New Year Blues

“Matthew was the best thing that ever happened to me. He was! And he ruined everything! He ruined our relationship, he ruined our future!” Brittney cried, her body shaking as she curled up on my sofa. Her snow shoes and coat had been thrown on the floor, and she now held her knees, shivering and sniffling as she cried.

“I’m sorry, Conner, I’m so sorry, I just…” She sniffed, wiping her eyes, “I just… I needed to tell someone, and… and…”

I glanced outside, where blankets of snow still crowded the kitchen window, then finished stirring her hot cocoa. “Hey, don’t apologize. What are friends for, right?” Picking up the two mugs, I walked back to the sofa and handed one to her. “But, I’m not sure if you’re going to make it home tonight.” I smiled.

Brittney took her mug, and held it in her hands as she stared off into the distance. “You won’t mind if I crash on the couch will you…?” She asked. Then, she glanced at her mug to take a sip, and tears began to well in her eyes. “I don’t wanna go home… I don’t wanna be alone… tonight… or tomorrow…” She closed her eyes and began to cry. “Tomorrow… tomorrow would have been six years… six years of being together… January first…” She choked on a sob. “We could have made it, right…? I mean… didn’t our past mean anything to him? Anything at all?”

I sighed and took her mug from her hands before she dropped it. I set both of ours on the table and sat down next to her, putting my arm around her shoulder. I did not have any words for her. Any at all.

Brittney rested her head against my shoulder and simply cried, bubbling out broken sentences and nonsense as the night passed by.

“If… If only he had talked to me… If only he had told me he was lonely… that he needed companionship and comfort…. and attention… he just shut me out… he would not tell me anything was wrong… After… After he lost his best friend… he just shut everyone out.” She breathed, steadying her voice. Then, it cracked again from the pressure in her throat. “That was why the women came! Those stupid women! Because he was stupid and greedy and selfish! And I wasn’t enough for him. I wasn’t! He had to get new girls, and start new relationships! God, he was dating three of them at once!”

Apparently the cheating still bothered her, even after six months. I did not blame her, though. Not many people knew, and the secret was probably eating her up inside.

“Of course, then he just started sleeping with them… even though he says it wasn’t about the sex…” She hiccupped. “It was always about the sex, wasn’t it? He was lonely, a-and, I wasn’t enough for him. Apparently, t-the promise rings meant nothing to him… even if I wore mine every day… it meant nothing…” She breathed, burying her head against my chest. “… It wasn’t like he ever wore his anyway… I had to get it resized twice, but it was still too big for him… and he didn’t really like it anyway… maybe…”

Brittney lifted her hand up to wipe her eyes. “Then, there was Merissa… the stupid whore… who he drove all the way to Seattle to meet and sleep with.”

Merissa was the worst, the main one, from what I understood.

“He lied three times, you know… about needing to stay over the weekend for ‘group work.’ God, I can’t believe I trusted him so much… I still do, too… I always believed him, no matter what he ever lied about…” She bit her bottom lip. “The last time was when we were supposed to go see Mad Max together… over memorial day weekend… he lied and went and watched Mad Max with her… they went to West Seattle and went to the beach… and he slept with her, a-and… she made him breakfast…

“I’ve always wanted to make him breakfast… but, noo… my cooking wasn’t good enough for him… and he hates driving in Seattle, I always had to drive… and he hates water… and I always wanted to take him to the beach.” She babbled on. “I had spent the whole weekend praising him to my family, too… It was on Tuesday when he finally couldn’t take the pressure, and told me everything…”

Brittney took a few deep breaths, then her lip began to tremble. “I forgave him for everything! Everything! And it still wasn’t enough! I told him I loved him more than I hated the cheating, but nooo, he had to still have ‘feelings’ for stupid Merissa! It’s always about Merissa! I had done everything for him, and I was willing to do so much more, but stupid, freaking Merissa was a baby, and a brat, and she was having ’emotional’ issues, so he had to care about her, more. I’m the one he cheated on! Me! It doesn’t matter that the other girls didn’t know, he was mine first!” The tears came like buckets of rain, splashing against my t-shirt, almost like a cartoon, as she gripped my waist, and just yelled at the top of her lungs.

If it were not for my loud music, she could have popped my ear drums.

“And then-then, because me forgiving him wasn’t enough, he dumped me, and left me to drown my sorrow in a tub of ice cream!”

I might have laughed a little at that comment, if she had not been so upset.

“You know, he didn’t even want to get married… or have kids… or even live with a dog… at least, not anymore… I was even willing to move in with him… before we got married, to see how things went, but nooo, he was too much of a baby, and he wasn’t willing to move out of his parents’ house and grow up and be an adult. He just wanted to live with his parents, because it’s ‘easier’. And since they paid for his college, he somehow thinks that that means that they get to dictate the rest of his life for him.”

She went silent, and I was secretly hoping that she had finished her rant.

“Then, the stupid idiot ignored me for three freakin’ months… at some point in time, he had stopped loving me… and then he had stopped kissing me… and even stopped hugging me… he told me that he would just pretend that I was his cousin when we hung out… so he wouldn’t feel awkward not kissing me…”

She closed her eyes again. “He cheats on me because I wasn’t showing him enough attention, when I gave him everything! Then, I forgive him, but that wasn’t good enough for him! And then, he ignores me for three freakin’ months and claims that he’s too depressed about being a terrible person to have room for anyone else in his life!” Brittney actually screamed. “I gave him everything, and I would have given him more, but it wasn’t enough for him! I wasn’t enough! I wasn’t pretty enough, or paid enough attention to him, when I shaped my whole future around him!”

I looked up at the ceiling, trying to breathe deeply since she was still squeezing my stomach to death.

She took in a few more breaths and her grip relaxed slightly. “I even wanted to still be his friend… Matthew… he had pushed all of his friends away, and… I just wanted to help him with his depression, and show him he was still a good person… but he doesn’t care about getting better, or changing his life around, he only cares about complaining about his life.”

She breathed again, and my first thought was ‘please, god, please let her be done with the screaming.’ Then, I instantly felt guilty about the thought.

Brittney sat up and I moved my arm away. “I even bought him a birthday present, and a Christmas present, and his brother, too… But, he doesn’t have the guts to come over here and face my family to get them… and, apparently, he doesn’t want me anywhere near his family, like I ever did anything wrong to them…” She sat back and picked up her hot cocoa, sipping it. “You know, he even told me that his parents aren’t fond of me anymore.”

Her hazel eyes looked into mine, the tears making them sparkle. “Of course, they probably only think that because Matthew is a coward and he doesn’t have the guts to tell them that he’s the one who cheated on me, and ruined our relationship… He’s the one with the problem, not me…” She looked down at the sofa, sitting on her knees. Her new shorter hair cut was rather cute when she wore it down. “I even made him a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving… but he only said he wanted one because he thought that it would make me happy… more lying… the stupid thing just rotted on the kitchen counter. I had to throw it away. I even wanted to go to see the new Star Wars movie with him and his brother, but now I have to wait to watch it with my parents…”

Brittney leaned against the sofa and sighed. “I really am sorry, Conner, for dumping all of this on you… I just… My family doesn’t know about the cheating, or the other issues… I was too afraid to tell them because I didn’t want them to hate Matthew… even now, I’m still trying to protect him… when he isn’t willing to do the same for me… and I’m too afraid to tell them…” She looked up at me again. “I had to tell someone…”

Even with her stained cheeks, she looked simply beautiful.

I smiled. “It’s no problem. What are friends for, right?”

She smiled. “Yeah, thanks for being such a great friend.” She set her mug down and leaned over to hug me, her breasts pressing against my t-shirt. “I just care about him so much… I still have a hard time getting over him…”

I sighed and hugged her back. Yep, a great friend. That was all I would ever be. Happy New Year, Conner, you’re the world’s greatest ‘friend’.

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“There’s a Cheater in All of Us”

There’s a cheater in all of us, I say, tears streaming down my face.

His stare is empty and hollow.

There’s a cheater in all of us, and… My words get lost in my throat.

His head turns to look at his steering wheel.

I was weak! I scream at him. I was weak! A-and, I couldn’t help myself…

He slides his hand through one of the holes, still not saying a word.

My sweater sleeves bunched up past my elbows, I scratch along the cuts and needle marks on my forearm, then slide chewed nails through my greasy hair, sweating.

Please, please just say something… anything… I beg him.

His fingers unwrap and wrap around his keys again. There’s a cheater in all of us, he uses my words.

My heart begins to beat wildly. W-what, I ask, confused. Scared.

Like you said, there’s a cheater in all of us, he says again.

What does he mean by that?

Her name is Sally, he says. And she lives upstate. She’s a single mom, with three beautiful kids, an abusive ex-husband, and a fence that needs fixing.

I stare at him, afraid. Wait… he… he…

No, I shake my head. Please, no, we can work through this.

No, we can’t. His words are hollow. Like his eyes. I love her, and I’m going to move in with her. She can use the help.

The tears start up again. No, please, I beg. We can do this, I-I… I’ll change.

People don’t change. And I don’t want to change. I’m tired of taking care of you. You need to grow up. Go find someone else, who has the same interests as you do, he tells me.

But, I don’t want anyone, I want you! My nose is running now.

I’m not as young as I used to be, it’s time for me to settle down. You’re still young, you can go to college, and get a good job.

But, I don’t want that! I don’t want any of that! I want you! I fling my arms down in a tantrum. He cannot just leave me, not after everything we have been through.

He slides his fingers along the steering wheel again, then looks up through his windshield, not looking my way.

I don’t want you. I don’t want anything to do with you, not anymore, he says. Then, he starts up his truck and puts it in gear, pulling onto the dirt road as he leaves me behind.

Need

Leaning against the cold driver’s door of her parents Buick, the girl tapped her heel into the asphalt, waiting. It was just a fling. Just a thing… that she needed. Her boyfriend would understand, he had to. She would tell him about it, later on in their life. It would not break the relationship.

They had always said they would never go that far, not until they were older. She would not force her boyfriend to break his promise. But, she needed this. Just a quick fling, a night of fun, just to get it out of her system. Then things would go back the way they were.  She had called up an old friend, an old acquaintance, really. Someone from school. She had to look up his number in the phone book, after looking up his name in her year book. But, he would do. He understood.

She jabbed her red heel into the asphalt again, her nerves becoming anxious. Where the hell was he? It was getting cold.

She pulled her black cardigan against her chest and shivered. Red shoes, black sweater, blue dress. She did not even like the heels she was wearing, but she figured they would do. The dress was short, with thin material that was really meant for summer. But, summer was no where near this month, in either direction.

It would do the job, though. It was a dark blue, and the friend had a blue shirt on in the year book. It seemed to fit. Blue was probably his favorite color. It was a long shot, but it was either blue or black with most boys.

In any case, it would do its job and get the blood working, which was the point of the evening. She wanted to make it easy for him.

Another five minutes, and she would leave, call it quits, and spend the night on the sofa with a tub of chocolate ice cream.

He pulled up in a black pickup two minutes later, and she jumped in, without looking at him. As he talked, she adjusted the hem of her dress, and the direction of the heater vents to warm up her bare legs.

“So… um… ” The friend cleared his throat, hoping it would clear the air as well. “So, you want to get something to eat?”

“Sure.”

“Pizza okay? We can go back to my place, and-”

“Whatever you want.” Her eyes stared at the dashboard, and never once moved in his direction.

“… okay.” A loud exhale came from the friend to her left, and the truck started moving again as they headed back to his place.

She turned her head to look out the window when he had begun to talk again. “Ive got some old movies. We could watch one if-”

“Fine.”

“… Okay. My parents are going out, and wont be home until late. I was thinking we could-”

“Whetever.”

The truck slowed down and pulled to the side of the road. “You know, you could show a little bit of interest.” He had turned to face her as he attempted to plead for her to care about his feelings, too. “Im not just some guy you can-”

“If you dont want to, then you can drop me off back at my car.” Facing the friend now, her long eyelashes did not flutter once.

He stared for another moment or two, then the truck pulled back onto the road with another loud sigh, and they continued down the path to his parent’s house.

The drive was not long, but awkward enough for her to pick up on his uncomfortable thigh tapping. Her legs now warm, the girl stretched her feet out, mentally trying to reach the padded wall of the engine with her toes.

She felt her friend let off the gas, and slowly ease into the break.

The right tires bumped against the sidewalk, and her torso jolted forward, her shoulder strap viciously yanking back again. The friend mumbled a “sorry”, and shut the engine off. She listened to him fiddle with his own seatbelt, trying to unlatch it too quickly.

When he was finally free, he opened the driver’s door, and slammed it once he was out. His boots crunched the asphalt and grass as he rounded to the other side, and opened her door for her. The rush of the cold air against her thighs jaggedly made its way up her dress to her spine, and she gave up on ever reaching the engine.

Her legs swung to the side, and she let her feet dangle as she unbuckled. The girl slipped down the seat, and out of the truck, her dress raising up in the back as her red heels hit the sidewalk.

She stood there, turned to her right, moved under his left arm, and headed to the front door, never once looking his way to confirm that he was still staring at her.

The girl tightened her grip around her arms, the wet grass making her toes cold. She would be warm soon. The friend walked behind her, possibly still looking at her. Which was good, it would get the blood flowing. That was what tonight was about. Blood.

It was an average two story house, with a nice front yard, and a newer Buick in the driveway.

Her eyes looked to the front door, then the front porch, and she stopped just below both. He stopped as well, like an echo in her footsteps. Then, he went around her, and opened the front door, stepping in first and not turning around to see if she would follow.

Her heels clicked against the cement and the girl stepped over the threshold without another thought.

Inside was warm like she had imagined it to be. The walls were a light peach in the hallway, adorned with pictures, and splattered with yellow light from the kitchen.

He walked passed them without much thought, and held a hand behind his back, like a comforting gesture. If the girl felt uneasy, she could always take it. She understood why he had done it, but he was trying too hard.

The living room was a worse yellow than the kitchen, framed with stark white trim.

The friend slipped off his jacket, and tossed it at a chair in the corner. “Go ahead and make yourself comfortable.” He motioned to the sofa, then watched her walk around it to sit. “Would you like something to-”

“Sure.”

She heard him exhale.

“What would you-“

“Soda. If you have it.” No hint on a flavor. She liked the carbonation more, anyway.

“Alright.” He inhaled deeply, and stood for a moment, too. “I’ll order pizza, too. What kind-”

“Whatever you want.” Sitting on the sofa, she stared at the blank TV screen, and the friend stood, unmoved.

When he finally did move, he turned right to the kitchen, and she watched his reflection in the TV exit the room, shaking his head.

Looking down at her red heels, she tapped one heel on one big toe, then tapped her other heel on her other big toe. Then, she lifted her legs up and to her left, tucking them to the side as she went back to the TV. It was not as warm in here as she had imagined.

Through the reflection in the TV, the girl watched the friend’s mother and stepfather come in the hall and stop, so she could fix his tie.

His mother wore yellow, with curled brown hair, and his stepfather wore grey slacks and wire framed glasses, of which he pushed back up the bridge of his nose when he turned and stared at the girl, through the reflection of the TV.

The friend returned, said a few words to his mother and stepfather before they left, then rounded the sofa from the right and took his place next to the girl.

He opened a Pepsi and passed it her way, before opening another and slurping it. Then, he grabbed the remote, and fiddled with it until the TV began to play an old black and white. The girl drank her soda without slurping, staring at the screen as the scene unfolded before her.

Another few slurps from his soda before it was set aside again, and he rested his arm behind her, on the sofa, then his arm over her shoulder, then her shoulder against his chest, in an attempt to get comfortable and get himself in the mood.

Fifteen minutes into the movie, she removed the soda from her lips and rested the empty can in his lap, never once taking her eyes off the screen.

She heard him scuff, and he lifted it up. “Would you like another-”

“Sure.”

The friend sighed once more, and moved his arm. Then, he got up without pausing, and headed into the kitchen one more.

The front door opened and closed, and he paused in the hallway to say a few words to whomever was there.

“I thought you had left?”

“I forgot something.”

Satisfied, the friend continued on the quest for more soda, and his stepfather’s reflection appeared in the hallway, through the TV.

The girl felt along the strap around her sore ankle, and looked down to massage it gently. Footsteps awkwardly made their way to the living room, and a hand touched her shoulder, pulling back the black sweater as the stepfather rounded the sofa. “You came back to me, my precious.” He said, his eyes full of such delight, as his other hand rested on her thigh.

Caught between screaming and yelling, the girl coughed on her breath, then reached for the nearest weapon she could grab. With no regret, she gripped the scissors tightly, and brought them up so high, before standing and plunging them deep within his chest.

The friend’s stepfather fell back, shock in his eyes, as blood pooled from his back to her shoes.

The cops were called. At least, she assumed they had been called. All she could see was red and blue, like her dress and shoes.

From the living room, where the stepfather lay, and the girl stood, through the peach hallway, and into the dim yellow kitchen, a stack of children’s drawings rested in an old box, from the friend’s preschool days. Under the stack, one of the last drawings depicted a picture of a young girl in blue, hiding under the stairs, and a man with glasses in red, coming down to greet her.