Between fixation on Avi’s reaction and everything else that transpired since waking up, Mitch’s thoughts were too incoherent to come up with any further suggestions for what else they could do on the Cape. It became more excruciating with each motel they passed that listed VACANCY in glaring neon letters. “We can come back when it’s warmer. I bet there’s more to do…” Avi suggested, which didn’t resolve anything in the meanwhile, making this trip seem like a huge waste of time.
Dread swelled as a result of being completely inept at stalling. They would return to the house and this detour from the norm would be over. It must end. There wouldn’t be any further opportunities to be lulled to sleep by Avi’s snoring, or their legs touching when they woke up. He felt like he got a glimpse into the impossible, and he had to be willing to release it instead of being driven to obsession.
He’d get home, and Jodie would talk to him about Basil, but she wouldn’t be Jodie. She’d be another person or a thing wearing Jodie’s skin, using a gentle cadence because Mitch was in full on blown out speakers mode and she was worried about him. And he’d have to sit there and not make any sudden moves or freak out about it.
And then eventually -not that night, but weeks or months down the line, after enough time passed from Thanksgiving’s incident and whenever he considered dating again- Mitch wouldn’t be a victim anymore. Not that he ever wanted that label in particular, or even fully accepted that it’s what he was. But everyone that he loved surely had opinions on his tastes and habits. They’d wonder who the next scumbag would be, and the extent of the awfulness. No one would ever trust him to make his own decisions. Did they talk about him behind his back? Were they “worried” or just outright disappointed? If he kept failing, would they eventually ask why he couldn’t just settle down with a nice guy?
No one could fathom the terror he faced of having to go it alone. Toby was a staple in his life for the last decade, ever present when Mitch was available and there to pick up the pieces, only to shatter them further, into tiny splinters that burrowed under the skin. There’d been moments where Mitch wondered if Toby was being unfaithful to someone else when they’d hook up, because statistically the times that they were both single shouldn’t have lined up so consistently. He never found the courage to ask, and he knew that he should have. Would Toby have answered honestly? There was no way to be certain. Did it actually matter?
His arm brushed up against Avi’s on the center console armrest, and Avi asked for a donut. He thought about holding it up to his mouth as a goof, then remembered the celery stick and the brownie and Avi directly eating both from his hand. So he didn’t get cute, and held one out far enough so that Avi could grab it for himself.
It mattered, Mitch decided. Even if he didn’t know what Toby’s deal was with 100% certainty, it mattered, and he should have used critical thinking instead of feeling sorry for himself. Who knew how many other guys ended up getting hurt because of the arrangement. What a shitty thing to have a hand in, even if it wasn’t intentional.
When they got home, Avi loudly declared what a fun time he had. Mitch bit back the urge to point out they hadn’t done anything, just drove for over four hours just so he could panic over phantom hands that still clasped tightly around his throat. Instead, he simply agreed and thanked him for the ride, then retreated into the sanctity of Jodie’s room when he determined that Basil wasn’t there anymore.
As he crawled under the covers and held Cendre to his chest, Jodie mentioned that she brought Basil to the train a few hours back. “Do you wanna talk about it?” she asked after Mitch didn’t respond.
“Later. Not right now,” Mitch quietly answered.
She nodded and didn’t push it any further, then placed a kiss on the top of his head and gave him a worried look that almost made him burst into tears after she left the room.
Minutes later, he heard Avi’s door open, prompting him to stare at the adjoining wall for a short while. Then he squeezed his eyes shut and rolled onto his other side, fidgeting with the seaglass in his pocket.