Shoulda Known Better


Brian passed out hours ago.

I don’t know what changed in me, but the minute I realized that I’d be sleeping over at Zack’s house, I was fully awake. I was restless, sleepless, and in so many ways, utterly hopeless. I had tried, when the topic of staying over was initially suggested by Zack, to drink myself into slumber but that only seemed to intensify my thoughts tenfold. I felt a lot of anxiety at the idea of passing out here. Maybe it was because I wasn’t very comfortable in Zack’s home. Maybe it was because I have the worst anxiety of anyone I know. Either way, it chose this moment to appear, and now, at 2:30am I wasn’t in the slightest bit tired. In all honesty, I was starting to come to terms with the idea that I’d just stay up all night long, alone, on the couch.

I couldn’t help but glance over at Brian again. Soft snores were escaping through his half-parted lips and he looked to be in one of the most peaceful slumbers I’ve ever witnessed. That might have been caused by the five extra beers he’d had once he knew he didn’t have to drive me back home. Either way he looked almost angelic in his sleep. I still can’t get over how good looking he is.

Shaking my head at the sleeping beauty next to me, I decided to get up and go have a cigarette outside. My movements, though I hadn’t had anymore to drink within the past hour or so, were still pretty sloppy. I was trying to move as soundlessly as possible, knowing that Zack was asleep just above me. I wasn’t worried about Brian, however. He was passed out in dreamland. Regardless of my efforts to stay quiet I found myself tripping over my own feet on more than one occasion, and having to grab for the closest surface to steady myself.

Thankfully, before too long, I made my way to Zack’s sliding glass door that lead to the back porch, opened it as slowly as possible, slipped my body through the portal, and shut the door behind me. I made my way over to a few small steps that lead from his patio to the grass below and sat myself down with my back to the door.

I guess I wasn’t really as quiet as I hoped I’d been because just as I was setting fire to my cigarette, I heard the sliding glass door behind me open and close once again. I looked over my shoulder and connected my eyes to Zack’s, who was sporting tired bags beneath his eyes.

“I’m sorry. Did I wake you?” I questioned, as he slid down onto the step next to me. I was instantly aware of the heat his body put off, compared to the gentle breeze of this summer night.

He shook his head. “I couldn’t sleep.” He reached into his pocket and placed a cigarette between his lips. He began looking deeper into his pockets for a lighter. I glanced down at the one in my hand, before reaching out and hovering it close to the end of his cig to spark a light for him.

“Join the club.” I mumbled, quickly placing the lighter back in my hand and turning my face away from his. I was expecting quiet solitude, and the company of Zack was completely throwing me off.

“I thought you were tired.” It came out more as a question than a statement. My blue eyes landed on his green ones once again and I could see that look that I just couldn’t quite place. I knew I shouldn’t care, but somehow I couldn’t help my curiosity about this man.

I shrugged, taking another drag of my cigarette. “I don’t know. My mind doesn’t want to shut off tonight, I guess.” I left it at that, not necessarily feeling the urge to dump my thoughts on Zack. Well, to be honest, I never felt like dumping my thoughts on anyone. That’s why I have a therapist who is slowly eating away at my savings account.

Zack didn’t bother to give a response. Either he had nothing to say, or he just didn’t care. After a few minutes of the two of us sitting in complete silence, puffing our cancer sticks and listening to the sounds that the night brought forth, Zack stubbed out his cig in the ashtray sitting on the porch.

I stood up to go back inside, giving him another sideway glance only to make awkward eye contact with this man once again. What is with us and staring? Our eyes lingered a bit on each other before I took the opportunity to break the silence.

“Well, goodni—“ I was cut off from my farewell by Zack.

“I have weed upstairs, you know.” My brows furrowed in confusion for a second, but immediately recognizing what he was suggesting. He shuffled himself from one foot to another, while rubbing the back of his neck. “I was thinking I owed you a smoke up… or two.” It was almost as if he was trying to remind me of what happened six years ago. Didn’t he know that just his presence was a constant reminder? But, I quickly shook that thought from my head and realized he was probably just trying to be nice.

Before I could let my emotions get the best of me, I let everything slide off my face into a clean slate. I shrugged my shoulders once again at Zack. “You probably do.” Good job, Eva. I’ve perfected the art of being nonchalant. It was my best defense mechanism.

“Okay, c’mon then.”

Before I knew it, I was once again headed up the staircase in Zack’s house that led to the second floor. I tried to remain calm, knowing that I was going to spending time once again, alone, with this man. I just kept taking deep breaths in and out. I thought it was pretty subtle but, I guess he heard me because he turned around with the most amused expression on his face.

“Exercise much?”

I scowled at his teasing. “Do I look like someone who exercises?” I questioned, immediately regretting it as I watched Zack’s eyes rake themselves up and down every inch of my body. I tried to pretend not to be affected by his staring so meticulously at me. I saw him open his mouth to retort, but I just pushed past him into the doorway we were standing in front of. I could already smell the weed from the hallway. “Something smells good in here.” I muttered, with Zack trailing behind me.

As he walked past me, I took in my surroundings and realized that I was definitely in Zack’s bedroom. There was nothing particularly exceptional about its decoration, excluding the bedspread, which was plain black and made with jersey, which I definitely liked a lot. I looked around further as Zack headed to his nightstand and busy packing a bowl. It soon dawned on me that there was nowhere to sit, except on the bed beside Zack. Now, that was something I definitely wasn’t doing.

It was almost as if Zack read my mind. “Sit down. We can smoke in here.” I winced a little at the idea, but didn’t really want to make a big fuss about something that probably hadn’t even crossed his mind. Unfortunately, I didn’t give Zack credit for his perceptiveness, because he soon followed with, “Or we can go back outside if you prefer.”

I let a small grin tug on my lips. “I would prefer outside, actually.” He simply nodded and stood up to head back downstairs with me in toe. I’m just happy he didn’t question my preference. Though, if Zack was as perceptive as I had begun to notice, then he probably had some inkling as to my reasoning.

Before long we were on the back porch once again, with Zack bumming my lighter to spark the bowl. He took a deep hit and soon passed it over to me. “Thanks.” I mumbled, before pressing the glass to my lips.

“It’s the least I could do.” He replied, giving me a sheepish look. I frowned as I blew the smoke from my lips and passed the bowl back to him.

“What do you mean?” I questioned, waiting for him to finish his hit before he responded. I could already feel the effect of the THC slowly draining my inhibitions.

He glanced at me, while blowing the smoke from his lips, his eyes telling me everything. I turned my eyes away from him as he passed the bowl back to me. “You know what I’m talking about.”

I gave him one furtive glance. “The smoke-ups?” I hinted, trying to beat around the bush.

He started laughing and coughing at the same time and I couldn’t help but turn my attention to him completely. “Damn, you really do want to avoid it like the plague, don’t you?” I didn’t bother to grace him with a response, starting to become upset. “We fucked, Evangeline. Or do you not remember?” His voice had suddenly become sharp and severe. I winced.

I could literally feel his eyes burning into me as I hit the bowl one last time. “This is kicked.” I murmured, placing it back in his hands. I wasn’t expecting Zack to grab ahold of my hand when I tried to retract it to my body. I looked down before looking back up at his determined, green eyes.

“Evangeline…” It almost came out as a whisper.

I whipped my head away from him, pulling my hand from his at the same moment. I didn’t want him to see any of the emotion that passed through my face. “Aren’t guys supposed to be apathetic about one-night stands?” I asked my voice hard and indifferent. “I’ve never met a man so resolute in bringing it up again. Normally they just ignore you and move on with their lives.” I let the unspoken question of, ‘why aren’t you?’ hang in the air between us. Not that there was very much space in between us in the first place.

Zack sighed beside me. “You’re right, Evangeline. Usually one-night stands don’t keep running into each other, though. And they don’t usually seem to make friends with your bandmates and family. And one of them doesn’t usually look like they’d rather run into oncoming traffic than spend a moment in the same room as the other. So, I’m bringing it up. Because it seems like you’re going to be around me whether you’d prefer to or not, and I’d rather clear the air then have this animosity hanging between us.”

A cool breeze moved my hair over my shoulder, and I exhaled a deep sigh, knowing Zack was right about most things. I had seemed to run into him quite often lately. And I did like hanging out with Johnny. If Zack was a part of Johnny’s life, then I’d most likely be seeing him more often than I ever had in the past six years. Figuring I had to say something to him now I muttered, “It’s not animosity. You just wouldn’t get it.”

He groaned, moving even closer to me than he had already been. “Well what is it then? Did I do something to offend you that night? Did I…hurt you?” That last part almost came out as a sputter. I looked him in the eyes, trying desperately to relay what I was thinking into those piercing green orbs rather than saying it out loud. Realizing that I was going to have to say something, I opened my mouth to speak once again while I fumbled around in my pockets for another cigarette. Taking out two, I lit them both and handed one over to Zack.

“I’m sorry, Zack. I really am.” I conceded, gently putting my hand on his forearm. I could see him observing the warm contact between us, before looking back up at me in confusion. “Look I’ve associated a lot of things in my life with that night that I spent with you, stuff I’m not so sure I’m ready to talk about with anyone. It has nothing to do with you really. You did nothing wrong. It was actually exactly how I wanted to lose—“ I cut myself off not really wanting to continue where my mind was headed.

It only took Zack a second to realize what I was about to say before he stood up abruptly, pulling at the ends of his hair. “Oh Jesus!” he groaned. “I was your first?!” I nodded, sheepishly looking away from him, feeling the heat rising to my cheeks already. He just kept shaking his head over and over again, making me feel like opening up to him was probably the biggest fucking mistake I could have made. Zack just couldn’t help but continue as his mind was reeling. “I fucked you on your kitchen counter! If I’d had known…Twice!...Jesus Evangeline.” He sighed, rubbing his palms over his face again and again. I just took frantic puffs from my cigarette in hand, partially surprised a migraine wasn’t already developing in my head.

“Look,” I said, loudly, trying to break Zack from whatever thoughts were running through his mind. “It’s fine, okay. Everything is fine. I don’t mind, honestly. Let’s just forget about that little detail, alright?” I suggested, peaking through my lashes at Zack. To be honest, I was actually a little more uncomfortable now that Zack knew he was my first. I could act a lot more confident without him knowing that.

A great deal of silence passed between the two of us. I notice Zack hadn’t taken a drag of his cigarette since I lit it for him. It was now a cylindrical pile of ash hanging off the filter pressed between his fingertips. I pursed my lips together. “Zack?” I questioned, wanting him to say something, anything, to me.

All he did was shake his head back and forth over and over again. I felt this deep sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. “I’m sorry, Evangeline.” He mumbled, connecting his eyes to mine for the first time in what felt like hours. I could see sorrow and pity swirling within them, and I turned my head away from him once again. I didn’t want anyone’s pity.

“Don’t you dare pity me, Zack.” I growled, completely aghast at the way in which this night had turned out. Out of the corner of my eye I could see light peeking through the bluish hues of the night’s sky. It was already dawn. He reached out again to touch his calloused fingers to my hand, but I immediately moved my hand from his reach. “Don’t.”


I shook my head, standing up finally. “No. Just stop. You don’t owe me anything, especially your pity. You regret ever touching me now. I can see it in your eyes. I’m not blind, Zack.” At this point I was fuming, but I was trying so hard to keep my voice from shaking in rage. “Well, guess what?” I continued, still unable to meet my gaze with his since I saw that pity in his eyes, “I’ve been regretting that night for the past six years.”

I finally gave one last glance to Zack, my anger dulling at the hurt expression in his eyes. “It’s not you. I’ve been trying to tell you this all along. I didn’t care about losing my virginity. Fuck my virginity!” I shouted, throwing my hands up in the air. “I told you it was much bigger than you and that I don’t know you well enough to even begin to explain my thoughts to you. So let’s leave it at that, okay? Everything is fine between you and me. I’m sorry if I look pained to be in your company. I shouldn’t be, I know that. I don’t even want to be. I just…have some things to deal with and they all come back to that night.”

I finished my rant with a sigh, never breaking my trance with Zack. He was sitting in silence for a few seconds, still staring at me, obviously in contemplation before coming over to me and wrapping his arms around my body in a hug.

I stiffened for a second before relaxing, realizing just how badly I needed to be held in that moment. “Okay.” He whispered near my ear, giving me one last squeeze before pulling away. “But, can I ask a favor of you?” he asked, hesitantly.

“Sure, Zack.”

“Can I bum another cigarette, please?” I exhaled a laugh, as that same dazzling smile slowly graced his lips that made me weak in the knees the first time I saw him.

Figuring everything was good between us two I pulled one out and handed it over to him with my lighter. “Anything for my first.” I teased, with a wink, trying to make light of everything that had be said between us that night. He chuckled, catching on to my attitude towards the serious conversation we just left in the past.

We spent the rest of the night talking about ourselves and smoking, watching the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean.
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