealous. "I guess that went well?"
He did a ridiculous strut all the way to the couch and sat down in his previous spot. "Yes, I believe it did, thanks for asking."
I wanted to ask if she said anything about Aubree, or if she asked about me. But I didn't want to take away from Calum's moment. So instead, I asked, "So she's single and ready to mingle?"
He chuckled at me. "Yep. We're going to meet up when we're in her area in a few weeks. Not sure where yet, but we'll figure it out."
I gave him a tight lipped smile. I was very happy for him, but envied him terribly.
"She's not dating anyone," Calum stated.
"Yeah, you just told me that."
"No, I mean Aubree. Aubree isn't dating anyone."
My heart rate sped up a tad. "That doesn't mean she wants anything to do with me, though."
"But maybe she does. I didn't ask Traci anything about Aubree other than how she was doing. I didn't want to sound like I was digging for information. She just happened to offer that tidbit. But don't worry, I'll talk to her again soon, and I'll try to find out more."
"Nah, man, that's okay."
"She asked how you were doing, too. And she asked if everything was okay with the baby. I didn't give her specifics, because it's not my place to. But I told her you and Brandi were over for good. That's all I said. I didn't say anything about what Brandi did."
"Well, thanks. I appreciate that. I want to tell Aubree before Traci knows. I'll get around to it one day." Or maybe never. I wasn't going to hold my breath or anything, because I'd probably die.