Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12.) Innocent Bystander

Soundtrack Song - The Used, Noises and Kisses

“So you don't depend on anyone for anything?” he asked me, his head resting on the back of the couch with the bag of ice pressed against his face.

I looked down at my hands and picked at my disgusting cuticles. Who has time for manicured nails? Not me; what a waste of energy when you pick up trash for a living. I stole a glance at him. His eyes were closed, so I allowed my gaze to linger on his face. On his freshly shaven cheek. On the way his hair flipped up from underneath his hat. I felt like an utter douche bag for hitting him. It was an accident—what the hell was he doing, anyway? No one opens car doors for people like that anymore. This isn't the fifties. Hasn't he ever heard of women's lib?

But still, he had been trying to do something nice, and I had done what I usually do when someone tries to do something nice for me: I hurt them. It was a total role reversal when I insisted on helping him and he didn't want to accept it. Funny how the guy who was touting on and on about accepting an offer of help turned out to be just as stubborn as me. “Well, not quite. I mean, there's Tubby.” I looked down at my nails again. Really, I should do something about these cuticles. I don't even know how to go about... doing whatever it is you do to cuticles. “But, he's kind of why I called you today.”

“I don't understand,” Kris replied.

I stumbled through my explanation. “Well, he got kind of, or rather, he sounded kind of upset when I was talking to him, like he was worried about me. And, you know, Tubs has been there for me through everything, the whole thing with James....” I felt just as upset talking about Tubby as I did about James, but I tried to keep it in check. “He's been a really great friend, and I don't want him to feel that way on account of me, you know? He told me I should call you, so I did.”

“So, you don't even think.... I mean, you didn't call because you wanted to at all?”

I felt exasperated. “You act like there's something wrong with me, like I'm a kid that needs to be reprimanded. I have no reason to repent. There are worse people out there in the world, doing worse things.”

“You're reckless, Jo. You're only given one life, one precious life. Please don't waste it.”

“Waste it? Who said I'm wasting it?” I suddenly realized something about something Kris had said before, but for some reason it hadn't registered at the time. “Wait a second. ‘Making other people happy.’ Is that was this is about? You want to try and fix me so your life has meaning?”

“You...” he started, leaning forward and cradling the melting bag in his hands. Kris looked up at me, a bit of blood crusted above his lip and his face pink from the cold. His stare held a bitter sadness as he looked at me with his dark, intense eyes. “You remind me of him, a little bit.”

“Of whom?” I asked, speaking reflexively. The knowledge hit me before he answered. “Oh.” I still thought it was a little weird, but I knew that if I met someone who reminded me of James, I’d probably latch onto him and never let go. I kicked my feet out from underneath me and sat a little closer to him, placing my elbow on my knee and then resting my chin in my hand. It felt like an honor to be lumped in the same category as his friend, because he had spoken so highly of him. “How?”

“How do you remind me of Luc?” I nodded in response to his question, and then he shrugged. “It’s just like, you’re full of personality. Even though you try to hide it, it still shines through.”

I couldn’t help it; I blushed. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Kris reached out, but his arm didn’t have to stretch very far. His index finger curled around a section of my pink hair. “It’s not hard to see.” He smiled. “Full of so much life, just like Luc. Larger than life, like you’re invincible.” His smiled straightened into a thin line and his hand fell to his knee.

Without having to think about it, I slid my palm over the back of his hand and laced my fingers between his. “How did it happen, Kris?”

Those brown eyes slowly met mine. His jaw jutted out for a moment before he dragged his line of sight elsewhere. Shaking his head, like he wasn’t going to answer, he remained silent.

“Please, tell me,” I encouraged him. I felt like I needed to know, like it would solve the puzzle.

“Motorcycle accident.”

My initial reaction—my gut reaction—was to feel bad for Kris, to share his pain over his loss. Accidental deaths, I knew from experience, were the worst way for a loved one to die, because you can’t be prepared for a sudden disaster. In the blink of an eye, poof! they’re gone, and you don’t get to say goodbye or hug them one last time or let them know how much you love them before you never have that chance again.

But a part of me felt angry and attacked. Did he know that I drove a bike? “I’m sorry that that happened to your friend.”

“He had called me just a few days before, and he told me about his new bike. I was excited for him, and I was going to get one, too. We made plans for a road trip. But then, one day.... And now I see you, Jo, and—”

I cut him off by groaning and then letting go of his hand, but he squeezed around my fingers which made it difficult. “Don’t say it. Just don’t, okay?” I grabbed my chain wallet from my pocket and pulled out my license. “See? Classes C and M. I'm licensed. I passed the test. And I did the motorcycle safety program. Look, I even have that card in here, too,” I told him, finding the card that denoted my completion of the safety course. Then I threw both of them at him. “So don’t talk to me needing to be safe. I know it all.”

Kris picked up my things and played with them in his hands. “The thing was, he knew all the risks, too. He knew all that, and he was careful, but it didn’t matter.”

Everything has risks, Kris. Everything.”

“But some things more than others. And every time you get on your bike, you run the chance—”

“Stop!” I closed my eyes and pressed my palms against my lids. “I told you about James, but I didn’t tell you that you can’t play hockey. I don’t tell you that you’re incredibly overbearing and way too intense, and that you need to lighten the fuck up. So don’t come into my home and push your agenda on me.”

Kris was calm when he replied, “You invited me in.”

I stared at him. As angry as I was, I couldn’t deny that he was one-hundred percent right. I had invited him. Not just into my house; when I had opened up and told him about James, I had invited him into my life. I really wanted to think that he tore away the bricks in my walls or crashed through the windows, but in reality, I had swung open the door and ushered him in willingly, of my own accord—and I couldn’t believe that I had done so. What a fool I was. “My bad.”

“Don’t say it like that,” he scolded, picking up the things I had tossed in his direction. “I’m just trying to make you see that you’re putting yourself in unnecessary danger.”

“Kris,” I began, leaning forward and making him look at me square in the face. I was so pissed that I was surprised I wasn’t screaming. “I’m sorry about Luc. But I am not him. I know that you feel bad, but telling me this isn’t going to bring him back.”

“I know that. This isn’t about him, Jo. This is about you. I can’t be an innocent bystander and watch this, because I know what could happen.”

“No, you don’t,” I half-groaned, half-sighed. “Truth of the matter is, you have no idea would could happen, today or tomorrow or a year from now. If you had asked me on this day, two years ago, if I would have thought James would die like he did or when he did, I wouldn’t’ve believed it. Something could happen tomorrow, whether I go bungee-jumping or stay in the safety of my house.”

“But don’t you think you increase your odds when you engage in that kind of behavior?”

“No! Listen, I don’t want to argue statistics or odds or chances. It’s not just about me, or what I do. My fate could depend upon any random person. Just like that kid from whatever team that boarded James. I don’t even remember his name, but he has had the biggest effect on my life. I’m forever changed because of what he did, and he didn’t mean to hurt him, you know? He was just trying to play the puck.... And whatever happened with Luc, it wasn’t on purpose. So you can’t try to plan out what’s going to happen, because you just don’t know.”

“Maybe you can’t control it, but you can make decisions that lessen the chance of something bad happening. You don’t want something bad to happen to you, do you? Because you're putting yourself in immediate danger.”

“What kind of question is that? God, you act like I have some kind of death wish. I don’t. Life is dangerous, and if anything could happen to us at any moment, we're all living in immediate danger. But I don’t care about living a long life as long as it’s a happy one. I need to make every moment count, so that’s what I do. Although right now, this seems like a waste of my afternoon,” I said, slumping against the arm of the couch and crossing my arms across my body. This was not my idea of a good time.

“Living carefree makes you happy?”

“Well, yeah. Who wants to be weighed down with the burden of responsibility?”

Kris shook his head. “It’s not a burden to have a hand in the world around you.” He paused. “What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Um, I don’t know. Sleeping,” I admitted, curious to what he could have up his sleeve. I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out.

“Come with me. Spend the day with me tomorrow.”

“What? No,” I declined, my mind coming up with so many ideas of what that would entail. What else he’d try to shove down my throat and tell me what was wrong with my life. I didn’t need that.

“Jo, please. I promise you, you’ll have a good time.”

I didn’t want to, but once again, I found myself letting him talk me into something I didn’t exactly feel comfortable with. “Okay. Fine. Whatever.”

Kris stood and handed me back the ice bag. “I’ll pick you up around one. Is that okay?”

Likewise, I stood, too. Even though he was taller than me, being on my feet made me feel like I was on even ground with him. I was less than thrilled at the prospect of what tomorrow would hold. Regardless, I still agreed to it. “Okay.”

“Great,” he replied with a smile. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Quickly, he left, as if not wanting to press his luck. Like if he lingered, I would change my mind and turn him down again. Hell, that probably would have happened if he hadn’t have suddenly left without casting another look behind him. If he had, he would have seen me with my mouth hanging open and wondering what it was about Kris that made me step outside my comfort zone and act this way.


  1. Oh Kris. What can I say about this man besides the fact that I want one? I think I tell you this everytime I comment on your stories but seriously, they're so damn intriguing! Your characters are awesome and this chapter was so well-written that I have major writer's envy right now.


  2. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings in the next chapter...this was so, so good, and you know, their points of view are both really valid. I like both of these characters, so as usual, I can't wait to see where you go with them.

  3. Yes! I'm so happy that Jo is gonna spend the day with Kris tomorrow!<3 I really think that he can help her break down the walls she's built up and comfort her. I'm really excited for the next update, Jay.

    "No one opens car doors for people like that anymore. This isn't the fifties. Hasn't he ever heard of women's lib?"
    ^^Hahahaha oh Jo (: