Sequel: Good Enough
Status: Finished: The sequel is up! Read this, then go read that! (That's how sequels work) <3

Strong Enough

Takes My Life

Bryden showed up around six and I noticed my body tense. The smile I’d held all day was faltering. It was almost like his presence alone had power over me. Anyone else I could have ignored, even in a small group. I’d been doing it to guys for years. But, this wasn’t just anyone.

Tommy and Rylan started throwing wood into the fire pit. Mia and I set out the hot dogs and other things for dinner while they started lighting things on fire and throwing them onto the wood hoping something would eventually catch. My boys were great, but they were no boy scouts. Of course, Bryden eventually kicked them off fire duty and did it himself. You learn things working on a ranch that you don’t in a music studio.

Once the fire was raging, we all grabbed skewers and roasted our hot dogs. I sat next to Mia on a blanket waiting for my hot dog to be done when I noticed Bryden standing next to me. I waited for the awkwardness to hit me, but it never did. As much as I thought being around him would be weird, I was just too upset with him to feel any discomfort around him.

While no girl, or person in general, wants to be cheated on, the worst part of everything wasn’t being cheated on. It was feeling like he’d given up on me. I had lost my boyfriend and my best friend in a matter of minutes. Because as much as I loved Tommy and Rylan, Bryden had always been the closest to me.

“Hey dude, how’s that new song coming along?” Rylan’s conversation with Bryden had drifted to my ears.

“It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. Usually random jumbles come to me and I can work them out to make something coherent. This time, it feels like I’m searching for words and chords that aren’t there.”

“Don’t worry, Man. You’ll get it.” Rylan patted Bryden’s back before pulling his burnt hot dog from the fire and moving to gather the rest of his dinner.

Bryden looked almost heartbroken at the fact that this song wasn’t coming together. I studied him for a second, wondering why one song weighed him down so much. When his eyes found mine, I suddenly lost my appetite. The pain I’d seen in them yesterday was attacking me full force and I couldn’t handle it. I handed my skewer to Mia and told her I was going on a walk.

“Do you want me to go with you?” Her eyes tried to catch mine, but I shook my head and walked away, grabbing my hoodie in the process. I didn’t want to pull her away from Tommy and I needed to be alone.

I started at the sand as my feet slowly moved through it. The little shells dotting the beach always made me smile. The setting sun still warmed the beach as I walked towards the water. When I reached the shoreline, I paused and looked up to the horizon. Sunset was coming quickly and the sky was turning from blue to purple and orange.

I pulled my arms around me, closing my eyes and soaking up the warmth. This was peaceful. This one moment in time was relaxing and calm—sunset had that effect on me. For a brief minute I wasn’t worried about Bryden or my family. I wasn’t thinking about what I’ll do if I lose Mia to Tommy. I was just there. On the beach. With no worries.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t real. And my worries quickly flooded back to me. I sighed and strolled to the nearby lifeguard tower. I climbed the steps and huddled with my back against the wood, once again staring at the setting sun. This time though, I wasn’t taking in the picturesque view.

My brain was flooded with the unfortunately familiar pain surrounding any thoughts of Bryden. I couldn’t sort them out. They were muddled chaos of happy memories, and angry words and unasked questions. Why couldn’t things be easy? Just once?

I closed my eyes and let my head fall against the wood behind me. I tried to fight through the confusion in my head. I tried to make a coherent thought, but I couldn’t.

I was pulled out of my head when I head wood creaking nearby. My eyes snapped open to see Bryden climbing the steps.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I rolled my eyes and threw my hands up. “Can you not tell I’m trying to get away from you?”

“I just want to make sure you’re alright.”

“Are you blind? Of course I’m not fucking alright Bryden. I’m being forced to relive every painful moment I’ve buried for five years and the biggest reminder of it all won’t leave me the fuck alone.” My hands found my face, hiding the pain I felt from the boy now sitting next to me.

I felt him shift, but I didn’t look up. I couldn’t. If I did, my resolve would break. I was on thin ice as it was.

“I don’t want to fight with you. I never wanted to fight with you.”

My head still rested against the boards, hands hiding me from him, my elbows resting on my knees. As he paused, I hoped with everything I had that he would get up and leave at that.

“And, since you obviously aren’t going to talk to me, I’ll talk and you can listen.” I felt him shift again and closed my eyes tighter. If only I had a fairy godmother to take me away from this. “I never meant to hurt you. That’s the last thing I would ever want. And I know that I can’t take back what I did, no matter how hard I wish I could. It happened. I hope you can forgive me one day for breaking your trust like that. I let myself believe that I was losing you. And somehow I subconsciously decided that if I fucked it up first it would hurt less when you walked away. But as soon as she touched me, I realized how stupid I was being, and I was about to push her away when you walked in.”

I finally lifted my head from my hands, but I still refused to look at him.

“When you left, I thought maybe you would move on. It killed me how much pain I’d caused you and I figured if I could do that, you were better off without me. I threw myself into school, and writing songs. I only took that job on the ranch to stay close to you in some way. I wanted you to be happy, with or without me.

“I hoped over time I might learn to forget you, or at least the pain might dull, but it never did. I’ve been searching for five years to find a way to tell you I’m sorry, to make it up to you. But after a while, I realized nothing would ever be enough and I’d lost you. I’d lost the most important thing in my life and I could never get it back.”

I whipped my head toward him, finding his eyes with mine, anger again building up inside me. I wanted to yell, but I couldn’t only manage a whisper.

“You never lost me. You were too much of a coward to find me and deal with this. You lulled yourself into believing that you couldn’t do anything to fix this. You let yourself believe it because it was easier than facing me. So fuck your apologies. Feeling sorry for yourself and acting like you were trying to stay out of my way is a cop out and you know it.”

“I can’t seem to do anything right. Tell me what to do Jacqui, please.”

“I can’t tell you what to do. I don’t know how you can fix this, but hollow words about being sorry and wanting to repair the damage isn’t getting you any closer.”

I pulled myself from the deck of the tower and moved to the stairs, pausing and turning back to face him again. I could see the pain in his eyes that most likely reflected my own.

“I would have walked across glass for you. Getting over you cheating wouldn’t have been so hard. Seeing you with another girl sucked like hell, but being abandoned was worse. I never healed from that. You were more than just a boy to me Bryden. You were my best friend. You were my soul mate.”

Leaving the lifeguard station behind me, I made my way back to my friends. I could hear Rylan strumming a guitar as Tommy belted out some off-key lyrics. I had one night left to enjoy the California life I’d left. While it hurt to leave the blue-eyed boy again, I couldn’t listen to him apologize anymore.
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