Oh, my God.. My head was killing me.. What the hell happened last night? I remember coming home from Riley’s, talking with Pia and blowing up at her like an asshole, then leaving to go to the bar.. But, that’s it. I couldn’t remember anything else. Oh, shit.. I must’ve blacked out.. Fuck, I really hope I didn’t do anything stupid last night. Starting that early drinking was stupid enough, but drinking all day and into the night and not remembering a second of it? Shit..
I still couldn’t open my eyes after waking up. I could see through my eyelids that it was too bright to open them just yet and I sat up on what felt like a couch beneath me. I let out a tired, painful groan and I brought my hands up to my face, rubbing my cheeks and my eyes as I tried to remember what had happened last night.
“Good, you’re awake,” I heard my brother, Niko’s, voice and I struggled to open my eyes, looking to where I heard his voice and I saw him standing in his kitchen drinking a cup of coffee.
“W-What.. How did I get here?” I asked, my eyes continuing to struggle to focus as I stood up with weak legs from the couch to join him in the kitchen.
“Wow, you really were trashed last night.. Trashed enough to drive here at three in the morning and wake us up,” Niko pointed out in slight frustration and I watched as he grabbed a second cup of coffee he had already made for me and handed it over. I leaned against the counter as I took the mug and let out another groan as I felt how weak and hungover my entire body was.
“Thanks,” I said quietly, my vision fuzzy and my ears ringing from a massive headache, “I came here that late last night?” I asked, taking a sip of the coffee.
“Yeah.. You seemed pretty upset, too. You were going on and on about Riley, and something about Alani, too, but I could barely catch any of the points you were trying to make you were slurring so much. Something about love and what not and not knowing what to do about.. Something..? I honestly don’t know,” he reminded me, although it wasn’t much to go on, but I could put two and two together and knew I was probably rambling about what I talked to Pia about.
“I’m sorry, Niko, I didn’t mean to do that.. Was AnneMarie mad?”
“No, more-so concerned.”
“..She isn’t going to tell Riley about this, right?” I asked in worry, but he shook his head.
“No. You asked her not to and she said she wouldn’t, but who knows.. She went out to get something for dinner for us, mostly you, so you’d hopefully feel better.”
“W-Wait, what? Dinner? What time is it?”
“It’s almost five. You slept all day,” he said with a rather displeased expression.
“It seemed like you had a lot to drink last night.. And I’m kind of pissed you drove here like that.. You should’ve just called me, I would’ve come and picked you up. You could’ve got pulled over, or worse, gotten into an accident.. You’re really stupid sometimes, you know that?” He disciplined as if he was Dad or Pops and I chuckled softly.
“Heh, yeah, yeah, I do.. And I probably did try to call you, but with the condition I was in, I don’t doubt that I fucked up trying to dial you and just gave up and decided to drive here.. I can’t believe I did that,” I replied with disappointment in myself, taking another sip of the coffee before putting it down onto the counter top.
“Well, it’s fine now. You’re safe, so that’s what’s important,” he said with a forced smile and I smirked.
“Again, I’m sorry.. I didn’t mean to barge in like that and I didn’t mean to get that drunk. It really was stupid of me, but thank you for taking me in,” I said with my smirk still on my lips.
“Always,” he then replied with a genuine smile and I could tell he was finally over it, “So.. About last night, though.. What were you so upset about, anyways?”
“No.. I don’t want to talk about it,” I shied my eyes away to the ground.
“You don’t get to do that, Luca. You don’t get to come here in the condition you were in and not tell me why you did it. I have a right to know, especially when you seemed like you really wanted to talk about whatever it was,” he insisted and I sighed.
“..You’re right.. How long ago did AnneMarie leave? I don’t want to talk about it if she’s here,” I replied, not knowing if AnneMarie really wouldn’t tell Riley about what I did last night and with what I was about to talk to Niko about, it’s the last thing I needed her to overhear.
“She left about ten minutes ago, although I think she’s probably going to that diner across town that serves the really greasy stuff for occasions such as this, so we have time.. Spill it,” he said in his kind, ‘I’m listening’, tone and I appreciated his open ears.
“All right, well.. It pretty much can just be summed up to Pia getting it out of me that I think I already love Riley, but I don’t want to tell her. And somehow the subject of Alani came up and I may have admitted that I still do love her and part of me is, maybe, holding back from telling Riley something that serious in hopes that Alani might eventually come back.. Or not.. I don’t know, really.. I don’t want to tell Riley that I love her because then what if Alani eventually does show up again and I decide I want to be with her? I can’t do that to Riley. I’d be leaving her the same way Alani left me. Tell her I love her, then bam, I’m gone.. All of it makes me feel like such shit and I’m an asshole for even holding onto the shred of hope that Alani will ever come back,” I explained and there was a long silence around us before he spoke.
“Well, that’s, uhm.. Pretty serious, Luca,” he seemed bothered by my words and I didn’t blame him.. AnneMarie and Niko were the ones that set me up with Riley in hopes of maybe trying to help me forget about Alani, but seeing as their attempt at helping me didn’t work, it made me feel even more like shit. They had good intentions and I appreciated it, but I couldn’t help what I still wanted deep down.
“Look, I know you and AnneMarie wanted nothing but the best for me by introducing me to Riley, and so far it’s been really great, obviously, since I feel this strongly about her, but.. There’s still a part of me that I don’t think will ever get over Alani and I don’t know what to do. I’ve already told Riley about Alani and I told her I didn’t love her anymore, so I can’t go back on what I said. It’ll make her think she can’t compare to her or something and the last thing I want is to make her feel like shit over something that’s completely my fault for not being honest about,” I answered.
“Forgive me if this is a little straight forward, Luca, but there isn’t anything you can do. Alani hasn’t come back to you, so there’s nothing to figure out..? The only thing that’s making you think that you still have a chance with her is because you refuse to let her go. You need to let her go, Luca.. If you love Riley like you say you do, then you need to separate yourself from the past and move forward or you’ll never be happy. If you can’t move on, then don’t drag Riley along with you if you’re not one hundred percent sure that you want to be with her,” his words hit harder than I thought they would and my heart started to race a little in nerves.
“You.. Think I should break up with her?”
“Well.. It isn’t fair to her. If you’re thinking about someone else when you’re with her, then-”
“-I don’t.. I don’t think about Alani at all when I’m with Riley, not ever.. It’s just the downtime’s.. And especially last night when she came up in conversation with Pia. I promise,” I answered sternly and he shrugged his shoulders.
“You don’t have to promise me anything or prove anything to me, Luca. The only person you need to be honest with right now is yourself.. And Riley,” he implied.
“I-” I didn’t know what to say, “I.. Can’t.. I can’t do that. I told Riley that I didn’t love Alani anymore, I can’t just go and talk to her about it and admit that I lied straight to her face.. And telling her that I’m in love with someone else that I haven’t seen in this long? It just sounds ridiculous,” I replied.
“The worst that could happen is you break up, and everyone goes through them, Luca-”
“-You never did,” I pointed out and he shrugged again.
“I’m just lucky, I guess.. But, that’s not the point. People break up every day. It’s nothing to be scared of, it’s just something you’ll have to prepare yourself for just in case. You have time to prepare yourself for the worst this time, too. She’s not going to up and leave you without some kind of notice and vice versa. It won’t be anything like how you and Alani ended it, if it does, that is,” he pointed out and I did agree with what he said, but I still didn’t think I could do it.
“But, I think I love her-”
“-And if you do, you’ll be honest with her,” he insisted, “That’s mostly what keeps love alive, Luca.. Honesty. And if you don’t have that, it’ll never work out,” he added and I knew that to be true, but I was nervous about it.
“Well, what if I just try it out a little bit longer and see if it goes away?”
“Now you’re just trying to avoid something you should do. I know it’s scary-”
“-I’m not scared.”
“Whatever.. The point is, you’re putting it off because it’s something you don’t want to do, but it’s something you should do. She has a right to know that even though you may love her, there’s someone else that’s still in your heart, too. You shouldn’t have lied to her in the first place,” he gave me a parental eyebrow raise and I rolled my eyes.
“I know, I know, but, she asked, and since it was so new, I didn’t wanna blow it so early into us dating. It made me uneasy already dating someone for the first time in so long and I didn’t want to blow it, so-”
“-You told her what you thought she wanted to hear, and what you wanted to believe, yourself,” he finished for me.
“Man, you really like completing my sentences for me, don’t you?” I said with an annoyed snicker.
“Luca, we’re brothers. I’ve grown up learning exactly who you are. I just know you, that’s all, and I’ve come to understand what kind of person you are,” he put simply.
“What, a coward? Selfish? Dishonest?”
“Hey, you said it, not me,” he said with a teasing grin and I sighed heavily.
“We had sex two nights ago for the first time,” I brought up randomly, hoping that maybe giving him that piece of information would trail him away from insisting I tell Riley the truth. Niko’s eyes widened in surprise and he seemed deep in thought for a long moment.
“That’s-” He didn’t know what to say for another long moment, “That.. Makes things a lot more complicated,” he said.
“I know, right?! I can’t tell her something like that when she’s been waiting until she completely trusted me in order to be comfortable enough to have sex with me. I don’t know if she loves me back, of course, but something tells me that she might, or at least have strong feelings towards me, and if I told her about how I truly felt about Alani after she brought her walls down and let me in like that, I just.. I can’t. Not now, at least,” I replied, my eyes going down to the floor again and I felt ashamed for how I felt.
“Shoot.. So, now, if you tell her the truth, she might take it wrong and think you just wanted the sex and are making up some excuse to break up with her once you got it,” he came to a possible conclusion and I nodded.
“More than likely, yes, and that’s why I can’t tell her because I don’t want her to think that for a second.. Had this realization happened before we had sex, sure, I could probably do it, but after all of that and how great it was and how amazing I know she is, I can’t, Niko. I’d double hurt her, and I don’t even want to hurt her once..”
“Jesus.. Why does sex make everything more complicated?”
“Pft.. Like you would even know, virgin,” I teased.
“I realize you’re hurting right now, Luca, but pointing out virginity as a flaw isn’t something I’ll stand for. I’m waiting for a reason and it’s to experience it with the woman I love,” he got defensive and I chuckled half-heartedly.
“Lighten up, I’m just joking around.. It’s beautiful and you’re lucky and blah blah, romantic shit and what not,” I brushed off.
“I don’t really know what to tell you now, Luca. I still want you to be honest with her, but I can understand how it would come across after you two have been intimate. You’re in a really crappy situation and I don’t know what I can say to help you. I think this is something you might just need to figure out for yourself, as hard as it sounds,” Niko spoke at a loss, but before I could answer or try to talk more about it with him, the door was being unlocked and AnneMarie came inside with the food she had gone out for.
She stood there for a moment in slight confusion before fully coming inside.
“Jeez, what’re ya’ll so gloomy about?” AnneMarie wondered as she shut the door behind her. Niko quickly went to her, helping her bring in the food by taking it from her hands.
“Nothing, babe,” he leaned in and kissed her lovingly, “I’ll get us some plates. Thank you for going out and getting dinner,” he continued.
“It’s no problem,” she said with a smile and I walked over to the couch to sit down.
“So, how are yah, sweetie? Feelin’ okay?” She worried about me with a sweet smile, coming over to sit with me and tapping my knee twice before withdrawing it and I nodded.
“Yeah, I’m fine, and thanks to you, I’ll be much better when I get some food in me,” I replied, trying to momentarily erase my emotions from my face and tone while in her presence, “You’re a life saver.”
“Oh, go on,” she said with another smile and I chuckled softly. As much as I wanted to forget about Riley and how much of a piece of shit I was while with AnneMarie, Riley was all I could think about. AnneMarie had the same accent, the same glow in her green eyes, the same kindness. I couldn’t handle it.
“You don’t happen to have anything a little stronger than coffee, do you, Niko?” I asked with a sense of slight shame, but I felt like I needed it.
“This early?” AnneMarie wondered and I chuckled nervously. She thought that drinking at five was early?
“Hair of the dog,” I answered and she nodded in understanding.
“Uh, I think so?” He answered and Niko went to the fridge and checked for me, “Yeah, I got a few beers. But, you only get one, got it?”
“Yes, dad,” I teased and AnneMarie giggled softly.
“Shut up, you know I hate that,” he scolded and I kept my grin. Even with everything I was dealing with, Niko always managed to bring out a little humor in me during hard times and I really needed it. Niko handed me a beer and I took it, hearing the carbonation escape the bottle when I twisted the cap off and took a quick chug of it before setting it down on the coffee table.
“So, what were yah so upset about last night, Luca? You were a drunkin’ mess and we could barely understand yah, but I thought I could’ve sworn I heard you mention Riley.. Is everythin’ between you two goin’ okay?” She wondered in worry and I glanced up briefly to see Niko putting the food onto plates, but he was staring at me, as well.
I put my attention back on AnneMarie and thought of a quick lie, “Oh, uhh.. I-It was nothing.. I just got really drunk and I didn’t want you to tell Riley about me getting plastered like that. I don’t want her to get the wrong impression of me,” I replied, meaning that statement in more than just one way and she nodded.
“Oh, well, don’t worry, sweetheart, I won’t tell’er. Everyone needs to have some fun by themselves every now and then, right? Besides, after convincin’ her to go out with yah, I wouldn’t say anythin’ bad about yah to her,” she replied with a smile, but it took me a few seconds to dissect her words.
“Wait, what?” I wondered and her expression seemed surprised.
“What? What did I say?” She asked.
“You.. You said that you had to convince her to go out with me.. I thought that you told me she wanted to, and I was the one that took the convincing?” I replied and I could tell that AnneMarie was getting a little uncomfortable by the question I asked. Niko came into the room and set down three plates full of food and attempted to change the conversation.
“What does it matter? You two are together now, so that’s that,” he put simply, but I ignored it and continued talking to AnneMarie.
“What exactly did you need to convince her about?”
“I.. Don’t think this is appropriate timin’-”
“-Why not? Because you happened to slip out the truth instead of the lie that you told me?”
“Luca, chill out, okay? It’s not that big of a deal,” Niko jumped in to try to protect AnneMarie and I understood why, but it didn’t help calm me down at all. He must’ve been in on it, too.
I looked at Niko, “So, you can lie to my face, but I’m the one that should be telling the truth?” I referred to our conversation earlier before AnneMarie had gotten there and I could see the guilt in his eyes, “I’m.. I’m just gunna go. Thanks for the dinner, but I’m not that hungry anymore. Sorry again for barging in last night,” I spoke with a tinge of anger, getting up from the couch and walking to the front door to leave.
“Luca, come on,” I heard Niko say before I shut the door, but I was too frustrated to turn back to hear him out. Why was it that everywhere it seemed I went lately, the conversations always turned into arguments?
I heard the door open and shut behind me as I walked to my poorly parked car and I knew it was Niko.
“Luca, you know what you’re doing right now, right? You’re reaching. You’re finding things to get mad at Riley about so that maybe telling her the truth won’t seem so hard, and that if you do break up over it, you’ll hurt less because you have something on her, too,” Niko called out, still following behind me.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I brushed off.
“I think I do, Luca-”
“-Fine,” I stopped walking towards my car and faced him, “Then cut the crap, stop trying to be the best man in the entire word by shoving this honestly bullshit down my throat and tell me why it took Riley some convincing to date me. Or at least just to meet me. What has AnneMarie said about me behind my back to her all these years? I mean, they’ve been friends since before she met you eleven years ago, she’s known me that long, too, and girls love to fucking gossip, so I don’t doubt there’s been some bad shit said about me to AnneMarie from you, and from her to Riley,” I pointed out.
“If you say that, then you must know already. I don’t need to tell you,” he said with furrowed, worried brows.
“Maybe.. But, I want you to say it,” I challenged and he sighed heavily, “What? I’m not allowed to lie to someone, but you are? To your brother, no less? This isn’t about Riley anymore, this isn’t about some girl, this is about us now. Family. Just tell me what you’ve told AnneMarie and what she’s told Riley about me. That’s all I’m asking. If you can tell me that, then yeah, maybe I’ll take your shitty advice and have the courage to be honest with Riley, too, but if you can’t, if you can’t take your own damn advice, then what’s it good for?” I asked rhetorically and I could see the nerves he was feeling through his eyes.
“Fine.. You’re just.. You just have a bad reputation, that’s all,” he said with a shrug.
“That’s all, you say? And what kind of reputation is that?”
“Please, don’t make me say it, Luca,” he somewhat begged, the hurt evident in his eyes, but I wasn’t letting him off that easy and he finally gave in.
“.. A womanizer,” he said in a way as if he was truly uncomfortable with the word, but I could see why. He was an angel, always has been, and he’d never be anything like me. I grew up knowing how perfect he was because our parents would never shut up about it.
“Well.. Only the ones that believe it are the ones that spread it, right?” I replied and I could tell he felt terrible for even saying it.
“I don’t spread lies, Luca. Every time someone’s talked to me about you and how you are with women, depending on the severity of the situation, I either don’t say anything, or I deny it. I always have your back, but everyone knows that you like coasting through life getting women on theirs,” he answered and I chuckled sarcastically.
“Coasting through life? You can’t be serious..”
He continued, “Riley knew this before going on a date with you, because, well.. Yeah, AnneMarie has talked about it with her because Riley’s her best friend and AnneMarie’s practically your sister, she has been for a long time and she’ll be officially part of the family when we get married. But, you can’t blame her, because who knew you and Riley would eventually end up together? And who knew that you would be this.. ‘Charismatic’ with women? ..But, the point is, even when she knew about your reputation, she still agreed to meet you, and things have been great ever since, right? You told me no more than twenty minutes ago that you think you love her and you think she loves you, too. If her view of you hasn’t changed from since before she met you, then how the heck can you stand there and say that? How can you possibly believe she could still think those things about you? She’s gotten to know you and she likes who you are, maybe even loves who you are, so why does a little bit of convincing on her side make that much of a difference? And, really, how could you blame her? ..You needed convincing, too, you know.. Or did you forget that part?” he pointed out.
“Yeah, I had my doubts, too, I didn’t know anything about Riley at the time and she knew all about me. But, I needed to convince myself that I needed to get out more and actually take dating seriously, but she needed to convince herself to go out on a date with a ‘womanizer’.. It’s completely different convincing reasons,” I continued to argue.
“But, you’re still missing the point. If she still thought that, she wouldn’t still be with you. You proved that reputation otherwise to her and she likes you for who you are, not the rumors about what people think you are. I still think you should be honest with her, and I know you’re going to say you’re not scared, but you are. I can see it. And with the heartbreak you went through with Alani, you’re scared it’s going to happen again with Riley, but she’s nothing like Alani and you know that. If she loves you like you think she does, she’ll look past it.. Tell her the truth about both things,” he implied.
“Yeah.. About you loving her and about Alani. She deserves to know about both,” he continued to insist I be honest with her and myself, but I was still unsure if I could.
“What if I’m not ready to do either?”
“Then keep pretending you’re happy and continue to live your life.. I don’t know, Luca, but I can tell you that the longer you keep it a secret, the more probability that it’s going to come out sometime,” he said with slight frustration, completely at a loss with how to help me.
“Which do I do first?” I asked, still needing help and Niko sighed as he approached me more and stopped just a few feet away.
“Luca, I don’t know.. If it were me, I’d.. I’d probably tell her about how you still feel things for Alani, and if she understands, then tell her the truth about how you feel about her. Maybe she can still look past it and focus on how you feel now about her. But, I want you to understand that this is all about how you want to go about it. Whether you talk about one thing or the other first, who knows how she’ll react to either. You just have to figure it out yourself and hope she’s understanding about both. Other than that, I don’t know what else to tell you,” he tried to explain and I could tell he was getting more and more exhausted by the conversation the more I dragged it out and avoided the deep shit situation I put myself in. He was so used to being there for me through thick and thin our whole lives, he was the mature one with all the answers, the one that always tried his best to help out his siblings, especially me. You could tell that whenever we had deep conversations like this, it took a lot out of him. I was a pretty exhausting person, I guess. Most of the time I often forgot that I was the older brother and I was the one who should be taking care of him.
“Before you leave, I do want to apologize,” Niko added, hanging his head in slight shame for a moment before looking back up to me, “I never wanted you to find out about that, but, at the same time, it should’ve never been something that I kept from you. That argument is exactly why I wanted to avoid telling you, but I should’ve told you sooner, anyways.. I don’t like keeping things from you, or anyone, really,” he said with complete sincerity and I smirked.
“..Don’t worry about it.. I mean, it’s not like I’m completely oblivious to what people say about me, I was just surprised to hear that AnneMarie might be one of those people that help keep the rumors alive. And I understand why you couldn’t tell me about it when you and her first brought up introducing me to Riley. I get that she probably didn’t want me to know and you couldn’t tell me when she was around, which is always,” I chuckled softly, “Not saying her being around is a bad thing, but.. It takes away from time we should have together, you know.. To talk about stuff like this.. It’s been a while since we’ve hung out, just the two of us.. And, if you wanted to tell me, you could’ve hit me up sooner and we could’ve just went out for a bit and grabbed a quick beer together,” I pointed out and he smirked back.
“You’re right. It won’t happen again.. I wish you luck, with whatever you decide to do, and be sure to let me know how everything goes and if there’s any way I can help out, if you need it,” he added and I nodded.
“Will do.. Thanks, bro,” I replied, “And, uh.. Sorry about your lawn,” I said as I looked at my horrible parking job from last night when I was trashed.
“I needed to re-grass it anyways,” he brushed off and I chuckled before getting into my car and pulling out of his driveway.
I pulled out my phone as I drove and I noticed I had a text from Pia she sent earlier this morning.
- Hey, I’m sorry for what I brought up last night. I hope you’re doing okay.
It read and slowly, as I drove and tried to remember everything that we talked about, it all started to come back to me.. How she was only trying to help me understand the feelings I really had for Riley, and also, how much of an asshole I was towards the end of our conversation and how I just walked out on her.. I felt terrible with how I treated her and she deserved an apology. After talking to my brother about everything, it was all a lot more clear. I wished I had realized it sooner and not been such an asshole to her.
- Hey, Pi.. Don’t worry about it. I’m sorry for flipping out and leaving you high and dry like that. I know you were just trying to help and I appreciate it. I’m okay, too. I’ll see you later.
I texted back, then scrolled through my contacts and found Riley’s name, wondering what I should do.. Should I text her and see if she wants to hang out? ..Was I ready to do that? I wasn’t even sure if I was ready to talk to her about what Niko and I discussed, but, at the same time, the longer I wait on this, the more it was going to eat me up inside and the more she deserved to know. Was tonight the night I was going to tell Riley I loved her? ..And also someone else?
Fuck it.. I might as well take Niko’s advice and man-up and talk to her. Better late than never and it’s better she find out from me than someone else.. Aka, AnneMarie, just in case Niko were to blab to her about anything we talked about. I took out my phone from my pocket again and decided to text her.
- Hey, wanna hang out tonight?
I sent, tapping my finger impatiently on my knee with my phone tucked under my thigh as I continued to drive. After she didn’t answer within a few seconds, I already started to think the worst. My anxious mind started to run wild and I already assumed AnneMarie had said something and Riley wants nothing to do with me anymore. What if she never texts me back? It’s Alani and I all over again..
But, suddenly, my phone chimed and I scurried to look at what she said.
- Yeah, I’d love to. I’m almost done at the salon, wanna swing by and pick me up? Maybe go out to eat?
She replied and relief escaped from between my lips in the form of a sigh and I smirked. However, I didn’t want to go anywhere public. I wanted to get this off my chest as soon as possible and I didn’t want to be around people when I told her. I wanted to be alone with her. What if she cried? What if she blows up, calls me a pig and slaps me? Wouldn’t be the first time.. And even if we get passed the first part of my confession, I didn’t want to be in public when I tell her that I love her. I’d definitely like to be alone for that.
- Yeah, I can come get you. Would you rather just pick something up and go back to your place?
I wondered, hoping she’d be okay with that.
- No, let’s go out, silly. My treat.
I sighed heavily, “Fuck,” I said softly, trying to think about what I should do. I really didn’t want to go out, but I didn’t want to make it obvious that I wanted, needed, to talk to her about serious stuff.. I was trying my hardest to avoid using the classic line ‘we need to talk’. I didn’t want to give her the wrong idea.
- All right.. I’ll go home and shower and change and I’ll come by to pick you up.
- I’m almost done with work now, I’ll just take myself home and do the same. Let me know when you’re on your way!
She answered, sending a smiling emoji next and I couldn’t help but smirk. She was so cute, I couldn’t believe the bullshit I was going to unleash on her tonight..
When I got home, I parked my car and noticed that Tavish’s car was in the driveway, but not Pia’s. She must be at work. I went inside and went straight upstairs, hearing music blasting from inside Tav’s room and I doubt he even heard me come home. I decided not to bother him, going straight to the shower and getting last night’s booze smell off of me. I guarantee I reeked. After my shower, I went to my room and picked out some new clothes, trying to look nice for Riley and I’s outing, even though I wasn’t sure what kind of outfit I needed to wear for the type of night we were going to have. I suppose an in between of casual and formal could do the job.
As I put some cologne and deodorant on, I could still hear Tav’s music blasting and he must still not know I was home. It was a good thing, I really didn’t want to talk to anyone else before talking to Riley. I pulled out my phone, texted Riley that I was on my way and headed out of the house. The closer I got to Riley’s, the more my stomach turned and I was starting to feel nauseous, although I couldn’t tell if it was my hangover making me want to vomit or my nerves.
When I got to Riley’s, I sat in her driveway in my car, starring at her place as I tried to figure out how I was going to go about this. I think I was going to take Niko’s advice and start with how I lied to her about how I felt about Alani, and if she was still able to listen without throwing me out, I’d then tell her, somehow, that I loved her. It would just be too shitty of me if I did it the other way around. Niko was right, I needed to be honest with her, and if she appreciated my honesty, I think I could go forward with telling her how I felt about her. Even though I had figured out what I was going to tell her in which order, I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the ‘how’. I was never good at talking about my feelings, Pia knew that the hard way, but if I wanted this to work out with Riley, which I did, I’d have to find a way.
Riley must’ve heard the loud purr of my engine running and she came outside, watching her lock her door behind her and she was wearing a dress that almost made my heart stop. Fuck, she was so gorgeous.. I almost completely forgot what my plan was to talk to her about. The closer she got to my car, the sound of her clicking heels on the pavement filled my ears and I put on a smile as she opened the door and got in.
“Well, hello, handsome,” she said with an enthusiastic smile, leaning towards me and I quickly leaned in, too, to kiss her lips for a long moment.
“Hey, beautiful,” I replied quietly, reaching gently towards the back of her head and pulling her back into my lips for a longer kiss. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed her in the less than forty-eight hours we’ve been apart.
“You okay?” She asked after pulling away from the kiss.
“What? Y-Yeah, I’m.. I’m fine,” I brushed off quickly, “So, where did you want to go?”
“Well, I was thinkin’ about somewhere nice.. Like that one place that’s right on the water on Coconut Drive that’s kinda close by AnneMarie and Niko’s house?” She suggested and I couldn’t help but know exactly what she was talking about.
“..Are you talking about my Pops’ place?” I asked and she shrugged.
“Uhm, I.. I dunno, maybe? He owns a restaurant?”
“It’s a restaurant and a bar, I guess, yeah.. But, I’d rather not, actually,” I replied.
“Aw, why not? I swear, I didn’t know, I’ve just always wanted to go there.. But, we don’t have to if you don’t want to,” she said with sincerity and I wasn’t even close to being in the mood to deal with what I wanted to talk to her about, let alone going to my Pops’ place and make a huge deal about meeting my girlfriend. I know he’d go completely overboard and embarrass the hell out of me.
“I really don’t, sorry.. Maybe another time..”
“Okay, well, then.. There’s another nice place by the volcano on Palm Avenue?”
“Sure.. Let’s go there,” I agreed, giving her a quick smirk and pulling out of the driveway.
We got to the restaurant and this wasn’t the usual place I’d be seen at going to, I was more of a mom and pop’s type of guy, or a pub with shitty bar food type. I felt a little uncomfortable here and I also felt under dressed. I could already feel the nasty looks I was getting as we passed tables of people that seemed like they were better than me.
We sat down at our table, a surprisingly secluded corner of the restaurant that made me feel a little better about being here since we were not hidden from dirty glances.
“A waiter will be right with you,” the host said, handing us our menus and walking away and I looked at Riley. She looked so beautiful in the candlelight and when she glanced up at me to give me a gentle smile, I liked how I could make out the flame of the candle flickering in her pupils. The literal fire in her eyes made my heart skip a beat.
“You sure you’re okay, hun?” She wondered and I brought myself out of my trance to give her another quick smirk and I nodded as I then put my eyes down to the menu.
We ordered our food, made idle chit-chat during our meal, and when we had nothing left but our drinks, my heart started to pound a little harder the more I thought I couldn’t hide what I wanted to talk about anymore. I could tell that she could see something was bothering me and I appreciated her not prying to get the information out of me, but the more I sipped on my drink, the more I was being brought back to how drunk I knew I still was when I woke up at Niko’s. I had a little liquid courage flowing through my veins and I thought that, maybe, this was as good of a time as any to start getting this heavy shit off my chest.
“Hey, I, uh.. I need to talk to you about something,” I spoke quietly.
“Oh? What is it?” She asked with a smile, taking a sip of her red wine before setting it back down and giving me her full attention. I secretly hoped that she was a little buzzed so she would be a little more casual and understanding about what I was about to spew.
“Promise you won’t hate me?” I asked and her smile slowly slipped off her lips.
“Is everythin’ okay?” She wondered, now seeing the worry begin to fill her green eyes and my heart was pounding out of my chest.
“..Please, don’t say anything until I’m done talking, okay? I need to say everything I need to before you respond,” I slightly begged and she nodded nervously.
“The only reason I’m telling you this is because I care about you, I care about you a lot, but.. I lied to you.. Back when we had our first date on the dock, you asked me about my ex and if I still loved her and I said no. I said that because at the time, I wanted to believe it so badly that I’ve been telling everyone for years, even myself, that I didn’t because I didn’t want it to be true anymore. It seems so, so stupid for me to still feel that way because I haven’t seen her in so many years, but the reason why I think I still do is because it never officially ended. We never broke up, she just disappeared and I loved her so much at the time that I continued to so that just in case she’d come back, I’d still hold that torch for her and she wouldn’t feel as if I gave up on her, even though it’s clear to me now that she gave up on me. I know it’s stupid of me to still have feelings for her, but I do, I won’t deny that.. I’m sorry for lying to you.. I think I said that I didn’t love her, too, at the time because I wanted you to like me and I wanted my first official date date after so many years to go smoothly because I didn’t want to fuck it up. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d still even call it love, more so that I still care about her because I still do wonder what happened to her.. But, I shouldn’t have done that to you and I should’ve been honest straight out of the gate.. I’m sorry, Riley,” my eyes slowly went up to her face and she wasn’t looking at me, she was staring at our hands like I had been, but when she went to open her mouth, I stopped her. I reached forward and took one of her hands within my own, knowing she could probably feel it shaking a little, but I needed something to focus on while I talked.
“Please, I’m not done yet,” I added, seeing her eyes meet mine and I could tell that she was hurt, “Thank you for listening so patiently so far and not walking out yet, because there is still one more thing I really need to say,” I added and she nodded. I squeezed her hand a little tighter and rubbed my thumb over the back of it.
“I know after what I said, this probably isn’t the right time, but, I don’t want to hide anything from you and I want you to know exactly where I stand when it comes to us.. Ever since we’ve been hanging out, spending all this time together, getting closer and everything else, I’ve loved every minute of it. Every second that we spend together is another second less that I think about my ex. I care about you more than I care about her anymore. I don’t want this to sound like I’m making up more lies, either, but, honestly, in the time that I’ve been telling you all of this.. Looking at you, touching you, even just being in your presence, I realize that you make me happier than I ever was with her. I won’t deny that she is still on my mind on very rare occasions, but you are on it so much more and I want to do my best to show you that you’re everything to me now,” I could tell Riley was getting emotional, her eyes getting glossy and her eyebrows curling upward as if she was touched by my words, “I know we haven’t been dating long and I hope you know how hard for me this is to get off my chest after everything I’ve been through, and knowing what you’ve been through, too, I don’t want to be a disappointment to you and I don’t want to hurt you. I want to be completely honest with you from now on and I’ll try my hardest to make myself into a man that you can look at and adore and love as much as I adore and love you,” I felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest and I was going to look at it beating on the white table cloth as I looked into her now surprised glossy eyes.
After a long silence and Riley still not saying a word yet, I wondered if I should repeat myself, “I, uhm.. I love you, Riley,” I tried again, seeing her then somewhat snap out of her trance and she let out a nervous breath.
“I-I,” she started, but stopped. I blew it, didn’t I?
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to spring all of this on you out of nowhere..”
“No, no, it’s-”
“-I’m such an idiot,” I pulled my hand away and out of her grip, “I admit something so fucking selfish and terrible and then on top of that, add in something serious and completely uncalled for right after as if I expect you to just forget about the bomb I dropped and I’m just.. Out of my fucking mind,” I started rambling, trying to fill the incredibly awkward silence with literally anything and I felt like such a fool.
“Luca.. If we’re bein’ honest, I.. I brought yah here to tell yah the same thing,” she replied and I looked up to her with the feeling of relief setting my heart a little.. However, something wasn’t right.
“I feel like there’s a ‘but’ coming..”
“..Listen.. I do, too.. I do love you.. But.. Now that I know you still have feelin’s for that girl, I don’t know if I can trust what you’re sayin’ to me-”
“-I don’t, Riley.. Not anymore.. How else can I prove it to you? I mean, sure, I still wonder about her, but.. She’s nothing to me now, not anymore.. It’s been years, almost eight damn years and I’m fucking stupid for holding on, but ever since I met you, she’s been in my mind less and less and now barely at all.. I don’t love her anymore, I love you,” I continued to press.
“Five minutes ago, you said you still thought you did.”
“And I also said that now that I was explaining myself, it turns out to be less of a ‘love’ and more of a simple curiosity of what happened to her. I promise you, I’m not just saying this just to say it. I don’t love her. What can I do to prove that to you?”
“Luca, how can you come to such a serious conclusion like that in a matter of minutes? I can’t believe that.. If you want to continue to be honest with me, then stop sayin’ things you want me to hear and start sayin’ things you really do feel.. I love you, too, Luca, I really do, and it’s hard for me to admit that, as well, but.. I-,” she paused for a long moment, her eyes going down to the top of the table and avoiding eye contact. Her eyes were starting to tear up a little more. Oh, fuck..
“..I think that, maybe, until you can get your feelin’s straightened out, we shouldn’t see each other anymore.. Just until you can truly only love me,” this was it.. She was breaking up with me. Here I thought that when I talked to Niko, I thought I might have to break up with her for the same reason she was giving me. I thought I was in complete control over our relationship, but now that I proved to her that she can’t trust me like she thought she could, she called the shots before I could do the right thing and break up with her first. I should’ve did it first. Maybe she’d still have some trust in me if I had respected her enough in the first place.
“Luca..?” She seemed concerned and I bit my bottom lip in pure frustration with myself.
“..I get it,” I said quietly, staring down at the table top in shame, but she caught my attention and I looked up to her.
“Hey.. I love you.. I do.. But, you understand why I can’t do this, right?” She asked and eventually, I nodded.
“I’ll give you a ride home,” I replied in a weak tone, but she denied me.
“..I think I should take a cab,” she answered and that was the icing on the cake of how much I realized I fucked up. She didn’t even want me to be in the same car with her.
After paying our bill, I walked her to the side of the road, my hands tucked into my pockets and my eyes glued to the ground as I waited with her for her cab to arrive. Standing there in complete silence with her was both awkward and agonizing. I didn’t know what else I could possibly say to her to make her reconsider. I wanted to say anything else that I could if only I knew what I could say to change her mind, but I also hated the idea of begging and groveling, even though I was deathly close to dropping to my knees and giving it a shot.
My eyes looked anywhere but at her, although I couldn’t help but look to her feet when I noticed them face me and she stepped closer. Slowly, I felt her hands slide over my shoulders and her arms wrapped around my neck, holding me tightly and the breath that escaped her nose onto my neck gave me chills down my spine. I shut my eyes, pulled my hands out of my pockets and wrapped my arms around her, my hands gripping her tightly and pulling her as close as I could. Thankfully, the silence that was swarming us a moment ago wasn’t agonizing or awkward anymore, it meant something that I couldn’t put into words. I heard her sniffle, no doubt trying to hold back from crying and I hated to admit that I was trying to do the same, too. This was harder than anything else. I thought trying to forget Alani after her disappearing was hard, but actually saying goodbye to someone I loved was so much harder. So, so much harder. I guess that’s how I knew now that I loved Riley more than her, but it was too late now.
As we continued to hug tightly, I heard a car pull up and I assumed it was her cab, but she didn’t let me go. Not yet.
“Thank you for being honest with me,” she cooed sweetly into my neck and I nodded.
“I’m sorry.. For everything,” I whispered back and she then pulled away and looked up to me.
“Don’t forget about me, yah hear?” She said with watery eyes and struggling a sweet smile.
“Never,” I replied sternly, “..I love you,” I said one last time and she kept her smile as she slowly leaned forward and pressed her lips to mine for a long, long moment. I held her tight, trying to keep her with me as long as I possibly could, deepening the kiss by massaging out lips together for an even longer moment and she breathed in harshly towards the end of it, needing air as it seemed that I had taken it all away from her.
The second we finally let one another go, she quickly turned and walked towards the cab, curling my lips into my mouth and licking them as I watched her get in and shut the door. I sniffed harshly, trying to gather myself as I watched it pull away and I quickly tucked my hands back into my pockets and headed towards my car. In the back of my mind, sure, I knew there was a chance that tonight would turn out this way, but, the majority of me thought that it would’ve turned out a hellova lot better than this. I knew she would be upset, but I didn’t think she’d break up with me. I guess I deserved it, though. I lied to her, kept the truth from her for months, then when I finally gained all of her trust, I threw it out the window. I hated myself. I didn’t deserve her, but I definitely deserved to feel like this much of a piece of shit. I was a child in thinking that nothing bad would happen, and I was foolish to think that she wouldn’t have enough respect for herself to break up with a loser like me for treating her like I did. She made the right choice, she always did. I need to be more like her, more like Niko, more like everyone else in my life that had more than half a fucking brain as me.. Maybe then I wouldn’t be such a cruel joke in human form.