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Dose of Brilliance
The day was dreary and grey. The lack of light blended her damp auburn hair into a canvas for knotted pencil-thin brushstrokes. A raindrop rolled down the mold of her face, slipping past her button nose and slowly around her pursed, accusatory lips. Fierce, angry eyes gleamed at him as though they had leeched all the light from the elusive sun and were now burning with it. He wondered why those molten emeralds weren’t burning a hole through her head with their heat, weren’t shooting rays of fire towards his sorry face.
Her lips trembled and cracked slightly open, words collecting on her tongue. She held them back though, swallowed them, and he felt a sudden, desperate urge well up in him to reach in and grab the words she didn’t want him to hear. His lips inched down into a frown, his eyebrows reaching towards each other in remorse. There was nothing he could do. He’d done enough already.
He sat on the edge of his bed, his comforter roughly tousled into a heap on the left. He was always restless waking up, and this morning was no exception. He held his throbbing head in between firm palms, trying to hold his brain inside his skull. He painstakingly opened his clenched eyes and ran them across his room, hating what he saw with all his soul. A spark ignited within him and sent an inferno clawing up his throat. He swiftly stood and with fiery fingers he grabbed his elaborate bedside lamp and threw it with all his considerable might at the expensive mirror above his armoire. Panting, he stood, hunched over with pain and surveyed his work with gnawing satisfaction. He’d destroy everything he owned to get her back. Granted it would take some time. He had too much. He was swimming in a sea of excess and had just lost sight of the one thing he needed… land.
With trepidation he walked towards his bedside table, eyeing his cell phone with fear. Trembling fingers found a response to the desperate text he’d sent her last night, when thoughts of her tender hands clenched into small fists, her furious voice, had driven him close to insanity. The response distorted his pretty mouth into a cringe.
If you loved me, you never would have done that. Don’t make it worse. Lies always make it worse.
She was right of course. She was always right. The problem was that he didn’t know he loved her until he didn’t have her anymore. He had prided his despicable self on being loved but not in love. He was a monster.
Heavy footsteps betrayed someone one the marble staircase outside his room and had he been less distracted he would have run to lock his door. Moments later a grin peered around the door at him. He suppressed a reflex to punch every single one of those infuriating teeth out so they scattered like the bloody shards of a shell on his plush carpet.
Muttered mumbles of surprise followed quickly.
“Oh. You’re upset?”
It was a question. It was the most idiotic question he’d ever heard. He was not prone to violence but today seemed to be full of a potent anger and he had to hold down another urge to hurt the gawky, infuriatingly cocky blond boy who considered them to be best friends.
“I said get out of my house. And take this trash out while you’re at it.” An awkward scramble followed to catch the package that was flung through the air.
Confusion fluttered across the intruder’s pale features as he registered the package. “What, you’re done smoking? Come on, you cannot be serious. She wasn’t even that hot. She was like...poor.”
“If you don’t leave right now….” Slow, measured words. Deep, even breaths. They caught on his anger like a sharp metal edge catches a sweater.
“Ok. Ok I’m gone. Just get yourself together.” His widened eyes and hands held up in a subconscious measure of protection disappeared quickly around the doorframe.
A sharp knife of sunlight streamed through the cracked blinds and cut his face severely in two. One of his chocolate eyes melted in the sunlight, the other was shrouded in a veil of darkness. He had to choose. Choose whether to let her go and dull his other eye forever, or beg for her back, beg for her to inject a dose of brilliance back into his troubled irises.
His decision came with no contemplation. Within minutes he was dressed and bounding down the steps.
There was no question that she could not go home that morning. Her father was drunk and her mom was most probably still at work. A he** that was not worth anything in the world would be the only thing she’d be going home to. Questions pelted at her fragile self about where she’d been all night. Framed reminders lining her small expanse of a bedroom.
No, she could not go home, but she had to go somewhere. Pain shot through the arches of the soles of her feet and she knew that walking aimlessly all night had been a poor idea. Her cell phone was rapidly running out of battery and she could not shake the eerie feeling that her time was going with it. You have 20% battery life remaining. She was in the red and she had lost her charger. Her full lips slowly rose into a morbid smirk at the thought that this was true for both her and her phone. Her bitten fingernails, amaturely painted lavender, inched their way to the red button that would shut her phone off and prolong its life for just a little longer. Goodbye.
The sky was blushing as it greeted its true love and the sun had minutes until it would fully arrive. Cars were slowly starting to traverse the roads that led to places she would never go and places she never knew existed, and she started a slow and painful ascent a concrete mountain to the nearest coffee shop. She had no money, but the smell of coffee was just as good as the real thing. For the longest time she just sat, numb, on a leather sofa with her arms wrapped around her knees and the quietness only early morning can bring as her pleasant companion.
"Miss, can I help you?" Garish red lips and a forehead creased with concern interrupted her blissful descent into nothingness. She shook her head and a lock of her drying mahogany hair fell into her eyelashes.
"Do I have to buy something? I just...I just want to sit her for a while if that's ok." Her wavering voice startled her and she remembered that the last time she had used it, she was yelling.
"Honey, don't you worry about it. You can stay here as long as you want. And you look like you need some nice hot coffee. Works magic, y'know. That's how I came to work here. Coffee can just pick you up and put you right back where you're s'posed to be." She smiled as her hands wrapped themselves in a smudged green apron and she set to work brewing her potion.
"Thank you." It was sincere. Kindness was something hard to come by.
Her stupor returned until the boiling coffee was tenderly placed into her hands. She wrapped her frozen fingers around the white cylinder and slowly shut her eyelids as the warmth seeped into her hands. She sighed and unwillingly reopened her eyes. She had to control their automatic response of sliding over to check her phone for messages from him. Her impulse frustrated her. Why was she always the one who had to wait for the messages? Her anger quickly ebbed, replaced by a depressed longing to have him back. She was so mad yesterday. So mad. And his eyes were so beautiful and clear and sad. She had never seen them so flawless, so honest. And so the cycle of her confusion repeated itself. If he was really sorry, if he in fact really did love her, why had he done it?
She took the coffee sleeve off her cup and pressed her fingertips tightly against the scorching surface. She left them there, letting it burn her fingers until she could feel nothing but the heat. Only then did she remove them and slowly, with fluttering eyelids, she brought them up to her swollen cheekbone, and traced the stinging contours, leaving a warm trail of heat.
She struggled to remember his hands intertwined tenderly with hers, struggled to neutralize their stinging capability. She desperately tried to call back all the sweet things he had said to her about opposites attracting and money meaning nothing. About how different she was from all the other girls he usually talked to. About how he would never be like his father, like someone who finds superiority in money and does not hesitate to show it. But his beautiful words and velvet voice would not come. They were roughly pushed aside by the brash, loud sound of barked words; the gut-wrenching solidity of his frustrated eyes; the stinging of her cheek and the smarting of her eyes. The humiliation despite the absolute certainty that she had nothing to be humiliated about. She opened her eyes and bit her rosy lip.
His long legs consumed more ground in their agitation. He was propelling himself across the bruised sidewalk, whose head snaked towards her house. A house he thought he would never have any association with, never even look at twice. It ended up containing the most important thing that had ever been his. His every exhalation was a sigh of dismay, his every breath a desperate gasp for her. For Bailey, for her soft hair and soft sighs and her small hand around his neck. For her eyes that burned with a passion he never believed could come out of a body so small, so fragile.
He hated himself with all the emotion he could muster for ever thinking he deserved her. He wanted to sink into a black hole, never having to face himself again. What he did, what his hand had been capable of, disgusted him. The sun was inching its way up the watercolor sky and he paused in front of the miniature grey house to raise his eyes up and breathe in the sunrise.
The coffee had opened her eyes enough to make her realize that she loved him. She loved Max and the way his height made her feel small and protected and the way he was so confident in his insecurities. But the caffeine was coursing through her veins fast enough to make her realize that forgiving him also made what he did okay. Her fingertips tingled with her resolve and her heart melted with sadness. But she also felt a strength that she had never felt before. Her blood was coursing with a strange kind of adrenaline and she stood slowly. She felt as if she could stand taller and straighter, like a tree whose veins were coursing with water and the turgor pressure allowed her to stand proudly.
Confident steps led her out of the coffee shop, and the corner of her determined eyes caught a glimpse of a slightly smiling barista. She would go home. She would face the memories lining her bedroom and absorb them as just that, memories and nothing more. And then she would make sure that the next girl to fall in love with Max would not be subjected to the one flaw she could not tolerate from him.
The second he saw Bailey striding down the street like it was hers to walk on, Max knew it was over. He knew that his mistake was too large to overcome. He would try, of course, but Bailey was a frail creature to be protected and taken care of. To comfort and to hold. She was not this glorious, gorgeous creature walking with a purpose straight at him now. She was not the girl who would be out when the day had barely begun. She was an entirely different creature, and he did not know how, but he knew that this girl would not take him back. His relief surprised him almost as much as the severity of his grief.
She knew he knew. She knew by the stitches in his forehead and the frowns in his cheeks. She knew by the fluttering of his eyelashes that made her wish she could hug him and breath him in and tell him it was all okay.
But she knew he knew that there was no going back.
There was a sadness buried somewhere within her, but she had already found a way to pour the dirt over it and use it as fertilizer for her soul. She only wished Max didn’t have to be the one to teach her how to be strong. He was the very one who made her feel as if it was okay to be weak.
The sun cut a moat of glimmering particles between them as they stood face to face. The wind blew through the mahogany strands curling themselves around plump, determined lips and then moved on to rustle the newly greening grass. It never reached Max. He was still. His breath had abandoned him, yet his heart had managed to find a way to beat faster than the seconds were passing.
And like a butterfly unfurling its wings, Bailey’s glorious lips curled into a smile that blew the breath back into his desperate lungs.