Perfect. I don’t even want to look at what I’ve written. If it’s any reflection of my thoughts, I’ve said something along the lines of: remain a virgin. Do not engage. Run away while you can.
Not that refraining from sex would have protected me from Drew. He’d burrowed beneath my skin before he’d laid a finger on me.
People come and go, and a few glance at me, as if they know me. I don’t get it, but I also don’t really care.
I’m about to leave when Iris finds me. Her smile is the overly bright one she uses when she wants to cheer me up.
“I guess you had a rough day,” she says, as she sits in the chair opposite me.
“What are you talking about?” We both know, but I don’t know how she knows.
“People are tweeting that Battle Baylor had a ‘lover’s tiff with some foxy redhead’ on campus today.”
“People f**king tweet about that shit?” is all I can blurt out. Holy shit. They’re tweeting? Who the hell are these people? Don’t they have a life?
Iris looks at me as if I’m crazy. “Of course they tweet about it! He’s Drew Baylor, girl.”
“And how the hell did you even see these tweets?”
Iris shrugs. “There’s a hashtag. #BattleBaylor. I follow it.”
Of course he has his own hashtag.
“You follow it? Are you kidding me?”
“Me and a couple-thousand other people. I started to follow it when you hooked up with him.”
I groan and press the cold heels of my hands against my aching eyes.
“Don’t worry, sweetie.” Iris gives me a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. “At least there are no pictures. Not yet anyway. Though I haven’t checked on Instagram. We’ll do that later.”
“Oh, God.” I hadn’t even considered pictures. I want to die. Just die. I think I might if there is photographic evidence of Drew shouting at me. I officially hate f**king social media. I’m banning myself from it. For life.
“So.” Iris picks up my coffee, finds it cold and sets it back down with a frown. “What happened? You get tired of all that endless sex?”
The question slaps into me. I think I actually flinch. She’s grinning at me as if my heart hasn’t just been ripped out of my chest. Apparently, I’ve been too effective in my protest that Drew and I were nothing serious. Either that, or misery loves company. Whatever it is, I want her gone.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Did you ask for exclusivity, and he gave you the brush off?” There’s a hard glint in her eyes. “Because I’ll kick his ass if he hurt my Anna Banana.”
“I don’t know what’s worse,” I say with little heat, “the fact that you think I was part of some harem or that you think I would be begging.” I don’t add the laughable idea of Iris kicking Drew’s ass. That part is kind of sweet. Even if the twerp just called me desperate.
“I know,” says Iris. “You fell in love with him and blurted it out. And now he’s running scared.”
That is it. I’m done. I collect my laptop and shove it into my bag. “No,” I say in a falsely bright voice. “It was because he wanted to kiss me in public, and I treated him like he had the f**king plague. And when he said he wanted me to be his, I threw that back in his face too.” I stand and shoulder my bag as she gapes up at me. “Don’t you know? I’m incapable of falling in love and all that feeling shit.”
Night finds me alone, listening to Trent Reznor sing Closer, the volume so loud that poor Souixsie vibrates against my wall, in danger of falling to her doom.
At least I’m not wallowing on the floor, hugging a pillow like the poster child for broken hearts everywhere. No, I’m beating the shit out of the punching bag George set up for me on my twenty-first birthday. Because, as he said, I ought to be able to beat the shit out of something now and then.
But the only person I want to beat up now is myself. My knuckles hurt as I pummel the hard bag. It isn’t enough. I hit it again and again. Sweat pours down my face, burns my eyes. I don’t hear the door open or his footsteps as he crosses the room.
I don’t even notice him until he stands next to me. My breath saws in and out as I halt, resting my gloved hands on my hips.
George’s dark eyes take everything in. Sadness and sympathy dwell in those eyes of his, but he does his best. “Nine Inch Nails?” he asks. “Really, Banana?”
Poor Trent, so misunderstood in this song. It’s not about f**king. It’s about need, desperation for salvation. My eyes burn and I fight for a breath.
“Seemed appropriate,” I say. And then burst out crying.
George pulls me in and hugs me tight. A few seconds later, Iris comes into the room. The three of us huddle together, but they’re the ones holding me up.
MY FEET HIT the pavement with a loud thump, thump, thump that pounds right into my head. I don’t know where I am or where I’m going. I just run. My shins burn and my throat is raw, but that’s nothing compared to the yawning chasm spreading over my chest. Pain. It pushes out from my heart and through my bones, my veins, my skin like a thick, ugly sludge. Holy f**k, it hurts.
I pick up my pace, trying to outrun the pain. It only grows.
What have I done? What have I done?
The ugly scene replays itself. I remember my words, the way they flowed from my mouth as if I was outside of myself, unable to control them. But I didn’t stop, and she didn’t contradict me. She didn’t make one protest when I walked away.