Chapter Fifty-Three

After We Fell

chapter fifty-three




My mouth keeps saying shit that my mind doesn’t want it to say, but it’s like I have absolutely no control over it. Obviously I don’t want her to leave. I want to pull her into my arms and kiss her hair. I want to tell her that I’ll do anything for her, that I’ll change for her and love her until I die. Instead, I walk out and leave her standing alone.

    I hear her rustling around the bedroom. I know I should go in there and stop her from packing, but what’s the point, really? She’s leaving Monday, anyway; she may as well leave now. I’m still astounded that she brought up trying a long-distance relationship. It would never work, her being hours away from me, only calling once or twice a day, not sleeping in the same bed. I couldn’t do it.

    At least if our relationship is terminated, I won’t feel guilty for drinking and doing whatever the hell I choose to do . . . But who am I kidding—it’s not even that I want to do anything else. I’d rather sit on the couch and have her force me to watch Friends over and over than spend one minute doing something without her.

    Moments later, Tessa appears in the hallway dragging two suitcases behind her. Her purse is slung over her shoulder, and her face is pale. “I don’t think I forgot anything except some books, but I’ll just get new copies,” she says in a low, shaky voice.

    This is it—this is the moment I’ve feared since the day I met this girl. She’s leaving me, and here I am, doing nothing to stop her. I can’t stop her; she was always meant to do things greater than me, be with someone better than me. I knew that from the start. I was just hoping that somehow I would be wrong, as always.

    Instead of all that, I simply say, “Okay.”

    “Okay.” She gulps and squares her shoulders. When she reaches the door, she raises her arm to grab her keys from the hook, and her purse slides down her shoulder. I don’t know what’s wrong with me; I should stop her, or help her, but I can’t.

    Tessa looks back at me. “Well, that’s it, then. All the fighting, the crying, the lovemaking, the laughs—everything—it was all for nothing,” she says softly. No anger tints her words. Just a blank . . . blank neutrality.

    I nod, unable to speak. If I could speak, I would make this one hundred times harder on both of us. I know it.

    She shakes her head and opens the door, holding it open with her foot so she can drag the suitcases behind her.

    Once she’s through the door, she looks over at me and says so quietly that it’s barely audible, “I will always love you. I hope you know that.”

    Stop talking, Tessa. Please.

    “And someone else will, too, hopefully as much as I do.”

    “Shh,” I gently coax. I can’t listen to this.

    “You won’t always be alone. I know I said that, but if you just get some help or something, learn to control your anger, you could find some—”

    I swallow the bile rising in my throat and step to the doorway. “Go, just go,” I say, and shut the door in her face. Even through its thick wood, I can hear her sharp intake of breath.

    I just slammed the door in her the fuck is wrong with me?

    I begin to panic, and let the pain course through me. I held it for so long, barely controlled, until she walked away. My fingers go to my hair, my knees hit the concrete floor, and I simply don’t know what to do with myself. I’m officially the world’s largest fuckup, and there’s nothing I can do about it. It sounds so simple: just go to Seattle with her and live happily ever after, but it’s not that damn simple. Everything will be different there: she’ll be absorbed in her internship and new classes; she’ll make new friends, experience new things—better things—and forget about me. She won’t need me anymore. I wipe at the tears pooling in my eyes.

    What? For the first time I realize just how selfish I am. “Make new friends”? What’s so bad about her making new friends and experiencing new things? I would be there, right next to her, experiencing them, too. Why did I go to such lengths to keep her from Seattle instead of embracing this opportunity for her? This opportunity to prove that I could be part of something she wanted. That’s all she asked of me, and I couldn’t fucking deliver.

    If I call her right now, she’ll turn the car around and I can pack my shit and find us somewhere, anywhere, to live in Seattle . . .

    No, she won’t, she won’t turn around. She gave me the chance to stop her, and I didn’t even try. She even tried to make me feel better while I was watching every ounce of faith she had in me die right in front of my eyes. I should have been comforting her, but instead I slammed the door in her face.

    You won’t always be alone, she said. She’s wrong: I will be, but she won’t. She’ll find someone to love her the way that I couldn’t. No one will ever love that girl more than me, but perhaps they can show her how it feels to be loved, how it feels to have someone love you despite all the shit you put them through, the way she was always there for me, always.

    And she deserves to have that. Thinking about the fact that getting what she deserves means being with someone else makes it hard for me to breathe. But this is the way it should be. I should have let her go a long time ago instead of sinking my claws further into her and making her waste her time on me.

    I’m divided. Half of me knows she’ll come back to me tonight, maybe tomorrow, and forgive me. But the other half of me knows she really is done trying to fix me.


SOMETIME LATER, I pull myself up from the floor and pad into the bedroom. When I get there, I nearly collapse again. The bracelet I had made for her sits on top of a piece of paper, alongside her e-reader and a copy of Wuthering I pick up the bracelet, twirl the infinity heart charm between my fingers, and look at the matching tattoo on my wrist.

    Why would she leave this here? It was a gift from me to her, at a time when I was desperate to show my love for her. I needed her love and forgiveness, and she gave it to me. To my horror, the piece of paper under the bracelet is the handwritten letter that I wrote her. As I unfold it and read it over, my chest is slowly ripped open and its contents are tossed onto the hard floor. Memories flood my fucked-up mind: the first time I told her that I loved her, then took it back; the date with the blond girl that I tried to replace her with; the way I felt when I saw her standing in the doorway after reading the letter. I continue reading.


    You love me when you shouldn’t, and I need you. I have always needed you and always will. When you left me just last week it nearly killed me, I was lost. So completely lost without you. I went on a date with someone last week. I wasn’t going to tell you, but I can’t stand to chance losing you again.


    My fingers tremble, and I nearly tear the flimsy paper trying to hold it still enough to read.


    I know you can do better than me. I’m not romantic, I won’t ever write you poetry or sing you a song.

    I’m not even kind.

    I can’t promise that I won’t hurt you again, but I can swear that I will love you until the day that I die. I’m a terrible person, and I don’t deserve you, but I hope that you’ll allow me the chance to restore your faith in me. I am sorry for all the pain I have caused you, and I understand if you can’t forgive me.


    She did forgive me, though. She’s always forgiven me for my wrongs, but not this time. I was supposed to be restoring her faith in me, yet I continued to hurt her over and over again. My hands work quickly, tearing the pathetic confession into pieces. Falling, they swirl around before settling into a scattered pattern on the cold concrete.

    See—I destroy everything! I know how much that damn thing meant to her, and I turned it into a pile of shit.

    “No! No, no, no!” I scurry to the ground and frantically try to gather the pieces and restore the page. But there are too many little bits—none of them line up, and I keep dropping them back onto the floor and watching them float here and there. This must be how she felt trying to put me back together. I stand and kick my boot at the pile of scraps I’ve gathered before quickly bending down and picking them up again and putting them in a pile on the desk. Covering them with a book so they can’t blow away, I see I’ve grabbed Pride and of fucking course.

    I lie back on the bed and wait for the sound of the door clicking open, signaling her return.

    I must wait there for hours and hours, but the click never comes.