Goodbyes Are Just What They Are

 

By Jessica Carroll

 

 

            It was Saturday, and like every other Saturday, John had been playing Halo for several hours. He liked to wake up early, play video games for a while, get something to eat and then fall asleep for a few hours until his friends came over and video game playing resumed into the wee hours of the morning. The surprise came with the sudden ringing of his doorbell, which startled him so much that he knocked his Xbox off of the table when he jumped up from the couch. The Xbox hit the floor and froze, causing John to lose his last half an hour of game play. He cursed under his breath and scratched his head before realizing that he still had to go answer the door.

            As he zipped up his jeans and made his way across the apartment, John made a snide comment about how there had better be a gorgeous girl standing at the door. When he was just about to grab the handle, he stopped and looked around the living room for anything that really shouldn’t be there. If it turned out to be his mother or landlord, he didn’t want a pair of boxers sitting on a lampshade. The apartment was its usual mess, but it wasn’t too bad, so he turned back around and opened the door.

“Tory?”

She looked so different from her normal self. Her face was pale and she wasn’t wearing any makeup. She was also wearing her glasses. In the three years he had known her, he had only seen her wear her glasses once. It had been the summer she, Adam, John, and Stacey- John’s girlfriend at the time- spent two weeks in Florida and she lost her contacts in the water. When he looked closer, he could see why she was wearing glasses. Her eyes were red and puffy, as if she had spent the last several hours crying or, as she always did whenever she was upset, spent the last several hours in her car driving around while crying.

“Can I come in?” she asked as she walked into John’s apartment. Before he even had a chance to ask her what was wrong, she started on about how Adam had left her. She was convinced that there was someone else and that she should have known something was going on weeks ago when he became increasing distant. John knew for a fact that there wasn’t, nor had there ever been, anyone else. However, he also knew that the relationship was over weeks before Tory did. Just two months after she moved into his apartment, Adam confided in John that his feelings for her were diminishing and he was ready to end the relationship.

It wasn’t until Tory shook his arm and asked him for the second time if there was somebody else that John realized she was still talking about Adam. John looked at her and put his hand on her shoulder. “There wasn’t anyone else,” he assured.

            He could tell by the look in her eye that she wasn’t sure whether or not she should believe him. He didn’t know what more she could possibly expect him to say. He had given her the truth. What else did she want? Did she want him to lie? He wondered if she expected him to tell her about a meaningless office affair with a gorgeous intern. He could, but it wouldn’t be the truth- at least when it came to Adam.

“I’m not lying, if that’s what you’re thinking. I would never lie to you, especially for Adam,” he paused for a moment. “Can I get you anything? Food? Something to drink? A shower?” There was a slight chuckle in his voice when he said “shower.” She was a mess, and it was obvious that she had neither showered nor slept recently. “Or a nap? How long have you been out?”

“Since eleven last night,” she replied quietly.

John just nodded, “You can crash in my bed if you’d like. There are some t-shirts in the dresser you can sleep in or something. I’m just gonna go back to… yeah… my nerdiness.”

Tory smiled slightly as she walked past John and down the hallway into his room. She shut the door behind her and stifled a laugh over the state of his room. She could barely see most of the furniture, because it was covered with clothes. Surprisingly, there were still a lot of clothes in his dresser. They weren’t folded, but they had still somehow made it into the dresser, which was amazing considering that the majority of his clothes only seemed to make it to the bed. She pulled out what looked the cleanest- a navy blue t-shirt that had a yellow “44” on it- and closed the drawer. She changed out of her clothes, folded them neatly and set them on top of the pile of clothes that had taken over most of John’s dresser before putting on the t-shirt.

She had to push the clothes out of the way to get into the bed and they fell on the floor, but she knew John wouldn’t mind- if he even noticed. She slid under the covers, breathing in John’s scent off of the pillow. She couldn’t help but feel weird about the fact that she was laying in her ex-boyfriend’s best friend’s bed, wearing nothing but one of his t-shirts. Because of this feeling, she was no longer sure if stopping at John’s place was really a good idea. She kept thinking about the night before and how when she left her and Adam’s apartment, she planned to leave town. She packed her suitcase, propped it up in the backseat so she couldn’t see the road behind her and drove off. However, instead of getting on the I-90 and heading clear across the state, she ended up driving around the city all night.

Sometime around three in the morning, she decided that if she was going to leave town, she would first have to stop and at least say good-bye to John. He had been such a good friend for so long that she couldn’t see herself leaving without at least letting him know she was going. She drove to his building as soon as she got the idea in her head, but then sat in lot for an hour contemplating whether or not she should go in before driving away with the intentions of coming back later.

She knew John wouldn’t mind if she just showed up, even if it was in the middle of the night. He had always been welcoming to her, so much so that she sometimes wondered how different it would be if she had ended up with him and not Adam. These feelings and the state of her emotions were why she knew that going to John’s apartment in the middle of the night wasn’t a good idea.

            Tory yawned. She hadn’t realized how tired she was. She closed her eyes and yawned again, pulling the blankets tight around herself.

 

John knew that since Tory was sleeping in his bed, there was no way he could go in his room- for anything. He tried to get back into playing Halo, but he couldn’t concentrate. All he could think about was that Tory was in his room, wearing his clothes and sleeping in his bed while his room was such a mess.

There was something about her- that he couldn’t explain- that made him want to clean. He could be at work and just look at Adam, then think of her and the first thing that would come to mind would be what a disaster his apartment was. He would spend the rest of the day thinking about it, then go home and clean for hours.

He couldn’t help but start to clean as he thought about everything that was going on. While he gathered all of the dirty cups and dishes and put them in the dishwasher, he couldn’t help but think of how angry with Adam he was and how much that surprised him.

At first, he thought he was angry with Adam for not ending it as soon as he knew that the relationship no longer had any potential. However, he quickly realized that his own feelings for Tory were making him so mad at Adam. He loved Tory. He always had. He could still remember the day that they met.

He and Adam were at the mall’s food court and he got sick of waiting for Adam to finish eating, so he went to the video game store to look around. When he came back, Adam was by the trash bins, talking to what had to be the most gorgeous girl John had ever seen. As he approached them, she looked at him and, for a brief moment, they made eye contact. Adam caught the glisten in John’s eye and quickly told her that he had to go and asked if he could call her sometime.

Until that day, he always wondered what it would have been like if he had just stuck around while Adam ate and met her first. He knew for a fact that she wouldn’t be going through this breakup. He was better than that. His thoughts were interrupted when his doorbell rang again. This time, he was greeted with Adam’s smiling face.

“Don’t smile too big,” John muttered.

“I finally did it!” Adam announced.

“I heard.”

“Did you talk to her?”

“You can say that.”

“Yeah, she took off last night. She’s probably crying on her mommy’s shoulder while daddy loads the shotgun,” Adam laughed.

John just walked away, picked the Xbox up off the floor and set it on the table. Adam, still laughing, shut the door behind him and hopped on the couch. John threw the other controller to him, more forcefully than usual, and sat down with the other.

They were just settling into a game of Halo when John heard his bedroom door open. He prayed that Tory was only going into the bathroom as Adam made a “lucky bastard” comment before turning to see who was coming down the hallway.

“John, can you go get my suitcase?” Tory asked as she emerged in the doorway. She froze when she saw Adam sitting on the couch. The smirk on Adam’s face quickly became something that neither Tory nor John had ever seen before. He stood up, looking at Tory, then to John, then back to Tory.

“This is a joke, right? Very funny.”

Tory just shook her head, walking away and back into John’s room. As she shut the door behind her, John stood up. He wanted to go after her, but he had to try to explain to Adam what had really happened.

“Adam, I–”

“No, I get it. You always wanted to fuck her. I can’t hate you for taking the first opportunity. It was smooth, though, how you just slid in.”

“It’s not like that.”

“Oh, I think it is. Just like that intern. What’s her name? The one who does nothing but talk about you and you want nothing to do with unless she’s on her back. I’m sure you know her name, because if I’m not mistaken, the other day you had her in the same bed you had Tory in today.”

 

Tory was mortified by what she heard Adam saying to John. She always thought that John had feelings for her, but now she knew that the only feelings he ever had were in his pants. She quickly changed back into her clothes, then tried to think of a way to get out of the apartment without them knowing she was gone. She was so angry with Adam and so disappointed in John that she didn’t want to deal with them anymore. All she wanted to do was get out as quickly and discreetly as possible.

She opened the window and looked down. Four stories were a lot higher than they seemed. There was a fire escape, but it ran past John’s living room window. There was no way she could get out that way.

 

“Get out,” John’s voice was steady, almost calm. He knew that if Adam stayed any longer, he would end up hurting him.

Adam gave John a look like he thought he was joking. John wasn’t joking, though. He wanted Adam out.

“Now.”

“Alright,” Adam laughed, still thinking that John was joking. He left the apartment and John slammed the door behind him. After what Adam had done to Tory, John couldn’t believe that he had to nerve to bring up some drunken one-night stand. As he headed for his room, he hoped that Tory hadn’t heard anything that Adam had said.

 “Tory, can I come in?” he asked as he knocked on his bedroom door. The door swung open and Tory pushed past him. He reached out and grabbed her arm, pulling her back. “Tory, you don’t understand. I can explain.”

Tory just yanked her arm away and shook her head, “I understand enough John. I should have known better than to think that you were any better or any different than Adam or any other asshole out there.”

Before he could say anything else, she turned on her heels and practically ran from the apartment. He wanted to run after her, but he couldn’t. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, there could never be anything between them. She came by with the intentions of saying goodbye, and that’s what she had done.