Clay laughed in a humorless way. “I’m a mess. You know better than anyone everything I’ve done. I try so hard to change. To make sure that guy never shows himself again. But the struggle is really hard sometimes. And then I meet you. And I feel stuff that I’ve never felt before. Things that I never thought I would be lucky enough to experience. And I feel so out of control in the way I am with you. Like I’m stripped bare and for once someone sees everything inside of me…the good and the really, really ugly.” He sounded so vulnerable. I wanted to hug him but I wasn’t sure I could bridge the gap just yet.
“I’m scared that the ugly will scare you away. Because I know I’m high maintenance. That I can’t get a handle on the crazy, conflicting shit going on inside of me.” He took a deep breath. “But Maggie, I want to try. And I AM trying. But there are times that I’m reminded of why you are so much better off without me. Seeing you with that guy Jake, Daniel, or any other guy kills me. Because each and everyone of them can give you something I can’t. Normal.” I started to protest the idiocy of that, but he held up his hand.
“I know that there is absolutely nothing going on with you and Daniel, or you and Jake or you and the f**king mailman. What I’m trying to say, is who it was is inconsequential. It’s the fact that it could be anyone. That any other guy out there would be a hell of a lot better for you than me.”
His eyes were bleak as he looked away from me. His self- esteem was ridiculous. How could he not see himself the way I did? How could he not understand how full he made my life by just being in it? Sure, what we had was hard and complicated, but it was also passionate and amazing. There would never be anyone in my life that affected me the way he did. I was sure of it.
The thing was, I was petrified that the bad was starting to outweigh the good. What would we be left with when I could no longer make Clay see everything that was wonderful about him and what we had? What happened then? And, just like that my anger withered away until it was replaced with only sadness.
And that was way harder to stomach.
“I don’t know what to say. I don’t want you to feel that way. I love you. So freaking much. But I can’t make you feel better about yourself, about us. Because that’s entirely on you.” I lifted my hands in tired defeat.
Clay hung his head. “I’m really trying.” He said softly. Sure, it was messed up and there was no way I’d forget about what he had done, but seeing him so depressed tugged at that gnawing nurturing side of me that had developed since meeting Clay.
Maybe I shouldn’t forgive him so easily for treating me the way he had. For not trusting me. For doubting my love for him. And maybe I would feel angry about it again later. But now, I just wanted to erase that despair from his beautiful face. Despair that was caused by something so much deeper than our argument.
We sat there in silence, the tension palpable. I was wound tight and I didn’t know what to do to make any of this better. Before I could come up with a solution, Clay got to his feet.
“I’ll leave you alone. I’m sorry, Mags.” Clay whispered. I watched him walk away, back toward the staircase and I said nothing to stop him.
I lay there in the darkness for awhile. There was no way I would go back to sleep. I ruminated over our conversation ad nauseum. Clay’s neediness was a little hard to swallow. I got that he loved me. But was this a love I could deal with? Was this love going to tear me apart?
I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said about his insecurities and how much he was trying to change. And while I believed him, there was a niggling of doubt. Doubt that he wasn’t trying hard enough. And then I had to think that maybe I shouldn’t come down so hard on Clay, when I was riddled with my own doubts where he was concerned.
I rolled onto my side and hugged the pillow to my chest. I ached in the worst way. Tonight was supposed to be special. I had dreamed of it for so long. My mind drifted to Clay, who I knew was as wide awake as I was.
Do I go to him? Do you I let this whole thing go and try to find some semblance of happiness in what we had together? Or do I take a stand and not back down?
I hemmed and hawed, not sure what to do. I scraped my hair back away from my face in agitation. My heart felt heavy and I missed him. I wanted him to hold me and make me believe that everything would be alright. I needed that fantasy, even if it was just that. A fantasy.
Suddenly I was on my feet, with my pillow and blanket under my arm and found myself walking up the spiral staircase to the loft. My footsteps were soft, barely making a sound as I made my way up to Clay.
I stopped just inside the doorway and stared at him in the murky darkness. I could make out his form under the blankets. I dropped my stuff on the floor and lifted the covers of the bed, sliding in beside him.
Clay turned over and I could see his eyes shining in the blackness. “What are you doing?” He breathed, his body taut beside me. I rolled onto my side and reached out to stroke his face. “I’m mad at you alright. I’m mad and hurting.” My voice trembled. Clay put his hand on top of mine and pressed it to his cheek.
“Maggie…” He began but I put my fingers over his mouth to stop him. “Just shut up okay?” Clay closed his mouth and let me continue. “I’m upset. What you said, how you acted, it wasn’t cool. This wasn’t the first time you did this to me. But I had hoped you wouldn’t do it again. But you did. Part of me wants to pack my stuff and leave. Forget this drama…forget you.” The tears started to leak from my eyes, but I kept my gaze on him. His breathing became labored and I knew my words were affecting him.
“But I can’t do that, Clay. Because I believe that you are trying to change. That you do love me. But you need to know that what happened here earlier. That has to stop. I wasn’t kidding when I said it would ruin us. What we have, what we feel for each other; is too special to kill that way.” I bit out. Clay shook his head and pulled my hand from his lips.
“It will NEVER happen again. I swear to you!” He pleaded, pulling on my arms so that I was pressed against him. Our noses brushed and I closed my eyes, resting my forehead on his. “This night was supposed to be our night. I wanted it to be about us, together. Now I feel mixed up and confused and I just want to stop feeling that way.” I recognized the neediness in my tone. I wasn’t sure what I was asking him to do. I could see that Clay didn’t know either.
But then I just plunged ahead, without thought to consequences or what it would mean to do this right now after the emotional turmoil of the last few hours. I kissed him, pressing my mouth to his, running my tongue along his bottom lip.