Jodie’s bedroom window was visible from the driveway, and light poured from it. Chances were that she was probably still awake.
Mitch stared up at the second floor and swallowed hard, debating avoiding her altogether by sleeping on the couch that night.
“You coming?” Avi shouted over the rain.
“No,” Mitch shook his head, sending droplets to and fro. Like a dumbass, he’d forgotten his hat back at Toby’s apartment. “Gonna stay out here tonight. It’s a great night for stargazing.”
“C’mon,” Avi tutted sympathetically and pulled at Mitch’s arm, guiding him inside. Other phrases of encouragement were offered, such as “It’ll be fine” and “She’s your best friend, just talk to her,” but they got lost in the brain static that elevated with each stair climbed. Eventually, Mitch stood outside of the bedroom door, dazed and numb and at a loss over how to explain himself.
But Avi believed in him, so he figured that he needed to try. Couldn’t risk being more of a disappointment to the guy that pulled his fat from the fire multiple times, then asked for nothing in return. He pushed the door open, and fought off every urge to bolt when he met Jodie’s glare.
“How was your night?” Her voice was pure ice, pulled straight from the Arctic Circle and dropped off in the middle of this random room in Frenchtown, Monument.
“Alright. Yours?” Mitch answered.
“Well, I didn’t fuck Toby,” she scoffed.
“Neither did I, actually!” Mitch snapped, satisfied that he caught her off guard. She raised an eyebrow at him, radiating incredulousness. “Jo,” he sighed, not fond of the mistrust, even if it was warranted.
“So what, you guys just hung out?” Arms folded across her chest, she frowned.
“Well, not that it’s any of your business,” Mitch started, casting his eyes down at his feet to avoid the daggers being thrown his way. “We fooled around for a little while, but I wasn’t comfortable so we stopped.” His head shot back up when she hissed out a few choice cursewords. “Oh for fuck’s sake, Jodie!”
“With Toby?” She threw her arms into the air.
“Yes. I’m sorry, yes. With Toby.” Running a hand through his hair, Mitch’s back slumped against the door in exasperation, and he struggled to not curl in on himself.
“But why?” The hostility in Jodie’s voice turned to something else, more akin to curiosity and hurt.
“I…I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been damaged goods for so long that all I know is how to be used.”
Jodie gave a low whistle, then followed up with, “That’s bleak, dude.”
“It’s why I’m in therapy. I’m working through it.”
A few seconds passed, and at last Jodie’s face softened. She pat the space next to her on the bed; though her mercy sometimes came with thorns, the roses that accompanied them were sweet, and the hedges offered a great amount of protection. So Mitch accepted her offer, but settled at the mattress’ edge before going any further. “Jodie,” he kept his tone soft. “You gotta stop stalking his accounts. I’m sure it feels like your efforts paid off tonight, but it’s really not healthy. You’ve got way bigger stuff to worry about than Toby.”
“But what if he hurts you again?” She asked, and in rare form allowed for vulnerability to shine through.
“Then it’s my own fault, and you get to present me with the world’s biggest ‘I told you so’ for it. But I can’t-” He sighed, then dropped his head into his hands while the smell of Avi’s cologne wafted from off of his shirt, making his heart physically ache. “I can’t keep fixating on someone that I have literally no chance with in this or any other lifetime. You gotta trust me on this and let me get it out of my system so that I can move on.”
After the sound of rustling fabric came from behind him, arms went around his midsection and her head rested on his back. “You really think Toby’s going to help you with that?”
“Dunno. At the very least, he’ll remind me of all of the things that I dislike about being attached,” he bitterly chuckled. “But it might be a moot point. I think I burnt that bridge tonight.”
“Yeah right,” Jodie snorted. “That’s impossible. The more of a bitch that you are to him, the harder he pursues you.”
“If you say so,” Mitch, having all of his energy drained, put up no further argument. Quietly, he laced their fingers together, and ignored the way that she heavily sighed against him; every word gone unsaid was expelled in that breath.