"Wow. She's wasted, huh?"
"Yeah." Mumbling and a million miles away, I don't even bother looking at him, eyes permanently glued to her body draped over the bar, draped over Glen, "Yeah, she is."
I shake my head. I shake my sight of her. Trying so hard to not do the one thing I always do. Needing to stop my second nature, because why torture myself? Why watch her doing everything with my brother, that I wish she'd do with me.
But, before I know it, I'm right back there. I'm right back there watching. I just keep on watching. Slowly killing myself in the process.
Things have been rocky recently. So rocky. It started gradually; less Bean conversations. Less late night phone calls. Less everything that used to be me and her. That used to be PB & J. And then once I started dating Timmy, once it became apparent that I was gonna keep him around. Things just dropped completely. She dropped completely.
She was distant. So distant.
Distant and all over Glen.
Yeah, the past couple of months have basically been my worst nightmare. And tonight I wish I'd wake up from it already because I don't know how much more I can take. I don't know how much more I can take of her arms wrapped around his neck. Of her eyes pretending to look at him. Pretending to look at him the way she always used to look at me.
I know she pretends, because somehow she still manages to always have her eyes on me. She somehow always manages to shoot her eyes through mine every time Timmy holds my hand. Every time Timmy whispers in my ear. Every time Timmy merely shows up.
She hates him. She absolutely hates him. And it baffles me. It baffles me, cause if there's anyone who should be hated in my relationship, it's me. It's me and the worst part? I don't even care.
I've been dating Timmy for four months, and I've known he's not the one for me for four months. I knew it as soon as I got into it. I wasn't going anywhere with this guy. But, I still took him along for the ride, pretending we were going everywhere together. Letting him believe we were heading towards that white picket fence "future"; solid hand in shaky hand.
"Man, your brother's got his hands full." Timmy says and my neck practically snaps as I look into his insulting eyes, throwing defensive daggers through them with mine.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
She might be a stranger these days, for all I know she might hate me these days. I might feel myself die a little more every time I look at her, but she's still my world. She's still my everything. She's still my Jelly. And I have no problem, no problem what-so-ever, rushing to her defense. I have no problem shoving someone in their place if they come remotely close to dissing her.
I have no problem putting her ahead of my boyfriend. The one I sleep with every night, never feeling a damn thing. The one I whisper "I love you" to every morning, never meaning a word of it.
"Uh, just that he's gonna have a sloppy drunk to take care of for the rest of the night." He looks at me as if I'm the stupidest person in the room, and I probably am, for so many reasons that he doesn't even understand, or maybe he does, and that in itself makes him a world smarter than me, "Jesus, Spence, what do you care anyway? It's not like you two are that great of friends anyway."
I think my insides just flooded with all the tears I won't cry. The tears that have been going unshed for far too long now.
Timmy doesn't know the truth. He doesn't know that we weren't just friends before he came into my little world. No, we were so much more than friends. We were a Peanut Butter and a Jelly.
"Sorry." I breathe it from my burdened lips, not meaning it in the slightest, feeling a steady, slow ache burning through me. Watching my Jelly, knowing it's pointless to pretend I'm not.
"It's ok, baby, I know you're just grumpy cause I've been gone all week."
Oh not the "baby". Not the most cringe worthy pet name in the world. And now the ache only intensifies, the ache's calling the U-Haul ready to permanently move in, and I know I have to let this guy go soon. I have to for my sake.
But really, I have to for his.
"Yeah." I gulp down my beer, "that must be it."
He goes in for a heavy kiss. I guess he figures I'm drunk and miserable and he's what I'm missing. I guess he thinks this is what I want and need because it's coming from him. Because he's what I want and need. But you all know the truth, you know it so much more than even I know it.
And if he'd only open his eyes, if he'd only look at me while he rams his tongue down my throat, he'd see it too. He'd see me staring at her; staring at her staring straight back at me, Glen's arm loosely wrapped around her waist, while he talks to some blonde bombshell beside him.
As if she weren't even there.
I wish I could say that it feels good, seeing her miserable with my brother, seeing her so upset after dealing with how upset she's made me. But I could never ever say it feels good to see her upset. I could never ever like seeing her miserable.
Because she's suffering, and we all know that means I am too.
"I'm gonna head to the head." Timmy laughs moronically at his own moronic joke, wetly kissing my temple as he slides away from me, "you want anything while I'm up? 'nother beer?"
I know why he's asking. I know he's thinking if he gets me drunky it'll get him lucky. Well, that ain't happening. Not tonight, and something tells me, not ever again.
I don't even watch him as he waits for me to thank him, or look at him, or treat him like my boyfriend. But I don't. I merely wait for him to leave as I watch Ashley head off to the bathroom on her own. Contemplating following her there.
But I don't.
Oh great, my second favorite person in the bar just decided to join my little pity party of one.
"What do you want?" I ask more so to the bottle of beer between my lips, than him.
"Wow, someone's in a bad mood."
"Wow, someone's awfully observant."
"Look, I don't have time for your attitude. I need you to do me a favor."
"You're kidding me, right?"
I finally turn towards him, incredulousness painted everywhere in my features.
"Come on, please."
He's begging like a little boy who wants a new car for Christmas, forgetting the little fact that he's barely nine.
"Come on, won't you at least let me tell you what it is before you turn it down?"
"I need you to take Ashley home."
Before I can stop myself, before I can stop second nature, I'm looking towards him again, voice full of concern, "Why? Is she ok?! I mean..." deep breath, words slowed down "...What's going on?"
But I'm still fumbling all over my words, pretending to not be concerned while I'm really dying of concern, and he knows it. He knows it all too well.
"No, no she's ok. She's just hammered and I can't take care of her. She's like five minutes from barfing all over the bar and I just can't handle that."
"You're a fucking asshole."
"No," he begins as if it were completely reasonable. "I'm just trying to have a good Saturday night. And she's a buzzkill."
My eyes widen in such horror, you'd think he had just confessed to murdering someone.
"You are un-fucking-believable, Glen. Seriously."
"So does that mean you'll do it?" He practically begs as I only slide out from the booth.
I shout "No!" over my shoulder, and as I hear him whine like a petulant five year old, I know there's no way in hell I'm giving in and doing him any kind of favor.
No way in hell.
Ashley and Glen's apartment (don't even get me started on that hot little topic) is so dark that we have to fumble our way through the living room.
We being Ashley and me.
I guess I found a way into Hell.
I instinctively wrap my arm tighter around her waist, feeling as though I need to protect her merely for hearing her say my name. And as her arms hook themselves further around my neck, softly bumping our heads together, I smile. Because I don't mind that it kind of hurt. Because I secretly, and pathetically, savor any contact with her.
"I..." She takes a deep breath, and when she exhales she somehow exhales all over me and through me, and I can't stop the shiver shooting down my spine. "...I..."
"You what, Ash?" It's soft and sincere with not a trace of annoyance, because that could never be the case. Even though I know all questioning is pointless, she's so drunk she probably has no idea what she's even saying.
"I..." her head shakes against my shoulder "...nevermind."
If this were two months ago, I'd press her for what she was really going to say. Always curious, always needing to know. But that was two months ago, it's been a lifetime since, and I don't feel comfortable asking. I don't think I have the right. Losing it the day I started 'loving' someone else.
Yes, I've lost the right to ask, but I haven't lost any right to wonder. And I'm wondering, I'm wondering so much as we stumble into their bedroom; suddenly tasting a very tinty taste in my mouth. Feeling like I might just vomit.
I practically drop her onto the bed, trying so hard to lay her down, but finding it basically impossible with her body resembling the heaviest lead.
"Where's Glen?" She mumbles incoherently and mindlessly into thick air, and my heart kind of drops.
Ok, it's plummeting. It's plummeting so fast, and somehow, I fear it'll never find the ground.
"He's still at O"Neill's" My tone's going for indifference, but it only sounds pained. So damn pained and nothing else.
"Oh," her voice is unreadable as I turn on the bed side light. "Noooo, no light!" Her hands adorably cover her eyes. "Please, Spence, turn it offfff."
For a swift moment, I feel what it used to be like. For one fleeting beautiful moment, as she grabs my hand, I remember what this used to be like. I remember us, who we used to be. Who were supposed to be.
And it sits me down. It puts me right on the edge of the bed, and I feel something flutter between my ribs as she immediately curls herself around me.
She breathes with eyes closed. She breathes my name against my burning thigh, and I think I might have just gone to heaven.
"Peanut Butter." I whisper right back through a soft spot smile.
Like a light switch, her eyes shoot open and she's looking straight at me. She's looking so far inside me, as if she were reaching for me. Reaching for the friend I used to be.
Suddenly she seems completely sober. And suddenly, everything doesn't just feel like it used to be. Everything is how it used to be.
"I've missed you."
My heart just broke with three words. Three words that I've been waiting to hear. Needing to hear for so long, that my voice cracks when I whisper back, "I've missed you too."
We sit inside the unbelievably comforting darkness and silence of her room, as I feel her grab my hand between both of hers. Holding it against her panting chest.
"Where've you been, Spence? Why've you been so far away?" Her voice kind of slurs, but it's never sounded more clearly and concisely heartbroken.
"I've been here." My voice is so soft, and even in the shadows of her room, I still can't look towards her as I quietly continue, "I'm right here, Ash. I'm right here."
The sound of sniffling coats the silent air, and I can't stop my hand from placing itself on the bed. Placing it behind her back, straddling her body with my arm and torso.
Wishing I were brave enough to touch her.
"Good." And she keeps wrapping herself further around me. "Don't go away again, ok? Please don't leave me again, Spence."
Her voice is so small, so so small and childlike, that I feel my chest tighten. Not even thinking twice before I reply. "Never, Ash. Never again."
Sighing like I've just saved her life, she wraps her arms around my waist, practically resting her head in my lap. And while I'm hesitant at first, I finally find a sliver of courage and touch her; letting my hand softly sift through her hair, eliciting the quietest sighs from her. Eliciting the shallowest breaths against my denim covered thigh.
"So, where's..." I can actually hear her disdain in the name I know she's about to say next "...Timmy?" And without missing a beat, without allowing me anytime to answer, she brings us right back to four months ago. "By the way, have I mentioned how much I hate him and his stupid name?"
I laugh. I laugh so hard, because finally everything is right in the world, solely because everything is right right inside this room.
Finally, everything is right.
"No, but I kind of figured with the death stares you've been giving him." She giggles at that. "Anyway, he's home and I wouldn't worry, I'm pretty much sure that's gonna be over in, oh I don't know..." I lift my arm, pretending to look at my non existent watch "...eight hours."
"Thank, God." She moves her face further into my lap, and I think I'm dying inside, I think I'm dying the slowest most beautiful death "...he wasn't right for you. Definitely so wasn't right for you."
She's speaking into my leg, I can feel her lips moving against me and I wish she weren't so drunk, I wish she were sober so I knew she meant it. So I could be safe in the knowledge that she feels everything I feel.
But she's not. She's beyond wasted, and all I can hope is she'll remember this in the morning. And that should be so beyond depressing, it should be weighing me down, but I don't let it. Because finally we're together, like we used to be, and I'm selfishly savoring it.
Suddenly, but slowly, she rolls away from me, leaving me frozen and alone on the edge of the bed. A frown tugs its way onto my lips, tugs so hard, before she pats the space beside her.
"Come 'ere." I've never heard her voice more gentle. "Lay with me."
And with the most trepidation I've ever had, I listen to her. With every ounce of bravery I can muster, I lay down right beside her. Petrified. Absolutely petrified. Because we've never been this close. Never. And I think the air knows it. I think the air sizzles with tension because of it.
Her breathing is so shallow, so drawn out that I almost believe she's fallen asleep. Almost.
"I'm sorry I've been so mean to you."
"You haven't been mean." My voice is so small, as my eyes try to find her face in front of mine. Needing to see her face. And she laughs in a way that's not really funny.
"No. Spence. I have been. And I'm so sorry."
One blinking beat.
It becomes so silent again. So silent, I can hear the wind outside. I can hear it brushing the trees up against her windows. Tiny little branches beating themselves against strong and sturdy glass.
"I was afraid I was losing you."
"You weren't." I'm so quick to correct her. I'm so quick to make sure she knows it's the truth.
"But I thought I was. And I don't know what I'd do if I lost you, Spence. I don't know what I'd ever do if you...I just can't lost you..." Even with her face hidden from mine, I can see her frown, and before I know it my hands wrapped around her waist, causing her to breathe in so harshly, but I keep it there anyway.
"You're not gonna lose me."
"Promise?" Asked with the voice of such a heartbroken girl, that I don't hesitate in answering. I don't hesitate in mending that broken heart with my heartfelt answer.
In the black, I see her pinky extended between us, I see it cause I feel it there, suspended in the air. And unwrapping my hand from her warm waist, I effortlessly link my pinky with hers. Blindly knowing exactly where it is.
"I swear too."
She whispers sweetly, feeling it more than hearing it, as if her body were a breath away. And it could be for all I know.
Silence takes hold once again, but something's different about this silence. Something is slipping between, and something tells me it's something I don't wanna hear.
"Yeah?" It's asked raspy and weak, cause for some reason I can't must the strength to ask her. I can't find it in me to urge her to continue with something I know is going to kill me.
She takes a deep and drunk, but more troubled than anything, breath. And then she does it...
"He wants to marry me."
She kills me. And feeling so defeated, so deflated, I foolishly ask, "Who?"
"You know who."
"Yeah. I know who."
"I don't wanna lose you." Normally it'd make me defensive and insecure. Normally it'd make me unbelievably sad, insinuating that she wants to marry him too. Suggesting that she wants him but she doesn't want to lose me in the process.
But that's not what she's suggesting. Nothing about those words suggest what they normally would. No those words sound different now. Somehow they sound like they're saying something more than what she's actually saying.
I just don't know what exactly they're suggesting. So I say the only thing I can.
I reply truthfully.
"I don't know what to do, Spence."
It seems like she's trying something, whatever she's suggesting, from another angle. And I'm still not picking it up.
"You should do whatever's right. Whatever you feel is right."
"What if what I feel is right...is wrong?"
She's losing me, let's not forget I've been drinking too. But I know she'd still lose me sober. So I don't say anything. Afraid to speak for some reason. Terrified to continue this, for a reason I'm sure I'd realize if I actually were brave enough to search for it.
If I were only brave enough to open my eyes and see everything that's right before me.
"What should I do, Spence? Please just tell me. Tell me what to do. Tell me what..." I feel her breath, I feel it against my lips, and I'm so very aware of how close she is now. I'm so very aware of what she might be suggesting.
And I'm paralyzed. I'm frozen. Licking my lips and so unsure as to why, I whisper right against her moist mouth that I know is so close to mine.
"I can't tell you that, Ash. You..." My eyes flick down, wishing I could see her, wishing I could see her closer than she's ever been to me, and as close as I'll ever be to her "...you have to decide what you want."
"I've never had to decide what I want, Spence."
Nothing fills the space between her words and mine. She didn't even have to blink an eye on that one, and now I'm scared shitless. I'm so scared, I'm moving away from her, just the slightest bit, but enough for her to notice. Enough for her to breathe deeply.
"Just..." I can hear just how sad she is, but I don't know how to make it better "...just promise I'll never lose you like we've lost the past two months. Please let's not do that again? Please, Spencer. It almost broke me the first time, I don't think I'd survive a second time."
The complete loss in her voice jabs and jabs at my stomach, but I don't blink an eye in responding.
"I promise, Ash. I promise you will never ever lose me."
"Ok..." She says it as if she's not sure she should trust it, but I guess we both decide to let it go, because she scoots closer to me on the bed, and this time, I don't move away.
One hand curled over my hip, and I'm on fire.
"Will you stay with me tonight?" She breathes across the pillow directly into my mouth "...I just get so lonely when..." She trails off, either thinking better of it, or maybe too embarrassed to admit it.
But I know what she was going to say. I know she was going to admit that my prick of a brother leaves her alone at night far more than he should. And as I whisper "of course I will" right inside her ear, feeling her sigh in relief right against my throat, I wish I were brave enough to admit everything to her.
I wish I were brave enough to tell her I've never had to decide what I want either.
I wish I were brave enough to tell her that she shouldn't marry my brother.
Then again, if I were at all brave in the first place, I wouldn't have to do either.
Because she'd already be mine.