I felt like shit the next morning. At first, I wasn’t even sure why, but when I tried to scratch my temple, I remembered what I’d nearly done last night. I stopped to stare at the ceiling, my head quiet for once. My eyes felt like they were covered in sand. So did my throat.
I wanted to throw up when I remembered crying like an fucking bitch, and the feeling grew worse when I thought about Cole. He’d seen it all. I had cried like a fucking baby right in front of him.
Somehow, I managed to get out of bed. I really wished I wouldn’t find Cole in my apartment when I stepped out of my bedroom, but in vain.
Cole was sleeping on my couch. I stopped to stare at him. There were so many negative things going on in my head, and for a brief moment, I considered finishing what I had started last night.
The knife was still in the kitchen.
“Cole…?” I muttered instead.
He flinched awake and turned to look at me. For a second, he seemed confused, but after he pulled a hand over his face to wake up, he smiled at me.
“Hey,” his voice was gentle as he got up. “How are you feeling?”
I shrugged. I wasn’t feeling well at all, but I couldn’t say that out loud. He stopped in front of me and carefully reached to touch my hand.
“Let’s take it easy today, okay?” he spoke gently. “I already messaged Jonah – my shrink. He’ll get back to me once he’s found room for you in his schedule.”
I nodded, the bad thoughts rising in my head. “I want this to end,” I whispered.
“I need you to be strong for me for a little while longer,” he said, his hand moving up on my shoulder. “You don’t have to deal with this alone anymore.”
“Thanks,” I muttered, and he nodded.
“How about breakfast?” he asked with a smile and glanced at the kitchen.
“I don’t think I have any food in here,” I said. “Sorry…”
“That’s all right,” he said, and was silent for a moment before he turned to look at me again. “We could go get something from the store, but I have plenty of food at home. Maybe you’d want to stay at my place for a while?”
“Why?” I asked.
“Well… I have a nice, cozy guest room, and my living room is basically a small movie theatre,” he explained, looking around in my cold, barren home. “And I have lots and lots of food.”
I gave it a thought and nodded. “I suppose getting out of here for a moment could do me good.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” he said. “Grab some clothes and everything else you may need.”
I did as he asked and went to find a big enough bag to pack my stuff. I was feeling… glad. I had grown to hate being in that apartment. There were nothing but bad memories of me being swallowed by my messed-up head.
The walk to his apartment was a silent one. I liked the fresh air on my face, and the company. I felt almost at ease. We arrived at his bar, but instead of stepping in, he led me behind the corner, and stopped by another door.
“I live upstairs,” he explained while opening it.
There was only one flight of stairs we had to climb up to reach his apartment. When he let me in, I stopped to take everything in.
His apartment couldn’t have been more different from mine. It was clean and tidy, but filled with stuff. Even the entrance hall was packed. There was a bookshelf right next to the door, and a desk next to it. The floors were covered with thick carpets, the wardrobe was hidden in a small alcove on my right, covered with curtains.
I took a few careful steps deeper and saw his kitchen on my left. It looked like he owned every possible cup, kettle and appliance anyone could possibly need to make food. The living room was at the opposite of the kitchen, and it was just as he’d said: it was a small movie theater.
“Make yourself at home,” he said, walking past me. “Come – I’ll show you to your room.”
I followed him past the living room, to a narrow hallway. There was a bathroom on our left, and another room with a closed door next to it. Apparently, the bedrooms were on the right, since he walked past his room, and stopped to open another door at the end of the hallway.
“Here – you can stay here as long as you want,” he said, pushing the door open.
It was a really nice bedroom. A big bed, big windows, cozy interior. I had never cared about stuff like that, but that room… It sure looked nice. Welcoming.
“Thank you,” I muttered, lowering my bag on the ground.
“Take a look around if you want,” Cole suggested. “I’ll go make us breakfast in the meantime.”
“Cole…” I spoke without actually knowing what to say to him. I just… I looked at him and saw a smile on his face. “Thank you,” I repeated, feeling awkward.
“You’re welcome,” he smiled.
I watched him leave before I turned my attention back to the room. I didn’t really feel the need to look around, but I appreciated the moment alone. I already felt calmer for some reason. Maybe it was the warm atmosphere in the apartment, or Cole himself, or something completely else. Whatever it was, I was grateful. I wasn’t even close to freaking out anymore, and that made me relieved.
I didn’t want to experience last night ever again. Even the memories of it scared me, and because of that, I walked out the room. I didn’t want to be left alone, not now that I was finally feeling better.
I found Cole in the kitchen, slicing up tomatoes. I stopped to stare at him, suddenly feeling odd again. He peered over his shoulder and spotted me, giving me a friendly smile.
“Have a seat – I’m almost done.”
I glanced at the dining table next to the window, but didn’t move.
“I like your home,” I said awkwardly, just to say something.
“Thanks! Moving it all here was a pain in the ass, though. I have way too much stuff.”
“Well, you’ve seen my apartment,” I mumbled, feeling cold just thinking about it.
He stopped chopping the vegetables, and an intense silence fell into the apartment. He glanced at me over his shoulder, and then turned his attention back to the tomatoes. He piled them on a plate and brought it to the table, where he placed it down. There was quite a lot of food already.
Then he let out a deep breath.
“If I can be honest…?” he trailed off and turned to look at me. My whole body tensed up as my head came up with dozens of bad things he could possibly want to say to me, but I nodded anyway. “I’ve watched you for a while, and I wasn’t surprised when I saw your home.”
I relaxed and looked away when he paused for a moment. He walked over to me and touched my shoulder. I hesitated before looking up at him. He was watching me with sad eyes.
“I could see so much emptiness in you, but I thought… I thought I saw something else when we were together.”
I had to look away from him. My head was screaming at me to stay silent. It wasn’t my father’s voice either. It was me. I wanted myself to stay silent.
“You were right,” I murmured.
I took a careful glance at him. He was smiling again, but it faded soon.
“But I made you feel worse,” he said quietly.
“But you also made me feel better,” I whispered. “You made me want to change. You made me want to talk about… what happened. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life feeling nothing. Being nothing. That’s on you.”
Why was I saying such things so easily? What was it about him that made me want to explain and talk?
Why did it feel so normal…?
I lifted my hand, and carefully touched his arm, the one that was still resting on my shoulder. I lowered my head when he didn’t speak, but didn’t let go of him.
Why was I so comfortable with him?
“I… feel like I should tell you…” he murmured. “You can ignore it and tell me to fuck off if you like, but I want to be honest with you…”
I listened in silence, waiting for the final blow.
“I like you. I like you a lot,” he said.
That was when my old man should’ve started screaming in my head. But he didn’t. Cole’s words had taken all the space from him, leaving him nothing to hold onto.
“I completely understand if you aren’t interested, I just… I just wanted to be honest with you so you can decide what to do next. I mean… I get it if you don’t want to stay here and want me to leave you alone, or–”
“Shut up,” I whispered, and he did shut up. “I knew that already.”
“I’m not blind…”
“Oh… I thought it wasn’t… I mean… I wasn’t…”
“It was obvious.”
“I’m hungry,” I said, but still didn’t let go of him. Not just yet.
“The breakfast is ready,” he said with a gentle voice.
I nodded and waited for a few seconds longer before I finally let go of him.
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