A slow breath escaped his lips as he ran his hand over his features that were both pale stricken and worn down. Marissa, that’s who was draining him. Just knowing that she was in one of the rooms here, so close to him was bringing back every single memory of the time when he had nearly let go and had barely even emotionally survived. He could have dealt with everything that came with Essie, he could have dealt with his own brother making things this way, having paid her to come into his life. But the past? He was never one to be able to look back and return without a lasting scar.
He just needed to gather himself, that’s all that it would take. Eventually it would have to get better, eventually he would have to forget that any of this had even happened and move on from the hole he was digging out for himself. He didn’t want to languish anymore, he was tired of being weak. He wanted to be that man he had been before with all the feelings of being in control, with all the need of being at the head of everything. Was that really such a bad place to be? To be slightly impassive? Not let anyone in once all this was over? That’s just how things had to be.
Carefully he rose up from the sofa, stretching himself a little with a small groan. His eyes turned out the window, seeing the gentle fall of snow and the way that the sweet wind created something of a mist to pass by the panes. Everything was so calm around him, so settled except for the excess of emotions lingering inside of him. That raging feeling that reached up inside of him. He needed to just push himself forward, needed to just let the feelings rest and bring himself up out of this. He was strong enough for that, he was sure.
Hearing the sound of the shower stop from the other side of the bathroom door he pushed off the blanket he had pulled up over himself and stood to his feet. A yawn fell from his lips and his hand pushed back through his slightly tangled hair. He needed a shower and it took everything inside of him not to go in there now and request something of an invitation. She would let him, wouldn’t she? He had gotten the impression that she would have allowed things to further between them if his mom hadn’t called for him the night before, if Marissa hadn’t suddenly shown up. Flashes of memory from New York came to mind and he couldn’t stifle them down. The feelings came back, those pressured feelings that had overwhelmed him when she had been in his arms. The past wasn’t easy to forget. Especially not when it was as recent as it had been.
He couldn’t entirely understand why he was listening so closely to the sound of her moving around the bathroom, the gentle sound of clothes being pulled on, the running sink taps, the small footsteps across the tiled floor. Her movements were so gentle and he wondered for a moment if she was even real. She had to be real to erect such emotional turmoil inside of him. She had to be real in order for him to feel the way he did about her. And what were those feelings? He couldn’t even tell- or he didn’t want to admit to any of them. Facing the truth, bearing with the consequences of admittance was as hard as facing the past. Worst thing was he had to do both and soon.
As he folded the blanket into a neat square the bathroom door opened and she stepped out, towel running over the damp strands of her red hair, the red losing its vibrance beneath the water. She looked so vulnerable, so small without the touches of makeup, without the flair of her clothes. She wasn’t the artist that told as many lies as she could right then. She was simply the girl he had met in New York who had somehow seen through him. She was Essie, who had clung to him so gently like she never wanted him to let go. Perhaps that was where he had messed up? By letting her go? By letting her feel like he was turning his back on her? He couldn’t not turn away from her. She was married, she had a daughter. That’s what replayed in his mind as he looked at her. She had a life away from here, away from him despite all the desire and the deep rooted need. She had something he didn’t. All that he had was his music, the only part of him that existed away from here was whatever he created. That meant something, he knew that it did but standing there in front of her, seeing in her eyes the fulfillment of living a different sort of life he knew that he couldn’t find what it meant. Meaning didn’t matter, not when you were in such need of something he couldn’t reach for.
"I’m sorry, I thought you were still asleep. I didn’t wake you up did I?" She questioned, head tilting slightly as if she were trying to understand the way that he was looking at her. When he didn’t answer at first her brows knitted a little and she swallowed down the harsh nerves that washed through her whenever she was close to him. Being in the same room as him set her on edge and she wasn’t quite sure how to act around him. There was something about the blue of his eyes that wouldn’t let her go. Something about the soft scent that washed off of him that followed her so closely into her dreams, lingering on her mind long after she had woken up. Perhaps she should have never let him close, let him inside of her but she couldn’t deny him. Even the night before when he had lowered himself to her, the obvious glinting in the look in his eyes, all that had made everything come crashing down on her. Both responsibility and reason as well. But there was also a touch of anger in her when she thought of why he had allowed himself to get close to her again after all those moments of coldness. He had seen that woman that Shannon had told her about, the one that he had let break him.
"Call your daughter today?" His question came out absentmindedly as his fingers brushed through the length of his hair. Eyes remained leveled on hers and he took in a breath, a calm one that didn’t ease anything raging inside of him. He wanted to hide in this room with her, let the Winter frost die away, let the night pass on and then another followed by a few more until everything disappeared except for the two of them. But that was wrong to wish for so he had pushed out that question in efforts of redeeming himself of it.
She looked as if his question had caught her completely off guard but she gave a nod anyways, a short one that was cut off by her walking off from the spot she was standing in. Setting the wet towel down she went in search of a brush and started to brush down the wet strands of her hair. She called her right when she had woken up before she went off to school, she had asked her again where she was. How many lies could she tell her before the truth started to show? Before it became obvious just what she was doing? But, in fact, she wasn’t doing anything at all except earning money. That wasn’t a crime. Was it?
A knock sounded on the door and Jared went to open it, disrupting his stare that followed each movement that she made. She was so beautiful standing there with the whispering morning rays caressing the delicate contours of her face. She still looked tired, so unlike the exuberant and lively person he had felt every part of himself become drawn to back in New York. But he had to remind himself again that New York hadn’t been real at all. New York had been nothing but lies. It was easy to act the part with as much money as she was getting.
He shook his head slightly of his own thoughts and crossed the room to the door, taking the knob in his hand. He heard the bathroom door shut, soft scent of her perfume and newly washed body lingering in the air around him. He breathed it in before letting it out and pulling open the door. It was Shannon standing there, eyes looking down at his little brother as if an apology was ready to fall out from that dark gaze. Jared always looked up to his brother, always found comfort in the things he would tell him, seek out the advice he could give, become himself in his brother’s shelter. Shannon was everything he wasn’t and together it seemed as if they somehow completed each other. Yet now standing with him felt burdened because that trust had been breached, broken lost among the memories that they both shared.
"Jared, I’m going into town for mom…" he began, swallowing down perhaps the thick of nerves that were building up from inside of him. He didn’t like the idea of Essie being here with Jared, with their family. He hadn’t wanted it to get this far. "…she’s missing some things for dinner and I was just wondering…well it’s kind of a long drive…" He felt like he was stumbling on his words and he hated how distant they suddenly felt from the other.
"You want me to go with you." And just then Jared felt the pressure fall away and once again he was eager to just be near Shannon, like when he was younger and he wanted to follow him around everywhere. He gave Shannon a nod and offered a smile and just for a brief second the pressure fell away and Jared just wanted it gone. Out of everything he just wanted to understand why his brother had played a role in this. "Just let me get ready, alright?"
Shannon smiled back, gave him a nod and backed away from the door leaving Jared to disappear again into the room with a much easier breath escaping from his lips.