“Your mom said you were having trouble writing the obituaries?” he asked. “I can help.”
“I don’t need your help,” I growled lightly, my fingers forming fists, my nails digging into my palms. I hated how angry I felt each passing day. I hated how I blamed the people around me for the accident. I hated that I was becoming colder each passing moment. “I don’t need anyone.”
“Son.” He sighed, placing his hand on my shoulder.
I pulled away. “I just want to be alone.”
His head lowered, and he ran his fingers across the back of his neck. “Okay. Mom and I will be inside.” A second later he turned away and opened the screen door. “But, Tristan, just because you want to be alone, doesn’t mean you are alone. Remember that. We are always here when you need us.”
I listened to the screen door slam and huffed at his words.
We are always here when you need us.
The truth of the matter was ‘always’ had an expiration date.
Reaching into my back pocket, I pulled out the piece of paper I’d spent the past three hours staring at. I’d finished Jamie’s obituary early that morning, but Charlie’s was still blank in my hand, with only his name attached to it.
How was I supposed to do it? How was I supposed to write his life story when his life hadn’t even had a chance to begin?
The rain began to slam against the paper and tears climbed into my eyes. I blinked a few times before shoving the paper back into my pocket.
I wouldn’t cry.
Fuck the tears.
My feet led me down the steps of the porch and within seconds I was soaked from head to toe, becoming a part of the dark storm that was brewing.
I needed air. I needed space. I needed to escape.
I needed to run.
I started running with no shoes, with no thought, and with no direction.
Zeus began to run behind me. “Go home, Zeus!” I shouted toward the dog, who was just as soaking wet as I was. “Go away!” I hollered, wanting to be left alone. I ran faster, but he kept up. I pushed so much that my chest burned and breathing became a chore. I ran until my legs quit and my body fell to the ground. Lightning struck above us, painting the sky with its scars, and I began to sob uncontrollably.
I wanted to be alone, but Zeus was right there. He’d kept up with my crazed mind, he was right beside me when I hit rock bottom, and he wasn’t going to leave me. He was in my face, giving me kisses, giving me love, giving me himself to hold when I needed someone the most.
“Okay.” I sighed, tears still falling as I held him close to me. He whimpered, almost as if he too was heartbroken. “Okay,” I said again, kissing the top of his head and rubbing his side.
I loved to run barefoot.
Running was something I was good at.
I liked when my feet ran away.
I liked when they cracked and bled from the pressure they felt hammering against the concrete streets.
I liked when I was reminded of my sins through the pains of my body.
I love to hurt.
But only myself. I loved to hurt myself. No one else had to be hurt by me. I stayed away from people so I wouldn’t hurt them.
I’d hurt Elizabeth, and I didn’t want to.
How could I apologize? How could I fix it? How did one kiss make me remember?
She fell down the hill, because of me. She could’ve broken bones. She could’ve cracked her head open. She could’ve died…
I’m so sorry.
That night I ran more. I ran through the woods. Fast. Faster. Hard. Harder.
Go, Tris. Run.
My feet bled.
My heart cried, slamming against my ribcage over and over again, rocking my mind, poisoning my thoughts as buried memories began to resurface. She could’ve died. It would’ve been my fault. I would’ve caused it.
I pushed them down.
I fell into the pain racing through my chest. The pain was nice. It was welcomed. I deserved to hurt. No one else, only me.
I’m so sorry, Elizabeth.
My feet hurt. My heart hurt. It all hurt.
The pain felt scary, dangerous, real; it felt good. It felt so damn good in such an ugly way. God, I loved it. I loved it so much.
I fucking loved the hurt.
The night grew darker.
I sat in my shed, trying to figure out a way to apologize to her without her finding the need to be my friend. People like her didn’t need people like me complicating their lives.
People like me didn’t deserve friends.
Her kiss, though…
Her kiss made me remember. It had felt good to remember for a moment, but then I’d ruined it, because that’s what I did. I couldn’t get the image of Elizabeth falling down the hill out of my mind. What the hell was wrong with me?
Maybe I always ended up hurting people.
Maybe that was why I’d lost everything I cared about.
But I was only trying to get her to stop talking to me so I could avoid her getting hurt.
I shouldn’t have kissed her. But I wanted to kiss her. I needed to kiss her. I was selfish.
I didn’t leave my shed until the moon was high above me. As I stepped out, I paused and listened to the sound of…giggling?
It was coming from the woods.
I should’ve left it alone. I should’ve minded my own business. But instead, I followed the sound to find Elizabeth stumbling through the woods, laughing to herself with her fingers wrapped around a bottle of tequila.
She was pretty. And by pretty, I meant the beautiful kind of pretty. The kind of beautiful-pretty that was effortless and didn’t take much upkeep. Her blonde hair had loose waves, and she wore a yellow dress that looked almost as if it were made only for her body. I hated that I thought she was the beautiful kind of pretty, because my Jamie had been the same kind of beautiful-pretty, too.