Aftermath Guardian’s War 17: Summit

“Do you love him?” I ask, and she looks at the bed under me for a moment and shakes her head.

“No, I don’t love him. I just like him, and I can’t do this anymore,” Bekah says. She is talking. She is saying something, and I need to be focused on her, but every inch of me is on fire and chilling to ice. My body is hollow, all the supports have been pulled out, and how am I not caving in right now? How am I not collapsing like paper mâché?

The songs always talk about a heartache and I have never, not until this one moment, felt that happen. My heart actually hurts. It is being crushed, and all I can do is stare at my soulmate and watch her talk about a different man.

“No, just no, I am so close. I was coming. I am coming. You just have- No, you can’t leave now, we are so close. Please, just no, okay? Not now. Please, I just need a little more time,” I say. And I don’t know who I am now. Is this Shadow, Guardian? Is this Teth howling in my head or Shush finally making one loud mournful plea? Because it could be anyone. And I am realizing it right now.

Over the past three years, we have all fallen in love again with this one girl. I didn’t know that a moment ago, but I do now. I am learning so much about myself and my needs in this moment.

“Don’t go,” I say. “No, I’m ready. I’ll fight for you. If I fight for you, he won’t have a chance.”

“I want him to have a chance,” Bekah says. She says it softly. Shy. In a way I don’t believe. Not even for a minute do I believe it, but she has said it. She wants him to have a chance. And we all stand around looking at her as she looks at us with a sad smile for a different guy.

“I gotta get up,” I said. I am still in bed in my boxers. She stands up and turns around so she can’t see me in my underwear, and I know in that moment I have lost her. In that moment when she averts her eyes, I know they belong to another man now. Those eyes I so cherished are gone to me now. Eyes I was sure would be looking at me for the rest of my life, turned away so as not to see me in my underwear.

We dress. And we all pull back. Guardian steps forward, looks at her with her back turned, and he sees his girl. The one he loves more than anything. The one he sat in front of the door for. The one he spent the weekend with after facing Char. The only real love he has ever had, and she has her back turned to him.

But this man knows pain. He has lost wars. He has lost family. Friends. He knows how to lose everything, so why not do it again.

But he knows love, too. She taught him that. When there was no one else to teach it to him, she did. Unasking. Unflinching. Unconditional love. The kind that thinks of its loved one first. So, he sets it all aside. In that one moment, while he is pulling on his pants, he sets it aside.

Shadow is fighting to come forward so he can drop on his knees. Too proud to ever beg for anything, and he wants to crawl to her house to lay his body on her phone so she can’t call this other guy.

But Guardian knows how to lose. And he knows how to love. And if she will not let him fight for her, then he will not make her hurt. He will not make her choose. He knows she loves him and he has ripped her open with the years of loneliness. So here it is. Can he hurt her more by fighting a fight she doesn’t want?

Guardian has never done anything this terrible, never done anything so horrible in his life, but in this moment, he decides he is not going to make her leaving painful for her. He is going to help her leave him. He is going to make it easy on her.

“Tell me about him,” Guardian said.

She sits down and looks at her lap. “He is a personal trainer.”

And suddenly Guardian is aware of every pound he has gained since his thyroid died.

“He is a rock climber.”

“What’s his name?”

“Summit.”

He is everything she deserves, and now she will have it. A tone, tight body to hold hers. A man who can take her to places she has never seen before and hold her as they look out over vistas Guardian can never get to. He is sick to his stomach and will go vomit soon. But now he asks, “What else does he like?”

“Chess,” she said. “He likes chess.”

And Guardian wants to remind her of the time they sat in a coffee house when he was just out of high school, before they were dating, before all the complications and the mess, when they would play chess, both of them pretending they were good at it when other people were around, but when the two of them were alone they would admit they knew nothing about chess.

He wants to say to her, “He is a chess guy. We are not. That is not our game. We play Dungeons and Dragons. We create stories and we fight monsters and we laugh and we joke and we face unbeatable odds and we win.” But now she is a chess girl. Guardian knows that will not make her happy. He knows she will hate to play chess with this guy, but he loves her too much to tell her.

They rent a chess movie and watch it. Guardian will duck into the bathroom twice to throw up. His hands are shaking and he is crying, but if he can’t keep her, if he can’t fight for her, the least he can do is let her go gently.

That night when Siren comes over, Shadow looks at her and knows she has to go. He will never have Bekah, but now he can see this is not even a runner up. This girl is hateful. She doesn’t glow. She doesn’t make him feel soft and powerful at the same time. Even though he can never have Bekah. His girl is gone. His nap partner all woken up now. Even though he can’t have her, he will not keep Siren. That will never happen. He has to get smart now. He has to get it together.

A day later, Bekah and Guardian are in a car driving to her new house. They are best friends and always will be, but as he looks at her, he knows he was too late. The healing was too hard and he thought he needed Siren. Thought he needed all her friends and the drinking parties and the constant supervision, but he did not. All he needed was Bekah. They are driving and a love song comes on.

Guardian says, “Is there a song between you two?” And he doesn’t want to hear the answer. He is about to be sick all over himself, but she does answer, and he will be stained with that information forever.

When he asks her to play it, Shadow grabs him and Lenore steps forward and stares out the window.

“You can’t let this happen,” Shadow says. They are in the Wasteland now and everyone is watching the two nemeses fight. But they all have a dog in this fight. They have skin in the game. For the first time ever, Shadow has them all on his side. This time the Street Rat is right. This time Billy’s Boy has the right answer.

“Don’t make this any harder on her than this has to be,” Guardian said.

“Do you hear yourself? Have you ever even heard of this kind of love? A love so strong and so wild that it would be gentle and help her leave it. We love her so much that we are sitting here, watching you listen to their song, while the world burns down around you and we all pray for death. But you want her to be happy so you are invoking his love, in her, to make her feel happy while your world dies.

“Have you ever heard of a love like that?” Shadow says. “Has that ever been written about in any fucking books or songs or movies?” Shadow stares down at Guardian, because somehow Guardian is on his knees again. He has seemed to live there for so long.

“This is real love. Not infatuation. Not, ‘She’s got a great ass.’ This is the love that no one writes about because no one has ever felt it, and now I am watching you push it away,” Shadow says. “Take this fucking guy.” He looks at Smear. “Take Guardian from here and throw his ass in a hole. Smear, do not let him out. I can’t let this go by. I have to fight. I have to rage!”

“I gotta go home, Bekah. I know we said movie, but I don’t feel well. Listen, I need two weeks. I need two weeks to myself. I need you to not call or come over for two weeks. I’m saying the same thing for Siren. No one comes over for two weeks.”

“Okay, whatever you need.”

She gets out of the car to hug me when she leaves, and when Siren comes to our house after work I tell her, too. No contact for two weeks. I have two weeks to get ready.

Shadow has a plan.

He makes a list, a list of things he needs to be able to offer her, and he gets to it. He has to regulate his sleep schedule. Be up during the day, sleep at night. Keep her hours. Be with her. He has to have something to offer her instead of just eating all her food and sitting on the couch. He has to be able to show her that she is important.

Shadow calls Red and tells him what is happening. Siren goes. Bekah stays.

“What if you tell Siren to go and Bekah doesn’t want you?” he says.

“Then I’m still better off.”

Red takes Shadow to buy boxes and Shadow packs up everything Siren has ever brought to our house and left. He packs it all in a box and sets it on his counter. Two big boxes taking up every inch of counterspace. The perfect image of change for him to fixate on for two weeks.

He makes appointments for therapy every single day he is without her. He is taken for two days, then on the third no one can drive him. He gets up and walks. He walks across the entire city. He walks back.

When he gets home, he is exhausted. He is sore. He has blisters on his feet. His legs ache. His entire body is in pain. He limps to bed and crawls in.

He will not sleep for a long time. He is in bed at eleven these days and up at nine. He lays in bed for at least four hours before he falls asleep, but he is reorganizing his sleeping. So when she calls at eleven at night, he is in bed aching and fighting to sleep.

Shadow answers the phone and it’s Bekah. She is sobbing. “I was wrong, I do want you to fight for me. I do. I want you to fight for me. Please.”

“Shh. Please, shh. What do you think I am doing? I am fighting for you. I am fighting for us. Give me another week and a half, then I’ll call you.”

“Okay,” she sobs.

“I love you,” Shadow whispers. It heals him just to say it out loud.

“I love you, too,” she whines. Then she hangs up.

Siren rages when we tell her that Bekah is our soulmate. Shadow did not want her in a restaurant or in his apartment when he told her. He did not want her driving. So, he is driving her back to his place when he tells her. She screams. She rages. She is furious and she curses our name. She says horrible things about Bekah and I, and Siren says that I am cruel. I am only going to break Bekah’s heart again. This is what I do. I am a monster torturing one woman, throwing her away and bringing her back.

Shadow doesn’t say a word, because what can he say? “We are going to get it right this time. We came too close to losing it all and we are going to fight for it this time. Fuck Hymnal, Bliss, Vigil, Plan or anyone else who tries to get in the way. If Bekah and I have to walk out into the world alone and afraid, we will do it together.” Shadow doesn’t justify or try to explain the love he feels for and from Bekah.

He doesn’t explain it because he knows no one would understand it. They would have to sleep in public. Wake up to wedgies. Go on top secret Turtle Sundae runs and dance to “Only The Good Die Young.” They would have to stay up for nights crying. They would have to wait for years at a time. There is no use telling anyone about this love because no one has ever felt it before.

No one has ever fought this hard for it before. And no one in the world has ever deserved it more than these two right here.

There is no explaining this to people. They have stopped. Bekah does not try to tell anyone why or how she loves Jesse, and he just laughs when he is asked. They have seen too much to even try to describe it. It would take over a thousand pages just to let someone get a glimpse of it.

When Siren gets to our house and finds her boxes already packed, she freaks out. She calls Lean and he comes to pick her up.

When she is gone, Jesse picks up the phone. At this point in his body, every alter has the same vision. Every alter sees Bekah and them together forever. The ripped and torn mind has become one thick patchwork of a mind, and they all hum when they speak in unison.

“She is gone forever. If you want me for the rest of your life, I am yours,” they say.

“I’m on my way.”


This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 2: Normal Street.

Vol. 1: Teardrop Road is available now on Amazon.

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