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“Yes.” “Were you two comparing notes?” “That’s not funny.” It wasn’t, but my classic protective mechanism of acting like a bastard in times of stress had come out in full force. It was too late. And dammit, I wanted her to acknowledge us. I put my cigarette out. “You think she would have sent you out here to talk to me if she knew the last time before today that you and I were together, we were f**king like rabbits?” The color drained from her face. “Did you have to put it like that?” “It’s the truth, isn’t it? She would freak the f**k out if she knew.” “Well, I’m not going to be the one to tell her, so you don’t have to worry. I would never do that.” Greta’s eye started to twitch, which proved I was having an effect on her. Old habits die hard. I was addicted now. “Why are you winking at me?” “I’m not…my eye is twitching because—” “Because you’re nervous. I know. You used to do that when I first met you. Glad to see we’ve come full circle.” “I guess some things never really change, do they? It’s been seven years, but it seem just like—” “Like yesterday,” I interrupted. “It seems like just yesterday, and that’s f**ked up. This whole situation is.” “It was never supposed to happen.” My eyes somehow landed on her neck, and I couldn’t pry them away. I knew she noticed it. I felt possessive all of a sudden, something I knew I had no right to feel. I still needed to know what the f**k was going on. “Where is he?” “Who?” “Your fiancé.” “I’m not engaged. I was…but not anymore. How did you know I was engaged?” I had to look down. I couldn’t let her see the effect hearing this news had on me. “What happened?” “It’s kind of a long story, but I was the one who ended it. He moved to Europe for a job. It just wasn’t meant to be.” “Are you with anyone now?” “No.” Fuck. She continued, “Chelsea is really nice.” “She’s wonderful; one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, actually.” She was. I loved Chelsea; I did. I could never hurt her. I needed to convince both Greta and myself that Chelsea was it for me. It was still f**ked up that hearing Greta say there was no other man had now riled me up. Greta quickly changed the subject to Randy and my mother. It was starting to rain, so I used that as an excuse to tell her to go inside. She wouldn’t leave. Then, her eyes started to water. All of a sudden, my heart felt like it was breaking. I needed to fight these emotions, and there was only one way I ever knew how to do that with Greta: by being an ass**le. I snapped at her. “What are you doing?” “Chelsea’s not the only one who’s worried about you.” “She’s the only one that has a right to be. You don’t need to be worrying about me. I’m none of your concern.” My heart was pounding faster in protest of what had just come out of my mouth because deep down, I wanted her to care. She was hurt. I’d hurt her again, yet I needed to fight these feelings. “You know what? If I didn’t feel so sorry for what you’re going through right now, I’d tell you to kiss my ass,” she said. Her words had gone straight to my dick. I had the urge to grab her and kiss her senseless. I had to nip this in the bud. “And if I wanted to be a dick, I’d say you were asking me to kiss your ass because you remembered how much you f**king loved it when I did.” What the f**k had I just said? I needed to leave before I did something even more stupid, although that one would be hard to top. As I walked past her, I said, “Take care of your mother tonight.” I left her standing in the garden. When I opened the door, I pulled Chelsea into the hardest kiss I’d ever given her in a desperate attempt to obliterate Greta from my mind. *** The wake had been tougher than I even expected in more ways than one. I refused to look over at the coffin. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t belong there. Voices blended together. I heard nothing. I saw nothing. I was counting the minutes until I could be back on that plane. Chelsea was keeping me standing. The only time I ever felt pain was when I’d look over at Greta. The single instance I left to escape everything, I’d ended up running into her downstairs in the basement of the funeral home. She tried to pretend she didn’t see me after she exited the bathroom, but I knew it was my one chance to apologize for my earlier behavior. I hadn’t expected her to use that moment to tell me she still had feelings for me. It had broken all my resolve. Everything about this day had weakened me. Her hair was up, and at one point, I wrapped my hand around her neck. The trauma of this whole experience had totally clouded my better judgment. It felt unreal, almost like I was dreaming. But there was nothing I needed more in that moment. Chelsea’s footsteps interrupted my trance. She’d come down to check on me, but she didn’t see anything. I felt ashamed when I looked into my girlfriend’s loving eyes. She’d been worried about me and meanwhile, I was in the middle of some kind of wet dream. I hated myself. Soon after we went back upstairs, I insisted we leave early and hitch a ride back to Greg and Clara’s house. Desperate to wash every shred of Greta off my hands and out of my mind, I practically attacked Chelsea when we got to the bedroom. I told her I needed sex right then and there. She didn’t question it, just started to undress herself. That was the kind of girlfriend she was. She loved me unconditionally even in my manic state. The problem was…what my body really craved in that moment wasn’t in the room. As I moved in and out of Chelsea, I closed my eyes and saw nothing but Greta: Greta’s face, Greta’s neck, Greta’s ass. This was the lowest thing I’d ever done. Guilt consumed me, and I stopped abruptly. Without explanation, I ran to the bathroom and turned on the shower. The need for release was enormous. I started to jerk off to a visual of Greta on her knees looking up at me as I dressed her neck with my cum. It took me all of a minute. I was sick. After I’d come down from my orgasm, I felt even worse than I had before. That night, my thoughts seemed to be taking turns obsessing over Greta and Randy. I didn’t sleep a wink. Randy won most of the night as flashbacks of him tormented me. Chelsea would be leaving early to fly out to California in the morning for her sister’s wedding. I couldn’t fathom how I was going to possibly handle the burial tomorrow without Chelsea there to lean on…or to keep me away from Greta. *** Scramble the letters of the word funeral; you get “real fun.” Of course, it was anything but that. Just don’t look up. That was what I told myself. Don’t look up at the coffin on the altar. Don’t look up at Greta’s back. Just keep looking at the watch, and every minute will be one step closer to this being over. That rule of thumb worked for me until we got to the burial grounds at which point I had the freak out of my life and ended up in Greta’s Honda on the road to nowhere. I needed a smoke, but the craving wasn’t bad enough to warrant stopping the car long enough to buy cigarettes. Everything was a blur: the funeral, my panic attack and now, even the trees that lined the interstate while Greta drove so fast that they blended together into one blurry green line. Everything was just a f**king blur. I kept looking out the window for what seemed like hours until she spoke up for the first time. “Just about another twenty minutes, and then we’re gonna stop somewhere, okay?” I looked over at her. She was softly humming. Sweet Greta. Fuck. My chest constricted. I’d been such an ass**le to her up until today, and now, I’d basically hijacked her. She’d saved me from myself this afternoon, and I’d done nothing to deserve her taking the time out to drive me around like this. I didn’t have the energy to tell her how much it meant to me, so I just said, “Thank you.” One of her long blonde hairs had strayed, landing on my black pants. I twirled it around in my hands and eventually relaxed enough to fall asleep. It was the first time I’d slept in days. I woke up delirious. When I realized where she’d taken me, I fell into a fit of laughter. A casino. It was brilliant. When we entered the building, Greta started coughing incessantly and complained about the smoke. It was odd, but my own desire for a cigarette had gone away. The adrenaline of being in that environment had shifted my focus off my problems. I was pumped. “Try to have fun, sis.” I jokingly shook her shoulders and immediately regretted putting my hands on her at all because apparently, my body couldn’t be trusted to not react like an animal. “Please don’t call me that.” “What would you prefer I call you here? No one knows us. We can make up names. We’re both dressed in all black. We look like mafia high rollers.” “Anything but sis.” “What do you like to play?” “I want to hit one of the tables. What about you?” “I just do the penny slots.” The penny slots. God, she was cute. “The penny slots? You’re going wild today, huh?” “Don’t laugh.” “You don’t go to a casino like this to play the slots, especially the penny ones.” “I don’t know how to play any of the tables.” “I can show you, but first we need drinks.” I winked at her. “Always liquor before you poker.” Her face turned pink. I’d almost forgotten how addicting making her blush was. She rolled her eyes. “God, some things never change. At least you’re back to making dirty jokes. That means I did something right today.” “Seriously, this idea…” I looked at the chaos all around us then back at her. “Coming here…it was perfect.” What I wished I could tell her was that unexpectedly getting to spend time with her again was the best part. We bought some chips, and I’d gone to get us some drinks. I had been feeling really good until I made my way back to where Greta was waiting. A fat guy in a cowboy hat smacked her on the ass as she stood next to him at the craps table. Without further thought, my body went into fight mode. “Tell me I did not just see that f**king slob smack you on the ass.” I gave her the drinks. “Hold these.” I put him in a chokehold. Both hands were needed to fit around his fat neck. “Who the f**k do you think you are putting your hands on her like that?” He held up his hands. “I didn’t know she was with someone. She was helping me out.” “It looked like you were helping yourself.” I’d accidentally spit on him when the words came out of my mouth then dragged him by the neck over to Greta. “Apologize to her right now.” “Look man—” “Apologize.” I yelled as I squeezed his neck even harder. “I’m sorry.” My ears were throbbing. I still wanted to kill him. Greta was pleading. “Come on, Elec. Please let’s just go.” Her scared face made me realize that beating this guy down wasn’t worth putting her through this. I took my drink from her and started to walk away. Then, I heard him from behind me, “You’re lucky you came when you did. I was just about to ask her to blow on my dice.” I flipped the f**k out, charging toward him and nearly hurt Greta who tried to use her little body to block my aim. She only ended up getting drenched by the drinks that spilled all over her. “Elec, no! We can’t get kicked out of here. Please. I’m begging you.” I realized in that moment if I even touched him, I was going to either kill him or seriously hurt him. I needed to walk away. “You can thank her that you still have a face.” I was still stewing as we walked out of the room. The only other time I’d put my hands on someone like that had also been in Greta’s defense. Was I protecting her now as a brother or an ex-lover? That was the question. Her hair was wildly disheveled, and her dress was soaked. “Shit, Greta. You’re a mess.” In reality, she’d never looked more beautiful. She laughed. “A hot mess.” “Let’s go. I’m buying you a new outfit.” “It’s fine. I’m just a little wet.” A little wet. Fuck. Get your mind out of the gutter, Elec. “No, it’s not fine. That was my fault.” “It’ll dry. Tell you what, if you win something tonight, you can spend it all on a new outfit for me at one of these expensive shops. That’s the only way I’m letting you spend any money on me.” I felt like a douche, and I knew I wasn’t leaving tonight until I bought her the nicest dress in this joint to make up for what I did. After I’d gone to get drinks, I told her it was better if we separated while I played poker. There were a ton of guys who looked like they were on the prowl in the poker room, and I didn’t want to have to f**k anyone up tonight. Greta didn’t realize how attractive she was. It amazed me that she even listened and agreed to go play the slots for a while.
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