Warning: suggestive themes.
You wake up before him—that’s the first mistake.
Lulling morning light tells you to bring the sheets closer, to sink in the cocoon of blankets and let your mind drift off again. The quiet hum of the refrigerator, the faint sounds of traffic during the early morning rush hour, his snoring muffled by the pillow; you could use them all to fall back asleep.
Wait. Your eyes snap open, and you’re sure that you freeze for a second, with your fingers nearly poking holes in the sheets. Snoring?
The bed creaks as you turn. A drop of sweat skates along your skin. The serene twitter of 8 a.m. is kidnapped when your eyes land on purple patchy skin in front of you. In its place, your tongue dries, your throat doesn’t work right (how do you breathe when he’s next to you, right here, right now, asleep and drooling?), and you try to knock your heart off the tightrope it’s suddenly on. Smash your heart off that tightrope. Let it splatter against the ground. Because picking up those pieces one at a time would be a gift compared to this.
A sharp breath through your nose comes a second later, and you tentatively pry yourself from your bed. The sheets pool over the bed when you get up, draping over the side and the tip pirouettes on the floor, barely touching it.
Nipping at your skin, the air runs its breath down your neck. The short walk to the bathroom feels like a scene from a spy movie, where your footsteps are so quiet, so minimal, that every sound resonates like a chunk from an ice shelf plunging in the glacial ocean.
Dark chains of bruises line your neck.
What a sight for sore eyes. You snort. Maybe you’d laugh if you didn’t want to wake him up.
You should close the bathroom door and sit in here for a bit. Wait for him to wake up and leave. Have a barrier between you two.
His groan is crystal clear; it crawls out of his throat one limb at a time. You can hear the exhaustion in his punctuated breaths. He doesn’t talk to you when he sits up and scratches his neck. The purple ridges climbing his neck and face are unmistakable, but the sound of him putting on his jeans strewn on the floor are another category of unmistakable.
This is happening. You pull in a second breath for a second wind. Do something. Look busy.
Fixing your hair is a half-step above instinctive and doesn’t take longer than a couple moments with several flicks of your wrist. Your hands brace the sides of the bathroom countertop. The corners poke at your skin while you stare at yourself in the mirror.
Fake it until you make it. That saying should be engraved on every wall in your house, on the designer shoes stashed away in the closet, on the sheets layering your bed. You would’ve ended up some place much, much worse without it.
He scratches his scalp, and you have to pretend not to notice how he tears his phone and keys from your nightstand, stuffing them in his pockets. The shirt he’s wearing is plain, a white that folds over his body, but it’s riddled with wrinkles.
No words. The silence is stale. You break it.
Talking to him is the second mistake.
“What?” He snorts. “You don’t want me to?”
“Forget about it. Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
He hums and rolls his neck back and forth to shake the stiffness out. “Yep.”
What, are you not worth more than that? More than a measly word that has almost no breath to it? His eyes fasten to you for a second, linger a little too long before he looks elsewhere.
“Well.” Your tongue hurts, you realize. It’s chomped between your teeth. “Get going.” You give him an expectant glance. Crossing your arms over your chest, you move to lean against the bathroom door. The wood frame rakes its fingers down your skin.
His eyebrow pops up and a sardonic smile rides his lips. “You’re impatient, aren’t you? What’s the hurry? Got someone coming over right after me?”
“That’s none of your business.”
But you wish it was—wish he didn’t disappear in and out of your life as seamlessly he does. You wonder if he ever feels guilty for it.
“Hey.” He shrugs. “You’re right.”
Your eyes are trained on him, on his eyes, on his scars. The scars are like a mural covering his skin. Do you have a place in those scars, in the story spanning his body?
“It’s none of my business. Even if it’s that birdbrain,” he adds. The jealousy is painfully obvious. It has an echo of humor to it, but the humor was siphoned out and left the barebones behind. He wears laughter like a mask.
Choking back a dry laugh is easier said than done. The biting comments spinning in your head push against your barriers. One slip and they’d be out in full force. Instead, you give him what he gave you. Silence.
He’s shuffling out, feet dragging over the tile and all, but something tells you that he doesn’t want to leave.
“When’s your next assignment end?” you ask.
“Why?” He tosses you a pointed look that harpoons its way through you. “I haven’t even left yet and you already miss me?” Another one of those cruel smirks. “And here we both agreed we wouldn’t get attached.”
“You make it impossibly hard to be nice to you.”
He rifles his hand in his hair, frustrated. “And you make it too easy to get a reaction out of you.” There are fangs behind those words. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think there’s an ounce of regret washing over his face, starting with his eyes. “I’ll call you when I’m done.”
You step out of the bathroom.
Do you want him? No. Yes. No. Yes, yes, yes.
His eyebrow pops up again. You can see the wheelhouse of retorts simmering in his head, but you interrupt him before he can burn your skin with a comment he may or may not regret.
“Because you should stay.”
The third mistake is asking him to stay.
“Stay?” The word sounds foreign on his tongue.
You’re walking over to him, and you’re increasingly aware that you have his full, undivided attention. The sunlight blasts against your face and makes you blink.
Being met with a clicking tongue isn’t what you expect. He shakes his head. “Not gonna happen. Sorry, sweetheart."
“You don’t have to do it right now. Think about it.”
He breathes before leaving your room. “. . .I’ll sleep on it. See you.”
The fourth mistake is letting him leave. You’re caught in a lose-lose situation between the contradictions in your head. But you want him. That’s what matters.
Take the chance. Spin the board. Throw the dart. Test your luck.
“You’d better. I know you have my number saved, you jerk.”
He laughs when he opens the front door, and although you can’t hear it, you imagine that he’s laughing when the door closes, too.