Eating Our Hearts Out

"If I'm sick of being a victim, but not cut out to be a hero, what does that make me?"

Scotty Matthews is an alcoholic- he’s used to waking up miles away from his university campus with no memories to explain where he was or who he was with. As he tries to recover from one night of drinking, though, he realises he doesn’t feel quite right. He has nightmares he can’t explain, sickness he can’t suppress, anger he can’t control, and- worst of all- hunger he can’t satisfy.

Scotty needs to know what happened to him that night, but he only has two leads- a neck wound that probably came from a broken bottle, and a vague image of a girl, taken from a dream and friends who aren’t sure what they saw. Scotty tries to convince himself she was just another drunk student at a party, but he’s soon forced to accept the far darker truth. Not only is she a monster- she’s turned him into a monster too.

And if he wants to get his symptoms under control, he’s going to need her help.

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Author's note

Hello!
This is a little trigger warning. "Eating Our Hearts Out" is a vampire story, but there isn't any sparkling or ballroom dancing, and the violence goes a HECK of a lot farther than a bit of vanilla stalking. This story is packed with blood, guts, violence, pitch-black humour and an unhealthy amount of cannibalism alongside themes of alcoholism and drug addiction. Also, both my protagonists make morally questionable decisions to say the least. If you're squeamish, proceed with caution. If none of that bothers you, then please have fun reading! Jem :)
AA

18. Traitor

POINTLESS. THIS IS all pointless. These words on the blackboard- they mean nothing. Greg’s joking words in my ear mean nothing. These ideas of good and evil and selfish and kind and smart and dumb- what do they mean? As much as I try to justify doing the right thing, the thoughts in my head insisting I have to leave Maria mean nothing. I’ve got no reason to stay, no reason to leave. Now, I’m starting to wonder whether I’m just bored of being bored. Bored of being normal. Sweet. Good. Bored of being me. After everything that’s happened to me, I know I’m a different person. A month ago, in a shitty dugout near a river, I quit everything that made me me. I became addicted again. I quit again. No matter how hard I try to do the right thing, it always bites me on the arse. So yeah, professor, you can talk all you want about how everyone’s a victim or a villain and how the guilty always receive their just comeuppance. But I’m sorry. You’ve lost me.

I clear my throat a little too loudly, and a girl two rows in front of me turns to stare. She’s got big square glasses that inflate her eyes into a bug’s. I don’t know her, but I hate her. I shake my head to clear the pulse of scarlet and bite my lip as she turns back around. I don’t know why I suddenly feel so hateful. Maybe it’s because I’ve decided the world hates me. I’ve always clung onto being good because it’s all I’ve ever known- it was my security, my rock, the thing that got me through day after day of whatever the hell I called life with the thin promise it’d all get better. It didn’t. I’m clean, but it’s getting worse. I’m pure, but it’s getting worse. I think I’ll feel better once I start again.

I sit in the library for five hours after the lecture, waiting for the sun to set as usual- I look around, taking it all back in. This is my first time back here in three weeks. I thought I missed it, but now I’m back here, I realise I was wrong. I can’t help but marvel over how utterly disconnected I feel from my old life. From my friends, from the course, from the play, from the buildings. From the light I used to so desperately cling to. What am I still doing here? I’m not enjoying this anymore- I’m no longer the desperately alcoholic boy who hides behind his books. I’m the boy who watched a girl die and watched another girl kill and spent three weeks locked in a murderer’s bedroom, rocking off the walls and screaming and fitting and wishing he could die or kill or get high enough to forget how low he’d sunk.

I don’t belong in the life of the old Scotty Matthews.

The moment the sun goes down, I get up to leave. The sky above Glasgow’s purple like an old bruise and the sunlight’s barely even died, but it will, soon enough. On the way past the art block I look up to see Maria, throwing a glance my way as she walks past, her high-heeled footsteps clicking, her hair and long skirt blowing in the wind. There’s a long smear of white paint on her cheek and her hand’s pressed deep into the curve of her waist. When she catches my eye, she stirs in me a deep, desperate surge of longing that makes my fists clench inside my pockets. I don’t drop my gaze till long after she’s left my eyeline, and when I do, I immediately wish I’d said something to her. Smiled at her. Walked up to her and-

That’s it. That’s it. I have to leave.

I’ve got to go back to hers to get my stuff- she was walking in the opposite direction, so she can’t be going home. I can do it while she’s out, right now. Then, I can leave. I don’t know if I can face her, but I know I have to leave this hellhole somehow. Before- as she put it- we do something we both regret.

So I’m never going to see her again.

Ping.

I’m getting so used to the sound of my phone ringing now, I’ve tuned it out. I stop in the middle of the bridge to dig it out of my pocket. Right on cue, the screen lights up again, with a call from Gordon. Funny- he hasn’t called me in weeks. I wonder if it’s actually my mum at the other end. Listlessly, even though the wind’s cutting me deeper than a knife, I stand still on the bridge as the traffic tears past me, staring at the blank space for his profile picture, waiting till the call wears itself out. Ten seconds later, another slew of text messages begins. I click on the first and idly watch as they pile up.

ANSWER

WHORE

IDIOT

SLUT

LIAR

COWARD

CRIMINAL

No. False. False. False. True. True. True.

Fresh start.

Wondering why I’ve never done it before, I dig my nails under the case of the phone and prise it off. I viciously yank out the battery, watching as the screen pops and turns black. These three pieces in my hand are all that’s tethering me to my last life, as I’m the only piece tethering Maria to hers. It’s just a phone. It can be destroyed.

I’m seized by an overwhelming urge to hurl my handful of plastic off the side of the bridge, into the water, and watch it sink or get swept away into oblivion. I need to keep these self-destructive urges in my past. I leave the phone mutilated, but stuff it back into my pocket and turn to walk home. As I start to walk, Maria comes back into my head. Only because I’m going to leave her. No more will I have to deal with her lies, her betrayal, her addiction, her crimes. I’m going to move away- far away- and start again. I’ll start my immortal life well. Maybe I’ll even help someone. Maybe. That bolt of longing pierces through me again as I reach the house, noticing she’s left the door unlocked as I clatter up the steps and walk through the hallway. This smell reminds me of her, but not in a good way. I won’t miss it.

As quietly as I can, but only because I suddenly feel like an intruder in this house, I walk up the stairs and into Frank’s room, picking up the backpack I packed last night and shooting a glance over at Maria’s door, at the pink glow leaking out from underneath it. That’s something I am going to miss. Maria’s done so much for me, but still, I have to leave her before I become like her.

I clatter down the stairs for the last time and wait at the bottom. Something compels me to go into the kitchen and switch on the light. The puppies look up at me from their bed. I go over to the counter, where Maria’s note’s still stuck in place.

 

I’M SORRY

 

Without thinking about it, I open the drawer closest to me in the hopes of finding a pen. I find a blue biro, but there’s something else in there that makes me stop dead in my tracks.

It’s a knife. A single knife, long and thin and impossibly sharp, with white scraped edges on the blade and black-rimmed carvings of flowers on the handle. I pick it up, realising how heavy it is, and as I do, I find myself smirking bitterly as the final piece of the puzzle I barely even noticed slides into place. There’s a hallmark on the blade, but I already know it’s silver. I put it back in the drawer and slide it shut- then, with the pen still in my hand, I start to run to all the other drawers and cupboards, shooting the occasional nervous glance at the dark hallway as I do. I pull them open one by one. Empty. Empty. Empty. My eyes grow wider and my chest grows lighter as I realise they’re all empty.

I remember the night Maria was washing up at the sink. What night was that? I look down at the pen in my hand, then up at the hallway one last time. Everything’s silent.

I walk back over to the counter. I have to leave before she gets back, but I decide to leave her a note, all the same. Notes can’t hurt, can they? I try for ages to come up with something smart or reassuring to say, but come up with nothing. Maybe I want to be sarcastic or cutting or hilarious instead. Maybe I should try to be poetic and quotable. In the end, I just write two words underneath Maria’s, on the same piece of paper she used.

 

IT’S OKAY

 

There. Perfect.

 “Bye.” I murmur to the puppies as I leave the kitchen.

Surprisingly, I manage to make it down the hallway, through the door, and out onto the pathway without stopping a single time for a dramatic reconsideration or attack of nerves or soliloquy. I close the door behind me. Please don’t hate me, Maria. I know she’ll understand. She knows better than anyone what a monster she is. And what a coward I am. The wind bites down on my arms and chills me to my core. The sky sags with bloated beige clouds and the pavement glistens with rain. I walk across the road, getting more and more upbeat about my future with every new step, prouder and prouder of myself. Once I reach the other pavement, I glance back over my shoulder, to reassure myself that the house I’m leaving behind, the house from Hell, is really just a house, and that’s when I finally stop walking.

The only window lit up is Maria’s; it’s pulsing with the warm rosy glow of her fairy lights, the muslin curtains drawn back over the cold street so I can almost see inside. And as it turns out, Maria’s not out. She’s sitting on her windowsill, staring down at her lap- I can make out the pale smudge of her hair and the dark smudge of her clothes. I think she’s drawing. She likes to sit there with her sketchbook, her cold skin pressed up to the cold glass. I never quite figured out why. Out here, it’s black and icy and utterly miserable. In there, it’s colourful and bright and warm and safe. I don’t know how she can be there, when I saw her walking away from me as I headed for the bridge, but then, I remember there’s a cyclists’ trail near campus. She took a shortcut to the house. Whether I like it or not, she’s there, and whether I like it or not, now I’m feeling so heroic about giving up my safety for a greater purpose, I can’t force my feet to move.

I guess Maria senses my eyes on her through the misty glass, because I see her glance to her right, and then turn slowly to her left. She looks out of the window, and I can barely see her face, but I know she can see me standing here with my backpack. I swallow, waiting for her to react with betrayal and wondering why I suddenly care so much, why there’s some stupid thing in my gut screaming at me to go back inside- maybe it’s just cold out here- but then, she snaps her head away.

I sigh.

I mean, I’m still proud of myself. Look at me, for God’s sake. I’m brave and I’m taking a stand- I’m letting her go, but stopping her from destroying my life along with hers. This isn’t a bad ending, actually. I’ll eventually accept I did the right thing, even though it may hurt for a while. Actually, it hurts already. I feel the misery inside my ribcage, twisting like it’s trying to curl up and cry. All I’ve felt, from the day I was born, is misery. Surely I deserve better now; I deserve to hold onto the one shred of happiness I’ve found. Not that I’ve found one, of course- not in that bright window, not in that blonde girl, not anywhere. Going back in there wouldn’t be right, even though it’s cold and it’s raining and I hurt, and it looks so warm in there. I have to accept that this is goodbye.

You know, you’ll never be able to accept this is goodbye unless you go back in there, for a MINUTE, and say it properly, Scotty.

Oh, yeah. You know what? I shudder as a gust of wind cuts through me, and I see Maria twitch her head around to see if I’m still here. You’re right.

It’s a cheap excuse, but it’s the only one I need to walk back across the road and push the front door open.

Even though I know she saw me out on the road, and she was watching me the moment I changed my mind (no, I didn’t change my mind, remember?- I just came back in for a second) Maria doesn’t come downstairs to find me. I make my way back through the darkened hallway, shutting the red front door behind me. I listen to my footsteps echoing along the walls as I walk across the floorboards, the tiles. Each hollow syllable shouts my return up the stairs to Maria. I feel unwelcome here, but I know I’m not going to turn around. I climb the stairs and cross the landing to reach the doorway glowing pink, chewing my lip as I push it open.

She’s still sitting right there on her windowsill, one leg pulled up in a triangle, still bent over the sketchbook in her lap with her pencil scratching furiously, like nothing else on Earth matters. The streetlight frames her in a spray of golden raindrops, making her hair crackle with electricity. God, I’m going to miss her when I leave.

“You off?” Maria mumbles down at her sketchbook, her voice deadpan. When I don’t respond, she finally looks up at me, one eyebrow raised, so I nod. I try to choke out the word yes but it’s stuck in my throat, so I swallow it.

She smiles. “I’m glad you finally got up the courage. I always knew you would, you know.”

I frown. “That’s not what you said yesterday.”

“I know.” She says, scrubbing more intently with the rubber on the end of her pencil. “But I knew it, deep down. I did. Honestly.”

I laugh softly. “Huh.”

“Honestly, you can think what you like.” She looks down at her drawing sadly, twisting the pencil between her fingers. “I’m just glad you’re not going to get me arrested or killed.”

There’s a long silence. I want to say something, but every word smacks into the thick soundproof barrier in the back of my throat and slowly slides back down into my chest.

She looks up, her voice playful. “You’re… not going to get me arrested or killed, right?”

I sigh. “No. Of course not.”

“Great.” She leans back against the window and sighs again, the sketchbook slowly starting to slip off her lap. “Well. Since you’re clearly tongue-tied. I hope your, uh… life… ends up being everything you wanted. Promise me you’ll make it work. Okay?”

I laugh half-heartedly. Okay, good. She’s not bitter. “Yeah, I hope so too.”

Now. Now’s a good time to leave, isn’t it? Nice closing line there; simple, but sort of poignant in its meaninglessness. Go, you idiot. Move your feet. I don’t care they’re glued to the floor; find a way, damn you!

I turn towards the door and put my hand on the handle. I finally manage to cough something constructive up into my mouth, but when I spit it out, it’s not what I thought it was.

“I, uh… hope… y’know, with Frank. He doesn’t come back.”

Something in me makes me say it. I tear my eyes away from Maria for the last time and open the door to-

“Oh, Frank won’t be coming back.” Maria says from the windowsill. Her voice is dark and bold.

I stop.

“I’m glad you’re so… sure.” I say, swallowing.

“Yep. Poor old Frank was never missing, actually.” Maria chuckles softly when she sees my expression. “I killed him.”

My tongue seems to swell up again, stoppering my mouth, but I don’t feel any worse. In fact, I feel better. Like a weight’s off me. After all, I’m not surprised. Even so, I think she wants me to be surprised, so I try to act accordingly. Yet another of those stunned Whats would be pretty appropriate.

“Why?” I say instead.

Maria licks her lips. She doesn’t look up from her drawing. She turns to face me, swinging her legs in their fishnet tights down from the windowsill. Then, as she starts to scrub more intently with her pencil, she talks.

“Told you. Lackey.” She tells her lap. “He was my lackey. Turned him for that, let him use me in return because he liked to think he was in charge. Dumb as a brick. And Frank was always a bastard. You knew it. I knew it. Everyone who knew him living or dead knew it. Loved killing for killing’s sake. I guess I envied him, most days, but Scotty… God, he wanted nothing more than to kill you.”

I shudder. “Yeah.”

“From the moment he met you. Hated you. I don’t know why, or how, but it’s the last truth to tell you. Talked about killing you, to me… constantly. I didn’t want it, at all, at any point. Ever.”

“Except in that alleyway.”

“Didn’t even want it then. Just thought I needed it. I was wrong. God, Scotty. Nobody deserved what I did to you less than you did. You deserve everything. I don’t deserve crap. I- I’m glad you’re off to live your life with- without this. Without me. But I’m also glad you came back, for- for a minute, because I think you deserve to know I chose you over Frank. I could never stand the way he talked about you. It made my blood boil. He- he talked about you like you were nothing. Something for him to mess with as he pleased, like you didn’t even have feelings. He just wanted to hurt you, for the bloody hell of it. Be- because he could. He talked about you… just like your parents, and Olivia… like they all treat you. How the world beats you down. And- and- God. No.” She scrubs harder with her pencil, drawing the same line over and over again; I watch it darken as my head heats up. “I’m going to stop now.”

I stare at her. I don’t know how, or why, but I’m closer to her than I was. My hand’s off the handle. The door’s behind me. I don’t say a word. I need her to carry on. I need her to finish this off right.

Maria breathes out shakily. “But I just want you to know, Scotty… whether or not you want to listen, I want you to know I see… I see now how much you deserve. And how close I came to tearing everything away from you you had left. And I gave you nothing in return at all. Nothing. The world’s hated you, Scotty… as it’s hated me, but I don’t want to hate you. I want to… in fact, I…”

She widens her eyes and her mouth snaps shut. She stops herself, before she says it, and still, I say nothing. I want to say everything. But want means nothing compared to need; the voice in my head’s more important than the hot tugs in my gut. What I need to do is to get out of here, before I do something stupid that ruins everything. She looks at me, and I look at her. I’m even closer to her now. This girl… she’s done everything for me, and she’ll never know it. Maria looks back down at her sketchbook and starts to dab lightly with her pencil, drawing a dotted line so thin I can barely even see it.

“One- one day,” Maria says steadily, keeping her eyes rooted on the page. “We came home from a hunt while you weren’t here. Those nightclub patrons on the radio? That was us. Not just him. Us. Both of us. I had to do it to get him high, to get his guard down. I let it go too far, and he started shouting at me. To track you down and kill you.” Her voice turns deathly quiet, solemn, angry. Proud. “I’d like to say I acted on instinct, or in self-defence, Scotty. But it was an easy decision I could have made blind and deaf.”

I blink. My organs are twisting tighter.

“And he died realising for the first time in his life…” Maria clenches her fist around her pencil. “He was nothing. You know, you should really leave, because I’m never going to be able to shut myself up now you’ve let me start. I just wanted you to be able to leave this shithole house knowing there’s someone in this shithole world who thinks you’re everything. Someone who… even if that someone’s a bloodsucking, flesheating monster piece of shit like me. I thought maybe… you know. It’d be better than nothing.”

She looks up at me. I look down at her. The silence around us is blinding, deafening, choking. Buzzing like it’s live.

Maria breathes out.

Then, she stands up, I step forwards, and our lips meet. Hard.

One. Two. Three. Four.

Oh, shit.

I plant my hands on her hips, but they don’t shove. They gather fistfuls of her dress and pull her tighter against me. She grabs my waist with a force that stumbles us backwards against the wall. She lets go of my mouth with hers, and we stare at each other for a couple of seconds. Then, we kiss again. When I let go to nuzzle into her neck, she sighs, and then whispers something to me:

“I… love you.”

I freeze.

Then, her words ignite an explosion inside me I can’t explain. “God, I love you.” I burst out. My voice’s too loud, but so are my thoughts. “I love you, Maria.”

“I love you too.”

I kiss her again, running my hands down her back as she runs hers down my front. Her touch sparks on my skin. “Please-” she mumbles between kisses. “Please- don’t- go…”

I think. I think hard. I try to remember why I ever wanted to leave. What audacity made me think I’d ever be able to leave her. But I can’t think. Can’t.

“Okay.” I say.

And that’s it. She opens her mouth and presses me harder against the wall with her body. We kiss again, and again. We grow greedier. She grabs my shoulders and shrugs off my backpack. I wrap my arms around her. I should leave. I curl my tongue into her mouth. No, really; I should leave. I should stop. I don’t want to stop- God, I want to keep going and going and going. I swear I can feel my pulse growing harder, my heart beating faster, my skin growing hotter, my insides melting, my body dissolving into hers. I should stop myself. Stop her. Just a couple more seconds… Her hands thrust under my shirt. Her fingers snag on the right angle of my ribcage and I don’t stop her. It’s okay, though, because I will stop her, eventually- I’ll get my mouth off her jaw, her neck, my hands off her waist, her hips. I’ll shut up my moans and hers, my gasps and hers. I’ll push her away and end the rigid pain of the wall pressing into my spine. I’ll make sure she can’t spin me and push me down onto her bed, and I’ll definitely make sure I don’t pull her with me, breaking a lamp on the way down, knocking us into rose-tinted darkness and showering the ground with broken glass. Because that’d be irresponsible. Because the moment I let her do that is the moment I know I’ll never leave her.

Somehow, I’ll find a way to untangle our limbs, to pry apart our chests and stomachs and hips in the places they’re moulded together like one. I’ll just have to figure out another way to feel whole again. To quench this undying selfish boiling-hot hunger in my gut. Because God, this… this… isn’t… the right way, even though it feels so good. I’ll stop it- you wait and see. Wait until our hurricane drops us. Till I’ve gotten enough of her, enough of her lips, enough of her body, enough of her love. I’ll turn that light back on, I swear. All I need is a little more time.

 

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