Soundtrack Song - Damone, New Change of Heart
Let's see, how much did I have to drink tonight? Two double vodkas in the three hours I was at the Sheraton. That's an equivalent of four drinks. My liver's supposed to handle one drink per hour, so that right there puts me over the staying-sober limit. I was at Diesel for about an hour and a half to two hours, and I had four beers. That's also over the limit, way over the limit. Maybe I'm just a little tipsy. My mind's pretty clear.
Hell, I just did all that math in my head. I guess my brain's still working at full capacity.
So why in the world am I still so angry at Max? I take that back. I don't want to know. I'd rather just stew in my silent rage without examining the cause.
Max does more than just make sure I get to my building unimpeded; he walks me all the way to my apartment door. "You don't have to see me off. I'm fully capable of taking care of myself." There's a gruff attitude in my voice.
"I'm sure you can," he replies with a shrug. "I guess I'm just an old-fashioned guy."
It's my turn to shrug. An old-fashioned guy doesn't sleep around with half of Pittsburgh. I try to suppress the thought.
"Listen," he says, not waiting for my response. "About what Tanger said—"
My anger flares. "You don't have to explain yourself. Whatever."
"No. Not whatever. I don't know if that's what's got you so riled up, but you should know—"
"I told you," I cut him off again, turning around and punctuating my sentence by slamming my key into the lock. "You don't have to explain yourself." I unlock the door and open it, ready to step inside and slam the door behind me. If I was mad before, that was nothing compared to now. He wants to sleep around? Fine. But I don't want to hear him rationalize that kind of behavior.
"Will you listen to me?" he asks loudly. It's enough to make me turn around and take notice. "I'm trying to tell you that—"
"Can you do that inside?" I hear one of my neighbors call, opening the door to her apartment a crack. I didn't realize we were being loud enough to attract attention.
Max pushes me into my apartment and closes the door behind him after he mutters some apology to my cranky, insomniac neighbor. He slides the deadbolt home, and for some reason, that sends a shiver down my spine. I'm still angry, so I put my weight onto one foot (even though that's really uncomfortable in these heels) and cross my arms over my chest.
"Say whatever it is that you just have to tell me and leave." It's one thing to want to explain himself, but it's another thing entirely to shove me into my own apartment and force me to listen to him talk about how he had sex with some random, nameless whore.
Why is she so angry at me? And why won't she just shut up and let me set her straight? I can't believe Tangers had the nerve to open his mouth, especially about something he doesn't fully understand. Something that doesn't even concern him. If I were healthy, I'd make him pay for that on the ice.
Sure, maybe I didn't correct Geno when he mentioned in the dressing room about the girls we had hooked up with. So maybe I let everyone think I got some action. That doesn't mean Letang can interfere. He knew, I mean he knew that I liked her. He's not that stupid. I don't know what his angle is, but he is going to pay for this.
I don't want Charlotte to think I did that. Yes, it was originally my intention to take that girl home and fuck her, but that isn't what ended up happening. She needs to know that. I need her to know that. I need to tell her that.
"Can you do that inside?" someone calls from another apartment. I'm sick of getting interrupted.
I apologize to the lady in her robe peeking through a crack in her door. I guess it's a reasonable request, seeing as though we're yelling in the hallway of her building at one thirty in the morning. But I'm going to speak my peace, and damn it, Charlotte's going to listen. I get a little rough in my impatience, grabbing her and forcing her into her own apartment before I lock us in.
"Say whatever it is that you just have to tell me and leave." Her words get under my skin. Her arms are crossed under her breasts, pushing them against the fabric of her dress and threatening to expose more of her flesh. I'm affected by her in an entirely different way now, and the combination of my feelings versus my desires is driving me insane.
"Not that it's any of your business, but I didn't sleep with her. I just took her home. I...." I want to tell her that I couldn't sleep with that girl because Charlotte was on my mind at the time. I'm afraid to let her know, though, because I don't know how she'll react to the news. "I just took her home."
She looks to the floor. I really want to see her face and look into her eyes so I can know what she's thinking. She gnaws on her lip before saying, "Whatever. I don't care what you do. That's your business, not mine, just like you said."
I'm still angry. I guess I want her to care. Is that weird? I want who I sleep with to be her business. I want it to be her. Even though I like her, I'm so frustrated with her. She makes me want to punch a hole in the wall, grab her and shake some sense into her, or kiss her until she sees what's so obvious to me. This girl is driving me crazy, in every possible way. I can't reconcile my disparate thoughts and emotions.
I should tell her exactly what's swimming around in my head. I should just say that I can't do this whole "friends" thing. That I gave it my best shot, but I just can't do it. She can hate me for that if she wants, or she can say that she doesn't want to see me anymore if that's the case. I don't want her to do any of those things, but I'll accept the consequences as long as I get this off my chest. Because I can't live like this anymore.
"Will you look at me?" I ask her. If I'm going to spill my guts, I at least want to do it the right way. She still won't move her head, so I cup her chin in my hand and tilt her face toward mine. She's still looking down, but I wait for her to bring her eyes up eventually. If she wants to play a waiting game, we'll play. I'll win. Finally, she caves in and bends to my will. Her emerald eyes are wide as they peer into mine. Her mouth is slightly open. I think she's scared.
If I were her, I'd definitely be scared, too. I'd be scared about all the thoughts and desires that are running through my head and everything I want to do to her. I'm choking on all the things I want to say to her. This shouldn't be this difficult. It should be easy to confess all this to her. But it isn't; not by the way she's looking at me. It doesn't matter how many languages I speak; all words fail me.
Her eyes are searching mine, but I'm not sure what they're looking for. Can she read my mind? I'm afraid that the reason she's scared is because she thinks I want to make a move again. I do want to make a move. I absolutely want to kiss her. Hell, I want to do more than kiss her. I want to push her against the wall and press up against her. Make her feel exactly what she's doing to me and make her want it, too. Touch her everywhere. Rip off that dress and taste every square inch of her flesh. Make her scream until laryngitis kicks in and she can no longer talk. Physically exhaust her and myself.
But I remember what happened the last time I kissed her. I don't want a repeat of that, because that might be the end of it. She may not give me another chance to be friends. Ah mon Dieu Seigneur Jésus!
I hate the way she's looking at me. I hate that she's scared of me. Scared of me. What have I ever done to garner this reaction from her? I shake my head. I can't do this. I want her to want me, too. Not to mention I've lost my nerve to just tell her the things I want to say. She's not willing to listen anyway. I can tell that by the look on her face. I wanted her to look at me while I bared my soul, but now that she is looking at me... I can't do it. It's just too soon; that was made perfectly clear by our tearful waltz tonight, as well as by her timidity. Charlotte's not ready for me to come clean. She doesn't need that now.
It truly pains me to do this, but I have to. "I think I should go. Good night, Charlotte."
I don't even kiss her cheeks and give her a proper goodnight. I just let go of her and turn and leave, unbolting the door and closing it behind me. My heart is pounding in my chest. I just have to keep telling myself that this was the right thing to do. I'm keeping my promise. Maybe it'll pay off later. It had better. I'm not doing this for nothing.
"Not that it's any of your business, but I didn't sleep with her. I just took her home. I...." He pauses before he repeats, "I just took her home."
I can't look at him. That's the best news I've heard in months. I'm instantly relieved. Utterly and positively relieved. But soon another emotion takes over that I try desperately to hide. If I'm so relieved to hear that he wasn't with that girl last night, then it can only mean one thing: I like him. Like him. Really like him. The weight of that knowledge overwhelms me. "Whatever. I don't care what you do," I blatantly lie. "That's your business, not mine, just like you said."
I had been suspicious of the way I was so angry and jealous tonight, both after meeting that girl in the restroom and then when Kris opened his mouth in the club. I tried not to think about it because I wanted to avoid this potential realization. But now I'm no longer suspicious; it's been verified. I'm completely infatuated with Max.
If I had the inkling that maybe I felt this way before, I can no longer deny it. I wish with every fiber of my being that I didn't know. I'm so confused. There are so many thoughts in my head at once that I can't concentrate on any of them, so it's like I'm not thinking anything at all.
"Will you look at me?" he asks. There's something in his voice that makes me want to obey his request, but I can't. I'm too overwhelmed to look up at him, so he tries to make me. I still can't do it. I'm worried that he can read me like a book and see my change of heart. As I peer down, I wait for him to give up and leave. If I'm adamant about not meeting his gaze, I'm sure he'll throw in the towel. He'll get frustrated and just leave. Except he doesn't. And I can't put it off any longer. I look up.
Looking into his eyes is a mistake. It's enough to make all the muscles in my body clench. My stomach shrivels and my lungs are working overtime and heaving against my ribcage. I feel lightheaded and knock-kneed. The emotions that I had been trying to suppress erupt inside of me. Yes, I like him, but moreso, I want him. My body is reacting without consent from my brain.
However, my brain hasn't shut off, either. It's hoping that I can stop my body from making the move I so desperately want to make. It's scared by my realization because I don't know if I can handle this all just yet. My heart's still broken. Yes, it's on the mend; but like Max's shoulder, it needs to heal completely before I can trust it to do its job properly. I'm worried that if I try this now and end up getting hurt in the process, that will just exacerbate the situation and irrevocably damage me.
Max is a professional athlete. He's used to picking up rebounds. But me... I don't know if I can. He's not perfect, certainly. He's hairy and loud and boisterous and cocky and nothing at all like the type I had picked out for myself. I would never have considered his metaphorical résumé to make my "consideration" pile as a guy to potentially have a relationship with. But that doesn't mean I can treat him like just a guy to screw around with.
And I'm scared because maybe I am ready to move on. And that scares the living fucking shit out of me. It's easy to be broken and hurt and too terrified to live my life the way I should be living it. It's easy to stay holed up in this apartment day-in and day-out and postpone the healing process. But it's incredibly hard to decide that I am ready and able to put aside those painful emotions and move on. Put myself back out there and try.
That's what it boils down to: I can either accept that John and I are over and kiss this beautiful man in front of me and try to move forward or I can wallow in this self-imposed prison and risk pain, suffering, and misery.
Now that I know how I feel about Max, am I prepared to act on it and risk my heart again? I'm looking for the answer in his eyes. I'm hoping to see something there that will make this decision easier on me. After all, he kissed me before, that means he liked me then, right? Does he still? I'm examining his gaze for any traces of that affinity. I'm not sure what I'm seeing as he stares back at me. We've been just looking at each other for so long, not moving, not glancing away. Just staring.
Maybe he's holding back because I told him I wanted to be friends. Maybe he's just trying to be respectful of my wishes and the platonic rules that I imposed on our relationship. Maybe the only way to let him know that I've changed my mind is to show him. Kiss him.
I'm going to do it. Good idea or not, standing this close to him without closing the distance or stepping away is torture. Delicious torture, but torture nonetheless. It's a fate worse than Prometheus's or Sisyphus's, to be so near him yet not close enough to feel him. As I start to make the move to lean toward him, to meet his lips with mine, he opens his mouth to speak. "I think I should go. Good night, Charlotte."
No. Say something, Charlotte! Stop him! Tell him it's okay, that you want him! But I don't have a chance to make him stay because he moves at the speed of light and is suddenly gone, out the door. Maybe it's because he's just that fast or maybe it's because my reflexes are dulled and it takes me forever to think of what I want to say.
I can't believe it. Keeping him in the friend zone has backfired in my face. After keeping him at arm's length, he's moved on. I should've known in the first place: after all, even though he didn't sleep with that chick yesterday, he took her home. That should have been enough of an indication that he has moved on.
Fuck. Why do I do this to myself? John was a bad decision. Max, apparently, was not a better one. I keep putting myself out there to get hurt. I need to make smarter choices. When am I ever going to learn better?
I lock the door behind Max and then grab a spoon and the Ben & Jerry's calling my name from the depths of the freezer. I pull on my comfortable clothes and carry the pint into bed with me, curling up under the covers and drowning my sorrows with ice cream.
Just like old times.