But I just can’t do this. Despite all my promises to myself, when I woke up this morning and saw her peaceful face, remembering how happy I was all last night, all I felt was how much agony I had been in as the memories began to hit me all at once. And I just know that I can’t stay there and try for a relationship.
It hurts too much.
“Fuck,” I curse aloud, hitting my table.
All it achieves is a throbbing fist and I collapse into my seat, gripping my hair with one hand. Jessica hasn’t replied to my message yet, and I don’t expect her to. I glance at the clock. I have the night shift tonight, so I have a few hours before I leave.
Maybe I should cancel work. I’m not in the best mind frame right now, and I’ll probably make mistakes. But I’ve canceled too many times in the last week and a half. Fiona has been good about it, but I can’t keep this up indefinitely. I have a responsibility to do my job, not to fall to pieces and cancel when I feel like it.
Alright, so going to work is one thing I’ll be doing today. I glance at the clock. Still only just past ten-thirty. Time is crawling by excruciatingly slowly. What time did I get home again? Nine? I left Jessica’s house pretty early, but then I wandered the streets, berating myself and trying to figure out what, exactly, I want. But I’m no closer to figuring that out than I was when I fled Jessica’s apartment.
Coward, my mind howls.
I’m the one that asked Jessica for the second chance this time. I set up the date and picked her up and went back to her place last night. Now I’ve done exactly what Jessica did three years ago. Things got too hard and I ran away.
Maybe I haven’t grown up after all.
I groan and put my head on the table. What am I supposed to do now? I have no idea. Do I go back to Jessica and apologize? Will she even understand? I can’t blame her if she’s mad, though there’s a tiny part of me that thinks she might not have the right to be, after everything she put me through.
What even possessed me to run off? I sigh into the wood. No, I know what happened here. It’s everything converging on me at once, isn’t it? One moment everything is fine. And then it isn’t anymore, because I still can’t get over the events of three years ago.
Everything is going well now, but she’s just going to leave you again, a treacherous voice in the back of my head whispers.
“Shut up,” I mumble aloud.
Great, now I’m talking to myself. I bang my head on the table a few times for good measure. This is ridiculous. If I’d known I was going to react like this, I wouldn’t have asked her on the damn date to start with.
Then again, there were signs, after all. The nervousness. The fact that I almost canceled several times on the day. I should probably have guessed that I was going to get cold feet.
I’m just that much of a coward, now, too scared of getting hurt to stick around and let things be good for once.
What’s Jessica thinking now? She’s definitely gotten my message by now. Will she reply? I almost want her to. Will she fight me on this? I definitely don’t want her to do that. Or maybe she’s trying to figure out what the best thing to do is. We’re both in uncharted territory. I spent three years chasing her while she ran away. Now the roles over been reversed, and neither of us knows what to do about that.
“Get it together,” I mutter to myself.
I glance at the clock again. Barely two minutes have passed. Maybe the clock is slow. Or maybe the world is just torturing me.
I stand abruptly. I can’t stay here. My thoughts are just circling round and round and round, my mind too full to think anything rational right now. I just want some peace, but I don’t know how to get it. I need to talk about this, but who could I possibly talk to that would understand? Kyle would try, but he would just end up being mad on my behalf, and I don’t want him to be mad at Jessica, especially since, this time, it isn’t her fault. Alex would just feel guilty, despite the fact that none of this is his fault either. And Ethan…
Wouldn’t Ethan understand better than anyone? He, too, was betrayed by his partner many years ago, leaving him with sole custody of their daughter. As far as I know, his ex-girlfriend hasn’t been seen in many, many years, and it’s doubtful she ever has any intention of returning.
A girlfriend that left suddenly, with no warning, leaving him reeling. Roiling feelings of dread and uncertainty. Not knowing how to cope with the situation he’s suddenly found himself in. He would understand much better than anyone.
I pause for only a moment to grab my coat. Then I’m out the door, hoping that Ethan is home today.
I’m in luck. Ethan opens the door of the small house he rents, looking puzzled to see me on his doorstep.
“Hey, Grant,” he says, stepping back to allow my inside. “Don’t you have work today?”
I glance at the clock. Time seems to be working again because it’s almost eleven now.
“Soon,” I tell him. “Actually, I was hoping we could talk.”
Understanding flashes across his face. This is the second time I’ve come to him for advice on the same matter, after all.