Jeff and Annie have been living in a bubble. Happy all the time, whispering “I love you”s into each other’s mouths, everything was great. Well, until the bubble pops.
Jeff doesn’t even remember how it starts, all he knows is that they are arguing in the middle of the kitchen.
“I can’t do this anymore, Jeff. If you continue keeping secrets from me, then I’m going to leave,” Annie says, arms crossed and voice thick with anger.
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Jeff says, crossing his arms to mirror her.
“Really? Are you sure about that?” Annie asks, already knowing the answer.
Jeff shrugs in response and leans against the counter. “Why don’t you tell me what you want to hear?”
Annie’s mouth drops open, incredulous, then she closes it. “The only thing I want to hear from you right now is the truth. So tell me now, are you speaking to your father again?”
Jeff is silent, avoiding her eyes. Annie lets out a shaky breath. “Why Jeff? Why would you do this to yourself? We both know he isn’t worth it.”
“You know what Annie? I really don’t want to have this conversation right now, or ever actually. I’m sorry if that’s not okay with you,” Jeff says, anger masking the sadness in his voice.
“Jeff, it’s not that it’s not okay with me. I love you and I’m worried about you. You’ve been distant lately-“
“I’m fine,” Jeff interrupts. He sees Annie’s heart break in her eyes and he immediately regrets everything. She holds his eyes, waiting for him to say something. When he doesn’t, she sighs, grabs her purse off the kitchen counter, and leaves out the front door.
The air hangs heavy with her gone, and Jeff feels like he can’t breathe.
Jeff doesn’t know if she’s gone for now or forever. He truly doesn’t want to think about the latter, so he does what he always does when he doesn’t want to deal with emotions. He pours himself a drink and sinks deep into his couch cushions.
Hours pass by, at least that’s what he assumes. All that he processes is the glass in his hand, the burn in his throat, and the wall in front of him. He doesn’t know how much he’s had. He figures that since the room isn’t spinning yet, it can’t be too bad.
Jeff knows that he has messed everything up in his life to this point, but he was hoping he could hold it together for Annie. He tried, but he pushed her away and now she’s gone. And it’s all because of William Winger.
Jeff wasn’t really “back in contact” with his father, at least not in the way that Annie thought he was. William Winger got into a bit of hot water with the police after Willy Jr decided to go swimming in the fountain at the mall by their house. Apparently, when the mall security guard asked him to get out, he burst into tears. William fought with the police department to get him released, but he still needed some law advice.
When he got the call, Jeff made it explicitly clear that he was only doing this for his half brother. He did his best to hide it from Annie, not wanting her to worry, but she must have overheard him on the phone. He could have just owned up to it when she asked. He could have done a lot of things.
Jeff doesn’t know what time it is when he hears her come in. He’s drunk and half asleep on the couch, Sebastian curled into his side. Annie walks over and stands over him.
“Are you awake?” She whispers, pressing her cold fingertips to his forehead.
He mumbles and opens his eyes slightly to look at her. “Awake enough.”
She sighs and sinks into the couch next to him. “How much did you drink?”
He’s quiet for a second. “Enough.”
“Oh honey,” She says, pulling his head close to her chest. Jeff doesn’t resist, instead he just slumps into he grasp. “I’m sorry I left. I just needed some time to think.”
“I didn’t know if you were coming back,” Jeff whispers, more vulnerable than he is comfortable being.
Annie drops a soft kiss on top of his head and whispers into his hair, “You won’t be getting rid of me that easily.”
Jeff takes a deep breath and pulls away, finally looking into her eyes. “Annie, I’m so sorry. I shouldn't have kept the fact that I’m talking to my father a secret. I’m not even really talking to him, it’s kind of a long story, but I shouldn’t have kept it from you.” His words are sort of slurred and his eyes are half-closed, but it was out there now.
“Jeff, I’m sorry for getting so angry. I trust you, you need to know that. I’m just worried about you. Every time something goes wrong, you get like this,” She says, motioning to his intoxicated form. “This isn’t the way to deal with things.”
Jeff exhales and nods. He knows she’s right. He has seen a therapist in the past, but stopped about a year ago. He thought he was doing better, but really he was self-medicating with the booze in his liquor cabinet.
“I know. I don’t really now where to go from here,” He admits, feeling naked sitting there.
Annie takes his face gently between her hands. She brushes her thumbs along his stubble, then leans in to press a soft kiss on his lips. “Whatever you need to do, I’m here for you.”
He brings his hands up to her neck and pulls her closer. He presses their lips together and it conveys everything he needed to get off his chest. It says “I trust you”, “I’m sorry”, “I love you”, and “I need you”. He hopes Annie can feel it all.
She lets him take everything he needs before he pulls away. She smiles at him and pulls him into a hug. “Come on babe, let’s go to sleep.”
Jeff really can’t believe he’s sitting here again. He doesn’t much like therapists, but with Annie by his side, he’s willing to do anything. They are sitting in the brightly painted waiting room, Annie’s hand in his hand. She has taken the day off for this, even though Jeff begged her not to.
She said, “I love you and I want to be there. Missing one day won’t hurt, okay?”
The therapist comes out and calls them in. Annie smiles at him and gives him a reassuring squeeze as they stand. Jeff leans over and whispers in her ear, “Thank you. I love you.”
She smiles back, and everything is worth it.