The L-Word Part II
He shook his head. "I'm tired of waiting for you to admit to yourself that you want to be with me. I can't do this anymore. So thanks for doing me the favor of getting the fuck out of my life."
She watched him go, and grit her teeth to fight the urge to fall over.
When the spell of dizziness had passed and she felt that she could open her eyes again without the world bucking before her, she slipped her phone out of her pocket.
She let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding when he answered.
"It's me," she said.
Brooke stared at the beige speckles dappling the ceiling in Sy's bedroom. She was starfished on his bed, a pillow under her neck. It was her position of choice. She was having trouble keeping her head up lately.
Sy was in the living room calling in sick to working on the play that afternoon.
He had dropped everything when she'd called. He blew off class and came straight to get her. The best part was that he didn't even worry. When she'd slid into the passenger seat he'd only smiled, "Mornin'."
He still hadn't asked her what was going on. He knew she'd tell him when she wanted to. And he knew that it wasn't nothing they couldn't handle.
She heard the door open and close and then felt the mattress shift as he seated himself beside her.
"Any constellations up there?"
"No, just a fucking mess."
Brooke willed herself to sit up. "He said that he loves me."
"And I ran away."
Sy barely muffled a laugh. "What you go and do that for?"
"Because…I just couldn't."
She glared at him and he smiled in return.
They both knew what she couldn't, but he was going to make her say it. Didn't he know that voicing it gave it form?
He was still waiting.
Of course he did. She gave up on malice. It never got anywhere with Sy. He was unbearably patient.
"I can't fall again," she said softly.
"But you wanna," he said, brushing curls out of her face.
She leaned into his palm, and met his eyes. "Yes," she whispered before looking away.
He laid back on the bed and pulled her down with him. They were face to face, Brooke's two hands squeezing the life of Sy's.
He placed his free hand over hers and held them there while she rode the wave.
Brooke let out a strangled sob. She shook her head, reigning herself in. This is why she'd gone to him, and not to Jae and not to Ty. He knew all the things she could never say out loud. When you've been in a relationship with someone, a mythic one like theirs, you acquire a unique knowledge of the other person. You are bare and all of your emotional truths come out.
It was Sy's intimate understanding of her vulnerability and desire for love that made her come to him. It was the only thing that allowed her to try to be free again.
"He ain't me," he whispered, as she calmed down.
She nodded. She knew that, but….
"Shh." He managed to still even her thoughts.
"You want this?"
She tilted her head imperceptibly in the affirmative.
"We got it then."
Brooke dragged herself out of Sy's oversized bean bag chair and into the living room, squinting at all the light flooding the apartment. Sy had wanted her to sleep in the bed, and she would've been up for sharing with him, but she didn't think it was a good idea. Though banked, there was still something. As it stood, she's threatened to leave if he wouldn't let her take the bean bag chair. It was big enough for three people and Brooke didn't take up a lot of space. She'd slept well. She just wasn't a morning person.
Hence the staggering and bumping into every single doorknob in the hallway. Sy should've heard her coming by now and poked his head into the hallway to laugh at her pathetic morning state. Where was he?
"He walked Janelle up the street to school," a voice said from the kitchen. "Some people don't just stop showing up whenever they please."
Brooke tried not to show her amusement. She headed through the open doorway into the kitchen, "Well if I'm at school, who's gonna do all these dishes?"
"At least you good for something." Mama J huffed, but unfastened her apron. "You better get all the practice you can now, 'fore you doing it for a living, the way you headed."
Brooke moved meekly towards the sink. Mama J had dropped out in ninth grade to take care of her mother and brother and sisters and thus didn't take kindly to skipping.
"The way I see it, children oughta be grateful they get to attend school at all." Mama J pulled a plate out of the cupboard and proceeded to pile it with homefries and sausage. "When I was comin' up, weren't no guarantees, law or no. If you was lucky enough to attend, you showed up early."
"Uh-huh," Brooke nodded, eyes fixed on the golden brown crumbling potato slices. She followed it out of the kitchen and around the corner to the dining room table, nodding every so often and chorusing, "I hear you."
Mama J lectured all the way to the closet and out the door. She paused on the threshold, and Brooke waited, fork in hand, for her concluding remarks.
"You be a good girl now, Brooke. You go and do what you gotta do. Even if it ain't easy."
The door to the library opened and Brooke braced herself for this confrontation. She'd chosen library duty that afternoon because she hoped that it would restrain her best friend. As she watched the children's heads pop out from studious devotion throughout the room, she realized she'd been wrong.
'Where the hell have you been?" Jae hissed.
She was quiet enough but her fury seemed palpable. Brooke ignored the desire to smirk. Jae knew exactly where she'd been. That was the real reason she was so pissed.
"You can't just up and disappear," Jae said. "You can't just stop answering your phone, crazy."
"Maybe," Brooke whispered. "This isn't the best place for this discussion."
Jae's eyes nearly popped out, "My girl goes off the grid for three days then pops back up like nothing happened? We'll have this discussion when and where I please."
"Alright. Can we at least step outside?"
Jae tossed a flow micro braids over her shoulder, "You really ain't in the position to be asking favors."
"Uh-huh." Brooke headed for the door.
Once in the hallway, Brooke allowed Jae to grab her by the shoulders and shake her for a minute. "Don't do that again!"
"Okay." Jae said, and walked down the hall to the gym.
"See you after?" Brooke called after her.
Jae replied with a grunt that Brooke took to mean "yes".
She was still grinning when she sat back down in her child-size chair in the library. It was always nice to know that people cared. Since Jae refused to acknowledge Sy's existence, she couldn't come visit Brooke at his house. And since Brooke had turned off her phone, there was really no other way to reach her. Oops.
She knew her best friend was just worried. Jae'd probably driven Ty crazy trying to come up with a reason why Brooke would go into hiding at her ex-boyfriend's house for days. It sounded ridiculous, but that's what she'd done and she'd do it again if it came to it.
She doubted it would, but she wasn't certain. Sy's unflappable confidence had worn off on her and she thought she was nearly ready to resolve…things. And if things didn't work out the way she wanted, it was nice to know that she had somewhere to go.
James saw Jake head towards him and braced himself. "Hey," he greeted, warily.
Jake didn't seem to pick up on it, "Hey, man. You seen Brooke?"
He snorted. "No." He'd suddenly lost all desire to be nice at the sound of that name. "And you know what? Why's it seem like that's the only thing you care about?"
Jake rocked back. "What?"
"When's the last time we had a conversation that wasn't about her? That was about just you or me or…. I don't know?"
Jake looked baffled. "I don't know. I'm sure we have. She's not all we talk about. But anyway, what's going on with you two?"
"I'm not her keeper." He pushed off the lockers and kept it moving.
"No," Jake said, when he caught up to him. "But you're her boyfriend and I haven't seen her all week."
He cursed himself for his momentary pause, then shook it off. "Not my problem."
"James." Jake put a hand on his arm.
He kept it moving. This wasn't his problem anymore.
He didn't stop until he'd made it around the corner and realized that Jake wasn't following anymore. Guess he got the message, he thought. He allowed himself to worry for a moment, and contemplated the cell phone in his pocket. He went so far as to trace it through his jeans before he stopped himself. It was Friday. He'd been doing so well. This is what she does, he told himself. This is how she pulls you back in. You can't keep doing this.
Sometimes Brooke wished she was make of weaker stuff. If that had been the case, she could have talked herself out of this. But no, being self-destructively bold, she was here, on James's porch ready to do this…whatever this was.
No butterflies, but a mild case of nausea—probably more from trying to stay upbeat and not succumb to the wave of self-disgust than anything else.
The door opened. Damn. She didn't even remember ringing the door bell.
"Come to break up with me for real this time?" James said by way of greeting.
What? But he'd already broken up with her? How could he think that she—
"I'm kidding, Merrin," he cut into her thoughts.
She followed him into the living room.
He flopped onto the arm chair. "What can I do you for?"
She couldn't begin. She just wanted to look at him for a while. He made it easy, sprawled out with one arm thrown casually across his face so he wouldn't have to look at her.
He looked good. Well, actually he looked tired, but it was so good to see him in 3-D, even if he didn't want to look at her.
She closed her eyes and tried to relax. She could do this. Sy had told her that she could do this and she had to do this.
"I wanted to say that I'm sorry."
The arm across his face slid down but he didn't turn to face her. His eyes were on the ceiling.
"For running away when you….for running away and for ignoring you.
"I thought I needed to work things out and I guess I did, but I'm sorry I didn't include you. I'm sorry I'm always including everyone but you."
She gave up on eye contact and focused on her hands in her lap. "It was just so out of the blue and then that cologne…"
If she had been looking at him, she would've seen him open his mouth to reply, but she was looking at her hands and continued on in a rush.
"But anyway, I wanted to say that I love you. Not the way you do me, but close. I really care about you, and believe me—I'm working on my crazy. See, I can even call it what it is now."
She looked up in time to see him smile despite himself.
"I think I'm going to get there, ok? Not because you're pulling me, but because I want to be there with you."
"C'mere, Blondie." he said in that gruff tone he donned when he was trying to be tough.
She walked around the coffee table to his chair. He pulled her onto his lap and wrapped his arms around her. They held each other, and James breathed in deep like he didn't want to smell anything else.
She hadn't known that she could feel this way about someone after Sy. She hadn't let herself.
"I missed you," she whispered and closed her eyes.
He tapped her cheek, "Look at me."
Her eyes flew open to see green the color of evergreens and nothing else. He looked at her like she was it and Brooke was only slightly ashamed to admit to herself that she liked it.
A/N: Super short chapter, I know. But this is where this little interlude needed to end. I probably should've just posted this chapter and the last chapter as one thing, but I didn't know where this part was going and I wanted to get the previous chapter up at a reasonable time. Anyway, what'd you think? Was it as expected? I figure no one saw Sy's intervention coming, but he's incredible. Anyway, thanks for reading. Hopefully, I'll post the next chapter soon-ish. I haven't started though, but I plan on brainstorming soon.
Calliope: Yeah, there weren't really a lot of options for places this story could go, but I like the way it's going. There's definitely more, and as for James, their relationship could not continue the way it was. It was kind of toxically one-sided.
Krazy_cutie_chic: Brooke has gotten her stuff together, finally! It feels like it's been a long time since I updated, but it's only a month, which is totally acceptable.
Whentheboysmiles: Brooke totally deserved it and she knows it.
Ghurl00: It was a week-long break up that I don't think anyone really thought would be permanent, but it was quite devastating on both sides.
Cherrypiesizzle: Brooke is nothing if not a ruiner of good things. I guess that's called "self-destructive" in modern terminology, but I like my version better. Glad you like James! I do too. And I kind of feel like, despite his submissiveness, it takes a certain kind of confidence to lower yourself. He's no alpha male, but he's a good guy. And he was mean enough in the beginning.
Ess3sandra: Well there will definitely be some sort of interaction. Sorry I'm so vague, but I gotta keep people guessing. And yes, I was trying to make James realistic. He's a nice guy but he's not gonna let Brooke snipe at him forever.
RhythmOfMySoul: I take your point, but the breakup wasn't supposed to be a total shock. Well, maybe the breakup, but Brooke messing stuff up was supposed to be expected. That's what she does. Plus the relationship could NOT continue in the way it was going. James is mildly romantic and he couldn't just be content to like Brooke forever. They spend too much time together and know each other too well for it not to blossom.
Courtney-chan: I guess you're right, though I have to admit that this story was conceived solely for the character of Sy. He is so awesome. I didn't really think much of James when I was dreaming this up, but I knew Brooke and Sy couldn't be together. And yes, I've been writing this for a ridiculously long time. The writing has fluctuated. I don't really like Brooke anymore, but I gotta finish it and she grows on me sometimes. Thanks for sticking with it!
Crimson-Angel21: I don't remember you, but that doesn't mean anything. My memory is not very good. I'm really glad you've stuck around though. I tried to look you up, but did you have a different username back when I started this? It's been a long time. Anyway, glad you still like it. Thanks!
Aliaschantra: Welcome! Thanks for reviewing. Wait, did you only read the last chapter? Nothing will make sense to you. I know the story's really long, but… Don't hate Brooke. She's just a mess is all and resistant to change. She's very sweet deep deep down.