Neutral Territory Ch. 12

byPS_Lopez©

Oddly, I didn't feel like crying. If Dad had said any of this, I would have been in tears before the second sentence. But then, I never would have asked Dad for the truth. I didn't think Dad knew what it was any more, he was so full of stereotypes.

Drew leaned forward. "And let me tell you this, Geoffrey." He tapped the table with the bottom of his glass. "I think you're using Silas. I think that as soon as you get over your issues, you'll dump him and go your own happy way to beguile some other unsuspecting man into draining himself to nothing for you. Because that's what you're doing to Silas right now. You're draining him. He's at a complete loss as to what to do to make you happy. I think you're a spoiled, demanding brat who's out only for himself."

He took another swig of his drink, draining it, slammed the glass on the table so the ice within it jumped, then rose.

"I'll tell Silas we're done talking."

I nodded, unable to look at him. Now that he'd said it, I could see it. I was draining Silas. I was dragging him through hell. He'd already been through what I was going through. He didn't need to do it again by proxy.

Silas deserved someone better, someone stronger, someone who was confident and accepted himself.

"Hey, how'd it go?" Silas asked, sitting beside me.

I shrugged. "About how I expected. Can we go now?"

"Okay." He grabbed my drink. "I'll just take these back to the bar to spare the waitress."

I nodded. Silas left again and I remained where I sat, unable to rise just yet. I had to get over my despair, and I didn't feel like moving. Silas returned and patted my back.

"Come on."

I rose and followed him out. In his car, I just huddled in the seat, unable to say anything. There was nothing I could say. Silas didn't speak, either, though he kept glancing at me. I wanted to stare at him, to memorize his profile, but knew that would betray what I was thinking, so I didn't dare. I focused my gaze on my knees, which I'd pressed my hands between again.

Silas had to prod me to get out after he parked. I did so and shut the door. He came around the car and took my hand. I let him hold it, the last time I'd feel his hand enveloping mine.

"I'm just going to go to bed," I said as we made our way into the building.

We separated in the elevator on his floor. He kissed the back of my hand like usual before leaving. I watched him go. He twisted to wave at me, and I waved back as the doors shut.

When I got home, I found some paper, an envelope, and a pen. I knew it was corny and cliché and the worst way to do it, but I wrote Silas a Dear John letter. It wasn't very long. I couldn't think of much to say. I put it in the envelope, tucked the flap in to close it, and took it down to tape on Silas's door.

Then I went home to crawl into bed, glad I didn't have a morning shift. I'd need all morning just to pull my ass out of bed to face the afternoon.

*

SILAS

I eventually got myself out of bed. Not that I'd been lazing about for longer than usual, but staring at the ceiling trying to comprehend the elusive reasons behind Geoffrey's subdued demeanor when we'd left the club wasn't getting me any closer to breakfast, and my stomach wanted some food.

My sister's bedroom door was closed, which was an indication that she'd already gotten ready for school and was just doing homework or studying and didn't want to be bothered. She had mostly afternoon classes this semester and had dumped last semester's boyfriend so she wouldn't be distracted. I admired her flexibility; when I'd been in school, I'd hated changing my schedule every few months. It had always felt like I'd just gotten settled into the schedule I had when I'd have to mix it up again.

I tied my robe shut as I entered the kitchen, then decided to make pancakes. Sometimes a lot of work for little reward, but what the hell. I had time to kill before meeting Geoffrey downstairs.

While I was eating, Sabriana came into the kitchen with her book propped on one arm and an empty coffee mug in the other. I watched her pour herself another cup of coffee without seeming to watch the liquid.

"Good morning," I said after she slid the carafe back into the coffeemaker.

She yelped and dropped her book. It landed with a smack on the floor. "Shit, Si!" She bent over to retrieve the text.

"Well, if you'd been paying attention instead of walking around with your nose in your text, you would have seen me sitting here. I am over six feet tall, you know. Not exactly miniscule."

She shot me an angry glance, but I knew she wasn't serious. If she had been, she'd have ranted at me instead. "Did you make me any pancakes?"

"In the oven."

She set her book on the counter and found the oven mitt I'd kindly left on top of the stove for her. "I really am going to regret it when we have to live separately."

I chuckled. "You just love me for my cooking skills."

She looked at me. I stuck out my tongue.

"God, you're such a juvenile sometimes," she muttered, but I could hear the smile in her voice.

"I could offer to teach whatever man you end up marrying how to cook."

She pulled her plate out of the oven and sat it on the stove, then turned off the oven before getting the syrup out of the fridge. I flinched when she squeezed the bottle three times, dispensing thick ribbons of its contents onto her pancakes.

"You ruin perfectly good pancakes doing that, you know."

She turned the bottle upright, pushed it shut with the heel of her palm, licked her skin clean, then dampened the cloth to clean the top of the bottle. "I love me some syrup," her usual response to my habitual complaint.

"But--"

"I'll take out the garbage and the recycling to the center if you shut up."

"Shutting up."

Sabriana chuckled. Not that either duty was particularly onerous. The garbage chute was in a closet-sized room where the elevators were, and she drove right past the recycling center on her way to school. Still, those were two chores I wouldn't have to do anytime soon.

She put the syrup away and brought her plate to the table, accidentally dipping the thumb of the oven mitt in her syrup. "How'd things go last night?"

I frowned, pausing in the act of stabbing my next bite of breakfast. "I'm not sure. Drew seemed angry and Geoff subdued by the time everything was done."

"Do tell." Sabriana dropped the mitt into the sink and found herself a fork.

I did, probably overemphasizing the fact that Geoffrey seemed perfectly normal--for entering a situation tailor-made for making him nervous. Really, his subdued behavior was quite understandable when I thought about it. It had been his first time in any bar to speak of, it had been a gay bar on top of that, and he'd been meeting the man I'd slept with. He may have requested the introduction, but that had to have had that mess his father had left him with for common sense roiling.

Sabriana listened, nodding as she ate. She threw in a couple "mm-hmms" for good measure which I thought was very kind seeing as she was in the process of stuffing her face with my cooking. Hell, it was the least she could do. At the end of my little tale, I pushed my plate away, appetite gone. I wasn't surprised, not with my continued mystification over Geoffrey's behavior and the sight of my sister plowing through her pancakes like a kid who barely knew how to eat with utensils. It was the syrup. It drained out of the bites she dug free like water from a sieve. Grossed me out.

"So you think he was acting a bit out of character after his talk with Drew?"

I nodded. "He usually looks around more, and he just stared at his lap as if it held the greatest treasure in all the world. Didn't say a word. I didn't want to press him about how things had gone, though. I didn't want to piss him off. It wasn't an easy situation for him from beginning to end."

"Want me to play envoy to make sure he'll meet you downstairs?"

I shook my head, leaning on the table. "No, I really just think he needed to think about things."

"You sure?"

I nodded. "Yeah. I'm probably worrying unnecessarily. I'll ask him how he's doing when I see him."

"Okay, if you're sure."

I nodded again. "I'm sure. He has a pattern, and I tend to forget about it sometimes. Make some progress or do something new, hole up to think about it. That's all it is."

I waved one hand, doing my best to use the motion to signal to myself that I shouldn't worry. Just wave my concerns away. But it was second nature to me now to be concerned about Geoffrey after seeing him do something new. Especially what he'd done last night. It was something big enough that it could make him withdraw from me.

"I'll get the plates," I said when my sister finished her breakfast.

"Thanks."

"I'd rather do dishes than deal with the garbage." I rose, picking up our plates.

"You would."

I set the plates on the counter, then took the text and full mug of coffee to my sister. She stood up and accepted them.

"I'll be leaving soon. I want to get a head start on my midterm papers."

"My, my, so industrious." I returned to the sink and started the water running.

"Just because you're a slacker."

"I still graduated with a three point eight!" I glanced over my shoulder to see her enter the living room.

"Slacker!"

This was an argument I'd lose, so I decided to quit before she reminded me of all the facts. I'd spent my entire college education partying. Yeah, I'd been one of those idiots who risked getting caught drunk while underage--and I'd had Dad to face if he'd have ever caught me. I still half-believed he'd known what I was doing. I never nipped from his stock, but he couldn't have missed that one puddle of puke I left on the foyer floor in my sophomore year. As I remembered, the scent of it had followed me up the stairs, and it had been a scent redolent of all the screwdrivers I'd guzzled.

I shoved my half-eaten pancakes down the garbage disposal and listened to it grind away, then made quick work of hand washing the dishes. Sometimes the act calmed my mind, but this time it didn't work. I still felt worried about Geoffrey.

A glance at my watch on my way to my room told me I had an hour to wait. I showered while doing so. When I stepped out of the bathroom, I found my sister standing across the hall from the doorway, holding an envelope. She looked worried.

"What's that?"

"I don't know," she said softly and held it out. "But it's got your name on it in Geoff's handwriting."

My stomach knotted and a spike of ice slammed through me. I took the envelope and looked at it. Geoffrey's handwriting did indeed grace the front of the thing. It took a lot of effort to turn it over and pull the flap out, then I just stared at it, certain this was bad news. Very bad news. I held it out to my sister.

"You read it first."

"Typical." But she took the envelope.

I watched her fingers pull the lined page out. It had been folded in thirds, one end folded in so it would fit in the short envelope. My sister's fingers gracefully unfolded the letter at a speed that I felt was both too fast and too slow. A part of me wanted to hear the bad news right now, the rest didn't ever want to know what that letter said.

Sabriana went still for a moment after getting the letter open. I watched her expression fall from concerned into shock then something like despair.

"It's only two lines," she said faintly.

I dropped my dirties and snatched the paper from her loose grasp and flipped it around to see. Geoffrey had written my name in his neat script at the top of the page, then halfway down the page, as if he hadn't been able to make himself get the words out until the end of the page reached his view, he'd written, You deserve better than me. You can get along with Drew, so go ahead and date him instead. This was followed by his signature. It looked as if his hand had been shaking when he'd written it.

I went cold as I reread the words, almost unable to comprehend them in my disbelief. My hand crumpled the letter in a fist, and I glared at the floor, that being the thing directly behind the letter. For a moment, I didn't know who I was angrier at: Geoffrey for doing this to me, or Drew for doing whatever he'd done to make Geoffrey do this.

Really, the decision wasn't that hard to make. I twisted the page up between my hands. "I'll wring his neck!" I screeched, throwing the twisted page. I began pacing, gesticulating wildly. "It had to be something Drew said to him. It had to be. There's no other possible explanation. Yeah, he was subdued and nervous going into the bar, but it wasn't until after he spoke with Drew that he got really subdued."

I stopped pacing facing the living room and gripped my hair in my hands. "God, Bria, how do I fix this? How? What do I do? He'll never talk to me again, I know it."

My sister came over and embraced me, and I wrapped my arms around her, needing comfort. Like I'd once sought from Drew. My hands clenched against Sabriana's back and I snarled against her shoulder, squeezing my eyes shut.

"How could he do that to Geoff? How? He knows how fragile Geoff is. I told him."

"I don't know." Sabriana's embrace tightened. "I wish I did."

I hugged her tight. "I wish now I'd taken him aside and explained things better. Or had refused to take Geoff at all. I know why he wanted to do it, Bria, but if I'd known Drew would turn asshole, I wouldn't have let it happen. How do I get to Geoff now?"

"We'll think of something. But I think you should deal with Drew first. What he did was inexcusable. It'll give Geoff a few days to really start missing you."

"Do you really think that has any hope of working?" I wanted to believe it would, I really did, but she didn't know Geoffrey like I did. He wouldn't be easy to recapture after his, not with the way I suspected he was thinking, and I'd barely had him before. The odds were against me, even if he didn't decide to revert back to the behavior he'd had when living with his parents.

"Si, the man put up with your whiny ass when you were sick," Sabriana said, sounding a little exasperated. "Even we won't do that."

"We" meaning our family. I inhaled a deep breath. "Okay." I did my best to take hope from that. I couldn't find much.

"Okay, so then you deal with Drew next Wednesday, then we get you back with Geoff."

I nodded. "Yeah." It was more of a plan than I had at the moment. "Drew, then Geoff."

She patted my back. "You feeling at least a little better now?"

I nodded and released her. "Well." I shrugged, wringing my hands to keep them from clenching into fists again.

"You'll do fine." She patted my shoulder. "I have to go now. Call if you need anything at all."

I nodded. "I will."

When she went to fetch her backpack from her bedroom, I collected my dirties and headed to my bedroom. After closing the door, I leaned against the wall and dropped everything again to cover my face, uncertain whether I wanted to sob or hunt down Drew right now. Both seemed like reasonable options for a good minute before I remembered what Drew did for a living. I had no idea where to find him, and I didn't have his phone number, so I couldn't call and arrange a meeting. That left sobbing as my only option.

However, I didn't cry. I just breathed into my pillow after collapsing on my bed, wondering if there was even a way to fix things with Geoffrey after this.

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