***Here’s another BONUS post! Soul xo***
In the morning, everything the sunlight touched seemed unfamiliar and disjointed from regularity. What woke me was an incessant buzzing in my jeans pocket. I cracked my neck and groaned at the vibrating pain, rubbing the back. I was sleeping on a weird angle on the sofa, leaned over to one side while my legs were stretched out on the floor. My arms on the head of the sofa, spread out, and my head on my shoulder. I felt I could breathe easier while I wriggled out of my bend. But I moved slowly, careful not to crack anything else. After a few moments, whilst struggling to crawl back into reality and out of the smog, I realised the buzzing was from my phone; and it stopped as I reached slowly into my pocket. Forty-three messages and nine missed calls. Some messages were a group message happening between Janet, Chloe and Jodie; towards the end all were asking where the hell I was; and the rest of the messages and all the calls were from Daniel. ‘I’m sick with worry’ ‘Where are you?’ ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Please call me back. I hope you’re okay.’ I felt horrible.
I felt even worse when I turned to my side. On the far corner of the sofa, Derek was sleeping, all stretched out like a drugged out, sexed out rock star. I groaned once more. His tiny apartment was nothing much; quite empty save for a sofa, coffee table and television. Careful not to wake Derek and suffer the consequences of my actions, I hurried into his bathroom to spray some water across my face and then searched for my plastic bag. It was at the foot of the sofa, and when I grabbed it, it rustled so much and my phone simultaneously buzzed a text, that it zapped Derek out of sleep.
“Leaving so soon?” he mumbled, smiling and stretching.
“It was a mistake coming here,” I admitted. “I’m sorry, I have to go.”
“What?” his red eyes wide. “But we didn’t even stick the pieces of the paper back together. I’ve got vodka.” He grinned.
I winced at the thought of drinking so early in the morning. The icy sunlight hitting me hard, strokes of neck pains, head pains, stomach pains; I wanted to fucking vomit, and I was sick at myself just as much as Daniel was sick with worry. How was I even going to explain this little episode to him? When was I going to grow the fuck up!?
I huffed a brisk sigh, disappointingly shaking my head at myself. “I have to go. I can’t do this to Daniel again.”
“Figures,” he mumbled, curling up on the sofa. “Always crawling back.” Then, after a sleepy yawn: “I’m sure we’ll see each other again.”
Wow, he and Adam could have been best friends in another life. It was then I realised there was no difference between the Derek then, and the Derek now. Context generally changes people but oh no, not Derek. He remained to be the same brute; satisfied with being so unaccomplished. His hair cut; his therapy; the lack of Nikki in his life; even with all those factors, he was still the same old Derek. Maybe worse.
The night took advantage of me. My panic took advantage of me. And Derek took advantage of all those things and appealed to my vulnerability. But my God, I had to stop blaming everything on him; on anyone else, it was all me, really. I had the choice to refuse Derek and be on my way. I had the choice to stay in the apartment and talk to Daniel. And look at what I just did: Daniel is going to see that I spoke to Derek instead of him (just like old times) and he’s going to be so upset. Why can’t I just think properly for once!?
‘I’m staying home, let me know when you’re coming home,’ Daniel texted.
Should I text back or call? Yeah, I better call.
“Anna!” he picked up on the first ring.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m sorry,” I quickly repeated.
“Are you safe? Tell me.”
I hailed a cab and rode back to Daniel’s place. “I’ll explain when I get home.”
There was honestly no question of whether I should tell Daniel or not. He had a right to know. I just wish I didn’t have to look at his reaction when he finds out. It will tear my heart out.
Daniel had the door open already, standing in the doorway and waiting for me to arrive.
“God damn,” he breathed as he hugged me, I could feel his heart beating through his chest. “You gave me the scare of my life.”
“I’m sorry, I’m an idiot.”
“Yeah,” he nodded, smiling half-jokingly. “I mean, I knew you wouldn’t be out so late and then I got worried the entire night because you didn’t show and then the morning came and—”
“I know, I know, I know.”
He sighed with relief, ushering me into the apartment. “At least you’re safe but—” clutching his heart “—don’t do that to me. I would have thought Noelle and Leo kidnapped you.”
“They went home before me. Well,” I doubled back, “Noelle and then me and then Leo.”
“You were here before me?”
“And then you left again?” he asked.
I nodded once more. “I freaked out over something.”
“Yeah, I freaked out, too,” he said, ignoring my half-confession, “Adam was calling me non-stop.”
This caught me off-guard. “What for?”
“He was trying to warn me that Derek was here looking for you. Didn’t you get any of my texts? Apparently he went and asked Adam but Adam—once somewhat humane, always somewhat humane—didn’t give anything away. Said that Derek was going to ‘follow you home’—” he made air quotes with his fingers “—I thought it was some kind of hoax but Adam never fucking calls and he hates—“ catching himself “—uh, he just doesn’t do that anymore, but he told me to look out for you. I’m just glad you’re okay.”
It wasn’t long before I realised I was holding my breath and hadn’t even blinked once. I was nodding at his words like a bobble head. “Shit,” I breathed.
“Yeah,” Daniel said. “Hey, where were you anyway?” His eyes darted to my plastic bag, popping his chin out at me, “and what’s in the bag?”
I continued my bobble-heading streak, Daniel’s words turning into a far-out echo. My gut rumbled and I felt a rise up to the middle of my torso, a raging tingle, and then a guttural spewing onto the clean-cut hardwood floor; my throat burning and my eyes watering. All of last night’s poor judgements refusing to be silenced, coming out with a bang.