Strange Days Ch. 78-82byredskyes©
Sorry for the delay, everyone, but I had to get this right. This is the home-stretch. Only one more segment after this. Hope you enjoy.
When I woke up, I was alone. Sarah's robe was still lying on the floor next to mine, where we'd left them, but I could smell her wonderful scent lingering on the sheets and the pillow beside me. Yawning and stretching, I crawled out of bed and went to the bathroom, took my morning pee - yes, sitting down, thank you very much - then made my way downstairs. It didn't even occur to me what day it was, not until I saw the tree all lit up.
With a big dopey grin, I pranced into the kitchen. I found Sarah, Mom, and Aunt Claire sitting at the table with coffee in hand. Aunt Claire looked down into her cup, Mom gave me a look that, historically speaking, said she was expecting me to freak out about bad news, and Sarah stood up. And I froze.
"Want some coffee, baby?" she asked, gliding over to the pot.
"What's going on?" I asked cautiously, to the room in general.
Aunt Claire looked at Mom, Mom looked at Sarah, and Sarah looked at me.
"Trevor never went home," she told me gently.
I blinked, letting that sink in.
Sarah looked at Mom, who looked at Aunt Claire, who looked into her cup again.
"Well, where is he?" I asked, exasperated.
"His dad talked to him," Sarah said, coming over to give me my coffee. But she didn't give it to me. She set it down on the table and took my hands. "He's not coming home for Christmas."
I blinked at her. "He went back to school, for Christmas?"
"No," she shook her head. "Nobody knows where he is."
"That doesn't make any sense," I told her, but Sarah just gave me a patient look, probably waiting for me to freak out. I'll admit, I was thinking about it. "Someone has to know where he is. Tabby will."
"She doesn't," Mom said.
I gave a short laugh, but I wasn't feeling very amused. "You have no idea how close they are," I told Mom, then regarded Sarah. "They tell each other everything."
Sarah nodded, still holding my hands. "She texted him, asking where he was going. He said 'away'."
I waited for her to continue, and when she didn't, asked, "And that's it?"
"She asked when he'd be back. He didn't answer."
Slowly, I pulled out a chair and sat down. God, how badly had I hurt Trevor?
"He's all alone," I breathed, and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. "He's my friend, and I hurt him, and he's all alone."
"Honey..." Mom began.
I threw my hand up, cutting her off, then stood up from my chair. "I'll be right back."
Sarah moved to follow me, but when I grabbed my phone from the hutch in the living room and headed out onto the back porch, she let me go. I called Trevor's cell and was sent straight to voicemail. Either his battery was dead or he'd turned off his phone.
I called Tabitha and she answered on the first ring.
"Hey, Amy," she said softly.
"Has he called?"
She sighed. "No, and I think he turned his phone off. Did something happen?"
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then said, "He knows."
There was a pause, then Tabitha asked, "Knows what?"
"About...you know," I floundered.
"No, I don't know what you..." she stopped, then hissed. "Oh shit!"
"Exactly," I nodded to nobody.
"Oh, holy fuck shit," Tabitha cursed, and she didn't stop there, putting any sailor to shame.
I couldn't tell if she was shocked, angry, or afraid. Could have been any, or all.
"Is that Amy?" I heard Phillip ask in the background. Tabitha just kept on cursing, then I heard the phone change hands. "Amy?"
"It's me, Phillip."
"Tabitha! Calm down for a second!" He said, then to both of us, "I think Violet's with him."
"What?" Tabitha and I asked at the same time. I couldn't tell if her mouth had fallen open, but mine sure had.
"Jeezus, you two can screech," Phillip growled. "Anyway, her parents tried to call her this morning, to tell her Merry Christmas, but she didn't answer. So they called Holly. Apparently, Holly told them that Violet left last night. Holly woke up this morning and she was gone. Violet left her a note that said 'you deserve better', and that was it."
I cursed under my breath. Why wouldn't Trevor be with his family? Why the hell would Violet bail on Holly like that? Oh God, poor Holly. What the hell was going on?
"Phillip, I have to go. I need to call Holly and make sure she's okay."
"Uhm, I wouldn't do that," he said cautiously.
He answered quietly, "Because Holly's pretty sure that Violet left to be with you."
Oh God. Did she know?
I swallowed. "What else did she say?"
"That she couldn't compete."
"Fuck," I whispered.
Phillip actually chuckled. "You know, Amy, you seem to have a real knack for getting people wrapped around your little finger."
That pissed me off. It wasn't like I'd done anything to Violet on purpose. Was it my fault she was such an amazing young woman? Was it my fault she was such an incredible friend? And to top it all off, was it my fucking fault that she was such a fantastic lay?
"It's not like that, Phillip," I growled in warning. "She's my friend. I care about her. I fucking love her, okay? I wouldn't hurt her, not for anything." By the time I finished, I was yelling.
"Okay, okay," Phillip said gently. "I get it, and I know you. You wouldn't hurt someone you cared about, not intentionally. It's just..." he trailed off.
"Just what?" I asked, still seething.
"Hold on," he told me, then to Tabby, I think, "I'll be right back."
I heard him walking through Tabitha's house, then step outside.
"Amy, I'll spell it out for you. There's something about you, something very...I don't know, special."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" I yelled. I didn't whine. I swear, I didn't.
Okay. Maybe I did, a little.
"Would you let me finish?" he barked at me.
"Sorry," I said meekly.
Phillip sighed and continued. "When I first met you, I was happy as a clam with Mona. But I saw you. I noticed you, in a way I hadn't noticed anyone before. I wanted Mona, and right now, I want Tabby, but fucking hell Amy..." He sighed again, and I could almost picture him running his fingers back through his hair. "When I'm around you, you do something to me."
When he paused long enough that I didn't think he'd bite my head off again, I asked. "What do you mean?"
"I don't know," he snorted. "It's hard to explain. You're an awesome friend. But before I met you, aside from Mona, I didn't have any friends that were girls. Every time I saw you, I wanted you, but not you specifically."
I shook my head. "Phillip, you're not making any sense."
"I know, right?" he laughed, and I laughed a little too. "Did you know that you're not even my type? That I like my women taller?"
I really wasn't sure what to say to that, nor what point he was trying to get to.
"Don't get me wrong, Amy, you're fucking beautiful, but it doesn't make sense, how much I want you. I prefer blue eyes, and yours are brown. I like really long hair, and you keep yours pretty short. I like tan skin, and you're kinda fair. I actually prefer small breasts, and you're kind of stacked, compared to what I usually go for."
"Phillip, I don't understand."
"My point is that when I see you, I see sex. I think sex. I smell sex. And the weird part is that it has nothing to do with having sex. I start seeing every girl around me like I see you. I notice things I never have before, like the way Sarah prefers two bags instead of one when she makes herself tea, and it's like I'm filing it away, just in case I ever make her tea, because I want to please her. I notice how you always take off a shoe and a sock, then the other shoe and sock - which is fucking strange, by the way."
He still wasn't making any sense, but I couldn't help it. I laughed out loud.
"I file that away too, because who knows, one day, I might be at your apartment, and you might come home exhausted from a long day, and you might plop onto the couch and forget to take your shoes and socks off. But I'll be there, to do it for you, just the way you like, and I'll do it because I want you to be happy, just like I'd want Sarah to be happy with her tea, or Tabitha to be happy when I pin up her hair the way she always does. Amy, you're such a sweet person, so damn kind. You're funny, beautiful, sharp as a tack, and I adore you. You're one of the best girlfriends I've ever had." He stopped, took a deep breath, then let it out and said quietly, "I think you make me want to be a better man."
Maybe it was because I'd never received so many compliments in less than sixty seconds before, or maybe it was because so much was going wrong just then, or maybe both, but I almost cried. The truth was, I wasn't the great person he thought I was. I had hurt Violet, so much so that she bailed on her girlfriend, and I had hurt Trevor, enough that he had bailed on his family.
"Phillip..." I choked out.
"Amy, despite your need to keep those you love a little too close, you are an amazing girl, a wonderful friend, and I love you for it."
And that did it. I started bawling. But at least I did it silently.
Phillip continued. "Look, there really is something special about you. When I realized what being around you does to me, I started noticing what it does to everyone else. I realized that Violet and Sarah stand half an inch across a line from me, a line that separates loving a friend and being in love with a friend. God, Amy, it could have been so easy for me to fall for you. When you came to see me, all I had to do was let you kiss me. If I hadn't pushed you away, you would have owned me. I'd have thrown myself at your feet."
My tears were slowing down by then. I wasn't sure if what he was saying should make me feel good or bad. On the one hand, he was telling me what a great person I was - something I didn't see in myself much lately - but on the other, it sounded like he was saying I manipulated people.
When I'd gone to see him at his apartment, I'd gone as his friend to comfort him. I hadn't gone over there to kiss him, nor anything else like that. I'd been hurting, because I'd faced the fact that I had to let Trevor go. I had to let go of someone I loved. Phillip had had to do the same thing. He'd had to let go of Mona. We'd felt the same pain, and I'd recognized that. I had always liked Phillip, but our pain had brought us closer. And I liked him closer. I liked knowing that we shared something on a deeper level, liked the thought that our relationship could be stronger. At least, that's what I'd told myself.
Maybe there was something special about me, at least in his eyes, but he was also right in that there was something wrong with me. Like my hesitance with embracing my feelings for Trevor, I'm sure it had to do with my father leaving Mom and me. When I was a little girl, my father had been my world. I'd felt so loved by him, but then he'd left. How could he have possibly loved me if he could leave? I didn't want that to happen again. I was determined to keep those I loved close to me, but if my track record proved anything, I was going too far.
"I'm sorry," I whispered.
"Oh, Amy, no," Phillip said gently. "No, you have nothing to be sorry about. I was wrong. I was wrong about Trevor. It isn't your fault that he fell for you. It isn't your fault that I almost fell for you either. It's just who you are. You're just that incredible. All of us love you; me, Sarah, Violet, Trevor, Tabby, Paula. Each of us let it take us in different directions, but the direction we took was our choice, not yours. You didn't manipulate us into loving you. We love you because you're you, not because you made us."
He was silent for a minute, I guess letting everything he'd told me sink in, and it was. Maybe I wasn't such a horrible person. Sure, once someone got close to me, I made it harder for them to leave, simply because I held nothing back, but I didn't lay traps to snare them to begin with. I guess that was something.
"What Violet and Holly are going through isn't your fault, Amy. I thought I was perfectly content with Mona. She was my friend, after all, and she was my lover. But after seeing you with Sarah for so long, I realized that I wanted more. I wanted what you had. That's one of the gifts you gave me. Even before Mona fell for someone else, I'd already begun to prepare myself, to accept that she wouldn't be around forever."
I wasn't sure where he was going. "How does that apply to Violet?" I asked meekly.
"Well, I think Violet has been seeing what she could have, and I think she knows it isn't with Holly."
"Why would you say that? I've never seen Violet happier than she's been with Holly."
"No, Amy. You've seen Violet happy with Holly and you," he clarified, then said, "Look, no offense to Holly, but she isn't head over heels for Violet, not like you and Sarah are for each other. Holly is a really sweet girl, but personally, I think she wants to be taken care of."
"What's wrong with that?" I asked. After all, there were times when I wanted the same thing, for Sarah to take care of me.
"Oh, nothing. There's nothing wrong with that at all, except that I'm pretty sure Violet is the one that needs to be taken care of. There's something about her that...I don't know. Don't take this the wrong way, but she seems damaged. I still love the girl. I mean, she's fantastically fucking crazy."
I laughed at that. Violet was definitely crazy, but in a good, fun way. If you didn't know Violet well, she came across as not having a care in the world about what people thought of her. She was untouchable, lived and loved freely, and she didn't feel the slightest bit of guilt about how she lived her life. But there had been plenty of moments when I had seen Violet as her true self, moments where she had let down her guard, where she had let herself be vulnerable with me, tender and loving.
After I'd come home from the hospital, Violet had titty-fucked me, blown me, and fucked the hell out of me. She'd been wild, crazy, and absolutely salacious, but at the end, she'd cried. She'd told me never to get myself hurt again, made me promise. She'd laid herself bare, shown me how much she loved me. I'd held her in my arms and let her cry, and I'd cried with her too, but until now, I hadn't realized what had really been going on. I'd been hurt, badly, and I had needed a lot of help getting around. I'd needed to be cared for. But in that moment, I'd been the one taking care of Violet.
Phillip was right.
Violet really did need someone to take care of her, someone that could make her feel safe enough to just let go, and I'd been that someone for her.
"Do you see what I mean?" Phillip asked.
"Yeah, I do," I sighed.
"Well, I'm not Dr. Love, but..."
"Dr. Love?" I laughed.
"Hush," he playfully barked at me. "Honestly, as much as I like Holly, I don't think she's what Violet needs at this point in her life. Do you?"
"No," I admitted softly, then said, "I'm not what Trevor needs either."
"Exactly, Amy," he told me firmly, but not unkindly. "That's exactly it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of us loving you. What we do about it is what matters."
"Do you think they'll come back?" I asked, almost a whisper, and my voice still cracked. It hurt just thinking about them not being in my life.
"Trevor and Violet are just figuring things out. It may take them some time, but they'll do it, and when they do, you'll see them again. Maybe sooner," he said, then he chuckled. "Besides, it's kind of hard to stay away from you."
"We have a good thing going on, Amy, all of us. We've managed to find great friends in each other, and that came before anything else."
I frowned. "Technically, Violet and I started fucking before we were friends."
"You know what I mean," Phillip replied, laughing.
"They'll be back."
I nodded, grasping at hope. "I know."
Both of us were quiet for a moment or two, then Phillip spoke first.
"Feeling better?" he asked, and I could hear the smile in his gentle tone.
"Yes," I smiled back, wiping tears off my cheeks.
"Good. Now, if you don't mind, I'm gonna go see if I can talk Tabby into fooling around before lunch."
I laughed, told him I loved him, and let him go have his fun. When I hung up, the phone felt like it weighed a thousand pounds, as though it now held the weight of my stress, and maybe it did, in a way.
The patio door opened and Sarah came out.
"You okay?" she asked gently.
I threw myself at her, hugged her tight, and whispered in her ea, "I'm good."
I leaned back to look at her, but kept my arms around her waist, and then I kissed her. I poured everything I felt into that kiss, all my love for her, all my fear, all my worries. I gave her everything, leaving nothing out. I loved her desperately, needed her desperately, wanted her desperately. And I let her feel all of it.
It took a while to wind down that kiss, but when we did, Sarah cupped the back of my head and pushed my chin over her shoulder. She hugged me tight, the front of our bodies pressed together in a solid line from neck to knees, and it felt wonderful. It felt right.
"Merry Christmas, Amy Carter."
I smiled and squeezed her in my arms.
"Merry Christmas, Sarah Burke."
"Hmm," she murmured.
"What?" I asked, leaning back to look at her.
She smiled widely. "Sarah Carter would sound so much better."
I smiled back, gazed into her eyes, and gave her one more kiss before we went inside.
It didn't take us long to tear into our presents. Aside from the usual bath and spa stuff, Mom and I gave each other the same thing; gift certificates to our favorite stores and promises to take each other shopping. Aunt Claire gave me and Sarah certificates for spa treatments. I gave Sarah some new lingerie, and an iPad that I'd saved up for. She looked up from her iPad only once, when I'd opened my gifts from her. The first was a brand new fluffy robe, which I loved and changed into right away. The second was a small heart-shaped locket on a short necklace, and inside was a tiny picture of us, cheeks pressed together. Paula had taken it during Tabitha's birthday party. The other side of the interior of the locket was inscribed, and I thought it was hilariously adorable.
"Saramy?" I'd asked.
"Amarah sounded weird," she shrugged, then grinned.
Mom and Aunt Claire got a look at it and thought it was pretty funny too, not to mention sweet. When they handed it back to me, I stood up and held it out to Sarah.
"Put it on me," I told her, turning around and holding up my hair.
Sarah stepped up behind me and clasped the necklace around my neck, then she turned me around and looked at the locket resting against my breastbone.
"You like it?" she asked.
I held her hands and kissed her. "I love it."
Two minutes later, Mom and Aunt Claire were sitting on the couch with Mom's laptop, putting together a list of outfits they might want to spend their gift certificates on. I was snuggled up to Sarah, both of us browsing naughty lingerie on her iPad. Sarah looked up, then at me.
"Is that your phone?" she asked.
Then I heard it.
I bolted from the couch and ran upstairs, grabbing my phone just before it went to voicemail.
The voice on the line was soft, silky, and sultry. "Merry Christmas, my favorite crazy bitch in the whole wide world."
"Violet! Oh my God, where are you?"
"Holly's. Where else would I be?"
"You took off! You left her a note! Everyone's been freaking out!"
Violet actually sounded embarrassed. "Uhm, yeah, about that. I wrote the note on a series of cards, but her cat must have knocked all but the top card behind her nightstand. Holly only saw the card that said 'you deserve better'. She didn't see the other cards that said 'I got you a really good present' and 'but I returned it and got another' and also 'but it's not good enough', and well, you know the last one."