Handing the money to the taxi driver he stepped out of the car onto the cold stricken streets and watched the lights disappear into the flurry of white, Winter and crowds. His breath danced from his lips as a release of smoke lingering on the wind. He was finally here, watching New York rise around him like an empty promise of a life wrought with fame and an adoring public that knew so little of the man that he truly was. Knew so little about the pulse that beat beneath his skin.
His boots made a loud enough clang on the concrete as he made his way towards the apartment building where he stayed. Everything here was so familiar. Everything felt and tasted so much like home. New York accepted him in a way that Los Angeles hadn’t. New York had become a haven from the world around him where people barely stopped him, people barely even gave him a second glance. For the first time in what felt like forever he was blending into a crowd that didn’t involve anything he was a part of. He was just another man here and for that he was more than grateful.
Finally making it upstairs he threw off his coat, rubbing his hands together once his gloves were off. His eyes looked around the apartment. The clean formation, the sleek way that things stood out against the white walls. Art decorated walls and leaned against them, traces of a life that had been thoroughly lived showed everywhere. But it was still lacking so much. There were no kids pictures, there were no photographs of himself with someone he had decided to share his life with. No all it was was his own achievements. Achievements in art and his career.
Was that what was supposed to matter?
Jared walked on over to the kitchen and took out a glass from the cabinets, blowing the dust off he rinsed it out a couple times before filling it with water. It tasted like Heaven to the dryness of his throat, soothed the feeling of not using his voice for such a long time. He felt normal right then. Normal and yet entirely alone. That was something he didn’t want to accept. He didn’t want to simply because he had for such a long time.
Setting the glass into the dishwasher he walked on towards his bedroom and took out some clothes. The trip had been pretty long and he felt grimy. Getting clean was the first thing on his mind to feeling whole again. The clothes came off of his body like he was peeling them off a shell. That’s what he was now he supposed, a shell that had become something entirely different. A shell that was, hopefully, cracking to reveal something infinitely different. This was finally a moment to himself where he didn’t have to think about anything. All that he had to do was stand underneath the stream of water and let the thoughts fall away.
But just when the hot water began to fall over his skin he couldn’t stop the thoughts from entering his mind again. Thoughts of his brother, finally the pieces being put together after what felt like forever being ripped part. Jared was glad to be done with the things that had embedded the betrayal into his very bones. It had fallen away like remnants of a fire, ready to be erased. With Shannon came thoughts of his mom, knowing that probably right now she was trying to get a hold of him to demand reasons for his lying about being engaged. He knew that he shouldn’t have but the constant worry that glittered through her eyes affected him more than he could have told her. Marissa entered his head, those captivating eyes molded together with her gentle touches where he had found solace and an escape that lasted so briefly that he wasn’t even sure if it was entirely real. But he had hurt her, hadn’t he? In more ways than he had thought he did. Sure, she had torn out his heart in the past, had found someone else to love and she had taken away his baby. But he had turned around and repaid her for what she did to him. Did that make him worse? Or did that simply make him in debt to the Powers that be in making that up to her. But among all those thoughts Essie came alive in his head and the indecisiveness soon followed. He wasn’t sure what he was doing in New York, he wasn’t sure what the right thing was. Shannon told him that getting the girl he loved was the right thing, to grab onto what was the one thing that he wanted. But the image of her daughter, of her husband drowned out his wants and he really wasn’t sure just what was the right thing was to do, the right and the best thing.
He could feel the burn of tears in his eyes, overwhelm their barriers and whisper down his skin. It felt like his very veins trembled beneath the skin that encased his life source. It felt like the confusion had entered itself into the crowded area of his heart and taken over what little was left of actual humanity. All he felt was the pained burden of what was truth and what the right thing to do in the midst of the burdens that he had to carry above him. He had to drown out the directions, the paths that seemed right, the ones that seemed indefinitely his own and focus towards what should happen, not what he felt had to happen. That was the hardest, wasn’t it?
There had to be a moment of forgetting. For all of this. To cling to the deeper version of choice that ran lingering through his conscience. He had to make the right choice. Not only just for himself but also for Essie as well. There could be love, there could be an unbroken connection but overall there couldn’t be that attachment that would make it so that neither of them would be away from each other. Knowing that hurt but knowing it also gave him a relief. It gave him a road to map out didn’t it? Because in spite of everything he understood now the decision that had to be made. That gave him clarity and that was the only thing he had ever wanted.
Getting out of the shower he toweled himself off and got dressed. Throwing on his coat as well as his gloves, pushing back the wet strands of his hair, he grabbed his keys and headed out the door. The walk wouldn’t be too long, having gotten her address from Emma just before he left, she had never lived far from him. That was another ache to deal with. He could have met her before, he could have seen the reasons, the true emotions that had tried to mean something. Why had it happened now? After everything?
The cold accompanied him to the place where she lived and when he finally got there he felt her atmosphere sink in around him. That quiet sort of atmosphere that he hadn’t really gotten over. It was gentle, a solace that he had never felt before. He wanted to be surrounded by her his whole life but now as he confronted what he wanted he knew that he couldn’t be. That would only cause another world of trouble and trouble was definitely not something that he needed now. What he needed was peace. If there was any of it left for him to gather to himself.
A string of laughter came spilling from the door as it cracked open and Essie came walking out, bag of trash full of gift wrap hanging from her fingertips. Jared had almost forgotten that it was Christmas. The days had only flown right past him. A look of surprise flooded her features when her eyes locked onto him where he stood a few feet from her. They stood there across from each other frozen in there steps. Their breaths smoke whispering along the wind, the cold surrounding her sweetly. Her dress gently clung to the contours of her body, her hair falling down in soft strands over her shoulders. She was as beautiful as she had ever been.
Again the door cracked open and a little girl came out. The same girl she had been drawing. Her sweet face a near reflection of Essie’s as she tugged on the hem of Essie’s dress. She was saying something but all that Jared caught was the sound of his own heart shattering inside of him. She loved her daughter, he couldn’t exactly say what she felt towards her husband but her daughter, standing there beside her urging her to go back inside meant the world to her. Could Jared really cross the way now and request that she leave all this behind?
Would that even truly make him happy in the end? Would he wake up to her everyday and feel everything fall into place finally? Was someone else able to explore that for him? Jared knew that it wouldn’t. He knew that the completion would only last a short while until reality sank in and the emotions all came flooding back. It was somewhere deep inside yourself where the finality resided, where wholeness and completion showed itself and the only trace left of the past would be in the memories that you soon discarded.
Essie lifted one of her hands to steal away a trail of tears that had fallen from her eyes. She had seen something in Jared’s eyes as he stared at her. Something that made her understand and accept his decision. She knew what the reasons were. How they involved both herself and Jared as well. There were only so many hearts that could be broken out of this, there were only so many burdens that they could hold up.
A simple nod before she curled her fingers around her daughter’s hand as she went on back into the house, the door closing. The path ending where everything else ended as well. Jared stood there watching the spot where she had been standing, feeling everything inside of himself scar at the thought of her being gone. This was goodbye, the indefinite sort of goodbye that he had always feared his entire life. He had to be strong about it, he had to look the other way and keep on walking. No one could keep the blood flowing through his veins, no one could make his pulse work beneath his skin. He knew that after everything no one could keep him alive. His brother couldn’t, no matter how much he loved him there had still been that sting of disappointment now between them. His mother couldn’t with her constant worrying and that look in her eyes that needed so desperately to save him. Marissa couldn’t, with her coldness and her neediness. And Essie couldn’t, he knew that she couldn’t. Why had he even attempted to believe that someone else could work with the wounded barriers of his heart? They had to heal on their own. And the only person that could save himself, the only one who could keep himself alive was his own life. After everything he was the only one that he had to make sure mattered. Because, now, he was just tired of running.