Life Without You

Life Without You

A Story by Skip
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He filled what you left empty/ The darkness of your memory/ But you, he never shall be. Tonight, you hear this/ What I loved, no longer true/ So no more shall I live/ A lonely life without you.

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You see him across the wide corridor and your smile grows as he comes closer, though he hasn’t seen you yet. He grins widely as he finally spots you, quickly bursting into a full jog, closing the space between you. You pull your long sleeves into your hands and bite your lip as he approaches. He easily wraps his arms around you, holding you in a tight hug as he swings you in a circle, his laughter sounding in your ear.

“I’ve missed you,” he mumbles into your hair and you close your eyes, taking in the feel of him so close to you again. He breathes deep and you audibly sigh, the sensation more powerful than you remember, and you nearly cry.

“Me too,” you finally mumble against his chest.

After what seems like only seconds, he pulls away and you step back, your eyes fully seeing him for the first time. The past year has changed him, some for the better, some for the worst, but he’s no the longer the boy you remember, but closer to a man. He smiles down at you as he grabs your hand and you hold his arm with your other hand, keeping him close as you walk towards the baggage claim. You move to grab a cart as the bell rings, knowing the number of bags he has brought back with him. But before you grab one, you glance to him and are surprised to see his eyes already on you, the bags forgotten as they pass him. Your gaze falls and you finally lead a cart back to him, he stacks the bags wordlessly, as though the moment had never occurred, as though it hadn’t mattered, but you know it did.

“You ready?” he asks after throwing the fourth and final bag onto the pile.

“Yep,” you nod, giving him a small smile, the most you can muster. You walk ahead as he pushes the cart towards the exit. It’s a short walk to the car and you load his bags into the trunk while he takes the cart back to the entrance. You see him coming back and you hold your arms tight around your torso, suddenly feeling small and insecure around him. His gaze is intense as he steps towards you and you gasp when he gently cups your cheek, his thumb brushing along the skin and you can’t help but close your eyes at the sensation.

“You’re different,” he says after a moment and you shrug, keeping your eyes closed. You ache to prolong the feelings that course through you at his touch. But as his hands drop to his side, you know the moment has ended, and you sigh as though it could last forever. But that forever no longer exists, it was no longer real and you fight to open your eyes, knowing you have to face that.

“It’s been a long time,” you say softly, finally opening your eyes, relieved to see his. You feel a twinge grow inside you at the disappointment covering his face, a pain you’re unable to appease.

“It’s him, isn’t it?” he asks and you immediately shake your head, feeling the need to protect him. Joe just doesn’t understand, he never will, you know. You’ve tried to explain before, but he will never comprehend the truth.

“I love him Joe,” you whisper, stepping back. You move to the driver’s door and he gets in the passenger seat as you do. He turns to you, his eyes holding the words you long to hear, and you hold your hand up, your face firm, “you had your chance, Joe,” you state emotionlessly, “you lost it.”

“I know,” he nods sadly. You hold in a gasp, not expecting his words, “I regret it, you know,” he says softly, glancing to you and you suck in a deep breath, “telling you to move on.”

“I didn’t think I would,” you tell him, “but you had to go, a-and I’m so proud of you… I am and I don’t blame you for leaving.”

“I don’t either,” he responds slowly, as though choosing his words, “I blame myself for not hanging onto us, asking you to wait for me.”

“I would’ve,” you whisper, closing your eyes as you remember the first weeks without him. And he was there, holding you when Joe wasn’t. In the beginning, he comforted you and let you know it was okay, making you feel not so empty and filling the hole that Joe left behind.

“Just why him,” Joe asks softly, his head facing his open hands.

“He was there for me,” you answer simply. “I don’t hate you… you helped so many people down there.”

“I just didn’t expect so much to change in one year,” he groans, causing you to shiver without explanation, “especially you.”

“I’m the same,” you answer without hesitation, feeling the need to be defensive, though you know that’s not how he intends it, “maybe it’s you who changed.”

“Maybe we both did,” he says turning to you. You watch him purse his lips, his eyes are so wide and caring, you know he’s reading you, he always could and you drop his gaze at the thought. He begins to speak, slowly, carefully, causing you to freeze at his words, “your eyes are so dark, Millie, empty even,” he sighs softly but doesn’t stop, his voice growing louder, desperate even, “where’s your never-ending laughter, your annoying jokes, God, that smile, your smile that could light up the entire room… where’s Millie, f**k, my Millie, the strongest person I ever knew, the one that made me the person I was, the one that stole my heart all those years ago.”

“She left,” you whisper, unable to meet his gaze, to speak as he did. There is no conviction in your voice because you know everything he’s said is true. You are different, you are changed, and you know why. You finally lift your eyes, speaking again, “She left Joe, she left when you told her to move on and forget… she left when you told her that your love wasn’t strong enough to last a year apart, she left when the three you spent together no longer existed.”

Your voice begins to crack on its own accord, and your hands turn into fists as you speak again, unable to stop the tears that fill your eyes, “s-she left when she broke down in tears that day, God Joe, she left when you, you f*****g, you just walked away, you left her on that damned floor and just walked away.” You’re nearly yelling now, speaking words you had never spoken, remembering a day you fought so long to forget. Your voice is strangled, the tears rapidly descending your cheeks as the hurt still lingers and you know it always will. You finally lift your eyes, ignoring the pain in his as you whisper, your voice filled with a spitefulness you didn’t know you held, “she left when you did, Joe.”

You finally put your key in the ignition, facing forward, away from him and the tears filling his eyes. You turn away from the tightening in your chest, the urge to comfort him is so strong, the urge to tell him all that has lingered in the back of your mind. But you can’t, not anymore, because his Millie no longer exists. “We have to go,” you whisper through your tears, already putting the car into gear, “they’re waiting.”

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles as you enter the turn off and you glance to his red rimmed eyes. You stare for a moment too long and more tears fall from your eyes, your defenses failing you.

“Me too,” you state through a strangled voice, “me too.”

The rest of the twenty minute drive is spent in silence, neither of you bothering with the radio, there wasn’t a point. Too many words were spoken, too many hurts revealed, and you’re left to take each one, but are unsure of where to store them. You glance to his hand twitching at his side, his tell for when he’s truly upset and fighting tears, and a sense of guilt rises within you. This isn’t the way you wanted his homecoming to be, you didn’t want to fight with him. Despite it all, you hate to think that it’s you that is causing him this pain. Regardless of your inhibitions, you reach over and take his hand with yours and when he interlocks your fingers, you don’t pull away. You feel a surge, awaking something deep inside you as his thumb brushes along your knuckles, his hold tight on your loosened one. Suddenly, all those familiar feelings come rushing back, causing you to audibly gasp for a breath as your heart pounds in your chest.

You take a deep breath when you pull onto Joe’s street, and you glance to see him smile at the sight of his family standing and waving on the front lawn. The large sign and balloons commemorate his arrival, letting all who drive by know that he has returned home, safe and well. It is a notion that reminds you why you adore this family and the love his parents hold for each of their sons, even when they disappoint them. You can see the tears on his mother’s face already and you understand the feeling. The constant letters and occasional video chats did nothing to appease his missing presence, only making each of you to ache for him even more. When you pull into Joe’s driveway, you’re surprised to see him standing behind the family. A slight chill settles within you, you had expected him to wait for you at the apartment you share.

“Joseph!” his mother cries out as you exit the car, and you press the button for the trunk. The entire family takes their turns, hugging and laughing and crying at Joe’s presence. His dad and eldest brother grab the suitcases as Joe continues to hug his mother, and his youngest brother who was skipping school for Joe’s return. But he continues to stand behind them all and only approaches you as you stand alone, still behind the trunk of your car, the rest of the family following Joe inside.

“Hey,” you call as he walks to your side, everyone else already inside with Joe. You give him a small smile, unsure of the look on his face. You know he had been dreading today, “You wanna head out?”

“Nah,” he shrugs, wrapping an arm around your shoulder and you wince slightly, pulling your sleeves down over your hands out of habit. You walk towards the house and he opens the door for you, his arm still tight around your body. Out of the corner of your eye, you see Joe heading into his room alone and you know you should check on him and apologize for upsetting him.

“I need to go talk to Joe,” you say, pulling your body from his tight hold. His gaze hardens slightly and you immediately look to the floor, feeling small in his presence.

“I’ll come with you,” he says but you shake your head, pressing a hand against his chest. You gulp nervously as you feel it tense under your touch and you drop your hand.

“Go help your mom,” you say, lifting your eyes again. You force a smile in response to his dark gaze, “I’m sure she could use it before the party tomorrow.”

“Two minutes,” he says and you nod in understanding, knowing he means it. You turn, taking your time to move up the stairs, though it’s been a while, its still so familiar. Since moving in with him eight months before, you’ve spent little time at the house; there were too many reminders of Joe. Without knocking, you step inside Joe’s room, leaning against the frame as you watch him look through the mail on his desk.

“Hey,” you call and he turns, smiling sadly when he sees you. You step further inside, shutting the door behind you and you lean against it. Its weird being truly alone with him again and odd feelings settle in the air, ones you can’t name.

“Come ‘ere,” Joe says softly and you nod walking towards him. You scratch at your bare arm nervously, your heart racing at being in closed quarters with him and the thoughts that follow. And especially this room, it was where Joe left you and where he found you, taking you into his arms, healing you where Joe had left you broken.

“Millicent,” Joe gasps suddenly, his eyes wide as his face turns a deep shade of red but you don’t know why. You stare at him, slowly realizing his eyes are not on you and as you glance down, you see why. You raising your sleeve to scratch your arm had revealed the marks you had been trying to hide from everyone, particularly Joe.

“Joe,” you whisper but can say nothing else. You only pull your sleeve back into your hand, your fingers curling into a fist as the air grows tense around you.

“What a f*****g idiot,” he screams suddenly, breaking the silence with his booming voice. You step back in shock, unable to understand why he was saying such things to you, “God damn it.”

“Joe,” you whisper but he doesn’t seem to hear you. You bite your lip, ignoring the blood that seeps from your lip and the copper taste fills your mouth.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he mutters as he begins pacing the room and you step back against the wall, curling your arms around yourself. You’re stunned, only wincing as he whips the door open and runs from you, but you continue to stand there, surely he couldn’t mean the things he had said to you.

When Joe doesn’t return, you storm from the room, running outside, unable to face the silent scrutiny any longer. He had always said those things, but Joe, never Joe. And now Joe has revealed everything that he had been telling you for months, you finally see Joe for what he is and yourself the way he sees you, the way Joe must’ve always seen you. You begin to understand the reasons Joe left in the first place, why he did not hang onto you, the reason he never wanted to hold onto you.

You know you drove but as you pull into your parking lot, you can’t seem to recall leaving. Your hands tremble as you move slowly from your car and into the apartment. He isn’t there and you realize you left without telling him, your focus not on him but Joe. You stumble on the carpet, the separation from the living room and kitchen, and you barely recognize it until you fall onto the ground. But instead of rising, you stay there, unwilling or even unable to move. Joe’s words, which match his, are ringing through your mind and you ache for them not to be true, but in the end, you know they are.

When he comes home, he’s angry you know, but you don’t move. You may have been there, in the middle of that floor, for mere minutes or several hours, but you don’t know. He begins to yell, but you don’t hear his voice but Joe’s, the same words that had been spoken for months by him had left Joe’s mouth. The separation between him and Joe begins to fall together into one single image, one voice that is everything that you once held dear. Your love for Joe melded into his care for you, he’d picked you up when Joe had let you fall, and you only heard his promises, not Joe’s, you heard his words, not Joe’s, and that’s when everything had changed.

When the first hit occurs you don’t scream, you don’t cry, you just lie there, completely gone and take everything he is giving, for the first time realizing how much you deserve it. Though it had only happened once before, he doesn’t hold back, releasing everything in those moments. You hear him speak Joe’s name, but don’t understand what he is saying, his words seem to slur together as his arms, his legs and feet touching you over and over. They don’t seem to stop and when you eventually roll onto your back with the force of him, you stare at the ceiling, your eyes glassing over until he stares down at you. It’s ended and you feel the urge to cry for the first time, you feel him pick you up, carrying you but you don’t want him, but Joe. Even after Joe said those things to you, you still want him, and you know you always will.

You’re alone later that night, no longer in the living room but the bathroom, where he’d carried you. He’d set you down on the floor, his arms tight around your body as he held you. He apologized, much as he had the time before, and began washing each wound; the empty words filled the air, his promise to never let it happen again. But you know it will and you know it doesn’t matter anymore, and maybe it never did. Your final shred of hope, the hope you had held for Joe was gone, leaving you to be hurt by him. The marks and bruises would never end, and Joe would never save you, he never wanted to. Joe had muttered every word you had heard over the last months, and as he washed you, whispering to reassure you, you saw Joe’s face, reminding you that everything said would always be true and his promises would always be broken.

You lean against the cabinet, wincing at the pain, the swelling had already begun to take hold, your face no longer recognizable. Thinking of him and the way he’d hurt, thinking of Joe and the words he’d spoken, you take that drink of water. Your final one, you think, and you let it wash away the last of the bitterness on your tongue. You set the glass beside you and close your eyes, taking in several slow breaths. This is not how you envisioned your life turning out, you imagined yourself being stronger and able to control everything that made you worthless. So much had changed in a single year; it may be considered a short time to some, but just short of a lifetime to you.

But it doesn’t matter anymore and you remind yourself of this as you lie back, no longer able to hold your body up. You’re slowly weakening, much as you always had been. You stare up at the bright light until you can keep your eyes open no more, and you shut them. You let your mind wander and you think of his face, your Joe as you always wanted to remember him. It was the day he’d proposed, though still in high school, you had been so happy that day. You’d given your all to him that night, confirming all that you’d been promising each other. It was a moment you’d never forgotten and that night, lying in his arms, you know you’d never been happier. Even as the images weaken, you smile, feeling yourself fade, smoothly drifting into the endless sleep, taking away everything you’d done wrong.

 

© 2011 Skip


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I really enjoyed your story. Emotional and wonderful.
Enjoyed the plot and the characters as well as the imagery.


Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on January 8, 2011
Last Updated on January 8, 2011

Author

Skip
Skip

IL