Struggling Ch. 01byMickeyPink©
Hey guys! This is a little something I've been trying to get right.. I really hope you like it!!! Fret not, I am still working on CITD. As always, please give me your feedback!!
Love.. is like a river. And we all face it on foot.
There is no getting over it, no way to get past it. The only way is to swim it. We get through it. And I know I'm not an expert, but I'm becoming one. Each day without him is another that I scrape along, trying to get by; trying to keep my head above water.
But the more I swim, the more tired I am. And I don't know if I'll make it to the other side.
She closed her laptop and sighed. When Briar left her two months ago, she thought it was the end of her. It wasn't. But she still felt like she was dying.
She started the online journal last week, and she wasn't sure who, but somebody was reading. Hell, a lot of people were reading. Eight days and just over six hundred hits.
Yea. A lot of people were reading.
She stood up and lifted her arms into the air, stretching her sides and back. She looked at the digital clock on the nightstand. 4 AM. No better time for Ben and Jerry.
She drifted into the kitchen, her feet lazily grating against the floor with each step. It was good she lived alone; no one to see the boxers hanging off her hips, no one to tell her to take a shower. She reached into the freezer and pulled out the Strawberry Cheesecake. It was nearly empty, and it made her sad. She leaned over the counter, counting each of the blue, yellow, and white tiles that formed what should have been a cheerful backsplash.
"Heh, guess it could be worse. Guess I could have been completely out of ice cream."
It was gone too soon, so she figured she'd do something. For the first time this week, she was going to leave the house.
She pulled on a hoodie and some jeans, and grabbed her keys. This time, she would get a gallon of ice cream. It would be at least a month before she ran out. She paused when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. A hat. A hat would be necessary.
She grabbed a baseball cap and opened the door. She breathed in the early morning air. She could smell the dew drops and it made her feel something other than sadness. 'Maybe today won't be so bad..'
The grocery store was empty, as expected. Nothing but tired moms who ran the cash registers and lonely hearts just like her. She rounded the corner, basket in hand. When she was in front of the ice cream, she just stood there; trying to figure out how many pints would equal a gallon. "A gallon?"
"That's a lot of ice cream. Leave some for the rest of us, would you?" She wouldn't dare look at him. She just watched as his arm opened the fridge next to her and went for the Eddy's. Amateur.
He turned and headed away, and she let herself watch his figure. Sure, she was broken, but she wasn't blind. That man had a body that oozed sexuality. Broad shoulders, muscular arms, a strong back.. She almost wished she had let herself see his face.
She loaded the ice cream into the freezer. Eight pints, five flavors. The freezer door shut, and it suddenly hit her. Eating like a maniac wasn't going to make Briar come back. And it wasn't going to get rid of her developing pooch. She had gained twelve pounds in the last month. 'Let's not make it twelve more,' she thought.
She went to bed with a taste for ice cream on her tongue. Tomorrow would be better. Tomorrow, she, would be.. Better.
The sun was shining right into her eyes. She had only slept for five hours, and this is what she got? She threw off the covers and swung her feet to the side of the bed. She sat up slowly, dragging her upper body off the mattress as if she were some sort of zombie. Wasn't she? She figured since she went out of the house for the first time in a week, it was probably a good time to take her first shower in a week too. She didn't think she smelled.. But then, how would she know? Her nose had been pretty stuffed up lately from all the crying.
The shower head was a newer one. It stretched out to over her head, and was shaped like a wide circle. The result was a shower that felt like rain. It was nice. She set it on a luke warm temperature and hopped in. She felt it creeping all over her, like an inescapable storm. When she got out, she could hear someone beating on the door. 'Really?'
She wrapped the towel around her, and went into the living room. She peeked through the door to see a talk black man with a frown on his face. "Open up, Zo. I know you're in there."
She sighed and pushed her hair, now forming curls, out of her face.
"Hello big brother. What's up." He didn't bother asking if he could come in. He just walked past her, a week's worth of newspapers under his arm. "Please," she feigned sincerity, "come in!"
He dropped the papers in the corner and turned back toward her. He walked over and wrapped her in his arms. She struggled against him at first; she didn't need people's hugs and pity. "There are too many people who love you. Stop hiding from us. You hear me? Stop it. It's ok to be sad." She leaned into him then, and cried her first tears of the day. He rubbed her back and kissed her head, holding her so tightly, as if he were trying to give her his strength.
When he finally let her go, she wiped her eyes and looked away. She smiled, and it felt foreign to her. "Leave it to you to come barging in here." He smiled back and headed for the kitchen.
"If I know you, and I do, you'll have a pint or two of ice cream in the feezer." He opened the freezer and dropped his head. "Jesus Zoey, you planning an ice cream social I didn't know about?" He could hear her laughing from her bedroom where she was, no doubt, putting on some clothes. He grabbed a pint and opened it, then leaned against the counter after grabbing a spoon.
"No, I'm not. I just got hungry for it at four this morning." She was drying her hair in a towel when she picked up a spoon and scooped some of the frozen delicacy in his hand. "And it's only a few pints.."
He laughed and shook his head. "Well I came over today because you gave me those tickets.." Thats right. She had totally forgotten. A few months ago she bought tickets to a boxing match. Briar was a huge fan of some guy named Ten Ton Jonny. He was a huge guy, standing at 6'6 and weighing nearly three hundred pounds. They said when he hit someone it felt like getting hit by ten tons of brick. Anyways, she bought the tickets as a surprise for his birthday. When they broke up, she gave the tickets to her brother Ben.
"What about the tickets?" She went back into the living room to take a look at the newspapers he brought in. Maybe she ought to start job hunting. Benny followed her in, intent on finding all the chunks of goodness in the ice cream.
"Well I asked Nolan if he'd go, but he's been all wrapped up in that girl Stacey.. So I was thinking maybe you could come with. I know you're not a boxing fan, but it could be fun. And you should get out of the house because-"
"Shut up, Benny, don't you fucking start."
He laughed. "Because you're starting to turn pale from not getting any sun." He broke out into laughter again, this time setting the pint of ice cream onto the coffee table as he bent over holding his side.
"Really funny. Not like I haven't heard that twenty times."
Benny always liked to make fun of her skin tone. Both of their parents were fairly dark skinned, and Benny too, but she was the color of a coffee with two or three creams; or caramel sauce at you're favorite ice cream shop. Not really that light- but Benny still made fun.
He took a few deep breaths and straightened up, then went to put away the ice cream. "But seriously, you should come with me. Otherwise I have to find some random to take with me." He didn't have a high opinion of most women since his high school sweetheart broke up with him. Pretty sad, really, since that was seven years ago.
"I really wish you didn't treat women the way you do. Hell, I'm a woman. Mom is too." She said her words passively, never lifting her head from the paper.
He made his way back over to the door. "Yea, but that's the thing; you're women. Classy ones. Not like most of the chicks out there. Anyways, I gotta get going. I was supposed to be at the gym ten minutes ago." She stood and came over, hugging him one last time before he left.
"Thanks for dropping by. And I guess... I'll go to the fight."
"Love you, lil sis."
"You too, Benny."
She stood up at put the cap back on the ice cream he had left out, then placed it back in the freezer.
-- "You know I love you, babe. We've both made mistakes.. Don't hold this one against me."
"I can't do this Briar. I can't. Don't make me do this."
"Zoey, please. Just for once, trust me. Trust me not to hurt you again." --
Zoey sat up, panting, tears running down her face. She put her hand on her chest to feel her heart. The pounding was frightening. She took a few deep breaths and felt her heart rate slow down. She swung her legs over the side of the bed. She should have been over her fears by now, past the dreams where Briar asks her to take him back. But she wasn't. She was stuck with him. He plagued her thoughts during the day, and haunted her nights.
She changed out of her sweaty tshirt and into a clean(ish) one. Another thing that needed to be done. Laundry.
'Tomorrow. Tomorrow, laundry.'
Stumbling into the living room, she grabbed the paper from earlier and made her way into the kitchen. She grabbed a pint of ice cream and propped herself up on the counter. She looked at the time on the stove. 11:33 PM.
Great. Another day well spent.
She circled a few ideal job offers and skipped over to the classifieds. She knew she wasn't ready for anything, but reading other people's ads made her feel better. It let her know that there were other people, like her, looking for something- trying to find someone. She skimmed past the obvious hookers and booty call seekers. The ads that read:
"I need you tonight"
"In town for the weekend"
She enjoyed reading the few posted by romantic unattached hearts, looking for their connection with another. One stuck out though.
"We're not perfect. We weren't meant to be. But I promise I will always see the perfection in your flaws, if you promise to see mine and love me through them."
It spoke so strongly to her, she couldn't help but feel the tears well up in her eyes. It was as if she had written it herself, the emotion, the delivery.. Even though it was beautiful, it broke her already damaged heart just a little bit more. She looked down at the ice cream, now halfway empty, and felt disgusted. She shouldn't be eating her way towards diabetes, she should be bettering herself. Inside and out.
She threw the ice cream in the trash, then all the other pints too. Then, to avoid temptation, she dropped her trash down the chute in the hallway.
But she was still hungry. Other than some mayonnaise and a jar of cherries, there was nothing in her fridge. She took her second shower of the week and dressed. She pulled her wet curls into a ponytail and grabbed a hoodie. Passing by her computer, she saw that it was supposed to rain. But the grocery store was only a couple blocks away, and it hadn't started yet.
She made her way inside and went straight to produce. She grabbed some celery, then went on a hunt for peanut butter. She remembered having it as a snack when she was a kid. Ben would put raisins on his. 'Ants on a log'. Heh, she hated raisins.
As she approached the register, she looked outside to see it had begun to pour. "Great. Just great."
The lady at the register, looked up and out the large window. "Yea. It just started. Didn't even ease in, either. Just started pouring like crazy. Your total is gonna be $4.78."
Zoey handed her a five dollar bill and sighed. "Just my luck. I knew I should have brought an umbrella." She took her change and deposited it into the donation box near the signing pad. All proceeds go to the Dennings Neighborhood Child Fund. It wasn't the Ronald McDonald House, or a cancer organization, but she liked that her neighborhood grocer helped a neighborhood charity. The money went towards the community center and scholarships for kids that wanted to go to college.
In her last year of college, she needed some help, and the Fund had helped her, too. She never wanted to take out loans, so she got great grades in high school, went to a local college, and worked through school. She had most of her tuition taken care of through grants and scholoarships, but she still had to wait tables to make up the last three thousand. But in the last semester, she was short by a grand. She had taken some time off work because she couldn't focus on her finals and work full time. The Fund gave her the money, and ever since she's been donating, trying to repay the debt.
She walked over near the door and leaned against the wall. She figured she would just wait until it lightened up a bit, then speed walk home.
"You waiting for someone?"
It was the same deep voice from the last time, and she immediately felt nervous. She opened her mouth, but couldn't form words.
Was that her? It was a strange noise, and it came out of her throat without warrant.
He chuckled. "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that."
She stood there, not sure how to reverse time and keep him from hearing that sound.
"No. I'm not, I'm just... waiting for the rain to lighten up a bit so I can walk home." She felt her face warming, and it felt even more embarrassing. 'OK, Zo, just look at him. Go on, do it. You know you want to."
She lifted her gaze from the soaked pavement outside to the tall handsome man inside, standing beside her. It was definately him. She doubted that there were two men in her neighborhood with bodies like that and auborn hair. "I was wondering if you were going to look at me. I'm glad you did. I'm Gabriel. We met.. Well, sort of, last night. You were buying all the ice cream."
She watched his mouth move, the way he seemed to smile through all his words, his kind and gentle tone, the way his lips and tongue made each word look like it was sexual..
"I'm sorry. I must be bothering you." He chuckled again, this time more awkwardly. 'She's obviously not interested', he thought. He started to make his way past her when she finally spoke.
"I wasn't buying all the ice cream."
He turned back to face her, her shy light brown eyes catching his curious jade ones. "Well you certainly weren't leaving much. I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name?"
"Zoey." She extended her hand, and he took it, gently caressing the back of her hand with his thumb. "Nice to meet you Gabriel."
They stood that way, hand in hand, for a few seconds. Finally she cleared her throat and pulled back. She wouldn't have, if not for the fact that she felt so self conscious. She felt drawn to him. There was a comfortable feeling she felt, like she knew him already. Part of her wanted to hug him, as strange as it was. But in her mind, she knew he was a stranger and hugging strangers is a little creepy.
"Nice meeting you too." He turned to leave, and reconsidered. "Would it make you uncomfortable if I offered to drive you home? My car is right there, and I feel like I'd be less than a gentleman to let you walk in this rain."
She smiled, and he felt like he was falling in love. The way her pink lips framed those pearly whites was entrancing. "I really appreciate the offer, but-"
"I insist. I'll even drop you a few doors down and speed off, as not to see your actual house, if you'd like."
She looked back outside at the rain, and then again into his eyes. She knew she shouldn't trust him, but something in his eyes said he was safe.
They pulled up in front of the apartment and he grabbed an umbrella from the backseat. He quickly took the keys from the ignition and ran around to her side of the car, holding the umbrella open above her.
"You really don't have to do all this. Really." She stepped out of the car.
He just smiled and closed the car door. He walked with her up the staircase and watched as she unlocked the door.
She turned and looked up at him, only just now realizing how much taller he was than she. He had to be at least 6'3, to her 5'2. They held each other's gaze for a few seconds more before he spoke. "It was lovely meeting you Zoey. I hope we run into each other again some time."
She didn't know why she did it, but she leaned in, on her tippy toes, and kissed him. It was just a small peck on the lips, a soft kiss, that said thank you... and maybe a little bit more.
He didn't see it coming, but when her lips touched his and her hand found his chest for balance, he thought for sure she would feel his heart pounding.
They just looked at one another, his heart beating a mile a minute, her embarrassment written across her face. She was still on her toes, her hand still using him as her anchor. He leaned in and kissed her this time, this one a bit longer, and filled with meaning unknown. His arm found its way around her, while the other held the umbrella shielding them from the rain which had now stopped. Her hand gripped his shirt, then quickly let go. He felt a slight push, and then the kiss was broken.
"I'm sorry, I can't. I just-"
"Jesus, I'm an idiot. I just thought.. Wow. Forgive me." Now it was his turn to be embarrassed as he looked at the wall behind her.
"No, I mean.. I just got out of a bad breakup and I just don't think I'm in any position to kiss someone the way you just kissed me. I can't even kiss someone the way I kissed you! I.. I'm sorry. I started it, I know. Forgive me?"
He looked down to see that she had placed her hand over her heart. "As long as you forgive me." She nodded and pushed the door open. "I hope I see you around," he said, as she found her was inside.
"I hope so too."
She closed the door and ran to the window, watching as he closed the umbrella, which had long become unnecessary, and made his way to the car. When he got to the door, he looked up, as it he knew she was watching. He smiled, and she waved back at him. When he drove off, she leaned against the wall and slid down to the floor.
They say the best way to get over a man is to get a new one.
She took her time getting up, and slowly headed for the kitchen. Where she was in a mood to snack before, she felt, somehow, completely sated. She decided to go to bed. It had, after all, turned out to be a very eventful night.
She removed her pants and hoodie and crawled under the sheets. With her cell placed on the charger, she felt herself drifting off to sleep. That is, until her phone rang.
Zoey looked at her digital alarm clock and yawned. 'Who's calling me at nearly one in the morning?'
She rolled over and covered her head with a pillow. The phone would stop ringing, and she'd get some sleep. Right? Wrong. As soon as the ringing stopped, it started again. She sat up and looked at the phone.
Terror ran through her. Her heart stopped beating, her lungs stopped recieving air. It was all she could do to stare at the name on the screen. Briar.
"Hello." She tried to sound calm. She even tried to sound like she was annoyed. Truth was, she was downright nervous. It had been two months since she had seen or heard from Briar. His last words about seeing other women and not being able to meet all his needs with just one girl still stabbed at her heart.
"Hey Zo, what's up?"
'What's up? WHATS UP? Seriously..?' "Briar, what do you want? Do you know what time it is?"
"Yea, it's uhm.. One AM. Listen, I wanted to see you. I need to apologize for everything that happened with me and you." His words came out in the smug voice she had become so accustomed to over the last two years.