Chapter Sixteen: Consequences

Dearest Maggie,

What I feel for you changes on an almost hourly basis.  Why must you confuse me so much? Before tonight I didn’t think that you felt anything for me beyond the most casual of friendships, but because of what happened (both here and at the club) I think you do feel something more for me; and I need to know where I stand.

  Maybe you never intended to tease me – maybe you did, maybe this is all a game for you – but I’d like to think otherwise.  Your lyrics are contradictory, like you, and even when it’s Fliss who sings them, I know who wrote them, if not why.  I don’t want to change you, I love you as you are, but I won’t fight a battle that I cannot win.  If you really don’t want me, I’ll walk away.  But I think you do want me, why kiss me otherwise? Why take it further when all you had to do last night was send me home? And if you don’t love me, why did Nat and I’s one night stand (and it was just one night) upset you so much?

  Think about it, that’s all I ask.  I meant it when I said that I didn’t want to hurt you; I love you too much for that.  You are intelligent, kind, talented, sexy and beautiful.  You are as volatile as a tiger and as fragile as a lily: That site named you well.  Whilst I want you more than anything, I was brought up to not touch what I can’t have.  Forget my past mistakes, for they were mistakes, just remember that I love you.

Fergus

 X

I had mixed feelings as I put down his letter.  Whilst I was immensely touched by its sentiments, there was something unnerving about it: He seemed to know me almost too well.

  Whilst I knew that I had to make a decision about Fergus, and about what I felt for him, I knew that such a decision wasn’t going to be easy; It wasn’t just about loving him, it was about whether he deserved someone as neurotic and generally fucked up as I am; could he deal with that? Could anyone?  Relationships aren’t easy things to keep together; they require sacrifices, so I know that it isn’t about whether I love him, it’s about whether I’m ready to be his girlfriend; and I’m not. But I can’t lead him on, and I can’t cold shoulder him either; he needs to know what’s going on. Because he expressed his feelings for me in a letter, then that is how I should tell him my story, but not now; I need a bath, plus I need to take my anti-depressants and get rid of this hangover as best I can.  I feel as though my brain has turned to syrup, and my throat is red raw, my breath must smell absolutely rancid.

  (Later)

I am ready to write.

Fergus,

Your letter to me was very kind, kinder than I perhaps deserve. It touched me and cut through the planet-sized hangover that I am currently enduring.

  I never intended to confuse you; it’s true that I didn’t want you, and that ‘The Battle You Cannot Win’ was written about you, but it wasn’t just written about you; there was someone before you, someone who hurt me very badly.  He made he stop trusting; stop loving, because most of the damage he did to me was internal, not external.  He made me hate myself, and he beat me when I tried to fight him.  I don’t see him anymore, and have seen no one else since him; I can’t.

  You are the first man to try to love me since him.  I didn’t love you at first, but I always liked you.  When we were on tour I felt a closeness between us that I’ve never felt before.  It wasn’t until you kissed me at the Twilight that night that I realised I was in love with you, but I knew then, just as I know now, that I can’t be your girlfriend: Because it wouldn’t be fair to you.

  I have a lot of problems, a lot of emotional baggage and fears that need to be dealt with.  Most days, I can do this, but not always, and until I have dealt with this, it wouldn’t be fair to be with you.  I think you know what I mean by this, because you experienced some of it when you kissed me that night at the Twilight.  I can’t down a bottle of vodka every time I want to get close to you, and it wouldn’t be fair for you to expect me to.  Please understand.  I love you more than I could ever show you.

  Maggie

 

(Later)

I decided to hand deliver the letter.  The rain had stopped, and the air was crisp and fresh, wafting on a breeze that numbed my limbs whilst easing my headache.  The roads were full of speeding cars, splashing through yesterday’s puddles, spraying muddy water, but the pavements were quiet as I walked.  I was glad of this because just walking was almost more than I could cope with; despite the cold breeze, my head continued to throb, and I felt as though I was in a dream.

  When I reached the sandstone coloured house, I pushed the letter through the letterbox and turned to leave.  As I walked back down the pathway, I could hear the door opening, and I panicked; I didn’t want to see him, for I was sure that I looked as terrible as I felt.  I had on a pair of baggy, shapeless jeans, a tartan shirt that I hadn’t bothered to do up properly, and no make-up.  I got up on my toes, and ran.

  I could hear footsteps behind me as I reached the bus stop, they were running, which just made me run faster.  But it wasn’t long before last nights shenanigans caught up with me, and I couldn’t run anymore; there was a huge stitch at my side that I needed to nurse.  It was no contest now, and he caught me easily.

  I reluctantly turned to face him, and he held out his hand to me.  I took it, and he led me back to the house.  He took me to his bedroom, and then left me there whilst he went to the kitchen to make tea.  “You look as though you could do with some.”  Whilst he was in the kitchen, I surveyed his room with considerable interest.  You can tell a lot about a bloke from his bedroom.  He had a computer and a Hi-Fi, along with a Sarah Michelle Gellar calendar and posters of Emma Peel, and Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft.  There was a pile of dirty clothes in the corner by the door, and the bed, with its black quilt and sheets strewn on the floor, looked as though a tornado had hit it.  I felt quite at home; swap the underpants for knickers, and throw a few bras in, and I could have been in Fliss’ bedroom back home.  Well, save for a few minor details, such as the smell.  Fergus’ room had a peculiarly male smell to it that I find difficult to put into words.  There was no stench of feet or aftershave, yet there was a smell.  A male smell that was somehow different to Fliss’ female smell.

  I walked over to his bookcase and read the titles on the spines.  He had all the ‘Love And Rockets’ comic books, some Alan Warner, Iain Banks, some ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’ novels, some football books, Billy Childish, Stewart Home, and… Truman Capote’s ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s.’

  “Finished?”

  I jumped.

  He handed me a mug of tea, and then sat down on his bed to read my letter.  When I had completed my study of his books I wondered over and sat down beside him.  It was so quiet, so deafeningly silent, that I was afraid to drink unless I distracted him, and it seemed to take him forever to read the words that I had written.  Eventually though, he folded the letter up and put it back inside its envelope.  Then he turned his attention back to me.  “I wish you’d told me this sooner,” his voice was quiet, his eyes sad.

  “I wanted to, but it didn’t seem necessary whilst I wasn’t interested,” I looked away, “it was easier to have you think that it was because I wasn’t interested in you, then later, after you kissed me, there wasn’t time to explain even if I wanted to – you just left.”

  “I knew you were scared,” he said quietly, “I thought if I stayed then I would just make things worse.”

  “Maybe you were right.”

  He took hold of my hand, and I willed myself to accept his touch, “I know that the girl I kissed last night wasn’t you, or not the real you anyway.  I want to know the real you.”

  “The real me is scared and can’t respond to you,” I said sotto voce, “can’t give you what you want.”

  “How do you know what I want?” he asked, equally quietly.

  “What does any man want?”

  “I’m not any man.”

  I glanced around his room, and my gaze remained fixed upon his Angelina-Jolie-as-Lara-Croft poster, “Really?”

  He ignored the dig, “You wrote that you love me.  If you love me, and you know that I love you…”

  “I can’t be anything to you!” I cried in frustration, “I freeze when you touch me! I’m frightened by you!”

  “By me?”

  “Yes! I mean… no… No, that’s not what I meant…” I knew what I wanted to say, but it felt as though we were going around in circles, getting nowhere.

  “By men?”

  “Yes.”  I had said it at last.

  He stroked my wrist with his fingers, and I tried not to flinch as his fingers traced the path of a series of light, silvery scars on my wrist and arm.  When I yanked my arm away the faraway look in his eyes was replaced by one of concern, “You did this to yourself,” he said, softly.

  “A long time ago,” I admitted, equally quietly.

  “And do you still?” he asked, his eyes still on my arm, still seeing the scars.

  “That’s none of your business!” I shouted.  I couldn’t believe that he had asked.

  “Yes it is,” he met my eyes, and I could see how worried he was, “it is if I’m the cause of it.”

  “Well I don’t,” I snapped, “I haven’t cut myself for about ten months.”

  An awkward silence descended, during which I inspected my nails and Fergus stared at the floor.  His expression was one of brooding sadness, and I felt guilty.  I don’t know why exactly, or even what for, but I felt guilty all the same.  After a few moments of this, he jumped up and put on his coat.

  I looked up in surprise, “What are you doing?” I asked warily.

  “Taking you home.”

  As he parked the car outside our flat, he said, “Maybe we can’t be together,” and I felt as though I would cry.

  “Maybe not,” I agreed.

  “But just because we can’t be together now, it doesn’t mean never.”  I stared at him in surprise, and he met my stare with honesty and sincerity, as he said, “I’ll wait for you, Maggie; whenever you’re ready, I’ll be ready, but until then… no pressure.”

  I nodded, dumbly.  I could already feel my eyes filling with tears as I got out of the car.

  Fliss was waiting for me when I got in.  “Well?” she demanded, eagerness and curiosity written all over her little face, “What happened?”

  I burst into tears.

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