It had been a while since I had come to this side of town. Five years to be exact. In fact, if it wasn’t for my brother Jasper living here and inviting me over for dinner and to listen to some new albums he had gotten recently, I wouldn’t be here at all. Too much of a chance of running into HER.
But I’m not even going to think about that. All of it is in the past, over and done with. I’m just here to grab some beer, maybe some chips, then head up to Jasper’s. He seemed really stoked over his finds when we spoke on the phone earlier this week.
“Luis? Is that you?” I could literally feel the hair on the back of my neck standing on end as her voice raked over me. Even after all this time it made my stomach knot up. I slowly turned, forcing a smile on my lips. Just my damned luck.
“Austin, hi, how are you?” I asked quickly. Surely forced pleasantries should make this go faster. She still looked pretty much the same as the day she walked out. Long brown hair that reached just past her shoulder blades, curling slightly at the ends, a thick crop of bangs over her forehead, and a little button nose that rose slightly in what she always referred to as her “ski jump”. She wasn’t wearing glasses and she was a little more plump than when we were together, but I’d recognize her anywhere.
“I thought that was you!” She reached and gave me a quick hug. “I’m well, thank you.” A little formal, but that is okay. She stood back and gave me a quick once-over. “You look great! What brings you to this neck of the woods? I thought you lived on the Island?” Her speech had a lilt to it, a slight accent I could not place.
“I’m good, Austin. Yeah, just visiting Jasper. He’s got a gig DJ-ing in the club downtown and wants me to hear his new mix.” She didn’t need to hear all this, but I couldn’t get my mouth to stop yapping. She just smiled. She and Jasper had never truly gotten along. None of my family had really ever warmed up to her. “And you?”
“Oh, Eric and I are visiting my folks.” Ah, the giant albino bastard she left me for. I don’t think he was a true albino- no red eyes- but he was blond enough and blue eyed enough that he would have made Hitler proud. Not like my black hair and olive skin. “We were only in for a few days, and fly home tomorrow.” This shocked me, as I never thought she’d leave the comfort of her parents’ house, especially after the break-up we had.
“You don’t live here anymore?” She shook her head and smiled.
“We bought a place in Stockholm, where Eric is from.” I had always known he wasn’t born in the States, but wow. Sweden? That certainly explained the Aryan features. It was hard enough being on the smaller side at 5 feet 6 inches and comparing myself to a guy standing 6 foot 4, but now she throws in that he’s a Swede? How can I one-up that? I knew I couldn’t, and for some reason it made me mad as hell. I shouldn’t have started talking but it was impossible to keep the hurt silent.
“So you went from a common slut to a kept whore, huh?” It was as if the filter between my brain and mouth had disintegrated at the attempt to one-up Austin, and I watched almost helplessly as my words tore the smile from her face. But I couldn’t stop. Secretly, I think I didn’t want to stop. “You destroyed what we had to be with that jackhole? Was it worth it? How long before he’s tossed aside just like I was?”
Tears pooled in her brown eyes and her bottom lip quivered ever so slightly before the fire raged behind her gaze and she glared at me. I could sense myself shrinking inwardly, knowing that while she was usually rather easy-going, she did indeed have quite an Irish temper. Her cheeks flushed red.
“I had always known you were a callous prick, but I didn’t realize that not only are you cruel, but you obviously didn’t believe me when I said I did not cheat on you.” Her eyes narrowed further, her jaw set and teeth clenched. I was regretting my choice of words, but deep down, seeing her happy- and with him of all people- made me want to knock her down any way I could. What I didn’t expect was her to spat back just as harshly. Or the Viking to suddenly appear behind her, hand on her shoulder and eyeing me cautiously.
“Älskling? Sweetheart? Everything okay?” His icy gaze never left my face and I almost wanted to hide, but I held my ground. I knew I was going to have to face him one day. I just wasn’t sure if today was really the right day. Austin leaned back into Eric and closed her eyes. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, and she shook her head.
“Austin…” I started but she held up her hand. I immediately held my tongue, something I should have done to begin with. But pain and hurt makes us do stupid things, and I am surely not immune to that.
“It’s done, Luis. No apologies are going to make it go away or make it better. Go live your life, do whatever, and stay a bitter man.” With those words she turned, took Eric’s arm and walked away. I could see a slump to her shoulders as they walked and I knew my words had taken a toll, but rather than feel triumphant, I felt like an ass. Tonight is going to require more than a six-pack to get through after this fiasco, so I went to the back of the grocery, grabbed a 24-can case, and made my way to the front registers. If I’m going start the journey to drunken oblivion, I may as well do it right.