I wake up at 2 AM. I can feel him breathing on the back of my neck. I remember when we fell asleep, his arm was draped over me but now it's pressed between us. It's hot in our room under the covers. Sweat clings to my body, my chest and between my legs.
Slowly shifting my body weight, I sit up and plant my feet on the floor. Right where they land, my toes catch, tossed carelessly at the bedside, the panties I'd had on earlier. I slip them over my legs and feel the elastic over my hips. Aside from that, I'm naked, folding my arms across my breasts to keep them steady as I stand and step softly across the room, sneaking out the door.
In the main sitting area there's a seat by the window. I open it a crack and stare out at the lights of the Houston cityscape. I pretend it's not too dark and I'm not too high up for someone to look in and see me sitting, curled up, half-naked. The scenery is beautiful. I can't sleep.
I made such a mess of my interview, I don't even want to relive it by explaining how. I came off as cocky, but when asked for more detailed solutions to example situations, I stammered and second-guessed myself. I kept my composure, but when I walked out of the office feeling like breaking down and crying. I felt like a lie for the first time in years, dressed like a smart, confident woman when inside I'm still just a kid.
I comforted myself with Buddy. I dressed in the shortest skirt I have and the lowest-cut top, and made a lasagna for him when he came home. I tried to imagine myself playing house for a while, staying with him in Houston and finding something else to do with my life. I tried to imagine being that in love with someone. Make that sacrifice. I was going to tell him over dinner that I didn't think I'd be getting the job, but instead I said the interview went fine and we'd see.
I took him to the bedroom. I didn't want to talk. I didn't want to sit quietly in front of the TV. I wanted to fuck. If I've got nothing in this life, no career opportunity, nobody I feel I can be honest with, I've at least got a body and I know he likes that. I know he likes me for a lot more than that, but I wasn't interested in talking about seeing the Thor movie.
It was wild, and physical, but brief and ultimately disappointing. After he came, I let him drift off to sleep and quietly began to pleasure myself under the covers. I'm sure in his sleep he heard me moan, but he didn't wake. I've been doing this long enough I know how to make myself come, and I wish he'd learn. He's done it before but it was more like a coincidence, and with a lot of prep time behind it. For a brief instant, as I shudder with orgasm, struggling to keep my legs from shaking and kicking him, I think I should bring him to Maine and let him be a girl for a while. It might be good for him. Fortunately, I know these are just the thoughts of a frustrated, sleepy mind, and I don't think anything of it. I finally fall asleep around 11. Oftentimes at this hour back in Philly, Raine and I are just deciding what to do.
At 2, though, I'm sitting at the window, which is opened a crack, feeling a cool breeze between my breasts. I know, in reality, the answer isn't in Maine. And I don't think it's in Houston anymore either.
By the time I left, all the doubts in my mind had solidified into certainties. Certainty that I didn't belong in Houston, that I didn't belong with Buddy. That whatever I was capable of, I deserved more than a guy who is constantly trying to push me just to go along with him, clinging to me because he doesn't think he can get any better. He deserves someone who wants him a lot more than I do, now.
For the rest of the stay, I was quiet and distant. I couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger, though, to tell him it was over. I don't know how. I was hoping he'd notice, but he'd just keep asking what's wrong and I'd keep telling him "nothing." I feel like I need to prepare, like I need there to be a reason other than "we've grown apart." But whatever happens, it's not going to be fair for him and I know deep down I can't avoid hurting him.
When we said goodbye, I still hadn't heard back from the job. I needed to go back to Philly and go back to my real job, helping businesswomen pick suits that make them look confident and feminine.
When I landed in Philadelphia, there was a message on my phone saying if I wanted it, the job was mine.
I was so close to accepting. A job is a job and it shouldn't have anything to do with my relationship. My mind kept pushing me back to Houston, saying I could either try to make it work with Buddy, or I could take the job and just end the relationship when it got unbearable.
"Before you say yes, there's something you should know," Alex told me when I met him for lunch the next day. My heart jumped. Maybe I've become such a girl that I expected him to make a big speech saying he was in love with me, despite his complicated past, and knew he was the right one for me and I shouldn't move to Houston for Buddy, I should stay in Philly for him. That he needed me and that he could make me happier.
But that's not what he said. What he said was almost as good. "There's an opening at my company -- the people who paid me to take the course, they need more people. I could recommend you. You'd be a shoe in. It wouldn't be IT, but it would be a real job. You wouldn't have to move or anything."
He knows I have my doubts about Buddy. He supported me in the past but now he's trying to get me to stay. I squirmed in my seat and turned it over in my mind. The choices were clear-cut: Buddy and Houston, or Alex and Philly?
I held the phone in my hand for twenty minutes that night, just trying to dial Buddy's number. Trying to psych myself into it. I could barely breathe as I put the phone to my ear and heard it ringing.
It was voicemail.
With my voice trembling, I told him to call me back, I had to talk to him. It didn't seem right that it would end this way, but it was the only way now.
I had fallen into a nap on my bed when the phone began to vibrate. I saw it was him and answered. "Hey Buddy." Lately I've been calling him that instead of baby or honey or anything.
"Vic, what's up, babe?"
Quietly and without much hesitation, I told him, "I'm not getting the job."
"It's okay, it's okay," he went into his prepared remarks, "We'll find something. You're still coming here, right?"
I took my time answering. "No."
"No? but what about... what will you..."
"Alex told me he could get me a job. I want to stay here, Buddy."
"Alex? Goddamnit, Tori." When I first met Alex I made the mistake of gushing about him to Buddy, and he became (rightly) paranoid. I think this may have been why he kept trying to pull me in to Houston.
At this point, I guess, Buddy realized he was losing it and just let off. He accused me of being a cheater, an unstable, immature, indecisive, man-hungry bitch, and a liar. I just sat there and listened to all these epithets and rants and realized what kind of a person I had been dealing with.
"We're done, Buddy."
"Yeah," he said bitterly. "I guess we are."
And that was it. I spent the rest of May trying to decide if I was upset about this, or if I was happy it was over, or if I felt anything anymore. I met Alex's boss and got a job basically being the "Tech bitch" at the shipping company where he works.
So that's where I'm at now. Sorry I took so long to tell you, but I went from being too depressed to post to too busy.
I'll tell you more of what's happened as soon as I can. Thanks to Alia and Todd, my "writing coaches" for helping me organize all these thoughts. You're the best.
Love, Victoria Pearce.