Author's Note: I honestly don't know where this came from. It's really just a result of me being awake at 5am last night (this morning?) and having the urge to write something new. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this one-shot; please do read and review! With lots of constructive criticism. Con crit gets you cookies.
It always comes down to this. Waiting alone at three o'clock in the morning, trying to sleep but knowing I can't as I watch the fluorescent glare of the digital numbers change in a fluid blink that makes our time apart longer than it should be. It was never meant to be this way, not with Caden and I. Everything used to be so simple and fresh, but things soured so quickly. Too quickly. I should have gotten out of this years ago, years before it hurt this much, but I just couldn't see it. We always said that things would get better, but we have yet to see an improvement, any proof of this mantra we've kept repeating, year after year.
I know that when he eventually comes home tonight, he won't say anything to me. He won't even look at me until he's had a shower and washed away the evidence of his infidelity. Not that either of us have exactly been faithful recently. There have been so many one-night stands these past two years that we just turn a blind eye to them. But there is something different with Caden and this...other guy. This, this is a whole full-blown affair. And really, even that wouldn't have me so bothered if it wasn't for the fact that it isn't just fucking. I can tell when I see Caden. He hasn't really looked at me ever since this affair started. I mean, really looked at me. Whenever he does tentatively let his gaze meet mine, it's always veiled and there's a lack of emotion there that terrifies me. I know that I don't make a habit of wearing my own emotions on my sleeve, but I'm beyond terrified that it's finally happened. That Caden has fallen in love with this other man. That he no longer loves me. And despite our fights and bickering, and all the other evident imperfections in our seemingly fucked up relationship, I know that I love him with every ounce of my being. And it would kill me if he no longer feels the same way as I do.
In the beginning, it had all been so simple. So easy. We seemed happy, we were the golden couple. Everything about us...it just worked. I don't know what happened, or how, or why, but it hasn't been that way for a while now. Now, everything is just so wrong. There are things about Caden that I'd never noticed before. Things that I hate, just can't stand. There are the little things, like how he's always putting cartons of juice or milk back into the fridge when they're basically empty, with just a drop or two left. Or how he leaves his shoes in the middle of the floor, kicking them off as he wanders back into the flat. Or how he never puts things back where he found them, spatulas and whisks finding their way into the cutlery drawer, my CD's appearing on the dining-room table rather than their rack. Then there are the big things. And there seem to be so many big things... The fact that he's started lying to me, is a big thing. Especially when we used to share everything with each other, everything including our thoughts. There's also the fact that he's become more emotionally unavailable than a cardboard cut out. We used to always say we loved each other, used to always understand. And he doesn't love me anymore, another very big thing. I can see it in his eyes, in the way that he won't look at me. What we had is gone.
Caden still isn't home. The clock flashes red numbers at me that read four am. -I'm so glad that this clock is digital as I know that the ticking of hands would have me climbing the walls at this point. I know it's useless waiting any longer- perhaps it's finally happened and he isn't coming home- and I close my eyes against the tears that want to leak forth. I know it's useless. I won't sleep. But I try to play along with illusions I've created for myself and keep my eyes clenched tightly closed, hoping that sleep will eventually overcome me. Behind the closed lids of my eyes, forgotten scenes play on repeat, like the loop of a lost film. Everything seems so distant, from a different time, a different age when nights like these were unheard of.
My nostalgia trip is interrupted by the sound of keys jingling and the lock turning and catching. I open my eyes and glance at the clock, realising that I've been awake for an hour without falling asleep. And I'd forgotten to latch the door. I lie still, just listening as Caden's footsteps echo around the otherwise silent apartment, the rubber-soles of his Chuck Taylor's patting across our hardwood floor. There's a click as he latches and bolts the door, then the beeping of the alarm being set soon follows. He doesn't even look to see if I'm awake when he shuffles into the bedroom, shunting off his jeans and shirt, tossing them in a pile on the floor before he goes into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. I gaze at the thin strip of orange light that filters out from the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor, listening to the sounds of Caden turning on the tap and brushing his teeth, showering briefly before he walks out, damp and naked with the towel tossed carelessly over one shoulder. He's gorgeous. It feels like it's been years since I've been able to appreciate the beauty of his taut, tanned form, and I'm grateful for a moment now as he patters around the room, the open bathroom door casting just enough light around the bedroom for me to see him. His skin looks flawlessly smooth and golden, though probably aided a little by the glow of the bathroom light. His shaggy chocolate hair falls to his chin, wet and tousled from his shower. I can't see his eyes in the shadows but I know that their jade elegance is perfect as ever. Suddenly his head turns to look straight at me, his eyes falling heavily on me.
"You're awake," he says, though I'm not sure if he meant it as a question or a statement.
"Yeah. Couldn't sleep," I shrug, rolling over so that my back faces him and he's out of my sight. I don't think I can take him looking at me, not when I know where he's been.
The bed dips with his weight as he shuffles towards me slowly, carefully placing a hand on my pale shoulder. I don't react to it, merely letting it rest there, both of us absorbed in silence. Finally, he sighs and removes his hand, but he doesn't move.
"Sorry I'm so late," he whispers. There's something in his voice that makes me want to look at him, but I can't yet.
"Oliver... Come on, look at me, Oliver..."
I close my eyes against the tears that want to escape, against the sound of his voice and what I know is no longer there.
"Ollie..." he sighs, using the pet-name that I haven't heard from him in months.
Finally, I roll over and see him gazing at me worriedly, a slight furrow to his brow. For the first time in far too long, there's emotion in his eyes, a glimmer of hope that indicates he might still care about me, at least a little. I finally can't hold it back any longer, letting the tears of anger, hate and fear trickle down my cheeks. Caden's eyes widen with surprise and he leans forward to wrap me up in his arms, holding me tight against his naked body as I sob into his shoulder.
"Baby, what's wrong? Come on, talk to me Ollie..." he tries to coax me, his hands stroking my auburn hair gently as he cradles me against him with a tenderness that we haven't shared in so long.
When he pulls back to look at my tear-streaked face, I smell the faint scent of alcohol on his breath and peer at him, seeing the slight redness that rims the whites of his eyes. I frown, momentarily forgetting the dampness flowing down my cheeks, my mind still trying to process the fact that Caden's been drinking alcohol- something he hasn't done in so long. Caden rarely drinks- I'm the liquor-lover out of the two of us- and when he does, it's only when there's something bothering him. The alarm-bells in my mind suddenly go off, triggered by the rare scent of alcohol on Caden's breath and his sudden tenderness.
"You've been drinking. -Where have you been?" I demand, wiping at my eyes with the back of my hand.
He visibly pauses before he begins to speak slowly, his jade gaze dropping to look at the blue bed-sheet we're lying on.
"I've been...out. With- with..." he stammers, stumbling over the words that he's clearly having difficulty saying. My patience is wearing thin, and I realise that I've had enough. I had enough a while ago.
"Just fucking spit it out, Caden! I know who you've been with, I just want to hear you admit it," I say coldly, clearly surprising him with my sudden change of tone as he looks up at me, eyes wide.
"-Fine. I've been out. With Ian. The- the guy I've been seeing these past few months. There, I've said it- are you happy now?" he demands, staring straight at me again.
I just snort in disbelief and for a lack of anything else to say, tossing aside the sheets and getting to my feet. I'm already wearing my boxers so I just pull on an old t-shirt, faded and thin, before padding into the kitchen, switching on the lights on my way. We're not sleeping tonight. Caden appears behind me a moment later, wearing a pair of black silk boxers that set off his skin tone perfectly. That's probably one of the reasons this hasn't worked- we're so different. Here we are; me in my old, tatty night-clothes, and then there's Caden, impeccably thrown together in silk. No wonder we can't live together. It's the Beauty and the Beast- and not the Disney version.
I set about making myself a mug of tea, not bothering to ask if Caden wants one. -I don't care if he does. He can fucking make it himself. I sit myself down on the counter, my mug of comfort set in front of me and I go about ignoring Caden, who is hovering beside me uncertainly. If I actually cared, I'd be surprised by his mood today. Caden's never been one to shy away from a fight- especially not with me. Usually we'd be shouting at each other across the kitchen by now, rather than him hanging back by my side, waiting for me to say something. Finally, he speaks again, and this time he definitely has my attention.
"-He asked me to move in with him tonight. Ian, he wants me to move in with him."
I freeze, the room seeming to spin around me as Caden's words begin to sink in. It really has finally happened. This is the end of the road. We've been together for three years, with two of years of trying to hold everything together, three months of losing it all...and now, in three seconds, it's over. All of it.
Silently, I stand up again, Caden's eyes still trained in on me. I move past him wordlessly, going into the bedroom and yanking on a pair of jeans that are slung over the back of a chair. I can hear Caden coming into the room as I move around, picking up my stuff in an almost robotic daze, throwing it all onto the bed and looking for a bag to put it in. -I don't know where I'm going to go, especially at this awkward time, but I'm not really thinking about that right now. The only thing circling around in my mind is the fact that I have to get out of here. In the reflection of the mirror, I can see Caden standing in the doorway looking somewhat perplexed, watching me as I move about the room, creating a growing pile on the bed. -It seems as though I have far too much stuff, and I finally just sweep half of the pile off the bed and onto the floor, deciding to just settle for enough stuff to last me a few days.
"Oliver, what the hell are you doing?" Caden suddenly asks.
"What the fuck does it look like I'm doing? I'm leaving!"
I spin around to face him, astonished by his question. Why? Why the hell else would I leave? He can't go and have his happily-ever-after life with this Ian guy if I'm still around. I just want to kick Caden...and at the same time, I want to grab hold of him and kiss him senseless, begging him not to end this. My mind is reeling from the dualling emotions tugging at my heart and I turn away from Caden, hoping that it will all be easier if I just don't look at him anymore.
"You need to stop this, now. Ollie-"
"Don't fucking call me that!" I hiss, turning to face him again and regretting it instantly.
His eyes are glistening with unshed tears as he gazes at me, looking helpless. He sinks down to perch on the side of the bed and looks back up at me, waiting for me to join him. I don't know why, but I find myself slowly moving to sit by him, careful to ensure that there's a suitable distance between us.
"Just listen to me, alright Oliver? Just...just listen, please," he begs, turning to fix me with a look I can't refuse before he sighs and continues to speak, "Ian asked me to move in with him tonight. When he asked me, I thought that finally, something had happened that I wanted, that I needed. I- I was going to say yes. But when I opened my mouth to say it, I 't. And I told him that I had to think about it, and I just ran out of there. I ended up at this really grotty bar and it seems like I sat there for hours, trying to find the answer at the bottom of a glass of beer but all I could do was just think about everything. These past two years...these past three months. Ian. Us. You. -I thought about you a lot, actually."
He turns to look at me when he says that, and I want to interject but I can tell that he isn't done yet, that he has more to say. So I sit, silently absorbing every word that leaves Caden's mouth.
"I know these past two years have been shit. We've been shit to each other- I'm not going to take all the blame for it, because I know that you realise some things hang over your head too- and everything has... Well, it's all gone to pot, hasn't it? Nothing is the way that it should be, we're just useless together, and really...we've just lost it. Or at least I thought we had. But then, when I was sitting there, I realised that we can't have lost it, or I would have said yes to Ian. I mean, I literally couldn't say yes to him- it was like I lost my voice when I tried to say it and regained it immediately afterwards. So then I called him- Ian- and said no. And you would not believe how easily those words came out when I ended it with him. Letting go of him was just so easy, so natural but the mere thought of leaving you... -I just couldn't do it."
I think he's finished now. I can't really tell. I'm too distracted by the sudden tightening of my chest and the lump of emotion that seems to have lodged itself in my throat. I can't really see Caden anymore, and then I realise it's due to the tears that are clouding my vision. Caden's fingers are gently wiping them away, slowly putting him back in my line of sight as he patiently waits for me to say something.
"So- so you're not leaving?" I manage to choke out, still wiping at my eyes.
"No. I can't leave you, Ollie... I love you."
And finally, I turn and melt into his arms, clutching onto him desperately as I cry into his bare shoulder. His hands are stroking my hair, caressing my back, just holding me to him. At this moment I've never felt so angry, so scared, so desperate. But overwriting all those other emotions is this immense feeling of love that is squeezing my heart in such a tight grip that it doesn't seem as though it'll ever let go. But here, with Caden holding me in his arms, I don't think I want it to.
Caden whispers his apologies into my ears, kissing my hair as he does so. He makes new promises that he swears to keep- a promise of fidelity, a promise of time, a promise of partnership. A promise of love. I reiterate what he has already said, making my own promises to him which I will spend the rest of my life trying to keep. I know it isn't going to be perfect- we're only human, we're meant to be flawed- but it will be as close to perfect as we can possibly make it. So we won't be the golden couple- that was only an illusion after all. From now on we'll be real, we'll be us, we'll be together.
It feels like years since Caden has held me like this, wrapped up in his arms, our bodies warm and flush against each other. After we've made love he murmurs something unintelligible in my ear before folding me into his arms again, kissing my neck and falling asleep almost immediately. I can see the muted light of early morning peeping its rays through a crack in the curtains, stroking the room with a subdued golden hue. It falls across us and the bed in thin strips as fine as golden thread, just enough to remind us of the world outside of our room, our flat, our life. Just enough, but not so much so that I found myself being drawn out of this moment. I knew there would seem to be moments of perfection, but between all of those were the hiccups, the challenges that we'd have to work through. And that was okay. After all, with mornings like this one to look forward to, I'm willing to endure it. Because I know that it will always come down to this.