Scottie also began to notice her old ways creeping back in. Over the years she’d gotten quite good at building walls, quickly and efficiently. Somehow, Will Nash had passed right through everything she’d work so hard to construct, but now, as things trembled, precarious and breakable, she was back to stacking bricks. She was harboring so much fear for what was about to happen since the other shoe had yet to drop. And from Scottie’s experience, the other shoe always always dropped. There was no chance of it not dropping. The dread crept over her like a cancer, choking everything else out.
Nora had confronted Cory the day he got home from his trip, barely sane, barely dressed, and definitely not sober. She insisted on going to their apartment, but Scottie had insisted that Cory come to them. Nora was in no state to traverse public transit on top of the fact that she refused to wear anything but the ratty white robe Scottie had found her in that first night. And, like a tried and true cheater, Cory denied it until he didn’t have a voice left. It wasn’t until Nora showed her hand that he went silent, cold, and pale. He wouldn’t tell her anything about the checks, Angela King, or a secret baby. He clamped down, shuttered the windows, and closed for business. He told Nora not to come home or call back until she’d worked through, what he called, “her own issues.” Then he got up, buttoned the grey peacoat he had refused to take off upon arrival, and unceremoniously walked out, slamming the door behind him, and took the 1 train home.
Nora screamed once and pounded her fists on the threadbare table until she had nothing left, letting her anger dissolve into quiet fraught sobs, her arms covering her face, electric red hair sticking to her wet cheeks.
But Nora didn’t go back home. She didn’t call. And she didn’t try to work through her own “issues.” She could smell the lies hanging off his skin and that odor would kill her if she gave into him, so she mostly drank.
Scottie, consumed with her own fear, the kind that gnawed on her day in and day out—especially during those cold nights without Will by her side—eventually broke her down. She worked up the nerve to call Cory on a frigid Wednesday when Nora was deep in a Valium induced all-day nap. Will had promised to stay over that night, despite the apartment not being quite ideal for him with its small bathrooms, single steps between rooms, and tight doorways. But Scottie missed him terribly, even if she was folding in on herself, and a tiny part of her was feeling like maybe, just maybe, things wouldn’t blow up in her face.
Cory had answered on the first ring, saying her name in the throaty way he used to when they were seeing each other, dragging the “ie” out a little longer than normal. The familiarity of the sound left her shaken and thrown for a dizzied loop.
“As long as you don’t tell her, I won’t tell her. There’s no point in ruining what we’ve got.” His voice was breezy—too breezy—and it made Scottie buzz with anxiety.
“But she already thinks you’re cheating on her,” Scottie pressed, worried that Cory would crack under Nora’s diamond strength pressure.
“And I’m not,” Cory insisted, and weirdly, hearing it from his own lips, Scottie believed him. She’d seen him lie plenty, and it struck her hard as a brick wall that he seemed different. If he was lying, he’d certainly changed his tactics.
“So, what are those checks, then, Cory?” Scottie asked, hopeful that she might be on the precipice of a truthful answer. He would be honest with her right? After all they’d been through? There was some kind of twisted pride in hoping he was loyal to her over his wife. The line was so quiet she thought he might have hung up. “Cory?” she asked the void.
“I can’t talk about that,” he answered finally, in a voice that sounded entirely unlike his own.
“But,” Scottie pushed, a frustrated breath blowing through her lips.
“I can’t,” he barked, “and if you press this, I will tell her.”
“Cory,” Scottie shouted, the apartment feeling suddenly dark and cold around her, her voice echoing around the cardboard boxes she’d started to pack.
“And him,” Cory continued with ice, “I’ll tell Will.” Scottie’s entire body felt numb and unwieldy. She sunk down to the wood floor, a car rattling down a hill with broken brakes, cradling her face in her free hand, burrowed in a stunned silence as the line callously went dead.
Will buzzed the apartment and did a quick weight shift as he waited for Scottie to let him up. The double set of doors—heavy, old, and dusty—weren’t easy for him to maneuver around, especially with the pint-sized vestibule, but he could do it with concentrated effort. Exactly what he wanted to do after a long day he thought as he exhaled a frustrated sigh. Scottie had been so distant with him the last two weeks and it made him nervous.
The wind whipped around him for a second and he shivered, leaving the band of hyper-sensitive skin right above his hips—where normal sensation trickled to a drip then disappeared completely—exposed as his shirt lifted slightly. At the chill it almost seemed to snap, crackle, and pop like the cereal he loved so much growing up.
Finally came the unmistakable hum, and he pushed hard on the door, struggling to push his chair over the bump while keeping it open. He wasn’t able to scoot into the tiny room enough for the door to close behind him, so the wind followed him in as he pressed the second door open against the suction effect that was taking place. He’d already broken out in a sweat, and the combination made him feel chilled and clammy.
Once he was safely inside the building he took a deep breath and fixed his legs. They’d gotten jumbled in the clamor of beating the end of the buzzer. He couldn’t help but notice that the lobby had once been beautiful, with carved wood molding and original mosaic tiled floors in black and white. But it needed a good cleaning—dust hung like icing in every nook and cranny. Just a little bit of attention would go a long way.
Will couldn’t help but think the same thing as he pulled the creaking grate open for the elevator. It was from God knows what year, and it didn’t inspire a ton of confidence as it groaned slightly when he rolled on. He eyed the stairs wistfully for a minute as the door closed. Pressing Scottie’s floor, he closed his eyes and offered a silent plea to get him to the 6th floor. He’d hate to plummet to the basement and die in this sad little elevator all alone. He tried to force himself to laugh it off, but the slight nagging that it wasn’t totally impossible made the sound catch in his throat. It came out sounding like some kind of strangled cat. He hadn’t been this anxious to see her in a long time. All the while, the elevated ticked up, passing each floor painfully slowly. At six, the heavy windowed door slid open and will undid the latch on the grate. He’d made it. Now he just had to make it back down.
In all of their time dating, Will had only been inside Scottie’s family’s apartment twice before. He knew it was hard for her to be there, and with his wheelchair, it just made so much more sense to spend time at his apartment. But because of the limited exposure, he wasn’t sure what to do when he got to her door. He didn’t have a key, and knocking felt formal, but barging in felt too comfortable. He decided to try the door, and finding it unlocked, he nudged it slightly and stuck his head in through the opening.
“Scottie?” he asked tentatively, suddenly afraid he might have the wrong apartment. It was 6H right? Now he wasn’t so sure.
“In here,” her familiar voice came, it was muffled and slightly thick, like she was, or had been, crying into a pillow. Will bit his lip and rolled over the threshold, worried at what he might encounter. He went back and forth a few times over the doormat to try and get some of the slush off his wheels, but knowing she didn’t really care allowed his attempt to be acceptably half-hearted.
“Hi,” he said softly as he appeared in the kitchen doorway. Scottie was sitting at the table smoking a cigarette and drinking something that was decidedly not water. Will was unsure what to do when she didn’t turn and acknowledge him. She just stared straight ahead, green eyes fuzzy, glossed over, and detached, right arm wrapped around both of her folded legs. She was resting her chin on her knees, and taking another long drag, she turned her head slightly and smiled weakly at him.
“Hi,” she practically whispered. Will wheeled closer to the table, narrowly fitting in the space between it and the kitchen counter. He rolled right up to her, his knees bumping her toes, curled over the edge of the seat.
“What’s on tap?” he asked playfully. She laughed, and it was genuine, her oddly pale cheeks flushing with color for a second. He could tell she was embarrassed for him to find her in this state.
“Cigarettes,” she quipped, inhaling and flicking the ash directly onto the table.
“I didn’t realize you smoked,” he replied, cocking his head. He’d seen her smoke outside of bars when she’d been drunk, and just as he was nudging that thought, he realized that the reason she was smoking now was that she was drunk. And if she was already drunk then that meant she’d probably been drinking for quite a few hours.
“And tequila,” she offered, her breath heavy with it as she reached for her glass and took a sip. Will gently eased the glass out of her hand and put it back on the table.
“How about some food?” he asked. She shook her head once, her stubborn nature taking the reigns as she took another puff of the cigarette and blew the smoke out of the side of her mouth.
“How was work?” she asked, leaning back in her chair and eying him like she was really seeing him for the first time.
“Oh well, you know, it was fine,” he replied, rubbing the back of his neck and offering a half smile. Emily had slipped quite naturally into the role of a woman scorned, and she’d taken to dipping in and out of a professional persona to keep Will on his toes—metaphorically at least. He was exhausted from trying to distinguish which Emily was going to greet him in the morning, or which one was going to lead their weekly creative meeting, or which one he’d encounter in the kitchen around lunch. He was beginning to suspect that maybe it was time to look for another job, and he had no one to blame but himself. He’d been imprudent to think that it wouldn’t get complicated between them. When he got involved with her his self-esteem was pretty much circling the drain. He was coming off Katie which had been him coming off Kristin, and he was entirely shattered. He went into their tryst a broken man, and she’d latched on to his weakness, and though he had plenty to thank her for, he didn’t realize until they were finished, that she’d molded him into exactly what she’d needed. He was just a lump of clay.
He just had assumed that because Emily was married she was settled, and that had been possibly one of the most naïve assumptions he’d ever made. A woman cheating on her husband—regularly—with a younger, admittedly vulnerable, employee of hers screamed anything but settled. Being married didn’t mean shit, really. Nora and Cory were living, breathing, crumbling proof.
Scottie knew, even in her blurry state, that Will was being deliberately vague, but she barely had the energy to analyze her own feelings, so she couldn’t possibly take his on, too. Despite that though, it was nice to see him. His face immediately calmed her, his voice kept her thoughts from getting out of control, and his touch, well, that was what really made her forget. Leaning toward him, she callously snuffed her cigarette out on the table that her grandmother had had for over 60 years. His lips met hers and he was deliciously fresh to the tequila and tobacco tinged musk that was lingering in her mouth. He kissed her back gently at first, but the more she pressed him, the harder he kissed her back, the desire absolutely buzzing between them.
“Scottie,” he whispered pulling his mouth back from hers just slightly. Their foreheads pressed together, his slightly crinkled. “You’re drunk.”
“You’re drunk,” she teased, falling back into him, climbing from her chair clumsily right onto his lap, looping her legs around his barely-there backrest and lower back. His strong hands slid up her shirt searching for her bra. Lucky for Will, she wasn’t wearing one. Smugly she leaned back and ran her hands through his thick hair as he held her securely in place against him. Releasing one hand, he reached for her glass—still half full—and emptied it in two big sips. His face contracted like he’d just sucked on a lemon, and he sputtered for a second, shaking his head.
“Yikes, that really was just tequila,” he said friskily.
“I’m not a liar, Mr. Nash,” she retorted, winking as he worked one of her boobs out of the v-neck of her sweater. He took it in his mouth, nipping at it carelessly. She arched her back and groaned, desperate to feel him inside of her. It was making her dizzy. Or maybe that was the tequila. Or maybe it was both.
“Tell me Nora isn’t coming home soon,” Will asked, his lips still on her nipple, the vibrations of his voice on her skin sending shudders through her.
“She’s busy confronting Cory again,” Scottie whispered, easing herself off of him and stepping back toward the hallway. She reached for his hand and pulled him toward her, a show of aggression. An unreadable expression fluttered over his features but then disappeared behind a crooked grin.
“Are you taking me to bed?” he asked suggestively.
“Yes,” she answered simply, squeezing his hand gently at first then harder. There was something unnerving her under her skin. The old Scottie seemed precariously close. Swallowing hard she forced a smile. Will was studying her and if he saw anything wrong then he didn’t let on. She silently praised herself for her performance. She still had it.
“You better not be teasing me,” he chided
“As I said before, I’m not a liar, Mr. Nash.”
And with that, she pulled him into the hall and sauntered down toward the bedroom that she’d loosely claimed at her own. It used to be her grandma’s, and like an onion, it held layers of bad memories, heavy with a terrible stench and the ability to make her cry without warning. She bit back the anxiety that was filling her up, a faucet that never ran dry. She needed Will to fuck her senseless so could stop the tinny rattle in her head.
There was a thick patterned rug that covered almost the whole bedroom, and instead of thinking about Will and the obstacle the ugly thing would be for him, Scottie was enraptured with the recollection of lying in the middle of it, singing to herself to drown out the yelling in the living room. She must have been 12 or 13, and her mom was using again—not like there was ever much time between the bouts. She’d showed up at the apartment, Scottie and Sara in tow with dirty clothes, dirty faces, and empty stomachs. Their grandparents had taken them in and for the first time, actually attempted to get custody of the girls.
It didn’t take. Their mom had them back out the door before the paperwork could be filed, disappearing in the middle of the night like a common thief. A lump formed in Scottie’s throat as she stood there feeling every bit the little girl that had laid on this rug years ago.
“Hey, Scottie,” Will’s voice came out of the echoing void in her head and it startled her. She’d forgotten she wasn’t alone. His tone was clipped as she turned to face him. He was pushing hard across the rug, moving but slowly.
“Maybe we should roll this up?” he offered. Scottie looked at him with a confused expression on her face, and he couldn’t quite read it. She looked down at his feet then back up to his face, her features rearranging to irritation and, could it be, a flicker of anger?
“Or maybe we leave it where it is,” she snapped, turning toward the bed and sitting on the edge carefully, hauling in a labored breath. Will visibly recoiled at her manner. He had never seen this side of her, and they’d been together for almost 6 months. Frustrated he couldn’t get to her faster, he pushed himself over the rug, arms straining slightly. His head was swimming from the double shot of tequila.
“Sorry,” she whispered, barely loud enough for him to hear.
“Are you okay?” he asked when he finally got to the side of the bed, his unfeeling knees brushing against hers. She nodded once, but wouldn’t look at him directly.
Her eyes were full and glassy, but no tears escaped. She wiped at the sides absently and sniffled once. And then, as if a switch had been flipped, she jerked her head up and took his face in her hands, eyes smoldering.
“Fuck me, Will,” she whispered, sliding her hands down his neck and over his shoulders. She pulled him toward her and he laughed and reflexively pulled away. There was some kind of desperate etching in her face and he didn’t know what to make of it.
"Ok,” he replied, as sexily as he could, contending with the unsexy fact that he had to excuse himself to cath so he wouldn’t wet the bed and take a pill made for dirty old men who couldn’t get it up anymore.
But this was Scottie. He had to remind himself—this was Scottie. He’d just never seen her quite this demanding—quite this frenetic.
“Just give me a minute, okay?” he murmured as he leaned back to let her kiss his neck. Nipping his ear he heard a shadow of a groan as she processed what he said. She leaned away—leaving his face exposed and cold—and threw herself back on the bed with a sigh. Her arms were stretched out above her head and she stared blankly at the ceiling.
“I’ll be here,” she replied, words sliding into each other with disappointment. She needed her mind blank and she didn't want to have to fucking wait for her boyfriend to fuck her. Will bit his lip and took a few quick breaths, edging himself back across the rug slowly, as the ghost of his perceived inadequacy rose up to meet him with vigor.
Scottie laid against Will’s chest, stretching the small red rubber band—the one that had been on his cock only a few minutes before—between her long fingers. She sighed through pursed lips louder than she meant to, cringing when she realized how it had come out. She felt Will tense underneath her.
He stuttered out an ungainly apology through panting breaths.
“It’s okay,” Scottie whispered feebly, holding the band taught and tracing circles on his muscled stomach. There was something fragile about Will that she hadn’t seen in a long time. His confidence was shaken, and Scottie felt a hot clammy shame roll over her as she realized it was partially, if not all, her fault.
They’d gotten all worked up when he’d come back into the bedroom, undressing each other with a kind of ferocious hunger. Will had worked his pants over his stubborn legs, and pushed himself over her, his strong arms stone pillars, while she bucked underneath him. She was breathing heavily, and the heat was building between her legs as he slipped two fingers into her. A gasp escaped her lips and she closed her eyes, caught up in her own pleasure. With Scottie clinging to him, arms wrapped tightly around his chest, he scooped her up and expertly flipped onto his back so she was on top. He untangled his legs while she kissed him across his collar bone, down his chest, over his stomach, and then skating through the invisible line, leaving him breathless, and taking him in her mouth.
After a few minutes of stimulation and the pill taking effect, he was finally hard. She stroked him vigorously, a wicked smile playing across her lips as she slipped the rubber band down to help maintain the length—a little trick they’d learned and used before.
Will grabbed her hips and pressed her down over him, sending shivers through her, her hands turning into claws against his chest.
But the pleasure that had come fast and frantic evaporated almost instantaneously as he shrunk inside of her, slipping out in a crumbling heap. Will, who couldn’t feel his erection deflate spectacularly, kept guiding her hips up and down and she bent forward on aching knees, lifting herself up and rolling off of him. He pushed himself up and looked down to see his penis—uncooperative, soft, and infuriating.
“Let me just try again,” he offered through hurried breathing, reaching down to get a reflex erection going again. Scottie never had been an optimist, but she pushed herself back up and on top, only find the erection slump against her leg like wet spaghetti.
Again, she slid off of him, removing the rubber band in the process. Will felt like he might throw up looking down at himself. He could practically grab the frustration radiating off of her.
For Scottie, the disappointment startled her. She’d never felt this way with Will before. Sometimes the sex was wonderful and perfect, and other times it ended like this and they continued on anyway with something else. Will was particularly good at cunnilingus. But there was something distinctly different this time, a heavy thickness between them, that hadn’t been there before.
Scottie found herself wishing he could fuck her—really fuck her. Fuck her the way that J.J. used to fuck her, the way that Cory used to fuck her. She wanted to be thrown up against the wall, pressed down onto the bed, fucked on the kitchen counter. And then she started to shake, the nausea at her own frivolity and twisted need threatening to choke her. The memory of J.J. slipping into her without asking heavy and stick like honey. Yet here she was, wrapped up in a cyclone of primal need and profoundly unresolved psychological pain and she wanted someone with working legs and a working dick to fuck it out of her.
As soon as the thought had come it was flushed out by the new Scottie, the one who knew that Will was everything she wanted and everything she needed.
But this revelation about Cory from Nora had left her shaken to the very core.
Perhaps it was the slowly hardening reality that she hadn’t been enough—for anyone. She hadn’t been enough for J.J. and she hadn’t been enough for Cory. She’d always thought of them as co-conspirators, despite the awful truth of what they were doing to Nora, and it was sexy and intriguing and wildly fun. But now, it seemed, both J.J. and Cory had been conspiring behind her back. She felt like a downright fool, the fervor of it real and rising in her cheeks. Her face was suddenly hot with the realization that she wasn’t enough for her father either.
So, why would she ever be enough for Will? She didn’t want to be left again. She couldn’t take it again. If anyone was going to do the leaving, it would be her. But she wasn’t there, was she?
Sitting up, she pulled her legs tight to her chest and hugged them.
“Scottie,” Will whispered, pulling himself into a sitting position. He could taste his embarrassment and it was bitter. Why would he ever be what she wanted? He felt so incredibly stupid for thinking he could make a beautiful, funny, smart, madly engaging woman like her satisfied. His dick would never be the same as it was before, and though he’d intellectually realized that, he felt the loss in an overwhelming wave looking at her huddled next to him.
“No,” she replied quietly, “I’m sorry, I’m just really out of sorts.”
“I can tell,” he said, scooting closer to her, draping his arm over her, trying to table his humiliation for the moment—for her sake.
“I just can’t get over how you can love someone like that, and, and, and…” Scottie stumbled, losing her words and grasping as if they were floating in front of her. “It’s all a lie.”
“It’s scary,” Will appeased her, “but it’s Cory. It’s not me.” Will rubbed her back and Scottie shivered from head to toe, the remorse at not disclosing her relationship with Cory coursing through her violently. The time for that had long passed, and now she had this crushing secret on top of this crushing insecurity. If only he knew how narrowly he was skirting the truth.
“I’m so sorry I can’t be more for you,” he apologized, the ache of pain and sincerity threaded in his words cut her deep, breaking something inside of her. She didn’t need to be fucked the way that Cory and J.J. had relished. She might not have been enough for them, but she was enough for Will. She needed him—it was a simple as that. Of course, sex with him was different, and he’d told her that from the very beginning, and that was okay.
"Will," she whispered, shaking her head against him. "You don't need to be anything more than you are for me," she managed to get the words out of her mouth as she wavered, fighting the sob that was rising in her chest. He didn't say anything, but he traced the line of her jaw with the side of his thumb and ran it over her lips. She kissed it softly as he slid back down her smooth skin. She hated herself for making him feel inadequate. Snuggling closer to him, the balminess of his chest radiated through her and she swallowed the tears that were bubbling up inside her.“I’m just so pissed at this Angela woman. I can't stop thinking about it,” Scottie hissed, practically spitting her name.
“That’s who he’s cheating with?” Will asked. Scottie nodded, and Will visibly shuddered. She had shared almost no details with him, a combination of trying to respect Nora’s pain and self-preservation. “That’s Kristin’s first name. She never went by it, but every time I hear it I think of her,” he said simply, shaking his head as if to physically clear her image from his mind. Scottie softened slightly, and leaned into him harder. He wrapped her in his strong arms and held her tightly. Scottie played with a piece of her hair as Will hugged her closer. The tequila buzz had tapered off from a dizzied frenzy to a softly thudding headache.
Pulling her back down onto the pillows, he kissed her on the top of the head and ran his hand through her hair. He decided, as he looked down at her, to let today go. He just wanted the Scottie he'd fallen in love with, and he was sure she'd come back to him. He wouldn't scare her away. He wouldn't spook her.
“Fucking Angela Kristin King,” he mused absently and laughed a breezy laugh, the sound which—so utterly and blissfully naïve—sent Scottie spinning. She sat up sharply, as if she’d put her hand in an electric socket. The very air around him seemed to shimmer.
“What’s wrong? Everything ok?” Will questioned, sitting up slightly, worry rumpling his features. She forced a laugh out of her mouth, but it sounded metallic and fake. Her whole body felt numb and her ears were ringing as if she’d just experienced an explosion. She was disoriented and dizzy and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that she couldn’t tell him.
“Fine,” Scottie choked out. Then, taking a second to compose herself and smooth out the edges of her voice, compressing her panic as much as she could, she tried speaking to him again. This time her voice sounded so calm and placid, she would have sworn that it belonged to someone else. “Fine, everything’s fine.”
Mr. Nash, she’d become a liar.