Here we are again, with another short story! The prompt is “I’m no illusion”, which is one of my own prompts again, and has already been tackled by our lovely regular reader Tim – go check it out here, it’s a great piece of work!
I walked into the bar, knowing I would find him here. It was the very bar where we’d first met five years ago, and after having his ex-boyfriend Luke scout him out these past three days, he finally came through and found Aserion, drowning his sorrows in the corner of the bar, surrounded by empty tankards.
Aserion said nothing as I pulled at his arm, but he stood up and followed me regardless. I nodded a silent ‘thank you’ to Luke before I had Aserion follow me back to my hotel room for the night. I didn’t know where he was staying, and I didn’t want to know. I wanted to keep him safe and then take him home with me.
We hadn’t lived in this town in three years, we’d moved five hours away to live up in the north. So it didn’t take me long to get back to the hotel, even with a heavily intoxicated Aserion following behind. The sky above was raven-black, at a too-late night for me to be comfortable being outside. I wasn’t prepared enough to defend myself and Aserion.
We arrived at the hotel, and it was while we were in close proximity that I could smell the bitters that he’d drank earlier. He sat down on the edge of the bed, and I still stood.
‘Can I ask why the hell you took off?’ I asked calmly, not expecting a response – he’d not spoken to me at all during this meeting.
‘Does it matter? You’re not real, anyway,’ he responded. I- what?
‘What do you mean I’m not real?’
‘I keep imagining you here. I…’
‘I’m no illusion,’ I spoke, a little harsher than I intended, my throat clogging up and nose stinging, sure-fire signs I would be crying soon.
‘But how can you be here? I thought I wouldn’t be seeing you again. You can’t be real!’ He argued, wanting to keep his distance.
‘I’ll prove to you that I’m here, and real.’ I walked over to him and leaned down towards him. I cupped his face in my hands and leaned in to kiss him. He responded straight away, bringing his arms around me. I could smell the bitters on him, and I had to hide my disgust at the smell. We pulled apart, and I saw his eyes fill with tears.
‘Just sleep. We’ll talk tomorrow,’ I whispered. He nodded and laid down on the bed. For the night, I laid on the bed next to him, waiting for him to wake and sober up, and that was when the sun started to shine through the curtains.
‘Huh? This isn’t the Black-Out Bar…’ he mumbled.
‘It isn’t. Luke found you and told me where you were.’
‘But why…?’ he looked my way.
‘Because you ran off for some reason. I told you I was pregnant, you looked scared as hell, and just took off. I had to rely on your ex-boyfriend to find you!’ Aserion struggled to get off the bed, and I followed to where the window was. He looked confused and agitated.
‘I was scared, okay? I don’t know how I’m going to be a dad. I was scared, I didn’t want to mess up like my dad had messed me up, and my step-dad. I didn’t want to be the person my child resented. I pushed everyone away – Lydia, Luke, my friends. I just didn’t want to lose you. But I ran because that’s all I can ever do,’ he paused his monologue to chuckle to himself, ‘Look at us – our roles seem to be reversed. I’m supposed to look after you, but here you are, making sure I don’t make an arse of myself.’
‘Well, you kinda did make an arse of yourself. You should look at yourself in the mirror, you look like shit, too.’ I had no idea what to do at this point. He stood up, and walked to the mirror, aghast at his reflection. He looked as though he wanted to break the mirror into small pieces. He looked as though he wanted to jump out of the window and run away once again.
‘I’ll be fine.’ I shook my head. Of course, he wasn’t fine. I stood up and walked up to him.
‘You’re not fine, or else you wouldn’t have run away. I mean, why did you think I was an illusion last night?’
‘I kept dreaming of you. I kept thinking…I- actually, I wonder what was in those bitters I kept having…’
I sat down, a sudden wave of nausea coming over me. He picked me up and laid me on the bed, and he laid next to me.
‘We should sleep a little longer, then,’ he whispered, holding me in his arms.
‘Are you coming home?’ I asked, scared of the answer.
‘Yes. I want our family.’ I felt calmer, but I knew we had a lot we needed to talk through. I wanted to make sure he was completely in it for the long-haul.