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“It’s almost been a year, man. It’s time. Pick any girl in this bar and she’ll be yours.”
I was barely listening to Nate, I was too focused on draining shot after shot of tequila.
“I mean, your hair may look like a woman’s right now,” Nate teased as he punched my shoulder and ruffled up my hair. “Gross Matt! You’ve got more grease in there than your burger. Whatever, what I’m trying to say is you’ve still got the face. Seriously dude, go. GO!” he screamed as he pushed me off the bar stool. The world was spinning so fast that it was a struggle to find my balance.
What the hell would Nate know about this? The guy goes out to the bars every night to get lucky and then leaves before the girl has time to wake up and try to remember what happened to her shoes.
“You’re not really leaving are you?” Nate slurred from across the bar.
I looked back at a guy who I thought was my friend, and raised my middle finger as I punched open the door and headed out into the cool Seattle air.
He doesn’t know the pain of losing the one you love. As if I haven’t tried to forget her already by taking the first girl I see home. What’s that saying? “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else?” Spoiler alert. It doesn’t work. I even went as far as pretending she was dead. That her untimely death was the reason our relationship ended. No one knows the fake funeral cards I printed out with her picture and a stupid bible verse, you know the kinds that don’t make any sense, and put one hundred of them on my fridge. Then she’d be one hundred times as dead. But of course no one knows about that, because they’d think I was messed up. But really, I’m not. I’m really the one that died after the relationship ended. She was my entire life, so now I have nothing to live for.
The only reason I’m still here is because I’m sure she still needs me. Who would protect her if I wasn’t here. Who would make sure she got home from work every day safely? The subway is scary place, and no one else would go out of their way to make sure she got home unharmed by being there to make sure she in fact steps off the train in Kirkland station at 5:02.
The wind is so cold now that I feel as if my face is being sliced with each gust. Tears start to form in my eyes but I’m not sure if it’s the wind or the memories that created them. I raise my hand to try and get a cab and that’s when I see her. A skin tight baby blue dress is leaving little to the imagination, showing almost all of her legs, and hugging each curve. Her naturally straight hair is in tight curls that hang just past her shoulders. I can’t see her face but I know it’s Erin, no one else could make my heart beat this fast. I see her start to turn around and I dart into a nearby alley. I can’t let her see me like this, unshowered and disheveled. This look will definitely not get her back, the reunion has to be perfect. I hear the melodious laugh that can only belong to her, and I see her silhouette pass the alley. I walk back to the entrance, keeping my body pressed to the cold stone and maneuvering around garbage laying in the street.
“Oh my gosh Noah! Stop!” Erin laughed as I reached the corner of the alley.
Noah? Who the hell is Noah?
“Matt! Honey? Where are you?”
“In the bedroom. What’s up?” I replied.
“Guess what! Guess what! GUESS WHAT! So you know how I’ve been working on that big case for a while?” Erin started, “Well, Mr. Daren said he admired my work ethic so much that he is thinking of giving me my own office, and if I do well enough, then he would think about making me a partner when Mrs. Lynn retires! Isn’t that fantastic?!” she gasped.
“That’s fantastic honey, but who is Mr. Daren and why is he paying so much attention to you?” I wondered.
“Are you kidding me, Matt? This is work. Noah has finally noticed my hard work and is putting a lot of trust in me. Can’t you just be happy for me for once and not get so paranoid? Seriously,” Erin sighed.
I could see that this was making her upset, but I couldn’t help but worry. Erin didn’t realize her beauty, and I was scared every day when she walked out that door that she wouldn’t come back.
“Oh honey, I am so excited for you,” I quickly added as I pulled her close in for a hug, “I’m sorry, it’s just you are always at the office now and I guess I’m just being selfish. I don’t like when you’re at work all the time. Are you sure you can handle all this responsibility?”
She pulled away from me so fast that I didn’t realize the error of my ways until she was too far away. Her normally bright blue eyes turned cloudy and disappointed. Her mouth started to move as if she was going to say something, but instead she walked past me and out into the living room. I followed her out and felt myself starting to get angry.
“I’m going out for a bit.” Erin stated.
“NO!” I shouted and I slammed my fist down on dining table. “I mean, honey, please, I’m sorry that was wrong of me to say. Uh, do you want some ice cream? We can order whichever movie you want! Please, just stay here.”
After what felt like ages she curtly responded, “Fine. But I don’t want to watch a movie. I’m going to bed.”
I watched her walk back to the bedroom and waited until the door shut to do my routine check. I pressed the lock button on her phone and quickly punched in the code. Usually Erin is good, she talks to her mom and sister every now and then, and me of course. But there was a new conversation in her messages. Noah Daren.
I remember him now. I should have known. I walked back to the entrance of the alley and looked around the corner. Erin and Noah are standing about twenty feet away under Shore’s bar sign. The sign is blinking so I don’t have enough time to see their faces. Erin is still laughing and telling Noah to stop while playfully pushing him as he advances on her. If that guy doesn’t create some distance between them soon, I’m going to lose it.
“Noah!” Erin squealed.
The light goes out on the sign, and when it comes back on Erin has been moved against the wall and Noah has gotten rid of any distance between them. He brushes a loose curl off her face. I want to ring the guy’s neck. The sign goes out again, and I want to turn away because I know what I’m going to see when it lights them up again. But I can’t turn away. A second later, they’re kissing under the neon glow. I watch as his hands explore what I thought would be my territory for the rest of my life. The most painful thing to watch is Erin’s response. Even though they’re plastered to each other she still manages to get closer.
“Damn it!” I whisper as I scrape my cheek on the stone wall.
Noah and Erin break apart and look toward the alley. I move back into the darkness and watch as they look at each other and shrug.
Erin and Noah start down the street hand in hand and I decide to follow them. They walk at a slow pace, with Erin swinging her legs in a playful way, something she used to do when she was in a good mood. They won’t stop talking, but all of what I hear is mumbled because I’m too far away. I bet she’s talking about how much of a loser I was and how fantastic he is. She was always so ungrateful. All I ever did was love her, I never hurt her.
“Matt! Stop!” Erin cried as she laid crumpled on the floor.
Her dress was torn up the side and her eye was already starting to bruise. But I couldn’t stop. She had betrayed me. I continued to throw punches and make contact with all the spots that would hurt her as much as she hurt me. It wasn’t until I heard the ribs crack that I stood up and walked to the dining room table.
“I spent hours on this dinner Erin! And you don’t have the decency to make it home by 5:30 like I asked? It is six o’clock! Where were you? Who were you with?” I bellowed.
“I told you. I called and said that I had to meet with a major client that I was assigned,” Erin explained while gasping for air.
“You know, it’s like this job is more important to you than me. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. I come first!” I demanded. “You should be thankful that I allow you to work. After Ben was born, I wanted you to stay home. But no, you wanted to work on your career. And then he got in the accident with the babysitter. It’s your fault he died, Erin. But yet you continue to work, even though that was the reason that our son died. You’re the most selfish person I’ve ever known.”
Erin remained whimpering on the floor which made me even more furious. I stormed over and picked her up. She screamed out in pain and I slapped my hand over her mouth before the neighbors heard. I grabbed my car keys off the counter and made my way down to the parking garage and placed her in the passenger seat. Then I started reciting the story in my head. She fell down the stairs, and I found her when I got home from work.
See? I always took care of her. I didn’t have to take her to the hospital, but I was just so worried about her.
I wonder where they are going. They just turned onto fifth avenue and have slowed their walk down. This isn’t Erin’s new apartment. Where are they going?
They stop suddenly in front The Martin. No, Erin, do not go upstairs with this guy. I will kill you. I can’t believe you’re going to do this to me.
Noah pulls Erin in for a kiss that seems to last ages. Why didn’t she ever kiss me like that? They finally come up for air and I can see him mouth something to her. She smiles and nods her head, and then he grabs her hand and the doorman opens the door for them.
I have to get in there. They don’t just let random people into these kinds of apartments. C’mon Matt, think. I walk to the side of the building and spot the service entrance. I look around and try the handle. It opens. This is a sign, I need to save Erin.
After I make my way through the basement, I walk into a carpeted hallway. Thankfully there are signs that point me in the direction of the lobby. I wince as I make it to the bright lobby that must cost hundreds of dollars a day in electricity itself. I jump behind a plant when I see that Erin and Noah are still in the lobby. Just standing there right in the middle of everyone making out. I am so disgusted, but all of the other tenants and workers give them a smile as they walk by.
“Hey guys! Get a room!” The man at the front desk teases.
Noah let’s out a loud laugh and shouts, “You read my mind, Trent!”
“Looking fantastic as always Erin,” Trent winked.
It’s taking all the restraint I have to walk up the man at the front desk and stab the eye he just winked with. Wait, she’s been here before?! How long has she been sneaking around my back? How did I let this happen?
Erin runs her hand through Noah’s caramel colored hair and smooths down his shirt that got wrinkled during their countless embraces. He buries his face in her hair and whispers something in her ear. A smile spreads across her entire face and then she pulls him towards the elevator. The gesture makes my blood boil.
Once the door closes I make my way toward the front desk. Trent looks up from his computer and gives me a disgusted expression after looking me over.
“Can I help you, sir?” he hesitated.
“Yes, hi. Um, I’m here to ask about your apartments,” I lied.
“I’m sorry sir, but the only suite available is our penthouse suite. And I don’t think that the price is suitable for a man such as yourself,” Trent smiled.
This guy should not be working at a front desk, his people skills are terrible.
I had Trent’s red silk tie wrapped around his neck so fast that he didn’t even have time to change his facial expression from snotty concierge to shocked. I hated the guy so much that instead of waiting for him to stop flailing around, I snapped his neck in one swift movement. I didn’t have time to deal with him any longer, so I left his body slumped on the ground behind the desk.
Luckily, Trent already had the list of available rooms up on the screen. I quickly scan the list of tenants and there it is. Noah Daren, twelfth floor room 125. Surely this information wouldn’t be as easy to find if I wasn’t meant to save Erin. I decide to take the stairs instead of the elevator and take two steps at a time. It feels like my chest is about to explode on the eighth floor, but I can’t stop. I have to save her.
I quietly open the door to the twelfth floor, my heart pounding and my breathing ragged. I poke my head out into the hallway just in time to see a glimpse of the baby blue dress make it’s way into room 125. Images of what could be happening behind the door make their way into my mind and I start banging my head on the wall to try and get rid of the thoughts. I need to talk to her, to stop her from being with another man. I am the only one for her and she will get hurt by anyone else.
I sprint to 125, ignoring the fire in my lungs and start banging on the door. My eyes are flooded with tears already and my hands feel as if they are being shattered into pieces with each hit to the door.
“What the hell is going on?” Noah yelled as he opened the door.
But all I could see was her. Sitting on a table in the background with the strap of her dress hanging off her shoulder. As she realized it was me, a look a fear came across her face and she jumped off the table only to retreat further into the apartment.
“Noah, that’s him,” Erin gasped.
The look on Noah’s face changes from annoyance to hatred. His face is turning red and he positions himself so that he blocks the entire doorway. I notice his fists are clenched at his side and the veins in his arms are protruding out.
“If you don’t get out of this apartment right now,” Noah ordered, “You will not walk out in good condition.”
“I just want to talk to Erin,” I plead.
“You lost your right to be anywhere near this woman a long time ago,” he answered.
Who does he think he is? I lunge forward and it feels like I came into contact with a brick wall. I feel a strong blow to my jaw and I see the floor come closer.
The moment I saw him my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. How did he find me? I don’t even want to think about what could’ve happened if this encounter would have taken place while I was alone.
I’m concentrating on Noah’s face as he talks with the policeman at the door. I never knew he was going to punch Matt, but I’m glad he did.
The police are taking Matt out on a stretcher now, and I can see the marks the handcuffs attached to the rails are already making on his wrists. I don’t feel sorry for him. After years of pain and nightmares, I can now sleep at night knowing he won’t come after me. I feel safe, I’m finally free.
I let out a sigh and Noah strides over. He slides his arm around my waist and kisses my forehead.
“Are you alright?” he asks.
“Yeah, I’m okay. He won’t bother me again and I feel relieved,” I respond.
I make my way into the bedroom, change into one of Noah’s big t-shirts and lay my head down on the pillow. I am so exhausted that I fall asleep in an instant.
And then there he is, handcuffs and all chasing me through the apartment building.
I wake up with a jolt and scream. Noah is by the side of the bed with his arms around me which brings me back to reality.
“It might take a little while until I’m free,” I whimper.