With his head heavy in his hands, Jimmy sat naked on the edge of the bed and tried to remember how the hell he had ended up where he was, the last few hours of his life nothing more than a whiskey haze. Every minute, of every day, since the very second he had watched Ky drive away, seemed to lay buried in the same thick shroud of semi-consciousness, his failed attempt to drink her from existence. No matter how much he drank, no matter how hard he fucked, she refused to die. He closed his eyes, shifted his hands to his ears, desperate to block out her voice. He could still feel her breath, hot and damp on his face, her words an eternal echo, “You are nothing to him.”
“She deserves better than you…”
“You are nothing to him.”
The two, relentless truths he could never drink away.
The bed shifted behind him as she roused from sleep. He bit back a curse. He hadn’t left fast enough, sabotaging himself once again because he feared being alone. He was so fucking tired of being lonely. But being with her only intensified his desolation.
Moving in close, she ran a gentle caress across his shoulders, down his back. His body involuntarily shuddered from her touch.
Her voice thick from the long night, she asked, “Can’t sleep?”
The bed shifted under her weight as she rose to hold him. He tensed as the breasts he’d paid for pressed unyielding against his back. Her breath, hot from sleep, still laced with tequila, sent him into a deep chill. He brushed her away, rougher than he intended to, but he didn’t apologize, and she didn’t remove her hands from him.
Marissa held him tighter, her lips playing along his shoulder. “Come back to bed.”
With her arms around him, her hands stroking and massaging his body, her skin still wearing the musky scent of sweat and sex, she enveloped him in her body heat, but the chill inside him spread, until his every cell felt dead.
He extracted himself from her embrace. “I have to go.”
By the soft, twinkling glow of the Christmas lights strung outside her bedroom window, he hunted down his jeans and slipped them on.
She let out a heavy sigh and propped herself up against the pillows. She reached to the nightstand for her glass of lukewarm tequila, taking a sip before handing it to him. He downed the rest, numb to the burn, and watched as she lit a cigarette. She drew in a deep drag, studying him with an intense gaze, and exhaled a slow stream of smoke.
“How much longer are you planning on doing this?” she asked.
“Using me as your substitute.”
He returned to sitting on the edge of the bed to pull on his boots and shot a sideways glance at her unabashedly nude form. His eyes traveled up her long, toned legs, around the gentle curve of her hips, over her tight abs and the swell of her breasts. His journey stopped when his eyes met the blue of hers. Framed by mussed, honey-blonde hair, her beautiful face hid behind a layer of heavy make-up, painted in sorrow.
“Can you even remember the last time you were thinking about me when your hands were on my body?”
He turned away from her, but couldn’t escape her gaze, their eyes meeting in the mirror hanging over her bureau. He had never intentionally lied to her, and she demanded truth from him now.
Her smile did not reach her eyes. “I think we were seventeen.”
“That’s not true, Miss.”
“Close enough.” She took a short drag of her cigarette, exhaling another blue stream before snubbing out the wasted length of it into a glass ashtray. She pulled her legs in and rested her chin on her knees, watching him as he stuffed one foot and then the other into his work boots. “I didn’t mind because I knew I was the only girl in your life who never changed. You and I always found each other when we needed someone. Even when you had Ash, you still came looking for me more often than you turned to her.”
He stood and fished his t-shirt out of a pile of discarded clothing on the floor, desperate to escape her voice.
“When you and Ky first got together, I figured she’d be like all the others who came before her. But she wasn’t, was she?” She laughed, the sorrowful sound of it souring the tequila in his stomach. “For the first time in my life, I was jealous. I never thought that was an emotion I would ever waste my time on, especially when it came to you, but it was.”
“The funny thing though, Jimmy, it wasn’t until after Ky left for California, and you came to me totally destroyed, that I realized I wasn’t jealous of her.” She waited until he turned to look at her before she said, “I was jealous of you.”
He silently watched the flickering rainbow of Christmas colors play across her features, highlighting her pain and shadowing her fear, and she gave him a weak shrug.
“You found love.”
“Miss…” he breathed out in a pained whisper around the lump lodged in his throat.
She climbed from her bed and crossed the room, her arms coming around him just as he lost the battle, the first tear racing down his cheek, followed by a million more.
“You know I love you, baby, and I’ll never turn you away from my bed if that’s where you truly want to be,” she whispered. “But you don’t belong with me anymore.”
He buried his face in her neck, her familiar scent both a comfort and a torment as she rocked him in her arms. “I don’t know where else to go.”
“Just go home.”