Chapter Fifty-Seven

After We Fell

chapter fifty-seven




Scanning through the pages of the little notebook, I’m having a hard time deciding where to start reading. It’s a journal from Tessa’s religion class; it took me a minute to figure out what the hell it was, because despite the title on the front, each entry is labeled with a word and a date, most of them having nothing to do with religion. It’s also less structured than the essays I’ve seen Tessa write, a little more stream-of-conscious.

    Pain. The word catches my eye, and I begin to read.


    Does pain turn people away from their God? If so, how?

    Pain can turn anyone away from just about anything. Pain is capable of causing you to do things you would never consider doing, such as blaming God for your unhappiness.

    Pain . . . such a simple word, but so packed with meaning. I have come to learn that pain is the strongest emotion one can feel. Unlike every other emotion, it’s the only one every human being is guaranteed to feel at some point in their life, and there is no upside to pain, no positive aspect that can make you look at it from a different perspective . . . there’s only the overwhelming sensation of pain itself. Lately I’ve become very well acquainted with pain—the ache has become nearly unbearable. Sometimes when I’m alone, which is more often than not as of recently, I find myself trying to decide which type of pain is worse. The answer isn’t as simple as I thought it would be. The slow and steady-aching pain, the type of pain that comes when you’ve been hurt repeatedly by the same person, yet here you are, here I am, allowing the pain to continue . . . it never ends.

    Only in those rare moments when he pulls me to his chest and makes promises that he never seems able to keep does the pain disappear. Just as I get used to the freedom, my freedom from my self-inflicted pain, it returns with another blow.


    This doesn’t have a damn thing to do with religion; this is about me.


    I have decided that the hot, burning, inescapable pain is the worst. This pain comes when you finally begin to relax, you finally breathe, thinking that some issue is yesterday’s problem, when in fact it’s today’s problem, tomorrow’s problem, and the problem of every day after that. This pain comes when you pour everything into something, into someone, and they betray you so completely—so seemingly on a whim—that the pain crushes you and you feel as if you’re barely breathing, barely holding on to that small fraction of whatever is left inside of you begging you to go on, to not give up.




    Sometimes it’s faith that people hold on to. Sometimes, if you’re lucky enough, you can confide in someone else and trust them to pull you out of the pain before you dwell in it for too long. Pain is one of those hideous places that, once visited, you have to fight your way out, and even when you think you have escaped it, you find that it has permanently marked you. If you’re like me, you don’t have anyone to depend on, no one to take your hand and assure you that you’ll make it through this hell. Instead, you have to lace up your boots, grab your own hand, and pull yourself out.


    My eyes move to the date at the top of the page. This was written while I was in England. I shouldn’t read any more. I should just put the damn book down and never open it again, but I can’t. I have to know what else was written in this book of secrets. I fear this is the closest to her I will fucking get anymore.

    I turn to another page labeled Faith.


    What does faith mean to you? Do you have faith in something higher? Do you believe that faith can bring good things to people’s lives?


    This should be better; this entry shouldn’t twist the knife and worsen the ache in my chest. This one couldn’t be related to me.


    To me, faith means believing in something other than yourself. I don’t believe that any two people can possibly hold the same view on faith, whether their only faith is religion-based or not. I do believe in something higher—I was raised that way. My mother and I went to church every single Sunday, and most Wednesdays, too. I don’t go to church now, which I probably should do, but I’m still deciding how I feel about my religious faith now that I’m an adult and no longer obliged to do what my mother expects me to do.

    When I think about faith, my mind doesn’t automatically go to religion. It probably should, but it just doesn’t. It goes to him; everything does. He is my every thought. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing, but that’s the way it is, and I have faith that it will work out for us in the end. Yes, he’s difficult and overprotective, sometimes even controlling . . . okay, he’s often controlling, but I have faith in him, that he means well, no matter how frustrating his actions. My relationship with him tests me in ways that I never thought imaginable, but every second is worth it. I truly believe that one day his deep fear of losing me will dissolve and we will embrace our future together; that’s all I want. I know he wants it, too, though he would never say so. I have so much faith in that man that I will take every single tear, every single pointless argument . . . I’ll take it all just to be around to see him on the day when he’s able to have faith in himself.

    Meanwhile, I have faith that one day Hardin will say what he feels openly and honestly, finally putting an end to his self-imposed exile from feeling things and dealing with them in the way that he should. That one day he will finally see that he isn’t a villain. He tries so hard to be one, but deep down he’s really a hero. He’s been my hero, my tormentor at times, but mostly my hero. He saved me from myself. I spent my life pretending to be someone I wasn’t, and Hardin has shown me that it’s okay to be myself. I’m no longer conforming to my mother’s idea of who I am and who I’m supposed to be becoming, and I thank him dearly for helping me to get to this point. I believe that one day he will see how truly incredible he is. He’s so incredibly perfectly imperfect, and I love him so much for that.

    He may not show the heroism inside him the conventional way, but he tries, and that’s all I can ask for. I have faith that if he continues to try, he will finally allow himself to be happy. I will continue to have faith in him until he has it in himself.


    I close the book and pinch the bridge of my nose in an attempt to control my emotions. Tessa believes in me for no damn reason. I’ll never understand why she wasted her time on me in the first place, but reading her unedited thoughts this way twists the knife in my chest, pulls it out, and then impales me with its blade once more.

    The realization that Tessa is just like me both frightens and thrills me at the same time. Knowing that everything in her world revolves . . . revolved around me makes me happy, even giddy, but when I’m reminded that I fucking blew it, the happiness disappears just as fast as it came. I owe it to her and to myself to be better. I owe it to her to try to let go of my anger.

    Oddly enough, I feel as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders since my awkward conversation with my father. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that all the ugly, hurtful memories are forgiven, or that we’ll suddenly become pals, watching sports together on TV and shit, but I do hate him less than I did before. I’m more like my father than I care to admit. I’ve tried to leave Tessa for her own good, but I have yet to be strong enough to do it. So, in a way, he’s stronger than me. He actually left and didn’t come back. If I had a child with Tessa, and I knew I would fuck up their lives, I would want to leave, too.

    Fuck that. The thought of having a child makes me nauseous. I would be the worst possible father, and Tessa really would be better off on her own. I can’t even show her love the way that I should, let alone a child.

    “Enough of that,” I say out loud and sigh, rising to my feet. I walk into the kitchen and open a cabinet. The half-empty bottle of vodka on the shelf is calling my name, begging me to open it.

    I really am a fucking drunk. I’m hovering over the kitchen counter with a fucking bottle of vodka in my hands. I twist the cap off and bring the bottle to my lips. Just one drink will cause the guilt to go away. With one drink I can force myself to pretend Tessa will be home soon. It’s worked before to numb the pain, and it will work again. One drink.

    Just as I close my eyes and tilt my head back, I can see Tessa’s teary eyes flashing behind mine. I open my eyes, turn on the sink faucet, and pour the vodka down the drain.