I’d been sitting there for too long, watching him sleep. The soft, greying hair flopping over his forehead, fluffy from moving in his sleep. The gentle curve of his lips, smiling faintly. Was he dreaming? Of me? Of us? The flickering of his eyelids caught my attention, and I thought he was about to wake up. He was dreaming. Part of me wanted to wake him up, if only to look into those heart-stopping green-grey eyes, but I knew that as soon as he woke up, I’d have to leave. The sunlight had already taken out the stars. The warm glow of a stunning morning highlighted the soft shape of his shoulders, bare skinned, smooth, soft. His arms were under the pillows, as always. A stomach sleeper, I’d learned. He’d always let me fall asleep first, on his chest. As soon as I rolled off him, he’d turn onto his stomach. I felt guilt pool in my chest.
Our relationship had ended because of me. Now, I had to leave him, to move away to the States for a year to fulfil some shit lifelong dream I’d had since I was twenty-five. I’m twenty-seven. It’s not worth it at all. I don’t want to go.
I was leaving because it’s what I did. I didn’t work to fix things, I just left. I’d had two partners in my life, he was the third. The first was a joke for my ‘friends’ who thought it was cute and sweet that I was still a virgin and yet to have my first kiss at the age of seventeen. The second lasted two weeks, maybe three, until my so-called friend made me feel like the biggest slut whore on the planet (for potentially having sex) and played on my evident trauma, and so I quit him for her and regretted it daily. When I met Scott at an event he’d just spoken at… I had no boundaries from joking nasty friends to overcome. There was no toxically jealous friend to make me feel like a total slag for doing something perfectly healthy… there was just me and him and a chance for me to learn and explore and grow.
With the sun peeking properly over the horizon, I glanced at the clock. Five minutes to five. Another hour or two and the sun would be on his face. I sidled outside to watch the town below us wake up slowly. Birds singing the morning chorus cheerily, as though I wasn’t about to kiss goodbye to the best thing that had ever happened to me. A coffee in hand, I looked up at the sky, a beautiful purple and pink hue that was lazily turning itself into a bright and cheerful blue. Not a single cloud. So much for pathetic fallacy. I felt like a miserably rainy day, you know like that scene in The Emperor’s New Groove when Kuzco’s sitting miserably in the middle of a clearing in the jungle and the rain’s soaking him? Or that one gif from David Tennant’s Doctor Who where he’s visiting all his old companions and stands there in the rain all sad because he doesn’t want to go.
I am the tenth doctor.
We lasted three years before I managed to piss him off. Not David Tennant – I’ve never met him. Scott. We’d never argued quite like that. We had tiffs, sure. Spats. Bickered a bit. Move your cup, Anna, it’s been there for three days. Don’t leave your running shoes in the middle of the living room, Anna. Can you get off me for a bit, Anna? My leg’s gone numb. Perfectly reasonable things to ask of me. Not so reasonable to keep asking me? Opening the window after I’ve had a shower, because there’s no ventilation and it’s mouldy. Yet every single day, I forget. Just like I forget to replace the loo roll, or to turn off my alarm on the weekends… or to text him when I’m on the bus home from therapy when he’s asked me to, so I don’t walk in on him in the middle of a take for a YouTube video. And, invariably, I walk in on him in the middle of a take for a YouTube video.
In short, I am abhorrent to live with, even though I make up for it – Scott’s words – with cooking damn good food, affection, and giving him space when he needs it. I get along well with his friends, despite having few of my own (trust issues, what can I say?), and his parents love me too.
But what did I do to end everything? It was one very horrible night out. A few drinks down my throat and I was a whole different Anna, Anna After Dark. Anna who has no concept of personal boundaries. Anna who thinks everything is a laugh. Anna who would undoubtedly end up dead in a ditch somewhere due to her own stupidity. I don’t drink because of this, but also because I’m a runner, and I can’t quite afford to lose a sponsorship because I had a few beers. Scott had seen me tipsy once, and because we were still in that phase of trying to impress each other, he’d taken me home and slept on my couch to make sure I was alright. But I’d never actually been drunk with him, and he’d said I was a bit of an arsehole when I was tipsy…
He’d arrived at the pub later, and I’d already tried to match his friend down from Yorkshire pint for pint. I’d managed until the fourth one, and then the first one hit me like a train. By the time Scott was there, I’d reduced his Londoner friend to tears of corpsing laughter, and his Yorkshire mate was trying to breathe after a very aptly-placed fart joke. Scott sat down and smiled, but none of us could talk to him for laughing.
Scott doesn’t drink, so making a holy show of him as I went for my fifth pint wasn’t the way to go. Crawling over his Londoner friend so I could sit on Scott’s lap also wasn’t the way to go. Trying to give him a lap dance and slurred-yelling at some girls who were in no way paying any attention to my geeky boyfriend that he was MINE… that about did it. But holding the contents of my sixth pint of beer to Scott’s face and effectively drenching him with it, after he’d been awake for more than sixteen hours and had had a VERY long and tough day… that had been the tipping point. He’d frog-marched me out of the pub, and I’d dragged him towards a 24-hour McDonald’s for some chicken nuggets. I’d eaten my way happily through a box of twenty, a large fries, a small quarter-pounder, a McFlurry and a chocolate milkshake, and Scott had taken us both home in a taxi. I’d then proceeded to ‘make it rain’ all over the interior of the taxi, which Scott then had to waste time picking up the notes. I found it hilarious, and danced in the middle of a main road in the rain while he battled with my bag and coat, his rucksack and bag of video equipment, coat, wallet, and keys. And then, I was almost hit by a car because I decided to sit down.
By the time Scott got me back into the house, he was too angry for words. He threw me in the shower to clean the beer and other unidentifiable Anna fluids off me, made me strip off, and then left me to sleep on the couch. He showered (because there was beer in his hair), and then I assume he turned me on my side and stuck a bowl under me, because that’s how I woke up the next day. That would usually become a funny story… but in pouring beer on him with my own drunken-ness, I’d effectively destroyed two GoPros and five videos’ worth of footage. And no, he couldn’t reshoot any of it.
That’s why he was pissed off at me.
That’s why he hadn’t been able to speak civilly to me for a week and a half.
That’s why I’d decided to apply for a screenwriting course, abandon everything, and move to the states on a whim.
That’s why I’d spent the night not sleeping and watching him sleep.
See, whenever I’d ruined a friendship or a relationship beyond repair, I always left. It was easier than facing up to what I’d done wrong. But, as I sat in the sunshine, I thought of the times I’ve run before now, and realised that none of those times were ever my fault. Leaving my best friend… because she’d spent years bullying me down in the form of ‘tough love’ – read: her way was the only way, and I was young and immature and she knew it all; leaving my hometown for a university so far away… because that hometown had piled on trauma that still hasn’t left me, even with fairly intense therapy; leaving for a year in a foreign country for studying as part of my uni course… gave people some time away from me. Leaving a very toxic friend I’d had for nearly eight years… because she’d spent her time with me trying to keep me under her thumb. I hadn’t actually done anything wrong in any of those scenarios. I’d just reacted to the trauma they gave me, or to the triggering of historical trauma. Either way, I never did anything to cause the harm… but they did. I’ve never actually been in the situation where I’ve had to put something right.
I watched the sun rise fully in a haze of clouds, and sighed. It had been two hours already, and Scott’s soft padding behind me sent an icy cold hand around my heart. In contrast, a pair of arms wrapped around me and a kiss placed itself against my temple.
“Good morning.” I said nothing. “Sleep alright?” Again, I said nothing. I couldn’t. I felt like I wanted him to stab me and end my misery. I didn’t deserve him and his love, his kindness, his acceptance of my body and my broken mind, my scars, my wounds, my active self-harm. I’d ruined it all. “Anna? Are you alright?”
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. I’d expected my voice to be a little stronger, but the pathetic whisper startled me.
“What?” I could see him looking down at me, but I didn’t turn. I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to apologise, to put any of it right. “Sorry?”
“I… Why…” I could feel it coming. Vomit, rising in my stomach, aching my entire core. It was building up, threatening, closing my throat… only, it wasn’t vomit. I dropped my empty coffee cup onto the tiny balcony, and descended into the worst panic attack I’d had to date. I crumbled to the floor, and Scott held me as he always did. This one was worse. The tears that came did nothing to soothe the aching in my stomach, the guilt and fear that crippled my heart into some anguished arrhythmic dance. I went light-headed, clinging to the front of Scott’s grey hoodie for dear life. It took an age for me to calm down, and when I finally did, I still cried, but the sky was a stunning forget-me-not blue.
“Can you breathe?” Scott asked gently, trailing his fingers along my neck. I nodded, my finger loosely in my mouth at the first knuckle. Like a toddler. “What was that all about, then?” not a chiding question, but a typical British response to fuss. Only with so much love and care and concern that I started crying all over again. “Anna! What’s wrong?! Please tell me, love?!”
“I’m – s-s-sorry I d-destroy-oyed… the… the…” I couldn’t take a breath in. I forced the words out. “C-cameras – and… an-nd… that… ent-tire n-n-night…”
“Oh…” Scott’s voice was quiet. “That. Yeah… don’t worry about that, love.” he ran a hand through his hair quickly, and returned his grip to me. “I’d taken the footage off them. My hard-drive is completely fine. Cameras will be fine, too. They’re not damaged.”
“I w-was horrible t-t-to you…” I whispered. “I poured beer on you… I… I f-fucked around… the t-taxi…”
“Anna, is this why you’ve barely spoken to me all week?” I nodded. He laughed. He fucking laughed! He started to actually fucking laugh, and then wrapped his arms and legs around me and cuddled me properly. “Oh, Anna… You can speak to me, you know! I’m not going to get mad if you’re anxious. And besides, you clearly remember that night a little differently.” Only then did I look up at him through my puffy and painful eyes. There was no hate. No judgement. No anger. Those beautiful green-grey eyes that I adored so much were only full of love and amusement.
“How?” was all I could managed.
Scott explained the night to me. He doesn’t drink, for sure, but I hadn’t managed to get to the fifth pint at all. His friend from Yorkshire, Brennan, had stopped me after I’d bought it, and as it was a five quid pint, Scott had accepted the offer of it. He’d had one beer, and was therefore a little loopy himself. I hadn’t poured anything on him – it had been an empty glass, and I’d been so out of it that I’d just cuddled him and growled some words at some passing girls about how Scott was mine, and then I’d kissed him and told him again for the fifteenth time that night how much I didn’t deserve him, how handsome he was, and asked how it was possible for his eyes. No actual question, just literally ‘how is it possible that your eyes…?’. I’d also apparently told him at length how I wanted to – and I quote – ride him until my thighs gave out because I was so into him.
The GoPros were soaked through because I’d knocked over a half-empty glass, and it had hit the bag – a somewhat impossible thing, because of how the glass had landed. But no-one had noticed until the end of the night, and that’s why he was mad about it, because the case they were in wasn’t supposed to be bathed in beer or liquid. It had soaked in. He’d marched me from the pub because I’d pretty much given him a whispered commentary of the things I wanted to do when we got home. Apparently, his friends had long gone by that point. I had dragged him to McDonald’s, and he’d agreed on the grounds that I had a rest day the following day, AND I could do with something to soak up some of the alcohol. I had eaten the food I remembered (he found that charming as hell), but I’d forgotten the apple slices in the small bag that I’d begged the poor server for, and the glazed ring doughnut I’d cried literal tears over.
The taxi home had been eventful, again just because I’d apparently been so turned on by him as an individual. I’d asked him to tell me things from his latest video, and according to him I nearly came in the car next to him. The cabbie was apparently highly amused, and told Scott he was a lucky guy for pulling me, asked him his secrets. I hadn’t made it rain at all, either; Scott had dropped a tenner and a fiver, and I’d screamed ‘make it rain’ at the top of my lungs, and then I’d fallen on my arse in the middle of the empty main road. Scott hadn’t battled with our stuff, I’d only had a tiny bag that he’d stuck in his rucksack. He hadn’t thrown me in the shower – I’d gone in there myself after he’d brushed his teeth and I’d cried about how it smelled just like him. I then stripped myself off, and crawled onto the couch, cried a little more about how much I loved him, and then passed out. He’d stuck a bowl under my head and left me some water, and that had been that.
I sat there, dumbstruck, as the sun hit us and bathed us in the fresh summer warmth.
“So… I’m not mad at you. You’re an arsehole when you’re drunk, but you’re also massively into me, and honestly… if you weren’t in such a state, I’d offer you a couple of beers.” His smirk melted me fully, and I lifted my hand limply and made some half-arsed attempt at swatting him. He laughed and kissed me again. “Look, I’m not letting you go over one night you don’t remember properly. I won’t find another girl who loves me as much as I love her.”
“I… I do love you…”
“Then speak to me next time, yeah? Ask me if I’m mad at you. Okay?”
“Good. Now… I really need something to eat. Breakfast?” I nodded. Actual word vomit started to surface once I was on my feet. I pressed my hand to my mouth, but it wouldn’t stop.
“I applied for a year-long screenwriting course in New York and they accepted me on a full scholarship because I thought you hated me and I didn’t know how to handle it so I’ve accepted it and I’m supposed to fly out this week.” I stared at him. He stared at me. After a moment, he pulled his phone from his hoodie pouch and scrolled through something. “Say… say something…” He didn’t. The silence was tense.
“Well,” he murmured, after a moment. He looked up at me. “My schedule’s free or online for the moment. New York will be fun!”
And kids, with that, I actually did faint that time.