I try to push the little smile off my lips, but he sees it and smiles, too.
“But why is it unfinished?” I ask, looking at it again and moving his arm away from the top of it. “And what exactly is the meaning behind it?”
Andrew sighs, though he knew all along that I would get to those questions. I get the sense that he might have been hoping that I would just let it go.
Not a chance.
Suddenly, Andrew raises himself from the bed and guides me to sit up with him. He curls his fingers at the bottom of my tank-top and starts to lift it off my body. Without question, I raise my arms above me as he slips my shirt off and I sit nak*d from the waist up in front of him. Only a small part of me feels self-conscious and instinctively my shoulder moves inward as if to cover my nak*dness with its shadow.
Andrew guides me back down upon the bed and he pulls me so close to him that my bare br**sts are crushed between our bodies. Guiding my arms around his arms the same way his are around mine, he pulls me tighter against him, tangling our nak*d legs below. Our ribs are touching, my body fitting into his like two smooth-edged puzzle pieces.
And suddenly, I’m starting to understand…
“My Eurydice is only half of the tattoo,” he says and his eyes trail downward to where the tattoo is in relation to my body next to it. “I thought that one day, if I ever got married, my girl would get the other half and reunite them.”
My heart is in my throat. I try to swallow it down, but it’s wedged there swollen and warm.
“But it’s crazy, I know,” he says and I feel his arms around me begin to loosen.
I grip him a little tighter, holding him in place.
“It’s not crazy,” I say, my voice low and intent. “And it’s not pussified; Andrew it’s beautiful. You’re beautiful….”
A solitary emotion that I can’t place flits across his face.
Then he gets up and reluctantly, I let him.
He plucks his dark brown cargo shorts from the floor next to the bed and slips them on over his boxers.
Still a little stunned about how quickly he got up and why, it takes me a moment longer before I slip my tank-top back on.
“Yeah, well, I think maybe my dad was right all along,” he says standing in front of the window, looking out at the city of New Orleans below. “He was onto something and using that whole real-men-don’t-cry bullshit to cover it up.”
“To cover what up?”
I step up behind him, but this time I don’t touch him. He’s unreachable in the sense that I’m getting the feeling he doesn’t want me here. It’s not disinterest or a faded attraction, but it’s something else….
He answers without turning around, “That nothing lasts forever.” He hesitates, still looking out the window with his arms crossed over his chest. “It’s better to shun emotion than to fall for it and let it make you its bitch—and since nothing lasts forever, in the end everything that was once good, always hurts like hell.”
His words slice right through me.
Any part of me that had been changed during my time with Andrew, all of the walls that I let down for him, just shot right back up around me.
Because he’s right and I f**king know he’s right.
That logic is what kept me from jumping fully into his world all this time. And in a matter of seconds the truth in his words made me submissive to that logic once again.
I decide to drop it. There’s an issue far more important than mine right now and I make sure I don’t treat him any differently.
“You’ll…need to go to your father’s funeral, so—”
Andrew swings around at the waist, his eyes full of resolve.
“No, I won’t be going to the funeral.”
He slips a clean shirt on down over his abs.
“But Andrew…you have to.” My eyebrows deepen heavily within my forehead. “You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t go to your own father’s funeral.”
I see his jaw moving as if he’s gritting his teeth. He looks away from me and sits on the end of the bed, bending over and wedging his bare feet down inside his low black running shoes, not bothering to untie them so they’ll loosen.
He stands up.
I can only stand here in the center of the room, unbelieving. I feel like I should know something to say that will make him change his mind about the funeral, but my heart tells me that this is one argument I’m not going to win.
“I’ve got something I’ve gotta do,” he says, shoving his car keys down inside his shorts pocket. “I’ll be back in a little while, alright?”
Before I can answer, he steps up to me and cradles both sides of my head within his hands and leans in, touching his forehead to mine. I just look into his eyes, seeing so much pain and conflict and indecision among a storm of other things that I can’t even begin to put a name to.
“Will you be alright?” he asks softly with his face inches from my own.
I lean away and look at him and nod.
“I’ll be alright,” I say.
But it’s all that I can bring myself to say. I’m as conflicted and indecisive as he seems to be. But I’m also hurting. I feel like something is happening between us, but it’s pulling us further apart than together like this whole trip had been doing. And it scares me.
I understand the logic. My walls are back up. But it scares me unlike anything ever has before.
He leaves me standing here as I watch him slip out of the room.
This is the first time since he came back for me in that bus station that he’s left me. We have been together, practically inseparable, this whole time and now…since he walked out that door, I feel like I’m never going to see him again.
“STARTIN’ EARLY, AREN’T YAH?” the bartender says as he slides a shot across the bar top and into my hand.
“If you’re open and serving already, then it’s not too early.”
It’s already three o’clock in the afternoon. I left Camryn alone early this morning, well before eight. Kind of odd that we’ve been on this trip together all this time and neither of us ever thought to, or wanted to, bring up anything about swapping phone numbers. I guess it didn’t matter much since she and I were always together. I’m sure by now she’s long past wondering if I’m ever coming back, maybe wishing she had my number so she can find out if I’m alright—the glass on the cell is broken, but it still works. I’m starting to wish that it didn’t though because Asher and my mom have tried calling dozens of times already.
I intend to go back to the hotel, but I’ve decided that it’ll only be to get Aidan’s guitar from the room and to leave a plane ticket for Camryn on my bed. The room is paid up for two more days, so she’ll be alright. I’ll leave her money for a cab ride to the airport, too. It’s the least I can do. I’m the one that talked her into this shit with me. I’ll be the one making sure her way home is paid in-full and that it’s not a bus this time.
It ends today.
I never should’ve let it go this far, but I was delusional and blinded by my painfully forbidden feelings for her. But I think she’ll be alright; we didn’t sleep together and no one said those three damning words that would definitely make things more complicated, so yeah…I think she’ll be just fine.
After all, she never gave in to me. I basically laid the option out on the table for her: If you were to let me f**k you, you would have to let me own you. If that wasn’t a blatant invitation then I don’t know what is. Not very romantic, but it is what it is.
I pay for my shot and leave the bar. I just needed something to take the edge off. Though, for it really to do any good at taking this kind of edge off I would’ve had to drink the whole damn bottle. I slide my hands down inside my pockets and walk the length of Bourbon Street and Canal Street and eventually down streets I don’t even recall the names of as I go past the signs. I walk forever, everywhere, much like on mine and Camryn’s sporadic road trip with no direction or purpose. I just go.
I think I’m not trying to waste time so that the night falls and I can slip in and out quietly while she sleeps, but I’m wasting time hoping I’ll change my mind. I don’t want to leave her, but I know I have to.
I end up at Woldenberg Riverfront Park, sitting along the bank of the Mississippi and watching the ships and the ferry as it travels back and forth to and from Algiers. The night falls. And for the longest time my only company is a statue of Malcolm Woldenberg, until two girls, obviously tourists judging by the I Love NOLA t-shirts, walks up.
The blonde one smiles coyly at me while the brown-haired one goes in for the kill.
“Partying anywhere tonight?” She cocks her head to one side looking down at me. “I’m Leah and this is Amy.”
The blonde, ‘Amy’, smiles at me in a way that I know all I’d have to do is ask her to f**k me and she would.
I nod, trying to be polite, but don’t offer my own name.
“So? Partying tonight, or not?” the brown-haired one asks, sitting down next to me on the concrete.
I’ve already forgotten their names.
“No, actually I’m not,” I say and leave it at that.
The blonde sits down on the other side, drawing her knees up so that her shorts hike way up her bare thighs.
Camryn looks better in shorts like that.
I just shake my head and look back out at the Mississippi.
“You should come with us,” the brown-haired girl says. “There’s a lot of action going on over at d.b.a tonight; you look bored as hell.”
I glance over at her. She’s pretty hot, just like the blonde, but I find myself completely turned off the more she talks. All I can think about is Camryn. The girl has wounded my soul. It’ll never be the same.
I scan the brown-haired girl’s legs and then watch how her lips move when she says, “We’d really like you to join us; it’ll be fun.”
I could…if I’m leaving and intend never to see Camryn again, maybe I should leave with these two, get a room somewhere else and f**k them both. I’m pretty sure at the rate things are going that they would do each other in front of me. Been there, done that a few times and it never really gets old.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I was waiting for someone.”
I have no idea what I’m saying, or why I’m saying it.
The brown-haired girl leans over and puts her hand on my thigh.
“We’d be better company,” she says in a sultry sort of whisper with all of the obvious overtones of a girl who has had way too many one-night stands.
I move her hand off me and stand up, thrusting my hands back inside my pockets and leave. Any other time I might be on it, but not today.
Yeah, my soul is probably wounded beyond repair. I’ve got to get out of this city.
As I walk away from the two girls without saying a word, I hear their voices fluttering on the air behind me. I don’t give a shit what they’re saying, or how rejected they feel. In an hour they’ll be riding some other guy’s c*ck and will forget they ever spoke to me.