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Never been loved, p.29
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       Never Been Loved, p.29

           C.M. Kars

  Because I blew it. I blew it big time.

  Just my luck, Sera’s walking out to my car with Matty in her arms. I know she’s seen us pulling up since she stumbles to a stop, and she isn’t looking at me, but she’s looking at Aly. At Aly.

  Why am I such a fucking idiot?

  “Daddy!” Matty hollers from Sera’s arms, and squirms to be put down, throwing my girl off balance. I have to teach the kid to relax about always wanting his way. Another lesson for later, when she thinks I’ve done enough groveling.

  Which might until I’m seventy-five, but I’m cool with that.

  Sera keeps moving towards me, back straight, lips tight like she’s swallowed something bad. Or maybe she’s sick of the sight of me.

  Maybe I’m too late.

  No. No fucking way.

  I grab Matty from her, but now Sera’s fishing for keys and hands them to the kid. Oh yeah, those are mine.

  “And then they put this light in my eyes and told me not to look at it. Isn’t that funny? How can I not look at it, Daddy, when it’s right in my face?!” Matty tells me, but I only catch about two words out of his story.

  Sera’s not looking at me still. I’ve got her eyes on me, yeah, but she’s seeing past me, like I’m a ghost.

  No. Don’t do this. Please.

  She puts a smile on her face. I don’t know who it’s for. She waves and she’s off, leaving me with my… son, and leaving us to deal with what’s she’s left behind.

  I don’t think I can move, I’m pinned in place.

  Why the hell am I always the one trying to get her back?

  You’re the one ruining everything. Obviously.

  Can’t she turn around and tell me she wants me? Tell me I’m better than sticking around with Aly because that’s what everybody else wants? What does Sera want, anyway? I’m good enough for a hand job only?

  Relax, man. Regroup. You’re not thinking straight.

  “Thanks for the ride, Aly. Here’s something for your gas.” I get a twenty out of my pocket and toss it in the passenger seat. I’ve been hollowed out and the world’s gone grey. Sera took all the life out of it the minute I let her walk away.

  “That’s a fucking joke, right?” she sneers, and I feel Matty tense up in my arms.

  He’s either going to ask her for a quarter or…not.

  “Who’s going to drive you home, you stupid piece of shit?”

  “That shouldn’t bother you from going on your way.” Matty’s plastered himself onto me, and is holding on tight. Yeah, he’s a little kid, but he sure as shit know what’s going on, and Aly’s screeching isn’t helping matters.

  I need to get to Sera, and I fucking need to get rid of Aly.

  I don’t have time for this. One day, when I’m more sane, and I have Sera back, I’m going to settle this shit once and for all. I’m going to tell Aly that she needs to start taking care of herself, that she needs to grow the fuck up and get her shit together.

  Now is not that time. I ignore her, the slamming of her car door, and the eventual peeling out she does out of the parking lot. I’ll deal with that later.

  I get my phone out and dial Eddie, doing the smart thing for once.

  “Hunter?” he answers. “Is everything all right?”

  “Sure, Eddie. I know it’s late for you, but I need a lift back to my place. I don’t feel well enough to take the bus right now. You know what? It’s okay, Eddie. I’m gonna stick around here for a bit. Sorry if I woke you, have a good night.”

  “Hunter, which hospital are you at? Who’s sick? Is the boy all right?”

  I grunt. “Yeah, Eddie. We’re both good. I’m just gonna relax for a bit and then I’ll make my way home until I’m good enough to drive. It’s okay.”

  “Are you certain?”

  I smirk. “Yeah, Eddie. I didn’t think it through. I’ve been doing that a lot lately.”

  “Stay there, I’m on my way.”

  And although I should tell him no, I should tell him to go back to sleep or wind down, I stay quiet. Eddie’s the only dad I ever really had, and I need him here. I need to listen to him and lay shit out.

  “I’ll be waiting. Call me when you get here.”

  “I will, my boy. See you soon.”

  Eddie’s holding a sleeping Matty and staring at me with disappointment. There are only two people I never wanted to let down in my life, and those were Jules and Eddie. Seems I haven’t learned my lesson.

  “You’ve been making a lot of bad decisions, Hunter. Why?” I watch Eddie rub Matty’s back, and I wonder if he feels like he ever missed his chance, not being a dad – especially when it comes natural to him like breathing.

  I envy him that, I really do.

  I rub a hand through my hair, and think of Sera’s face when she saw me with Aly. I should be over there right now, telling her how sorry I am, how pathetic I am. Maybe it’s time to let her go, though, for real this time.

  But how in hell can I do that when I’ve glimpsed an amazing future with her and now I have to go on living, fucking pretending that I didn’t see it, that it doesn’t exist?

  I need to think, and I need to plan.

  This isn’t going to be easy.

  Then again, loving Sera Delos is so easy, I’d have to put in the work somewhere.

  “You love her, don’t you?” Eddie asks, eyes looking straight through me. Matty lifts his head as if still in a dream and blinks a few times. He demands to go to the bathroom by himself through a yawn, and since the emergency waiting room is pretty much deserted, Eddie and I walk him over to the single stalled-washroom and wait outside.

  I didn’t need all that time to think about my answer.

  “Absolutely.” There’s no hesitation on my part.

  “Does she know?”

  That eighteen-wheeler is parked on my chest again. “No. No, she doesn’t.”

  “And whose fault is that?”

  “Damn it, Eddie. I didn’t want you to come here for a lecture. I know I screwed up. I did, I know it, and I did it bad enough that I’ve jeopardized a future with the one woman who can stand what I am.”

  Eddie shakes his head. He shuts his eyes and pulls in a deep breath. “There’s nothing to stand, my boy. You’ve just been shown the ugly side of things, and nothing more. This child here, your son...” Eddie stops, like he’s expecting me to go ape-shit like I used to at the mention of Matty being mine.

  I don’t.

  “Nobody has to ‘stand’ him, there’s no forcing. Sera loves him, and I believe she loves you.”

  The smallest voice inside of me goes, How? How can she love me?

  “You are more than what’s happened to you, Hunter. Your mother did not help you through it, and she has been absent these past few years because of what happened to your sister. Your father left when you were little.”

  I know this, I know all about this. Why’s he bringing it up again?

  “I know this story, Eddie.”

  Eddie nods. “Yes, you do. But there’s no ending in sight yet, so why are you so ready to give up?”

  I grunt, and stare down at my hands, noting the scars on my fingertips.

  “I know you don’t think you deserve her. I know this absolutely. Fact of the matter is, she might not think she deserves you, either. And yet, she was brave enough to give you a chance, give you her heart. Where’s your courage, my boy? Where did it go?”

  “I don’t have any courage, Eddie. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

  Eddie frowns. “Of course you do. You were the one that took on the responsibility of becoming a father when boys your age aren’t even considering it. And then, I watched your heart break when you discovered Matty had diabetes – just like you. You’ve hated yourself ever since.”

  My throat’s tight, and my eyes are burning. I’m not going to bawl here, I’m going to tamp it down, I have to tamp it down. If I let loose, there’s no telling what will happen.

  “And now you’ve done everything in your
power to sabotage what you have with Sera. She loves you both, my boy, and there’s nothing better a man can ask for. You know, I haven’t seen you smile so much until she came into your life. She’s transformed you, Hunter, and for the better. Please don’t throw that away, not when I believe I just got you back.”

  “What the hell are you talking about? I’m here. Jules is the one that’s gone. I’m still here.”

  Eddie tips his head to the side. For a second, I wish so hard that he was my dad. Life would’ve been a whole lot different if he had been.

  “Yes, your sister has passed. But you don’t come into the house anymore, like her old room will somehow find you and tear you apart. You haven’t been alive for a while. Please, fix this with Sera so we can be a family again.”

  A family. Is that what I have with Sera?

  “I love her, Eddie, but-”

  “But what? Fight for her, like you’ve never fought for anything before.”

  “I’m tired of fighting. I’m sick of it.”

  “Is life harder or easier with her in it?”

  I sigh. “I don’t want to answer you.”

  “Because you know this old man is right. Fight now, use every ounce of strength you possess to let her find the will and strength to keep you, and you can rest. You wouldn’t have to do this all by yourself anymore,” Eddie adjusts his collar, then rubs a hand over his tired face.

  “I’ve screwed the kid up a lot,” I admit. “He thinks I hate him.”

  “You’re terrified of being affectionate with him, of losing whatever piece of Jules that’s in him. Stop being so scared, Hunter. Please, stop being so scared.”

  “He’s going to be devastated when I tell him that Sera’s gone.”

  “I’ll be devastated too. She’s a wonderful woman.”

  “You have no idea.”

  It took me two weeks to draft this particular text.

  I read certain choice parts to Matty for his advice and all he told me is that I didn’t say sorry enough. Surprise, surprise he’s pissed at me. Royally pissed.

  I’ve taken the magic in his life away. I have to somehow get it back. The sun sets with Sera for Matty – and for me – and we haven’t seen it around here for a long time.

  If I needed any confirmation that I’m a coward, well, this is it. I haven’t knocked on her door. I’ve had to check myself when I hear her unlock her door, and instead of running over and falling to my knees and begging for her forgiveness, I stand stock-still and remind myself that I’m doing this for her.

  I’ve kept it secret long enough.

  It’s been too long since I’ve told anyone, and Sera deserves to know.

  I know what it looked like, trust me. If you’d done the same thing to me, I’d be climbing the fucking walls. I deserve this, whatever punishment you’re going to give me, I do. I should never have started anything with you, Sera. It was selfish and an asshole thing to do.

  I was being an asshole those first few times we were together – I wanted you to stay away. I knew what you were, I knew what you could be to me with one look at your shirts, and the smile, and the book in your hand and how you were oblivious to everything else in the world, even me.

  The only words I can offer you are I’m sorry. Two words, seven letters. Nothing special, right? But just know that I really mean them, more than I’ve meant anything in my entire life.

  I wish we could have had more time. I could’ve explained everything to you, and not played you from the beginning. I’m not Matty’s biological father. He was my sister’s, and her name was Jules. She died three years ago when Matty was one. She died when she was twenty-five, the same age as you are now.

  Seems like a sick twist of fate, right? I don’t think I ever told you how much I believe in that shit. Something out there put you in my path, showed me what a good woman could do for a fucked up guy like me. How she could make him want to be better for her, for his nephew who calls him Dad.

  I just want you to know the truth.

  Aly and I were done the day after you took me to the hospital. She tried talking with my Mom about our situation. Our parents knew each other when they were growing up, and me and her, we’ve been groomed for an imminent marriage with all the finesse of a business transaction. No matter how many women I had in between, or how many guys she’s fucked instead of me. And she’s freaking out, especially now that her parents are broke and her blow money’s running out.

  Yeah, she does drugs. I used to, too. She was the one who gave me my first hit when I found out about my diabetes, when I was eighteen. I felt like she was the only person I could turn to, and I loved her, or thought I did. All my friends looked at me differently, and the pity in their eyes, I wanted to rip them out of their sockets. Funny thing about pity is, it’s still there, whether you see it or not. You feel it on your skin, and it gets stuck in your head.

  So Aly and I have history. Like I told you, baby, I’m nothing but a cock and an impending orgasm for her. You, you make me feel like I could be so much more. My sugar was spiking when we fought. I ran hard for an hour at the gym, trying to get it down as much as I could. It dropped, and I was out of it until I could get my head in gear to get to the hospital.

  Mostly I was ashamed. That I let you take my kid to the hospital without me. That you were right about everything, that I’m not a good dad. So I called Aly in a moment of stupidity.

  Didn’t even take a little convincing to drive me over, while her hand tried to get into my jeans, and down my boxers. I’m sorry, but you have to believe I nearly broke her hand when she did that. You have to know that. I only want you. Only you, Sera. Nerdy shirts and all. Reading my boy Harry Potter every night, and smiling at me from my bed every morning, even kicking me out, ’cause you’re body temperature goes out of whack when I’m close by.

  I’m sorry, baby. I’m so sorry I hurt you, that I drove you away. I can’t ask for your forgiveness because I don’t deserve it. I’ve done bad things, least of all with Matty. You’re lucky to be free of me.

  Just know that these past few months with you have been the best in my life. I don’t remember laughing this much, or smiling this much in a long time. I know Jules would have loved you.

  Thank you. For everything. For making me see what I needed to see with Matty. Again, it doesn’t feel like enough, but it’s all I can say – thank you and I’m sorry I hurt you.

  All there is to do now is wait, and pray for a miracle.

  Chapter 30

  My goddamn palms are sweaty. I keep rubbing them on my pants, and I’m breathing fast like I do after my four sets of bench press.

  What’s the worst that could happen, right?

  I lose the one chance at being happy. Because I sure as fuck don’t think there’s another woman out there with half the awesome that’s all of Sera.

  So I gambled on this. All her boys know, and so does her girl, Katie. She’s the one that set this up for me, even though she put me through the third degree and wanted to know timelines of our future together, like she was waiting for a countdown.

  I might die tonight, and I’ll take every punch because I deserve it.

  I love that Sera’s friends have her back, but tonight I’m the enemy.

  I’m wading into an ocean filled with sharks, already wounded.

  I’m in this Greek restaurant, at Alex’s engagement party. There’s a dancefloor and everyone is doing their thing.

  Christ, my girl’s dancing. Dancing this weird dance that involves shots on the ground and the music isn’t in any language I’ve ever heard, but she’s moving, losing herself to the beat.

  When she squats down and gets a shot off the dancefloor and salutes Alex - and Teresa? – with it, she’s so fucking beautiful, so radiant that it’s a wonder how she wants me. I’m hers though, and God, I want her to be mine.

  Sera’s wearing a tight black dress, and it’s got me sucker-punched in the gut. She’s lost weight, and while her cheekbones are starker in her face and her eye
s look brighter, her curves are less than what they were – she looks like a complete stranger to me.

  She’s got to be in there, still. She has to be, or I just fucked myself over for the rest of my life, and the kid will never forgive me.

  When she stands straight, she looks over at me, her face stoic and calm. You’d think she was looking at someone she doesn’t know, and doesn’t give a shit about.

  I get my hands in my pockets so she can’t see them shaking.

  Now everyone knows I’m here since my girl’s stopped dancing in the middle of the floor, despite the music coming back on after her song ended. She looks over at Katie and they get into it, my girl’s face all twisted in pain and hurt.

  It still floors me. I didn’t expect her to come running into my arms, but fuck, this hurts a lot. Can I drink acid instead?

  Sera’s guided over to me, and Katie points a finger at me like she’s thinking about stabbing it through my ribcage and right into my heart.

  “Don’t fuck this up. I’m giving you a diamond opportunity here, MacLaine. She better be nothing but fucking ecstatic next time I come around to see the pair of you.”

  She drags Sera over to a table and I follow.

  “Play nice, and I’ll be back in twenty to check on you. Sweetie,” Katie says to Sera, “make me proud.”

  Now we’re alone.

  “You... you look good,” I say, and want to hit my head against the table. I don’t deserve to have a brain. But I figure I should start out with some sort of compliment. Then again, I’m not the smart one at this table.

  “Good to know,” she says, hardly loud enough for me to hear over the music. Why did I choose to do this here again? She’s looking down at her hands, though, and it looks like they’re more interesting than anything I’ll have to say. “Why are you here? Why did you come here?”

  “Would you look at me, Sera, please?” Please look at me, baby.

  That makes her lift her head. Christ, her eyes, everything about her. I’ve hurt her, again, when I promised not to. I get caught by the perfection of her mouth, and stare for a minute too long, watch her lick her lips slowly.

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