Hello guys, now that you all got an idea of what I was going through, I hope you understand why it was taking a while for me to write. I was really fucked up about it but I'm doing better now. Last chapter was an emotional one for me for various reasons. Mississippi's Crying was actually one of the first three songs I thought of when originally starting this story so many months ago. I really hope you guys could see what I was feeling while writing Alex's thoughts during the song.
Anyways, please continue to email me so I know someone is reading and liking what I'm writing. I also have a playlist of songs that I listen to while writing the chapters if ya'll are interested.
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"We're just glad to be able to see you again, Alex," Lea said. Ralf nodded his head in agreement.
"Yeah," Alex looked down, abashed. "I'm sorry, guys. I just – I just felt so terrible all the time. I guess in some twisted way, I really believed that I deserved to feel alone and miserable."
Jay looked at Alex talk with his two friends. He had been helping the guy for the past couple of weeks and, although he was doing better by staying away from pills and excessive amounts of alcohol, there were still times that Jay could see something in the back of Alex's eyes.
Today though, today was a good day. It was the first time since Sebastian had left that Alex was hanging out with Lea and Ralf. It took a lot of convincing on Jay's part, but Alex had agreed. Seeing Alex smile and talk with his two friends after so long proved it had been a good idea to push Alex on this.
"You know that's not true, though. Right, A?" Lea asked.
"Yeah, I know," Alex replied, but Jay noticed he still couldn't meet Lea's eyes.
"We mean it, Alex." Ralf leaned in closer, "You deserve to be as happy as anyone else."
Alex smiled, "Thanks, guys." He paused and smiled for a second, something Jay had noticed was still so infrequent. "It's really good to see you guys, too."
"What about you, White Guy? What do you do in your free time?"
Jay smiled at Ralf. Jay had only officially met Lea and Ralf today, but he felt very comfortable with them both. Ralf had even given him the nickname of White Guy. Jay knew Ralf didn't mean any offense, Jay was on the lighter spectrum: dirty blonde hair, white complexion, light colored eyes. It was actually nice to have been given a nickname – it made him feel part of the group.
"Well, I'm an RA over at the school's dorms. I'm also a junior pursuing my music major."
"Music major?" Lea looked genuinely interested. "What's that like?"
"Well," Jay started, "I take a lot of musical theory classes. I've learnt how to play different instruments because of it but piano is my favorite." Jay looked at his fingers and smiled. "My mom had thought me how to play from a young age."
"That's really cool, Jay. What are you planning on doing when you graduate?"
Jay liked Lea. He could understand why Alex would be friends with her. "I, uh, I'm actually planning on moving to Austin when I graduate. Continue studying over there. Maybe get a teaching job, too."
"That's pretty cool, Jay," Lea smiled.
"Thanks, Lea," Jay smiled.
After lunch with Ralf and Lea, we headed back to Jay's apartment.
"Thanks for today, Jay." I said.
"No worries, man. Anytime."
I sat myself on the couch and turned the TV on. "So, any other plans for today?"
"Well," he said, "I was planning on trying something. Give me a second."
"Sure," I said as he went into his room. Jay came back with his keyboard and sat on the couch adjacent to me.
"I wanted to try singing a song with you, Alex." Jay looked from his keyboard to me. "You up for it?"
"No." I heard myself say.
"No," I repeated. "Sorry, Jay. I'm sure you mean well but ... I can't. Not yet." Truth was, I didn't think I could sing again.
He had taken even that from me.
"Hey, don't worry about it. I get it." Jay put his keyboard down on the floor and looked at me again. "We've done enough today. How about we just chill and watch a movie or something? I'll buy some pizza."
I gave Jay a small smile. "Yeah," I said. "That'd be great."
"OK, well, how about I go get the pizza right now while you pick a movie. We can also just watch something on Netflix if you want. It's up to you."
"Yeah, that sounds good, Jay."
Jay smiled at me and stood up. "Ok, then. I'll be back in a bit. Need to pass by an ATM, too."
I watched as Jay grabbed the keys to his car and walked out. I began flipping through the On Demand movies but couldn't find anything good. I decided to try Netflix. When I found a good enough movie, I got my phone and decided to scroll through it to pass the time until Jay got back.
As I scrolled through my Facebook, I stopped at an old friends post. She had posted a video with someone I recognized.
Don't do it, I thought.
But I did it. Really, there was no way I couldn't.
I clicked on the video and Facebook automatically enlarged it. It was a video of Sebastian, Emma and Lily at a party with a pink and blue cake in front of them. Her hand resting on his shoulder. Lily on Sebastian's arms. Sebastian smiling.
Well, I wanted to click on the video.
I stayed there, motionless, starring as the video started. I hadn't even realized this was the first time I had seen his face in weeks until now. Sebastian and Emma were holding a knife to the cake, moving their hands from the pink section to the blue one. Slowly Emma guided Sebastian's hands down to the pink section and they cut down. I heard Sebastian's surprise as the knife slid down and gave him an answer to a question he must have been asking.
It was a girl.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Suddenly, every angry emotion I had been suppressing made its way out. Screw staying in tonight. Screw sleep. Screw the promises and screw the lies and screw every fucking thing Sebastian had ever said to me. Screw him. I was here – falling apart – and he was there – ok.
I was too busy feeling OK that I hadn't realized I wasn't fine at all. Seeing that video reminded me of this, though.
I felt my jaw clench and I turned my phone off as I stood up and grabbed a jacket. I put it on and slipped my wallet into my back pocket. I had been doing good for weeks. Who gave a shit if I slipped one night? I threw my phone on Jay's couch and headed outside.
Jay got back to his dorm half an hour later with pizza and a few beers. He figured Alex deserved to let loose a little bit and what better way to do it than in the safety of his dorm?
Jay walked inside and immediately felt something was off.
"Yo! Alex. I'm back!" He waited for a response but none came. "Alex?" Jay walked around his dorm, looking for Alex. He wasn't in the bathroom or bedroom – he wasn't in the apartment at all. Jay took out his phone and decided to call him. As the line rang, he heard a vibration coming from the living room. He walked towards the sound and saw a light shining from the couch. He picked it up and saw his name being displayed on Alex's phone.
"Shit, Alex. Where'd you go?" Jay hung up on the call from Alex's phone. The screen displayed one missed call then returned to its previous screen. Jay immediately recognized them: Emma and Sebastian. The little baby in the picture must be Lily. He pressed play. As he watched he put the pieces together. All that was left was trying to figure out where Alex had gone. It was a Friday night and most of the buildings on campus would be locked – even for the summer courses. Jay tried to think of where Alex could have gone when something inside him clicked. He couldn't be sure, but he figured if Alex was anywhere, he might have gone to the closest alcohol selling location.
It was about a ten minute walk from the dorms to The Flying Pig, but Jay got in his car nonetheless. The Flying Pig was a medium sized bar downtown, walking distance from the university. It had a reputation for being a little shady, though. Jay figured that if Alex was anyplace nearby, there was a good chance he was there.
Jay parked two rows down the bar and made his way inside. It was a little packed but he could distinctly hear Alex's voice coming from near the front of the bar. He was acting way too friendly with another guy all the while holding what Jay knew was not his first drink of the night. As Jay got closer, he saw Alex and the unnamed guy take a shot of something.
"Uff! Ha-ha! That was a good one man! Let's probably take another one because who – who the fuck cares?"
Jay walked over and grabbed Alex's shoulder.
"Jaay!" Alex put down his shot glass and drink and smiled at him.
The unnamed guy looked from Alex to Jay. "Who's the guy, A?" He asked.
"Oh! No, no, no dude. Jay – he's my friend. He's not – I don't think he's gay. Are you gay, Jay?"
Jay didn't pay attention to the unnamed guy, he kept starring at Alex as he slurred his words. "Alex, what are you doing here?"
"I needed a small break," Alex snapped.
"Yeah, he needed a break dude. Scram."
Jay gave the guy a look then looked back at Alex. He pulled out a $20 from his wallet and left it in the counter. He pulled Alex from the stool he was sitting in and guided him towards the exit.
"Hey!" The guy called back but didn't follow them. "What the fuck?"
"Whoa." Alex stumbled as the night's fresh air hit him. "Where are we going, Jay?"
"To my dorm, Alex. You haven't gotten this drunk in weeks, dude. What the hell?" Alex remained silent as Jay sat him on the passenger seat and buckled him in. "Nothing to say? Alright." Jay drove back to the dorms as Alex looked out the window in silence.
When they got back to Jay's dorm, Alex stumbled straight for the couch and collapsed on it. Jay followed Alex and sat on the couch adjacent to him. Jay hadn't noticed it before, but he saw Alex's red-brimmed eyes. A small whimper escaped Alex's throat. Jay could tell Alex had tried to choke it down.
"Alex," he said in a comforting tone. "Are you okay?"
Alex sat up. It took him a while, too, because of the alcohol in his system. His red-brimmed eyes met Jay's. He shook his head.
"Oh," Jay answered. He didn't know what else to say. He didn't know if there was anything to say. He had never gone through what Alex had gone through so he didn't know how to make it better. Really, it had been all guess work the past few weeks. Jay resigned to sit next to Alex and placed a hand on his knee in a small and quiet attempt to comfort him. The touch of Jay's hand was all it took for Alex's pretense to shatter. He laid down again away from Jay and began to cry. It began as sniffles and silent tears but grew to shaking sobs.
"Alex, please," Jay said quietly. "Talk to me, man." When Alex wouldn't, Jay continued, "Does it have to do with the video you saw on your phone?"
Alex choked back another sob. Jay took that as a yes.
"I – I thought – I thought I was okay. But I'm not," Alex said through his tears. "I'm not better. I'm just better at hiding it. Seeing that video was the moment I knew that I'm never going to be better."
"Alex, I'm sorry."
"You have nothing to be sorry for, Jay. You've done nothing but help me and all I do is fucking leech off of you and make you worry. I'm a terrible friend."
Jay gave Alex a small smile. "You might be," he patted Alex's thigh, "But I'm a good enough friend for both of us."
A small laugh escaped Alex's throat. "Fuck off." Jay laughed too.
Alex changed positions and rested his head on Jay's lap. He was exhausted. Jay didn't know what to do so he rested his hand on Alex's upper arm. He could feel Alex wanted to keep talking, "Alex?" he offered.
Alex let out a deep sigh. "What – what the fuck do you do when the one that means the most to you is the one that fucked you up, Jay?" Alex wiped some tears away from his face. "He said he was going to be there for me. He said he had me. He promised." Jay felt more of Alex's tears land on his jeans but he remained quiet and continued to listen to him vent. "He should be here and I should be so fucking happy but he's not and I'm ... this. He left and it feels like I died. Only I didn't. I'm just going on living like I did."
Jay noticed that Alex was talking slower and his slurring was getting slightly worse.
"It's whatever." Alex shrugged. "I just – he was – he was the one person, you know? He was the one person I could see myself with. I knew it would have been hard but I also knew we could both do it. What I didn't know was that it was all one-sided. He never felt the same way. He never even cared about me. Right now he's probably asleep, in bed with Emma and Lily and here I am. Fuck – fuck him."
"Why don't you try and get some sleep, Alex?" Jay offered. "It'll be better in the morning. I promise."
"I can't." Alex whispered. "I want to but I can't."
Jay closed his eyes and tried to think of something – anything that could help. Something came to mind. He squeezed Alex's shoulder and began to hum a small melody before quietly starting to sing.
"There's a bottle on the shelf talking to me.
Saying, `Come over here you can have a drink.
We can make it through this lonely night together.'
That's a road I don't want to go back down and I hate myself for what I'm thinking now.
Hey, it's just one night – it's not like it's forever.
I just want to feel better."
Jay's voice was soft and light as he tried to sing Alex to sleep. From what he knew of him, he understood that what he needed right now was to let himself hurt. It might sound weird, but he needed to acknowledge all the pain he was feeling right now so that he could get over it later. Jay didn't necessarily understand it, but he knew it was what Alex needed. He took a deep breath and continued to sing Better by Maggie Rose.
"All these pictures running through my head.
From the way he loved to the way he left.
Not a single day goes by I don't miss him.
When the lonely gets to be too much, I try to kill the pain with a stranger's touch.
Though, I know I won't forget him altogether.
I just want to feel better."
Alex was quiet from the beginning of the song. His breathing was returning to normal. His sobs only quiet and infrequent shakes now. Jay squeezed Alex's arm in comfort.
"I know there's gonna come a day,
When he's still gone and it's okay."
Jay could feel Alex asleep under him. He could have stopped singing and tried to wiggle out from under him. He didn't do that, though. He didn't know why but he resigned himself to finish the song. Well, if he was being honest with himself, he had a small idea why.
"I just want to feel good – feel alright.
Feel anything than what I feel tonight.
I just want to move on with my life.
And put the pieces back together.
I just want to feel better.
I just want to feel better."
Jay felt himself feeling exhausted, too. He gave Alex's arm one last, comforting squeeze and resigned to fall asleep on the couch with him on his lap.