Chapter 41 : Toxic
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I expected Tyler to be asleep when I finally made my way back home. I’d wasted the entire day purposefully so I wouldn’t have to face him again. What I didn’t expect was to see him pacing the foyer when I opened the door. He turned to me and his face sagged in relief. “Alix,” he whispered, visibly relaxing. “You’re alright.”
I started to take my jacket off to hang in the coat closet, and stared back at him. “Of course I’m alright.”
Tyler walked up to me slowly. “I was… we were worried about you. Your parents seemed to think you’d come home eventually, but I kept thinking something horrible would happen to you.”
With my coat now in the closet, all there was left to do was stand there awkwardly. “Thank you for your concern, but as you can see, I’m fine,” I replied, starting towards the stairs. I wanted to check on Mackenzie before retiring to bed for the night. “Good night, Tyler.”
Tyler sighed behind me. “Have you decided what you’re going to do, Alix?”
“No, Tyler. I haven’t,” I said without stopping my ascent up the stairs. “Don’t push it.”
When we reached the top, he went off into our old bedroom and let me have time alone with Mackenzie. I appreciated it. It was short lived, however, because when I came back out of my daughter’s bedroom and started towards the stairs, Tyler popped out from the bedroom again.
“Alix!” he called, and I stopped with a sigh, dramatically turning to face him. “Will you stay in here with me tonight?”
“I, uh… I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Ty,” I whispered, looking down at my feet so I didn’t have to see his reaction.
“Please, Alix?” he replied, walking closer. “I won’t even talk to you if you don’t want me to. I just want to hold you.”
I looked up and saw the desperation in his eyes. As much as I hated myself for it, I felt my resolve dying. Slowly, I nodded, walking towards the bedroom. I changed in the bathroom as slowly as I could, again hoping he’d be done before I came out. Again, it was hopeless. Despite the yawn he tried to hide behind his hand, Tyler was wide awake and leaning against the headboard, waiting for me. I walked over towards ‘my side’ of the bed and laid down cautiously, facing away from Tyler. After a few moments, he pulled me into his arms and the tears started almost immediately.
Other girls had been in Tyler’s arms now. They weren’t just my safe haven any longer. We weren’t completely and 100% each other’s. He’d had more experience with girls far better in bed than I was. I found myself wanting to ask him for details, but refrained. He probably wouldn’t give them, and I didn’t really think I wanted them anyway.
My hand crept up to my mouth, a desperate attempt to quiet my sobbing, but it didn’t work. Tyler’s arms tightened around me and I found myself turning in them, pressing my face to his chest as he stroked my hair. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, and despite the low tone, I heard his voice break. “I’m so fucking sorry, Flicka,” he sobbed.
I’m not sure how long we cried like that. It could’ve been minutes or hours, but eventually we stopped and lied numb in each other’s arms. His fingers stopped trickling through my curls, our breathing slowed; I stopped grasping at his chest, content with laying my palm flat against it instead. Our eyes fell closed, and sleep finally took over.
I woke in much the same fashion as I’d fallen asleep. Tyler’s fingers in my hair, tears rolling down his face. I started to lift my head from his chest and turned to him. He gave a weak smile despite crying. “Mackenzie’s with your parents.” I nodded once, laying my head back down on his chest. “Alix?” Tyler asked after a few more minutes of silence. I nodded again to show I was listening. “Are you going to take me back?”
It was annoying that he was asking again, after I’d told him not to push it the night before. Still, tears made my voice crack as I answered him. “Yeah, Ty, I am.”
He exhaled loudly out of relief and from my vantage point with my head on his chest, it seemed like it was the first breath he’d breathed in a while. He rubbed his hand up and down my arm and I finally sat up, ready to have this conversation and get it out of the way. “We’re going to go slow. It’s gonna seem like we’re starting all over again,” I warned, and though Tyler looked upset about it, he nodded. “You’re going to have to stop talking to those girls. Especially Muffy. Talk to whoever else you want to, but continuing any sort of relationship with those girls is not only disrespectful to our relationship, but disrespectful to Mackenzie and I as well.”
“Of course, baby,” Tyler replied, and I could tell he’d honestly already decided this long before I promised to take him back.
“It’s gonna take a lot, Ty. It’ll be awhile before we learn to trust each other again.”
He nodded solemnly. “Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Eventually we had to go downstairs for lunch, and as awkward as it was, we sat down on opposite sides of Mackenzie and smiled our way through it. My parents sent more than one curious gaze our way, but I did my best to ignore them. Tyler seemed oblivious. After lunch, I offered to put down Mackenzie and Tyler left without any objection. Taking my daughter out of her high chair and holding her up to my shoulder, I finally turned to my parents. “We’re going to work it out. It’s going to take a while, but we’re trying.”
The best way I could describe life after that was… toxic. Tyler and I tiptoed around each other, and we hadn’t had sex since before we’d separated, but I wasn’t budging. It was hard enough kissing Tyler, knowing his mouth had been on other girls. I shuddered to think everywhere it’d been.
We returned to Hogwarts on January second, and that made things a bit easier. Dumbledore offered to let me share Tyler’s Head Boy dorm due to the circumstances, but I turned it down. That pissed Tyler off a bit, but I couldn’t find myself caring. I didn’t want to feel suffocated by him, and that’s what was starting to happen. I wondered if we’d ever go back to where we were. Half of me hoped so, but the other half believed differently.
True to his word, Tyler tried desperately. Not only did he not talk to any of the girls he’d slept with, he didn’t talk to any females other than Mackenzie, Selena, Mum, the Head Girl, or me. It just seemed like nothing was enough, though, and I hated that. I hated that I couldn’t just flip a fucking switch and turn my heart over to Tyler again.
January turned into February. We skipped Valentine’s Day. It passed without any acknowledgement that it was different from any other day. March came along, and with it came Tyler’s owls from local Universities. Three were polite rejections, but one – one was an acceptance. Trinity Academy for Outstanding Witches and Wizards, based in the States – New York City to be exact.
The worst part was the fact that the majority of me was excited. Not excited for Tyler, for his opportunity and acceptance. No, I was selfishly excited for myself, for the distance, for the fact that Tyler would be thousands of miles away.
How come when I reach out my fingers
It feels like more than distance between us?
In this California king bed,
We're ten thousand miles apart. - Rhianna, "California King Bed"
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