Her voice in response is stubborn, but it also cracks. “I’m not.”
“Get out of the car, Bethany.” I give her the command and step back although I keep my grip on the door, pulling it open wider and waiting on the vacant street. I can’t help but notice our footprints on the sidewalk. Hers are so much smaller than mine, but the spacing is the same. They’re in complete rhythm and time with mine.
She clears her throat as she steps out, moving over the curb and onto the sidewalk. Toe to toe with me, she stands there, both of her hands cradling the keys. Maybe to keep them from making noise, maybe to give her something to focus on other than me.
Either way she looks me in the eyes, daring me to accuse her of being on the verge of tears again. I can see it.
Instead I tell her, “I don’t love you too.” I don’t think about it; I just say it. Feeling the restlessness sway inside of me, panicking and not knowing how she’ll react.
Her large hazel eyes widen even more, for only a moment as her lips part just slightly and other than that, there’s no response at all. No telling as to what she thinks. Until she tries to speak and the first word can’t even make it out unbroken.
Instead of carrying on with the intention of speaking, she snags her bottom lip between her teeth to keep it from trembling and stares at the window of the car door rather than at me.
I add, leaning closer to her, close enough to feel her warmth and for her hair to kiss against me with the upcoming gust, “I lied to you and you lied to me. Now we’re lying to each other.”
I hate myself in this moment, for daring to lead her into this path. But the other path is away from me. I want her close, I need her as close to me as I can have her.
Her hazel eyes swirl with a mix of emotions. Complicated and in broken disarray, the amber colors bleeding into one another, but each still visible and adding to the beauty of her gaze.
“I don’t love you.” She shakes her head as the statement leaves her. Her body consciously denying the very words she speaks.
“I don’t love you too,” I repeat.
She’s searching. Trying to figure out whether or not I’m lying to her and I don’t know what she’ll find. I don’t know if I’m even capable of loving anymore. Not the way she needs. Not the way she deserves.
Before she can find whatever truth there is, I crash my lips against hers, letting go of the door to pull her into my arms. Her soft lips melt as I deepen the kiss. Her small hands reach up to push against my chest, but instead she quickly fists my coat and pulls me in even closer.
With a swift glide of my tongue against the seam of her lips, she parts them for me and lets me in. In the middle of the empty sidewalk, I pour everything into that kiss, holding her body against mine. Letting her feel what it is that I have. Maybe she can feel what I have for her. Maybe she’ll know it better than I can.
I can feel her heart pound against her chest, maybe hating my own, maybe needing another to commiserate with.
The quiet is uncomfortable. Or maybe it’s just my thoughts filling up the silence that are uncomfortable. Every second, I go through an entire day. Each day since Jenny’s gone missing, even worse when she was found dead, and then each day that Jase tore through the shambles of my life.
That’s what the mind does when placed in a quiet room.
His bedroom is a subdued masculinity. A calming presence that begs me to lie down and sink into the plush linens. But then… the thoughts come back. The memories. The what-ifs.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, I focus on the chaos that used to be. The Rockford Center kept me busy, kept me going. And I miss it.
I miss my patients. Marky Lindgren in particular. He always had a story to tell. Sometimes the patients are violent. Sometimes they’re vile with what they say. Sometimes all they do is cry, and I keep reminding myself of what I’d tell them when they apologized.
“You’re having a moment and you can have as many as you need.”
People mourn differently. Funny how on this side of it all, I find my own advice something to ignore. I don’t need moments; I need a way forward.
And that’s why I miss Marky. Marky’s a liar and he spins stories about the other patients to occupy his time. I remember one night he told me how the male patient at the end of the hall had slept with one of the patients that had just been admitted.