Except this time he wasn't alone. This time Marissa was there beside him, walking with her head lowered and every now and then a strained breath escaping her full lips. She was the ever present thought that he had to often calm himself from. The pain was still etched inside of him and it wasn't exactly something he could just throw away. Did she think that the pain was forgotten? Did she assume that just because time had passed none of it mattered anymore? If that's what she thought then she was entirely wrong because it was the only thing that mattered. He couldn't get over it no matter how much he wanted to.
And then there was Essie, standing in the doorway, watching him walk away with Marissa as if it hurt her to just see it. It had been in her eyes, that pure unbridled form of jealousy that he hadn't seen in her gaze before, that he had been feeling when he had listened to her talking to her husband. That was the word though wasn't it? Her husband. That meant she was completely off limits. He wasn't a stupid kid anymore, he knew what was right, what was wrong and he knew that whatever was going on between him and Essie, whatever was being felt- if anything- then it was completely wrong. Yet he couldn't dismiss it. Not that easily.
Perhaps that made him a horrible person. Maybe it made him the kind of man that lost respect due to his choices. Or maybe that just made him weak. Along the way he might have lost bits and pieces of his inner strength only to witness the loss of his dignity. He was theirs to play with and he hated the feeling, loathed it. They both could take his very emotions into their hands and twist it until the only thing left was fragments of who he knew that he truly was. He had become ridiculous and everyone saw it, everyone noticed. It was time for a change.
Changes couldn't happen however if the only thing that seemed everlasting in your mind are those feelings, those darkened and messy feelings. He didn't really want to give it up, didn't want to see it all disappear from in front of him. That scared him the most, the unwillingness to sacrifice something that was already weakening him all over again. He wasn't blinded, he understood and he still threw himself to the flames.
Finally Marissa stopped, her eyes still focused elsewhere as her lips pressed together and a million thoughts raced through her mind. She always got this look about her, the one that said that she was lost in her thoughts. She usually did this, stayed silent for however long it took until things formed in her mind becoming art just like everything else that she laid her hands on. She excluded herself from most things, lost herself in everything and that's what made what they had so addicting because it was all of them, untainted and wholly formed. No one could break through the boundaries they had protected themselves in. No one but each other.
Jared could remember his mom telling him that Marissa was too much like him. She lived in the glimmering world of her dreams where everything came alive because she breathed into it and that was the same with him. He kept an eye on everything he created until it was just right. Until it formed together neatly and started to make absolute sense. There were things to be compatible with and then there were two minds, two souls that merged into one because they were too much alike. That was him and Marissa and yet he didn't turn away from it. Not even now when everything felt like it was at the brink and he felt that loss of control creeping up on him again.
"Remember coming out here?" She suddenly asked, the words becoming smoke drifting about in the cool air. Her face was slightly pinched by the cold that surrounded them, a blush forming in her cheeks. Everything she was wearing wasn't doing nearly enough to shield her from the falling snow, its calm cold that came following behind it. "It's always so quiet...sometimes I wonder while we're out here if any of us are even really alive." Her hands huddled together in the front pocket of her jacket as she took in a breath.
"We're alive." He said with such reassurance it was almost unconvincing. But he would know if he were dead, he would know if this wasn't an actual moment at all. Moments like this often reminded him that he was still a living and breathing thing. Reminded him that even though everything happened, even though he had managed to go through the grasping hands of sorrow he had made it through. He was still strong no matter how low he brought himself down to. He was still living through it. That alone surprised him the most.
"Are you so sure?" She asked, eyes turning to his as something of a slight smile formed on her lips. Her eyes weren't filled with that emotion it only showed on her face and it was obvious that through this she was still affected by the past, she was still feeling the surprise at seeing Essie there being as territorial as she had been. They were struggling against each other it seemed and all they were fighting for was a broken man who seemed more attune to his art than to himself. "But I suppose you would be. After everything."
His brows furrowed slightly as he watched her, hand lifting to push back through his hair. His own breath danced in the cold breeze, smoke lifting in the air. "What's that supposed to mean?" He wasn't sure why those words stunned him, or why he was looking at her so quizzically. His head tilted slightly before he turned away. He wasn't going to let anything get to him. Today was a new day wasn't it? It was supposed to be, that's what he told himself. He had come here to change things, to put whatever it was that was complicating things behind him.
"Essie." She spoke her name like it was toxic, like it was a stinging poison echoing in her voice. Her eyes remained on him even as he turned away. She pushed the ends of her ponytail off her shoulder before taking a breath and looking out towards the frozen lake that they were so close to. "Didn't take you long enough to find someone new." She sounded entirely betrayed and it showed there in her eyes. Her hands pulled from her pockets and she folded her arms across her chest.
He couldn't suppress the scoff that escaped his lips as he shook his head. "I can't believe you're actually saying that to me." He muttered, stepping forward from her, hating the burning feeling that followed beside him whenever she was close to him. He knew that he shouldn't let this happen, he knew that it shouldn't effect him, that was the worst thing he could do wasn't it? "Do you know how long it's been?"
Marissa stepped behind him and set her hand on his shoulder, eyes looking up at him as some kind of accusation started to form in them. "You told me that you wouldn't love anyone else besides me. That's what you told me." Her voice was heavy while she spoke before her gaze sharply turned away. She really couldn't understand why she was feeling so vindictive but it was there brewing inside of her. She had felt something different about him when she had laid her eyes on him again but this wasn't what she had expected. This ruined everything didn't it?
Jared had wanted to stand exactly where he was, had wanted to let whatever emotions were crashing inside of him settle but he couldn't. He turned to her, hand reaching for her arm and forced her to look at him. His eyes were filled with the pain of brokenness that she had left him abandoned with. He stared down at her long enough until she recognized it and knew what he lived with every single day he was apart from what they had. But it hadn't been his fault, the blame rested solely on her.
A small gasp escaped her lips when she looked at him, her arm trying to twist free from his but he wouldn't let her go. He couldn't give her the solace of looking away. She knew what it was she had done and he wanted her to feel it deep down into the ruined core of her soul. "You don't know what you left me with. You don't know what I was left feeling." He muttered with a lowered tone, his eyes beginning to glass over with unshed tears, the tears he had wished would have faded by now. "Was it worth it, Marissa? Was he worth it? I told you I wouldn't love anyone besides you and you promised to never leave me. You promised that..." He cut himself off and turned away, hand dropping from its grip on her.
"You wanted me to do something I couldn't do. You wanted me to be someone I swore I would never be." She protested, her own tears falling as if regret was its fuel but he wasn't going to look at those crystal shards glistening in the white Winter around them. He couldn't let her know that his heart wrenched for so long with need for her. He didn't want to forgive her because the brokenness had stuck with him and it wasn't fair if she was allowed to walk away.
"I don't even know why you came back here." He muttered, eyes holding her before he walked off. He could hear her footsteps behind him, could hear her soft voice coming out to him and it cut him deeply to know that he was leaving her stranded. But he couldn't get the images out of her head, the blood, the bruises on her, the confession. His eyes closed on the burning emotion that he was feeling. She had to know what she had done to him, what crippling emotions he was left with.
The walk back to the house seemed all the more quicker than leaving it had. He knew she was still behind him, a few steps behind. His eyes focused on Essie who was sitting on the front steps, her phone tucked into her hand but not pressed to her ear. He could see the ring glinting brilliantly on her finger. This was wrong, all of this was wrong. He knew it from the racing and the beating of his heart. That terrible beating that became more of a torture to deal with. But Marissa was there behind him and he wanted her to know what the burning felt like.
She rose from the steps, her eyes confused as she looked back at Marissa's figure then back to Jared. Her eyes locked onto his when he finally stood in front of her, arm wrapping around her waist and pulling her towards his chest. He stared down into her surprised features, into that gaze that both transfixed and convicted him. He was throwing himself into the flames all over again and he knew that along with the brokenness he would have to heal over the burns scalded onto his skin. But he wouldn't feel the effects of them for awhile, not until this all connected and he finally found it inside to pull away. When would that ever be?
He was aware that Marissa had stopped walking and he swallowed down the thick of emotions lodged inside of him. His free hand lifted, arm still tightly pressing her to him as he brushed back some of the fallen strands of her hair. She made to say his name but he cut off the escaped words with his own lips. She gasped out but her hands clutched onto him and she returned the kiss as desperately as he gave it.