We sat outside in the chill, I burrowed deeper into my thick woolen jacket as Tucker talked. I watched him as he explained his current issue. It was then I understood that he loved it. He loved being the misunderstood, troubled teen who was going through something so complicated, with emotions no one would ever be able to comprehend. He made me look upon the state of being happy as something undesirable. It was for the simple-minded and ignorant. People who haven't been touched by the shadow of despair or sadness. It was then I understood that I would never be able to help him. I threw myself into the belief that we had a love that could do anything. That as long as we were together, everything would be okay, that we were two halves of a whole and as long as I was there, he would be fine. I wanted to heal him, but the realization dawned upon me that I couldn't. I couldn't because he loved himself more than me. I was only there to help him get on his feet.
He turned his gaze upon me, expecting me to say the words I've always said. Words of comfort and reassurance. As I looked into his eyes, a part of me really wanted to give him the words he wanted to hear, to tell him that everything was going to be okay. But a part of me knew that if I was honest with myself, I couldn't.
"I can't anymore," I said softly, flicking my gaze downwards to look at our intertwined hands.
There was a silence and confusion. I could feel the distance between us expanding. A burst of emotion overcame me and I desperately wanted to take back the words and pretend that nothing was wrong, but I remained silent.
"What?" His question pierced through the hush.
I bit my lower lip and drew my hands back. I rubbed my arms, pulling my sweater tightly around me. He continued to stare intently at me. I could see him with my peripheral vision. My heart was leaping inside of my chest, did I really want to do this? I could stop right now, just tell him everything is going to be fine and everything would go on as it always has.
"Would you at least look at me?" He asked, somewhat irritated. His obvious annoyance was exactly what I needed to fuel what I had resolved to do. I lifted my head and looked him right in the eyes.
"You know, we come to this bench almost every night to talk."
His eyes searched mine, waiting, still not comprehending.
I sighed, realizing that I would have to spell it out for him. "You're Tucker Brunson, not just Tuck, or Tucker, but Tucker Brunson. Everyone in our school calls you by your full name even though you never asked them to. You've got people spreading rumors about you that aren't necessarily unflattering, but half of them definitely not true. You walk into classes late with bruises no one dares ask you about."
He flinched, sitting up. I knew I should have taken that as my cue to stop, but I kept going.
"And I'm Angela Hansen," I said, my voice rising. "I get called Angie by everyone, including the teachers. I arrive to class five minutes early. I always plan ahead with a neat little schedule for my entire week."
He looked away, rolling his eyes.
"Look!" I pulled out my phone and showed him. "I even planned our evening talks. I have "Talk with Tucker" scheduled every night from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sounds like some cheesy television show, huh?" I scoffed.
He tightened his jaw.
"Stop," he demanded in a low, but firm tone.
"We're such a cliché. The bad boy and the good girl, huh?" I asked sarcastically.
"I'm not a cliché!" He roared.
He glared at me. His entire posture rigid with anger. I knew that all I had to do was run my hand over his shoulder and apologize, and this argument would blow over and be forgotten.
I held my tongue.
He took a breath. "My life isn't a cliché. It's mine. I didn't spin up tales to gain sympathies or respect from anyone. I'm just a guy trying to grasp a handle on life."
"Yeah, but you won't be able to truly love me until you figure it out."
He seemed shocked. "You think I don't love you?"
"I didn't say that. I know you do, Tuck. I know. But not truly like the love I deserve because you love someone else more."
He started at that. "I have never even looked at another g-"
"No, that's not what I mean." I said quickly, cutting him off. I paused, then said, "You. You love yourself more."
"That's not true." He said stiffly, offended.
I inched closer to him. "It's not that I blame you. You've tried your best. But you're so caught up with your own problems, and that's understandable, but I need someone to be there for mine too."
He seemed surprised.
I smiled weakly, "I know it seems like I got it all figured out, huh? Always the bright and happy gal without a care in the world."
He opened his mouth, about to speak.
"No," I said. "Don't, please."
He paused, looking at me. I looked back, afraid; the vulnerability obvious on my face. He shut his mouth.
"Thanks," I whispered. "Because I know once you speak, you'll somehow convince me not to do this. My resolve is insecure as it is. I need to do this, okay Tuck?"
I could tell he wanted to say more, but thankfully he remained silent and simply nodded and he did the only completely selfless act he had ever done in our relationship.
He let me go.
I saw him in the hallway, leaning over another girl, whispering something into her ear that was making her laugh. I bet all I had that he was probably talking her into ditching her next class for him. I myself had stuck by my morals and went to all my classes, but I had to admit, I had been sorely tempted a number of times. The girl giggled again, then she ducked under his arm and slipped into the girl's restroom, sending a brief look back at him before disappearing from sight.
Tucker nodded back at her coolly, then his gaze flicked over to me. I looked away quickly, shutting my locker and headed towards my next class as quickly as I could. He caught up with me quickly and grasped my by the wrist.
"Oh no, you don't."
He pulled me along towards to door leading to the parking lot.
I let out a series of protests, putting on a good show. But in the end, I still let him take me along, giving into my desires despite all the alarms going off in my head. We sat in his car in silence. I waited patiently for him to talk.
"You know, if you just say the words, we could go back. Everything would be the same."
I smiled, "I know."
I looked at him face-on. "Tuck-" I paused. "Tucker, you'll always have an endless stream of girls. You're the ideal image of a bad boy."
He cringed at that.
"But an image isn't enough for me anymore."
I let him process the words, then got out of the car. I walked towards the school. The girl Tuck was flirting with burst out, looking around. I pointed her in the right direction towards his car. She raced on. I sneaked a glance behind. He was staring at his steering wheel, looking lost in thought. I gave a humorless smile. He would always be the same, lost in his own stream of thoughts. I reprimanded myself for looking back, expecting more than he could give. It would be a while, but eventually I would let him go.