"Jessi . . . Matt was in a car crash tonight."
All at once I felt my body begin to buckle inwards as I clutched the phone painfully to my ear and made a quick, "Quiet!" to my chit chatting roommates. Bringing the phone back up to my face, I fought back tears as I spoke.
"What do you mean Matt was in a car crash?" I asked as adrenaline pumped into my body, urging me to get off my ass and do something, but petrified, all I could do was sit and wait. The length of her pauses made it all the worse. They were seemingly endless and I begged her to tell me it all at once, like a band-aid. Rip it off and let me feel the real pain.
"He's okay," she finally said.
I exhaled through grit teeth, an attempt to breathe while at the same time prevent the possibility of vomiting that my stomach seemed very keen on doing. My body began to relax as I passed the word to my prying friends, though my hand still cramped itself around the telephone like a vice.
"What happened?" I asked her. "Where are you?"
"We're at the Emergency Room," she replied, trying to multitask a conversation between me and a nurse.
"In the ER?" Panic rose again. "I thought he was okay?" Gaining the strength in my legs, I stood and moved the conversation into the other room, shutting the door behind me, though I could hear at least two of my roommates as they pressed their ears against the door.
"Well it was a real car accident, and he did get hurt. But the doctors say he'll be okay. They're running a few tests and scans to make sure there's no brain damage."
"He hit his head?" In my mind I tried to recall the last words I said to him. They couldn't have been great. They might have even been when I broke it off with him, for no good reason at all. How could I have been so stupid. Considering my mother, aunt and Grandmother had all died I should have known better than to leave someone I loved with not so loving words.
"How did it happen?" I asked, secretly praying that whoever was driving hadn't been drinking. The last thing I needed right now was to go down to the ER and start breaking bones.
"Bad weather, bad driving. They had the right of way but someone tried to turn when they weren't supposed to. Hit them pretty hard. Matt hit his head into the window . . . yes, I just thought I should call her." I could hear Matt's Mom talking to someone, most likely his Dad.
"Tell him I . . ." I paused to notice she wasn't listening just yet.
"Sorry sweetie, what was that?" She asked.
"I said . . . umm . . . I'm glad he's okay." And then we both hung up the phone.
Walking out into the living room, I put the phone back and smiled politely at my roommates and friends before silently stepping out onto the front porch and letting out a painful - though muffled - cry. My knees buckled and I leaned up against the walls of my home, pulling my arms in tight against me as the crisp winter air blew across my skin.
"He okay?" Audra asked as she came outside, smart enough to bring her own sweater, plus another for me. I refused it at first, but took it the second time around when I saw the snow really begin to fall on our front lawn.
"Mom says he's okay. Getting scanned." I sighed loudly and watched the heat from my words rise up in smoke and then drift off into the wintery ether before vanishing altogether. "I don't know what I would have done, Audra." I shook my head.
"Done what?" She asked, scooting closer to me so we could stay warm together. "If Matt died?"
"I can let him go, I've done it in the past so many times, and I've hurt him each time . . . it's easier when I'm the bad guy I guess," I shook my head. "But Audra . . . if he died . . . I just don't know what I would do." Immediately the tears began falling down my cheeks and I became completely inept at stopping them.
"Matt's not dead," she tried consoling me. "He's fine, you're fine. There's nothing to worry about. Well, there is one little thing you should at least be aware of?"
"Oh?" I sniffled and wiped my tears away on the sleeve of my sweater. "And what's that?"
Audra smiled sadly. "You're still in love with Matt."
"Don't," I stood up and began walking away. "I let him go. That's not what this is about."
"It's what it's been about for the last several years. You love Matt, you know it, I know and I bet you anything he knows it too." She reached out and took my arm, pulling me around to face her. "You need to make some decisions before you get all your bags packed and ready to go for Utah."
"I made my decision Audra," I sighed. "I ended things with Matt. Do I worry about him? Yes, of course. But this changes nothing."
"Well if you're telling the truth, which I doubt," she smirked. "You still have to get some closure with Josh."
"Josh made it very clear that we're just friends." I pointed out.
"Sometimes I don't think the three of you has ever made anything very clear. You're in love with two men my friend." She opened the front door. "You need to deal with that. And soon."
I clumped down on the front porch as Audra shut the door behind her. Glancing inside, I watched the rest of my friends open presents and then fight over what Christmas movie we were going to watch. In the corner, underneath the small tree I noticed two remaining presents for me. One left a week earlier by Josh, and another dropped off two days ago by Matt. I hadn't opened either just yet.
The metaphors were overwhelming.
"Merry Christmas." I sighed.
When actual Christmas Eve rolled around, I found myself arriving at Matt's home, the place where I'd spent every Christmas Eve since I was fifteen. Matt's parents insisted, especially since I didn't have any family in town on Christmas day. It was awkward at first, as it always was when Matt and I weren't generally on speaking terms.
"I'm glad you're okay," I managed to get out when his parents were in the kitchen finishing the dishes.
Matt remained fixated on the television, searching through the guide to remind himself which channel would be playing twenty-four hours of A Christmas Story, his favourite holiday movie. "Thanks," he muttered.
A few more casually kind words were exchanged before everyone went to bed. I snuggled up on the living room couch by myself, my eyes looking around the room that was lit up by the Christmas tree in the corner of the room, stacks of presents piled underneath - many of which surprisingly for me.
I realised that this could possibly be the last time I saw this house, at least for a while. I was moving in a week, Chris and I had planned to start our new lives on the first day of a new year. Bags were packed and all that was left was to say goodbye and according to Audra . . . get closure.
I breathed in the smell of the blanket that covered me, trying to memorize it for the cold nights in Utah when I'd probably find myself missing New Mexico, and everyone in it. I sat up to fluff my pillow and glanced down the hallway where I noticed that Matt's bedroom light was still on. Summoning up whatever courage I could, I stood up and walked to the door, lightly knocking on it.
"Yeah?" I heard from the other side.
"Can't sleep?" I asked as I opened the door to find Matt sitting on his bed, an X-box controller in hand.
"Not really." He said, not taking his eyes off the screen.
I walked into the room uninvited and sat down beside him, glancing at the small bandage on the side of his head, the one reminder of the nightmare of a phone call I'd gotten earlier in the week. "Does it hurt?" I asked.
Matt shrugged. "Little bit." He adjusted the bandage. "My glasses press on it every now and then."
"You'll probably have a pretty cool scar," I smirked. "Remember when we were younger and we spent like an hour on the phone telling each other how we got all of our scars?" I laughed.
"Why are you here?" He asked, setting the controller down and finally bringing his eyes to meet mine.
Caught off guard, I turned away from him. "It's Christmas," I shrugged.
"And this isn't your family."
"You're right. But it still feels like it is." I tried to keep myself from tearing up.
"You can't just leave me for no good reason, tell me you're moving to Utah with another guy and then show up for the holidays." His voice was bitter, and while had good reason for it, it was still hard to hear.
"I'm not moving to Utah with Chris, he's just a friend." I argued.
"That's besides the point." He sighed. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to have you here right now?" He asked.
"It's hard for me too," I whispered. "I may have been the one to put an end to everything but I didn't do it because I stopped caring about you. I did it because you deserve better."
"You don't get to decide that for me." He winced a little and took off his glasses to rub at the bandage. "I'm a grown man and I can decide for myself what I deserve."
"What have I ever done to make you want me?" I asked him. "Sometimes I think you and Josh both are just glutton for punishment." I scoffed and stood up. "Look, hate me all you want Matt, maybe it's better that way. And after this week I'll be gone forever. Make your own decisions then." I stood up and walked out of the room.
Closure. Yeah, right.
I crawled back onto the couch swallowing my emotions. It would be easier this way. I couldn't tell him how I really felt. It wouldn't change anything. I was moving and he was staying here.
"One down." I sighed and contemplated how well my final goodbye with Josh would go over.
>>> Chapter Thirty-Nine