Authors: Misti Murphy
Was! It was one of my favorite things to do. But that was before we fucked it up. I’m not sleeping with you ever again, remember?
I hit send, my heart pounding while I waited for his reply. What if he thought I meant it still?
Who said anything about sleeping? I sure as hell can’t fuck you if you’re snoring.
Look, in all seriousness, I know you think we’re done. We’re toxic. Whatever. But you’re wrong. You were the best thing that ever happened to me, and I miss you. You might be crazy, and I might be a fucking douche canoe for letting you go in the first place, but we belong together. I’m not going to give up on that.
My throat closed up, my heart flipping. I rubbed at the spot where it seemed to be swelling. This wasn’t some light flirtation now. We were crossing a line, an invisible barrier I’d built to protect myself from missing him. Because missing him hurt too damn much, and it made me crazy. So I held onto the crazy, put it into an email in an attempt to keep it from overwhelming me.
Belonged. Past tense, Mike. And I’m not crazy!
I leaped out of my seat and rushed for the break room. Tears prickled behind my eyeballs, and I gripped the edge of a counter and bowed my head.
crazy. He made me fucking crazy. I’d always been on the precipice, but when he’d broken my heart, he’d made it so much worse. Now we were playing with fire, and there were no guarantees. Could I survive him without losing my mind? With shaking hands I poured a coffee and made my way back to my desk. His next email was waiting for me, and I attempted to ignore it, tried to just breathe. But it called to me like a siren.
Psychopathic, nymphomaniac, wild beyond all reasonable doubt. It doesn’t matter to me. You’re my brand of crazy. You’re mine, from that time I drove you home and for however long we have, full stop, and that delightful pussy of yours, too.
It was time to end this conversation. I couldn’t think with him infiltrating every second of my time. Not to mention the landslide of emotions he dragged up in me.
And my little dog, too! You’re still a douche canoe. Now if you don’t mind, boss, I’m going to forget this conversation and get back to work.
PS: Bring it up again, and I will ensure you can’t find a damn thing in your office.
And that was the end of it. I closed my email and started sorting through the stack of files.
Just code the damn files. Clean them up and put them back in the filing cabinet. Don’t think.
I could be professional. And afterwards I’d, what? Maybe go see my sister. After all she and Leo had been through, they’d made it work. She’d let go of her past. Perhaps I could, too.
I tried to kick my racing thoughts out of my head and concentrate on work, but they crowded in on me. I scraped my palm over my throat. Had it gotten stifling in the office? What if I’d been wrong? What if I’d single handedly wrecked everything?
Chelsea tracked me as I paced to the desk and picked up my bag from beneath the desk, only stopping long enough to check my email.
I surrender. Listen, there’s something I have to tell you. It’s kind of important. Can you drop round tonight?
My heart stopped in my chest. Shutting down my computer monitor, I moved numbly through the office to the back door, stuttering something about going to lunch early.
He had something he needed to tell me. Something kind of important. Something that could change everything? Like my belief that he’d cheated on me? That he’d stopped loving me like everyone else in my life had?
I sunk against the door, my hand wrapped around the door handle, while guilt washed over me as memories that felt like they’d happened yesterday and not three years ago hit. Nausea rose in my belly, flooding my throat as I stumbled down the steps to my car. The world spun in reverse, and I slumped behind the wheel, the heels of my palms pressed to my eyes. If—and it was a mega, huge if—everything I’d believed about how we ended was not real, then how could he possibly want me back after what I’d done?
Three years, one month ago…
I rifled through his desk. There’d be something. A torn scrap of paper, a phone number, the proverbial lipstick on the collar. My pulse raced in my ears as I thumbed through the contents of the first of four drawers. How had we come to this? How had I turned into this paranoid bitch?
Six months without sex was a good start. I hadn’t noticed at first. Mike hadn’t been feeling well, he’d been tired. But a week turned into a month before I knew what had happened, and then six. He was tired, working longer hours. That alone wouldn’t have been enough for me to question our relationship. He’d stopped sleeping, too. Wandering the house in the middle of the night, or spending his time locked away in here. I’d taken up staying up with him, until he told me he hated when I did that.
Finding nothing, I moved on to the next drawer. At first I’d been worried, begged him to talk to me, talk to anyone. See a doctor. But he’d glance over my head and tell me everything was fine. It wasn’t. That was plain as day. The tenseness in his fingers when he touched me, barely at all now. And the days that turned into nights spent at work. Secrets filled the chasm between us, pulling us further apart each day.
My heart cracked a little as I moved on to the final drawer. This wasn’t how we were supposed to end, was it? I shuffled through the contents and slid the drawer shut. Taking a deep breath, I sank back into the leather chair. Nothing. My heart lifted a little. Maybe I was imagining it. Maybe this was some kind of a rough patch, and we’d be fine. I just had to be patient. I could do that for him. I would do anything for him.
Tears pricked behind my eyes as I swung a leg up under me. Whatever was wrong, I had to find a way to get him to open up. He wasn’t having an affair, he wasn’t leaving me. Mike wasn’t like my father.
As I started to close my eyes, I caught a glimpse of his planner, open beneath the blueprints for a house they were building out near the lake. A sharp intake of breath. I held it and pulled the brown leather covered book out from under the papers. I didn’t even have to look past the page it lay open to.
My hand raced to my mouth, capturing the gasp that tore my chest apart. All there, right in front of me the entire time. Dates and times and a phone number, always the same. I flipped back through the pages. The same number too many times to not mean something. My throat closed up, the tears spilling down my cheeks. That had been happening more often recently than I’d like to admit. I snapped the book shut and raced from the room. Unable to breathe, I slumped against the wall outside his office, shaking like a leaf. I’d gone in to find exactly this, but it couldn’t be real. Couldn’t be.
I slammed back into the room and stared at the number, then picked up the phone and dialled it. There’d be an answer. Something else, something different. But when she picked up the phone, I couldn’t speak. There was no business greeting, just a husky hello on the other end. My pulse pounded in my ears, and I slammed down the phone. It all made sense now. Every damn thing over the past six months came into vivid clarity. Numbness crashed over me, and I wandered into the kitchen to find the scotch. I poured a liberal shot and swallowed it down. Then I laid out his journal on the counter and sat down to wait.
The numbness wore off the moment he walked through the door. He dragged his jacket and tie off and hung them on the back of the stool before pouring himself a glass of water. Didn’t even say a word. Not a damn one. Anger cracked through me, a thousand tiny explosions erupting. “Hello to you, too.”
“Hey.” He turned, leaned against the cabinets as though he couldn’t hear the snarl in my voice.
It was too fucking much. I bolted out of the chair. “How could you fucking do this to me? How could you?”
He just stared at me. Nothing. He said nothing in his defence. Didn’t even ask what I was yelling about.
“I knew…” my voice cracked, as acute pain racked my chest, “something was wrong, but this.” I threw an arm out, gesturing at his journal.
His jaw clenched, his mouth pinching.
“An affair?” I sobbed. “Please tell me it isn’t true? Please tell me I’m making something out of nothing?” I reached for him, wanting him to pull me into his arms and tell me I was wrong. That I was being crazy.
Instead he stood there, as if he was a statue, or worse, as if he was relieved I’d finally found out. “How long has it been going on, Mike?”
I’d flipped through that planner from front to back. There were weeks where her number hadn’t come up at all. That there hadn’t been dates marked out as meetings when he’d told me he was out of town, or lying about staying at the office to catch up on work. But they’d been few and far between. He’d boxed out her number, outlined it in ink over and over on the first page. All those months, but they only went back to January. Things had shifted before then, hadn’t they? “How bloody long?”
He didn’t even wince as I accused him. Didn’t bat an eye. Couldn’t he deny it?
Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll believe you.
I gulped. “It’s true then.”
All this time I thought he was different – thought he was the one I was going to spend the rest of my life with. But he’d turned out to be just like my father, and I couldn’t deny it any longer.
I grabbed my purse from the back of a stool and bolted from the house. Swiping at the tears that dashed down my cheeks, I jumped in the car and drove out of Reverence. There was a pub where no one would come looking for me. A place I’d promised never to go to.
The car park was filled with the usual vehicles as I slipped my car into a spot between two trucks and raced inside. A lanky young guy was behind the bar, and I tossed my purse on the counter and ordered double after double.
The night had become a blur, all my training when it came to drinking nothing against the ever growing black hole inside me.
“Hey, baby, you’re looking awfully lonely tonight.” His thick voice against my ear caused a shiver to run up my spine, and I turned to glare at him.
“Go away, Rabid.” I twisted away from the creep and pulled out my phone. Mike hated the guy, wouldn’t be able to stand the idea of him even talking to me, let alone hitting on me. Surely he’d come for me if I told him where I was. I’d promised him never to come here without him. He wouldn’t think to come here if he was looking for me. It was the last place he’d expect to find me. I’d only ever stepped foot in Wolf’s with him by my side, never letting me out of his sight, never taking his gaze off me. Still, we’d had fun here, made memories and caused havoc. Without him it was just another bar, with dirtier, creepier patrons and the oil over water gut feeling that nothing could make things better. That the pain would never be less than what it was right now. Mike gave no response to my message. He didn’t want me anymore.
A meaty hand landed on my shoulder, gripped it as he dragged his mouth against my ear once more. “So Knight cast you away, did he? Found a better piece of ass?”
I stifled a sob and tossed down the rest of my scotch, eyeing the bartender all the while. “Just go away.”
“I know how to make you feel better.”
I fiddled with my phone. Maybe if Mike knew the guy he hated more than anything was hitting on me he’d remember he loved me. Maybe he’d fight for me. I typed out a message, but my thumbs were fat and the screen blurred into two in front of me. I put it away and concentrated on my refill.
“He’s not going to come, you know. You’re just another pussy.”
I hiccupped, and dropped my head to the bar, unable to hold back the sobs that ripped through me. Had I been just another pussy to Mike? Had I been blind all along?
My father had told my mother he loved her, he’d pretended he’d loved my sister and me, too, but he’d walked away as if none of us had meant a damn thing, and now I didn’t even merit a word from Mike when I asked him if he was cheating on me? “I’m not just another pussy.”
Rabid crowed, an abrasive, neighing snigger. “You’re fucking with me, right? You’re the kind of girl who lives for dick. No one wants you for anything more than a good time.”
“Screw you,” I snapped. “You don’t know anything about me.”
“I know you’re the type who likes it rough.” He ran his paw down my arm. “And that I can give you something to take your mind of that fucker.”
I fumbled for my phone again. Pulled it out and tried to study the screen. Why did it have to swim in front of my eyes?
Nothing. He was done with me? That’s what his silence meant. Well fuck him. Fuck him for taking my heart, making it into something it was never meant to be and then smashing it to pieces. “Fine. Whatever. You want to fuck me, then let’s fuck.”
He had me off the stool, leading me toward the women’s bathroom before I had time to blink. And when he slammed me up against the wall, my head crashed against the panelling and I almost blacked out. He tore at my skirt, the seam ripping in his haste to get it up. There was nothing in the way he touched me that made my body respond. Maybe I never would again. Mike had destroyed me, and left me nothing. Somehow I had the sensibility to insist on a condom and he smashed a fist into the vending machine to get one before he lifted me up and slammed into me. He knocked me into the wall, repeatedly, while he grunted like a pig, and all I could think of was Mike.