I'm not one to embed videos, but this deserves it:
And onto the story. It's been a hard chapter to write....
Soundtrack Song - Bullet for My Valentine, All These Things I Hate
"Would you like to explain why you're fucking my girlfriend?"
"John!" I yell, shocked and annoyed and angry and pissed off and confused and furious and a million other things, too. I was stunned to see him there, but that off-color comment snapped me back into reality. How dare he come here and say something like that! It's wrong on so many levels. I don't know what to say; there's so much swimming around in my head that I can't concentrate on one. I want to say that I don't have an excuse. That I don't need an excuse. Because I'm not his girlfriend anymore. I left him. He may not have thought I was serious on that day in late spring when I boarded the bus, but didn't he get the hint when I changed my number? Speaking of changing my number, how did he even know where to find me? And why would he think it's okay to just show up here? How dare he!
Max places his arm in front of me, creating a barrier between me and John. It's more symbolic than a physical blockade, showing me that Max wants to protect me and fight for me. "Hold on a second," Max tells him. "She's not your girlfriend."
"Why don't you stay out of this?" John grinds out between his teeth to Max, before turning back to me. "What excuse are you going to give me this time?"
"I'm not staying out of anything," Max growls, demanding John's focus. "You have some nerve showing up here like this."
"I have some nerve? I'm not the one screwing another man's girl. You're the one with some nerve, buddy," John spits.
"I'm not your buddy." Max takes a step toward John. He pushes me behind his back. The situation is quickly escalating, and I need to defuse it. Not because I don't want Max to pummel John—I would like that very much, in fact—but because I can't let him. I've heard through the grapevine all the repercussions Sidney's dealing with after being accused of hitting Noelle, and I can't let Max get arrested for beating the shit out of someone.
I grab a hold of Max's arm and pull him back a little, stepping into the space between them. This line of arguing isn't going anywhere, and this isn't Max's fight anyway. It's mine. "Cut it out, guys. That's enough. I'm not your girlfriend anymore, John, and I haven't been for months. You have no right to show up here like this and say something like that. I don't even know how you could think that would be remotely okay."
"Your mother," John replies, still trying to stare down Max as I stand between them, "led me to believe that you'd be happy to see me."
Of course. My mother loves John, and she would have done anything if she thought it would mean I would get back together with him. She didn't understand why I wanted to leave him or why I wanted to leave Chicago, and I certainly wouldn't put it past her to try something like this in order to patch up our relationship. I owe her a very irate phone call.
"She was wrong. I'm not happy to see you, and I never want to see you again. Just go, John," I tell him, feeling confident with Max there to back me up. I'm absorbing the strength that he's irradiating.
"I'm not leaving until I have answers, Charlotte," he says.
"What else do you need to know?" I holler at him, raising my voice. This man is infuriating in his adamant persistence. To think I used to admire that quality in him. "It's over! And if you didn't believe me before, now we have a witness."
The neighbor across the hall opens her door a crack. "Do you mind?" she calls out. Stupid lady always get in my business.
"Let's do this inside," John suggests, but it's not at all a suggestion. He brushes past me and walks right into my apartment, like I invited him in. It's a bold move, in my opinion, to turn his back on Max, because there's fire in his eyes which he is trying to douse. Max is trying to keep his anger and incredulity in check. But this is typical John; he's assuming he has control and therefore acts that way. I used to like that kind of attitude, that cocky confidence. Max acts that way sometimes, too, but he'd never do something like this. He understands boundaries.
"What an asshole," Max mutters under his breath, but I hear it.
"You're telling me," I scoff. "What am I supposed to do? I don't want him here."
"I can hear you," John calls from the living room. He's sitting on the couch, having set the bottle of wine on the coffee table.
"Good! I don't want you here!" I yell, losing my composure and my sanity.
"Okay, let's take a deep breath and calm down," Max says, rubbing his hands over his eyes. I feel so bad for him, for being dragged into this situation and for it happening right now. "Yelling isn't going to help."
I don't want to be rational and clear-headed right now. "Yes it is! Yelling is going to make me feel a lot better! This is why you don't talk about things like this! It's like he's a demon, and just saying his name conjures him up from the depths of Hell."
"I think that's a bit of an exaggeration. And you did the right thing in telling me."
"So it's just a coincidence that he shows up the day after I tell you all about him? God, what else do I have to do to make it clear to him that I don't want anything to do with him anymore?"
Max shrugs. "I don't know. Maybe you should just try talking to him, calmly, and we can find out why he's here and what he wants. And what it takes to end this, once and for all."
John speaks up again. "We? I don't think so. You're not involved in this. You can leave," he tells Max, ignoring me.
As long as these two guys are in the same room, nothing's going to be resolved. Max knows this, even though I don't want to admit it; I need Max with me, after all. I can't resolve anything without being able to feed off of his strength.
"He's staying," I smugly inform John.
"He's right," Max says meekly behind me. I turn slowly to look at him. I did not just hear him say that. "This is between you and John."
"That doesn't mean you can't be here for me," I whisper, so John can't hear. I don't want him to know that my backbone is breaking and my courage is wavering.
He speaks back in hushed tones. "This is your chance to make him understand. I'm going to run home, take my contacts out and grab some clothes, and I'll be back in fifteen minutes. And when I come back, if I need to, I'll beat it into him."
"Fuck, Max. Don't say things like that. Just stay and back me up. I can't do it without you."
"Yes, you can, Charlotte. You're stronger than you think you are. And you and I both know that nothing will get fixed as long as I'm here. Fifteen minutes. Twelve, if I speed," he says as he looks down at me with a smile he doesn't mean. "Unless you're scared of him."
I look back at John, who's waiting impatiently now that he can't hear our conversation. "No. I'm not scared of him. I just... can't do it alone. Max, I can't."
"You can. Ne t'inquiète pas. Tout va aller bien. Je le promets." He kisses my forehead. "Twelve minutes," he announces, shooting a scowl at John before he turns and leaves, just like that.
For a moment, I just stand there at the closed door, from which Max just left. I can't believe he abandoned me when I need him the most. He may have faith in me that I can do this, but I'm not so sure of that at all. I finally turn around, and John's looking at me and awaiting some type of reaction or move from me. I feel so vulnerable, naked, and raw without my source of strength to draw from. That's when I look down and see that I practically am naked.
"I'm going to put some clothes on, and then you and I are going to have a serious discussion about how you need to leave me the fuck alone," I tell him, heading into my room and closing the door behind me. I know I only have a limited span of time to do this, to convince him of what a jerk he's being, but I need to gather my all my resources to get it done.
I pull on a pair of jeans and then take off my shirt as I reach for a sports bra to throw over my head. As I work, I go over everything in my mind. I need to tell him that we were long over, and that we have no future. We never did, and it's time he realizes it, too. He needs to not talk to my family, and leave us all alone. Leave me alone.
The door opens, and I turn as John steps into my room. I instinctively shriek and cover my chest. I cross my arms across myself. "Get out, John!"
"Why? It's nothing I haven't seen before," he laughs.
"That doesn't matter!" I yell, grabbing something more substantial to provide coverage over my bare top. "You can't act like this anymore! I'm not your girlfriend, so you can't act like you deserve to be here. You don't."
"I put in for vacation time to come out here before my meetings, so I could spend more time with you. I told you I was coming to Pittsburgh to see you—"
"No, you're here for work. You're not here to see me."
"Then why am I here, in your apartment, in your room, if I'm not here to see you?"
"I.... I don't know." I look down at the floor.
"You know, your mother called me to see if I still wanted to come over for Thanksgiving," he says, taking another step toward me. Of course she would. My mom felt so bad that John's parents were dead and that he had spent the holidays alone before I brought him home. She felt that he was a part of our family now, like the son she never had. "But when she said you wouldn't be there, I couldn't imagine being there without you. The holidays should be spent with family and loved ones. I hated to think you were going to be alone in Pittsburgh," he spits out, as if that were a fate worse than death.
"Well, that goes to show you that you shouldn't worry about me. I am spending the holiday with a loved one. And it's not you," I tell him.
That puts a frown on his face as he makes another move closer to me. "What? That guy that doesn't even call you by your name? He loves you?" I nod; even though he hasn't said it, I know he does. He does. And I don't mind at all that he calls me "baby." I like it, actually. "Does he even know your name?"
"Did he make you change? Make you lose the weight? Because you were pretty enough before, Charlotte. You should never have to change for someone else."
"He didn't change me, John. I did that, and I happen to like who I am now."
"You're the same girl inside. The same girl I met at the bar. Does he know you like I do?" he asks, taking another step forward.
"No," I begin, taking a step back to maintain the distance between us, and I keep moving until my back's against the wall. "He knows me a lot better than you ever did. Max treats me a lot better, too. He's everything you aren't."
"You just want to throw away the three years we spent together like they meant nothing? I don't waste my time, Charlotte. I wouldn't have spent that time with you for nothing." He's right in front of me now.
"I don't see it as throwing away three years. I see it as opening up my future for something bigger and better. For someone bigger and better," I say, tossing out that last statement to hurt him. Immature, yes; but it's about time the tables turn.
John reaches out and brushes his fingers against the side of my neck below my ear. I clench my jaw and tighten my grip against the sweatshirt that I'm holding up in front of me. "Does he know how much you like to be kissed right here?"
"Don't touch me," I order. "This is over and done. Why can't you see that?"
He retracts his hand. "Why are you so insistent that we're broken up?"
"Because we are!" I scream, holding nothing back. "I left! I left Chicago! You watched the bus drive away, you saw it with your own eyes! I told you goodbye! I blocked your e-mails and I changed my phone number! What else do I need to do? John, I hate you and I want you to leave me the fuck alone already!
"I came here for you. And this is how you repay me?" He's so calm, even though I'm screaming my head off at him. He makes me feel so crazy, like I'm overreacting.
I groan. We're back at square one. "Did you not hear a thing I just said? It's like talking to a kumquat! You shouldn't have just showed up and think that things were going to be okay. I've been ignoring you for weeks now, so I can't believe you didn't get it. You're seriously retarded. What did you think was going on, huh? When I left and stopped talking to you?"
John shrugs, and it's the first time in our entire relationship that he looks indecisive or unaware. "You needed to figure out what you wanted."
If I didn't need to hold something up in front of me, I would have thrown my hands in the air. "I've figured out what I need. And it's not you. Did you think I'd suddenly realize I missed you? That I needed you? Because I don't. I need you to get the fuck out of my life!"
"Three years," he growls, coming back closer to me. His hand balls into a fist and he raises it at his side; I've always known John had a temper, but it's never been directed at me like this before. He usually would just cut me down with his words, and that was enough to whip me into shape and grovel to get on his good side again. Not this time, however. I wasn't going to cower down, and now he doesn't know how to react.
His arm falls back down to his side as he realizes what he was about to do. As much of an asshole as he is, he was never physically abusive. I have the upper hand now, so to speak. "Three miserable years, John." He's more focused on the fact that the time he wasted with me could have spent doing something, or someone, else. He just doesn't get it. I try to explain with cool composure, "We weren't having a good time together anymore. You were constantly reminding me of everything wrong or bad that I did. Not only did that make me feel like shit, but you couldn't have been happy if I was doing things that you didn't like. I don't understand why you want this thing between us to continue. We were a mess, dysfunctional."
"Relationships aren't perfect, Charlotte. So we hit a few bumps in the road—"
"A few bumps?" I laugh. It's not funny, but laughter is my initial reaction. I must be going crazy. "We have very differing opinions on the past three years, apparently."
"Apparently," he says, quietly. "But Charlotte, I miss you."
Those words wash over me and give me goosebumps. I close my eyes and wonder: how many times this summer have I wished to hear him say that? They're three simple words, but they mean so much. I miss you. I dreamt every night that he'd realize what he was lacking when I left, and he'd wake up and snap out of the funk he was in and be that person he once was.
But even if he were willing to change, it wouldn't be enough. Not now. It makes me sad to hear him say that now. And I tell him so. "It's too late, John. I'm over it. I've moved on. And now it's your turn to do so."
"Don't say that. There has to be some way we can fix this."
I shake my head and get angry again. Why won't he just give up and let it go? It may have taken me months to get over him, but once I made the decision, I stuck with it. I didn't run back to Chicago and beg for forgiveness. I may have dreamt and hoped that he'd show up at my door and beg me to take him back.... Well, isn't it funny how these things happen? I finally got what I wanted, only to find out that I didn't want it anymore.
"No, John," I spit. "You can't fix what's irrevocably broken. That's why you should just go."
"And that's it? We can't be friends?"
"No. I want you out of my life. I want to pretend like I never met you, and like you don't exist. So I'd appreciate it if you leave my apartment and leave me alone."
He shifts his weight to his other foot and leans a little closer to me. "What do you say to one last time, huh? I came all this way to find you, so why don't you make this last memory a happy one?"
"You're disgusting," I spit.
"Why? It never bothered you before, when you cheated on me," he says, leering at me.
"That was just kissing. I said I was sorry. You can't keep holding it over my head. No, I won't let you hold that over me anymore. Because what I did stupidly back then doesn't matter anymore. We're over. Get out."
"Once I'm out the door, don't think you can come crawling back," he grunts.
"Oh, believe me, I won't," I laugh. "You'll never have to worry about that."
"You're such a stupid little bitch." Typical John, resorting to name calling. It still cuts me when he talks like this, and I'm so sick of it. Even though I hate him and want nothing to do with him, he can still play with my emotions.
I wonder if this will ever stop. "Yes, I am a bitch. Now get the fuck out!"
His hand comes up again, but he points it in my face. "You're going to regret this day, Charlotte. You're going to regret it for the rest of your life!" Without another word, he turns away and leaves. I don't relax until I hear the door click into place on his way out.
I collapse on my bed and drop the sweatshirt, burying my head in my hands instead. It seems like no matter how often or how hard I cry, I can't completely purge myself of this. Hopefully, though, this will be the last time I'll ever have to do this. After a few minutes, I can hear the door open again, and footsteps back into the apartment.