Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A Little Look at Jordan

In honor of hitting 2,000 likes on my facebook page here is a little bit of Bad Rep from Jordan's POV.  I really love writing from a guy's mindset.  I hope this clears up a little of what Jordan was thinking during all of that drama.  Enjoy!!!



“Hey Jordan.” I grit my teeth at the breathy voice on the other end of the phone. That's what I get for not paying attention to the caller ID before I answered it. I had been dodging Liv's calls for a few weeks now. I felt like we had said all we needed to say. I knew she just wanted the drama and I was not into that at all.

After that night of the mixer, I bit the bullet and ended whatever relationship she and I still had right then and there. Yeah, maybe it was a bit dick of me, but I couldn't have her thinking that there was any hope we'd be together again. Particularly after being in that bathroom with Maysie.

Olivia had blamed Maysie for all of it. Which was bullshit. She knew it, I knew it. We hadn't been together since May. We had made the decision to spend time apart, see where that led us. I should have cut the proverbial cord then, no questions asked, no misunderstanding. But when you're with someone for such a significant part of your life, it was fucking hard as hell to put the fork in it. No matter how dysfunctional the whole thing had become.

But then I had met Maysie. And touched Maysie. And tasted Maysie. And there was no going back to Olivia. I told her when she got back for the summer that we were over. But she had begged me. Pleaded that I couldn't leave her. She threw a bunch of shit in my face about our history and the fact that she was going through a tough time after her grandfather died in the spring. That she needed me. I shouldn't have caved. I knew that I wanted to be with someone else. I told Liv that I had met someone.

So, long story short, she hung onto the dead horse of our non-existent relationship while I tried not to run like a little bitch to Maysie and beg her to have me. She was being cool and distant and part of me knew that I should respect that. But that louder, more insistent part of me was like FUCK THAT! So I made my move.

In the worst possible scenario. But I made it. I couldn't handle it anymore. And I knew for those few minutes that she was into me. I mean, really into me. And I felt like I had won the fucking lottery. But then that goddamn friend of Olivia's busted in and then Maysie was running away.

I felt like I saw Maysie's back more often than her front. I couldn't get her to stay long enough to work through anything. And that was frustrating. But it made me want to chase her down until she had no where to go. And didn't want to.

I felt like shit that Olivia thought I was going behind her back with Maysie. I hated that she found out the way that she did that Maysie was that someone I had met over the summer. I knew Liv and Maysie were sisters and I didn't want to be the source of what would most likely become a very awkward situation.

After her round of bitch wrestling, I laid it all out for Olivia. I was done playing nice. I let her know in no uncertain terms that my heart was with Maysie. I wanted to be with Maysie. The “discussion” with Olivia turned into her yelling and me trying to calm her down. Then she started crying and it sort of deteriorated from there. When she picked up my Gretsch guitar, the one my uncle bought me when I was fourteen, and smashed it against the wall, I had had enough

I had gotten my keys and left, thinking that was the end of it.

I should have known better.

Even though I had stayed away from the Pi Sig house for the last two weeks, I couldn't avoid an ex-girlfriend who was insistent on being seen. She waited for me after class, called my phone constantly. I started avoiding the commons and library. Thank fucking Christ for Garrett and his open door policy because I was close to losing my damn mind.

And maybe I wasn't being fair in not letting Olivia say her piece. But I was of the understanding that we were all talked out. What else was there to say?

Because when I wasn't at school, or hiding out at Garrett's I was doing some stalking of my own. I waited for Maysie outside her apartment several times a week. I couldn't get a read on her schedule, so I just started showing up at random times.

Her friend Riley, who I had mad respect for, was okay with it at first. But as time wore on, she finally told me to leave her roommate alone. That had sucked. Because I didn't want to leave Maysie alone. Maybe I should just call her.

But it was too easy to ignore a phone call. I wanted to see Maysie face to face. I needed her to see me when I laid it all out at her feet. I was feeling desperate and that was something I wasn't used to.

By the end of week two, I was at Garrett's house. I was expecting the guys back anytime to start practice. We had a gig tomorrow night and wanted to nail down our set. Hanging out with my band mates was just the break that I needed. None of the guys went to Rinard. They were all locals who happened to have a mutual love of hard, kick ass rock.

When I hung out with them, I wasn't Jordan Levitt, Frat president, Mr. Popular, ex-boyfriend to Olivia Peer. I was just another guy, banging on the drums to the noise around him. And it felt freaking great. I liked the guy I was when I was here at Garrett's. Because I was really starting to hate that other Jordan. He was kind of a prick.

I was feeling better about things. I needed to distance myself from the Rinard bullshit machine. I needed to figure out a way to get Maysie to listen to reason (well my reasoning of course) that we belonged together. And I was ready to pave my own way in this mess that I called a life.

But then I answered the fucking phone.

“Hey.” I said shortly after hearing my ex's greeting.

“I just wanted to see how you were doing. I miss talking to you.” Olivia said softly. I didn't respond. What was I supposed to say? The truth was I didn't miss a thing about the awkward tension that had been our relationship for the last year.

“Yeah.” I said back. I heard Liv take a deep breath. “Look, Olivia. I'm not sure what the point of this phone call is, but I think we've said everything we need to say.” I said, trying to be gentle and not the raging jerk that I really wanted to be. I felt like every time I spoke with her it was the same conversation over and over again. I tried to patient. I tried to be understanding. But I was at the end of my very long rope.

“I don't think so Jordan. We still have a lot to say to each other.” Olivia's voice started to sound angry. I was saved from having to continue with this particular discussion by the arrival of my band mates. They loudly entered the house and I was thankful for the distraction.

“Piper! We've got to practice!” Cole yelled out in way of a greeting.

“Jordan! Listen to me!” Olivia screeched and I knew whatever she had to tell me was just going to piss me off. We had never been able to talk about anything like freaking adults. It always ended up with her screaming and me wanting to bang my head into a wall.

“Olivia...I have to go. Like I said, I'm not sure what else there is to say. We broke up. I'd like to be your friend. But I don't know what else to say.” I clenched my drum sticks in my hand, thinking about smacking myself in the face with them for picking up the damn phone to begin with.

“Friends? Friends!? Give me a fucking break Jordan! If you think I'm going to move aside while you start screwing that bitch, you are sadly mistaken.” She yelled. She was working herself up to blow and I really didn't need this shit. And she was not going to talk about Maysie like that.

“Watch it Liv. You can say what you want about me, but don't bring Maysie into this. You and me, we had our problems and they had nothing to do with her. We were broken a long time ago. If I hear you saying shit about her, you'll have to answer to me. Are we clear?” I growled. Yeah, I was well and truly angry.

“Jordan, I'm sorry, I'm just so upset.” Olivia wheedled, her tone instantly changing. I sighed tiredly. I knew manipulation when I heard it. And I had hit my mind fuck quota for a life time.

“Look, I”m sorry you're upset. But we're done here. But I'm serious, leave Maysie out of it. You have beef with me, not her.” I warned.

“Dude, seriously, hurry up!” Mitch poked his head into the bedroom where I was staying. I nodded my head at him.

“I've gotta go. I think we're done here anyway.” I said.

“Don't you dare hang up Jordan Levitt!” Olivia's voice rose again. Shit, there was no easy way out of this mess. So yep, that's exactly what I did. I hung up the phone just as Liv started threatening me again. Dick or not, I was over it.


The Boogie Lounge was packed. I smashed my sticks down on my kit, loving this part of the set when I could really unleash. We had just launched into the song, Loose Ends and I was going balls to the wall. I had incorporated this kick ass drum solo toward the end. It was intense.

Sweat poured down my face and I wiped it away from eyes with the back of my hand as Garrett took over with this guitar. I couldn't really see the crowd. The lights were blinding. Right now the people at the foot of the stage looked like a big shadowed blur.

Cole was practically mouth fucking the microphone. He was such a fame whore. He loved the attention. Me on the other hand, I could take or leave that part of it. I just liked playing music. I mean, it was great that people liked us and dug our songs. But I would be just as happy playing in Garrett's basement. It was about jamming with people who were as into the music as I was. It was about creating something that I loved.

The rest I could give a shit about. But the other guys wanted the lime light. Cole particularly, craved it. So I went along for the ride. I enjoyed being a part of Generation Rejects, even if the attention was a bit unwanted at times.

That had been a source of serious conflict between Liv and me. She hated the band. Hated my music. She wanted me to have nothing do with the three guys rocking out on the stage with me. And that was a huge part of what killed our relationship. Over time, her constant nagging about giving up the band became too much. So Maysie or no, I would never have stayed with someone who didn't support something that mattered so much to me.

We ended the set with Lost in You, one of our few ballads. I hated ballads. I particularly hated that ballad. I had written it two years ago when I thought Olivia hung the fucking moon. It was pussy song written by a deluded idiot. But the damn thing had become insanely popular. So now, here I was, forced to play a song that only reminded me of what a dumb ass I had been.

“Awesome job tonight, Piper.” Mitch gave me a mock bow and I twirled the drum stick in my hand. I was burning up under the glare of the spotlights. I stood up and used the front of my shirt to wipe my face.

“Thanks man, it was pretty killer tonight.” I said, moving off to the side of the stage.

“You know, we really should take Kyle up on his offer to help us get some gigs. You're done in May. Summer is touring season. It would be awesome.” Mitch said, bringing up the old discussion. Mitch, Cole and Garrett had been tossing around the idea that we should go on the road for a few months.

Mitch's cousin Kyle, was a club promoter in Washington D. C. He had heard us play last school year and liked what he heard. He told Mitch that he would easily be able to get us some gigs at some clubs where he had connections. The idea had its appeal. I loved music. There was nothing I wanted more than to make a living at it. I just wasn't sold on it. There were too many other variables to consider. Like my dad, who wanted me to join his accounting firm after graduation.

I rolled my tongue ring across my teeth. I did it so much I was probably chipping away at the enamel, but it was my nervous tick. Something I did when I felt the overwhelming urge to put my fist through something.

Which is what this discussion made me want to do. Mostly because I was sick and fucking tired of my dad's asshole disapproval running my life.

“Yeah, I think you're right.” I finally said, surprising the hell out of Mitch. I had been the lone voice of dissention and my sudden agreement definitely came out of left field. But it was my life. And it was about time I started living it on my fucking terms.

Mitch was a big guy. I was by no means a small dude. But Mitch towered over me. So when he dropped his bass and gripped me in a hug, it felt like he was crushing my ribs.

“Man, seriously, enough with the hugging shit.” I pushed him off but grinned.

“Did you guys grow fucking vaginas while we were on stage?” Cole asked, throwing back his beer. His serious lack of filter made me want to slug him in the face most of the time. But you had to laugh him off, it was easier than inflicting bodily harm.

“Shut your fucking face, Kroegar.” Mitch laughed and Cole's face darkened. Cole hated Nickleback with a passion that was bordering on crazy and Mitch enjoyed nothing more than goading our front man.

“I'm gonna punch you in the fucking balls.” Cole growled, slamming his beer down on the table. Garrett and I dropped the equipment we were holding and stepped in between them. A fight between our band mates wasn't unheard of. Garrett and I usually let them duke it out but we figured a fistfight in the club, even if it ended with every one cool again, wouldn't get us a return invite to play.

“Just chill out you two and load up your shit.” Garrett said, smacking Mitch on the back of the head and shoving a handful of amp cables at Cole.

“I'm not fucking Chad Kroegar.” Cole mumbled, wrapping up the cable.

I didn't know whether to laugh or smack him.

When we were finished loading up our gear into Garrett's van, we headed toward the bar to get a drink. And that's when it happened.

Okay, well the it was actually her.

Maysie Ardin.

She looked fucking beautiful as always. She was dancing with Riley and her other friend Gracie and I couldn't take my eyes off of her. The way she moved her body only served to remind me of what it felt like to touch that body. To run my fingers along her sleek, wet warmth. Fuck, I was getting a god damned hard on. I needed to take it down a notch.

But it was hard when we were in the same room. Hell, just breathing the same air as Maysie made the urge to grab her and hold on forever impossible to ignore. So I stood there, against the wall, staring at the girl who had turned my world upside down. And I ached. A deep in the bones ache for something with this girl. Something amazing and life changing.

When she was done dancing, she walked off the floor and toward the bar with Gracie. I could see the sweat glistening on her skin and my tongue literally throbbed with the desire to connect to her flesh. I watched as she made her way to a dark corner at the end of the bar. She hung back, almost as though she were trying to make herself invisible. I saw her glance around the room and I knew she was looking for me.

At first that made me damn near giddy until I really took in her face. She was extremely uncomfortable. The way her eyes darted around made me think of a hunted animal.

Which was crazy because she had no reason to look like that when it was me that was nervous and unsure. It was completely out of character for me to trip over my tongue around a chick. I had never been that way with Liv. Even when I was knee deep in the unrealistic ideal of her, I never had this tangled up in the guts feeling I would get around Maysie.

I always thought love at first sight was a crock of shit invented by guys wanting an easy way into a girl's panties. All the Shakespearean bullshit about never knowing love until you saw her was just that...bullshit. That wasn't real life. It just didn't happen like that.

I had never been more wrong.

From the moment Maysie Ardin walked into Barton's I was obsessed. I could admit that. She was gorgeous. She was funny. I loved watching the way she bantered with Riley. Or the way she and Jaz would dance to the music in the bar during their breaks. Hell, I even loved the way she smoked her cigarettes; holding in the smoke and then slowly exhaling. It was sexy. It was hot. She was very, very dangerous. Because I watched her way more than was healthy, even I knew that. I tried to rationalize these intense, over the top emotions I was having for a girl I didn't even know that well.

It didn't make sense. There was no build up. With Liv there had been major build up. But this was instantaneous. And if I had learned one thing over the last few months, it was that attraction made zero sense. I wanted Maysie badly. Fuck me, it was damn near desperate.

I had never in my life been so consumed with someone the way I was with Maysie Ardin.

And she was avoiding me.

I could tell by the way she was hiding off to the side of the bar, that she didn't want me to see her. She was hoping to go unnoticed. What she didn't realize is I always noticed her. If she was in a room, then my eyes would find her. There was no hiding from that.

I moved through the crowd. Not once taking my eyes from the girl who stood nervously, chewing her bottom lip.

I came up behind her. My eyes lazily moved up and down her body, taking her in. She hadn't realized I was there so I took the time to peruse her at my leisure. Her smell hit me like a ton of bricks and my dick twinged in my pants again.

Finally I sucked in a breath. “Hey, Mays.” I watched as her shoulders tensed and I suppressed the urge to slam her against the bar and take what I wanted so much to be mine. The instinct to mark and plunder was overwhelming. Man, I had to get this shit under control.

“Hey.” She responded, not turning around. I needed to see her face. So I moved around until I was looking directly at her. Her head was bowed, her long hair looking wild and fuck me beautiful. I remember grabbing a handful of that hair and pulling as I devoured her mouth at the mixer. My dick was no longer just twinging, it was rearing to go.

“You looked good out there.” I remarked, waiting to see her eyes. And when she finally looked at me, my heart freaking stopped. It was those damned eyes. They got me every. single. time. They were a seduce me brown that I remembered going hooded with desire. My tongue felt thick as she looked at me. How can a girl bring me so low so quickly?

We started to exchange pleasantries, as forced as they were. Hell, even I was feeling the awkwardness at this point. Then I asked her how she had been and something changed. My girl went from uncomfortably blase to raging pissed.

“Just fucking peachy.” She bit out. What did I say? I frowned, not understanding the reaction to such a simple question. And then, well I got sort of pissed myself. Because I had been seriously pining after this girl for months. Consumed, obsessed, needy. And then she bit my head off. Girls and their damn crazy thoughts. And us guys were supposed to understand?

“What the hell Maysie? It was just a damn question?” I asked in bewildered irritation. I just didn't get it. And from the look on her face, I wasn't going to get any answers. She had completely shut down. Her friend was suddenly beside her and I greeted Gracie with a barely civil hello.

I stared at Maysie, wiling her to say something...anything. But she wouldn't look at me. Finally I gave up, this was going no where. “I've got to get back to the guys. See you later.” I said. But she still wouldn't look at me.

So I left her. And that was the hardest thing I had ever done. Especially when my every instinct was to hold on to her tight and never let go.

And then it hit me with sudden clarity. I needed to grab a hold of what I wanted. I needed to let Maysie know exactly how I felt. Let the chips fall where they may. Because I wanted that girl in my life. I needed her. Wanted her to know that she owned every piece of me.

So I ditched the guys. I was headed to Maysie's and I was going to make her hear me out.   

Monday, 7 January 2013

Sneak Peak at Light in the Shadows!

Thanks for all the new likes on my Facebook page!  As a thank you here is a chapter from Light in the Shadows.  Good ol' Clay sure has a lot going on...remember this hasn't been edited and it's subject to change.



It was my birthday. I wanted to be giddy. Excited. But I just felt sort of numb. It had been a long time since birthdays really meant anything to me. But today, I did feel happy. Because today I turned eighteen.

Yep, Eighteen.

I was finally my own man. Free to make my own choices. My own mistakes.

Free to live my own life.

That was something I never allowed myself to even dream of. Because dreams have a way of crashing down around you and leave you broken. So I had always tried to stay away from dreams.

But there was a time not so many months ago, I had started to dream again. And that led to something one hundred times more beautiful. And a thousand times more dangerous.


Because my hope had been wrenched away. Died a tragic death at the hands of my own selfishness and fear. And even as I tried to reconcile my guilt about ruining the one good thing I had, I still felt it like a sharp jab to the gut.

It never left me. The pain of regret. It was like a phantom limb. A shadow that refused to let go.

But today, I felt it again.


And it was a glorious thing.

I woke up to Tyler dumping cut up pieces of colored construction paper all over my head. I spit them out of my mouth and pulled bits out of my hair.

“What the hell are you doing?” I asked incredulously, sitting up, sending paper swirling to the ground. My skinny as hell roommate, brought on by years of heroin addiction, grinned at me like a loon.

“Happy Birthday, man! Get up! The staff go all out on your birthday! They'll cook you whatever you want for breakfast and I sure as shit wouldn't be missing out on that. Not when otherwise you'll be choking down oatmeal and cold bagels with the rest of us.” I couldn't help but laugh. And damn that felt good.

Because today could be a beginning for me. The beginning of a whole new chapter. And there it was again...



By around 2:00 in the afternoon, I had caved to the Birthday Gods and had finally gotten into the spirit of things. A few of the behavioral aides had brought out a cake during lunch. The entire room had launched into a really bad version of Happy Birthday. I had even gotten a few presents from my counselor and other staff.

Maria and I had snuck away after group and watched a movie in the common room. Something we never would have gotten away with otherwise. Mail had come and gone and I received the obligatory greeting card from my parents. I was sure it was something my dad's secretary had picked up at Walmart. It looked cheap and cheesy and was only signed “mom and dad.” And I swear it wasn't even their handwriting.

It wasn't as though I was surprised by their lack of sentiment. But I had to seriously tamp down the flash of hurt I had felt nonetheless.

I had met with Dr. Todd briefly to discuss my treatment. I was due to be released from the center in two weeks. Though, Dr. Todd informed me that since I was now a legal adult, I could discharge myself if I chose to do so.

That had given me pause. Wow. I really did have full control over my future. My parents didn't dictate anything about my life anymore. And the giddiness I had denied myself earlier, let loose inside of me without abandon.

But I had to be careful. I couldn't let my newfound freedom ruin the progress I had made. It would be so easy to check myself out, go about living my life and forget about the sordid ugliness I had been living for so long.

But that was ridiculous. Because if I didn't' finish what I had started and continue to commit to my on going treatment the darkness would find me again. I couldn't run from it.

So I had assured Dr. Todd I would be staying the remaining two weeks and he didn't' hide the relief at my statement. He had clasped my shoulder in a way I wished my father would and had smiled kindly, letting me know that he thought I was making responsible and sound judgments.

And again...I felt really good.


Right before dinner, I was called to Jacqui, the night administrator's office. I couldn't help but wrack my brain, thinking of some infraction I may have committed. But I had been good as gold for some time now, so I couldn't' figure out what I was needed for.

I walked into the office and was greeted by a warm set of arms that wrapped around me. I brought my arms up and held my Aunt Ruby, who was gripping me like her life depended on it. I should have realized when I hadn't heard from her today that she was up to something.

But I had never thought she'd come down to Florida to see me. But that was Ruby. She had always loved me more than I sometimes deserved.

“Ruby.” I said, smiling at my much shorter Aunt. She beamed up at me. She was dressed in her typical gypsy getup, complete with flowing skirts and some crazy scarf thing around her neck. She even had tiny shells sticking out of her hair. Where the hell she got the ideas for her crazy outfits, I had no idea.

Ruby reached up and patted my cheek, the way she had done since I was a little kid. “My Clay. It's so good to see you.” Her grin was infectious. Ruby radiated a positive energy that was impossible to ignore. She had helped to pull me from many a bad place just by being her. I would do anything and everything for the woman who stood in front of me. She was the mother I wished I had. She had been down at least four times in the last three months. Lisa had come with her whenever she could, but work kept her pretty busy.

Four times, my aunt had been to see me and my parents hadn't come once.

“What are you doing here?” I asked her as she hugged me tightly again. Ruby pulled back and gave me a mock scowl.

“As if I would miss your eighteenth birthday! Don't' be silly.” She swatted my arm and pulled me over to the small couch that sat in the corner of the office. Jacqui had left, giving us some time to visit. Ruby hefted the heavy bag she had brought with her.

“Are you carting around a ton of bricks in there?” I joked, watching as my aunt pulled out a squished cardboard box.

“Oh, darn. It's all smooshed.” Ruby complained, peering down into the box. She closed the lid and handed it to me. “Well, it should still taste good.” She had brought me a freaking birthday cake. Complete with my name and tiny little paintbrushes made in colored icing for decoration. I felt my chest seize up. Christ, I was seriously turning into a complete douche bag. Crying over every tiny thing. What happened to my man card? You'd think I had turned it in a long time ago with the way I was getting all choked up over cheap, grocery store birthday cake.

But fuck me, I couldn't remember the last time I had a birthday cake. And today I had had two. Even I wasn't immune to the warm fuzzies that brought on. Ruby then pulled out two plates.

I grinned as she cut me a large slab and I hate it like a starving man. I was always a sucker for sweets. Ruby ate delicately around the icing, complaining that she should have gotten carob instead of chocolate because it's healthier. I let her grumble about how white sugar was worse than rat poison and ingesting refined flour was like personally asking for your pancreas to shut down. Yep, I just silently listened and ate the hell out of some chocolate birthday cake.

“I still can't believe you came down here. It really means a lot to me.” I said finally, washing down the cake with a bottle of water. Ruby's eyes started to water and I braced myself for the tear fest. Ruby was extremely emotional and once upon a time I would have run for the hills at the slightest hint of the touchy feely stuff.

I had spent a long time creating a very thick, impenetrable wall around myself. A wall that made it easier for me to live each day inside my own, very messed up head. If I didn't let people get too close, than I didn't have to feel the guilt of screwing up later.

But that had been blown all to hell by a pair of beautiful brown eyes and a snarky attitude.

Can't go there. Not now. Not when I was actually feeling okay. Shit, I'd end up a blubbering mess along side my already blubbering aunt.

Ruby wrapped her small hand around my wrist and squeezed. I reached up to cover her hand with my larger one. I was okay with showing her that I loved her. I was learning that it was good to share your feelings. That I didn't have to protect people from the person that I was. That damn it, I was worth loving. This was drilled into my head during every therapy session. I was told over and over again that gosh darn it, people like me. But it still stuck in the back of my throat. This crazy notion that I was a decent human being.

“Clayton Reed, I'd have moved into your room if I was able to. But something tells me they might frown on that here.” I snorted. Even though she was joking, I wouldn't have put it passed Ruby to try. “Lisa and I love you as if you were our own. We will always be here for you. No matter what.” Ruby finished seriously. My throat felt uncomfortably tight, but in a good way. A really good way.

“I love you guys too. I can't thank you enough for everything you've done for me.” I said in quietly, proud of myself for being able to express my feelings in an appropriate way (thank you coping skills 101). Ruby furiously wiped at the tears that leaked out of the corners of her eyes. She pulled a handkerchief out of her pocket and blew her nose noisily. Nothing like a cotton wad full of snot to kill the heaviness.

“Enough with all of this crying. It's time for gifts!” Ruby enthused, giving me another watery smile before pulling three packages out of her bag.

“Ruby. You didn't have to get me anything. Just you being here is enough.” I said, though I couldn't help but feel an anticipatory excitement that I hadn't felt in a long time. The kind of bubbling in your stomach that you only feel on Christmas morning. Or before you get behind the wheel of the car after getting your license.

Or before you kiss your girl for the first time.

Anyway...onto presents.

Ruby watched as I unwrapped the gifts. She and Lisa had gotten me a new charcoal kit, a ridiculously expensive set of paint brushes and a bunch of new sketch books. I couldn't stop the goofy grin that spread across my face. There was nothing in this world she could have given me that would have meant more.

Drawing and painting were everything to me. I had become almost obsessive about it. But it was that indelible part of me that I refused to ever give up. I had lost so much already, but I always had my art.

“I wasn't sure exactly what you used, but the girl at the art store assured me these were the best.” Ruby said a little nervously. I ran my hand through my hair, a little overwhelmed by those prickly emotions again. But now I could appreciate them for what they were and not worry about potential explosions. Medication was a fantastic thing.

“They're awesome Ruby. Thank you so much! I'll call Lisa later to thank her as well. This is just...” My voice trailed off and I grinned like an idiot at my aunt, who was smiling like a loon. Hah. Like a loon. Yep, we looked like a couple of...well, mental patients. I couldn't help but crack up as I thought that.

Then suddenly Ruby's mood sobered. The change in her demeanor threw me and I was instantly on edge. She reached into her bag and pulled out another gift. This one wasn't' wrapped in the traditional birthday paper the others had been.

Looking closely, I could see that this one was bundled up meticulously in the Davidson Digest, the local paper of Davidson, Virginia. I looked at Ruby questioningly. She was staring down at the mysterious gift and I could tell she was uncomfortable. What the hell was hiding in that paper? A fucking bomb?

“More gifts Ruby? You shouldn't have.” I joked, already hating the seriousness that had overtaken my usually jovial aunt. Ruby clutched the object in her hands and held it out for me to take. Slowly I took it. It was heavier than it looked. I couldn't get a read on its contents through the thick paper.

I started to pull at the tape when Ruby covered my hand, stopping me. She looked at me with concern and I dropped it on the table. “What is it Ruby? Just spit it out.” I said, feeling more than a little annoyed by the smoke and mirrors bullshit going on. What the hell was so scary about a damn present?

Ruby sighed. “It's from Maggie.” She said quietly.

Oh. Well there was that.

I swear the air left my lungs and I felt like I was suffocating. My heart started beating in overtime and I thought I might pass out. It was nuts how just the mention of her name caused such an instant physical response. It was like my body reacted on a primal level to it.

Ruby and I never talked about Maggie. Hell, I very rarely talked about Maggie. The few times she had been brought up with my friends at the center, I shut it down as quick as possible. Not because I didn't want to talk about her. But because talking about Maggie was hard. It was painful. It was like taking a kick to the kidneys. But it also made me remember what I was missing on the outside. What I had given up because I was a fucking coward who couldn't deal with life.

My memories of Maggie Young were complicated. And the only safe place I had really been able to let loose about it was with Dr. Todd. Therapy was my safe place. I let things rip there that I never would anywhere else. There I could indulge in the fucked up darkness that I still felt inside when I remembered how badly I hurt the girl I loved the most. How I ached for her every single day. How I wanted nothing more than to run back to her and beg her to take me back.

Dr. Todd and I were working through my feelings of guilt and shame where Maggie was concerned. Because I had hurt her more than I had hurt anybody else. Because she was the person who had been prepared to walk off the cliff with me.

And I had almost let her.

“Maggie?” I choked out, trying not to strangle on the effort it took to say her name.

Ruby nodded, her mouth tight with worry. I knew she was scared that mentioning the girl I had loved and lost would make me lose it. And part of me wanted to lose it. But then what would that accomplish? Maggie would still be a thousand miles away, living her life, just as I had wanted her to.

But here I was, holding a gift from her, ready to cry like a little baby at the mere mention of her name. She had me by the balls. Now more than ever. That was painfully clear.

“She came into the shop last week.” Ruby began, watching me closely. I worked hard at keeping my face perfectly neutral, when inside I was screaming. Inside I was cursing the fucking cosmos, fate, whatever, for this god damn tragedy that I called a life.

“Oh yeah?” I asked with the fakest attempt at casual that I had ever heard. It was laughable. I would have laughed if I hadn't wanted to cut my fucking skin until I bled.

Damn it! I hadn't felt like that in a while. It was not a good thing.

But I took a deep breath and counted to ten. I found my super bubbly happy place in my head and got my shit under control. Because I was desperate to know about Maggie. To hear about her. To know what she had wrapped so carefully under the newspaper in front of me. And nothing could have kept me from that.

Ruby took another deep breath and continued. “I hadn't seen her since after you had come to Florida. She looked good, Clay. Really good. She seems to be in a really good place.” Ruby said, smiling slightly. I responded with my own smile. Because that did feel good. Knowing she was okay and not miserable because of what I had done to her.

“That's great.” I said with sincerity. Ruby's face relaxed marginally when I had yet to freak out on her. Little did she know there was still time...okay my sense of humor sucked, even as an internal monologue.

“Yes, it is.” Ruby agreed. She cleared her throat. “She came in to look over the new books. I told her it was good to see her but I left her alone. Let her do her own thing.” I smiled at the thought of Maggie getting all giddy over a bunch of used books. She was such a dork for that kind of thing. A beautiful dork of course.

“That's cool. She always did love your shop.” Ruby nodded.

“That she did.” She agreed.

There was a moment of silence and I thought that was it. Great story, Ruby, I thought dryly, trying not roll my eyes. But I should have known better. Ruby was known for dragging things out. It took her forever to spit out the point of what she was trying to tell you.

“Before she left, she came up to the counter and handed me that. She said it was for you. For your birthday. She asked me to make sure you got it because she didn't know where you were. I took it Clay, but I wasn't entirely sure I was going to give it to you.” Ruby told me, looking me straight in the eye.

I grimaced, understanding her hesitance. “Yeah, I get it. But it's okay. Really.” I assured her, my fingers itching to rip off the paper and see what Maggie had given me. I needed to see it. More than I needed anything at that moment.

Not waiting any longer, I pulled the wrapping and tossed it on the floor. At the first glimpse of the dark, charcoal butterfly on the cover, I had to sit back and take a minute. Because this girl was going to undo me from a thousand miles away. She was getting ready to rip my fucking heart out.

Because I recognized that butterfly. Because I had drawn it myself. For her.

For Maggie.

“What the hell?” I said more to myself, pulling the leather bound book into my lap. Opening it up, I realized it was a scrap book. Page after page, Maggie had carefully placed my drawings on plain mattes. They were the ones from my bedroom wall in Virginia. And the ones I had given her.

Every single one was there. Every. Single. One.

Ruby was looking at the pictures over my shoulder as I flipped through. I turned to my aunt. “When did she do this? When did she get my pictures?” I asked in absolute disbelief. I was stunned by what was in my hands. Like a piece of me had been returned. As though once again, Maggie May Young and galloped in to the rescue.

Ruby touched one of her fingers to a picture of Maggie's face that I had drawn in pencil. I loved that picture. I remembered the day she had come over to my house to study and had ended up falling asleep. Watching her sleep (and not in a creepy, stalker way. It was totally romantic, alright) was one of the most peaceful moments for me back then. She was so beautiful and unguarded and I loved her so damn much I hurt with it.

So I drew her. I had to. I needed to capture that moment when everything was perfect.

My heart thudded in my chest at the weight of what this album meant. For Maggie. And for me. Because I knew she still loved me. And damned if that didn't make me feel like doing a tap dance in the middle of the room. And I would have to if I didn't think it might make me end up with a Thorazine drip.

“She came over to the house, not long after you were sent here. She asked to go up to your room, that there were things she needed to get from up there. Lisa and I didn't see the harm. Not after everything...” She stopped abruptly. There was no sense in her continuing that particular thought. We both knew how much Maggie had been through.

I continued to thumb through the pages. Ruby and I remained quiet as I took it all in. These pictures that reminded me so much of the one bright spot I had during the darkest time of my life. Of the girl who had tried to save me even as I destroyed her.

Shit, I was going to fucking cry. I felt the tears prick in my eyes and I rubbed them away with the heel of my hand. I squeezed my eyes shut.

Deep breath.

One. Two. Three.

Deep breath.

I opened my eyes, lingering on Maggie's face in front of me before flipping back to the front. And then I saw something I hadn't noticed before. On the bottom corner of the inside cover, a piece of paper was tapped to the leather.

It was from Maggie. Christ, she had written me a note. I wasn't sure I could read it. Not when I was already feeling like I had been run over by an eighteen wheeler.

But I did anyway. As if I could ever resist her.

And I was glad I did.

There is more beauty inside you than anyone I have ever met. These pictures don't lie. I won't ever forget you. Or stop loving you. You can ask me to. You can tell me to move on. But I won't. And I never will. Just don't forget how beautiful we were. How beautiful we can still be. Please.