May 30th, 2020
Country: United States
August 14, 2018
05/29/2020 12:03 PM
drabble; no for an answer.
“You look like Hell, kiddo.”
When Byron asked to see me, I almost ignored him; and when he said that, I wished I had. I couldn’t speak, any morbid quip in my arsenal hurled out the nearest window and lost to the wind. I stared at the window like the words had become tangible, fluttering away like I wished I could.
If I opened my mouth, I didn’t think it’d be words coming out anyway. I must have looked pretty pathetic, sitting there rubbing at the endless itch in my arm, too wrapped up in my own head to even talk to him; too preoccupied with how ungodly hot my apartment suddenly became. I thought about checking the thermostat for the fortieth time, despite knowing it wouldn’t serve any other purpose than distracting me from that comment.
I ached everywhere, even in places I was hardly aware of half the time, and that was enough to keep me grounded in place, just staring out the window in silence, watching my words with no hope of getting them back so I could redirect them at Byron. This wasn’t the way we operated. I was supposed to tell him to screw off, but I didn’t have it in me.
“Sorry…” he muttered. From the corner of my eye, I saw him shifting around in his seat. I wondered if he regretted his decision to come by. He had to have. No one in their right mind could have ever wanted to be there. Even I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be anywhere. The whole time we sat across from each other, I pretended to be on a beach somewhere where no one expected a thing from me; where the insufferable itch couldn’t bother me; where the chilly wind would have been enough to keep me from suffocating in my own skin, and I could hold a meal down for more than two hours.
“No, I know I do,” I finally said, but still couldn’t look at him. “The I Just Threw Up Like Six Times aesthetic doesn’t really have the glow I was hoping for.”
“There’s Casey.” Byron laughed. “So how do you feel? About the video?”
“Like an idiot.” I had to be pretty f***ed up to cry on camera where the whole world could see it, right? There was a time where I didn’t let anyone see me cry, no matter how close they were, but it felt light years away right then. “I guess I deserve it, huh?”
I couldn’t bring myself to say any of it out loud. It was silly to hate that he couldn’t just tell, and I knew it was, but that didn’t stop me.
“Hey, look, don’t be so hard on yourself. You had a slip, Casey, it happens. And I knew you’d be sitting around doing this, which was why I wanted to come see you.” I saw him stand out of the corner of my eye, walking over to the window to crack it open. “I didn’t want you to be sitting here alone if you felt like that.”
“You’re my personal suicide watch now or something?” I raised an eyebrow.
“Maybe a little.” Byron let out a long sigh. I imagined it was probably what it looked liked like when you disappointed your parent. “You remember when you first auditioned on Talent?”
I wasn’t sure where he was going with that one, and wasn’t sure I wanted to either. “Yes?”
“You marched into that little room with ripped up pants and a split lip and you weren’t gonna take no for an answer. By the end of your audition, we didn’t even care about those things, we cared about the kid behind them because we knew he was gonna rise to the top. We knew if he wouldn’t take no from us, he wouldn’t take it from anyone.”
Still not sure where he was going. “Yeah, and then I got eliminated. What’s your point?”
“Sure, you did. You slipped, but you caught yourself, you see? Look where you are. You, Jacob and Isaiah, all at the top. You didn’t take no from an answer. You built your own way. You’ve been here before, Casey. When we called you in to let you go, you looked a lot like you look right now.”
“Oh, great.” I laughed. I didn’t get it at all, unless maybe he was trying to scare me, that seemed reasonable. “So I just keep doing this over and over.”
“Not necessarily. When we called you in that day, you were distracted and tense like you are now. You were tapping your heel and biting your nails, we’d never really seen you like that. But there was a difference too, so bear with me, pay attention. You were ready to fight us on whatever we had to say that day. You yelled at us for inviting you to play one more time, remember that? Because you didn’t wanna be embarrassed or cry on camera. And now you just showed the whole world that you’re human too.” Byron came to sit beside me. If everything didn’t hurt so bad, I’d have moved away. All I could really do was sit there staring at him, trying to process what he had to say.
“You’re human. You cry like everyone else. You make mistakes like everyone else, and just like everyone else, you can learn from them. This is the very bottom, and now you have a choice; sit here, or pull yourself back up the ladder, you know?”
“Yeah…”He made perfect sense, but it didn’t stop me from wishing I hadn’t done it at all. If I hadn’t slipped at all, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I wouldn’t be crying again for the hundredth time in three days. “I know.”
“I know you do.” Byron patted my shoulder. I flinched without meaning to, and he retracted his hand. “I didn’t come here to make you feel bad about all this, I hope that isn’t the case.”
“I made myself feel bad, man,” I remarked. “None of this is anybody’s fault but mine. I appreciate you coming to check on me.”
“You’ve got people in your corner, Casey. Whether you think you deserve it or not, okay?”
“I appreciate that.” I was furiously swiping at my face, trying to knock it off, but holding it together also felt like a very distant memory. “Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize, learn. It won’t be easy and you know that now, but I know you can do this. Don’t take no for an answer, Casey, okay? Don’t take no for an answer.”
05/29/2020 12:03 PM
drabble; if he still loved me.
[ From Sarah’s POV. Continuation of this piece that I’ve been trying to put together for a thousand years, and finally here it is. ]
cw: suicide mention
When Casey started sending her strange, disoriented text messages, Sarah thought he was messing with her. Of course she’d never known him to play such childish pranks, but then, she’d never known him to be a cheater either, and yet, there they were; in separate houses, communicating in faulty text messages. She’d tried multiple times to reel him in, asking what he was doing, only to get something ridiculous back. And then finally, a goodbye that was nearly unreadable.
She read it over and over as she sat in the hospital waiting room, Christian sitting beside her. The situation wasn’t ideal, and had she known Christian broke up with Casey shortly after the big blowup, she might have avoided calling him, but she couldn’t deny being thankful to have someone there.
“You think he’ll be okay?” He asked, drawing her attention from her phone.
“I think he’s a f***ing idiot,” she spited, lowering her phone, looking down the hallway where they took him, her eyes welling up. She never mentioned her exchange with Casey beforehand, where she’d said something unspeakable, and he’d apparently taken her advice.
After three hours of waiting in awkward silence, Sarah was allowed to see him, though she wasn’t sure she wanted to. She stood at the edge of the door, glancing over her shoulder. She could have walked away and had Christian deal with it, but she was too stubborn to suggest it. That would only be admitting he’d been the better fit all along.
“He’s still asleep, but you can see him.”
“Is he gonna be okay?”
“He’ll recover. Were you with him when it happened?”
Sarah shook her head. “He was sending me weird messages, so I went over.”
“It’s good you did.” The nurse rambled on about suicide hotlines, and different programs. Sarah didn’t have the heart to mention that, although not divorced on paper quite yet, they’d been separated for some time. Finally, the nurse stepped out and let her see him.
She used to watch him sleep all the time. He looked like a doll when he slept, face perfectly sculpted to embody tranquility. She always admired the two little moles on his chin, placed just right, as if carefully painted there. His blonde-blonde eyelashes. The way his hair fell in waves around his face. He had a light snore that she never minded listening to. When he moved out, she wished she’d taken a picture all the times she thought about it, but hadn’t wanted to wake him.
And now, looking at him in a hospital bed, he looked anything but peaceful, the moles on his chin concealed by a breathing mask, hair tucked back behind his ear, eyelashes sticky and unrecognizable as the blonde ones she'd always admired. And it was her fault. Were he to wake up and hear her apology, would he accept it? No. In all likelihood, he’d make a crack about having been waiting for permission.
She looked over his features once more as she stepped in closer; features she once fawned over, then hated, then missed. Features she may have killed to see again, if only they could look favorably on her like they used to. But if he were to open his eyes, she knew she wasn’t the person he’d want to see first. Maybe Savannah, but not her.
There was a small knock on the door, Christian standing at the door frame. Sarah turned her head, then went back to staring at Casey. It wasn’t her he’d want to see. It was probably Christian.
“They say he’s doin’ good?”
“Yeah.” Sarah shrugged. “How come you broke up with him?”
“Trying to say this is my fault?” Christian mused.
“No, no.” Sarah shook her head. “I just wanted to know why… if he loved you, I wanted to know why you’d let that go.”
“Well, that’s… awkward…”
“What’s awkward is finding love-letter text messages to another man on your husband’s phone,” Sarah remarked. “You don’t have to tell me.”
Christian stepped a bit closer to the bed, looking Casey over. “I love him too,” he admitted. “I still love ‘im, but Casey has a lot of working on himself to do. I wanted him to come clean when it first started, but he always pushes anything awkward or inconvenient away. If I stayed with him, it would have caused more problems.”
“I think Casey loved me, but he never said the things to me that he said to you.”
“I wished I could have done better, but I think you messed up.”
“So, you are trying to put this on me.”
“Nope. Just telling you the truth.” Sarah shook her head. She started inching near the door. On the off-chance he did wake up, Sarah didn’t think she could face the disappointment that might cross his face if he saw her there. “I think he’s a f***ing prick for what he did to me, and he deserves every bit of backlash he got from it, but I think you were stupid too.”
“Oh-kay? This still sounds like you’re saying this is my fault.”
“It’s mine,” Sarah finally blurted out, no longer able to fight back the tears she didn’t want to give Christian the satisfaction of seeing. “I told him to.”
“You --- wait, what?”
“I told him to do it.” Raking her fingers through her hair, Sarah huffed, turning her head so she didn’t have to see the disgusted look on Christian’s face. She was disgusted with herself enough for the both of them. “We were already fighting and I said we’d both be better off if he offed himself. I didn’t think he would -- I wasn’t like -- I thought he’d just tell me to f*** off, I wasn’t really wanting him to --.”
“You know as well as I do he’d take that seriously, Sarah,” Christian snapped. “But I can’t even pretend to imagine what this sh*t all feels like for you, so… I guess I can’t scold you too bad…”
Sarah wiped her face, keeping her head turned away. “I wish I never said it. Looks like I hurt him even after he’s done everything he can to get the hell away from me, huh?”
“You both hurt each other.”
“I still think you were wrong. After all that -- all this sh*t, isn’t that stupid? I’d have stayed with him forever if he still loved me.”
05/22/2020 12:19 PM
Continuation from here.
cw: suicidal thoughts
The whole room engulfed in steam; idle hum of running water not quite loud enough to block out the embarrassing way he heaves after crying, but at least this time, he’s alone. Casey is entering the second hour of being huddled into the tiniest corner of his bathroom on the floor, knees pulled tight to his chest. The water’s gone cold, but he can’t will himself up to turn it off.
On this day, even his self-made purgatory -- his most long-standing defense against the outside world -- can’t save him, thus he succumbs to indulging in the ridiculous hope that all the steam will somehow suffocate him in a freak, but freeing, accident.
That’s the only sanctuary that feels real. It’s the only proven painkiller for the way his chest aches -- the only muscle relaxer for the way his shoulders lock in place to stop themselves from shaking. Ironically, it’s also the most highly condemned, for it has one extremely adverse side effect; and that’s that it puts all the pain on everyone around him.
How long is he supposed to stick it out before that consideration is no longer necessary?
He knows he’s being stupid. It’s ludicrous to stand at the top of the world, wishing he’d fall. Still, the thought of moving forward still makes him sick to his stomach with dread. Grow up, he internally scolds himself, but maybe the teenager who’d once furnished his bathtub with blankets and pillows to further distance himself from his mother will never quite leave him.
His phone starts to ring from on top of the counter. It’s successful in distracting him, but he can’t bring himself to reach for it because he can’t stand the thought of embarrassing himself in front of anyone else. He can’t stand the idea of letting others pick up the pieces when he’s the one who dropped the glass.
At least here, when shards are scattered everywhere -- when he's entirely failed to keep himself together, he’s alone.
05/22/2020 12:19 PM
Casey takes a long breath in front of his computer screen, the camera on him. Jacob sits across the room, giving a thumbs up. He tries his best to block out the fact that he's there before he chickens out. His face is flushed, eyes puffy and swollen from rubbing at them. Not a single part of Casey wants to be seen so frail, but every part of him knows he has to. He allows himself another moment, then turns on the camera, an instinctive wince at the teary-eyed reflection before him, disgustingly fragile, so hopeless-looking he wants to retract, recede back into hiding and leave his criticized statement as is.
“Hello,” he finally speaks, clearing his throat, though the tightness in his chest remains unshakable. “Um… This is… not really an ideal situation, and totally not the way I wanna face you guys, all like -- sniffly and crying and overall gross, but I’ve kinda already screwed up all my other chances, so I guess here we are. I know no one was really happy with the statement I already made, because it didn’t really say anything I don’t always say. The fact of the matter is, I just had no idea WHAT to say.”
Casey looks away from the camera, his eyebrows knit together. Jacob motions his hand to urge him further. “I haven’t been eating or sleeping… basically at all, really. I can’t… bring myself to do anything.” He wipes at his eye, taking another deep breath. Still no relief, just the added symptom of a hammering heart. “There’s some days where I feel kinda okay, like at the studio or at the shop or whatever, then I go home and just something comes over me. I honestly just kept hoping it would let up and things would get better, but instead, it’s spiraled out of control into this big thing and it feels impossible right now for me to reel it in. I try and keep up with the usual stuff, with the posts, and all that but then it just gets worse.”
The last time he posted anything normal, the only response was that he was covering things up -- that he was deflecting. “To come on every single day to this just massive pile of ‘you’re not doing this right’, ‘you’re a piece of sh*t ‘cause of this or that’, it’s hard for me, but I get it. It’s really hard for me to come right out and say, hey, something is really wrong with me, I really need help. I’ve just never done that, I’ve never really had to do it, and I don’t like doing it because I don’t want people looking down on me or feeling sorry for me or anything. I hate for people to see me when I’m down, but that’s… hiding out until it passes is clearly not really working out right now.” Casey scoffs a small laugh, rolling his eyes. The knot in his throat aches more the longer he tries to speak over it -- the longer he tries to control an oncoming explosion.
“And I had this sh*t all planned out and ready, and now that I’m like… ready to go, I’m totally just wrecking it, I’m sorry, I know I sound frustrating just rambling on. I’m really sorry for everything you guys have had to see. I’m sorry to disappoint all of you, this isn’t the image I want to project for myself, or the band. I have high expectations of myself. I push myself pretty hard to act like I’m okay when I’m not, and even harder to hide myself away from everyone. I don’t like for people to have to worry or help me, I like to take on everything alone, because that’s just how I’ve always known to do it. And in that, I’ve found myself feeling pretty alone emotionally, like -- I know that sounds obvious, like of course you’re alone, you pushed everyone out, but it’s lonely for me because I just don’t feel like anyone but me can help me. But then, what happens when even I can’t help me, you know?”
Casey lowers his head. He’s given up trying to catch tears before they fall, instead letting them trickle freely down his cheek, off his chin. “I don’t really know where I was going with that. Um…” He sucks a breath through his nose. “So last time I went on the little rehab adventure, it was because I was addicted to Benzodiazepines. And I guess… my dumb perfectionist self, I just thought once I got out of there, it was okay. I felt okay, I didn’t really wanna do them anymore, and so we were good, moving on. We started tour -- basically, it was right after that, so you let the stress kicked in, and the partying started, and that kinda just… kicked it back up, and so now there’s a lot of probably funny, probably embarrassing videos of me stumbling around like an idiot on tour. I thought it could be just like a ‘I’m on vacation, letting loose and then I’ll stop’ but I see now that’s pretty outrageous. So, I will be checking in for the second time, and that means we’ll have to post-pone a few things, including the Break Sessions. It kills me to say that, because that’s totally giving up on my sense of normalcy, but right now, I can’t commit to it. This means a few things are gonna have to move around, so I hope you guys will hang with us while we figure it out.”
Casey stares out the window for a few moments in silence, his teeth grit together. “Like I said, I’m very sorry to you guys for all the weirdness. I’m sorry to my band, I know this horribly inconvenient for them, so please give them some love too because they’ve had to put up with this bullsh*t longer than anyone. And most importantly, I’m sorry to my daughter, who one-hundred percent deserves better. I can’t even fathom what this must look like to her, I know I’m like… the worst for that especially.”
He rakes his fingers through his hair, clearing his throat, lip quivering, hands trembling as every part of him desperately tries to remain composed. “We’ll be keeping you guys posted on new dates for everything. I’d like to say the new EP is still very much on track, but I understand those who are rolling their eyes at me right now for saying that. I hope… if anything, this gives some people a better explanation of what’s been going on with me.”
With a long sigh, Casey finally reaches over to his keyboard, finger hovering over the button to turn off the camera. “I’m gonna wrap this up, so… I appreciate all those who, without me having done this, have still supported me and sent well-wishes. I hope those that were disappointed and upset can forgive me, or at least understand. And lastly, I hope to see you all at my best very soon.”
The camera shuts off. Casey finally lets out every ounce of air he’s been holding in, but he doesn’t feel any better. His chest feels just as tight as before. His heart races at the prospect of his entire inner-workings being on display for anyone who cares to see them.
“You feel better?” Jacob asks from the corner of the room. He wouldn’t have invited anyone normally, but he figured if the whole world could watch it, he might as well have someone to unravel too. It’s the final symbol of his falling apart.
Casey has his elbow leaned on the desk, his head rested in his hand. “Not in the slightest, no.”
05/22/2020 12:18 PM
[ written from the POV of Christian Thompson.]
“Dude, so what’s going on with you?”
The question appeared to go unnoticed at first, perhaps blocked out by the humming of chatter around them, the clamoring of plates in the kitchen just beside their booth. Or, perhaps Casey was just ignoring him like he always did when Christian forced him to think about anything.
He looked out of it already, his eyes glazed over, bloodshot; hair in a disarray, lazily tied in a ponytail. He looked like he was about to fall asleep at the table until Christian said something, and then he visibly tensed, but didn’t speak. Christian opened his mouth to prod him, but he finally looked up, eyebrows furrowed. “What do you mean?”
Christian laughed, though it was more annoyance than anything. Casey was open about one thing, and one thing only, and that was that his walls were sealed and guarded. He was nearly impossible to talk to, and navigating around those walls had become a routine Christian would probably never get used to. Along the way, he found a few loopholes and tricks. He’d become familiar with most of the little traps Casey laid down to protect himself, one of them being to play dumb. Sometimes Christian had to wonder how many people let him get away with that; evidently, too many.
Christian caught a slight twitch in Casey’s eye, but otherwise, his face was like a stone. He sluggishly slid a full plate aside so he could prop his elbow on the table, chin resting in his palm.
Christian stared at him, eyebrows raised. “You know what I mean, kid.”
Casey’s eyes narrowed, then his gaze faltered again toward the window. “You read the statement too,” he pointed out. “You know exactly what’s going on.”
Christian shook his head. “Your statement was the same thing you’ve been saying for months, dude. Everyone and their mother already knew there was something going on, but you didn’t say anything. I’m worried about you.”
“Yes, it is the same thing I’ve been saying for months, but apparently people still aren’t listening,” Casey snapped. “I don’t know what else you want me to say.”
“Okay, but ‘I’m going through a hard time, I’ll be fine soon’ doesn’t cut it with me, and you know that.”
Casey rolled his eyes. “Well, that sounds like a lot of your problem, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is my problem, and your band’s problem, and Sarah’s problem, and Savannah’s problem, you get it?” Christian leaned a little further in, as if to shut out any onlookers. “Listen, dude, you are f***ing up. You look like a f***ing idiot and the whole world can see it. You’re lucky Sarah’s finally grown some patience, ‘cause she has every right to keep that kid away from you.”
Christian didn’t know what he was expecting, and in fact, he hadn’t meant to take it that far, but he’d been watching in silence too long. Casey didn’t look at him -- just stared into his plate with his lips pursed together, and then without a word, he got up and left the table, all eyes on him as he stormed out the front door.
Casey had always been more for running and hiding. In the face of conflict, he had many tactics designed to keep himself closed off, and if they all happened to fail, he ran. It was the reason they never worked out. It was the reason that, despite loving everything else about him more than he could ever put into words, Christian had to let him go. In that, Christian hoped Casey would grow a little and learn to look in on himself, but apparently that hadn’t been the case, and before Christian knew it, he was stuck with the bill for a wasted plate.
When he got out the front door, he saw Casey standing a little further down the sidewalk. His back was against the wall, arms folded tightly over his chest as he stared down the road, watching the oncoming cars pass. Christian wasn’t about to walk off and leave it be. “You just gonna stick me with the bill?”
Casey didn’t answer, or flinch, or show any sign of hearing him.
“Casey! Dude --.” Christian got within face-to-face distance of Casey, then paused, his heart stopping. Casey still wouldn’t look at him, but Christian could still see tears running down his face. “Hey…” He reached to touch Casey’s shoulder, only to be met with a palm against his chest, pushing him back a little.
“Don’t,” Casey whispered, shaking his head.
Christian dropped his hands, looking away. In the entire time he’d known Casey, he could only count on one hand the number of times he’d seen him cry. It felt like looking at a different person. It made his own throat swell. “Look, I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to yell at you or anything like that, okay? I didn’t mean to call you an idiot either.”
“It’s not like you’re wrong. I am.” Casey ran his fingers through his hair, sliding down so he could sit on the ground. “And I am f***ing up,” he repeated, his voice cracking. “I wake up every day and think about what a piece of sh*t I am. I wake up every single day and wonder what the f*** I’m doing, no one has to do that for me.”
“-- And everyone wants to get pissed off and ask me what’s my problem, like you think I enjoy this or something?” Christian opened his mouth, but Casey continued on. “I feel like no matter what I do, I can’t just like… be normal. I can’t just wake up and feel fine, I’m f***ing sick of it, man. I think everything’s okay, and every time I pull myself up, it’s like I fall ten times harder, and I’m so tired of it.”
It was Christian’s turn to stare without a word, his lips pursed together while Casey completely unraveled before him. He started frantically wiping his face, but it wasn’t doing much other than making his cheeks redder than normal. When his attempt failed, he simply covered up his face with his hands, ducking his head into his knees. “I’m just so f***ing tired.”
05/13/2020 11:57 PM
It wasn’t like the ceiling had any answers for me. No matter how long I stared, it was just the same white space, a little stained from years of prohibited cigarette smoking, but overall not distracting enough to prevent me from thinking about what I’d done -- what I’d been doing for months. Christian was long gone, probably not thinking much of it because this had become our norm. Meanwhile, I laid there, totally lost and refusing to move. If I moved, time pushed forward; and if time pushed forward, I would have to deal with my mistake, whatever the Hell that meant.
The phone started to ring. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach. I dreaded seeing Sarah’s name. I dreaded having to hold my own in a conversation when I knew how gravely f***ed up things had become. I glanced over at my phone, ringing from the same spot Christian was laying in the morning, when everything was too fresh to worry about; when I was too stupidly enamoured to even care about having to face Sarah again, because that wasn’t a part of my life that existed.
I wished I could go back to that.
I kept watching the phone, remembering a time where Sarah’s name would have excited me. I’d have dropped everything I was doing to listen to her voice, but like a switch had been flipped, I was suddenly doing everything in my power to avoid it.
The ringing stopped, then started up again. I wanted to keep on ignoring it, but the second phone call sparked some kind of alarm in me. If it was Sarah, calling multiple times, something was wrong. But it wasn’t her, and all my fretting had proven to be entirely unnecessary. It was Christian. Just the name lifted a weight off my shoulders and it made me sick to take any sort of solace in it. It made me even sicker that, without thinking about it, I picked up faster than any call I’d ever taken.
“Hey. You good?”
“Did you go back to sleep?”
“Ch’yeah, I wish…” I rolled my eyes. “Are you okay?”
“Forgot my f***in’ wallet. Can you come open the door?”
“Wow.” I finally hauled myself off the bed, hanging up the phone.
Christian stood at the door in a light blue button down with silver buttons. It was his Stunning Red Dress. It made me feel like he was taunting me, but maybe it was just because I wanted someone else besides myself to be disgusted with. I stared at him for a second, seeking some kinda sanctuary in the softness of his expression. The anxiety over my ringing phone suddenly didn’t matter. Home didn’t matter.
“Sorry, you probably went back to sleep.”
“Nah, I just didn’t hear it.” I shrugged.
“Are you good?” Christian raised an eyebrow. I probably looked pretty stupid, standing there staring at him.
Dumbfounded. Lost. Pissed off at myself for being so pathetically happy to see him again.
“Can you, like… stick around for a bit? Do you have something else going?”
Christian grinned. I wanted to punch both him and myself for the way it made my face heat up when he smiled at me. “Aw, you missed me?”
“Shut up.” I looked away from him, but couldn’t stop myself from smiling. “I guess I did a little.”
“You know… eventually, you’re gonna have to do something about this.” Christian motioned back and forth between us. “I’m not saying break up with her for me, but you’re gonna have to choose at some point.”
“So is that a no?” I raised an eyebrow at him. I thought of reaching out for him so he wouldn’t walk away, but instead, I folded my arms so as not to look too hopeless.
He sighed. “I mean, no. I just want you to think about this at some point.”
He was alone in that. “I know you do,” I muttered. “I know.”
“I care about you, kid. I really do. I don’t like standing on the sidelines while she keeps messing with you.” Christian placed a hand on my shoulder, but I couldn’t look at him. “ If we get caught, it’s gonna be a lot more f***ed up than an ashtray to the face.”
“I know it is.” I hated how right he was. I thought about how different things would have been had I come clean in the beginning. I’d have got my worse-than-an-ashtray-to-the-face out of the way and me and Christian wouldn’t have to have the awkward conversations that plagued our whole relationship.
It was my fault and I knew it was, but whenever the time came, I couldn’t stop myself from running. Truth be told, my fears went a lot deeper than getting hit with an ashtray or any other inanimate object. That pain was easy, but there was a totally different pain in knowingly breaking someone’s heart after sharing your whole life with them, and I wasn’t ready to face it. Maybe I didn’t love Sarah anymore, but I wasn’t out to destroy her either. “This all just sucks.”
“Hey…” I felt his fingertips lift my chin up. When I finally looked at him, he was smiling at me, despite the awkwardness. And despite the awkwardness, I couldn’t help but smile back. “I love you, ‘kay? This totally isn’t to pressure you or make you feel bad or whatever. But I gotta care about me in all this too.”
“I mean, if anyone is making me feel bad, it’s me.” I remarked, then moved a little closer to start bridging the gap between us. “I love you too. I really love you. Just gimme a minute to figure all this sh*t out, okay?”
05/05/2020 08:56 PM
It’s quiet. For the first time since they moved there, there’s absolutely no noise going on, other than the idle humming from the AC. On TV, Going Away parties are a lot more glamorous: a cake, everyone huddled around celebrating you and hugging you. Cards, well-wishes, more hugs, crying. But this is nothing like that. His going away party is completely silent, and that’s a gift all on its own.
Casey sits at the edge of his bed, staring at a stack of boxes by the door. Richard asked if he wanted help, but he declined. Jennifer asked how he planned to get the boxes downstairs when the time came, and he ignored her. He can now hear them talking in the kitchen like nothing is going on. They’re discussing plans to go to the movies later. “After my parents leave,” Jennifer says, hushed as if she worries Casey will ask to tag along. Then it goes silent again. In her dreams.
Casey lies back on the bed, staring at his ceiling. In an hour, their tiny apartment will no longer be home. Is Jennifer even upset about it? Or is she watching her clock like he is? Counting down the minutes until freedom like he is?
In only fifty-three minutes, they’ll never have to deal with each other again.
A knock on the door earns no response, and in fact, Casey shuts his eyes and pretends he hadn’t heard it. In fifty-two minutes, he’ll never see Richard again either.
“Hey kid? Can I come in?”
Casey huffs. Richard is liable to continue knocking, even if it takes the whole hour. “It’s unlocked,” he answers begrudgingly, eyes rolling as he hauls himself back up.
Richard lets himself in. He first glances at the boxes, two more added since the last time he passed by. His eyebrows jump all the way up his forehead. “You sure you’re not gonna need any help?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Forty-nine minutes. Casey looks past Richard to the living room. Jennifer retreats past to her room without a word, or even a glance.
“Gonna miss our little Nintendo showdowns you know.” Richard takes a seat at Casey’s desk.
Casey scoffs through his nose, grinning. “Even though you always lose?”
“Hey, hey, hey, I’ve won a few times, gimme a little credit.”
“Suuure. What did you want anyways?”
“Just wanted to see how it was comin’ along in here.” Richard comes in a little closer. The smile on his face fades to an expression Casey can’t fully make sense of. “I know I won’t be probably seeing you any time real soon, but uh… I wanted to give this to ya’. Parting gift if you will.” He holds out his hand, and within it is a small cross necklace.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s unremarkable; a small bronze cross with little intricacy outside a little blue bead in the middle, dangling from a delicate chain. Casey saw it some time ago at a little oddity shop they went to while Jennifer was working, but didn’t think much of it after commenting on it. In fact, he didn’t think Richard even heard him say he liked it.
“Um…” Casey’s eyebrows furrow, lips pursed together. He can’t bring himself to reach for it.
“Wasn’t this the one you liked at that place in Tonopah? Do you not like it anymore?”
“No, no. It is -- I do, I just --.” Casey shakes his head.
“Didn’t think I was listening?” Richard urges the chain toward Casey. “I was saving it for your birthday, but looks like we’re a little shy of it, huh?”
Forty-one. He suddenly wants to stop the clock, if only for a little while.
Casey takes the necklace, the chain curling around his fingers as he examines the little cross. “Thank you…”
“Don’t mention it, okay?” Richard takes a seat beside Casey on the bed, looking at the boxes. “Wish it hadn’t happened this way.”
“Ch’yeah… you’re telling me.” Casey rolls his eyes. “You know, when I first met you, I really wanted to hate you. ‘Cause you had the same name as my dad and he was a piece of sh*t.”
Richard laughs. “I heard about that one. And?”
“I was pretty wrong.” Casey sighs through his nose, turning his head away. He wants to slap himself across the face for the way his eyes well up. Thirty-eight minutes. Now he’s wishing time would speed up again so Richard won’t see him crying. “I don’t know what the f*** you’re doing with my mom, but… you’re the coolest person she’s ever brought home.”
In thirty-seven minutes, he’ll be replaying this moment and cursing himself.
“She’s gonna miss you too, you know,” Richard muses. “She won’t say it, but I think she’s pretty sad to see you go.”
Casey shakes his head. “I don’t buy that for a second, but that’s okay. I won’t miss her either.”
“Trust me.” Richard starts to stand. “You got my number, so… don’t think you have to stay away.”
“Yeah…” Casey goes back to staring at the necklace.
“You’re gonna do great things out there. I meant it when I said you were gonna be a star some day.” Richard motions toward the boxes. “You sure you don’t need help?”
Casey wants to accept. He wants to get up. Is a hug appropriate? He can’t break through his own walls to find out, so he just sits still. Thirty-two minutes. “I’ll be okay.”
Richard smiles. “Well, holler if you do. I’m always here for ya’, kiddo.”
Thirty-two minutes later, Casey’s packed up and huddled into the back seat of his grandfather’s Volkswagen. Jennifer is nowhere to be found while Richard, after helping him after all, stands on the sidewalk waving. And as expected, Casey curses himself for everything that happened in that last hour, because all it does is bring the tears back as the apartment, and Richard with it, fade further and further from view.
05/05/2020 08:54 PM
drabble; elephant in the room.
“Already at it, huh? That sounds beautiful, Casey.” Aunt Barb stood in the entryway with her shoulder against the wall, arms folded.
Casey glanced over his shoulder, fingertips idly doddling across keys as a smile tugged at his lip. It had been years since he played his grandfather’s piano, but he thought about it every time he sat down at his own. He turned his head back to the keys, running his fingers along to feel the little nicks in them. “I didn’t wanna wait,” he admitted. “I really missed playing this one.”
“Even over your pretty one back home?” Barb jabbed. “We follow you, we see what you play.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I love my piano. But I have a big soft spot for this one.”
Barb laughed, coming to sit beside him. “You know, when your granddad brought this home from church, he was really hoping me or your mom would be interested.”
Casey lowered his hands to his lap, watching her. “You never did, or?”
“Nope. Both took one lesson and hated it. Grandma knew how to play, so we kept it around, but even she didn’t play it all the time. I think he saw it as kind of a sign when you came over for the first time and couldn’t leave it alone.”
Casey smiled. “I remember that.” The piano was nothing spectacular or particularly worth fawning over. The wood was chipping on the sides, and the handle on the keylid had broken off long before he even came into possession of it, but it was special in its own right. Even with all its imperfections, it was the light of the whole room to him.
“I’ll never, ever forget the look on your face when you banged your hands down and realized that wasn’t all it took to make a song happen.” Barb recalled fondly. “When you looked at your grandma, and you were like ‘how come it doesn’t sound like when you play’?”
Casey laughed, shaking his head. “I unfortunately remember that too. You guys witnessed my stupidity in its prime.”
“You were a kid, it was cute. We all knew you were gonna be great at it though.”
“You guys believed that even more than I did for some time,” Casey mused.
“Of course we did.” Barb straightened up. Although Casey wasn’t looking, he could feel her staring at him. His stomach turned.
“We’re so proud of you, you know.”
“Yeah?” Casey leaned his head on Barb’s shoulder, much like he used to when he was a kid.
Barb laughed. “Mhm. You’ve come a looong way from the little kid pouting in the pool outside.”
“Aunt Barb, I’m really sad you got rid of my pool,” Casey joked. “Now where am I gonna sit and mope?”
“Oh, come on, you’ll get over it…” Barb chuckled, then breathed a long sigh through her nose. “Look, no matter what happens out in the big music world, we’re still here rooting for you, so… don’t shut us out, okay? Come visit more. Answer the phone once in awhile so we don’t have to worry, huh?”
Casey’s smile dimmed. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“No need to be sorry. Just if you’re not doing well, I hope you’d tell us.”
Aunt Barb was never afraid to mention the elephant in the room. It was something he both admired and dreaded about her. “You’ll know, I promise,” he muttered. “I’ll be fine, okay?”
05/05/2020 08:53 PM
cw: miscarriage, domestic abuse.
“You and Christian are looking pretty close in these pictures,” Sarah said out of the blue. Casey had been in the kitchen rummaging through the cabinets. A peek outward and he saw her checking her phone on the couch. His heart jumped. Where had they faltered? Had they really faltered, or was it nothing? He’d have killed to see whatever she was looking at, but he didn’t want to seem too nervous.
His eyebrows furrowed. “What do you mean?”
“Just looks like you’re spending a lot of time together is all.” Sarah put her phone down, folding her arms and looking out the window. “Kinda like you and me used to.”
Casey took a deep breath through his nose. He determined the picture was probably nothing, but knew what she was getting at. There was a time when Casey Caverly and Sarah Hudson were never seen without each other. Every event, every outing, every tour, signing -- any time they could look as though they’d been sewn together at the hip, they did. And yet, in that moment, it was they didn’t know each other.
Even worse, it was like they never loved each other -- like an unseen force had ripped them apart, leaving them to limp around with gaping wounds that could neither be cauterized, nor stitched back up. And thus, they learned to trudge on, separated most of the time, only reconvening in their living room to argue before drifting apart again.
Christian had slowly moved to tie up the hole in his hip where Sarah had split from him, but whenever the opportunity came around to tell her, he choked. Much like right then.
He could have told her there was something going on since she brought it up. All the words huddled on the tip of his tongue, but none would take the plunge. It wasn’t a fight he was ready for. Casey swallowed them all back, then sought solace in their empty cabinets. “Yeah…”
He couldn’t rightfully be annoyed at any perceived accusations, now could he?
“We used to do all this stuff together,” Sarah went on.
“I asked you to come.”
“It’s hard for us to both be out at the same time.”
“That’s bullsh*t, Sarah, Savannah’s been with her dad all week.”
“I don’t think you realize how hard that is for me, Casey.” Sarah shook her head, elbow on the armrest so she could prop her chin with her hand. "That or you don’t care.”
Casey rolled his eyes, slamming the cabinet shut. “I wish you’d stop f***ing saying that.”
“And I wish you’d stop just saying ‘well come on then’ like it’s that simple. I’m glad it was easy for you to get right back up and continue on with things, but I’m not like that. Sorry to be so disappointing.”
“That’s not true…” Casey stepped away from the kitchen into the living room, but didn’t come near. Instead, he leaned on the wall near the hallway toward the room, in case an exit plan became necessary. “Learning how to move forward again was hard for me too. Learning how to talk without choking up, or thinking about it, or thinking about how I shouldn’t be acting normal -- I f***ing get it, Sarah, I do. But how are we ever supposed to move on from that if you never even try?”
“You may think you get it, but you don’t!” Sarah snapped, standing up. “You didn’t carry her, Casey. You didn’t have to lay in a hospital bed, totally exposed to an entire room full of doctors, just so they could tell you your little girl was dead, did you?”
Casey said nothing.
“Did you?!” Sarah prodded. “And now you don’t have to sit at home, looking at pictures of your husband out having a great time while you’re still too upset to even think of going out. If you think you understand ANYTHING, you’re a f***ing idiot.”
“You wanna know what happens when I stay here? This, right here.” Casey motioned back and forth between them. “You and I wander around the house in silence all day because we can’t say a single word to each other without it turning into this, and then you wonder why I’m never here? You wonder why I’m so eager to get out and continue when every time I take a step back, you are right there to scream at me over nothing. You won’t tell me what you want, you won’t tell me anything unless it’s in the form of yelling at me, so excuse me if I don’t necessarily wanna be around you.”
There they were again, the words that would get him off the hook, right at the tip of his tongue, and still too scared. Still being swallowed back while his other rampage overran them to make the first leap. “I don’t want to sit here in this, I’m f***ing sick of it.”
“You’re sick of it?” Sarah got close enough to shove Casey’s shoulders back, cornering him into the wall, his exit plan officially foiled. “How the f*** do you think I feel, Casey? Stop being a f***ing p**sy and maybe think about me instead of yourself!”
“Back the f*** off, dude!” Casey snapped.
“No, you wanna hash it out, let’s hash it out. Will that make you feel better? Will that make you less sad?”
“I said back off!” Casey shoved Sarah back and was immediately met with a slap across the face, the abruptness of it silencing the both of them.
Sarah quickly drew back Casey stared at her wide-eyed, his chest practically erupting. She was crying, but he couldn’t reach her, any connection effectively severed.
“You happy now?” She whispered.
Casey turned his head away, running his fingers through his hair, his skin blazing where she smacked him. He grit his teeth together, swallowing a mouthful of words once again. Sarah took a step forward and he held his hand out. “I said to get away from me,” he snapped, then moved past her to get to the front door.
“You’re just gonna leave, are you kidding?”
Casey, with his hand on the door knob, glared back at her. “I am the furthest thing from kidding.”
- - -
“Are you busy right now?” Casey sat in his car, parked at a nearby gas station, his head reclined against the seat.
“I mean, no, but I thought you were spending the day at home, right?” Christian asked on the other end.
Casey scoffed through his nose, shutting his eyes. “That’s not a part of my life that exists right now.”
04/25/2020 05:17 PM
drabble; we'll never be friends.
“Where are you going?”
The mess was cleaned up, but the tension still loomed in the air, draping over them like a heavy tarp and neither could fight their way out. Jennifer sat at the table, her head in her hands until she heard him come out of his room. Casey had his backpack slung over his shoulder. He’d been hoping to make it out unnoticed, not for any other reason than he didn’t want her to have the satisfaction of seeing him all puffy-eyed and distressed.
“Out where? Look, you can’t just go running around town whenever you feel like, it’s almost midnight.”
Casey rolled his eyes. “I was pretty sure you didn’t want me here anyways.”
Jennifer shook her head, leaning her cheek into her hand. “You know what I always think about? C’mere.”
Casey glanced at the door, contemplating whether he should humor her or run. He pursed his lips together, reaching his hand out, then for some reason retracting it. He took a deep breath through his nose. “What?”
“You know how you always see mother-and-son duos… on movies and TV and stuff? When I was pregnant with you, I was so excited for that. So excited.” Jennifer smiled, as if she’d hit some grand realization suddenly. She had a bottle of whiskey beside her, which must have been where her inspiration came from, and as soon as Casey noticed it, he wished he’d opted not to humor her.
He raised an eyebrow. “Okay?”
“And then you started to get a little older, and everything kinda fell apart for me, and that seemed more and more unreal. I guess I just have to get used to the fact that we’ll probably never be like that. We’ll probably never be friends.”
Casey knew all along they would never be friends. He’d already mulled over it a thousand times -- already come to accept it as the way of things, and already learned to act accordingly. So, why did hearing it from her mouth, tangibly, make him wanna hurl himself out the nearest window?
Casey lowered his head, gritting his teeth together, nodding. She said what they both were thinking. She said what he already knew, so why did he feel like he’d been slapped across the face?
“We probably never will, no,” he finally answered, hand on the door knob.
Jennifer scoffed a little, shaking her head. There were tears streaming down her face. Casey wanted to shake her and say he was the one who should be crying, but he was dying to get out of there at that point.
“Can I go?”
“Go. Don’t get in trouble.”
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