“Are you…just about…done? Or are you…” David wheezes, hunched over on his knees. “Going to pummel me…to death?” He is so fucking dramatic. He eyes me up and down with pleading green eyes. The right eye has a slight ring of purple around it from my fist jabbing him when he wasn’t paying attention. I wipe away the blood trailing down from my cut lip and nod to the center of the mat.
“Up.” I push my hair—that is long overdue for cutting—back and shrug. “I can go at it all day.”
“We have!” he exclaims, falling to his butt. He rubs his sore neck, his dark blond hair falling over his forehead. Damn, we both could use a haircut. Then those green eyes are looking me like I’m a butcher coming after a loose sheep. Too bad I don’t give a fuck about his feelings, not past the swell of emotions churning inside of me like a gymnast on crack. Just cartwheeling all over the fucking place.
“Get up, old man. I’m not finished with you yet.” I kick his beat-up Nikes and walk over to the center. I turn and raise my eyebrows, mentally telling him with my eyes to get the fuck up and fight me so I feel better, you prick.
“You’re such an asshole,” he spits as he pulls himself up using the ropes.
“Tell me something I don’t know.” I raise my fists, and he rolls his eyes before walking over to me, mirroring my stance.
We resume fighting, and I get lost in the simplicity of it. There’s no talking about feelings, girl problems—nothing but grunts and curses—manly shit. Though there was nothing manly about the way I cried, in pure frustration of course, when Liv left me. Again. Just last week, she left me because I wouldn’t tell her the truth. And she’s left me again because I told her all of the truth. There is no in between with that girl, and it’s fucking killing me. I don’t know what to do anymore.
Would she rather I lie and give her false hope that I might want to get married and have little shits running around our white picket fence after I come home from work? I can do that, but she’d only go off on me again, pack her shit, and flee the fucking country. And if I don’t tell her every detail of why I don’t want any of the two, she’ll just break up with me altogether. With her, there is no right or wrong, no fucking gray area, and it is driving me absolutely bonkers!
“Okay,” David pants, standing straight and spitting his mouth guard to the ground. “I’m not fighting until you tell me what’s up with you.”
I take out my mouth guard too and shrug nonchalantly. “There’s nothing wrong.”
He squints at me. “You do remember that we lived together for five whole years, right? I knew when you’re lying about bringing a girl home to fuck. I knew when you drank my beer. I knew when you broke the handle to the toilet and pinned it on me, which, by the way, was such a dick move. And I definitely know now that something is wrong.”
I roll my eyes at his deceptive ability; the fucker can read me like a book. But still, I try to skate around divulging my greatest conflict going on in my head. “Don’t you have some hair and makeup appointment to get to?” I take off my MMA gloves, then the black tape surrounding my calloused, bruised knuckles. I ruffle out my hair as he eyes me, giving up with a sigh.
“It’s a hair appointment and fuck you.”
I just smirk and wink at him, hair falling in my eyes.
We leave the boxing gym and head over to the mall, where he gets a much-needed haircut. His wedding is only two weeks away. I also get a trim on the sides, leaving the top fuller. The thought of Liv gripping it while I fuck her was the reason I didn’t cut the entire thing.
Fuck, I thought about Liv.
Stop thinking about her, I tell myself sternly. She’s gone.
I groan out loud.
“Okay, enough of the pouting. Tell me what happened.” David nudges me.
I side-glare at him, and he raises his brows, challenging me. I roll my eyes and look down at my boots as I walk, one in front of the other, a scuff in the tiles. I focus on anything but David.
“Grey…” He nudges me again, and when I look at him, he’s making this weird, pouty, concerned face. I want to punch him normal.
“She left me,” I tell him, my voice thick, raspy.
He looks shocked, like I just told him Beyoncé was secretly a man. “Liv?”
I shake my head, letting my eyes roll. “No, the Queen of England…yes, Liv!”
He punches my arm. “Don’t be a dick. I’m just trying to be a friend.”
“Whatever.” I nudge my fingers in my jean pockets, rolling my tense shoulders as we stroll through the mall. He’s going back down to Miami later tonight, and we’re spending our little time together by talking about Liv, the one topic I was staying away from this entire time. How fucking amazing of a friend is he, am I right?
I can’t help but smile though, ’cause it shows he cares. I haven’t had a genuine friend who cares in a long time…actually, never. He was the only person who cared enough to ask what’s on my mind and actually listen, not just respond. He listened because he wanted to. I appreciate that about him. Always have, always will. To be honest, I was kind of afraid when we stopped speaking because I thought I’d never have that again. An ear just to listen to me. Even when I sounded fucking crazy.
“You listening to me, or is my handsome face too much of a distraction?” he asks.
I crack an even wider smile.
“Sorry, I was thinking of how we should hurry and get you to your gynecologist appointment.”
He shoves his middle finger in my face. “Fuck you. You hear me? Fuck. You.”
“No thanks, babe.” I push his hand away. He rolls his eyes at my witty comment, but I see the ghost of a smile on his lips.
“Liv. Details. Now,” he orders.
I take a great big breath. “Somehow, the topic of marriage and children was brought up. You already know how I feel about it—it can suck dick. But she…she is so goddamn set on the big sha-bam and little shits, and—and we had this big-ass fight a few hours ago. Before we went to the gym. Anyway, I kind of lost it up here, you know, and she packed a bag and left.”
“You let her go?” he asks, incredulous, eyes wide and unbelieving.
“I didn’t let her do anything. She can do whatever she wants,” I lie. Truth is, a huge part of me was convinced her leaving was the best for the both of us. With her gone, I don’t have the pressure of marriage and children. And with me out of the picture, she can have all of that plus a fucking dog, if she wants. She would be happy, and I would be content. Not happy, but content. And I’d be fine with that.
“Yeah, ’course, but you shouldn’t have let her go. She’s your girl. You bump heads, sure, but never ever let her get away.”
“She’s not a fucking slave.”
“Btu she isn’t a fucking stranger, either.”
I shrug for the hundredth time. “Doesn’t matter, she’s gone now.”
“Not for long, I hope.” He really does sound hopeful.
I stop myself from shrugging; it’s all I can do. Conform to the idea of her being out of my life for good. Spider-like chills run up the inside of my flesh, and I discreetly shudder. Strange, cold, and not-fucking-happy. That’d be my life without my princess. The ruler of my fucked-up kingdom and heart.
He stops me by placing his hand on my chest, staring me in the eyes. “You better not let her get away because you won’t think about the prospect of something bigger than the one-year plan in your little mind. That girl loves you, and I know you love her, maybe even more, if possible. She’s the best thing to ever happen to you. I’ll be damned if I stand by and watch you let her leave. Because I know you, and I know you’ll never be the same, possibly even worse than when she entered your life in the first place.”
“I can’t change her mind, David.” He doesn’t understand. If it was so easy, I wouldn’t be here pouting like a little bitch.
“But you can change your mind,” he says, thinking he’s some kind of fucking Yoda.
“Like that’s fair. She gets to think and want what she wants, but when I do it, I’m the bad guy.”
“Just open your mind a little, compromise. Say you’ll think about it; tell her to rein it in with that serious talk until you feel you’re ready. She has to be willing to agree too. Not just you.”
“Okay, Dr. Phil.”
“Okay,” he says, breaking out into a smile of success. Then it falters as he frowns in his forehead and asks, “Why don’t you want to get married or have kids, anyway?”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” I turn away from him, groaning.
He faces me and nudges me. “Just asking, not asking for you to get on your knees. I just want to know. You’ve always been against it but never told me why.”
I grind my teeth in annoyance, debating whether or not I should tell him. Well, why the fuck not? He is my best friend, right? I’m supposed to tell him my deepest, darkest secrets.
“Besides the fact that it’s just signing a paper and promising to stay with one person for the rest of your life—no fucking pressure there, huh?—there’s no actual point to it. We already live together, act like a married couple—yuck. Why do the rings and the forever and ceremony? It’s a little too much. Plus, my parents never really worked out. My…my mother was too hopped up on her crazy mind to love my dad. Maybe a ring and vow won’t be enough to back my love for her; maybe my craziness will just get worse. As for kids, come on. Look at me. I don’t want to pass this”—I tap my forehead, pausing—“onto another human being. It sucks.”
David shakes his head and pulls me into his chest for a hug.
“Um…why?” I choke out from underneath his tight hug.
“Because you’re cynical and my best friend,” he says. “You shouldn’t be scared to live the rest of your life with the love of your life because of something you can’t help. Live life without restrictions, or you’ll always fret over every obstacle and be stuck in one place forever.”
“You are such an owl; I wanna get your cheesy-ass words sewn into a pillow,” I joke.
“Well, isn’t this nice? A little gay…fuck, I mean all the gay,” a familiar voice drawls beside us.
We look to the side, and I growl, facing the evil bitch herself.
“What the fuck are you doing here, Rose?” White spit flies out of my mouth. Hope some landed on her skin before it sheds and shows what she really is—a snake. I can’t fucking believe I thought she wanted to fix things between us. I ruined her entire life, and I thought she’d forgive me without hesitation and want to be closer to me? God, I could be such an idiot. I was just so desperate to get over Liv when, really, there is no getting over that girl.
“None of your business,” she sasses.
I growl and take a step forward, but David holds me back.
She rolls her eyes and sips on her smoothie. “Visiting my little bro…” She breaks into a toothy grin. “Heard he ran into your little Liv,” she says in a baby-like voice, making me want to shove that smoothie cup down her throat.
“Just walk away. You accomplished nothing last time, and the trend will follow,” David sneers, tugging at my arm. Rose just narrows her powder-blue eyes at him. “We should go.”
“No, this bitch almost destroyed my life!” I yell, pointing an accusing finger at her makeup-heavy face. And to think I found her pretty once. Now she looks like a mannequin on steroids.
Her eyes twitch, and her hand holding the smoothie shakes a little. “I almost ruined your life? You were the one who started it, forcing me to get that abortion, get rid of our baby, and ruined that scholarship at my number one college! My family turned their backs on me—”
“Screw you,” I cut off her little tangent, crossing my arms. “We both know you were lying about me being the father. You were too busy screwing around with the football team—which I did not lie about, BTW—to keep track. So you pinned it on me and ripped that little fucker out of your unworthy stomach.”
She tries to slap me, but I catch her hand in mid-air before it can hit my skin. “How dare you?” she screeches, drawing attention from shoppers. Fuck them. It’s just me, this snake, and the truth.
“Grey…” David warns, eyeing a pudgy mall cop near an electronic shop a few shops down. He watches us intently, so I let her hand go and take a step back. She takes one forward. Brave…but incredibly stupid.
“You know you were the father, so don’t try and call me a slut!” she screams, tears welling up in her eyes. Her lips twitch, and she flicks her fiery red hair over her scrawny shoulder.
“No, I’m not!” she exclaims like the drama-bitch she is.
“Grey…” David tugs on my shirt. “Is she worth spending hours in the mall jail cell for?”
I hold up a hand to silence him; he groans. “You’re lying, admit it.”
“I am—” she begins.
“Admit it!” I scream, my last nerves snapping.
“Excuse me, si—”
“Fine, yes! I lied!” she finally admits, and it’s like someone pours a huge bucket of ice water down my back.
“Really?” I was totally bluffing, but I did see her tell-tale signs of deceit: the hair flip, trembling lips, the tears. The bitch ran on the lying factory, using some kind of minions inside of her fucked-up brain to fuck people over, get people to think she’s innocent. Innocent, my ass.
“Yes.” She nods, taking steps toward me. I hold my ground, keeping her intense glare. “How does it feel to know that, for all those years, you were led to believe you killed an innocent child? Bet you developed a hatred for children, right? Wrong. That was guilt and unwanted desire for the same thing happening to your future fucked-up child. Who would want to be the child of a man who killed a baby because he was a heartless monster, am I right?” I gulp unintentionally, playing into her words. She notices, of course, and chuckles darkly, like the Wicked Bitch of The West.
“I’m not the one who set up an appointment, sat down, and went through it,” I point out. “You had time to let my scared, panicked words roll off your back and choose what you truly wanted. You didn’t have to have it killed.”
She doesn’t react, making me think I was wrong. But then it happens. A smile slowly appears on her face. “Busted.” She shrugs. “It would have ruined my life. Got my karma when you snitched about the football thing to my parents, which led to the scholarship falling apart.”
“No.” I shake my head, and she raises a brow. “You got your karma when you realized you spent all those years pining after my destruction. Instead of explaining to get your scholarship back, you plotted your revenge. Took you five years, and you’re broke, your family still hates you, and you’re a pathetic, low-life bitch.”
She slaps me, and I let her this time. She can have the little tap, because she was right about one thing: I did feel guilty. Like a monster. But now, now I feel lighter. I finally know the truth, though I suspected it, and now I can do what David says. I won’t guarantee anything because I know my crazy is hereditary, and I would never want to pass anything down, but I will try for one person and one person only—Liv.
“Where are you going?” David asks me as I rush over to my car.
I look at my phone, at the tracker that shows where Liv is. “New York…wait, what?”