Christopher, Craig & Co.
Part 54: Chris Cries.
Andrew followed closely at my heels as I stormed out the door of the Club into the frigid winter air.
“Fuck!” I shouted. Adrenaline was rushing through my body, my hands were shaking, and I was breathing hard. I hated losing control—especially in public. And the way my mind was spinning I knew I was out of control.
Andrew looked taken aback by my outburst. “Christopher, what’s going on? I’ve never seen you lose your cool. Who is Richard really? I know you said he was your ex, but there’s something weird going on with him, isn’t there?”
‘Something weird’ didn’t begin to cover it. I paced around the parking lot trying to slow my breathing. The cold was biting through the thin shirt I was wearing.
Andrew unlocked the trunk of his car and retrieved our winter coats. I had felt like a teenager for half a second when he had locked them there. “No waiting at the coat check,” he had said. Now I was shivering. We bundled up, climbed into his car and he jacked up the heat. While we waited for the defroster to do its job Andrew watched me carefully.
“There’s a lot about Richard you didn’t tell us the other night, isn’t there? He was only dancing behind me and you went into this protective thing like I’ve never seen before. I can take care of myself, Chris. You don’t have to worry about me—”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” I snapped.
Andrew looked shocked.
I took a few more deep breaths, forcing myself to calm down. “I’m sorry. Under ordinary circumstances you’re right. You can take care of yourself. But, Andrew, I just need you to trust me that you have to stay away from Richard. He’s dangerous.”
“You said that the other night.”
“I mean it just as much now.” Why didn’t anyone understand that I was as serious about this as anything in my entire life? Couldn’t they just take on faith that I had reason to worry? It’s not like I’m some sort of drama queen, after all.
“Chris, if he’s so dangerous why don’t you call the police?”
“I have no way of proving what he did to me.” I cringed. I hadn’t meant to say that. In fact, I’d have given anything to take that back.
Andrew pounced on it. “To you? What did he do to you?”
I didn’t look at him. “Let’s just say he was abusive and leave it at that.”
“Abusive? No, let’s not leave it at that. What did he do to you? I mean, you’ve totally freaked out both times you’ve seen him.”
I was fighting for control of my emotions. Anger and rage were losing out to the desire to start sobbing. I would not let Richard have power over me after all these years. Whatever he was doing back in town I wanted no part of it. And if I had to I would back up the threats I had made to him.
I swiped at my eyes with my sleeve.
“Chris, are you crying?” Andrew marveled.
“Please, Andrew, I can’t do this now.”
He put the car in drive and headed out of the parking lot. We rode in silence for a few minutes. Andrew kept glancing over at me. I was busy staring out the passenger window. I knew he wanted answers but I wasn’t ready or willing to supply them.
“Look, Chris, I get that you’re a private person. I just think maybe you need to talk about whatever happened to you. And I think if he’s really as bad as you make him out to be you should let your friends help you. Because with the way you fly off the handle every time you see him I don’t think you can do this alone. And I just want you to know that if you need me, I’m here to help.”
Tears were streaming down my face at this point. I had good people in my life. I had a new relationship. I had friends. I had a life of my own and I was happy. Well, mostly. And who’s happy all the time anyway? Nobody! At least nobody who isn’t under a hypnotic thrall. I had to keep Richard away before I had nothing left. Again.
Andrew’s cell phone began to sing out. He fumbled with it and looked at the display before answering. “Hi, babe.”
I knew it was Wade from his greeting.
I surreptitiously dried my eyes and pulled myself together while he talked to Wade. I was silently praying his discretion would keep him from relating what had happened.
“I don’t know. Hang on,” I heard him say. He pressed the mouthpiece against his chest to cover it. “Wade wants us to swing by Kampas. You up to that?”
I winced. My eyes were going to look awful. But I couldn’t think of a way to get out of it without a lengthy explanation. Plus, I could make sure Richard didn’t show up and hassle Wade or Scott. “Yeah,” I said.
Andrew looked doubtfully at me, but spoke into the phone. “We’ll be there soon. Yep. Bye.” Andrew disconnected and pocketed his phone. “You sure you want to go to Kampas?”
I sighed. “Yeah.”
He reached over and patted my forearm. “I wish I knew how to help you, Chris.”
I could have started bawling all over again. I held my breath instead. I really did have good friends. Why was I letting Richard fuck with my head again? I was not unstable! I was saner than he’d ever been. I had a perfect right to be worried about what he was plotting. I knew better than anybody what Richard was like. I squeezed my eyes shut. I didn’t want to think about that. Ever.
The car stopped and I realized we were parked. I opened my eyes. Andrew was watching me again, concern evident on his face.
“Andrew,” I said, not sure what to say.
“Let’s not bring all this up inside, ok? Wade and Scott are working. I don’t want them to know about my little, um, scene here.”
“It wasn’t a scene, Chris. Something about Richard makes you lose it.”
I looked around a bit. I had no answer for him aside from the truth. And I wasn’t about to tell him that here and now. I wasn’t sure I could ever tell Andrew the whole truth about this. I said, “You’re right. And maybe I can tell you what you want to know sometime soon. But, please, not now. Okay?”
He nodded. “Whatever he did to you he won’t be able to do it again.”
Andrew was right about that. I wasn’t a naïve, helpless kid anymore.
We left the warmth of the car and walked the few blocks to Kampas. The place was packed. It took time to get to the bar, then to get Wade’s attention.
He looked at me strangely when he saw me.
My eyes must have looked worse than I’d imagined.
Wade picked up the phone behind the bar, spoke for a few seconds, then approached Andrew and me.
Andrew grinned at Wade as Wade handed him a bottle without asking.
A deep voice behind me said, “Hey, Hot Stuff, buy you a drink?”
I turned and found Scott laughing. “I’m on a short dinner break. Come on in the back.”
“Is it all right?” I asked.
He shrugged. “It’ll have to be.”
I followed Scott back to the employee break area. It was basically a closet with a table, a couple of chairs, and a small beat up old sofa. A half-eaten sandwich sat on the table with a glass of soda. Scott sat down and took a bite, gesturing to sit anywhere.
I pulled a chair out beside him and dropped onto it.
He smiled at me and waited for me to say something.
I didn’t really know what he wanted me to say.
“So do I ask why you’ve obviously been crying or do I pretend I don’t notice, tell you you’re the hottest guy in here tonight and try to get you back to my place and have my way with you?”
I laughed in spite of myself. “God, I’d love to go with option B.”
He pushed his plate back and pulled me toward him in an awkward embrace. “I would like nothing better, Chris. But I don’t believe for a minute your heart would be in it tonight.”
I rested my head on his shoulder as he stroked my hair.
“What happened?” he asked.
It was like the floodgates opened. I just started talking and couldn’t stop. “Andrew and I went to the Club tonight for awhile and he was dancing and Richard came in and tried to get up next to him and we had a—confrontation on the dance floor.” I hugged Scott tighter.
“Chris, you’re trembling,” Scott’s voice was a mixture of surprise and soothing. “What are you leaving out?”
I pulled back from him.
I couldn’t look at him. “There’s so much of my past that I never talk about. There’s so much that’s been so hard to try to overcome. And I thought I had. I really did. But now Richard is back and he’s making veiled threats and going after the people in my life. He told me tonight I was acting like I was frightened of him. I denied it, but, Scott, I’m afraid. I’m afraid of what he might do and I’m afraid of who might be his victim.” My voice was barely a whisper. “And I’m afraid he could hurt you.”
I couldn’t read the expression on Scott’s face. “There’s a lot more to this, isn’t there?” he asked.
“Are you willing to talk about it with me?”
I stared at the floor. Then I looked up and met his eyes. “Yes.”
“Good. As soon as we can get out of this place we can go to my apartment or your house or wherever you want to go and talk this out. Okay?”
I swiped at my eyes again. “I’m sorry for showing up here at your job like this. I’m a complete mess.”
“No, you’re not. You’re still the hottest guy in here tonight. And eventually I’m going to get to have my way with you.” He tilted his head. “Not tonight though.” He checked his watch. “My break’s over. Wade’s probably getting slammed.”
I stood up. Scott pitched the remains of his dinner into a trash can and led the way back to the bar.
Andrew had staked out a stool at the bar. Wade was rushing around filling orders. Scott pitched in behind the bar while I approached Andrew.
He smiled, showing off his dimples. “You feel any better now?”
I nodded. “Did Wade beat out of you what’s wrong with me?”
Wade pushed a soda in front of me and put his hands on his hips. “This isn’t because of Craig?” he demanded.
“No, not Craig,” I said.
He seemed to deflate a little. “Then what?”
I noticed two blonde girls at the end of the bar trying to get Wade’s attention. I was happy to deflect it to them. I nodded toward them. “I think you have customers.”
He reluctantly moved down the bar.
“You know he’s not going to let this go,” Andrew said.
He was right and that worried me. I wasn’t sure I wanted Wade to know so much about my past. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to tell Scott. But I did need to tell someone. I was going to need help to deal with Richard. Andrew had been right about a lot tonight.
We hadn’t known each other that long but I felt safe with Scott in a way I hadn’t felt safe with a man in a long time. I was going to tell him about Richard.