Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Some Things Never Change Chapter XIII

I carry her to the bedroom, hugging her waist, her legs wrapped around me, her hands pulling my hair. I set her down on the bed and stand back. I watch her for a second, laying down, her haste breath makes her chest rise. I kneel on the mattress and lean in on top of her. I stretch my hand to touch her and realize I’m shaking. I place it on her neck and part her sweater from her shoulder. I kiss her there, softly, fearful that she’ll vanish at my touch. 

I place my other hand on her waist and glide it upwards under the fabric of her blouse. She’s warm, silky under my rough palm. My body is a burning ember. I kiss her neck with blazing lips. Then I lift her blouse and sweater with both hands, unveiling her breasts under a purple bra. A flame travels through my entire body as my trembling hands touch her.

“Stop,” she says and pushes my hands away. 

She slides from under me and pulls her sweater down. 

I stay in place, frozen, staring at the empty spot she’s left behind. 

“I can’t do this,” she gets up from the bed. “So now you want me, huh?” She rams at me. “Why the hell did you wait all this time? Now you’re jealous and you want me back, huh?”

I finally resume motion and slowly turn around. I sit on the bed and look up at her. 

“That’s not it,” I whisper.

“Isn’t it?” She stabs me with her eyes. “Eight years, Tony. For eight years you never touched me. I have waited for you all this time, and now, when I’m finally ready to move on, you do this? It’s not fair! It’s not fair, Tony,” she shoves me. “What the hell do you want?”

I stare at her silently for a while. “You,” I say simply. She’s all I want. 

“What the hell did you expect, that I’d wait for you forever?”

I swallow hard. She grabs her hair and turns around. I stand up and hold her by the shoulders. 

“So, have you?” I ask. A shiver of fear strikes me down. “Moved on, I mean.” I circle around her to make her look at me. I lift her chin with a finger. “Have you stopped loving me?” I dare to ask. 

She stares at me for the longest time. Her brown eyes squinting at me. Her lips parted as she gasps for air. 

“No,” she finally says, and I can breathe again. “I still love you Tony.” I feel her hand on my heart and it soothes all the pain that lives inside. “But the thing is… I think I love Erick too.”

Something shatters in me. I take a step back as if she’s shoved me again. I close my eyes. I wonder, is this what Erick felt the moment he broke his neck? I imagine him flying, swirling in the car, hit by the blow of a truck at full speed. And it’s like that. I’m spinning in the air, no ground beneath my feet, nothing to hold on to, falling. 

“I’m sorry,” I listen to her behind my closed eyelids. 

I hear a moan and open my eyes only to realize the sound came from my own mouth. I stagger back. 

“Tony?” Her voice is but an echo from the far. “Tony, sit down.”

I lift my hand to my face. It’s shaking badly. She grabs my arms. I look at her. My Jules. 

I touch her hair one last time, then her face softly, careful not to scare her away. Her smooth skin is warm under my fingers. I feel her cheek and then her moist lips with the tip of my fingers. For a few seconds, I touch my wife. And her young image flashes before my eyes, as a child, beautiful ponytail swinging as she rides her bike. As a teenager, when I made her mine. I see the look in her eyes as she said yes to me at the altar. I see her round belly when she carried my child. I remember her flushed cheeks the day Sean was born, and how she held me on our bed at nights. I watch her hands as she brings me food, and her lips kissing me goodbye in the cold mornings as I leave the house. Goodbye. 

I step back away from her. 

“Would you leave me alone now?” I whisper. 

“Tony,” she opens her sweet mouth. 

“Please,” I add.

Two lines of tears stream down her face. I let them fall, can’t wipe them down. She nods, pressing her lips together, and walks out. 

I sit on the piano stool for the longest time. The lid is open but I don’t play. I look at my father from time to time. I drink scotch. 

“Are you ready?” Erick asks. He stands in front of me in his tuxedo and smiles. “You look nervous.”

“I’m not,” I say. “Got the rings?” 

He nods. 

“No last minute cold feet?” He asks.

“No,” I shake my head smiling. I’ve been waiting for this day since we were kids. 

“You’re really sure, aren’t you?” My best friend swats my arm.

“I am,” I answer, not a single shred of doubt in my mind. 

My father walks into the room. He’s wearing a black suit, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so dressed up. He gives Erick a look and my best man nods before stepping out.

“Look at you,” I turn to my father and laugh. “You look handsome.”

My dad chuckles but then he curls his eyebrows up. He looks at me like I’m a little boy and smiles the sweetest smile he’s ever given me. He steps closer to me and fixes my tie. I remember him teaching me how to nod it. I was a slow learner at that, but my father is the most patient man I know. 

“So do you,” he whispers. Then, he clears his throat like gaining strength to speak louder. “Treat her right,” he starts his fatherly advice, and I quiet down my nerves to hear him out. “Be patient and kind. Listen to her. Pay attention. Protect her. Work hard. Always treat her with respect, and never lie. May you be happy forever, son.”

I nod at him, acknowledging his word. 

“May god bless your union,” he adds.

I hug him. My old man is sturdy, almost as tall as I am. His hair is gray now. He’s got thick, rough hands. They pad my back.  I step back and smile broadly at him. 

“Come on,” I start walking. “I can’t wait for her to be my wife.”

I take my place at the altar with Erick by my side. My father is giving Jules away because it’s been a few years since her own father passed. They step into the church and I’m dazzled. Jules’s hair is up, two curls frame her face, her lips are pink, glowing. She starts walking slowly in her white gown. Violins flood the room and her big brown eyes meet mine. She shines. My chest feels warm as I stand there waiting to receive her. I follow with my gaze as my father and the woman I love walk down the aisle. 

When she gets to me I take both her hands in mine. White lace wraps her arms. The pink skin of her naked shoulders glows under the sunlight. And I feel so incredibly lucky. I thank god for putting her on my path.

I bow my head down and shiver. The fever’s back.  I shudder and shut my eyes tight. I close my fists and try to hold on to the image of Julia becoming my wife.

“To have and to hold from this day forward. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”

It was me who broke those vows. I hit my forehead with my fist hard. 

“Sign here,” the lawyer says, holding the divorce papers in front of me.

“Tony,” she gasps. 

I pick up the pen and sign. 

I finish the last drops of scotch from my glass and throw it hard into the wall. I hear it crash like an echo of my heart. 

“I can take care of him in the mornings, and you come in at nights,” she suggests. 

We’ve been divorced for two days now. Two days of torture. 

I shake my head at her. It sounds like a good arrangement, but I can’t. Maybe I’m a masochist. I tell her it’s not fair to let her handle Erick on her own, but the truth is I don’t want to stop seeing her. I’m angry at her, furious. But I need to see her. I need to, like I need air itself. 

And maybe she feels the same way, because when I show up the next night, she’s there. We undress Erick together, stretch his arms and legs, without speaking. Once he’s in bed, we walk out of the house together and I watch her walk to her mother’s house. Every night. 

I go to bed shivering hard. I’m burning up. The medicine Erick brought is lying on the night table, but I don’t take any of it. My entire body aches and I welcome it. It distracts me from the real pain that’s slashing me down. 

I sneeze outside Erick’s house. I’m standing on the street waiting for her. I don’t know how I’ve stood this for two weeks. Every night, grazing her hand as we carry Erick, both of us moving silently around his bed. I see her walk to me and feel a shiver down my spine. I sneeze again. I don’t get sick often, but of course I had to get sick now. 

“Are you ill?” She asks me when she reaches me. 

I sneeze again as an answer. She lifts a hand slowly, like she’s approaching a wounded animal, and stops an inch from my forehead. I stare at her immobile. She touches me and I shiver again. Is it the fever or is it her touch that sends a shudder across my body?

“You’ve a fever,” she concludes. 

I nod. 

“Go home,” she says. “I don’t want Erick catching anything.”

And an overwhelming sadness floods me abruptly. It startles me. I’ve felt nothing but anger for so long now. The feeling is strange to me. It shakes my ground. Anger gives me purpose and without it, I’m lost. I don’t know what to do. I stand there not knowing where to go. “Home,” she said. But I don’t have a home anymore. I look at my father’s house down the street. It’s not mine anymore. I’ve lost that too. Is there anything I haven’t lost?

“Look,” she says. “Why don’t you go to my mother’s? I’ll be there once Erick’s in bed. Lie down on the couch.”

I don’t answer. I just look at her sad eyes. I’ve done this. I’ve made her so sad. 

“My mother’s out. Here,” she hands me her keys.

I take them and, that night, she looks after me like she were still my wife. We have breakfast together the next day and we’re polite to each other. Like I’m an unexpected guest at her house. But when my cold is healed, some of that anger comes back.

And the days go by. “Hello”, “goodbye,” is the extent of our conversations at first. “Sean got a ten on his science exam.” “Erick’s case is moving forward,” I tell her one day. She sits down and listens. We talk for about ten minutes then, more than we have for the last month. “There’s a girl in school that Sean likes,” she says to me a week from then, and she smiles at me for the first time in months. 

Work. Erick’s house. A lonely room at nights. Every day I struggle to keep my father’s company a float, and it’s the only thing that holds me up. Erick and I sit together on the weekends. Some days, he tries to entangle me in conversation and I try my best to seem like I’m alright. I want to be a support for him, help him face his new life, but some days I’m so down. Other times, it’s him that looks miserable, and I do my best to crack a joke or get him out of the house. 

I look at him one Sunday, struggling to keep a fork inside his hand. He drops it for the third time and he smiles. 

“The fork, my sworn enemy,” he jokes. I watch him mesmerized. 

He looks up at me and his blue eyes shine like they always have. Like they did before. He’s still his old self, although his body’s paralyzed. He’s so much stronger than I am. 

“Hey guys,” Jules walks in, holding Sean by the hand. “What’re you up to?”

“We’re fighting with a fork,” Erick smiles at her too. “Care to join us?”

“Sure,” she says. “That fork is no match for the four of us.” She leans down and picks the fork up. And a little bit of anger leaves my heart. 

“I cooked ribs,” she says one Friday night. “Stay… If you want.”

And I stay. 

“Erick’s sick,” she calls me on the phone one day. “I think we need to get him to the hospital.”

“I’ll be right there,” I say and leave the office fast. 

We check him in, he’s got a UTI. We sit at the waiting room and I realize, as she hands me a cup of coffee, that I don’t feel angry at her anymore. I touch her hand and she stiffens. And then I hate myself. We’ve been divorced for a year now. I owe more money than I ever have in my life. My father’s company is keeping a float but just barely. I’m living in a rented room above a house. My life’s in pieces. I search for the embers of my anger deep inside. I want to keep it burning, because it’s the only thing keeping me from crumbling down. 

But the only anger I have left is aimed at myself. And every time she tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and I crave to touch her so badly, I hate myself a little more. She lovingly helps my best friend every night, and I want to hold her tightly and tell her how sorry I am. Tell her I’ve been an idiot and that I want her back. But how can I? How could I ever take it all back?

I go home to that tiny room and stay awake looking around. This is no place for her and Sean. I’ve nothing to offer to her now. And during the day, every time she averts my eyes, a sting of pain tears me apart. 

As time passes by, everything I did to her dawns on me. I know she will never forgive me. It would be an insult to try to get her back. Oh dad, how could I’ve ever treated her like that? It’s not that I didn’t hear you, I just… You’d be ashamed of me, I know that. My father’s proud look haunts me. He wouldn’t ever look at me that way again if he were still alive. 

I go through the worst night of my life. Even when everything crumbled around me, eight years ago, I never felt the way I do now. Back then, my anger fed a fire inside, it made me want to burn the whole world down. It made me fight. But now… I fall asleep at dawn, exhausted by the fever and my thoughts. 

I wake up the next day drenched in sweat. The fever’s gone. I get up and take a shower. When I come out, I hear the doorbell. I open up to Sean and Erick. 

“We brought your car,” Sean says.

“How’re you feeling?” Erick asks.

How am I feeling, Erick? Jules is in love with you, how can I feel? I stare at him silently. 

“Anthony Cross?” A woman says over the phone.

“Yes,” I put the phone in speaker and continue working. I’m busy.

“I’m calling from General Hospital. I have you listed as the emergency contact for Erick Sanders.”

I pick up the phone again. 

“Is he ok?”

“He’s been in a traffic accident.”

I get up. 

“Is he ok?” I repeat the question.

“His state is listed as critical, I don’t have any more information.”

“What hospital did you say?”

I run to the car. 

Erick holds my gaze craning his neck up. He seems more rested than he did yesterday. The bags under his eyes are less pronounced. 

“Did you get my coat?” I turn to Sean. I have other coats, of course. But that’s my favorite, and I want to wear it now. 

“Yeah,” he looks back. “I left it in the car. I’ll go get it,” he walks to the elevator. 

“Are you going to work?” Erick speaks and I tilt my face down to look at him again. 

“Yes,” I nod.

“You can take the day off,” he says. “I’ll handle things.”

“How am I gonna live like this, Tony?” My friend looks at me with clear despair in his blue eyes. He’s sitting in a wheelchair for the first time. He’s been in bed for almost two months. I thought he might feel better getting out of it. But he doesn't want to sit in this chair. Of course he doesn’t. He says he feels dizzy and his body starts to tremble. Spasms. “Tony,” he calls and I think he might be having a panic attack. He looks like he’s hyperventilating. 

“It’s ok, Erick,” I lie to him with a lump in my throat. “It’s gonna be ok.” I set my hands on his shoulders to try to calm him down.

How am I gonna live like this, Erick? I stare at him now. Perhaps if I say it outloud, he’ll lie to me too and tell me everything’s gonna be ok. I sigh.

“Did you sleep?” He asks when I don’t answer.

I keep quiet again. I don’t know what to say to him. Do I talk to him like I would if he had never kissed my wife? Do I tell him I feel like shit and just want to get drunk until I pass out? Do I tell him he broke my heart? Or do I push him away and say he’s not my friend anymore? 


“A little,” I choke on the words. I turn around and walk to the living room. I look for my father’s picture with my eyes. Erick wheel inside following me. He leaves the door ajar. Tell me what to do, dad.

“I’m going to work,” I say maybe to Erick, maybe to my father. 

“Are you sure?” I hear Erick’s voice behind me. 


Sean gets back. He hands me my coat and I put it on immediately. 

“Did you have breakfast?” Erick’s voice exasperates me. Drop it, I say to him with a look. 

“Let’s go.”

“Dad?” Sean says. I meet his eyes. Don’t, Sean. I can’t take it right now. 

“We’ll drop you off on the way to the office.”

Sean looks to Erick like asking for his approval and it stings. 

“Let’s go,” I repeat.

“It’s too early,” Erick says. “Let’s have breakfast.”

I ignore him. I take the keys from Sean and head for the door. When I open it, I see my mother standing there. 

“Good morning, son,” she says. Really?

I’m frozen in place. The only thing that comes to my mind is I want to turn back around and get another look at my father’s photograph. I don’t. Sean joins me by the door and looks at her, then at me, then at her again. Sean doesn’t know this woman, as far as I know he’s never met her. Although come to think about it, perhaps he saw her once, eight years ago, before she stole all the money I had. 

“Go back inside,” I say to him and stretch my arm in front of him as if I’m protecting him from an assailant. 

“Sean?” She sullies his name by speaking it. “Is this my grandson?” 

“No,” I say and stand in front of him to shelter my son from her. “I said go back inside!”

Sean stays put.

“Sean, come here, please,” Erick calls him. 

It takes him a second but he obliges then. Of course he does, it’s Erick who asked. 

“Please let me see him,” that woman pleads. 

I’m breathing heavily now but I control the tone of my voice.

“No,” I say and step out. I close the door behind me. “What are you doing here?”

“I want to talk to you,” she says. “Like I told you before, I really want to fix things.”

I huff. “Leave,” I use as calm a tone as I can muster. 

“Just listen to me son, let me explain.”

“No!” I don’t want to lose my temper in front of Sean. But I can’t keep calm, not today. The last time I saw her, when she came to the office, I kept it together. But today, I have too many things on my plate. I can’t deal with her right now. “Go away.”

“I’m your mother.” That does it.

“Are you?” 

“I know I’ve made mistakes…”

“Yeah, I’ll say,” I interrupt her.

“Tony, please. If you just heard me out.”

“You’ve got some nerve,”


Anger builds up inside of me again. “Dad had a heart attack,” I start.

“I know.”

“Do you know when?” I take a step towards her and the look in her eyes changes. Last time I didn’t tell her. I had made up my mind to control my temper, to not let anger get the better of me, because I was trying to fix things in my life, not make the same mistakes I made in the past. But now… what’s the difference? I’ve already lost everything. “Do you?” I ram at her. Now she’s quiet.  “When he found out what you did. The day he found out that you stole from us, that you bankrupted his company, that I was losing my house because of you, he grabbed his chest and fell,” my voice quivers just slightly. I look at her face, she looks surprised, and scared, scared of me. I look like her. I have her eyes. Long lashes and dark eyes. And maybe I’m bad like she is because I want to hurt her now, like she did me. Her eyes water and I’m glad. “That’s right,” I continue. “He’s one more thing you stole from me,” I hiss. “You killed him!”

My chest is rising and falling quickly with heavy breaths. She’s against the wall now, and I lift a fist and pound on the bricks behind her. She trembles. 

“Fix that!” I turn around and leave her crying. 

I open the door to my apartment and walk inside. Sean and Erick stare at me. I find my son’s eyes and see in them that I’m the monster he says I am. I grab my hair.


I am. I am this monster, filled with anger and hatred. The world be damned. No wonder Jules doesn’t want to be with me. No wonder my son prefers Erick to me. No wonder I’m alone. 

“Keep the car,” I toss him the keys and storm out. 

When I walk out, my mother is gone. Like she has always been. Like she was when I was growing up. Like she vanished again when I was a teenager. 

I rush down the stairs and walk out into the cold morning. I go to the office because that company is the only thing I’ve managed to save from the wreckage of my life. The place is empty. I unlock the building’s door and turn on all the lights. I use the stairs to go up. Erick is not with me. He’s not with me, the phrase takes a deeper meaning in my mind. I sit behind my desk and turn the computer on. The minute it takes for it to start is filled with loneliness and anxiety. I’m looking forward to whatever work has piled up from yesterday, but as it turns out, Erick has finished everything for me. I curse out loud and hold my head between my hands. 

I’m still in that position when I hear noises in the hallway. I look up expecting to find Betty there, but it’s Erick wheeling out of the elevator. Sean’s with him. My son walks into my office. My friend stays behind. 

“Hey dad,” Sean sits down.

I’ve only one chair in front of my desk and an empty space destined for Erick. I look at him sitting on his chair outside. I want to tell him to come in, sit with me, work together for the day. Because this is what I do when I feel down. 

“Your keys,” Sean’s voice takes my eyes away from Erick. 

“Thanks,” I say under my breath.

“Dad,” he looks at me like he hasn’t for a very long time. “I wasn’t going to talk to her.” What? I stare into his eyes which are kind now. “I wouldn't do that to you.” I feel like my son has just thrown his arms around me and hugged me. “I just wanted to see her. I was curious,” he shrugs. “But I wouldn’t talk to her. I wouldn’t.”

I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I smile at him. 

“Thank you,” I say. 

“We brought your medicine,” he sets a bag on the desk. “Uncle Erick wants you to take it.” He stand up. 

“Son,” I stop him. “Do you want to stay? Learn the family business?” I suggest.

“I can’t. Sorry,” he shakes his head with a grin. “I’m meeting a girl.”

“Are you?” I say grateful for the explanation. He wouldn't have given it to me a few days ago. He nods and the grin broadens. “What's her name?”


“Did you fight over this Ana?” I try my luck.

He shakes his head at me. “I fought for her, but not over her,” he says.

“Good,” I say. After a second I grab the keys and tos them back to him. “Take the car.”

He nods smiling and heads for the door, but he turns back around before leaving.

“Maybe tomorrow?”

My chest warms up. “I’d like that.”

“Ok,” he agrees. “I’ll be here tomorrow.”

I lean back on the chair and watch him walk out and say goodbye to Erick. When he’s gone, Erick wheels to my office. He knocks and I laugh. 

“Come in, Erick.” My anger has subsided. Perhaps I’ve gained my son back. I take the win and push the rest of my sadness to the back of my mind.

“I just wanted to tell you I finished the orders last night.” He takes his spot in front of my desk. 

“I noticed.”

He holds my eyes for a moment. “Ok, then.” He pushes himself back from the desk. 

I debate whether to ask him to stay. I’m not sure I want him to. Before I can decide, he’s out the door. 

He checks on me several times throughout the morning though. At noon, he brings me lunch. 

“I ordered take out,” he sets a bag over my desk. He has an equal one on his lap. 

“Thanks,” I take it. I’m starving.

He doesn’t leave. I wonder, how long will things be awkward between us? A few months, years, forever?

He starts to turn the chair around.

“Stay,” I call him. 

His eyes light up like I just gave him a gift. He sets his own bag over the desk and struggles to take out his sandwich. We eat in silence, looking at each other from time to time.

“So, I was thinking we should get a new truck,” he says. I look up from my lunch. “We could handle more orders, it would pay itself in a few months.”

“Ok,” I say. I’ve been thinking the same thing. In a couple of months I will finally finish paying the last loan I took eight years ago. We could afford it then. I still have to pay Erick back the money he loaned me for Jules’s coffee shop. But once I’m done with the other payment, I can repay him in a few months. 

“I’ll check some prices,” he takes another bite, holding his sandwich in both hands precariously. 

I pick up the trash when we finish and toss it in the bin. 

“Do you wanna… work together?” He suggests. I stare at him for a minute. Do I? “Call if you want to check things later,” he takes his hands to his rims slowly to give me one last chance to ask him to stay. I let him leave although perhaps I don’t want him to. 

I stay at the office late. I watch as everyone leaves and the place goes quiet. Erick shows up again once everyone is gone. 

“I lend the car to Sean,” I say. 

“Oh, yeah, he told me.”

“He was meeting a girl,” I boast the fact that he shared that piece of precious information with me. 

Erick grins at me. I turn my computer off and stand up. I grab my coat. His apartment is close enough for him to wheel to it. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t walk away now. 

“Bye,” I say.

“Bye,” he moves away from the door to let me pass.

I walk to the coffee shop and spend the evening painting. I wanted to give this place to Jules, tell her how sorry I am for everything, ask her to take me back. I guess that’s out of the question now, but I still want her to have it. Eight years ago, I asked her to quit her job, take care of Erick for me. I was doing ok then, thought I could support her. She deserves this much from me. A lot more actually. Even if I’ll never have her again, and the realization carves a dent in my heart, she still deserves everything I can give her. I play Chopin at full volume and paint. 

I sit on the floor to wait for the first coat to dry. I don’t have any scotch left. I didn’t bring my guitar. I go through my playlist trying to find something suitable for now. A song about lost dreams.

“How do you picture yourselves in the far future? What are you going to be doing when you’re, let’s say, forty?” The guidance counselor asks our senior year in highschool.

“I’m married to you,” I whisper to Jules. “We have three kids.” She laughs. “Dog, picket fence.” 

“Care to share with the class, Anthony?” The teacher says.

 “I was just saying I’m going to marry this girl,” I watch as Jules’s cheeks turn bright red. 

Two girls sitting across from us swoon. I blink at them. Jules swats my arm. 

“I am,” I say. “I’m going to marry you, Miss Taylor.”

“Ok, let’s leave the marriage proposals for later,” the teacher says. 

“Ever the romantic, Miss Jones,” I laugh and the class joins me. 

I select Green Day. I get up and resume painting while the first coat is still fresh. Perhaps I should tear a wall down, physical work will be better to keep my mind off things. I hear a knock on the door and turn around. It’s Erick. I open the door for him. 

“Hey man,” he says awkwardly. “Want some company? I brought scotch,” he picks up a paper bag from his lap, just barely. 

 I take it from him before he drops it. 

“Or you can take it and I leave?” He looks up at me like a child asking to play. 

“Close the door,” I turn around and take a couple of glasses out. 

“Did you take any medicine?” He asks before I hand him his glass.

“No,” I shake my head at him.

“Yeah, I didn't think so.”

“I walk alone,” Green Day blasts on my phone. “My shadow is the only one that walks beside me.”

“I haven’t heard this song in years,” Erick takes a sip from his drink and sets it down over the counter. 

He sings the chorus. I take a sip from my own glass and pick up the paint brush again. I sing along with him. 


  1. Just clenches the heart. All the sadness and Tony’s life imploding

    1. Thank you, Blueskye for commenting! I guess the other comments got erased.