They haven’t talked in eight months and nine days.
(Jackson isn’t counting. He just happens to remember how long it’s been since his birthday.)
It’s raining. Jackson is covered in nothing but a thin hoodie he’d expected not to need on the mid-summer night. He hides under the clothing, scrolling through his contacts with the minor protection keeping most of the water away from his screen. Sitting on a curb, Jackson peeks out around the sleeve to squint at the street sign he thinks he can see half a mile down the road and wishes he knew where he was so he could at least give directions to whoever he decided to call.
(He doesn’t think anyone would come.)
Jackson’s finger hovers over a contact, the row of smile and heart emojis still trailing after the name even though he hasn’t (he has) felt those emotions for the receiver in eight months and nine days.
(Jackson knows he wouldn’t come.)
Jackson knows he won’t come and they haven’t even spoken in eight months and nine days but something too strong to ignore inside him demands that he call, presses his finger without his permission to the name and slides across the green phone. He wishes he had deleted the contact eight months and nine days ago. Even with the alcohol sloshing around his stomach, blurring his vision and clouding his mind, muscle memory would’ve allowed him to dial the number with ease.
(Jackson tries to forget so many things, but he knows he never will.)
The phone rings. Jackson regrets everything. He regrets the phone call. He regrets the party. He regrets the past three parties. He regrets the past eight months and nine days. He regrets late night confessions and a birthday party that wasn’t a birthday party because you can’t have a party with just two people.
(Sometimes, he regrets the twelve years of friendship that came before it.)
They haven’t spoken in eight months and nine days and Jackson doesn’t get the ‘who is this’ that he expected with his assumption that he would be cut out completely after ruining their relationship, he doesn’t get the answering machine if he wasn’t and his name showed up on the phone, he doesn’t even get the ‘fuck off, homo’ he never really thought he’d receive but sometimes thought he deserved.
(Jackson always hated himself a little more than anyone else did.)
They haven’t spoken in eight months and nine days and the first time they do, Jackson’s expectations are destroyed when all he hears is that sweet voice full of worry frantically repeating his name and dragging a sob out from deep within his chest, the one he’s been holding in for eight months and nine days. He tries to reign it in, but his phone beeps loudly to signal it’s dwindling battery and when the sound ends he hears a soft, “Please, tell me you’re okay.”
(Jackson is going to ruin it all over again.)
“Mark, Mark, please,” the words come spilling out along with tears and snot and Jackson’s stomach turns uncomfortably and he doesn’t know if it’s from the rush of anxiety and affection because, oh my god, he has missed this voice, or if it’s from the three shots he swallowed trying to forget it, “Mark, please, I’m sorry I told you that I’m in love with you, I’m sorry, I won’t be, I promise, just please, please help me. I went to this party, and there’s no one to pick me up, and I don’t even know where I am, and I’m pretty sure I’m drunk, and I miss you, fuck, I miss you so much, Mark, I’m sorry.”
(Jackson is notoriously bad at keeping his feelings to himself.)
“Jackson,” Mark’s voice is soothing, and gentle, calming Jackson in a way no one else has ever been able, “I’m sorry.”
“What do you have to be sorry for?” There’s an odd, self-deprecating laugh from the other end that Jackson quickly decides he doesn’t like, but his question is genuine.
He told Mark that he loved him, he kissed him after Mark smeared cake on his cheek at 11:04 PM on a beautiful Friday night and laughed so adorably that Jackson couldn’t help himself. It was his fault. He shouldn’t have felt those things, he knew it, and when he did, he should’ve kept his mouth shut. They haven’t talked in eight months and nine days because Jackson wanted so much more than he was ever allowed.
(Jackson has always been ambitious.)
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Mark promises. Jackson tries to ask more, tries to understand how he doesn’t deserve the blame, but Mark mumbles something about talking when he isn’t intoxicated that Jackson doesn’t have time to argue with because Mark is asking which party he’s at.
“Tommy’s. But, I’m somewhere outside. Behind the house, I think? I’m not sure,” Jackson explains. He tries to rush back into a conversation, one he’s been waiting eight months and nine days to have, but Mark interrupts.
“I’m coming, okay, just sit tight.”
He hangs up before Jackson can say more, but not before Jackson hears the jangling of keys and a slamming door.
Maybe, he thinks, everything will be okay.