Quinn moved around the bookshelf, all pretense falling away, and delicately walked next to Tristan, her best friend, a shell of his former self sitting at the edge of a metal folding chair, elbows sunk into his knees, his face hidden in his wet hands, palms coated in a mixture of tears and snot. She grabbed a folding chair behind them and sat next to him. Placing a hand at the top of his back, Quinn moved it back and forth. Tristan’s position didn’t change. He seemed to allow her comforting gesture to continue. Quinn then propped her other arm on her knee and rested her head in her palm inches from Tristan’s head. Slowly getting closer and closer, she rested her forehead against his temple.
Her heart and her mind were at odds.
“Here you are comforting him yet again. It’s pathetic,” started her mind. “I told you the last time that that was the last time.”
“How can you be so cold? He’s a wreck. I have to help him.” Quinn’s heart shot back.
“How can you be so forgiving towards a man so blind and ignorant, who wants everything even though he already has it. And you gave it to him. You gave him your love. You gave him opportunity.”
“It’s not his fault.” her heart replied.
“Ha. Please, tell me. Whose fault is it?”
“It’s hers. It’s Emily’s. It’s her fault that she didn’t come.”
“Well, that’s not the first time she disappointed him. He should have learned by now.” her mind rationalized.
“It’s her fault that they broke up.” her heart refuted.
“Well, I think that they just needed different things at that point. Clearly they aren’t meant to be. So why is it really her fault?”
“Fine.” Quinn’s heart spoke curtly. “Everything is her fault because…because…because if she wouldn’t have met him, we would be together right now.”
“Whoa. To the heart of the matter, eh?” Quinn’s mind was surprised she went there.
“Yes. I would be, I should be with Tristan right now. Then he wouldn’t have had to deal with any of this. So, all of this is all her fault. It is.”
“I can’t refute that logic.” her mind concluded.
Quinn’s heart hardened.
“So what are you going to do about it?” her mind inquired.
“We are just going to have to take him back and make him see us. Only us. I’ll be there for him. I’ll always be there for him until he realizes that there’s no one else but me for him. He’ll feel my love, and he’ll forget her once and for all.”
“I have an idea,” her heart finished before her mind could sort out any plans.
Quinn took Tristan’s chin in her hand and raised his face to hers. They stared at each other for a moment. Then Quinn wrapped both arms around Tristan and rocked him gently.
“Come on, I’ll take you home,” Quinn’s whisper cut through the silent storage room.
The car ride back to Quinn’s place was even quieter than the half an hour spent in the back room. Quinn parked the car in her garage turning off the car and taking the keys out of the ignition. Quinn got out of the car first leaving her purse in the back seat. She walked around the car and opened the passenger door for Tristan. Tristan slumped out as Quinn took his hand helping him get back to his feet. He wobbled as if one or both of his feet had fallen asleep on the ride home.
Quinn kept his hand in hers as they entered her house. She felt his cold, clammy hand in her palm. She slowly ran her fingertips against his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Touching him made her heart do flips in her chest and plunge into her stomach. Guiding Tristan through the dark, empty house, Quinn passed the kitchen and the living room turning right to head up the stairs.
The top of the stairs led immediately into the master bedroom. Quinn led Tristan to her bed. The moonlight illuminating through the bedroom window, Quinn watched Tristan flop atop the covers hiding both arms under his pillow and settling his head. Quinn removed his shoes and placed them at the foot of the bed. She removed her shoes right next to his, put her glasses on the night stand, closed the window blinds, and grabbed a blanket from the closet. After spreading out the blanket over Tristan, Quinn slid into bed and faced the wall. She kept her eyes open because she wanted to stay awake just in case Tristan had anything to say. The room was pitch dark now and even quieter than both the car and the storage room at the store, until Quinn heard Tristan snoring. She smirked, closed her eyes, and drifted off to sleep thinking about her plan to do whatever she can to keep Tristan with her.
Quinn woke up first. She went downstairs and made coffee. While the coffee brewed, Quinn got ready for the day. The first day of the rest of my life, with Tristan, if all goes well today. She looked at her face in the mirror as the steam cleared, her reflection aglow with the possibilities. She applied her make-up deliberately. She curled her hair into a bouncy wave. Once each strand was perfect, she put everything away and went back into the kitchen. Tristan sat on a bar stool at her kitchen island sipping his coffee.
“Good morning,” Quinn greeted him softly.
“Wow. You’re looking all dolled up.” Tristan said staring at Quinn, his eyes moving up and down. He fumbled his coffee back to the counter without moving his eyes away from her and some coffee spilt onto the counter.
“Oh jeez, I’m sorry.”
“Hey, it’s ok. I’ve got it.” Quinn replied on her way to the paper towels. Ripping one off, she turned around and wiped up the mess. As she turned to throw it away, she paused in front of Tristan. She looked into his eyes. They shared a smile, neither of them moving for an increasingly awkward amount of time.
“Well, you gonna hold that garbage all day?” Tristan chuckled.
“I had thought about it.” Quinn replied.
“Ok, just so I know where you’ll be when I need you.”
I’ll be wherever you need, Quinn thought.
“Where are you going?” she actually asked.
“Well, I mean nowhere. I can’t go back to my place without you driving me. I guess you got me trapped here.” Tristan replied.
Finally turning away to throw away the coffee stained towel, Quinn kept the smile and thought you’re damn right I do.
“Anything I can get for you, just let me know.” Quinn offered. “I am just going to read a book.”
“Do you mind if I just lay on your couch? I am just drained.”
“No. I completely understand. You can just stay the weekend with me. I’ll have someone else open the store tomorrow.”
Tristan laid down on the couch. Quinn sat in her loveseat feet up and leaning on the arm rest. As she settled into her book, she could hear Tristan’s snores coming from the couch. She secretly reveled in those obnoxious snores.
As Quinn finished the eighth chapter of the day, she noticed Tristan began to stir and sit up from the couch. She closed her book and asked him if he needed anything.
“Actually, could we turn on the TV?” Tristan asked. “I am kinda getting sick of all this quiet.”
“Surely.” Quinn replied.
“Thanks. Quinn. And I mean, thanks for everything. You are always there for me.” Tristan said this last bit in a yawn. “You’ve always been amazing. And I guess I just really want to tell you that I love…”
Quinn stood there flabbergasted. Was her plan really working that quickly? Her face felt warm, then hot, then on fire. She moved her hair from her forehead with a clammy hand. Her eyes were wide. Her heart was open to receive the words.
But, instead of finishing the sentence, Tristan stared at the TV in front of them. Quinn glared at the attention-thieving contraption. An advertisement played in front of them.
A man dressed in a suit with a white background behind him entered the frame.
“Hello, dear people. I wish not to alarm you. But I do feel it is pertinent to share with the masses a crucial piece of information. Fear. Fear is everywhere, unfortunately. And according to numerous credible sources, one of the most common fears in the world is of the absence of light. Fear of the dark. It latches onto us as children and rarely does its grip loosen into our teenage and adult years. I am here, however, as a bearer of good news, a bearer of the light. At Kadwalloper Lighting, we offer hundreds of selections of lighting options, from living room lamps to office lighting to nightlights for the kiddos. Whichever you chose, you’ll know your Kadwalloper Lighting will be brighter than the morning star.”
A lamp drawstring appeared and the man pulled it, cutting to black and ending the commercial.
“Kadwalloper.” Tristan said in a low voice as to just himself.
“Kadwalloper? You love Kadwalloper? What the hell?” Quinn replied. Her red face of embarrassment slowly shifted into red hot anger.
“No. No. I just forgot. I completely forgot. How could I forget. Oh my goodness.” Tristan replied, still talking to primarily himself.
“Tristan, you aren’t making any sense. I mean you were just about to say “I love… then you trailed off because of this advertisement.?”
Tristan looked back at Quinn. He sighed and his face frowned. “Quinn, I love…I love Emily. I do. And I’ve got to get her back. I know how. This was the thing. I forgot the thing. The book thing was a different thing. This now. I know I must seem crazy, but I have to go. Thanks Quinn. I have to go now. I’ll talk to you later. I have to go get Emily!” At those words, Tristan smiled again, rushed up from the couch, ran upstairs, came back down stairs with his shoes in his hands, and left through the front door.
Quinn’s red hot anger boiled over once she heard the door slam shut. She screamed with a mad fury over herself for trying again, for Tristan’s seemingly nonsensical change of heart, and for Emily. Her plan to win Tristan was to be punctuated with a call to Emily, but Quinn decided that now was the perfect time to unload on her before he gets to her. She went for her cell phone. It wasn’t by her side. She tore the living room apart uplifting pillows and couch cushions. It wasn’t on the counter. She flailed her arms around and knocked over Tristan’s coffee cup. It shattered on the ground. Coffee splashed across the floor, the black liquid staining each white tile it consumed. She walked around the mess and stomped up to her room. Looking at the bed, she tore all the sheets off. Nothing.
Then it hit her. She slammed the bed with clenched fists. It was in her purse. Her purse was still in her car. She flew down the stairs, but missed the last step. With a lunge forward, Quinn’s shoulder hit the wall at the end of the stairs. She slumped down and rubbed her shoulder for a moment, but her nerves masked the pain as she turned towards the garage door. Quinn got in her car and grabbed her phone from the purse on the back seat. She held the phone in her hand and pulled up Emily’s contact information.
Her mind spoke up quickly before her heart could press the button to call Emily.
“Is this a good idea to call her in this state?” her mind wondered.
“I don’t care. Let’s just do this!” her adrenaline-pumping heart replied as the phone began to ring.
“Hello? Is this Emily?” Quinn asked harshly.
“Yes, it is. Who is this?”
“This is Quinn. Am I interrupting anything important? Anything as important as you missing Tristan’s book signing?” Quinn just blurted out rather obtusely and without finesse.
Quinn heard a scoff come from the other end and smiled.
“Well, I am actually just about to leave for my wedding rehearsal. But I guess I knew something like this was coming.”
Quinn forgot everything she wanted to say. Her rage burned and blurred everything so all that came out was, “How could you? How could you do this to me!”
It seemed to be enough, because Emily proceeded to let everything out.
“You know, Quinn, to be honest, I didn’t want to give him the wrong idea. Even though I knew it would probably break his heart. I just didn’t know how to tell him. I should really call him. I just don’t know. I am getting married to Brock. I love him. I did love Tristan. And I still love his writing. I hate to admit but I kinda got obsessed with it. And I was thinking about him again, and would it really work with him again. And I thought maybe I still loved him. But I know those are two different things. I know that now. I am sorry I hurt him. I hurt Brock. And I am sure I hurt you too. I always saw the way you looked at Tristan. The way you took care of him, maybe out of spite to me, maybe it was just natural. Probably a little of both. But the short hand between you two, the conversations you must have had. I mean I had great conversations with him too, but I didn’t always get everything he talked about. I bet you would have. And I really do wish the best for Tristan, for both of you, if you ever want to pursue a relationship like that. I really gotta go. Thanks for calling. It’s really perfect that you called. I’ve had this looming on my chest for a while and I didn’t want to go into the wedding tomorrow feeling this way. Thank you so much. Again, I just didn’t want to give anyone the wrong idea anymore, including myself. Ok, maybe we will talk again. Bye.”
“Bye,” Quinn sniffled and whispered knowing that anything louder would give away her crying.
Quinn took deep breaths as a revelation fell upon her. Emily felt kinda obsessed about Tristan’s book? No, it was Quinn who was obsessed. She went so far as to kidnap and seduce her best friend. Seduce. She hated the thought that she became anything like Jackson Zechariah claimed she was. The idea hurt too much that her mind and heart wrestled again.
“I knew. Somewhere I knew this was wrong.” went her mind.
“I know. I know. I just didn’t see any other way. I was desperate.”
“You spend all of this time comforting him and helping him and for what?”
“For him. Because I love him. I thought that part was really clear.”
“Yea, I get that. But that’s not the whole answer.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that if you really loved him as much as you say you do, then you wouldn’t just be there as the person picking up the pieces of his failing love life. You would want to be his love life. You would actually tell him how you feel.”
“I…” her heart didn’t know how to reply.
“Why didn’t you ever tell him how you really felt? Why didn’t you just tell him?”
“He was with Emily. I couldn’t do that while he was in a relationship.”
“What about after they broke up? Why when you were comforting him and giving all of yourself to him didn’t you just tell him you loved him. I know I think it would have made him happier.”
“I was scared, okay?” Quinn’s heart confessed. “I saw how much it destroyed Tristan to lose Emily. And I couldn’t imagine what that would feel like if for some reason he rejected me. Or if we would have dated but it didn’t work out and we broke up. I was afraid. I didn’t want to put us through that.”
“So you let him repeatedly destroy himself over Emily, then comfort him so you could tell yourself that you were helping him, and you were destroying yourself at the same time?”
“Yep, I guess so,” her heart became bitter. “If you have such a clear perspective on things, why didn’t you stop me? Hmm? Why didn’t you tell me that what I was doing was illogical and irrational?”
“I don’t know.” She paused for a moment and concluded, “I didn’t think about it till now. But after all this, the only thing I know is to not do this anymore. We have to end it. I can’t believe I am saying this, but let’s take a page from Emily’s book and be happy for once. No matter how hard it will be right away. It will be harder on us to keep up this insanity. So, I say we tell him the truth.”
Quinn’s heart warmed, and her mind eased at the idea.