"I'm not happy. Just let me be happy." I begged him. He sighed, running an exasperated hand through his hair. "I can let you be happy," he nodded, "But I can't let you starve yourself."
Chapter Five: The Denial Twist
I was dragged into the house after Brend paid off the cabby, waving him good night as the driver offered only weirded out glances in return at my behavior. /'Well fuck you too buddy, like you have any idea what's going on here..' /I growled in my mind, scowling back at the cab as he drove off.
"I suggest you go take a hot shower, calm down before we talk." he told me, going straight for the kitchen as he loosened his tie and untucked his shirt. "I'm gunna make some drinks, pick your poison."
"I told you, I'm going dry tonight." This wasn't so much about the alcohol anymore as it was about giving Brendon a hard time. I loved him sure, but when people babied me I got really pissed really fast and when I was pissed at you I was really fucking pissed, no stopping me. Though I'd admit this could have been a lot worse, like I told Spence: I knew I could be a real bitch. Like a fire over dry grass eating its way through my young, reckless veins. I did my best to rebel and play things backwards for the sick satisfaction of putting whoever I was mad at through as much pain/frustration/aggravation as possible. I knew where to draw the line, but I didn't. That was the one level on which all of Brendon's friends understood me- we were all kinda fucked up that way. It's probably good that I never had to work during high school, I would have made one helluva a wreck as a waitress.
"Now remind me, that was /before/ you blacked out, right?"
My jaw stayed firmly locked together and I gave him a dirty look.
"If you don't speak up it'll be apple martinis for both of us and you'll be locked in the bedroom with me so it's either that or you go thirsty."
Oh for Hell's sake!
While he loved martinis, I hated them. Especially apple ones. Give me some /real /liquor, something with the promise of destruction tied like a ribbon around the neck of the bottle.
"Get me some Bailey's." I sighed before trudging off to the bathroom. I locked the door behind me, vigorously contemplating if I had enough guts to rip the shower curtains off and/or smash his bottle of cologne against the mirror. I looked around wanting to destroy something. Burn something. That was a therapeutic technique I'd learned from Ryan. Write down the most hateful things you can think of, and then set a lighter to the bastard.
But I couldn't really do that in my bathroom. Shame I didn't have a vase of roses lying around...Smirking to myself I stripped and got in the shower, setting the water to cool. I was still dangerously overheated from the club, from the Las Vegas air itself. I just needed something fresh, crisp on my skin.
The spray shook me to my senses and it felt good to massage my shampoo into my skull. I stood there, slowly letting my rage slip away and my heart defrost. 'Okay, so /maybe this shower was a good idea,' I thought, lathering up my washcloth. 'Maybe it's better that I got out of that club early anyways. As much as I hated to leave, I can't deny how tired I am. My calves feel like they're going to break, rip apart or something...I think my thighs are staging an all out war against me.' /Maybe I should have realized then: Hey, what you're doing to your body is unhealthy. You need to slow it down. But I didn't. I actually felt emotional relief about the physical pain my body was going through because pain meant: whatever you were trying to do was working. It was sick, and slightly twisted, but it was true.
I got out of the shower and toweled off, facing my mirror and putting every curve, every blemish, every eyelash through the ringer. I passed my own judgments on them. As hard as I had been working, I wasn't at my goal quite yet. No where near actually, though I was happy to at least note some progress. The close scrutiny and attention to detail shook me momentarily into rendition of the first night I'd made love to Brendon. Picking up a brush I figured I'd delay talking to my boyfriend as long as possible and just stand here amongst the clinging steam and trappings of memories.
I still retained a clear memory of the first night we slept together. It had been my first night in the house we shared and all that had been in my room at the time was a mattress on the floor, devoid of any real sheets (though we threw a blanket over it at the last minute) and a few candles beside the mattress because I hadn't had a lamp for that room quite yet. The windows had been curtainless and if you were laying on the floor all you could see were stars and the full moon.
We'd been moving things all day and had fallen onto my mattress kissing and laughing after finishing an all American dinner that comprised of pizza and Sprite. We spent hours basking in the candle light, the freedom, and each other. Just soaking everything up. I remembered after we went at it twice and were taking a breather Brendon had started kissing random parts of skin. My arms, my shoulder, my cheek, my collar bone, the side of my torso, my belly button, my hips. Whenever he found a blemish, a scar of any kind, he'd kiss it and then softly murmur, "What's the story behind this?"
He wanted to learn me and I was so in love with him for it. Running a hand through his hair I'd explain, "When I was eight I stepped on a nail in the backyard while my dad was having a tree house built for me."
"And this?" his voice floated back to me soon after.
"My grandmother's cat hated me." I'd smirked. "Let's never get a cat, okay?"
He looked up at me, matching my look. "How about goldfish?"
I giggled, "I'd love you forever, but it'd die. I just know it. I've tried having fish three times and they /all /died." I told him. It was pathetic but so true. I wasn't very good with animals unless they were sturdy and blindly trusting, like Labradors. We went on to discuss my past trespasses against fish. That was us, always talking about the most random things. Somehow I was overjoyed to discuss such stupid shit with Brendon. Even after a year of racking up one hell of a long-distance bill month after month we were still discovering silly little imperfections and idiosyncrasies. Always something new, something interesting to find out about that connected us deeper, like strands of muscle built up slowly over time.
Sighing, I laid my hair brush down. And stared at my hair, running my fingers through the wet, now dark strands. I could never stay mad at Brendon. He was just scared to see me hurt. I needed to stop reading that as an offense against my ability to take proper care of myself and see it for what it really was. Love.
I emerged from the bathroom and noticed Brendon playing with my stereo on my way to the closet to grab some PJ's. He never could decide what he wanted to listen to. Honestly it was the cutest thing to watch him go through all 9 of our local radio stations in the car and never find anything to satisfy his mood. Grabbing some of his boxers, a wife beater and some underwear I smiled softly when the schnazzy jazzy sounds of Eric Clapton's unplugged version of "Layla" hit my ears. Quickly throwing my clothes on I walked out to own up to boyfriend, toweling my hair dry as I did so.
I sat on the bed, waiting for him to come to the conclusion that what we were listening to was good. Apparently he'd been as over heated as I had because his jeans were now laying forgotten on the floor and he was standing clad in boxers and a band shirt.
Finally fed up I sighed, "Brendon forget about the music, I'm tired. Come and talk to me before I fall asleep right here in the middle of the bed."
He glanced at me, then gave the radio a last loving look before turning to come sit by me, a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream in one hand and a martini glass in the other. As much as I despised his choice of alcohol, I'd always liked the way he held his martini glasses. There was something intolerably sensual about the way his fingers handled the cheap crystal, but then again there was something intolerably sensual about Brendon's hands in general.
"Look, I know I came off as harsh earlier. I'm sorry about that. But you can't keep doing this to yourself. It isn't healthy." he pleaded with me.
"I'm trying to get in shape, how is that unhealthy? I was under the impression that you liked your girls hot." When on the defensive, resort to a good offensive. My parents and friends had taught me that.
"I didn't move in with you because I thought you /weren't/ hot." he grumbled in a lazy tone of voice, as though this were so obvious that he just didn't understand what my problem was. "And by the way, my definition of hot in no way encompasses starving yourself."
"I'm not /starving/ myself." I sighed, exasperated with the circles we just kept throwing ourselves around in.
His eyes narrowed, "Riiight-- that's why you fainted tonight."
"I danced for like two hours without stopping. I was in heals, I was in pain, I was tired. I needed some water, that's all."
"Did you even eat dinner before we left?" he pressed on as though I hadn't just responded to him.
"Yes, as a matter of fact I /did/." I ground out, rather insulted.
"Really? And what did you eat?"
"You know that Chinese take-out shit you have sitting around in my fridge? I had some of that, is that alright with you?"
"/Exactly/ what did you eat?" he demanded. What was this a detective grill session?
"I had a teriyaki kebob and a spring role. I was full so I stopped eating, is that a crime?"
"Bails," he sighed, "I don't know how to make you understand that your body needs more food than that."
"What do you want me to do? Eat the house down? Stop running? Sit around and play video games and get fat? Personally I'd rather not. I love you, but I can't be happy unless I feel good about myself. This isn't about do you think I'm hot, this is about do I /know /I'm hot. Can I be okay with how I look on the outside so it doesn't affect who I am on the inside.
"But it /is/ affecting who you are."
"Right now it is, sure! Because I'm not happy. Just let me be /happy/." I begged him. He sighed, running an exasperated hand through his hair.
"I can let you be happy," he nodded, "But I can't let you starve yourself. Starting tomorrow, you're eating all your meals with me. I don't care if you're at Maitland's working and I have to come over to watch you eat pizza, I'm monitoring your food intake. And you're going to start taking vitamins, too. Ryan has a bunch of multi-v's in the kitchen, I want you to take one in the morning with your breakfast."
I just stared at him for a moment, a perfect frown decorating my face. I wanted to hate him. But how could I get so mad over his big-brother act? Besides, it didn't matter how much I ate. I could always exercise more. And soon the boys would be off doing promo. I'd be back to doing things my way, it'd all be fine.
My white flag came disguised as a defeated sigh and nod of agreement before leaning forward to slide my arms around Brendon. I could feel every muscle, almost every bone.
"You know I love you." he murmured over my ear. I was finding it hard to concentrate, suddenly I was fascinated with how thin he was. Had he always been this skinny? "I'm not trying to be an ass. I know it's hard to see that, I know you want to be mad at me. But I don't want to give up on you."
I had to make him shut up. Hearing him talk like that wasn't easy and I was too weak, too selfish to be in the mood for hard. My mouth met his and I found myself in the midst of a frown as we worked to get our clothes off of one another. My hands massaged roughly over his collar bone, his hips, his ribs. In a sick, morbid way I wanted that. My back met our comforter and Brendon's mouth left mine in favor of territory further south of my now swollen lips. I barely even paid attention as he made love to me. All I could think was 'God, he's skinnier than I am...I'm disgusting...How can he even do this...'
Panting, Brendon lay down beside me, trying to catch his breath. Usually we cuddled afterward, made some racy/funny comment, went at it again. Did or said /something/. We liked to bask, take our time and be fully glutinous in our pleasure. If that meant pulling an all nighter, all the bigger our smiles the next sunrise.
That night I just rolled over to face the wall, curling into myself and doing everything in my power not to let on that I was fighting tears.
Soft piano notes stirred me from sleep sometime after. Groggily, I lifted myself up and searched the dark of my room for my digital clock. It was 3: 27 in the morning. Who the hell would be playing their keyboard at this hour? Who the hell else? 'God Ryan, /why?' /I groaned inwardly. I rolled over, trying to just let his music lull me to sleep. Yah, no. Not happening. I finally freed myself of denial and faced the music: I wasn't getting back to sleep for a while, so I might as well go out there and see why he's up. Ryan had this odd habit of not sleeping or eating when something was bothering him. I guess it wasn't so much odd, as scary really. Unlike some people (namely me) that boy couldn't /afford /not to eat.
I stood up from the bed, wobbled sideways on my legs a few times and collapsed back against the mattress.
/'Ow.' /Apparently my body was still pissed off at me. Well, no more heels for me for a while.
My gaze turned upwards to make sure I hadn't startled my boyfriend. Cha right, that boy slept like an anesthesia druggie. I attempted walking again and, once I got the hang of it, stiffly made my way over to the hamper, groping around for some clothes. Aha! Gotcha! A plaid pair of pajama pants and a black t-shirt later I was making my drowsy way into the living room.
"Ry, it's 3 in the morning. Why aren't you passed out in the guest bedroom?" I asked him, the fatigue dripping from my voice as I dragged myself over to him, curling my arms around his neck and leaning down to use his back as a pillow. I felt him chuckle lightly beneath me.
"We just got home an hour ago. I tried to get to sleep, but I'm wired."
"/Of course /you are." I grumbled from behind him, my voice muffled. Sighing, I stood and moved to curl up on the motley old, couch beside his keyboard.
"Why did you guys leave early? I know the two of you aren't /that/ horny, right?" he smirked at me. All I could offer in return was a very tired smile.
"Not quite. We kinda got into a fight. But we're fine now, everything's cool."
"Make-up sex work it's wonders again?"
My heart skipped a beat, but my manners didn't. I gave him a small, breathy laugh in return, "Wouldn't /you/ like to know."
"No, not really." he promised me with a smirk, turning back to make a mark on the sheet music in front of him.
"What are you working on?" I asked, as though it weren't obvious. Still, I liked to keep up with Ryan's creative outpourings. He was the only other writer under this roof and we'd always been kind of close because of it. That and-
"Just some new music..." he dropped his pencil and turned to face me, "Hey, umm, Bailey?"
"Hey, umm Ryan?" I responded, trying to lighten the mood. I could tell I was on the tip of an iceberg sized slab of drama. He smiled sadly and played with his fingernails.
"This is kind of irrelevant and I know you're tired and I know it's late but I just need someone to spill my guts too."
"Hey, no problem, spill away."
He just nodded, staying silent for a few moments as he chewed his finger nail. The start of a few sentences came out of his mouth but none of it really went anywhere. I just waited patiently, knowing this had to be difficult for him. And I understood because I wasn't the best oratory designer either. There seems to be this horribly inaccurate consensus that writer's are good with their words. The reality is that most of us are laughably pathetic at formulating coherent sentences on the first try. We were disasters with communication. Too caught up in all the words, all the wrong details, to get anything across clearly unless we had some paper to sort it all out on. If not the words just got jumbled up in our brains and then became lost in a blur of excitement from all the other words flying through.
"My parents called, they want to see me." See now, that wasn't so hard.
"Mhm," I nodded for him to continue.
"Well, I just, I don't know...I don't want, it's not that I don't want to see them. I just...I'm just scared of getting into another fight with them. I know they'll be all 'Hey great to see you'. Then sit me down and tell me everything that's wrong about what I'm doing. Who I've become since I last saw them. Do you know I haven't seen them since I turned /18/?" he looked up from his now horrendously abused nails to stare me in the eyes.
I nodded, swallowing. I knew the story way too well. Ryan's father had been an alcoholic and had beat the living daylights out of his son most nights for years. The day Ry turned 18 he'd packed up and left to go live with Spencer. I remember getting drunk with Ryan one night while I was still moving in and him letting all of it spill out, like a break in the flood gates. In my emotionally unstable state (meaning I was drunk off my ass) I had cried big crocodile tears when I'd heard the horror stories. I'd told him I didn't exactly understand how he was feeling, but I had a repulsively good idea of it. True my father had never beat /me /around, but that doesn't mean everything came up daisies for my parents. I had woken up too many times to the sound of him coming home late and screaming at my mom for the craziest things. His dinner was cold, the laundry wasn't folded right, she was paying the maid too much. His screams easily turned into hers and all I could do was lie in my bed, shaking at the mercy of my sobs. That was where my empathy for Ryan came in to play. I understood the helplessness, the fear. I had lived through the insecurity of playing it cool the next morning at school and wondering if people could tell I was shaken up, if I had 'dysfunctional family' somehow tattooed all over my skin.
I eventually developed an instinct that triggered every time I heard them making noise in another room. Even the startling sound of their laughter permeating the walls could make me jump, my stomach go raw with knots. Still, she loved him /so much /and there were times when I just hadn't understood it. But we stayed and she dealt with it. She laughed with the other moms at PTA meetings, she drove me to school every morning (until my sophomore year of high school when I had to insist that my boyfriend take me instead). She was all warm, fresh cookies and polished pearls. To this day I still couldn't decide if I loved and respected or hated and pitied her for that.
I'm sure you can understand then that when I met Brendon and the boys it had been like coming up for air. They were so different from the world I was used to. They wore their heartache like chains around their necks for the whole world to see and screw the world if it didn't like it. They were loud and didn't care who heard. They messed up and just laughed about it. They were /real/.
"Ry," I got up to take a seat beside him on his tiny piano bench. "Your were born to perform. You're an artist and it's not about the money, it's about the stories. It's about the way you feel when you're ripping up your guitar on stage. It's therapy and chemistry and..." Hmm, this wasn't exactly turning out to be the dose of enthusiasm I thought I was measuring out, "Look, you're doing what you're meant to do. This is right for you. And deep down you know you're dad is proud of you. Maybe he's too jealous that he never had your candid honesty or your beautiful eyes," I laughed softly and he cracked a smile, "Or that adorable smile that makes girls throw their panties on stage..." he laughed a little, finally looking up at me, "Maybe it's because you've got talent and motivation and killer style. But whatever it is, past all that you're still his son. Hell, you're leaving soon to do a promotion tour, how many people in this town have bragging rights like that?"
The boy next to me made a face that had /'No offense, but think about what you're saying here' /graffitied all over it, "Well..."
Right...we're in Las Vegas, not the Northeast, ehe, my bad. "Okay, bad example!" I smiled, "But still! People pay money to come see /you/ play, your shows are /sold out /across the nation. How could he /not/ be proud? Shit, I know /I'm/ proud." my smile grew to a grin and I leaned forward to give sloth-boy a hug. I knew my words didn't mean as much as I had wanted them to. They never would until he heard it from his father first hand. But hell, I'd given him my honesty and he knew that was all he could ask for.
"Thanks Bails. I appreciate it," he sighed, hugging me back. "The thing is, all those sold out venues don't mean much unless the people I actually want attention from give a damn."
"I know, but hey," I pulled back and gave him a mischievous look before letting my fingers unfold over his keyboard into Des'ree's "You Gotta Be". I had taken piano lessons all my life and upon moving to the L.V. one of my favorite past times had quickly become singing old hits with the boys along to their acoustic dreams and ivory keys.
"Listen as your day unfolds, challenge what the future holds, try to keep your head up to the sky." I sang softly. He smiled, catching on quickly and singing along. We must've sounded terrible. I was no Des'ree and Ryan was definitely no Brendon when it came to belting. But hell, we didn't care. Just be glad you didn't have to hear it. "Lovers they may cause you tears, go ahead release your fears, stand up and be counted, don't be shamed to cry."
It was then that we broke out into the chorus and Ryan started clapping to the missing beat.
"You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser, you gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger!"- I guess we got a little carried away because the next thing I knew we were being cut off by an angry sounding shout from down the hall,
"Knock it off guys, it's four in the morning!" Our eyes met and we broke into a fit of laughter, nearly falling off the pathetic excuse for a piano bench as it wobbled under our combined weights. Pretty soon we couldn't even remember why we were laughing, the fact that we had to keep our noise low also making it harder to stop. Eventually though we did settle down.
As I got up to give Ryan one last hug before I got back to bed I couldn't help it, "You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together, all I know is love will save the day." I murmured softly before kissing his cheek and leaning back, "Good luck tomorrow. If you want I could go with your, or maybe one of the boys could...?"
He forced a sad smile, "Thanks, but I um, I know I need to do this on my own. I just need to stop stalling and /do it/."
I nodded, understanding where he was coming from and silently wishing him all the luck I was worth. Which wasn't all the much, but again I was trying.
"Alright well, I love you, sleep well." I squeezed his shoulder and walked off.
"Yah, you too, g'night."