Sunday, February 7, 2010

35.) Coping

Soundtrack Song - Jimmy Eat World, Work

“Kris?” Heather asked, watching me carefully as I plopped forcefully on the couch.

I covered my face with my hands. There were so many things going on in my head that I wasn’t sure what to think or feel first. “She’s right. She’s totally right. I blamed her. I thought she was drunk out of her mind. Jo told me she didn’t drink enough to be this sick, but I didn’t believe her.”

“You weren’t the only one,” she said, sitting beside me. “When I told Jordy that I thought something was up, he didn’t believe me, either. He blamed it on all those shots.”

“Then how did you know?” I looked over at her, and she pursed her lips and bit the inside of her cheek. “How did you and Kels figure it out?”

She shrugged. “Women’s intuition? I don’t know, Kris. We just knew something was wrong.”

“It’s just... I know that she does this. She drinks hard. She parties. And she does more than just drink. I know that, and I didn’t say anything. I don’t like it, but I let it go, and this could have been prevented. I didn't bring it up because I knew she’d be mad about it if I did. But....”

“But what, Kris?” she prodded, trying to get me to open up.

“Listen. Jo didn’t deserve this. No girl does. She was targeted—but she was targeted for a reason. She was already three sheets to the wind. Jo put herself in a situation where she was liable for something bad to happen to her. What if I didn’t go looking for her? What if I didn’t ask you to go look in the restroom for her? What if the creep who did this followed her and... found her first?”

I couldn’t keep talking. I placed my hands over my face again, trying to contain myself. The alternative endings to last night would have killed me, especially since I should have never let her out of my sight. She was already drunk, but I got caught up in my fun with the boys when I should have been watching out for her. It was easier to be mad at Jo for drinking too much when all that led to was my embarrassment and her hangover. But this wasn’t just innocent partying anymore; it was a completely different story now, because her drinking had put her in a position for a worse fate. It had put her at risk for real danger. To be attacked.

Heather nudged me gently with her shoulder. “But that’s not what happened. She’s safe, Kris, thanks to you.”

“But what if I hadn’t been there? Then what?”

“You can’t play this game. You were there. She’s okay. Or at least, she’s going to be okay,” she said quietly. “She’d be doing a lot better if you were in there comforting her. It’s a scary situation for her, too, you know.”

Shaking my head, I confessed, “I’m not just scared. I’m worried that this isn’t going to change anything. That she’s not going to see that even though it’s not her fault, she could have avoided this altogether. And I’m angry. God, I’m so angry. What was she doing at the bar with two guys? Damn it, I wish I could find those fucking losers and.... I don’t even know what I would do to them. But I would fucking make them pay.”

“Those are legitimate feelings. You’re allowed to feel that way. But you’ve got to tell Jo this. You shouldn’t sit out here and hide that from her.”

“Do you think that she wants to hear this? Because I can tell you that I know she doesn’t want to hear it. It’s not her fault. I’m not saying it’s her fault. It’s like, a guy should never, ever hit a girl. But she should never put herself in a situation to provoke a guy either, ya know? And this is the same thing. No one should ever get drugged, but they shouldn’t put themselves out there for it to happen. And I don’t think she’s going to see it that way, or want to do anything about it.”

“Well, you won’t know unless you talk to her. Go to her.”

I looked over at her again. “What do you think, Heather? Do you think I’m wrong?”

Sighing, Heather admitted, “I don’t know. I can see where you’re coming from, I guess. You know it’s not her fault. I’m glad that you’re not blaming her, because she didn’t ask for this or invite it to happen. But maybe if she hadn’t had so many shots, then the guys wouldn’t have picked her out over any other drunk girl in the club. But if it wasn’t Jo, then it would have been someone else. Someone else who maybe wouldn’t have been so fortunate.” I nodded, grateful that she at least understood what I was feeling. “But the way I see it is... that’s irrelevant. It doesn’t matter at this point, because it did happen. How or why doesn’t matter. The both of you have to deal with it now.”

“You’re right.”

“I know,” she replied with a sad smirk. “Pass that information along to Jordy, will ya?”

I nodded, allowing myself to smile a little. “Like he’d listen to me, either.”

She laughed quietly. “Okay. Now... go be there for her.”

I wasn’t sure how this was going to fix anything, but I stood up and headed back into my bedroom, where Kelsey was sitting with Jo. When I walked in, Jo took one look at me before she lay down and rolled over onto her side so she was facing the far wall and not looking at me.

Kelsey scooted away, and I didn’t bother trying to coax Jo into giving me a chance to explain. She was mad at me, so she wasn’t going to willingly listen. I crawled onto the bed and lay down next to her, wrapping my arms around her and spooning her. “Get off me, Kris,” she ordered, but she didn’t physically struggle against me. Hell, Jo probably didn’t have the energy to.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized into her ear. “I’m sorry that I left, and I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to you.”

“I told you, but you didn’t want to listen. You want to be able to blame me.”

“I don’t blame you. I know it’s not your fault. I’m scared, though. I’m scared about what could have happened.”

Jo paused. “I’m kinda scared about it, too. It never crossed my mind, either this morning or last night, that this was something I’d ever have to be worried about or take caution against. They seemed like normal guys.” I held my breath, trying not to get angry that she was with guys at the bar. It’s like she read my mind. “They followed me to the bar—I didn’t go over there to talk to them. I ordered my drink, and he insisted that it was on him. He said that pretty girls should never have to buy their own drinks. It was a little unnerving, but like I said, I watched the bartender pour it. I’ve seen weirder-looking guys do less creepy things. If Kelsey and Heather wouldn’t have brought it up—”

“Shh. You wouldn’t have known. Guys like them know how to trap an unsuspecting girl.”

“I mean, who even drugs a drunk girl? I mean, I guess it would’ve been cheaper than buying me drinks all night—”

I cut her off again. “It’s not funny, Jo.”

“I know,” she assented. “I’m just trying to find a way to cope with the news.”

“Please look at me,” I whispered in her ear. She rolled over slowly, and I wasn’t sure if that was because she still not feeling well or if she was just reluctant. I cupped her cheek as she brought her eyes to mine. “How are you coping with this? Because I’m going crazy.... I don’t even know how you’re dealing with it.”

“I feel violated,” she admitted, tears in her weary eyes. “Like, as I think about it, and then when I can’t remember, it freaks me out. And then when I think about what could have happened and not being able to remember that.... It terrifies me. I mean, I’ve never felt so helpless. Not even after I heard about James.”

“But nothing happened. Out of all the possible outcomes, the unforeseen consequences, this was the best. We should be happy that this is the worst of it.”

“That doesn’t make me feel any better,” Jo replied. “There’s no consolation for me to find in this situation. Just because you took me home, instead of those creepers, doesn’t make it okay. I could have had a bad reaction. I was drinking, and I was high. People have died this way, when drugs get mixed together.”

“But you didn’t.” I rubbed my thumb along her cheek bone and then pulled her closer to me so I could tuck her head under my chin. “Grâce à Dieu. We’re very lucky.”

“We?” she asked quietly.

“Yes, ‘we.’ Do you think I want something to happen to you?”

“No, but I can’t believe you’re being this... relaxed... about it. I expected more of a backlash.”

I heard a throat being cleared behind me. I turned and propped myself up, completely forgetting about Heather and Kelsey. “We’re going to head out,” Heather said, nodding at me. “We’re glad you’re okay, Jo. Are you guys gonna come to the game tonight?”

Jo looked away, and I answered. “I guess we’ll see how Jo’s feeling in a few hours, and then we’ll figure it out from there. Thanks for coming over.”

“Thanks for everything,” Jo added. “I really appreciate your help and concern.”

“No problem. What are friends for?” Kelsey replied with a smile. “We’ve gotta get back before the guys wake up from their naps. Hopefully we’ll see you tonight,” she added, and then they let themselves out.

I turned back to my girlfriend, looking down at her. She was wan and pale, her eyes were bloodshot, and she looked miserable and physically ill. I hated to think she was so sick for preventable reasons. I took Heather’s advice and picked up our conversation right where it left off, now that we had some privacy. “I never want to see you like this, Jo. Never. I didn’t want to say this, because you’re not going to like it, but I...” I nuzzled my face into her neck, trying to take some comfort and strength from her presence. It didn’t make sense, because I was supposed to be the strong one, but I needed her. “I feel like you put yourself into a vulnerable situation. And it hurts me.”

Her fingers combed through my hair in a gentle manner. Honestly, I almost expected her to grab a fistful and pull, out of sheer anger. But she didn’t; she just continued to run her hand through my hair. I pushed back up and looked at her, and then I raised an eyebrow as I waited for her response.

“It hurts you?” I nodded at her question. “That’s selfish. It doesn’t have anything to do with you.”

“No, it isn’t selfish, and yes, it has everything to do with me,” I retorted. “I’m sorry that you don’t wanna hear this, but it’s how I feel. It’s not easy for me to say, and just as hard for you to listen to it, but if you hadn’t’ve smoked, or if you hadn’t’ve been drinking, then maybe....”

“So you do think this was my fault,” she cried, struggling to take a deep breath.

“No, Jo, honey, no. The guys who did this to you, I want to kick their asses,” I told her, my words mangled by my own emotions. “I’m sorry that I let you out of my sight. But I can’t watch out for you all the time. I need to know that this isn’t something that I have to worry about. I know that shit happens that we can’t always prepare for, but I need to know that you’re taking care of yourself, so something like this can be avoided if at all possible.”

“You think you can plan out every detail, Kris,” she sobbed, overcome and upset. “And maybe, yeah, if I had been a little more... with it and aware, then I would have thought something was up. But I don’t know that for sure, because I can’t play with time and go back and do it differently. So this is a moot point. A stupid argument.”

“But, you just said ‘maybe.’” Her face was blurred, and I blinked furiously to disperse the tears, so I could see her clearly. “If there’s the slightest chance that you can see this from my side, that you understand where I’m coming from. I don’t want to change you, Jo. I only wanted to help you, and now I’m all caught up in this. I can’t see someone else who I care about go through something so devastating. And if you cared about me, you wouldn’t want to put me through that. Please, Jo, please... don’t put me through this again.”

She didn’t say anything. She put her arms around me and pulled me down on top of her, holding me and crying with me as we let out every emotion that had been bottled up and repressed within us.


  1. Great chapter! I loved it! Loved how Kris came back to her and comforted her, but also brought up his fears.

  2. I like sensitive Kris.
    I really really do.
    Maybe not the crying. But saying what's on his mind, I like.

  3. Thank goodness Heather smacked some sense into Kris' head.

    I loved it Jay.

  4. OMFG I loved this chapter!!!! It just felt so raw and real which is what I love about your writing. Can't wait until the next one

  5. If nothing else, I think the whole situation will bring up Jo's drug use, Kris's feelings for her, and will help her see that not all of the girlfriends are judgemental puck bunnies.

  6. First of all,

    "She didn’t say anything. She put her arms around me and pulled me down on top of her, holding me and crying with me as we let out every emotion that had been bottled up and repressed within us."

    Holy, powerful batman. That is such a beautiful image of them working through their shit. I think if anything can come from this it is the lessons they learn. Hopefully they will really learn a lot about each other through this, which I really feel like they are.

    Your writing is brilliant. Your character and relationship development throughout this story is incredible.

    Absolutley fantastic, and I can't wait to see what else you have in store for these two and how they grow from this.

  7. Wow, just wow, that was one the most heartfelt chapters that you have written from beginning to end. Beautiful!

    Fabulous, as always!

  8. I agree with Trish, sensitive Kris is the one I'm really starting to love. It didn't hurt that Heather helped get him on the right track though.

    This chapter was amazing for many reasons, one of which being how real it cam across. I felt like it was easily relatable and I really loved that!

    The caring and emotion they feel for one another is so beautiful! Love<3