I buried my face deeper into my pillows, blocking out the crack of light that shined through my window. I felt the bed shift beside me and a smaller body filled an emptiness I didn’t even notice was there.
I squinted my eyes tighter, straining against the confusion and throbbing headache that was beginning to set in. I could smell the dark traces of Katy Perry’s perfume mixed in with my usual scent of peppermint gum and the wrappers that had littered my room. It was too early to be awake and trying to place these foreign, and yet somewhat familiar, bits and pieces that were lingering around my room.
It was too early to feel the guilt.
The guilt that I knew was going to come when I woke up and was forced to make sense of this situation that was still fairly new to me. The guilt that came every time I had to sneak the body beside me past my roommates and best friends. The guilt that would settle itself into every nook and cranny of my being when I had to explain and dismiss my casual hook-up to my best friends at breakfast. The guilt that I felt after I dismissed everything; wondering if maybe I had been lying to myself the whole time.
The body shifted again beside me, “Morning Ava.”
And so it began.
“Mphm, let me sleep,” I whimpered as I curled into the chest beside me.
“Ava, darling, eventually you have to wake up. Don’t you want to see me out?”
I sat up, eyes straining against the light. Who said the sun was allowed to be so bright every bloody morning?
I looked into the clear eyes now beneath me; they were so free of guilt, so unafraid to feel emotion.
“You know I have to.” I glared.
“I know, I know. Because it would be so hard to let your roommates know about our little beneficial arrangement,” I got an eyebrow wiggle along with this. One that would usually make me smile, but instead caused me to groan in distress.
“Scarlett,” I warned.
“It’s new, I’m confused, no strings attached. This means nothing. I know. I get it.” She waved me off before getting up from my bed. This time I could feel, and recognize, the emptiness right away.
She was supposed to understand. She was supposed to realize that it wasn’t her I wanted to keep a secret- my friends had met her plenty of times. It was the way our relationship had been progressing, or not progressing in Scarlett’s opinion, that I wanted to hide.
I couldn’t introduce my “friend from the coffee shop” as the girl I was currently having casual sex with. I couldn’t do that to us when we had promised that there were no feelings attached. I couldn’t do that to her after she admitted that she really liked me. I couldn’t do that to myself when I was starting to question how I felt about Scarlett and girls in general. It was too early to know and risk everything.
“You might know that, Scarlett, but you have no idea how I’m feeling now.” I whispered.
Scarlett was walking around the room, collecting her clothing, “Try me,” she said.
“I don’t even know what I’m feeling, Scar! My whole life I’ve known there was something about specific girls that I found enchanting, exhilarating and off-limits. And I had to have it, in the most intimate way possible. But I’m not an intimate person, Scarlett, I don’t do emotions well.
“And now I wake up next to you and want to take you out for breakfast and walk beside you at the park and hold your hand in front of everyone I know. Do you know how scary that is for me, Scar? To want to date you too? To be so emotionally attached to you that I don’t know how I’ll ever make it past this point without losing you and eventually myself after you leave? I’m terrified, Scar.
“So yes I would like to keep this a secret for the time being. But know that I am desperately trying to change and adjust to the fact that maybe I want something less- something more- than just sex!”
Scarlett had long abandoned her search for the rest of her clothes and crossed the room to sit beside me on my bed, straightening her shirt as she went.
“Ava, darling,” she whispered before gently stroking my cheek in an attempt to sooth me.
“I’m sorry, Scarlett.”
Scarlett cupped my face and brought it closer to hers. She was turning my head and kissing away tears that I didn’t even know were there. I whimpered as her lips found mine; only kissing back for a few seconds before I knew I had to end this.
She gave me one last lingering kiss before pulling away. She folded her hands in her lap and looked down.
“Do you want to go out for breakfast today?” She asked.
I knew she meant as a date; it only made sense after my confession- but she made it discreet enough that I could past it off as just hanging out with my friend. She was willing to take this slow, to help me figure out all these conflicting emotions and mysterious feelings that I hadn’t been patient enough to work through myself.
She also knew I needed a friend right now. She knew I was at a weak point in my life. And for some reason, that made me angry.
“No,” I whispered and Scarlett looked up, “No, you need to go now.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Scar, I just- my roommates will be up soon. You should leave before they-”
“Oh, before they ask questions? God forbid you actually face this mess you caused.” She rolled her eyes and stood up.
She hopped around as she quickly pulled her skin tight black jeans on and grabbed her coat.
“Even after all that! I can’t believe you Ava.”
“Scarlett! I said I’m sorry,”
“Did you?” She asked, “Because to me it seemed like a whole lot of deflecting and ignoring any feelings you have. Any feelings I have!”
I didn’t know what to say. I could give her empty apologies and cowardly excuses, but at this point I knew she wouldn’t accept any of it.
Scarlett was about to walk out of my room when the nervous look on my face stopped her.
“Go ahead; check to see if your oblivious friends are in the kitchen. But just so you know, I’m not climbing out the window if they’re out there this time.” I stared at her, hurt registered on my face; but hurt didn’t even begin to describe what Scarlett must be feeling.
As I opened my bedroom door and peered into the kitchen, I was thankful, for what must have been the hundredth time that my roommates liked to sleep in until the early afternoon. With any luck they would be in a deep sleep and not have heard any of my argument with Scarlett.
I turned back to Scarlett about to tell her the coast was clear when I saw her opening drawers and taking stuff off my nightstand and throwing it in her tote bag.
“I’m taking back all my shit. I don’t think it needs to stay here any longer.” She answered before I could ask.
I watched as she pulled shirts from my drawers, lipstick from my nightstand and a few books off the shelf. What hurt most was when she grabbed the bottle of her Katy Perry perfume from the nightstand, crossed over to my open window and tossed it out. The faint sound of shattering glass corresponded with how broken my heart felt.
I hadn’t realized how attached I was to her until she took the last bits of her from my room and walked out the door.
This was the worst breakup I had ever experienced and we weren’t even dating! I told her and myself that I didn’t even want to date her. I could only see now how much I had been lying to the both of us.
I followed behind Scarlett as she quickly tore out of my room and through my little apartment. I didn’t dare say anything until we were out in the hallway.
“Make up your mind Ava. Am I staying or leaving? Will you just let us try this or are you set on denying your feelings?” She barked as she waited for the elevator.
I stared at her. Finally, as the elevator chimed to announce its presence, I said, “I- we can’t.”
“Goodbye Ava. Next time you’re drunk, give someone else a booty call.”
That was the last time I saw Scarlett. I never ran into her again. I heard she got promoted and moved a few towns over. I didn’t have the bravery to chase her then and I don’t have the heart to go after her now. She was the only girl I ever fell in love with and I couldn’t even admit it until years later.
After the elevator doors closed and Scarlett left my life, I walked back to my room. I was busy trying to convince myself that I didn’t care and I was happy to have her out of my life.
It wasn’t until two days later when I walked into my room and noticed that I could no longer smell her dark perfume that I began to cry.