I haven’t gone out with the girls for a while and it’s nice to be included. I’d kind of fallen off the grid for a while just mucking through everything that went on, but now, as things are looking up I’m out, enjoying the night. I can’t help but think that all those years with Nathan I was missing this. With Elliot though, it is very easy to be me. The person I was before, recently I’ve caught glimpses of her in the mirror and it’s scary just how far I’d hidden her. Last night for example she broke through and stayed a while.
“Taylor, that guy over there is staring at you,” Carrie says with a hiccup, breaking me out of my thoughts.
“Hey, I’m taken, and besides I think he’s looking at Mila,” I say laughing as I catch him looking this way.
“No, he’s definitely checking you out. I bet you can get a free drink out of this,” Mila says with a devious look.
“No! I can’t do that, really it’s not right…” I refuse.
“Oh, come on,” Carrie goads.
“Not gonna happen, ladies. Sorry,” I say seeing the disappointment on their faces.
“Alright, but you’re missing out on that free drink. Elliot doesn’t know what he has with you, Taylor,” Carrie says.
Just as she finishes her sentence I feel someone behind me and before I even turn I know it’s the guy from across the room just by the look on their faces. I take a deep breath and turn, prepared to shoot him down.
“Hi, I’m Lou, can I buy you a drink?” he says a little too close for my liking.
“I’m sorry, Lou, I have a boyfriend, but thank you for the offer,” I respond, sliding a little further from him.
“Come on cutie, just a drink, I don’t see a ring on your finger” he tries again.
“I said no thank you, Lou,” I say with a little more force this time, my spidey senses tingling.
“Geez, what is your problem?” he slurs, getting close enough to touch me this time.
I glance between Mila and Carrie for help but the looks on their faces are ones of shock, I’m surprised actually that they aren’t jumping in, coming to my rescue, but maybe they don’t realize how his presumably innocent flirting is affecting me. They don’t know the details of my story so why should I expect a different reaction. In the moment it takes me to jump from the stool and try to get out of his reach I can feel the panic rising, I’ve got to get out of here. I can vaguely hear someone calling my name behind the heartbeat rushing in my ears as I dash through the pub, looking for the bathroom. I find the first open stall and lock myself inside, barely able to catch my breath at the way his breath felt near my ear, the sickening feeling I got when his clammy hand touched my arm. I manage to fumble with my phone long enough to call Elliot.
“I need you…” I stutter out, fear evident in the tone of my voice.
“Where are you?” he asks, “Taylor, where are you?”
“I’m in a bathroom stall at Coles Pub, please Elliot…” I say before I can’t hear anything anymore.
The impending doom of the panic attack has taken over my body, I can’t feel my fingers and I can barely keep myself conscious as I wait for something, what was I waiting for? My heart feels like it’s trying to burst from my chest and I don’t feel like I can get enough air into my lungs.
It was the second worst phone call I’ve ever gotten in my life. As I sped my way from the gym to Coles, I didn’t know what I would find because before I could get anything else out of her, she hung up. I burst through the door less than fifteen minutes after hanging up and head to the restrooms and without a second thought entered that ladies room and what I found broke my heart. I could see her feet first and then finally when I managed to punch in the door there she was. What little makeup she wore was running down her face and she was shaking.
“Taylor, are you okay?” I asked, easing into the stall as best I could.
“No,…” she said her voice just a whisper.
“What can I do?” I ask, unsure.
“T-take me home…” she says with a sob.
“Okay, okay, c’mon Tay,” I say, cursing my legs for the first time in a long time.
I realize then that there are still things that are going to make me feel like less of a man, this being one of them. I’d give nothing more than to lift her into my arms right now and carry her out of here, but I can’t do that. My anger rises as she wobbles to stand up and I can’t control it, not this time. I rip at the door hanging beside me, for the first time feeling the pain in my hand from punching it a couple minutes before and my outburst scares her. She’s seen me angry, she’s seen me hurting, but this she has never seen. The sheer rage that spills out over the surface of my limitations is flowing freely now as I leave her shaking in the bathroom. I wheel out and before I can stop myself I’m screaming at Carrie, “What the fuck happened?”
She looks at me like I’ve lost my mind and doesn’t answer till I ask again, “Carrie, what the fuck happened?” I scream again, now everyone is staring at me.
Finally, she says, “Elliot, calm down…”
But it isn’t what I want, I want to know what caused the woman I love to be sitting in a locked bathroom stall shaken to the core.
“I will not calm down until someone tells me what happened?” I spit at her, as I glance wildly around the room.
“There was a guy, he was hitting on her and he got a little too close and she just freaked out…” Carrie says with fear in her eyes.
“Which guy?” I ask loudly.
I follow her finger as she points to him over my shoulder and when my eyes meet his the smirk on his face only amps me up even more. Before I wheel away I have enough sense to hand her my phone, “Call Ethan, call my brother…”
In the back of my mind, I know this isn’t going to be pretty, that this isn’t going to end well for me but it’s too late now. The years of repressed aggression are seeping into my rage at the situation, the fact that I couldn’t do anything to Nathan, the pain of not being able to run around with my nephew, the jealousy of my brothers having what I’ve waited so long for, the fact plain and simple that I just can’t, it’s overwhelming and at the surface now. Raw and ready to wreak havoc I wheel over to the smirking asshat, who I can assure you is wondering what this crazy cripple could really do to him.
“Did you touch my girlfriend?” I say so angrily that I even surprise myself.
“Just a little flirting, nothing like you think, the bitch freaked for no reason…” he says with a chuckle.
I reach out and grab his coat and yank as hard as I can, pulling him towards me and I haul off landing a solid punch to his left cheek. He stumbles for a moment before he starts swinging, connecting with my face before I can get my hands up to protect myself. I somehow manage to stay upright after the blow knocks me backward and I grab at him again, this time when I pull on him we both go down.
“What the fuck,” he yells as we crash to the floor.
I’m a little surprised that no one is trying to break us up as we roll around on the dirty floor. I finally manage to gain some leverage and pin him down and as my left hand is using his shoulder to prop myself up the right is punching wildly at his face. I feel the bones crunch under my fist but still I continue until finally someone yanks at my shoulders and flips me over. It’s a moment of clarity, seeing the shock on Ethan’s face, as I lay there staring at the ceiling that brings me back to sanity. There is a bunch of commotion going on around me and all I can do is lay there wondering what I’ve done. What have I done? I’ve surely broken something in my hand, I’ve scared the woman I love, probably ruining any chance of her saying yes, I’ve taken my anger out on someone who probably didn’t deserve what I dished out and I’ve had to call my baby brother to my rescue. I’ve had finer moments in my life that’s for sure I think as I lift my head to scan the room around me. Ethan and the bartender are checking out the guy I just walloped, Carrie and the other girl she’s with are just staring in shock but it’s the look on Taylor’s face that crushes my soul as Becca hugs her. The terror in her eyes as she’s watching me over Becca’s shoulder bites into me like nothing ever has and I regret my actions. I lie my head back down onto the floor and think how quickly this day has turned into a nightmare.
“Elliot, get up…” I hear Ethan say.
“Where’s my chair?” I ask flatly.
“Here,” he says coming into view, “We need to get out of here, the guy said he won’t press charges and the bar will send you a bill for any damages… do you need help?”
I don’t make any attempt to move and he tries again, “El, Becca is going to take Taylor to moms when she picks up Emerson, we have to leave, now do you need help?”
“I need to talk to Taylor…” I say propping myself up, “Ow, shit, I think I broke my hand…”
“She doesn’t want to talk to you right now, I’ll take you to the ER,” he says as he lifts me into my chair.
As I use my left hand to situate myself I look over to her and now she won’t even look at me. I let my eyes drop down to my right hand which sure enough is swollen. I don’t even protest as Ethan pushes me from the bar, stopping briefly to thank someone before we exit. We pass Taylor and Becca wordlessly and when I reach out my hand to touch her she jumps away. When Ethan finally climbs in my truck after hoisting my ass up, he tosses me the towel from my gym bag, “You might scare some people wheeling in there, wipe your face…Jesus Elliot, what the fuck were you thinking? If Beccs and I hadn’t been just down the street, if we hadn’t been close I hate to think of what could have happened. And Taylor, you did that in front of her…”
I don’t answer, I don’t want him to know. I don’t want him to realize that I snapped, something inside of me broke when I even thought about what could have happened to her and that I couldn’t even pick her up, that I wasn’t there. It’s bad enough that my little brother, who for so long came to me to clean up his messes had to do it for me. So many things came swimming to the surface back there that I don’t know exactly what triggered my rage, a rage that had been bottled for so long that when it did finally happen I couldn’t stop.