|Jul. 9th, 2006 09:14 pm Chapter 10, the end|
Emma, Mary and I hung out in our room while the three of us finished packing. We trudged out to the bus around 7:30. When I stepped up onto the bus, I noticed that Jeff was sitting alone. I figured since the ride was going to be a short one, I might be able to get him to let me sit with him. 4 comments - Leave a comment
Without saying anything to Jeff, I sat down in the empty seat. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“What? Can’t I sit here? You said the ride was only like, an hour long…” I asked.
“Yeah well, I want the seat to myself. I’m tired,” Jeff said.
“Okay,” I replied, looking around the bus for another empty seat. I noticed that Suzy (the leader I had talked to on the plane) was sitting alone near the back of the bus. I was still curious to find out more about her relationship with Jeff. I knew that she was a really cool woman, but I was hoping that maybe she would be able to help me understand what was going on inside my boyfriend’s head. I decided that now would be just as good a time as ever to try and talk to her.
I made my way to the back of the bus and threw my bag into the overhead compartment above Suzy’s seat. “Is anybody sitting with you?” I asked.
“Not yet!” Suzy replied cheerfully, patting the seat next to her. “Be my guest!”
“Awesome,” I replied as I sat down next to her.
“You’re not sitting with Jeff?” Suzy asked.
“He won’t let me…” I told her.
“What do you mean? He doesn’t want to sit next to his own girlfriend?” Suzy sounded a little confused.
“Yeah… I don’t know what his problem is. He’s been in an awful mood this whole trip so far… he doesn’t want anything to do with me,” I explained.
“Are you sure he’s feeling okay?” Suzy asked.
“I don’t know… I don’t think he’s sick or anything, if that’s what you mean,” I replied. “But there’s definitely something wrong… and he won’t tell me what it is.”
“That’s weird,” Suzy said. “Jeff is usually such a happy guy. I really like him a lot – he’s a good kid.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “He used to be…”
“What do you mean?” Suzy asked.
“I don’t know…” I said. Realizing that the bus had started moving, I looked around to see where Nicole and Laura had ended up. They were sitting up near the front, right behind Jeff. Ben was in the seat next to him, and Emily was sitting across from the two boys. All five of them seemed to be having a good time.
“Look,” I said to Suzy, pointing towards Jeff. “He told me I couldn’t sit with him because he wanted the seat all to himself… but he had no problem letting Ben have the seat.”
“What do you think is going on?” Suzy asked.
“I don’t know…” I said again. “Before the trip started he kept saying that he wanted to make sure that he, Nicole and I all made new friends. He didn’t want the three of us to just hang around each other the whole time… and you know, I thought that was a really good idea,” I explained. Suzy was looking at me attentively and nodding her head. “But I didn’t realize that ‘making new friends’ meant that I wasn’t allowed to have any contact with him at all,” I continued. “I actually think he’s kind of mad at me for coming on this trip in the first place.”
“Why would he be mad at you for that?” Suzy asked. “He and I went out to lunch a couple weeks ago and he made it sound like he was really excited that you and Nicole were coming. He was glad that you were finally going to get to meet me, and he was glad that he wasn’t going to have to go through another trip without you… he always said that last year was his least favorite trip, because you weren’t there,” she told me.
“Interesting…” I replied. “He said quite the opposite to me. He told me that last year was so much better because he didn’t have to worry about me getting mad at him… he didn’t have to worry about paying attention to me and he was just free to do whatever he wanted with whoever he wanted… he actually asked me why I had to come on this trip… like I was ruining his spring break or something…” I said.
After a few seconds of silence, I started talking again. “I’m sorry, Suzy,” I said. “You barely even know me, and here you are listening to me complain about Jeff…”
“No, no, no!” Suzy replied. “Don’t worry about it, Anna. I’m a counselor… this is what I do!” she assured me. “Really, I don’t mind. You seem like a really awesome girl, and Jeff is really important to me… if there’s anything I can do to help you guys, I want to do it.”
“Thank you,” I said. Even though Suzy did her best to make me feel comfortable, I still felt a little uneasy about talking to her about everything that was happening with Jeff. I was silent for a while as I tried to figure out how to handle the situation. After a few minutes of thinking, I decided just give in and tell Suzy everything. She really seemed like she wanted to help, and I was sick of dealing with Jeff on my own.
“I’m worried about Jeff,” I blurted out.
“Why are you worried?” Suzy asked me.
“I think he’s changing,” I said.
“How?” she asked.
“Well, he’s got this new best friend…” I started.
“Brandon?” Suzy asked.
“Yeah,” I replied. “Jeff told you about him?”
“He mentioned him a few times when we were out to lunch last week,” Suzy told me. “But he didn’t tell me very much about him.”
“Did he tell you that Brandon is gay?” I asked.
“No…” Suzy replied.
“Well, he is,” I said. “And Jeff spends all of his free time around Brandon. Do you know The Corner?” I asked.
“Isn’t that a coffee shop downtown?”
“Yeah, a gay coffee shop,” I explained. “Jeff hangs out there all the time. He took me there with him last week, and it made me feel really weird. None of his friends there knew that he had a girlfriend. He kept introducing me as his ‘friend’ instead of his girlfriend. It seemed to me like the guys out there thought that he was gay…” I told Suzy.
“Really?” Suzy asked. “That doesn’t sound right at all…”
“It didn’t sound right to me either, but I really think that’s what’s going on…” I said. “Earlier today Jeff and I went for a walk into town… did you see what he’s wearing?” I asked, looking up towards the front of the bus at Jeff.
“No… what is he wearing?” Suzy asked. “See for yourself,” I said, straining my neck so that I could see Jeff over the seats in front of me.
“A rainbow striped shirt…?” Suzy commented.
“Yeah… and a rainbow wristband and some gay-pride ring… he claims that they belong to Brandon, but I’m not so sure. I don’t see why he would bring them on the trip with him if they were Brandon’s… he told me that he was going to give them back to him before we left, but he never did… he wore the wristband and the ring when we went to The Corner the other day.”
“Is the shirt Brandon’s, too?” Suzy asked.
“No,” I explained, “The shirt’s Jeff’s. He said he bought it the other day on clearance somewhere. Something about needing a new dress shirt…”
“You’d think he could have found something a little less… flamboyant,” Suzy commented.
“Yeah, no kidding. It’s just so out of character for him, it seems like… I mean, when I first met Jeff he was so quiet… he dressed pretty normal… he was even a little homophobic, I think,” I said.
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Suzy agreed. “But he was also really overweight, he didn’t have any friends, he was so shy…” Suzy pointed out.
“Yeah, that’s true,” I said. “And I’m glad that he’s more outgoing now. I’m glad that he has friends, and I guess I’m glad that he’s over the whole homophobia thing… but I just wish that he would have made different friends, I guess. I don’t really like the people he hangs out with now… He’s always with Brandon and Lucy, and they’re only fifteen… I mean, doesn’t that seem kind of weird?” I asked.
“Yeah, it is a little strange,” Suzy agreed. “But Jeff’s always been a little immature, you know…”
“Yeah, I know he has. But just a few months ago it seemed like he was finally starting to grow up. Things were starting to seem better.”
“What does he do when he hangs out with Brandon and Lucy?” she asked.
“I don’t know… he never lets me hang out with them. Whenever one of them calls and wants to do something he makes me go home,” I told her.
“Well that’s a little weird,” Suzy replied. “Have you at least met both of them?” she asked.
“Sort of… We ran into Brandon one time when we were out shopping, and then once I went with Jeff when he was just dropping some stuff off for Suzy at the park,” I said.
“Dropping stuff off at the park?” Suzy asked with a laugh.
“Yeah… cigarettes…” I explained. “I tried to talk him out of it, but I think he buys for Suzy and Brandon a lot.”
“Does Jeff smoke?” Suzy asked.
“I don’t think so…” I said. “At least, not very often. I’ve never seen him smoke. I know his mom does, and he always says that he hates it…”
“Hmm,” Suzy said, looking at me attentively.
“Yeah. I’m not so sure about the crowd that hangs out at The Corner. Not just because it’s a gay place… but because it just seems like everybody there smokes and has a lot of sex and stuff… I mean, the people I met seemed nice, but they’re not the kinds of people I would hope Jeff would want as friends,” I said. “He seems like he is a completely different person around them… like he’s almost living two lives – one with me, and one with everybody else,” I continued as tears started rolling down my cheeks. “I just don’t know what to do. It feels like all of a sudden I’m not good enough for him anymore. Like he’s got all of these other things he wants to do, these other people he wants to spend his time with, and I’m just getting in the way…”
Suzy reached over and put her arm around me. “Have you tried talking to Jeff about it at all?” she asked.
“Not really,” I replied. “I mean, back in December he tried to break up with me… but we talked, we figured everything out, we got everything under control. There hadn’t been any problems since then, until just recently…”
“Why did he want to break up with you?” Suzy questioned.
“He said that I was too jealous… that he just couldn’t stand the fact that I was constantly worried about what he was doing and who he was with… but we talked about it and I fixed it. At least, I thought I did. Things were better for a long time… we got along and we saw each other regularly and he let me meet some of his friends… But then just a month or so ago he started acting weird again. Spending so much time with Brandon and hanging out at The Corner… we’ve hardly seen each other or even talked on the phone lately… I almost wonder if he just thinks that maybe if he ignores me for long enough, I’ll just go away,” I said. By the time I spat out the last word, I was out of breath from holding back tears. I let out a huge sigh, and then just gave up.
I sat in the seat next to Suzy and sobbed. Her arm still around me, Suzy hugged me. “Anna, I really think you need to talk to him. I know you don’t want to. I know you’re afraid of what he’ll say. But things are never going to get any better if the two of you don’t talk.”
“I know,” I replied. “I want to talk to Jeff… but I don’t think he wants to talk to me. I can’t even say hello to him without him getting mad at me.”
“Do you want me to talk to him?” Suzy asked.
“No,” I replied. “I don’t think that would be a good idea. I need to do this by myself. What are we doing tonight after we get to the hotel?” I asked her.
“Nothing. You guys just have a couple of hours of free time I think, and then room checks are at 10:30,” she informed me.
“Well… I guess I’ll try to talk to him tonight,” I decided.
“Good idea,” Suzy said. “Let me know how it goes.”
I was silent the rest of the time that we were on the bus. I was so afraid to talk to Jeff. What was I going to say to him? What was he going to say to me? I was scared that everything was going to come crashing down… that there would be no way to fix this. I was afraid that this was going to be the end.
When we finally arrived at the hotel, I couldn’t even force myself to sit still long enough to hear who my roommate would be for the night. I looked my name up on the list, saw that I was in room 331, grabbed my bag and made quick work of getting up to my room. I threw my huge suitcase onto the floor next to of the two twin beds and went into the bathroom to think. It wasn’t until now that I realized how embarrassing the entire situation actually was. Everybody on this trip knew that Jeff and I were dating. We made a big enough deal out of it at the pre-trip meetings that I’m sure people were probably annoyed by it. But now, everyone could obviously see that everything was falling apart between us. The past two years of my life were crashing down right in front of these 35 people I barely knew.
I wondered what Jeff was telling people. What did everybody think of me? Maybe he had told people that we weren’t together anymore. Maybe I was just his ‘friend’, like he said to the guys we met at The Corner. How stupid that must make me look, I thought. Here I was, proudly telling everybody that Jeff was my boyfriend… and I was sure he was disowning me to anyone who asked. And if not disowning, at least ridiculing.
While I was in the bathroom, I could hear that my roommate had come in. I stared in the mirror for a few minutes, gathering my thoughts and trying to make myself look as though I hadn’t been crying. When I walked out into the room, I was shocked to see Emily standing there. “Hey,” I said. “We’re roommates?”
“Yep,” Emily replied. “Looks like it.”
“Cool,” I said, walking over towards my suitcase to do a little unpacking. Emily and I were quiet for a few minutes as we both rifled through our suitcases. When she had finished getting everything in order, Emily zipped up her bag and sat down on one of the beds. The entire time that we were silent, I was fighting with myself over whether or not I should try to talk to Emily about Jeff. She had spent much more time around him in the past couple of days than I had. Maybe she would be able to help me figure out what was going on.
I decided that it couldn’t hurt. Just when I was about to open my mouth, Emily beat me to it. “So what’s the deal with you and Jeff?” she asked.
“I was just about to ask you the same thing…” I said. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
“Well,” Emily started, “he’s been telling people that you guys aren’t together anymore…”
“Oh really?” I asked.
“Yeah… I think he’s kinda hoping to get together with Ben…” she said.
“WHAT?!?” I exclaimed. “Wait a minute… say that again?”
“What?” Emily asked innocently. “You didn’t know that he was bi?”
“Bi?” I asked, completely confused.
“Bisexual…” Emily explained. “You know, he likes girls AND guys…”
“No,” I said… “No, no, no… you must be mistaken. Jeff and I are still together. And Jeff does NOT like guys…”
“No, Anna… I’m pretty sure he does…” Emily argued.
“What has he told you? Emily… I need to know everything he’s told you…” I pleaded.
“Well… I suppose you don’t know about Brandon then?” she asked.
“I know Brandon. What about him?” I asked.
“Well… uhm… Jeff told us that he and Brandon are sort of in an open relationship, or something like that…” she started.
“What do you mean, ‘an open relationship’? Jeff is not in any open relationship! He’s in an exclusive relationship. An exclusive relationship WITH ME,” I said angrily.
“No, Anna… he’s with Brandon. Basically I think they just have sex, but they’re both allowed to see other people… and I’m pretty sure Jeff’s got his eye on Ben,” Emily continued. “As far as Jeff’s concerned, I don’t think you guys are together anymore…”
“Well it would be nice if he would have talked that one over with me!” I exclaimed. “How many people know about this?” I asked.
“I don’t know…” Emily replied. “Not everybody… but a lot of people, I guess. Everyone just thinks you guys broke up…”
I didn’t know what else to say to her. I was hurt and angry and doing everything in my power not to let myself erupt. I sat in silence for a few minutes, just staring at Emily, until we were both startled by a knock on the door. “Come in!” Emily shouted, and in walked Mary and Emma, the girls I had roomed with the night before.
“Anna… we need to talk to you…” Mary said.
“Yeah… and it’s kinda personal,” Emma added, turning towards Emily.
“Okay…” Emily replied. “I’ll get out of your way in just a second.” She fished a deck of cards and a sweatshirt out of her suitcase and headed for the door. As soon as it shut behind her, Mary walked over and locked it.
“Anna…” Mary began. “We’re really worried about you.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean, you’re about to get your heart broken by this jerk right here in front of everybody…” she said.
“What?” I asked. “What’s going on?”
“Okay, Anna… I guess there’s really no good way to say this, so I’m just gonna spit it out…” Mary said, letting out a huge sigh. “Jeff and Ben are down in the lobby right now…”
“Yeah?” I interrupted. “So, they’ve been hanging out the whole trip so far…”
“I know, Anna,” Mary continued. “But just listen to me. They’re down in the lobby on the couch… holding hands…”
“Holding hands?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
“Anna…” Mary said. “We just saw them kiss. I’m not kidding you. Emma was right there with me. We went down to the vending machines to get some Diet Coke, and there they were, right out in front of everybody, kissing…”
“No…” I said. “This isn’t funny, you guys. Seriously…”
“She’s not joking,” Emma cut in. “Honestly, Anna. We both saw it. They’re still down there… you can go see for yourself. I promise we wouldn’t make this up. We care about you… we’re worried about you… we don’t want to see you get hurt like this.”
“You need to talk to him,” Mary said. “Really. I think you need to just go down there, kick Ben out, and ask Jeff what’s going on. You at least deserve an explanation.”
“We’ll go with you if you want,” Emma added.
“No… that’s okay,” I replied. “I’ll go by myself. They’re just down in the lobby?” I asked.
“Yeah… just take the elevator down to the first floor and they’re right there,” Mary explained. “At least, that’s where they were 10 minutes ago.”
I stood up, walked into the bathroom and took a long look at myself in the mirror. My face was bright red with anger. I splashed it with some cold water, dried my face and headed for the door.
“We’ll stay here,” Mary said. “Come back up when you’re done, okay?”
“Alright…” I replied. I was shaking as I stood on the elevator. When it hit the first floor and the doors flew open, there were Jeff and Ben, right on the couch where Mary told me they would be. Jeff had his arm around Ben, and they were cuddled together much the same way that Jeff and I used to cuddle when we watched movies together. I was disgusted. I thought about chickening out. I thought about hitting the button, closing the doors, going back up to my room and sobbing. But I couldn’t do that. If I didn’t talk to Jeff now, things would just get worse. I stepped off the elevator and walked straight over to the couch where the boys were sitting.
“I need to talk to you,” I said to Jeff. “Alone,” I added sternly, looking at Ben.
“What?” Jeff asked, acting as though nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
“You know what,” I said, grabbing his hand and pulling him up off the couch. “Come with me. We’re going for a walk,” I told him. “Good bye, Ben,” I added.
I led Jeff towards the front door of the hotel. As soon as we were outside, I let go of him and looked him in the eye. “Tell me what’s going on,” I demanded.
“What do you mean?” Jeff asked.
“Cut it out, Jeff. You know exactly what I mean. What is going on between us? What is the deal with you and Ben? I’m not stupid, Jeff. Just tell me,” I said.
“I knew this was a bad idea,” Jeff muttered.
“What was a bad idea?” I asked.
“You coming on this trip,” he explained.
“What?” I said, angrily. “You mean if I hadn’t have come on the trip, you could have just had your fun with Ben and I never would have known about it, huh? You could have just come back home and pretended like nothing had ever happened. Is that what you mean?” I asked.
“No…” Jeff said.
“I don’t know, Anna. I just… I didn’t know how to tell you…”
“Tell me what?” I asked.
“We can’t be together anymore. I don’t want to be with you anymore…” Jeff started.
“No, really?” I said, sarcastically. “I figured that out, Jeff. But why? What happened? What changed?”
Suddenly, Jeff stopped walking. He stopped me next to him, placed a hand on each of my shoulders and gripped me tightly. “Anna. I’m gay.”
“No you’re not,” I said. “Jeff, you don’t know what you’re talking about. How can you be gay? We’ve been together for two years, Jeff… TWO YEARS. What could I have possibly done to turn you off to the entire female sex?” I asked angrily.
“Nothing… Anna… I’ve been gay since before you ever met me. All of that homophobia? I was trying to hide it. I was trying to deny it. I didn’t want to be gay… that’s why I started dating you,” he explained.
“No,” I said. It was the only word inside my head. The only thought I could think. No, this wasn’t happening. No, Jeff was not gay. No, Jeff didn’t know what he was talking about. No, this was all just a bad dream. No, no, no.
“So, what?” I asked. By this time I was so angry that I didn’t even have control over the words that were coming out of my own mouth. “Why now, Jeff? Why now, when we’re down here in Florida… when our lives are being watched by all of these people… why decide to tell me this now?”
“I like Ben,” He said bluntly.
“That’s it?” I fumed.
“You like Ben. You like Ben… so that’s a good enough reason to just decide to stop treating me like a human being? That’s a reason to just ignore me, to avoid me, to act like I don’t exist…”
“Yeah, Anna. Because I knew you would get mad if I told you…” Jeff said.
“And you didn’t think I would get MADDER if you didn’t tell me? I’m supposed to not be mad that you’re cheating on me with a GUY in front of all of these people?”
I couldn’t keep myself from crying any longer. Every emotion in the world was running through me. I was crying tears of anger, tears of sadness, confusion, pain, regret… I couldn’t hold them back any longer.
Jeff stared at me in silence while I cried. He turned around and started walking back towards the hotel without me.
“So this is it?” I asked. “We’re just done? You’re just going to go back in there and cuddle up next to Ben and pretend that none of this ever happened, aren’t you?” I asked.
Jeff didn’t answer. He just kept walking. I stood still, watching his figure get smaller and smaller through teary eyes. This was it. This was the end. The last two years of my life were just gone. And what had come of them? I felt like it had all been wasted... like I’d done nothing but harm. How terrible of a girlfriend would I have had to have been in order for this to happen? What does a girl have to do to make a guy so utterly disgusted with females that he would decide he would rather be gay? I was certain that it was entirely my fault. I was disgusted with myself, and I expected that everyone else must have been, too. Did everybody see this coming? Was I completely blind? How long had this been going on? Emily told me that Jeff and Brandon were ‘together’. Why hadn’t I realized that before? What was wrong with me?
Everything was so obvious now. All of the weird things that had happened all started to fall together. All of the worrying I had done was justified. I felt so naïve for ever trusting him.
I stood alone on the street with my thoughts. Emotions I never knew I had were streaming through my body, but I felt empty. Jeff had been my entire world for the last two years. My whole life surrounded him, and now it was over.
I felt like someone had just ripped everything out of me. I didn’t understand why my heart was still beating, why my lungs were still breathing… I was hollow.
Jeff took all of me with him when he walked away, and he was never going to give it back. Here I was, completely alone and as far away from home as I had ever been. There was nothing left to do but start over. Jeff left me empty, and now it was up to me to fill myself back up.