I’m running. I shove into body after body, determination pumping through me. As I pick up speed, I take an elbow to the gut and wince, hunching over, dry heaving, but I don’t let it slow me down. I push through and swallow the pain.
Elliot is almost a foot taller than me so I’m able to keep my eyes on the back of his blond head as he maneuvers through the crowd. “Elliot! Wait!” I shout. The scuffling footsteps, incessant chatter, and music from the carnival games mutes the sound of my voice and he doesn’t hear me.
Elliot hangs a right and it only takes me seconds to realize where he’s going. The docks. The place where his boat is parked.
I think back to that dreaded day where he took me and Whit sailing. Honestly though, the day really wasn’t that dreaded. I recall the concern in his voice when he asked me if I was okay, while I was throwing up over the side of the boat. I recall how gentle his touch was when he helped me off of the boat and guided me into Whit’s arms. More than anything I recall the emotion that was in his eyes because I assume the thought of me not enjoying myself bothered him.
Heat rises to my cheeks and I feel like they’re boiling. Tears sting my eyes and rain down my face. After that boat ride was when I realized I more than liked him and now he’s slipping away. And I can’t handle it. My chest heaves, my limbs are trembling, and my heart has blown up into bits and pieces of flesh, splattered on white canvas.
I slow my pace when I reach the dock and my footsteps echo against the wood. I’m breathing heavily and I can still see Elliot feet away. As I lurk closer the wood beneath my feet snaps and creaks and apart from my plodding footsteps the only sound is the gentle slapping of water against the hulls of the boats parked here.
I can’t remember the last time I ran that hard. Maybe gym glass when I was in the tenth grade.
“Elliot!” I shout as I hang my head in between my knees, trying to catch my breath.
Elliot’s footsteps fill my ears and when he hears me call his name his entire body goes rigid. It’s almost like he’s afraid to move. Or face me. It’s always easier to run away from something that’s bothering you or causes you pain. I know that first hand because I’m excellent at shutting people out, at running away from my problems and feelings and insecurities.
But what I’ve learned is you can’t shut yourself off to the way you feel. You can’t push your feelings aside and pretend they don’t exist. Even if you tell yourself to move on and ignore them you can’t. They’ll always be there, stabbing at your heart, your mind, and the core of your soul reminding you that they need to be felt. That you need to care. Otherwise those feelings will gnaw at you, tear at you, and consume you before breaking you down bit by bit.
Right now Elliot is trying to shut me out and I’m not going to let him.
“Elliot, please.” I lurch closer to him. I’ve reached the point where I know I’m begging, but I can’t help it. I am desperate. “I swear, Elliot that kiss meant nothing.”
He hasn’t moved since he heard me call his name and it’s making me nervous. “You could at least look at me,” I say with a spike of emotion in my voice and tears filling up my eyes.
Elliot spins around slowly, facing me. For a second I breathe a sigh of relief until I notice the look on his face. He’s glaring, his lips turned down into a frown, and his eyes are hard. Two blocks of blue cement. “What do you want?” His tone is freezing and I shudder.
Bravely, I take a few steps closer. “I want you to hear me out,” I tell him, pleading with my eyes. But he won’t look into my eyes. He’s all over the place, staring at the dock, out into the dark waters of the ocean, and over his shoulder, staring at the rows of docked boats.
“Why don’t you tell me why I should listen to what you have to say?”
“Because what you saw wasn’t what you think it is.”
“What I saw was you kissing my brother.”
“But that’s not—!”
Elliot laughs. His laugh is laced with coldness and anger. It reminds of the laughs villains’' in movies let out when they’ve just finished their evil deed of the day. And the sound of that laugh coming from Elliot terrifies me. He’s never like this. He’s warm, and happy, and loving. I think I’ve driven him crazy. His laughter dies down and he struts toward me, arms folded across his muscled chest, a wicked gleam in his eye. “You know,” he begins in a low, raspy voice, “You’re just like him, Robin. You’re the female version of my brother.”
His comment stabs at my heart and I clutch my chest as the pain deepens and starts throbbing. I suck back oncoming tears and swallow hard before uttering, “How can you say that? Are you listening to yourself? I am nothing like Drake.”
Drake is a lot of things. He’s beautiful, charming, and sexy.
And he knows it.
Despite what he has told me in the past I know he’s the type of guy who takes what he wants, does whatever he wants with it, and he doesn’t care who has to hurt to get what he wants. He carries with him a sense of entitlement along with selfishness and conceit and jealousy. No matter what Elliot says I know I am nothing like that. Why? Because I have compassion for other people’s feelings.
Believe me; I have moments where I act out of stupidity. I make stupid decisions, have involuntary brain farts, and have plenty of moments where I want to punch myself in the face for doing the wrong thing. But most of those situations are misconstrued or I’ve done something absentmindedly. I’ve never hurt anyone’s feelings intentionally or even tried to.
Sometimes I think I care about other people’s feelings too much. Mainly because I always ask myself how I’d feel if I was in their shoes.
Elliot clenches his jaw and sneers, “But you are just like him. You knew how I felt about you. I poured my heart out to you.” He raises his voice. “I’ve never done that with any other girl! But I did it with you, Robin! I opened myself up because I thought you were different, but I guess I was wrong.” Elliot lifts his chin and starts backing away. “You’re not different, Robin. You are just like him. Obviously you didn’t care about my feelings at all because even if I didn’t catch you somebody else would have and they would have told me.”
“Different how, Elliot? Is it because I’m not that pretty?” I struggle as the words leave my lips. Somehow I always revert back to that. I always revert back to the fact that I’m plain and normal and clearly not beautiful enough for him. I think of this because I assume maybe someone radiantly beautiful, like Elliot would fall for me because he thought a normal girl would never hurt him.
“That has nothing to do with this!” he shrieks. “And how could you even think that of me? Robin, I don’t think you’re pretty. I think you’re gorgeous. I think you’re smart and funny!” He rakes a hand through his hair then clenches his fists at his sides. “I thought you were loyal. Which is why I said you’re not the person I thought you were. And that’s why I said you’re just like my brother!”
His words melt my insides and more tears stream from my eyes. “He kissed me!” I’ve reached the point where I’m shouting. “I didn’t want him to and I didn’t even enjoy it!”