Kyle kept her hand wrapped around Zack’s as they walked down the dirt path towards the beach. They veered off onto the path that led towards the rock face where Kyle had been sitting hours earlier. Settling at the bottom of the rocks, they remained as silent as they had been for the entire walk. Zack pulled out a smoke, and offered one to Kyle. She placed the filter between her lips and waited for him to bring the flame towards her. This had been the good part of their relationship, their ability to fall so easily into sync with one another. Zack knew when to offer a smoke and when not too. Kyle knew when to start talking and when it was best to just to wait. But, the good parts of their relationship were never the problem.
They sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity. Neither made a move to speak, but this wasn’t the comfortable silence they used to have. This silence was chock full of anger and sadness, hope and longing, and a good dusting of drunken lust just to make things more complicated. Finally, Zack took a deep breath.
“For what?” Kyle looked him directly in the eye. It wasn’t that she didn’t know why he was apologizing, she just wanted to make sure that he knew. A generic apology wasn’t going to cut it. She wanted him to have to say it out loud. To feel as badly as she had.
“For acting like a jackass after we broke up. For not knowing what I wanted when we were together. For wanting to hurt you so you felt as badly as I did. So much so that I slept with Robyn. That I continued to sleep with Robyn, even though I’ve never had any feelings for her. For continuing to sleep with Robyn even after you came back, even after I wanted you back so badly that I could feel it in my teeth. For wanting you to hurt as much as I did when you left me. For being such an ass that I thought that there was no way to fix things, so I thought hurting you would make me feel better. It didn’t, just so you know.” He took a drag off his cigarette and stopped talking. “But I’m not the only one in the wrong here. Don’t put this all on me. Sure I made mistakes, when we were together and afterwards, but so did you.”
“Oh right, like my ‘mistakes’” Kyle made air quotes around a snotty tone, “are anything like the ones you made. I wasn’t fucking someone in order to make you jealous.” Kyle took a drag from the cigarette she only smoked when she was drinking. “We were both trying to make each other feel as bad as we felt. Our goal was to make the other person hurt. It’s all we’re good at. I knew this was a bad idea.” She started to stand up.
“It’s not the only thing.” Zack pulled her back into a sitting position. “Think abut how much we wanted to be together. And how crazy we made one another. And how hot we made each other feel. And how much I love you every time I see you. You may be able to get over me, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get over you.”
“Well you certainly seemed to with Robyn.”
“God! What is this Robyn thing? Is she the only thing keeping us from getting back together?”
“You knew how I felt about her. You knew that I hated her. That she was like the one person I wouldn’t want you to be with.”
“Yeah, but don’t forget, you broke up with me! I didn’t break it off with you in order to sleep with her. I didn’t sleep with her while we were together. I don’t underst..”
“I saw you.” Kyle’s voice was full of defeat. She took a deep breath and tried to regain her cool.
“What?” Zack dropped his hands to the ground, unsure of what she meant.
“I saw you together,” Kyle’s voice calmed to a flat, monotonous drone. “In the gym.” She stared straight ahead, arms wrapped around her legs, chin resting on the ledge of her knees. She looked at the trees, but she saw the images burned into her brain.
“I thought maybe I had been hasty when I broke things off with you. I thought maybe there was a way to make things better. I tried to find you, and I know that you work out to burn off steam. I came into the gym through the back doors. I couldn’t see if anyone was in there from where I was, so I walked closer. That’s when I saw her straddling you on the weight bench. And you were touching her, kissing her, wrapping your fingers in her hair. And I wanted to yell at you, or at her, or to run away, or do something, anything! But I couldn’t. I just stood there, while you kissed her shoulder, the way you used to do to me. I stupidly thought that was just for me, not just one of your moves. It was like I was frozen there and all I could do was watch her tease you and ride you and make you make that noise you make when you’re really happy. And I couldn’t do anything. And then you were done, and you were happy. There was a happiness on your face I hadn’t seen in a long time. And you left together, and just stood there, for over an hour, just stood there. That’s when I decided to go away for the summer. To get away from you and try to forget, but I can’t. Whenever I see her, I see her on you, touching you. You touching her body, and liking it. How can I ever get that image out of my head?” She fell silent. The exhaustion of finally admitting her pain was overwhelming.
Zack pictured that afternoon with Robyn. The pain he had been feeling. The fact that he’d been imagining Kyle the whole time. That when he bit the other girl’s shoulder, he had actually been doing it to Kyle. It was all about Kyle that first time. Getting out the feelings he had for her, taking them out on this other girl, who at the time was simply a body. She could have been anyone physically, because in his head it was Kyle. But he knew that telling her that wasn’t going to make it better. That for her it was Robyn, in all her glory, straddling him on a weight bench that he and Kyle had made-out on so many times before. Zack thought about how he would have felt encountering Kyle in another guy’s arms and he immediately felt a surge of powerful rage. He suddenly understood why she was so mad at him.
Kyle sat beside her estranged boyfriend, feeling his body tense as he digested the information that she had just told him. She had never told anyone about what she had seen, and she had never, ever, planned to tell Zack. That had been the worst day of her life. She had almost slept with a guy she met while she was staying with her aunt, just to drive the pain away, but when things had started to move in that direction, she thought about Zack and hadn’t been able to go through with it. And that made her feel even angrier at Zack for being able to do it, with someone who didn’t matter to him.
The anger she had felt originally had eventually faded into a sadness that she just couldn’t shake. She wanted to get over Zack, to move on with her life, but her desire to be with him was even stronger. Their break-up had been her decision, but she hadn’t expected him to move on that quickly. She had wanted to see what a break would feel like, to see how being on her own would be, and she hadn’t liked it much. As much as she wanted to be independent, she loved being in a relationship. She was trying to figure out how to do both.
“Listen,” Zack sighed from beside her, “If the situation had been reversed, I would have lost my mind. I seriously would have murdered that guy. I don’t know how you’re so calm about the whole thing, except that that’s who you are. That strength is one of the things I’ve always loved about you. But you can get mad at me. Yell at me, tell me I’m scum, anything to kill this feeling in my gut. I need you to yell at me.”
“So it’s about making you feel better? Again? Isn’t that what got you into this mess in the first place?”
“Don’t you think it would make you feel better, too?” Zack swiped at a mosquito buzzing around his ear. “But you’re right; I don’t want to feel guilty. Especially about something I did after we had broken up. Something that was stupid and childish and all about instant gratification. All about letting me forget you a little bit, making myself feel a little better. Why should I feel guilty about it?”
“Because I didn’t do it. I didn’t run out and bang the first thing I could get my hands on after we broke up.” Kyle pushed herself into a standing position. Her voice rising as it began to fill with anger. “And I could have Zack. I could have and I didn’t.”
“And once again,” Zack jumped up beside her, “You broke up with me! Of course you didn’t feel the same way I did. You blindsided me and expected me not to be hurt, not to want some type of condolence?”
“Oh my god! Can you stop using that as an excuse? So I broke up with you. Boo-fucking-hoo. You could have been grown-up about it.” She stepped towards him, poking her finger into his chest in order to punctuate her feelings.
“But I’m not a grown-up. Not yet. Of course I reacted badly. You hurt my pride.” He grabbed her hand in his own, holding it still. “I didn’t feel guilty until I knew you’d seen it. And oh god how I wish I could change that. Or that you could understand what I was thinking when I did it. But I only feel guilty about the first time. And that’s not something you can change. We weren’t together. I didn’t cheat on you. I made choices you didn’t like, but I did not betray you.”
She ripped her hand away. “God, what is wrong with me. Why do I want you back?”
“I don’t know, but I want you too!” Suddenly he grabbed her, pulled her close and kissed her. Kyle found her arms weaving themselves around his neck, her fingers intertwining with his hair. Their lips danced frantically. Tongue meeting tongue. Zack’s hands pushed open Kyle’s hoodie and worked their way under her top. His fingertips met nerves screaming for attention. Kyle stepped backwards, pulling Zack with her, until her back pressed against rock. She wrapped one leg around Zack’s body. He quickly reached down, lifted her so she could wrap both legs around his waist and returned his hands to their former position. Kyle moved her lips away from his and started kissing his jaw, his neck, his ear. Zack’s breath caught in her ear as she teased his earlobe with her tongue. He buried his head into the crook of her neck and began kissing the hollow around her collarbone. Kyle’s hands found the button on Zack’s shorts and quickly worked the zipper down. As she began to slip her hand inside his pants, Zack stopped her.
“Wait.” He breathed deeply in her ear. She froze mid-movement, her hand jammed between their two bodies, fingertips hidden behind the waistband of his boxers. “I think we should stop.”
“What? Why?” Kyle pulled her hand out, suddenly feeling dirty. She pushed him away from her, and tried to regain her posture as her legs suddenly had to find the ground.
“Kyle. Stop.” Zack put his hands on her upper arms. Kyle tried to push him away but he maintained his ground.
“What? You can’t do it with me? Would it be unfair to Robyn?”
“Jesus Christ. Will you stop and listen to me for a minute.” His voice was low and calm. Kyle looked into his face, but remained rigid.
“What?” Kyle huffed.
“Of course I want to do this with you.” He leaned his forehead against hers. “I’ve been thinking about this since we broke up. Well, since long before we broke up, but, I just don’t think this is the way we want to do it. Full of rage and hatred? Doing it to spite a girl you hate. As a way for me to make amends for sleeping with someone else.” Kyle’s body relaxed as Zack’s words sunk in. She knew that he was right, that if they did it this way, there would be no hope for them getting back together. She rested her forehead against his shoulder.
“You’re right. I’ve just missed human contact. Missed you.” She let out a deep warm breath.
“I miss you, too.” He pulled the ends og her hair through his fingers. A familiar, comfortable habit. “I broke things off with Robyn on Wednesday. She’s out of the picture. For good. I want you. Do you think we can get passed this other stuff?”
“I don’t know. I hope so.” Kyle absentminded ran her thumb along the curve of Zack’s spine. The sensation made his face light up in a smile. This was what she used to do when they were at their most comfortable together. “What are you smiling at?” She looked up into his face.
“You.” He leaned forward, kissed her gently and pulled away. “So we’re going to give this a shot?”
“I guess so.” Kyle unravelled her hands, pushed herself away from the wall and slipped her hand into Zack’s.