What the hell just happened? Why did I ever think that bringing her was going to be okay? Why didn’t I just finish the conversation? This is it, she’s not going to say anything else and I don’t know how or if I can bring myself to say anything right now without losing what minute shred of dignity I have. I thought as we drove in communication deadlock. I wasn’t surprised when her door opened before I even had the truck in park. I wanted to yell to her, don’t leave, I wanted to follow her to her car and take her in my arms and tell her I was sorry. But I didn’t. I watched as her tail-lights disappeared down my street. I stayed there in my truck for a long time before I eventually forced myself to get out. I slowly pushed my way inside and the minute I flicked on the lights I was reminded of her, the wonderful weekend we’d had, how magnificent it had been to wake up next to her. I knew I’d be coming home to this empty house but the thought that I might not get to ever come home to her, wake up to her, laugh with her, be put in my place by her, it swallowed me up. How had she completely taken over my world in one short week, I thought as I transferred into the shower. My whole world had changed so fast and now she was going to be just a memory. The hot water stung my skin as I sat there trying to make sense of how quickly I had thrown away the chance of being with her. She had opened up to me, let me in and I just closed up at the chance to do the same. As soon as it got to be too much I just shoved her away. The pain was coming back now too. Another reminder of her, I sneered taking in my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. I could hear my phone beeping in the bedroom but made no attempt to get to it. I didn’t want to go over how awesome she was with anyone, especially my family, and I knew it wouldn’t be her. I finished getting ready for bed and was turning off the lights when there was a knock at the front door. I wondered who would be knocking on my door at ten o’clock at night as I glided through the living room. I was surprised to find Ethan there.
“What are you doing here?” I questioned.
“Where’s Taylor?” he asked pushing past me.
“I imagine she’s home in bed. Again why are you here?” I said angrily.
“Why didn’t you just tell her?” he asks.
“Tell her what?” I wonder just how loud my outburst in the garage had been.
“C’mon El, I heard you guys. The garage door was still open after you left. I saw the look on your face too ya know. What she saw in Alex’s room, I saw it too. You think I like that something as trivial as wrestling with him causes you that much pain? But why should I have to keep checking my behavior because you can’t let it go?” he says, his words cutting into me like a knife.
I don’t respond so he continues.
“Whatever happened to my awesome brother? Where did he go? Because I miss that asshole and for a few minutes today he showed up, and I thought just maybe he was finally coming back. You know, you and I, we never talk about it. I’ve just kept my mouth shut for the most part as you have ripped apart the relationships you had with almost every person who cares about you. I’ve sat back and watched you crawl further and further into this hole, but I’m done doing that. I’m done not holding you accountable. You get by on the bare minimum with us and now that’s not enough anymore. Fuck, do you know that Beccs is pregnant? I’ve been dying to tell you for days but I didn’t want to push you even farther away. I shouldn’t have to keep squashing my excitement because you can’t fucking get over yourself. I know you got dealt a shit hand and it sucks having watched you go through it, but Jesus Elliot it’s time to come to terms with it. It’s time to deal with it and be happy it wasn’t worse or that you are even still here. I thank god every damn day that you are still here but at the same time I wish I could get a little bit of the old you back. We all do,” he nearly screams at me.
“I know…” is all I can manage to get out.
“If you knew you wouldn’t still be living this shell of a life. If you had any idea what it was like for us, you wouldn’t be so selfish. It’s time to get over it,” he says as he stands from his perch on the couch and disappears out the door.
I’m stunned. He’s right, though. He and I have never really talked about it. Three years of his patience just flew out the window. I’ve been so caught up with my own crap I haven’t been around for any of them, and as he threw it in my face tonight I realize that for the first time in a long time I had the opportunity to finally let it go, and I let her drive away. I hurry out the door hoping he hasn’t left yet and sure enough he’s still sitting on my porch.
“I’m sorry Ethan,” I say my voice cracking, “I’m so fucking sorry… I never meant for anyone to get hurt or have to feel like they were walking on eggshells around me.”
He doesn’t say anything, but I’ve grabbed his attention because he’s watching me now, waiting for what’s going to come out next.
“It hurts. Plain and simple. It hurts seeing you do things I wish I could do, have things I wish I had… Maybe I’ve never dealt with that, and that’s on me. I’ve been watching everyone move on with life for the last three years wondering what I did to deserve this. Yeah, why me. I know it’s selfish. I know it doesn’t help or change the way things are for me but I didn’t realize what it was doing to all of you. I didn’t think twice about it until recently. Something Mark said last week kind of opened my eyes a little. And then I met Taylor. She’s everything I ever wanted or needed and it boggles my mind that she can see this, this mess of a person that I’ve become and still want to get to know me. At least she did…” I pause, “I fucked up tonight, though. I just let her walk away. I didn’t even try and stop her. It’s been easier with her, to let my guard down, to be me. In the same way, though it’s been fucking incredibly hard. Hard to know that I’m going to have to have conversations with her that a 35-year-old shouldn’t have with his girlfriend, that if I want to fuck my girlfriend I’ll have to plan it out. And if it progresses or gets serious I’ll be forcing my limitations on her. What kind of strain is that going to put on a relationship? Back there, in Alex’s room watching the two of you I let myself think for a split second what it would be like if I have kids… will it hurt that much?” I say out of breath.
“It’s gonna be a bitch. It’s going to hurt, bad. It will kill you to see me or anyone else for that matter do the things you can’t with them, but I’ll tell you it will be worth it. There will be special things that only you will have with them regardless of if you can wrestle with them or not. You could have that with Alex if you’d just let it happen. I sure as hell hope you’ll have it with my kid, and you will because I won’t let you get away with this crap anymore. I’m done being the silent little brother. You can’t deny that what she said to you was right, that what I’ve said was right. This has gone on long enough,” he says honestly.
“I know that you’re both right. I do. It doesn’t mean it hurts any less, though, and how do I get through that?” I ask.
“Let us in Elliot…” he answers softly.
We sit there in silence for quite some time before he makes a move to leave. I don’t really want him to go yet, but we’ve said our peace and it’s getting late.
“I’m really excited about the baby Ethan. You’re gonna be a great dad, you know…” I offer as he walks down my front steps.
“So will you…” he says over his shoulder.
I’m a little surprised at just how honest he was with me tonight, it’s always been the other way around. As I climb into bed, arranging my legs before turning out the light I wonder what she’s thinking about right now, because all I can think about is her. I look at my phone after I plug it in, the earlier beeping and the days wear have killed the battery so when it finally powers back on I’m a little shocked to see six messages from her and two missed calls. I’m reading through the messages, mostly asking me to call her and sure enough she calls. I debate for a few seconds on whether I should answer it or not before I swipe right.
“Elliot?” she says with a little bit of panic in her voice.
“I’m sorry…” I whisper into the phone.
“What took you so long to answer? I was worried…” she breathes.
“Ethan stopped over, and the phone died. I shouldn’t have snapped at you.
I’d gotten all the way home before I realized how pissed off I was. At first, I was stunned. All his talk about helping him off the ledge and here he was shoving me off. Up to this point, yeah yeah, the whole week we’d been together, he had been letting me in a little at a time, something I realized today was out of the ordinary for him. For me to open up though was something I never did. Davy didn’t even know about the large puckered scar adorning my body. He knew what happened, though, mainly from the police reports, but that was it. He didn’t know it still haunted me every day. With Elliot though I thought it was going to be different, I thought he was genuinely making the effort to let me in, let me see some of what made him tick, and in return, I was trying the same. With the last sentence he spoke to me a few hours ago, I wondered if he’d even been trying at all.
The pained look I had seen on his face in Alex’s room and the tense way he talked to me had my red flags up. He hadn’t said another word to me the whole way home and still I reached out to him. I knew he was not only in physical pain but emotional pain as well. But did I want to ride those waves with him, was the question.
“No, you shouldn’t have. I’m glad you’re okay,” I said getting ready to hang up.
“Don’t hang up…” he nearly begged, pausing before going on, “I can’t stand myself sometimes. I… I… tried so hard to act like these small insignificant moments don’t rip my heart out and remind me of just what is missing. What I lost. I lost a lot that night… more than I even realized at the time, and sometimes more than I still realize. Alex used to jump all over me, he’d climb me like I was a tree, dangle there from my arms and then try to climb higher…he’d look at me with those blue eyes and I’d chase him around, roll around with him, never thinking twice about it. Then I couldn’t do it anymore, and for months after, any time he would try someone would tell him no. Don’t climb all over Uncle Elliot. Jenna even did it today. Like I would break or something. Today I saw that happening and it physically made my heart hurt, my mind flashed to images of someday having kids of my own, what I was going to miss out on, what else I had lost. I’ll never chase my kid up a flight of stairs or through the park, I’ll never hoist them onto my shoulders to see above a crowd, I’ll struggle to even get to them if they fell… it all flashed there in that moment watching Ethan with him. I was jealous, plain and simple and then knowing that Becca is pregnant, it got worse. I’m not saying I’m ready for the kids just this minute but the thought that it won’t be that simple for me, for my future wife… then I started thinking about how hard it would be for her, how unfair it would be to her… You asked me last week if I could have sex, kids… yes, I can, but it isn’t the same, I can’t just hop in bed and wham… I have to plan for it,” he says, defeatedly.
“Okay,” I say, not sure where his sudden admissions came from.
“I am sorry. I’m sorry I thought that it would be easier with you there, I’m sorry that I even let this get this far…” he says sounding as if he is going to cry.
“What?” I ask, shocked because I didn’t expect that to come out of his mouth.
“I don’t think that I’m quite ready to be in a relationship Taylor, not yet. I thought maybe I was, god did I want to be…” he says so softly it nearly breaks my heart.
“I… I…” I can’t even say anything, no words are forming in my mind at all.
“I’m sorry,” he says before hanging up.
My heart feels like it is tearing itself in half. I’m barely breathing staring at the phone in my hand. He ended us, just like that, without warning, before we even began. Devastation.