Her hand ran over his providing the reassurance he needed. Jimmy looked up at her, expecting her to disappear as all good things in his life did, but here she was still. Her breathtaking smile, just as he remembered.
He had agreed to Patricia’s suggestion and taken it upon himself to reach out to the people he had hurt most, and so far, it had worked out for the best.
Vanessa had been the first. It hadn’t been hard to find her, considering she had kept contact with his parents even after he had split. It was almost jarring finding out that she had continued to visit them and even developed a connection with Filo behind his back. How he had never even caught a whiff of it he couldn’t say, but there is no blinder man that he who refuses to open his eyes.
He was glad, though. It had made his life easier when he had gone to speak with her. Not at first. She had been taken off guard, even put up token resistance so she could save some dignity considering that she had been dating another man. Poor bloke, he had never stood a chance. The moment Jimmy had laid it on thick and poured all the emotions out, she had kicked the poor bastard to the curb and embraced Jimmy back without second thought. The guy had seemed devastated, which was understandable, but far from surprised.
It was still Jimmy they were talking about.
“You’ll be okay love,” said Vanessa, taking his hand and kissing his fingers lightly. “I promise.”
It had been exhilarating having her back. The woman was a perfect goddess, just as he had remembered. If Jimmy was capable of experiencing love, she was as close to it as he would ever get. Even with the pain he had caused her, it was as if she had expected it as a bump on the road. A hazard of playing with fire.
Once her conscience had cleared of the other man, which had not taken long, they had laid in bed together, out of breath and staring into each other’s eyes. Her one and only concern had come out.
“What took you so long?” she had whispered.
She had always known he would come back to her. They had been meant for each other. There was no one else that understood him better.
Even now, with them rekindling their relationship full force, she was not concerned over his extrarelational behaviors. Jimmy’s urges would never change, but seeing how accepting Vanessa was of it made those urges meaningless. It had become an them empty, without excitement. They would leave him yearning for her immediately after.
It wasn’t like she was without flaws. There were plenty, hell, more than Jimmy cared to think about, but he had forced himself to look at the good. He needed to overlook them, or at least try.
“Yeah,” he said, using his free hand to rub over the scar on his abdomen.
He hated himself for having wasted as much time as he had believing that the damage he had done to her was irreparable. Yet another reality he had twisted so far so that he could continue creating his tower. She had seen straight through his illusion right from the get go, had understood the pain Jimmy held within him, and still loved him for it. Something he could not say about the rest.
“Do you want me to come with you?” she said.
She had accompanied him to all but one of the visits he had made so far, even Zoe’s parents, who, thinking back on it now, would have likely been less pained by his visit if she hadn’t. He had found himself aroused by the rage he could see behind the mother’s eyes, a strong desire to fuck the fury out her and into him.
Vanessa had not been blind to it either. She had revelled in the woman’s misery, an invisible trophy that she carried with her for days to come, just as Jimmy brandished the creature’s claw everywhere he went. A sign that they had won in the end.
They had fucked outside Zoe’s parent’s home, in the transport, for hours on end when they had left. Without care or shame.
They were perfect for each other.
“No,” he said, turning to look at the home that appeared like a stranger’s nightmare.
He could feel eyes behind the windows staring back at him, waiting for him to step out and welcome him into an ancient hell. He had always known it would come to this. At one point he would be forced to confront the terrorizing truth.
Why the fuck had he agreed to do this?
He hated that each person he checked off his list did nothing to resolve the pit within him. To all, he came with the intention of apologizing, but for most he had found himself incapable of doing so. They were either too damn eager to accept him back, or too scornful to listen. He had found himself with the usual disgust he felt towards them. The weakness oozing out of them and preventing him from seeing them as anything but deserving of what he had done. It was not easy to discard the game.
With each day that passed and each person he checked off, he seemed to add another to his list. It seemed like life was wanting to keep him locked within his own prison.
He felt Vanessa’s fingers over his cheek, tugging his face in her direction. His eyes gazed into hers, all of his fears and anxieties vanishing for a split moment. She leaned in and hovered her lips over his, forcing his eyes over them as he yearned for her to kiss him.
“It’ll be okay,” she said, her lips brushing over his as she spoke before they pressed onto him and forced his eyes closed. He felt her lips open just enough to allow her tongue to caress his bottom lip as a lead for her teeth to gently tug at it. She pulled away, his own eyes opening before hers.
She smiled and looked toward the house, revealing all the aging in the corners of her eyes. She was not without her flaws, and somehow they found a way to make her all the more attractive to him.
At least she had come from this endless task.
Jimmy tapped the sensor, letting the door slide open, and stepped out of the transport. He turned back and found Vanessa holding his bag out to him, behind her sat Filo patiently watching him with a wagging tail. He felt the corners of his lips stretching involuntarily.
He would never be a good man, that much was clear, but he could try to be happy.
He took the bag and stepped toward the house.
Like everything in his life, he knew that what lay behind those walls was nowhere near as real as what his mind had built it to be. He was not a naturally gifted god that was incapable of being touched by the world. All of the pain he had ever experienced had not been brought on by others. All of the nightmares he had lived through had not been a fault of his upbringing.
It had all been the work of a sick, narcissistic asshole who had been too afraid of the world to live through the truth. He had built it all up at the expense of everyone around him.
Jimmy had to wonder if one day he would truly feel the pain of those he had hurt.
Even telling Roberts’ family how he had kicked the fat man as he had tried to grip his legs for help had caused him no sorrow. He had displayed the proper emotions to make them believe he had, but there had been nothing except the overwhelming satisfaction of knowing he was still alive. Sure, he felt for the fat man. He hadn’t deserved to go the way he had, but it was more of Jimmy knowing he himself would not have liked to go like that.
That was a form of empathy, right? It had to be a start.
He walked up the steps and stood in front of the antique door that loomed over him like the ghosts of his past. He could feel his heart beating wildly in his chest. There was nothing behind this door that could hurt him worse than what he had been through in Galapagos 3, and yet the dread that coursed through him was worse than anything he had experienced before. He felt his stomach tightening and he rubbed his sweaty fingers together as he tried to distract his mind from the bile working its way up.
Not even when he had stood outside Alice’s door had he felt the anxious terror this bad. He had been worried and had felt it to some degree, but a few quick breaths had calmed him enough to step on. He had expected her to come out with a knife as saliva dripped from her lips as her voice hit levels more powerful than the creature’s shrieks had been, but he had instead been met by a calm, well composed, older man who had welcomed him in. Jimmy knew the home security had notified them it had been him.
“She’ll be just a second,” he had said, smiling at Jimmy as if he had known him for a very long time.
Jimmy had turned to look at Vanessa and Filo in the transport outside of Alice’s home as a last minute reassurance before he entered his old teacher’s home. He hadn’t wanted Vanessa to come in with him, not when he hadn’t known what to expect. He was not ready to be that vulnerable in front of her.
Looking back on it now, he would have preferred her to come. It may have made the whole thing more…exciting.
Alice had come out and, for a moment, he had seen a glimpse of the woman who had stolen his heart and rendered him incapable of experiencing anything but blind lust. Once the moment had passed, reality had once again found its way into his tortured mind and he had seen the woman, old and frail, weak, beaten down by the misery of their choices.
“James,” she had said, a tight lipped smile slowly carving its way onto her wrinkled face. She was in her sixties now and Jimmy could see how gravity had begun its wayward descent. Even her voice had noticeably changed.
“Alice,” he had said, forcing himself to return her smile.
She had embraced him with such fierceness that Jimmy could tell she had turned this moment over in her mind for far too long. He didn’t need to speak to her to realize that she had been just as tortured by her actions as he had.
He should have wanted to ask her why, demand an apology, listened to her every word as she explained herself to him, but he didn’t. From the first few moments of seeing her, he had gotten everything he needed from her. He didn’t need her offerings of regret or her excuses.
He didn’t need her.
He had sat through her mindless droning, wondering the entire time how he could end it all faster, focusing on all the tiny details about her that he had once found irresistibly alluring that now spawned nothing but revulsion. What had begun as a his release had quickly become a means for her to speak her peace at his expense. He was not sure he was ready for her torture to have ended, but he had stayed and listened.
For Patricia’s sake. For Vanessa’s sake.
Jimmy closed his eyes and took a deep breaths, feeling his heart coming under control. He took a step back and turned toward Vanessa. Filo had made his way to the front seat and they both watched him eagerly. Everything he could need was inside that transport, yet Jimmy knew he would never be fully satisfied.
At one point, there would be something better around the corner and he would continue to take it, but he would he would also keep coming back.
To her, to Filo.
He could see her smiling in the distance, just as she had outside Alice’s home. All the encouragement he needed then, all the encouragement he would need now. And yet, he felt the urge to get her, to bring her with him. He had built up the illusions and she had seen through them. She knew who he was.
There was nothing to hide.
He took a step toward the transport and heard the door open behind him.
“Jimmy?” came his mother’s voice. He turned and found her staring blankly at him.
Behind her, his father stretched his neck from the couch he sat at, taking a temporary break from the device he had used for years to write his stories to see who was at the door. Both of them stared at him with the same empty expressions used to welcome an unfamiliar person in your home.
He felt his eyes moisten as he pictured the way he had seen Patricia’s family welcome her back. Smiles so big that it became impossible to deny their love for her, arms so wide that it looked as if they were prepared to embrace ten of her. They had become one, together.
Above his father stood the man who had taught him everything Jimmy had needed to become great. His grandfather’s hand rested over his father’s shoulder.
Jimmy had become one. Alone.
Everything the old man had done was so that they could all be together. To help his own son raise his child and allow them all the opportunity to be closer. Even if he had butchered all his attempts, the old man had only wanted them to be a family.
I’m sorry. Jimmy thought as he stared into the old man’s eyes.
“Don’t be sorry, James,” the old man echoed in his mind.
Jimmy turned his head and looked at Vanessa. He ran his finger tips over his scar as he turned back toward his parents.
He would never be a good man, but he would be something.