Trilogy One Part Three: "Butterfly"
"You haven't called." It was probably meant to be an accusation, but it came out too weak, almost as a question. She was still hoping, which was sad.
"I meant to." He had meant to, so he could confirm that it was over, but he never had. He was still not quite ready to share his discovery, still enjoying keeping it safe and savoring it; his secret. He would be with his friends, or his family, or at an interview, or falling asleep at night, and let his secret roll around in his mouth like the memory of a delicious flavor. He would say it to the mirror sometimes, and watch his reflection smile in response. It was freedom, it was wings, and he wasn't ready to share just yet. Not with this girl, this sad, beautiful girl who looked at him like he was her wings. He sighed when she sat on his bed.
Nsync was on break from touring, just for a few days, but they were making the most of it. Downstairs he could hear people talking, laughing, and he wanted to join them. Just his luck, Britney had flown into town that morning. She'd tried calling him, but he hadn't answered his phone. He'd hoped she would just give up, and maybe he'd go see her tomorrow, and then they could talk. Instead she'd showed up at his house and hauled him up to his bedroom, and now here they were, and she was sitting on his bed.
"Don't give me that, Justin." She was saying, again in the wrong tone, so it came out like a plea, "You meant to call? For a month?"
"I was busy." He gave the feeble answer like she deserved it for asking, for still wanting him. Part of him felt like a jerk, another part of him wanted to tell her to get a life, a clue, away. Get away. Go. Quit ruining this holiday, breaks came so rarely.
"Stop pacing." Was he pacing? He was. He stopped. "Quit acting like you can't wait to get rid of me." There should be anger in her voice, not tears.
"It's not like that." He said, because even if she'd abandoned her role a month ago, he still remembered how to play his. He knew what to say and how to act in girl/boy situations. Girl accuses boy, Boy denies everything.
"Then what's...Why is this happening?" She was crying now, the real deal. Red eyes, tears, ugly breathing.
"Shh, don't." He was beside her, holding her lightly, stroking her hair. Girl cries, Boy comforts her.
She clung to him, buried her face in his chest. He hoped her nose wouldn't run; he was wearing a new shirt. He strained to hear what was going on downstairs. He couldn't quite make out what song was on the stereo. He wished they'd turn it up.
Crying turned into sobbing, and he tightened his arms around her, felt tears come to his own eyes. Britney, who he'd had many years and good times with. He hadn't meant to hurt her. He hadn't realized how much pain she was in until she'd begun shaking with her sobs. He pulled her onto his lap, felt her arms slip around his neck like vines. She was still crying, but now she was also placing wet kisses along his neck and jaw. Girl kisses boy, Boy lets her.
She kissed him desperately, and cried out when he pushed her off his lap. It was a tragic, frantic sound, and it sent an odd current of fear through him. "Why?" She sobbed, her hands in fists in her lap, and she wasn't beautiful at all when she cried. She was just sloppy and red and pitiful. "What did I do? What happened?"
"Britney." He said her name as though to remind her that she was named, that she was a human, a person, who should have some control.
"I don't understand..." She was choking on her own uneven breath, "I wouldn't let myself really cry, this whole month. Cry like this, I mean. I'd just let myself cry a little everyday, 'cause I though maybe..." She shook her head, wiped at her face with her sleeve, muffling her voice, but he still heard her say, "maybe you'd call."
Both parts of him felt like a jerk now. He should've called. He'd let himself use the excuse that he was waiting to break up in person, but that was bull shit. He'd put her through a whole goddamn month, and hadn't even thought of her much. She'd just been a chore at the bottom of his list. Get car washed, Clean out closet, Replace scratched CDs, Break up with girlfriend. And she'd been crying everyday.
"God, I'm sorry." He meant it. "I'm so sorry. I should've called."
She just covered her face with her hands and took deep breaths. She was calming herself down, and he was glad. Finally she spoke, her voice cracking, "It's over." Not a question, a statement. She was accepting it, but her eyes still begged him to tell her she was wrong.
He nodded slowly, and she whimpered. He couldn't stand this, it was too much, too heartbreakingly pathetic. He wondered how she could feel so much for him. If he had realized how much she'd been hurting, he would've called her, but he hadn't known, hadn't even guessed. He almost thought she must be faking it, because how could she love him when he never really loved her? There was friendship, but how could she have ever thought he loved her? Was Love blind, or stupid, or just being dramatic?
It made him feel guilty to see this, so he didn't want to. He couldn't help not loving her. He was sorry he'd lied, he was sorry she'd never guessed. If he was at fault for going through the motions of love without the intentions, wasn't she also at fault for never guessing, for never really knowing him? Anything to relieve him, just a little. He didn't want to carry all the blame himself.
Her crying had stopped, and she sat on the bed, looking like a wrung dishcloth, but at least she was quiet. "Are you hungry? Do you want something to drink?"
She shook her head.
"Do you want me to take you back to your hotel?"
Her face scrunched up again, and her lips trembled.
"You can sleep here." Fat tears were slipping down her cheeks, running down her neck, to the already soaked collar of her shirt. "Here, lay down." He helped her under the covers, then kissed her forehead. "I'm so sorry." She closed her eyes, tears still coming. "I love you." He did, in his own way.
He tried not to walk too quickly as he left. He turned off the lights, and as he was closing the door, he heard her whisper, "Stay." But he pretended not to hear.
It was quiet. The music had stopped, and he couldn't hear any talking. He went downstairs, and, sure enough, the house was deserted. Two overflowing trash bags sat in the kitchen. There wasn't much of a mess left at all. That was nice. He saw a stray wine cooler sitting on the counter and picked it up. He never drank them in front of people, he always stuck to beer or harder stuff, but he secretly liked them. He twisted off the cap and tossed it into the sink, then made his way up the stairs, debating calling people's cell phones to see where they'd gone. Probably clubbing, or something.
When he came to his bedroom door, he hesitated, then turned and went to the bedroom JC used to live in before he'd bought his own place. He still thought of it as JC's room, and hung out there sometimes. Just for the hell of it. He'd lay in the bed, or use the shower in the adjoining bathroom, and sometimes he felt like a weirdo for doing it, for wanting to do it, for liking it. Sometimes, he'd pretend JC still lived there. Sometimes he'd knock before going in, pretend to hear JC say 'Come in.'
He paused at the door, knocked.
He blanched for a second, then swung the door open. There lay JC, on the bed, watching tv. JC with his shoes kicked off and his socked feet rubbing together in that nervous habit he had; beer in one hand and the remote in the other. "Hey," JC said it like he'd been expecting Justin, waiting for him.
Justin closed the door behind him and kicked off his own shoes before climbing onto the bed. "Where'd everyone go?"
"We thought you and Britney were fighting or something." JC put his beer on the nightstand, "Everyone just kind of cleared out. Figured you wouldn't really be in the mood to party after that."
"Why'd you think we were fighting?" Justin took the remote from JC and began surfing through the channels.
"We could hear her crying." JC said simply. There was no judgement in his voice, but Justin felt ashamed. "Are you--"
"Okay?" Justin finished for him, "Yhea, I'm fine. I just feel really bad that she's taking this so hard. But how can I sit here and feel sorry for myself because I feel guilty? I deserve to feel guilty."
Justin was surprised to see JC smile, "I was gonna say, are you drinking a wine cooler?"
Justin looked at the bottle in his hand, then back at JC. He smiled despite himself, "Shut up."
JC shrugged, "I just didn't know you liked those things."
"I don't, but there was no more beer left." Justin grinned as he lied.
"Oh, okay." JC pretended to believe him, and they both laughed. Justin elbowed JC, and took a long drink. JC took the bottle from him and finished it off, then placed it next to his beer on the nightstand. "So you want to tell me what happened?"
Justin pressed 'mute' on the remote. He turned to JC, making out his features in the flickering light of the television. The rest of the room was dark, and suddenly seemed darker. They were very alone. Justin wanted to tell JC, but couldn't seem to find the words. Finally, he heard himself say, "I'm tired."
JC's eyes locked on Justin's. "Me, too." He slipped under the covers and lay on his side, his back to Justin.
Justin stared for a full minute before clicking off the tv and getting under the covers himself. He scooted forward, and saw JC tense, waiting to see what he would do. He put his arm over JC and pulled him close, put his lips to JC's ear, and whispered. Holding JC close, Justin didn't need to find the words, they found him. He whispered into JC's ear for maybe a full hour, and some of the things he said surprised even himself. In between sentences, or in the middle of words, he'd stop and kiss JC's ear, or cheek, or neck.
Then the secret was told and they were in silence. Justin waited for JC to say something, but he didn't. He felt JC moving and loosened his hold, expecting him to get up and walk out, but JC wasn't leaving, he was turning around. Justin felt hot breath on his face, and his arm tightened around JC again. He'd taken his chance, the next move was JC's.
He couldn't breathe as he felt JC lean forward, and their lips met so softly it seemed almost by accident. Their lips brushed again and again, in an act that wasn't quite kissing, but caressing. Then JC's hand came to Justin's neck, and he gently sucked Justin's lower lip between both of his. He licked Justin's lip before they both pulled away and met again with open mouths. They kissed tenderly, until their lips were swollen and their pulses raced, but neither took it further.
Justin rolled onto his back, and JC settled so that he was partially laying on Justin, their heads sharing one pillow, and he turned his face to the side so his forehead rested against Justin's cheek. His arm laid across Justin's chest, and his hand stroked up and down Justin's bicep. Justin held JC close with his other arm, and was drifting off to sleep when he heard JC start whispering. He listened intently, as JC stroked his arm and hot breath tickled his skin, and Justin felt beautiful.
Not beautiful in terms of physicality, but beautiful in that everything his senses perceived at that moment was Beauty. All he touched, smelled, tasted, saw and heard was Beauty. Truth was Beauty.
He realized the wings weren't found with the secret, but grown with the telling of it.