The hardest part about coming home was that, even after I had been so sure of myself, so sure that this was what I had wanted; I felt guilty. I wasn’t a vicious or callous person, but I had done a cruel thing and there was no denying it. No matter how hard I tried.
Perhaps, not regretting it made me a bad person but if it did, I was okay with that. My only hope was that Carl never learned the reason I left him. I never wanted to hurt him, I just wasn’t in love with him.
Carl picked me up from the train station and we rode home in silence. I wondered if there were clues left on my skin that it had been touched by somebody who wasn’t Carl. When we arrived at his, I couldn’t look him in the eye. He reached down to kiss me but I titled my head slightly, so that he had to kiss the corner of my mouth. I didn’t want him to taste another man on my lips.
I looked around me as I threw my bag to the bottom of his stairs. Nothing here was mine; I had no personality in this house. I opened the back door to get some air and sat on the stone steps in his garden. A couple of seconds passed before I heard Carl behind me, pain thrashing around in his throat. “Babe? What’s wrong?”
I looked up, his lean torso towering over me and I remembered something I had heard a long time ago; “If you love somebody, you can never be friends with them.” I pulled at the grass by my feet, “it wouldn’t hurt me to be his friend. If anything I think I’d be happier”. The shock admission ran through my head, cascading guilt through my soul.
We were childhood sweethearts, but I wasn’t a child anymore. I needed to be free and I wore the boredom on my body like an old coat. I thought back to that morning; the distaste had lingered on my tongue, between my teeth, it choked me as I stirred.
My boyfriend’s alarm went off; the same time it had every morning. Carl climbed out of bed to begin his morning routine; the same way he did every morning. I rolled back under the covers, seeking solace in his duvet. I wasn’t ready to see the world.
I’d been texting Brad for a few weeks. We’d known each other for years, he was best friends older brother; as long as I had known Brad, Carl and I had been together. At first it was the odd one liner, the bad joke, the insulting comment but now things were different. I found myself reaching for my phone first thing every morning to see if Brad had messaged me. I liked the idea of being the first thing on his mind when he woke up. He was definitely the first person on mine. That day was no different.
Carl drove us to the train station in silence. The rain came down hard and collided with the windows making tiny tears down the glass. My mind was somewhere else. I looked at Carl, his mousy brown hair was a credit to his temperament and his eyes were a darker shade of kind. His lips were plump but wonky. Almost desirable, but not quite. He had features that on their own were docile and bleak, they made his face bland at best. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.
Carl turned and smiled at me. “Have fun this weekend, send my love to everyone.” I looked back out the window as if to ignore him, but placed my hand on his thigh. It was skinny, skinnier than mine. “I will.” It wasn’t a flippant comment; I knew I would have fun. I just didn’t know how much.
The day passed by in a blur. At work I didn’t do much. I spent the day texting Brad, telling him all the crass things I would let him do to me and I to him in return. On the train, I got ready. I had planned this outfit for weeks. The top was black and cropped to show my abs. The long sleeves were fishnet, showing peaks of my freshly tanned skin. The jeans were black and clinched at my waist. As my train pulled into St. Pancras Station, I caught a glimpse of my reflection; I looked good. I looked single.
When I arrived at the bar, Brad was already there. We had spoken so much over the last few weeks that nerves got the better of me and I skirted around everyone else before the two of us naturally collided together. We sat side by side; whilst my best friend and Brads brother, Paul sat on the other side of me. Paul thought dearly of us both, that much was clear… but did he need to know how much we wanted each other? I decided probably not.
Paul stood up, empty glass in one hand, worn leather wallet in the other. He wasn’t asking as he already knew the answer, but ever the party starter – he announced: “Who wants a beer?” From my left ear I heard the cheer of something a little harder “Tequila! Get some Tequila!”
I turned to look at Brad. His mocha coloured hair fell loosely around his chiselled face. I wanted to run my hands through it as I kissed his soft lips. They looked sensational tonight, half pouting and half smirking. The curve of his cheeks where they met his dimples had always been my favourite part – he was cheeky and it showed in everything he did. The way his tanned arm protectively but casually hugged the back of my chair; the way his muscular legs rested just a little too close to mine under the table; the way his broad shoulders subtly grazed mine. He leaned into his pocket to pull out a handful of notes for his brother. Paul took the money and turned towards the bar; as he did, Brad caught my eye and winked…