I can’t believe this. This is… I’d accepted that I’d probably see Lola on campus, I knew we’d likely run into each other from time to time. But to know we’re on the same project. To know that we’ll be seeing each other nearly every day… Fuck.
And to see her in so much pain. I want to reach out. I want to make her feel better, but there’s just no way that I can ever do that. That’s over, no longer allowed, no longer accepted.
“We have different skills to bring to this project. We probably won’t have to see each other that often. Just during the group moments. We won’t even have to interact, right?” I don’t want to hurt her, I don’t want her to drop out of the project, but I also know that being part of this project will be the best for both of our careers. And I’m too much of an ass to give up on that chance. Even if it hurts her.
“Mostly, yes. You’ll be divided into groups based on your skills, so you won’t have to work together. At least not often.” Tamara nods, then her eyes fall on Lola. There’s something else, another reason why she looks so worried as she eyes Lola. But then I remember that Lola’s sister is dating Hunter and that they’re both part of Tamara’s artist group. So she probably knows more about the twins than she shows.
Lola looks at me again. Her beautiful azure eyes filled with tears and already starting to go a little red. Fuck. I know I messed up badly, and it’s my own fault. There’s no going back, no matter how much I want her. But we both need this chance, we both need this opportunity.
“Then I guess we could both stay. We don’t have to talk to each other.” I shrug. There’s only one way I know how to deal with this, this pain inside, this pain over seeing Lola hurting. Bravoure. “No reason for either of us to leave.” I turn back to the main room and walk back to the group.
I can’t deal with looking at Lola’s pain anymore, the pain that I caused, it tears me apart inside. Not seeing her made ignoring this darkness inside easier. Made not thinking about our past so much easier. But now that I can see her… Now that I’ll be seeing her often… I may need to figure out new methods of dealing with it. And quick, because every second I spend with her is one that makes another part of my world crumble down around me.
“Blaze!” One of the girls stands up, offering me her chair.
When I sit down in it, she makes herself comfortable on my lap. I almost wrap my arms around her, an automatic response, but then Tamara comes into the room, without Lola. She looks at me for a moment, at what I’m doing, and I defiantly wrap my arms around the girl anyway. I have no idea who she is, but she’s also part of this project and if Lola’s not coming, it doesn’t matter anyway. I can keep up this persona of who I am a little longer.
It’s sometimes a little too easy to lie to myself, but of course it matters that Tamara came in without Lola, of course it matters.
But what else am I supposed to do? I’m Blaze. I’m the guy who doesn’t date. The guy who’ll play with girls just a few times and then moves on. I know I have the looks and the ability to pull this off, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t try to do it here too, at this college, just like I did at the previous one.
Well… Maybe that pain in my chest is why I shouldn’t…
“Okay, everyone.” Tamara stands in the circle, turning around, looking at all of us, her eyes lingering on me for a moment, the look in them disproving. Even if Lola isn’t here, Tamara won’t make it easy on me either.
The project we’re going to be working on is exciting. The idea is that we’ll be making a long movie, or at least as long as we can get it with our skills and our time constraint. It’ll all be pretty low-budget, but we’ve got some good stage people and designers involved, and then there’s also a few people that can do special effects and other cool stuff. So, all in all, it seems like this will be fun… I hope.
The morning is mostly spent trying to come up with ideas for the movie, creating groups of people with similar or complementary skills and getting to know each other a little better. I like the group that Tamara put together here. They’re very eclectic, and some people have much more experience in group projects than others.
But throughout it all, I wonder about Lola, if she’ll be back here or not. Did I really just stop her from joining this project? Did I really just stop her from finishing her degree?
I’m about to leave the room, walking after the others and be done with the project for the day, when Tamara calls out to me. “Blaze.”
I turn to her, looking at the way she’s standing, how she’s staring back at me. I know I’m going to get lectured… “Yeah?”
“Lola will be back with us tomorrow. I would like it if you could refrain from agitating her while in class.”
She looks at me pointedly. Of course, the girl in my lap. Well, if that’s agitating someone… I don’t know if I can’t not do it. This is who I am, this is how I interact with people.
“It’s not like it matters much…” I shrug, about to walk off, but something makes me stand still.
“Do you really believe that?” Tamara’s eyes won’t leave my face. “Her sister picked her up today, together with Hunter. There is no way that you can make me believe that that doesn’t bother you.”
I’m pretty sure that doesn’t require a reply, she saw the way we reacted to each other.
“She’ll be back tomorrow. Make up your mind before then. Would make the whole project easier.” She turns her back to me and walks off. Obviously, I’m no longer important.
Make a choice? What type of choice can I make? There’s no way that Lola and I can ever become friends. Too much has happened for that. I scratch the scar on my arm, covered by my sleeve. Way too much has happened.
I make my way out of the building, there are still some people hanging around outside, but I ignore them and get to my car instead. How are we going to do this?
I climb into my car, but don’t start it yet. I sit there and let everything that happened today go through my head. I can’t keep getting all worked up every time I see Lola. I need a plan. I need a plan, soon.
This is why I stopped dating. Just hookups. At least those girls know what they were getting themselves into. Dating, girlfriends, those things bring expectations….
We all know what happens when people have expectations of me.
I flee. Like I fled from Lola.
I spend the night doing the one thing I know I shouldn’t do, the one thing that tends to get me into a shitload of trouble. I drink. I drown myself in booze.
Luckily, I went to the store before I had anything and only brought a few cans of beer back with me. It helps that I don’t have anything else with alcohol in the house, so it’s not like I can drink myself into another black hole. But still, drinking isn’t something I do without my mind going places that I don’t like. Alcohol, the sharp taste of it. It reminds me of Lola each time I drink. It reminds me of the night that I left her.
At the end of the night, when I finish my final can, well buzzed but not so drunk that I’d do something really stupid, I pull my laptop on my lap and search Lola’s name. Lola Benton. There isn’t much about her out there on the web, a few mentions in school records and things like that. Sure, there are the social media profiles, she’s always had those, but they’re mostly empty, they’re not actually used. But I can’t seem to find anything else.
“Did you just disappear?” I realize I’m talking to myself. Did I make her disappear?
It wouldn’t be a surprise if I did. Like I broke so many other things. If I really put my mind to it, I could probably fix some of the problems that I made, if I planned to. But, so many other things, like my relationship with Lola, won’t ever be fixed. That’s permanently broken, ruined. And I’m going to have to learn to live with that.
That’s basically the last I remember. I fell asleep soon after. And the next morning, the headache stops me from thinking too much, stops me from trying to remember too much. The only things I want are a shitload of coffee and some painkillers. It takes me longer than normal to get ready, but that’s okay. I set up my alarm too early anyway. I’d planned to actually get some work done, work on a new project. But this morning, I can use the time to become a little bit more human before stepping out the door. I don’t think people would appreciate me growling at them first thing in the morning.
After about a whole pot of coffee and some time for the painkillers to kick in, I’m finally ready to leave for the day.
Though, ready is a bit of an overstatement… I’m able to get out the door and not punch people int he face when they walk past me, which is an improvement over when I woke up. But that’s really all the improvement there is, that’s my level of ‘ready’.
Today I think I’m better off taking the bus instead of the car, as there is too much snow and I’m not sure I’m sober enough yet to drive at the moment. It will be annoying when I have to get back home, but I’m hoping that at least I’ll feel more human when I do have to get back. For now, this is the way that I’m least likely to get myself or someone else killed… Unless I run into Hunter, of course…
Why did I decide to stay yesterday? Why didn’t I just give up, let Lo do her own thing? Why didn’t I just leave yesterday? I could have left. I could have walked away to never look back. It’s not like I haven’t done that before…
So, why didn’t I?
When I walk into the workshop, some of the people from yesterday immediately come up to me, excited, chatting. I try to respond as best as I can, though I don’t know how much it works. They seem to have little sympathy for my hangover, laughing it off as some stupid thing students do. But they don’t know. They have no idea…
I can sense the moment that Lola walks into the room, it changes the air, and I have to force myself to look in a different direction, to not stare. I have to force myself to keep talking to the people around me. The girls who like my ‘bad boy’ image, who’ve seen my social media, who have seen the persona I portray there. The guys are the same, though instead of trying to get into my pants, usually, they’re hoping that being near me will get them into the girls’ pants. It’s always the same. They’re always the same. So I don’t feel too bad about not remembering their names at the moment.
I’m just a status item to them, they’re just a crowd of people to me.
But as I focus on the class, as we’re split up into groups, things slow down, and I realize how much I feel like crap. This must have been my worst drinking session in months, maybe even in over a year. I really don’t usually drink, even when I go out, I barely drink anything. I know that I can’t. I do stupid things when I drink, really stupid things. My arm itches and I scratch at the skin.
“Blaze?” One of the other guys from our staging team looks at me, frowning. I think his name is Thomas, or something.
“Yeah?” He was probably talking, wasn’t he? Asking me something?
“What’s your specialty? I heard something from Tamara, but she didn’t know exactly either, since you don’t go to this college.” Everyone in the group now looks at me.
I shrug. “I make things with electronics, like lights and sounds. I can also do stuff with metal, but not as good as Hunter can. He’s got the artistic skill in that department. I’m just good enough to make things that don’t fall apart.”
“Hunter?” One of the other guys, Cole, I think, frowns. “Hunter Porter? You know him?”
The others in the group now look at me with curiosity and awe.
“Yeah. We went to the same high school. We used to be friends.” It’s not like that’s a secret.
“Friends? That guy doesn’t have friends.” Thomas lets out a laugh, and I suppress the urge to punch him. That would be bad, really bad, no matter how much I feel like it or how much sticking up for H is apparently still second nature to me.
A guy who hasn’t said anything yet, who doesn’t seem to share that same surprise about hearing H’s name, looks at me, his eyes serious, like he’s thinking. Then he blinks, shrugging. “If you have at least half his skill, then you’re going to be fine. I’m normally into photography, but I also do lights and things.” He stands up, holding out his hand. “Damon.”
I take his hand. “Blaze.” He’s got a firm grip, but the way he keeps looking, like he’s got something on his mind, makes me a little uncomfortable.
Tamara comes over to us with a whole stack of papers. “You’re going to have to talk to the writing group and the actors about the actual performance. But I’ve gotten us a couple of places where you can film. As soon as the story starts to take shape, you can go scout the locations and get things up and running. I know that we’re not in this room for too long, but we’ll be moving to our normal room at the end of this week or the start of next week.” She looks at each of us. “I assume that you can come up with who is doing what on your own, but I do want a list of tasks and responsibilities before the end of the week.” She smiles. “Good luck. I’m glad to have you all here. This is going to be amazing.”
I wish I had her confidence about that… Right now, I feel like everything will go down the drain soon enough, including my mood.
“Oh. And there will be a party in our new room in the art department at the end of the week. I know that everyone here comes from different departments and skills, and I want you all to get to know each other a little better in a less formal setting.” She grins. “I’ve found that having a party at the start of a large group project gets everyone on the same page. And since you’re not doing too much yet this week, I’ll be counting on you to set a couple of things up.”
A party… Sure. Sounds like an excuse to get everyone drunk and doing embarrassing things… Not sure how interested I’d be in that.
But the way Tamara looks at each of us, before her eyes settle on me tells me that it’s no use for me to argue.
“Great. Going to be awesome.” I try to grin, though I’m not sure how well that works.
Next chapter is next week! <3
Please, remember, this is just cleaned up, not fully edited, so some errors may be still in here. They will be fixed before publication!