BAD DAYS Four Days, #3
Jason Lee is the friend everyone would like to have. He’s loyal, sensitive and generous and kind to those he loves. He has dedicated himself completely to his work at the pub that he manages with his friends, who have by now become a second family to him. He is trying to make sense out of a life that is damaged by loss and pain, closing himself into his safe haven of a world that is far removed from his previous suffering, and he is determined not to lose any more than he already has.
Alex McBride returns to Dublin, having been away for five years. She finds her old house, goes to places familiar to her when she grew up there with her friends, but nothing is like it used to be. Coming back is never easy, especially if your absence is responsible for the slow destruction of someone else’s life, someone you had hoped to forget but who actually remained exactly where he was, like an open wound that continues to bleed.
Jason and Alex find each other together again after a long separation: they’ve been friends, confidants and conspirators but now they’re forced to reconcile a past that has never stopped hurting and a future impossible for them to live out together, because there’s something that could separate them, and this time, they might be parted forever.
Bad Days is a complete standalone and a part of the Four Days Series
EXCERPT ~ PROLOGUE
I don’t feel like studying, I can’t think about exams right now. The truth is, I don’t care about anything anymore.
Mum has left, and she’s taken my family with her. Or, at least, the idea of having one.
I can’t make it – we can’t make it – on our own, just me and him. We just can’t do it. She was the one who kept everything together.
I feel so alone, and I’m furious at the world, with everyone, with him…everyone except her.
I could never be angry with her.
We’ve been friends since we were born. Our mothers were close, so we’ve been doing things together since they came to live here on Pearse Street before we were born. She and I were always together, almost like siblings. I was with her every day at school and every afternoon when we came home. Inseparable friends, two very different souls, yet so close.
My whole life is music, and she…well, she’s always got her nose in a book.
I like watching her read, as she wrinkles her brow or bites her lip when she gets to an exciting point in the story.
I’ve studied her expressions for years—sometimes funny, sometimes sweet. I also swear I’ve seen her eyes fill with tears as she reads, but she’s embarrassed get so emotional sometimes, so I pretend not to notice.
Just looking at her gives me warmth and confidence – and I need it now more than ever. I miss it like I’d miss oxygen in my lungs.
I watch her as she scratches her nose, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear, trying to hold back her emotions. She’s wonderful: so shy, so fragile, but not as fragile as I feel right now.
I’m crippled with pain. I feel like I’m about to do something I may regret for the rest of my life, but I can’t resist.
I need to. Right now.
I know we’re just two kids, and sooner or later she’s going to start going out with someone, even though I keep a ten-kilometre distance from every guy who comes near her; but soon, she’s going to look around and start to understand that other guys like her. She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s unique. And as soon as she realises that, it’s all over for me.
I’d have been happy just to sit and watch her, just like I always have. But now, I want more.
Now I want to know what it feels like to be in her arms.
So I get up and walk towards her. She stops reading without lifting her eyes from the book. I know she senses me, she realises I’m coming closer, but she doesn’t look at me. She doesn’t give me the satisfaction.
I sit next to her, forcing her to look at me, to remove the pencil from her mouth.
Now I’ve got her attention. She slowly starts to lose herself in my eyes, which I can’t tear away from her; she’s the only person in my life who hasn’t hurt me.
I place my lips on hers just for a second, but I feel emotion rise, beating in my heart. I didn’t think this was possible. I thought it was protected, bundled up in my loss.
But it starts beating again, for her, for my friend.
For my Alex.
After a few seconds of hesitation, she lets herself go and timidly opens her lips, letting me play with her tongue. I run my fingers through her stunning, golden hair and slide my hand behind her neck, pulling her closer to me.
I feel her body warm me up, thawing my heart from its unbearable, icy pain that, until just a few minutes ago, I thought would destroy me.
I let my hands slide down her face, along her arms and onto her waist. I sigh and slip them under her shirt, feeling her hot, soft skin. That touch snaps me out of my stupor and my suffering, instantly bringing me back to life.
I try to transform this light, intimate kiss into something more; shyly, she lets me. But I can feel something is wrong.
My Alex isn’t with me anymore.
~ ~ ~
We’re in my bedroom, just the same as every other day that I can remember. This is our place, our refuge: it’s here we come to hide. It’s here where our friendship has grown year after year.
We’ve known each other since we were kids, we’ve shared everything, and now, here we are: sharing this pain. It’s his pain, of course it is, but I feel it as if it were mine.
His mother isn’t here anymore, and the hole in his heart is something that can never be filled. I wish I could help him, but I don’t know how.
We sit in silence. He tries to study for our upcoming exam and I try to help him the best I can but I know he’s not really reading that book, just like I can’t concentrate on anything else.
All my thoughts are about him.
The silence that wraps itself around us is so loud. I’m afraid he’ll break down in tears, and I won’t know how to comfort him.
Or maybe I’ll be the first to cry. I can’t stand to see him like this.
He’s my best friend, my partner in crime, my guiding force; but something’s changed. It’s like our roles have been reversed. And I’m scared I won’t be able to help him pull through.
I’ve got to try, for his sake, because I don’t want him to get lost in himself.
Jason’s happy, he’s always smiling, just like his mum. He’s always open and cheerful, the life and soul of the party, the guy who makes you feel better after a terrible day.
His eyes are clear and sincere; they shine, blinding you with their light, like two stars falling from heaven to illuminate the darkness.
And yet, they seem different now. They’re deeper, and they mask an unbearable suffering. They’re tainted by a shadow, tears pushing their way to the surface; but they’re held back by something that won’t let him free them.
I’d do anything to take away his pain, to stop him from feeling alone and abandoned.
And then I feel him moving in the room, stepping closer to me.
My heart stops for a second. I can feel that something’s about to happen, something that could change our relationship and our lives forever. I don’t know if I’m ready, but he’s Jason and I’m not afraid of what could happen. I trust him.
He sits on my bed. I know this because I can feel the mattress sink under his weight. I don’t take my eyes off my book, even though I’ve been reading the same sentence over and over for a while now.
I can’t look him in the eyes.
Then he takes my face in his hands and gives me a weak smile.
I see his eyes light up again, his lips moving in towards mine. I hold my breath and my heart starts beating like crazy, a frantic feeling in my chest that I’m barely able to control.
And he kisses me tenderly. It’s not a kiss you give to a friend. It’s something totally different. It’s a real kiss.
My first kiss.
I’ve never kissed anyone before. Guys never approach me, and now I’m starting to understand why. Jason is always around: he holds my hand, he hugs me, and walks with me by his side every day as if…as if I were his.
I let go of my discomfort and try to bring myself back to what’s happening right here, right now, in this room; a room we’ve been in together a thousand times before, but have never dipped beyond the surface.
My tongue brushes against his and a shiver runs down my spine, giving me goosebumps. Jason pulls me into him and for the first time, I feel his heat blend with mine.
He runs his hands through my hair, across my face and my shoulders. He trails down slowly along my arms and stops a moment at my waist. He takes a deep breath and lets his fingers slide under my shirt. His touch makes me shudder with embarrassment and pure emotion, but it’s something nice. Something I want.
Suddenly, the pain in my chest becomes too much. I try to slowly pull away from this kiss, which confuses me, puts our friendship in jeopardy. I feel like I’m losing something important.
My vision goes hazy. I close my eyes, and then there’s nothing.
I’m losing myself.