April 26, 2015
A haze filled my head, making even the simplest of thoughts hard to convey. I struggled to open my eyes, but something kept pulling me back into the realm of the unknown. A limbo that made no sense whatsoever.
Lost in my own regret, I found myself knee-deep in mud. Cold and anxious, I searched for something that would tell me I would be all right, but there was nothing and no one around me. The headlights of the car beamed down on me as I tried to make my way back to the road.
I fought the pain pulsing through my head and tried to keep my eyes on the car, ignoring the laughter echoing behind me. Tunnel vision soon took over and left me plummeting down an endless pit of dread, the despair taking hold of me. Drake’s face constantly flashed before my eyes. Pain and anger filled my soul, making it almost impossible to breathe. The grief alone was unprecedented.
The burning at the back of my throat left my mouth feeling dry, the taste of stale alcohol still lingering on my tongue. It was both disgusting and nauseating.
Flashbacks soon took over—the pounding music, the booze, the fight and Bree. They played over and over again, pushing me further down the gutter with each breath.
I opened and closed my eyes. The bright light above me hurt when I tried to focus my gaze. I turned my head to the side and saw Bree sitting on a chair, mumbling to herself and holding a pair of rosary beads between her thumbs and index fingers. I swallowed hard. It hurt to think about what I’d put her through.
* * * *
Her hair gathered around her face as I held out my hand to help her. We’d accidentally stumbled into each other, the fault being partly due to my roommate Spence’s refusal to leave the party. I’d gone in to make sure he didn’t get himself into trouble. I wasn’t interested in booze or the party scene, never mind the girls. They weren’t priorities.
Being a freshman meant that the stakes had been raised. I didn’t want to jeopardize my future. There I stood, staring at this beautiful stranger, instantly overcome with a bad case of the mumbles.
“Oh my God! I’m so sorry.”
She brushed the spilled beer from her top and looked up at me. Her pretty eyes shimmered as they caught the reflection of the lights above us.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said, and laughed.
My cheeks grew warm and I wished the ground would swallow me up. “I’m such a clumsy idiot.”
“Hey, if this is the worst that happens tonight, I think I’ll have gotten off lightly.” The blue-eyed girl with the brown curly hair smiled at me. She held her hand out to me. “I’m Bree.”
“Well, as long as you’re sure about that,” I replied, taking her hand in mine. “I’m Logan. It’s nice to meet you, Bree.”
“Wanna grab a beer?” she asked. “Mine’s kinda empty.”
I glanced at Spence, who was now swigging on his own bottle of beer. I nodded and followed Bree inside.
“So, Logan, what brings you to GAP tonight?” She handed me a beer.
“GAP?” I asked, shaking my head.
“Gamma Alpha Pi—this frat house.”
“Ooooh!” I said, sounding a little stupid. “I need to brush up on this entire college lingo.”
“You’re okay.” She laughed.
“My roommate pulled me in here.” I was out of my comfort zone.
“Against your will?” She winked at me.
I couldn’t help but smile at the pretty girl in front of me. “Not entirely. I couldn’t let him step into the wolves’ den alone.”
“Wolves’ den, huh?”
“Yeah, Spence would be eaten alive in here,” I said, glancing around the room.
“Wanna know a secret?” She moved her face closer to my ear.
“It’s not the wolves I’d be worried about.”
I saw a glint of something mischievous in her eyes. It was both enticing and intriguing. This total stranger was either coming on to me or playing me. I honestly didn’t care which.
“Who should I be worried about, then?”
“Take a look around, Logan. Tell me what you see.”
Following her prompt, I observed the drunken chaos and the brazen displays of sexual prowess. The fact that she had me take a look made me rethink my being there and I could see it in her eyes.
“You seem like a nice guy, Logan. Nice guys don’t belong in a place like this,” she said, taking me by the hand.
“And what about you? You don’t seem like the kind of girl to be getting mixed up in all this.”
She cocked her head to the side and smiled. “You have no idea what kind of girl I am.”
“You seem decent to me,” I said.
“Don’t let my mild-mannered demeanor fool you, Logan.”
We now stood outside on the front lawn, free from the smoke and noise.
It was hard not to stare at her. Bree was beautiful, a perfect combination of all the things I found attractive in a girl, but she wasn’t reciprocating anything.
“I’m not a fool, Bree. I know what goes on at these things,” I said, defending myself, though God knows why.
“I know, which is why I’m giving you a heads-up.”
“Because you were the only sober guy in there. You didn’t make a pass at me, and you have this aura that tells me you’re a good guy. Good guys get slaughtered for all the wrong reasons.”
“My aura?” I laughed.
“Yes, your aura.” She winked at me. “But seriously, go back to your room, Logan. I’ll make sure your roommate gets home in one piece.”
She turned her back on me and sauntered back inside the house, leaving me looking every inch the loser.
A wave of relief washed over me. She’d saved me the bother of standing out like a sore thumb, yet I couldn’t get her out of my head. It was stupid, childish and irrational, making me want her all the more.
I heeded her words and went back to my room. It was a blessing in disguise. My interest in Bree was piqued. She was like a breath of fresh air and I had an inkling she’d become a huge part of my life.
* * * *
I opened my eyes.
Bree moved her head and saw me staring at her. “Hey,” she whispered. “I’ve been so worried. We all have.”
I licked my lips a few times and tried to clear my throat. Not a single part of my body was left untouched by the pulsing pain racing through me.
Bree got up and stepped over to me. She sat down on the bed and took my hand in hers, gently touching the side of my face.
“You were in an accident.”
“I… I don’t remember.” I struggled to comprehend what she was saying.
“Spence refuses to move from the waiting room,” she said, and smiled at me. “So many people have been worried, baby.”
I closed my eyes and the pain consumed me, a hot burning agony that traveled up the entire right side of my body. A low moan escaped me. Sweat dripped over my brow.
“Shhhh.” Bree leaned forward to console me.
I caught sight of my right leg hovering in the air above me, wrapped in traction. “What’s happened to me?”
“Logan, don’t you remember anything?”
I struggled to understand the jumbled and vague pictures tumbling around inside my head. None of it made sense. I looked at Bree and waited for her to explain what had happened.
“Things got out of control on Thursday night,” she said. “You and Ethan ended up in a heated argument and it was ugly.” She took my hand, squeezing it tightly. Her warmth was a sweet luxury I’d almost forgotten. “Don’t you remember drinking all week?”
I swallowed hard, the tears coursing down the sides of my face. The whole mess washed over me like a wave, pulling me down, making me consume the cold, harsh and dirty truth.
“What did I do?” The words slipped out before I could take them back. Deep inside, I didn’t want to know the truth.
“You dragged Ethan into the trunk of the car and drove him out to Prairie Oaks. Once there, you beat him up bad,” she said, her voice quavering as she spoke.
“Oh my God!” I mumbled. “Jesus Christ, you know I didn’t mean to, right?”
“That’s not all.” She touched the side of my face, wiping away the tears with her thumb. “You got in the car and left him out there, but you crashed out by Three Mile Creek.”
I ran a hand over my face. It hurt to think about what I’d done.
“Is Ethan okay?”
“Yes. He’s nursing a broken nose and a few cracked ribs, but nothing life-threatening,” Bree said, looking into my eyes.
“What day is it?” I had lost all sense of time.
“Sunday. You were out cold for three days straight. You almost drowned, Logan.” Her eyes met mine, tears pooling in their depths. “You needed surgery for a broken femur.” She brushed the tears from her cheeks. “Your parents just left for a break.”
The thought of my mother and father being there, waiting on me together, forced me to re-evaluate my actions these past few months.
“Bree…” I muttered her name, the pang of guilt pulsing deep inside me. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what’s happening to me.”
“Shhh.” She bent and kissed me on the cheek. “Don’t overthink it, just rest. I’ll be here. I’m not leaving you.”
I grew tired until I could no longer keep my eyes open. I drifted off, revisiting the moments before I crashed. Before I beat Ethan and lost control.
* * * *
The music pounded as I grabbed another beer from the refrigerator in my room. I didn’t want or need the company. Regardless of Bree calling, I refused to listen to her. I didn’t want the constant preaching, the refusal not to allow me to wallow in my own self-pity.
The guilt consumed me the moment I’d said goodbye to my best friend. A part of me had died the day he left this earth. It might have sounded pathetic to everyone I surrounded myself with, but nothing had ever hit me harder.
Lying on my bed, I drank my beer. I took the odd shot of Southern Comfort, doing anything to help numb the guilt inside me.
No matter how many times I ran the prior months over and over again inside my head, I couldn’t forgive myself for not seeing the signs. They were all there, but I’d chosen to ignore them, pretending everything was okay.
Bree was tired of waiting on me. She turned up at the house, banging on my bedroom door, refusing to leave until I saw her.
“You can’t hide in there forever, Logan,” she shouted. “The problem will still be here when you come out.”
I turned up the music and tried to drown out her words. She was persistent, however. I loved that about her. No matter how many times I fell or was defeated, she kicked me hard when I needed it. This was one of those times.
“Logan, don’t make me get one of the guys to kick this door in!” she threatened.
I held the bottle of Southern Comfort in one hand and unlocked the door, letting her in.
She stormed inside and went straight for the docking station, sending the iPod crashing to the floor. “Jesus Christ, Logan. You can’t keep doing this to yourself.”
“Doing what?” I asked. “This?”
I held the bottle to my mouth and drank down its contents. The sickly sweet taste turned my stomach.
“You’re a piece of work when you want to be.” She yanked the bottle out of my hands. “Drinking isn’t going to help you. You need to get a grip.”
“And why’s that? Huh? Go on, enlighten me.”
“Logan, I love you, but I can’t sit back and watch you destroy everything you’ve worked so hard for. I can’t be the kind of girlfriend who just pretends everything is okay and turns a blind eye.”
“I didn’t ask you to stick around, did I? I never once asked you to drop everything for me.”
“No, but, because I love you, I made sacrifices. You’re not the only one with dreams. And you’re not the only one who mourns the loss of Drake.”
“Don’t you dare mention his name!” I said, the anger boiling deep inside me.
“Why? Do you want to be the only one full of pain? Is that it? All woe is me Logan, huh?”
“Screw you, Bree!” I cried, and grabbed the keys lying on the dresser. I stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind me.
The rest of my housemates watched me charge down the stairs. Ethan was the first to catch my eye.
“Calm down, bro,” he said, stepping in front of me.
“Don’t push it, Ethan,” I growled.
Ethan flattened a hand against my chest, offering me a sly grin. With his back facing the rest of the house, he was well aware he was pushing all the wrong buttons.
“Why are you so angry, Logan?”
“Take your hand off me!”
The knot deep inside me contorted. I found it hard to focus on anything other than Ethan’s smug grin.
I lost control. My fist made contact with his face before he could comprehend what had happened. I wrapped my fingers around his throat and lifted him off the ground, throwing him across the coffee table.
“Logan, stop!” Bree screamed.
Tommy grabbed my shoulders and pulled me back. “Calm down, Logan!”
“Get off me!”
I turned around, slamming my fist across Tommy’s jaw. Stunned, he backed off, nursing his mouth.
Ethan got up. Blood gushed from his mouth.
“You dirty piece of shit!” he said. “You act like some entitled prick and parade around here as though you own us. You’re nothing but a weak douchebag who deserves every inch of the pain you’re in.”
“That’s enough, Ethan,” Bree said, her eyes on me.
“Okay,” I replied in a calm and unassuming tone. “Entitled prick… Douchebag… Yeah, okay.”
I marched over to Ethan and head-butted him, stunning him completely. Grabbing him by the neck, I led him out of the house and to my car.
“Logan, stop this!” Bree shouted, struggling to keep up with us. “Someone, do something! Please!”
Not a single soul stepped forward to come to Ethan’s rescue.
I opened the trunk and tossed Ethan inside. I then drove away from the campus, unsure of where I was going. I needed to teach Ethan a lesson, once and for all, and nothing was going to get in my way.
I parked the car on the side of a dirt road and left the engine running. Stepping out of the vehicle, I looked up at the dark sky with confusion. I was angrier than ever before.
Ethan spat at me once I pulled him out of the trunk, laughing at me as if he’d finally snapped. “What are you trying to prove?” he asked. “Everyone knows you’re just a waste of space. Hey, not even your best friend wanted to stick around. Doesn’t that tell you something?”
He was intent on continuing his mission to break me, just as he’d broken Drake. I was stronger, however, and refused to bend.
“You had to keep on pushing, didn’t you?” I asked, shoving him down the bank. “Forever the little jerk who couldn’t stand it when the competition got too much. You have to destroy those who make you work harder. You decided to pick on someone who was just a little weaker, didn’t you?”
I kicked him hard between the legs, sending him straight to the ground. “You know something, Ethan? Not a day goes by when I don’t replay those last moments over and over. I still come to the same conclusion. You were in the house with him and knew what was going on. When all is said and done, you’ve got his blood on your hands. Does that make you feel more of a man?”
Ethan looked up at me. He examined our surroundings, trying to find something to hit me with. He scrambled to his feet and held his fists up to defend himself.
I threw a punch, my fist edging closer to his face. It hit his jaw with such force that blood pooled in his mouth. I grabbed Ethan’s head and drew my kneecap up to his face, making contact with his nose. Bones crunched and blood leaked from Ethan’s nostrils. His nose twisted to the right.
“You think this is going to make it all go away?” he asked, blood dripping out of his mouth and down his chin.
I didn’t say anything. In my world, actions spoke louder than words. I drew back my fist again, plowing it into his stomach, then again into the side of his torso. I punched Ethan until I was out of breath.
He fell down onto the wet grass. His chest rose and fell with each shallow breath, his blood-soaked shirt rustling softly.
Ethan laughed. “One day you’ll…learn, Belanger. There’s…only room for one at the top.”
I scrambled back to the car, his voice echoing behind me. Unsure of where I was going, I lost track of my surroundings. The noise of the impact was the last thing I heard before I lost consciousness.
* * * *
Nothing wounded me more than knowing I’d fallen for Ethan’s manipulation. I became the uncontrollable fool he made me out to be, and that was one of my biggest regrets.
Revenge is sweet, but it only makes the wound cut deeper. The aftermath of a storm is bad, more so when nothing is ever resolved. This was a lesson I’d soon learn.