This story was written for the Small Things Made Large Challenge at qaf_challenges. Check out all the stories from the challenge here!
The upside was that Daphne lived nearby. The downside was…well, shit, the downside was a bottomless pit, now, wasn’t it?
Justin sucked various bleeding fingers into his mouth, hitching his black duffle more firmly onto his shoulder, and adjusting his messenger bag to keep it from banging against his hip. He was really getting tired of moving. He’d thought about going to Deb’s, but he really wasn’t in the mood for twenty questions and pasta.
Well, maybe pasta. Daphne was still on her health food kick.
Still, he knew that she would take him in and fuss over his hands.
The door swings open and there is hardly a beat...
"What the fuck happened to your hands?"
I almost laugh at how much Daphne sounds like Debbie.
"Uh, I kind of lost my temper."
"Justin, what happened?"
Her tone makes it clear that I shouldn't drag the explanation out.
"Can I at least come in before I get into the whole long story?"
"Yeah, put your bag over there and then straight to the bathroom, we have to get your hands cleaned up."
Other than the dull throbbing in my hands, I feel surprisingly numb. It seems all wrong. After my tantrum with Ethan it seems like I should be curled up in the fetal position crying. Or plotting my revenge. But I don't feel any of that.
Daphne is pouring hydrogen peroxide slowly over each cut and as fascinated as I am by the little white bubbles that form on my skin, I know I better start talking. Daphne is not pretty when she loses her patience.
"Ethan cheated on me."
I don't miss the lack of surprise in her voice.
"I've known for days... sort of. But then today the poor kid came by looking for him, with roses. Ethan threw him out. And then I completely freaked out and ripped the roses to shreds."
"Fuck shredding the roses Justin, you shredded your hands."
"And then Ethan had the nerve to think I might just forgive and forget. Just get over it."
"Maybe you will... in time."
"Fuck that. He tried to compare what he did to Brian. But Brian never would have pulled this kind of bullshit. If Brian wanted to fuck some kid he would have done it right in front of me. Or told me all about it later. But he never would have lied."
"Ethan's an asshole. I always liked Brian better."
"I'm over Brian, this isn't about him. This is about Ethan and his bullshit lies."
"So what are you going to do?"
"Fuck if I know. Once again I'm fucking homeless."
"Enough drama for one night. You'll move in here with me. I could use a roommate to help with rent anyway; I'm just too fucking picky to let anyone else move in."
"I can't believe you did this to your hands."
"It was fucked up... I couldn't even feel it when it was happening. I was just so fucking angry."
"I think this calls for copious amounts of pot and an extra large pizza."
"What about your health food kick?"
"A crisis like this calls for drastic measures."
"I never liked that thing on his chin anyway. Brian was so much hotter."
"Brian is hotter than everyone. But you only liked him so much because he always flirted with you."
"God, when did my love life get so pathetic that I have to hope for your boyfriends to flirt with me."
I push the box of pizza away and lay my head down on one of Daph's huge floor pillows. She is sprawled out on the other one and I can tell already that she will be passing out exactly where she is and probably not long from now.
"Ethan was good looking and amazingly talented and he was good to me... right up until he fucked some groupie."
"But you didn't love him."
"I loved him."
"No you didn't."
"You're right. But you still didn't love him."
"How do you know that?"
"If you loved him you'd be a whole lot angrier right now."
I look at her like she is nuts.
"Have you seen my fucking hands?"
"Yeah, you freaked out. But by the time you got here you were completely calm. I've seen you when you and Brian break up and you're a mess. You were more upset when you left him for Ethan than you are today."
"I felt like shit about that."
"If you really loved Ethan there would be tears and anger. You'd hate him more than anything right now. And in a few days you'd start thinking about how great he was and wondering if you should forgive him. But you don't, so you won't."
And then she broke into a fit of laughter. And the fact that she was in hysterics over rhyming should have been a sign to ignore every word she said. But I couldn't.
Daph finally drifts off, giving me the opportunity to stare at the ceiling and think. I try to catalogue exactly what I am feeling.
A little sad I guess. And more than a little angry. But there is this pit in my stomach and I'm not quite sure why.
The more I think about it, the bigger it grows.
I close my eyes and try to let myself drift. And it might be a dream or maybe it's the pot but everything that doesn't matter just falls away. Everything seems so much clearer with my eyes closed.
I was trying to make Ethan into what my parents didn't - and Brian wouldn't - give me. Some sort of security. A home. A fucking family. Love. But that was fucking bullshit. And suddenly it hits me that I was there for the wrong reasons. We were playing a little fucking game of house and I wanted that so bad that I bought into every bit of it. All the bullshit.
I almost can't even be mad at him anymore because he bought into it too... until I remember what a lying asshole he is.
I'm stoned and emotionally exhausted and the floor is really fucking uncomfortable but I hope I remember this in the morning. Because it's the clearest my mind’s been in weeks... maybe even months.
Brian would tell me we make our own happiness. And doesn't everything always just come back to him. But this time, he's right.