I came here to escape. Leave the debris and avoid the inevitable truths.
Things are better. Worse. Different. I’m finding me, but in the process I fear I’m forgetting those I have left, and the ones who have left me. Maybe I’m losing who I was. Can I forget my past and move forward? Can I forget him?
My eyes fly open and my mind feels alert. Normally nightmares wake me up like this, but this time, nothing is haunting me. I look around the dark living room, feeling my heart race, and then realize what woke me up. A loud train of curses followed by a whine and a scratching at the door makes my heart squeeze. I sit up slightly, my eyes and ears desperately seeking the night for the confirmation that I’m not dreaming. A scraping against the lock sends my heart rate to unhealthy levels as my eyes widen and my muscles tense. When I hear the key turn, I drop back to the couch, squeezing my eyes shut and trying to bury my face in my pillow, behind a wall of my hair as I try to make my breathing sound normal. I can tell when the door is opened by the click of Zeus’s nails against the hardwood floors growing closer to me. His voice is hushed as he calls out to Zeus, making my entire body pulse with familiarity and nerves. Zeus’s heavy breathing grows until he places his front paws on the couch in front of me and begins bathing me in heavy kisses. There’s no way to try and pretend I’m sleeping through this. I’ll drown first. Plus my need to see him is outweighing my fears. I sit up and wipe a hand down my face while searching the dark living room for him as Zeus pushes closer to me, whimpering with anticipation and what can only be described as unleashed excitement. Then he appears in front of the coffee table. It’s too dark to make out much of him, but every fiber of my being feels some sort of response, verifying that it’s him. Elation and fear, mixed with rage and jealousy, are topped with curiosity and pain. It’s a confounding and stifling overabundance of emotions that has my eyes staring wide at him, soaking up every last detail that I can manage in the dim light while Zeus works to climb higher on the couch, hovering over me. Max stares back at me and although it’s too dark to see the blueness of his eyes, I can see the fierceness in them. He looks pissed. No relief, no happiness like Zeus, just anger. “Zeus,” he calls again in a tone I’ve rarely heard. “It’s alright. He can stay.” Thankfully my voice barely comes out above a whisper because my emotions are shooting through me like vinegar when it meets baking soda—unsteady. He stares at me, and like a geyser, unspoken words flood my mind. “Hey, Max.” He must be just as shocked as I am that I was able to speak those words because as soon as his name leaves my lips, he turns and ascends the stairs without responding. His bedroom door slams and then silence rings in my ears. I catch a movement out of the corner of my eye and turn to see Landon in the hallway, running a hand over his jaw, wearing only a pair of gym shorts. His head turns from the stairs to me, and then he silently walks to the couch. “He’s …” “It’s okay,” I say when the rest of his words don’t seem to find their way out. “This is his house too.” “He’s not mad at you.” I turn to look at him in obvious disbelief. Anyone would have been able to see that Max was mad at me. His reaction wasn’t shocking exactly. Max lost one of his best friends, just like I had. There have been days that I have felt really angry over the whole situation too. Angry that I didn’t know how to communicate my feelings, and angry about the way he dealt with my insecurities. I still struggle with being angry over removing myself and moving to Delaware because I thought it would be the right decision for me. Kitty and I have discussed my tendency to run from awkward situations; she’s the one who provided me with the new term “remove myself from.” It sounds a lot better than fleeing, but I had fled, and I know it. I can give a hundred reasons why for each time too, rationalizing each situation until I’m nearly positive it was the right decision—but I can never make it to one hundred percent. That small bubble of resistance and doubt always prevents me from being able to allow the memories to finally be discarded, and then it begins spreading, eating the conviction one doubt at a time.
Mariah Dietz lives in Eastern Washington with her husband and two sons that are the axis of her crazy and wonderful world. Mariah grew up in a tiny town outside of Portland, Oregon where she spent the majority of her time immersed in the pages of books that she both read and created. She has a love for all things that include her sons, good coffee, books, travel, and dark chocolate. She also has a deep passion for the stories she writes, and hopes readers enjoy the journeys she takes them on, as much as she loves creating them.