I have no idea how long I’m there, curled into the fetal position, arms wrapped around myself, pillow held to my face as I cry like a dam has burst inside of me.
This is insane. I have to get it together. I’m supposed to start my new job tomorrow, the new job that was meant to signal my new life, my adulthood. I should be ironing a shirt, putting sheet music in a portfolio, maybe. But Lark Ellery Blackwood has obliterated everything else in my life, and I don’t know how to handle it.
My sobs finally slow to hitching breaths, and I rub my cheek against my sodden pillow, sitting up and grinding my fists into my eyes to wipe away tears-
Something catches my eye and-
Oh, holy fuck. It’s Lark. Here. In my bedroom.
She’s standing with one hip leaning against the doorframe, hands at her sides, eyes unblinking.
How long has she been here?! How did she get in?! She’s been watching me have a whole breakdown for who knows how long?!
Humiliation raises red flags in my cheeks again.
Her face is unreadable. “What is all this about, Sebastian?” she asks me in a deceptively quiet voice.
“What are you doing here?” I tremor.
She doesn’t answer. She doesn’t even comment on my tear-stained face and tangled hair.
She reaches for the light switch on the wall, firing up the overhead lights and making me wince at the brightness. There’s no hiding from her now.
I’m expecting her to start chastising me again, but she doesn’t. Instead, her eyes move slowly around my room.
I know it’s nothing like her elegant apartment downtown, nor her palatial mansion in the hills, but I’d always thought my room was a comfortable, peaceful place. Inexpensive IKEA furniture with simple lines, a navy duvet with navy, tan and red throw pillows. Against one wall is a neat bookshelf, my desk, and the comfortable, ancient bean bag chair in the corner where I like to sit and play Gypsy, my guitar that is on her stand nearby. I have a few posters of favorite musicians taped up, my framed college diploma, and the smaller, slightly tattered gig promo poster from when me and Chloe first played at the coffeehouse last year. This room has always been my safe zone.
Suddenly, with Lark Blackwood’s unexpected appearance, it feels like anything but the refuge it’s been in the past. My body is tense and tight, and I find myself looking around, too, looking for some sort of escape, wondering if it’s worth jumping out of a third-story window to get away from whatever she might be about to inflict on me this time.
“You stopped responding to my text messages. I was worried. About you,” she clarifies in that calm, low voice.
All of the daring defiance I’d felt sending those messages has shriveled into nothing now that she’s here, in my home, in my room.
“How’d you get in?” I ask thickly, snuffling back a last dry sob.
She holds up a set of keys. “From your friend Aiden.”
“Aiden gave you his keys? When?”
She glances at the Patek Philippe watch on her wrist. “Approximately fourteen minutes ago.”
My mind scrambles to put pieces together. “What, you went and found him someplace-”
“He and Ariana are having dinner at Nomad, just across the river.”
I gape. It’s one of the most expensive restaurants in the state, a five minute drive from our place, but another world in terms of luxury.
“Since I knew where they were, it was no small matter to stop and ask for his keys so I could come back here and make sure you were all right.”
Damn. And Aiden just… handed them over? That doesn’t seem like him.
“How’s Aiden going to get in, then?”
“He’s planning to spend the night with Ariana.”
“And,” Lark continues, “it seems my concerns were not unfounded,” she regards me with that cool, unemotional gaze, taking in everything: my tear-stained visage, my rumpled bed, the shoes and jacket and phone scattered around the floor.
Under that gaze, I squirm. “I’m sorry,” I murmur again, shurgging. “I just….”
I can’t finish.
Lark runs both slender hands through her tousled curls, shaking her head. “How many times do I have to say it? I need you to communicate with me, openly and honestly, Sebastian. You only seem to do that when you are hiding behind an electronic device. Or alcohol.”
That’s not true! Is it?
In the same toneless voice she must use in thousands of tough business negotiations, she continues, “You know that any relationship we have is built on trust and communication. And then, just when I need you to be honest, you go silent.” Her face is solemn. “You told me that you were all right when we said goodnight earlier. And that was untrue. You assured me you were all right. And then you send me hysterical text messages, ignore me when I need you to respond, and now… now I come in to find you like this.” Desolation washes over her face for one heartbreaking instant. “How can I ever trust anything you say to me if I can’t trust you to be honest with me?”
I feel tears welling up again, and hang my head in shame.