Thursday, September 30, 2010

134.) Clarity of Morning

Soundtrack Song - Fireflight, Unbreakable

“You might not want to sit there,” Dave warned as he rifled through his dresser drawers. I was poised to plop down on his bed while he was getting me a change of clothes. I took in his subtle meaning and blushed, and Dave blushed, too. “I’ll change the sheets for you.”

“But I thought I’d be on your couch?” I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.

“Well, you are a girl in a house full of guys. You’d probably appreciate the privacy of a bedroom rather than the living room.” He shrugged, pulling out a pair of basketball shorts and a black tee shirt. I was glad that he gave me real clothes rather than something like boxers and a tank. I was feeling too vulnerable, and that would have been too intimate. I wanted to be swaddled in clothes, but since it was summer, it was too warm for sweats. “Besides, it’s polite. The couch is lumpy.”

I took the clothes from him. “You’re already helping me out a lot by giving me a place to stay tonight. I can’t put you out of your bed. I mean, it’s not fair for you to be the one on the lumpy couch when you’re already doing something nice for me.”

“It’s okay. It’s one night, you know? Just let me change the sheets for you, and you can change in the bathroom while I do that. Be careful, though, ’cause sometimes the lock sticks on the door, and you have to jiggle it.”

Nodding, I took one more look at the bed. It was a full, meaning it was big enough for the both of us to be able to sleep comfortably—but I certainly wasn’t going to suggest that. Instead, I headed for the bathroom and changed into Dave’s clothes, all the while trying my best to ignore the nasty living conditions of four guys. It was pretty disgusting. I refused to sit on the toilet seat; in fact, I didn’t even want to go within a foot of that disaster area.

Dave was of average height for a guy, probably about five nine or maybe five ten on a good day, and pretty lanky. His clothes fit me better than Kris’s did, since Kris was tall and buff and thick all over. I felt a sharp pain in my heart as I thought about Kris again. I was so upset with him for disregarding my feelings, but I wished that I could have been in his bed anyway tonight. That’s what started this whole stupid thing—because he didn’t want me to be in his bed night after night, like I wanted. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to follow him to wherever next season may lead? And why would any girl in her right mind want to stay away from Kris Letang?

I dabbed some toothpaste on my index finger and swiped it across my teeth, doing my best under the circumstances to prepare for sleep. When I finished, I left the disgusting bathroom and walked across the hall to Dave’s room. I could hear Wayne and Drew, two of Dave’s roommates, talking loudly downstairs, so I half shut the door to muffle the sounds. Dave and I had sneaked in through the back door to avoid them altogether when he brought me back to his place from Primanti’s. They were arguing over whose CDs were whose, and it was getting a little heated.

Dave had fresh sheets on the bed for me, and a blanket and pillow under his arm for himself so he could take the couch—although I wasn’t sure how he planned on getting any sleep with those two in the living room. “You’re good to go,” he told me, waving at his bed.

“Dave, seriously, I can’t thank you enough for this,” I started, trying again to express my gratitude. I was a jumbled mess of different emotions, because as much as I loved Kris, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand seeing him. I never knew it was possible to feel so conflicted at once; if anyone had told me that this was how they felt, I wouldn’t have believed it.

He held up his free hand and shook his head. “What’re friends for?”

Immediately, I felt bad. Here Dave was, doing something really nice for me and going out of his way to help me out when I really needed it, and I had been a jerk to him ever since Kris had told me he had issues with my friendship with him. I felt like a total asshole—and that feeling, on top of everything that had happened, set me off. My mouth turned downward as I tried to blink away the pooling water in my eyes.

“Aw, Jo, it’s okay. Don’t cry. Tomorrow’s a new day. Whatever’s wrong, you and Kris will work through it.” He gave me a little pat in the shoulder, trying to comfort me while being a little unsure of what would be acceptable.

It made me even sadder. “How do you know that? You don’t know him,” I mumbled, wiping my face.

“I don’t need to.” He sighed. “WTAE did a story about Letang winning, since he used to be a Penguin. They showed footage of the game seven win in San José. We were all watching the news that day—me, Wayne, Carl, Drew, and even Carrie and Tiff saw.” I smiled a little, knowing that none of them could deny the fact that I wasn’t lying about who my boyfriend was. Stupid bitches. “We all saw you on the ice with him, celebrating, and well, after seeing that, there’s no denying that you guys are totally in love.”

I snorted. Love? What kind of love did we have if we were fighting over whether or not we’d be living together in a few short months? The tears fell a little harder. “Yeah, well, I’m not sure that what you saw was anything other than excitement and jubilee. Things aren’t the way I thought they’d be, and now I’m not sure what I believe.”

Dave set his blanket and pillow down on the bed and then hugged me, with his arms wrapped around my shoulders. It was a protective gesture rather than intimate. He didn’t say anything, just held onto me; this was the most contact he and I had ever had, and it felt weird and wrong. I missed Kris’s arms and strong chest, and Dave’s did not compare. Even his smell was different, which I noticed as I pressed my face against his shoulder.

The door to Dave’s room flew open with a thud, startling us. We jumped back and turned toward the sound of the loud voice. “Dude! Have you seen the packing tape—oh, I’m sorry,” Drew said, quickly grabbing for the door handle to pull the door shut again but fumbling and missing because he was trying not to look. He must have thought he had really barged in on something. “I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I didn’t know you had, uh... company.”

“Man, you should really fuckin’ learn to knock, all right?” Dave muttered, running a hand through his messy, loose curls as his other hand rested on his hip in a defensive posture. His voice was gruff and frustrated, but not accusing.

We were now standing a few feet apart, and I crossed my arms over myself. I was embarrassed and shocked, like I was caught with my hand in the cookie jar, but I hadn’t done anything wrong. Even though he wasn’t supposed to be intruding, Drew wasn’t very quick to leave. I could feel his eyes on me, trying to figure out what I was doing in Dave’s room if we weren’t getting down and dirty.

“Hey, Drew,” I said quietly, staring intently at the floor so maybe he couldn’t see how upset I was.

“Jo? Uh, hey,” Drew replied, now obviously confused as ever. He was looking at me, but I refused to look up at him; hadn’t I just been vindicated when they discovered that I was, in fact, dating Kris like I said? And now I was in Dave’s bedroom. He looked between the two of us before saying quickly, “I’ll, um, just see if Carl’s seen, uh, the tape. Bye.”

“Well, that was awkward,” I mumbled, shaking my head as Drew disappeared. Now everyone was going to know about my stupid ass fight with Kris, because there would be no other way to explain why I was here and wearing Dave’s clothes. It felt like I was digging myself in deeper with every ticking second of the clock.

“No, it’s cool. I’ll talk to him. Drew’ll keep his mouth shut. He’s the more discreet guy of my roommates. He’ll understand.”

I wiped my cheek again; I should have been a little more careful with Dave’s clothes and tried not to get my tears on them, but I didn’t care. “Really? But what are they gonna think when you’re sleeping on the couch tonight? They’re gonna know something’s up, and it was just one stupid fight, and I just needed a little space to be able to calm down—”

“Jo, it’s okay, I promise.” Dave put his hands on my shoulders and leaned forward to look me square in the eyes. “You don’t owe anyone an explanation. You needed a place to crash, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Like I always am,” he added, a twinkle in his eye as he teased me. He always got on my case on how he always came to my rescue: first my accident, and then when I ran into the door. I have to admit, I was starting to see a pattern.

“It’s like you have Spidey sense or something,” I replied, allowing myself to giggle a little bit. I deserved a laugh.

He chuckled, too. “Lucky me. So, it’s still kind of early. Do you wanna watch a movie? Hang out for a while?”

“No thanks, Dave. As much as I’d appreciate the distraction, I’m just really tired. It’s been a long day with traveling and then, well, you know....”

“Yeah, sure, no problem, I get it. Uh, so you can lock the door if you want some privacy or if you’re worried about one of the guys barging in on you again,” he responded, pointing to the door. I shrugged, not really caring. I was generally comfortable around guys from all the time I had spent with James and his hockey team, so being in a whole house of them was no big thing to me. “You know where the bathroom is, but if you need anything, you just let me know, okay?”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” I told him. “Thanks again, Dave. Really.”

“No problem at all. I’m off tomorrow, actually, so I’ll be around. Goodnight, Jo.”

“’Night,” I sighed, closing the door behind him as he left. I didn’t bother with locking it. Instead, I flicked the light switch into the off position and immediately collapsed on Dave’s rather comfortable mattress. I crashed as soon as my head hit the pillow. There wasn’t any time to be sad or to get worked up again, because I fell asleep before that could happen, and I slept straight through the night without disturbance or perturbation.

In the morning, I woke up to sunlight streaking through the Venetian blinds and birds chirping away cheerfully. I tried to pull the covers back up over my head to sleep some more, but I felt like someone had hit me in the face with a baseball bat. My head was killing me.

Reluctantly, I got out of bed, changed back into my own clothes, and slipped my now-dead phone in my pocket. It had been vibrating all night since I refused to even look at it, which had drained the battery. Then I quietly padded down the hallway and toward the stairs. Dave’s alarm clock had read a few minutes past nine, and I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to be awake this early in the day since it was summer. I knew Dave was transitioning into med school, but I didn’t know if his friends were students or graduates or working men.

Dave wasn’t on the couch; I could hear voices coming from the kitchen, indicating that he and someone else were up and probably eating breakfast. I was pretty hungry, too, but I didn’t want to impose too much. In fact, all I was interested in doing was heading over to my own apartment where Kris was, because I was already missing him like crazy—even though we had spent the past two weeks constantly together while we were in Hawaii. I could never get enough of Kris, it seemed. Hopefully, he was missing me just as much, so he would see that spending a season apart would be impossible for us to do sanely.

Before I made into the kitchen to announce my presence, I heard enough of their conversation to stop me in my tracks. Dave was talking to Drew. “Seriously, Drew, just drop it. Pretend like you didn’t see anything at all, okay?”

“Um, no. She was in your room, in your clothes, and it’s not a big deal? She was in your bed. I mean, you were on the couch during the time that she was in your bed, but what kind of man gives up his bed for some chick?”

“A friend would do that. She needed a place to stay—”

“Yeah, and are you going to explain that? What the fuck is she even doing here?”

“It’s none of my business, really, and it’s definitely not any of yours.”

“Woah, why are you getting defensive? Chill out. I’m just trying to figure out what the hell’s going on. It’s one thing if you wanna have girls over, you’re single and you can do what you want, but it’s a whole nother thing when the girl puts you out of your own bed. Especially when you shouldn’t be messin’ around with her in the first place, because that girl is someone else’s.”

“That has nothing to do with anything,” he sighed. I could tell by the sound of his voice that was frustrated. So much for Drew being understanding. And I felt bad for Dave, for having to withstand that line of questioning.

I faked it: I yawned loudly and pretending like I was coming in without having heard anything. I had already been caught eavesdropping once on Dave and his friends, and that hadn’t ended well either. The best way to avoid hearing something I shouldn’t would be to not hear it—and Drew would surely shut up if I were in the room. “Mornin’, guys.”

“Good morning,” Dave quickly replied, turning to look at me. His curls were disheveled and lopsided from being pressed against a pillow, and his eyes were drooping a little, no doubt from an uncomfortable night on the lumpy couch. “How’d you sleep?”

“Better than you, I’m guessing,” I chuckled, taking the seat next to him at the counter. “Thanks again, I really appreciate it.”

“If you thank me one more time, I swear, I’ll never let you set foot in this house again.” He cleared his throat and kept talking, probably because he was worried about what Drew would say. “So, what’s going on for you today?”

“Going back,” I told him subtly so he’d get the hint without me having to say anything in front of his roommate. “I’ll call Tubby to come get me.” Then I remembered the condition of my phone. I was destined to always mooch off of Dave, apparently. “My battery’s dead. I’m sorry. Can I borrow yours?”

“I can take you, if you want. I’m off and I need to go grocery shopping, run some errands, so I can just take you.”

“Um, okay.” It wasn’t the best solution for me, because I would have preferred Tubby’s company, but it would do—especially on short notice like this. “I really hate to be an inconvenience, but that would great.”

“Sure. Now? Just lemme go change into jeans. You can help yourself to breakfast,” Dave said, getting up from his stool and nodding toward the box of cereal he had been eating from. “Hope you like frosted flakes.”

“They’re grrrreat!” I laughed, doing my best to conjure up Tony the Tiger at nine in the morning. As Dave took the stairs two at a time, I turned to Drew and tried to be nice. “Mornin’, Drew. How’re you?”

“Good. Getting ready to move,” he explained, which made a lot of things make sense. “Tiff and I—you remember Tiff, right?—we’re getting married in October, and we just bought a house.”

“Oh, that’s great, Drew! Congratulations.”

“Thanks. Anyway, that’s why I was looking for the tape last night. You know, why I...” he faded out, but I knew what he meant. He was explaining his intrusion.

“Yeah, that’s fine. I mean, it’s not like you walked in on something.”

“So I didn’t? Because I wasn’t sure what I saw.”

I snorted. “If I was doing something I wouldn’t have wanted you to see, I would’ve made sure the door was closed and locked. Or a sock on the door knob or whatever it is you boys do to show when you wanna be left alone.”

“So if I didn’t see anything, then what’re you doing here?” he asked me bluntly.

“I needed a place to stay last night. Dave was somehow at Primanti’s when I was there, heard my predicament, and offered his couch. I never meant to kick him out of his room—he did that to be a gentleman. Dave is a really good friend of mine.”

“He’s a good friend,” Drew told me, still watching me carefully. I felt like I was under interrogation or something. “He’s a nice guy.”

“I know he is.”

“But that doesn’t explain why your boyfriend couldn’t put you up somewhere or, you know, where he is that you’re spending the night with another guy.”

My mouth dropped open, a little bit from shock and also because I was about to let something rude fly from my mouth. Dave trotted back into the kitchen, though, preventing me from doing so. I guess I couldn’t really blame Drew though; he had poor manners, but he had his friend’s best interests at heart. “So, I’m good to go. Do you need anything, Jo?”

“No. Let’s go,” I replied, abruptly getting up from my stool and following Dave out to his car. I gave him directions to get me to my apartment building. He idled while I played with my keys.

“Nervous?”

I looked over at Dave. “Um, yeah, a little. Kris and I, we don’t ever really fight like this.” I wanted to tell him that it was because it was such a sensitive topic that we both let our emotions take over. Kris and I had been deeply hurt before in losing someone close to us, so as soon as things got strained, we put our defenses back up, totally regressed, and gave up our well-adjusted coping mechanisms. Kris tried to take control, and I ran away.

In the clarity of morning, I could better understand that this was Kris being typical Kris, keeping his eye on the grand prize instead of his—and my—present happiness. For him, it was about laying down a solid foundation and securing a good future. Meanwhile, I wanted us to be together in the present, since I couldn’t bear the thought of wasting valuable time away from him. In my opinion, life was too short to postpone happiness to a later date. That later date may never come around. Those were fundamental values that Kris and I hated to stray from, but it at least made more sense to me now. Yesterday, I hadn’t wanted to be understanding or calm or rational; he had hurt me, and I had needed to back off and go lick my wounds.

Silence lingered in the air for a few more minutes, and I wasn’t budging. Finally, Dave asked, “Did you, um, want me to come up with you?”

“Uh....” If it had been, Tubby, I no doubt would have agreed instantly. As my best friend, his support would have been invaluable. But Dave didn’t really understand the situation. He didn’t know the root of our fight, and he wouldn’t get our philosophies since he didn’t know about James and how that brought me closer to Kris. Dave didn’t understand the deep history between Kris and me, both individually and together, that had cemented the bond we had.

“It looks like you need some moral support. Or a cattle prod, maybe.”

I giggled. “I just really don’t like getting my own way.”

“‘Compromise’ isn’t a dirty word, Jo,” he quipped, smirking at me.

“I know, it’s just....” How could I possibly explain it to him? If Kris was willing to give a little and take a little, I wasn’t sure what I’d be willing to do. Maybe if he was really against the idea of community college, I could possibly stay at CMU for one more semester, if it meant he’d let me transfer for the remainder of my course work. It certainly wasn’t the possible outcome I would have most wanted, but if those were terms that Kris would agree to, I could make myself be okay with it. I sighed. “Let’s go.” I decided to let Dave come up because, if I were going to have to stay, then Kris would have to get to know Dave. Kris couldn’t expect me to stay in Pittsburgh for the fall semester without any friends; I knew Kris wasn’t crazy about him, but this would give them the chance to get to know one another. Kris would also have to make some compromises if this was going to work.

Dave turned the car off, and we made our way up to the third floor. Knowing that I couldn’t just spring Dave on him, I asked my friend to wait in the hallway while I made sure my boyfriend was awake and decent before I let him in. With one last deep breath, I unlocked the apartment door and headed inside, bracing myself for possibly another battle.

But the place was quiet—too quiet. I could just tell that he wasn’t here, because I would have heard a rustling or some movement or something. I knew he wouldn’t be working out yet, since his body was still on vacation and in need of rest after the season. It worried me that I didn’t know where he was. I checked all the rooms, just to make sure.

He had cleaned. The bed was made, but the comforter looked rumpled, so I knew he had slept here last night. So where was he? As I headed back through the living room toward the door, I spotted something out of place: a stray piece of paper on the coffee table. A note. I picked it up, hoping it would clue me in to his whereabouts. It did, but it wasn’t at all what I had been expecting. It wasn’t a long note, but I couldn’t read past the words that made my eyes go blurry: Jo, I’m going back to Montréal....

Feeling deflated, I crumbled up the piece of paper in my hand and sunk onto the couch. He left. I suppose I couldn’t blame him, because I had left, too. I couldn’t stand to be in this place with him and listen to him say he cared but he didn’t want me with him. And I had said that if he didn’t change his mind.... I guess he didn’t want to change his mind. I lost it. When I gave him that ultimatum, I never thought he’d take it. After my motorcycle accident, he had walked out on me, but when we hooked back up, he told me how miserable he’d been without me. I never thought he’d want to do that again.

But I was wrong.

Dave heard me and came in; he didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I’m sure he got the idea from my tears and the crumpled paper in my hand. He tried again to comfort me, but I wasn’t paying attention to him. I was sad but angry, too. I had no clue what I was going to do without Kris, but I was resolving myself to stay together and not to fall apart. There was too much that needed to be done to spend my time crying.

8 comments:

  1. NOOOO! What are these two doing? They're both being so stupid right now that I want to smack them. I mean, I totally understand what they're feeling but seriously, love is supposed to be the ultimate trump card. So what the hell is going on here? Kris is an idiot for not doing a better job of hearing Jo out and understanding that she can't do permanent long distance and she's stupid for leaving so suddenly and not bothering to text him at least.

    I want to knock their heads together. On the bright side, they totally deserve each other when they both act crazy like this!

    Great chapter, Jay!

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  2. oh holy jesus.....read the rest of the note Jo! again Jay you have me yelling at my computer at a make believe story!!! You are getting really really good!

    Can't wait for next chapter!

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  3. Crazy kids. I wish you could update again tonight.

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  4. NO!!!!

    Wait, I thought Kris' note say for Jo to call him?

    I'm so sad for them :(

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  5. okay
    so depressed
    i am depressed
    they need to be together again
    and happy and crying and GREAT makeup sex
    and little smart/beautiful letang babies =[
    more, please!

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  6. Dave's a really nice guy, but you know, not that nice, definitely not nice enough to take the place of someone who's way nicer even if he's being a bozo right now. Plus Kris has the better hair by far. I'm worried about this Drew character though, he seems like a blabbermouth, and as usual Dave's buddies are stirring it up.

    Jo is feeling better after a good night's sleep, but it seems like she and Kris are skirting around the bigger issue, they can't do that forever, can they? Can they?!!

    Jay, you're a tease!

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  7. I'm so sad! I hope you don't make us wait too long for the next update!

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  8. now things are getting good! it's funny how i want them to be happy, but the best updates are when there's tons of drama! i just want both of them to be happy. even if they're not together in the end.

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