And With Madness Comes the Light
“Can I buy you a drink?” I asked her, remembering my manners before I got carried away.
She put her hand on my chest and slid it down until it reached the waistband of my boxer briefs. I don’t know why I was worried about being dirty when I’d only last a couple of minutes, tops.
“I’m good,” she said slowly. “But you go get yourself one. I’ll just be in the women’s washroom, right over there.”
Message was received loud and clear. I watched her sashay her tight little jean-clad ass over to the washroom and disappear inside. I had maybe two minutes before I would join her and suddenly I was nervous as fuck.
I went over to the bar and got Clarissa’s attention long enough to order a shot of bourbon. After I put it back and tried to gather up my courage, which had somehow disappeared along with the blood in my brain, Dean appeared beside me.
“Saw you talking to that hot piece of ass,” he commented, leaning forward on his elbows.
“I guess you could call it talking,” I said, wishing I had another shot. I raised my hand for Clarissa and waited. “It was more like ‘let’s fuck,’ but not said as vaguely as that.”
“You know, I always thought you had a type,” he mused.
“What do you mean?” I asked as Clarissa filled up my shot glass again and down the hatch it went. What the hell was wrong with me? Even my erection was deflating, like I was losing all my nerve, like I was all talk and no show.
“Oh, the bitchy look. Like Jenn, like the redhead. Gorgeous and all that, but mean. You know, you can tell when a girl ain’t got no heart. And you like that. That’s why I was so surprised that you fell in love with Perry.”
I fell in love with Perry. I was in love with Perry.
“She was so sweet and cute and somewhat innocent. Not the girl who would screw you in a shithole. Not a girl who would ever hurt you on purpose. You know, she was nice. And well, you don’t like nice, Dex. You like bitches. You like to be treated like shit for some god damn reason, and I don’t know why. You don’t deserve it. But maybe you think you do.”
“Dean,” I said slowly, pushing my shot glass away from me. “Have you been listening to a lot of self-help tapes lately?”
“I’m just saying, man. It’s interesting. I feel like I’m finally cracking the Foray code.”
Time was ticking away. The redhead was still in the bathroom, probably waiting for the last chick to leave so she could barricade the door, avoiding the puddles of vomit and piss in her platform shoes. Was that really what I wanted? Now that I was called to act upon it, my dick argued against it. It didn’t give a fuck and I meant that literally. I wanted the easy bitch because it was safe and familiar. And let’s face it, I was horny as hell.
But that wasn’t me anymore. I’d seen the light. I wanted the girl who embodied it. I wanted to deserve her, to be the man she needed. And I’d do whatever I could to be that man.
I sighed and slapped a few bills on the table. I smacked Dean on the arm. “I’m going home, buddy.”
I pushed past him, waving at Seb as I went, who was still stuck in a conversation with one of Clarissa’s friends.
“Does that mean I can have her?” Dean called out jovially from behind me.
“She’s probably still in there,” I answered back and walked out into the cold night. I was going home alone, and for the first time in a long time, that was completely okay with me. I, too, had a code to crack.
With my life wrapped up in running, working out, and making myself extremely fuckable in Perry’s eyes, a couple of weeks had flown by before I saw Rebecca again. She finally flagged me down and invited me out for pizza. I hated to be one of those guys who turned his nose up at the Italian pie, so I dragged my ass out the door, promising myself I’d do an extra session at the gym afterward.
“Dex, over here!”
I scanned the restaurant looking for the source of the smooth English accent that called my name. I swear, Rebecca’s voice was on par with Morgan Freeman’s in the voices I’d like to narrate my life category.
I saw her in the corner of the room and made my way over. The restaurant was a hipster-ish pizza joint not too far from my apartment and at 6:00 p.m. it was absolutely bustling. She looked delicious as usual, dressed from head to toe in a form-fitting black dress that gripped her hips and set off her vampire-pale skin.
She got out of her chair and went for a hug, her smile wider than normal. She wrapped her arms around me for a few tight seconds, then she stepped out of the embrace and placed her soft fingers around my bicep and gave another, heartier squeeze.
“So you’ve been sticking to it,” she remarked, looking proud. “Good for you. You look fantastic.”
I felt fantastic. Okay, that was bullshit. But I felt better than I had in weeks.
“You look gorgeous,” I told her honestly and sat down at our cozy booth.
She gave me a coy wave, simultaneously brushing off the compliment and reveling in it as only she knew how, and ordered herself a drink when the waiter came by. I ordered a Jack and Coke, naturally.
She waited for the waiter to leave before she looked at me, surprised. “Really?”
I leaned back against the soft leather seat. “What?”
“I thought you were turning over a new leaf.”
I snorted. “I have. I’m going to the gym every day, running, I quit smoking, I quit my meds. I can’t give up all my vices. I’m not a superhero.”
She twisted her cherry red lips around. She knew old habits died hard and was probably thinking back to Christmas when she and Em had to come rescue me. Man, that felt like ages ago.
“That’s...all done with,” I added, feeling defensive. “You know I was in a bad place at that time.”
She smiled sadly and gave me a slow nod. “I know. I’m not judging. Frankly, I don’t think I could hang out with you if you weren’t the vice type of guy.”
“Well then, you’ll be pleased to know that I’m still drinking and I’m still wanking to porn.”
“That’s my boy,” she said appraisingly. The waiter came back with our drinks and we said cheers over it.
“To friends,” she said.
“To friends,” I agreed.
I took a big slug of my drink, the bubbles fizzing my nose, causing me to tense up. With watering eyes I looked at Rebecca. She was staring at my arms with an odd look on her face.
“What?” I asked.
She shrugged. “I don’t know, Dex, your arms, your shoulders...you look really good. It’s nice to see.”
“Good enough to make you switch sides?” I joked.
She took a sly sip of her drink. I had missed the harmless flirting with her. I’d missed her in general. Hanging out with her, Dean, and Seb made me realize how badly I’d neglected my friends when I was with Jenn. It sounded cliché as fuck and I hated that I’d actually missed out on this earlier.
“Well you better not tell Em then,” I continued. “Actually, maybe you should tell her. See if she wants to get in on the Dex action, too.” I winked at her.
She giggled. “Oh, you. Once a pig, always a pig. At least that hasn’t changed.”
I gave her a forced smile even though what she said stabbed at me a bit. That was the thing with Rebecca. She still felt some kinship with Perry, the very thing I still felt, and the fact that we were both to blame for our relationship’s destruction was always on the surface.
Her face fell, which meant I wasn’t doing a very good job of keeping my emotions under wraps. It was harder now when I was off the medication. I felt everything tenfold, and it was impossible to ignore at times. I felt sorry for women for having to deal with this emotional shit most of their lives.
I cleared my throat and anxiously picked up the menu, absently looking for something to eat. Going off the meds also made me hungry—too hungry—another reason why working out was so important now.
“So how is Jenn?” I asked innocently. I didn’t really want to know but I’d asked anyway. Seriously, I should get points for this. I hadn’t asked about her since the breakup.
So, understandably, Rebecca looked a bit shocked. She lowered her voice and leaned in slightly. “Do you want me to tell you what you want to hear or do you want the truth?”
I shot her a quick glance, trying to play it cool. “It doesn’t matter, I don’t really care.”
“She’s doing well then. I’m not too happy about it, but it makes working with her easier.”
I sucked in my breath and nodded. “Oh, yeah?”
Fuck Jenn. Why did I even ask that? Wait, I didn’t care.
“Yeah,” she continued, watching me carefully for some sort of meltdown. “I guess Bradley makes her happy. It’s a weird sight to see. She’s still an annoying cunt though.”
I humored her choice of words with a smile and went back to trying to pick out a pizza. I was grateful that Jenn was out of my life, but it still hurt to hear what Rebecca was saying. I didn’t miss Jenn, but I didn’t think it was fair that she was happy after everything she’d done.
Rebecca reached over and placed her hand on mine, trying to get my eyes to meet hers. “You did the right thing, Dex.”
“Right,” I mumbled.
“Just because...” she trailed off.
I gave her a sharp look. I didn’t want her to finish that sentence.
She didn’t. She just tapped my hand. “You know you did the right thing. You and Jenn breaking up was long overdue. You deserve someone better than that.”
I didn’t. But I appreciated the lie.
I smiled quickly and went back to the menu. I was distracting my head with the different toppings I could order when my phone rang.
I shot her an apologetic look and wondered if it was Jimmy. I’d finally talked to him the other day and we discussed my little sabbatical. He was adamant that I keep going with the show anyway and said he had a few tricks up his sleeves—whatever that meant. He probably wanted me to partner up with someone else, and hell, if they didn’t see ghosts the way that I supposedly did they’d just fake it. But without Perry, I didn’t see a whole lot of point to going forward. Without her, I wanted to do something, anything else.
I fished the phone out of my pocket and quickly glance at the screen. It wasn’t Jimmy at all. It was some other number.
My heart stopped beating. I looked at Rebecca.
“Where is area code 503?’ I asked quickly.
“Area code 503!” I repeated in a panic.
Her face grew paler. “Portland.”
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. Luckily Rebecca snatched the phone out of my hand and answered it for me before the caller hung up.
“Hello?” she asked. She frowned, listening. “Yes he is. May I ask who is calling?”
I bit my lip, my chest growing tight from a lack of oxygen. She looked at me, her eyes wide, her mouth dropping a little bit.
“Hi, Ada. It’s Rebecca,” she said. “What’s going on? Are you okay?”