It was hard hearing this from Daniel. About Daniel. I always knew he was a playboy-type player. But I only knew him since UCLA, not before. Everything before was a history that read like the man-plague of the Middle Ages. He and his friend(s) hopping from one sexual encounter to another with the destination of hurting women in mind as if it were a drug. They revelled in their conquests, dick moves were their kung-fu and orgasms and women their accomplishments.
I could tell it was hard for him to tell me this. To tell me of a past he’d rather forget and never mention to his girlfriend. He’d avoid my gaze, eyes staring far off into the distance or at the floor. At times he’d fumble on his words. He’d even go so far as to heat a faint pink across his cheeks. I listened quietly and intently. And when he’d ask what I was thinking, I could only shrug and reply, “I don’t know.”
“It was a really long time ago,” Daniel continued. “I was hoping it’d be a past I can forget. I always thought that if I ever told a girl about me like that, they’d have too much self-respect to be with me. Well—” he shrugged— “most don’t even care, really. Anyway, I kind of had a lot of rough sex. My go to. I’d call women names when I wanted and talk about them with Brad as if they were there for the picking. A lot worse than how I talked about women when I was in UCLA.” I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. Daniel took notice and ceased. “Do you want me to stop? I can stop if it’s too much.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s fine.” I knew it was him that wanted to stop. But I wanted to hear this. I want to know more about my boyfriend, because up until now it’s clear I didn’t know as much as I thought. Or as much as my imagination led me to believe. “So what happened? What was the turning point?”
Daniel’s brows lifted and parted from the intensity they stressed. He was waiting for this moment to arrive. “Turning point was what Brad did when Lauren found out…”
The morning after felt like the stark day you’d feel in winter. When the light reflected off the silver clouds and into the windows, alerting me to the possibility of rain more than sunshine. I hated that time of day, where it’s all white. Night: absolutely; clear blue skies with a bit of sunshine: I’ll take it; white light like we’re in fucking Charmed? Fuck no.
I shuffled half-naked into the kitchen to make myself some breakfast. Egg eyes with pastirma (where a Middle Eastern friend turned me on to) and some milk. Don’t know why, but I had a deep, demon-like urge for milk. As the eggs were taking their time to cook and hug the salty, cured meat, I turned to find Brad and his date on the couch. She was huddled on top of him like a dead fish, and he was underneath, one leg out from under him and on the floor. How they managed to have sex on my tiny couch I’ll never know. And I tried so hard not to think of the amount of various fluids exchanged and spilled between them.
His phone rang then, I could see it flashing, but no sound was heard. I ignored it, thinking it was nothing, but then it started ringing again. I switched off the fire on the stove and made my way to his phone, lo and behold, it was Lauren. I knew it was bad news for him to have a girlfriend, no good could come of it.
I nudged Brad on his shoulder. “Brad! Brad!” I hissed.
“Mmmm…”he groaned. Eyes red as his eyelids lifted. “What?”
“It’s your girlfriend,” I said, tilting the phone so he could see she was calling for the forty billionth time. “Tell the bitch to cut it out, or break up with her, or do something. Stuff your cock inside her mouth to shut her up; anything!”
“The fuck is wrong with you?” Brad asked as he shuffled around Dead Fish and got up.
I sighed, frustrated. “She’s going to bring some bullshit that I can’t be bothered handling.”
“Just relax,” Brad said, waving me away, “it’s just one little, stupid, smitten girl that’s too desperate to be alone. I got this.” He pressed the green, call button and answered, “Hey baby.”
I heard her on the other end, all high pitched and running her mouth like the little engine that could.
“Nah, all good,” Brad said, “I just went out with Daniel.”
“No one saw me with another girl, they’re just trying to get a rise out of you.”
“When?” Brad’s eyes widened and focused and he furrowed his brows. After another pause, he asked, “Wait, here? Now?”
Lauren ran her mouth again and Brad stared at my front door. Suddenly I no longer had an appetite for egg eye and cured beef.
“Wait, don’t come—” Brad cut off just as soon as he started. He removed the phone from his ear, stared down, then at me, and then at the door.
Two things happened then: A knock came; and, Dead Fish shuffled as she woke.
My peaceful morning turning to shit was not part of the menu.
“Great,” Brad muttered, eyes red with fury more so than sleep. He walked towards the door carelessly, without even a thought passing through his mind or hesitation through the hand that clutched the doorknob.
“The fuck is going on, Brad?” Lauren blasted, walking in without an invitation. As if she needed one anyway. But still, it was my fucking place.
She took one glance at me, her soft eyes pumping with a restraint I could tell was hard for her to maintain. Did she want to cry, or go bat-shit crazy and shout at him? We’ll soon find out.
“What?” Brad asked, nonchalant.
“Where is she?” Lauren demanded, stalking into my room.
I remained in the kitchen and Brad in the middle between the kitchen and the living room. I could only imagine Lauren ransacking my room, searching top to bottom for dear ole’ Dead Fish. Brad lifted a finger to his pursed lips and hushed me. I rolled my eyes. Lauren may be smitten, but she’s not stupid. She’s going to figure it out sooner or later.
Lauren finally moved slowly out of my bedroom, her head down and her hair around her face. Shame apparent on her face.
“Told you,” Brad shrugged, “no one’s here.”
“I’m sorry, I just—”
“You know, we’ve been having some trust issues lately, and I think it’s time I let you go.”
“Let me go?” Lauren squeaked.
“It’s just not working for me. You should fix what’s wrong with you and men first before you have a boyfriend like me in your life. I mean, it’s getting pathetic, Lauren.”
“But you have to let me explain,” Lauren fumbled over her words. “Janine saw you at a club way out of your way from here and told me that you went off with some girl and—”
“Bup-bup-bup-bup,” Brad held up his hands, stopping her. “I think you should go.”
Lauren turned to me, eyes welling up. The ache in my heart in which I always try to stifle was much harder to kill right now. I wanted to tell her to just look to the left. Look to the fucking left and you’ll see she’s there, hidden behind the sofa’s backrest. Just look to the—
“Laters, baby,” Brad said.
Lauren, immobile at first, began making her way towards the door. Head down once again, hair covering her beautiful face. I shifted the weight between my feet as I leaned on the kitchen counter, arms crossed over my chest and disappointment fuelling my almost-betrayal of a good friend when the betraying was done for me. Dead Fish groaned and shuffled. Lauren, her hand on the doorknob, stopped and turned around. Her eyes squinting at the couch; absolute raged filled them up in a second, quicker than the tears had before.
“Oh. My. God.” Lauren said. Brad just stared her down, a wicked leer crossing his mouth. His jaw tightening, a tick forming. The bones on his face sharper than ever.
“What’s happening?” Dead Fish muffled, her sleepy head lifting and the hair all over her face, eyes-half-closed.
Lauren tilted her head and studied the woman before her even more. “Oh. My God. And with my half-sister no less.”
“How the fuck did I know it was your half-sister,” Brad shrugged, still believing he wasn’t at fault. And I admired this guy?
“Lauren?” Dead Fish mumbled. “What are you…?” Was she so drunk she couldn’t remember half the night and finish her sentence, or was it just the white light of winter morning?
Lauren stomped forward, right into Brad’s face. “You are the worst fucking person in the world! I can’t believe I fell for all your lies and bullshit! You are so worthless and gutless you don’t even have the balls to break up with me! Then you have the audacity to put this all on me!? Well forget it, because I’m not the little pawn you think you can fuck and then fuck off! You liar; you snake; you evil son of a—”
Brad, growing ever colder and shaking with that rage, lifted his hand and slapped Lauren across the face. The loud smack jolted both me and Dead Fish; I off the counter, and Dead Fish off the couch, scurrying around and looking for her clothes. Brad hopped over Lauren, crouching over her as she screamed in his face, trying to cover her own with her quivering hands. He grabbed a fistful of her shirt from the middle, pulled her up and punched her on the side of her face. “Shut the fuck up!” he spat. The full force of that single punch making her go limp and weak, unable to keep her arms up or claw at him in defence. I lunged at him and curled my arm around his neck, trying to either pull him off her body or make him pass out.
Eventually, he couldn’t breathe and stopped resisting me and attacking Lauren. With a bloodied and bruising face, Lauren crawled away and Dead Fish hopped over the couch and kneeled beside her.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! What the hell did you do?” Dead Fish wailed, her hands open and around Lauren, unsure of whether to touch her or not. She turned to Brad, tears streaming from her eyes. “What the fuck is wrong with you!? Lauren, can you get up? Get up, Lauren. Come on, honey…”
Her voice trailed off. With the help of her half-sister, Lauren lifted herself from off the floor. Leaning on Dead Fish, they each made their way out the door.
I hadn’t realised until right after they closed that door that Brad had passed out. My heart pumping in uncertainty, I pushed him off me and turned him on his back to place my ear onto his chest. Thankfully, his heart was still going but I called the ambulance anyway.
All the while, I sat on the floor, leaning on the counter top with my back, my legs risen mid-level and my hands hanging over my knees with my phone in one of them.
I had no regrets up until this point; and this time, we’ve gone too far.
“So…what are you thinking?” Daniel asked.
“About what?” I breathed out.
Daniel chuckled. “Does this change your mind about me? In any way, big or small?”
I looked at the time, my neck sore from the strain. “I have no time to think about it. We’re going to be late.”
Daniel followed my line of sight and then returned his eyes onto me. “Tell me later then?”
I smiled and nodded. “Of course.”
Labour Day weekend is a lot to take in in itself. Daniel and I have been invited to a rooftop barbeque at Noelle’s place. I asked her if I could bring a couple people and she was totally fine with it. Turns out she hadn’t invited that many people anyway so the more the merrier. Weird thing about this whole weekend is that after the Brad incident, I thought everything was fine. But it wasn’t. That was the least of my worries. Daniel, out of the blue, told me that it was a good time to speak to Adam and that I should invite him to the barbeque. I told him that I’d invite Jodie as well, so everything can be settled nice and neatly, tucked into bed. It’s going to be a soiree of clashing personalities, and on top of all that, Daniel blows the lid off his past life right as my happiness is peaking and we’re working on our relationship.
Well here’s what I can’t figure out so far. Above all else, I don’t know whether or not his past—any person’s past—should matter so late in the game of a relationship. Does it matter? That’s the main question. I thought that maybe I should talk to Dr. Shaw about this, that his was the perfect thing for her to help me on, but then I realised I wouldn’t learn on my own. It’d be like when you’re learning math in school and you’re supposed to try and refrain from using the calculator so your mind can do all the thinking. But I’m blocked. I don’t know what to think. I’m shell-shocked, yes, but there’s a feeling there I can’t identify. Almost like a hollowness, not negative, but unchanging.
My perception of Daniel hasn’t changed thus far, but we’ve only just arrived at the barbeque. Maybe it was something I had to sit on, or maybe it was something where my initial reaction is the right one. I don’t know.
Should a SO’s past life matter in (and in the future of) a relationship?