Part II: Thaw

It was late out. And it was three days after my little sex and alcohol binge. I hadn't left the loft in that time. Joanne called once, just to see how I was doing, but her words were short and terse, with nothing left in them. I wasn't a fool, I could tell it was over already. I was trying hard not to be bitter. It was pretty obvious the "friend" she had been staying with had ended up being more. I was trying so hard not to be so bitter.

But Mark hadn't called.

So. This is what being loved feels like. I must have thought that a thousand fucking times over the past three days. I wanted myself to just shut the hell up, end the pity party, get back to ME, that vivacious maniac girl, the definition of a female. The real me, the real me. It was all I clung to.

I was clinging, and it was late out, and my blood was close to boiling. I struggled to find myself and put on a bright purple miniskirt. A black shirt. Brushed my hair. The comb got caught.

Multiple tangles. I threw it at the wall and did something I hadn't done since something like seventh grade—forced my hair into a ponytail. I felt vulnerable and yet empowered.

Out the door. Down the street. It was only about ten—not as late as I had previously thought. In the same breath I hoped that no one would be there that I knew and hoped that someone would.

I'm tired of this love thing. Seriously, this is too much goddamn trouble. I don't want to understand it, when I can just fake it. Joanne and Mark will come back. They want another fuck, so they'll come back. That's how it goes. I think. And if Mark had never admitted that he still wanted me, none of this would have happened.

How is that someone telling you that they care about you can make you feel so alone?

Because he admitted that he cares about you, but he wishes he didn't. He wants to get over you.

I'd forgotten a coat again, but I made it to the Life Café just the same.

The first really clear thing I remember after walking in is throwing a glass at the wall. In it's shattering it made a much louder noise than I'd expected.

My thoughts before that are just jumbled images. Seeing Roger and Mimi look up, startled as I walked in the door. Seeing Collins sitting at the bar, drinking a Stoli.

Seeing Mark seated at one of those little tables for two in the back, trading spit with some girl with soft brown hair. That's how I could se him describing her in his head as they kissed. It was gentle, but not overly intimate, a little forced, awkward, but hopeful. Desperate. Or at least that's how they looked to me.

But that's when my blood boiled over and I picked up a glass off the table near them and threw it at the wall. Then everything came back into clear focus.

Roger, Mimi, and Collins tried to stop me, grabbing at my arms. I heard snatches of their words rush past my ears.

"…Maureen, just calm down…"

"…it's just Mark, I thought you were over him—"

"…don't make a scene"

I broke free and fucking paraded down to his table.

It was one of the first times Mark had seen her with her mass of hair pulled back from her face. It made her cheekbones more prominent and brought her eyes into play. They blazed. He'd never seen anyone look so striking or so dangerous.

"So." I spat out, as if trying to rid my mouth as quickly as possible of the words I was about to utter, "This is what love is, huh? Thanks for showing me, Mark. Thanks for fucking illuminating my life with meaning, you bast—"

He cut me off by standing up very quickly, with that look in his eyes again. "Don't act like you're the martyr here. Don't even start. I can't even count how many times you used to cheat on me—and I'm not even goddamn cheating!"

"Of course not," I countered. "I mean, hooking up with some random whore FIVE FUCKING DAYS after you tell someone you love them—that's fine! That's goddamn peachy. Didn't take you long to get over me, did it?"

The girl sitting with Mark quietly got up to leave about then. I ignored her. I also ignored the entire rest of the café staring at me. I don't think I was even aware of anyone but Mark at this point.

"Given the way you stormed out of the apartment after I told you, I figured there was no point in waiting around for a slut like you to finish fucking the whole city," He said icily.

I bit the inside of my cheek so hard it began to bleed. Rarely had Mark said anything so harsh to me—sometimes when he was in a really bad mood, he insulted me—but never anything like this. I quavered for a moment, inwardly disgusted with myself.

"But you said you loved me." Even I could hear the desperation in my voice. Pathetic. Weak. Where was my mind?

But—didn't he understand that I needed some sign—something, anything—that would prove that I wasn't—that everyone wasn't—just fumbling around in the dark, searching for something that was never really there? I didn't want love for myself, but deep down I wanted it to exist anyway.

My face, with no hair obscuring it, left me vulnerable to his stare. I felt like my features were being eaten alive—he was stripping the flesh off my bones, I was naked.

I looked away just as he hissed out his next words.

"You don't understand love and you never will. You don't—don't deserve too."

I felt a burning feeling in my throat, eyes, chest. A sinking feeling in my stomach began too. Because didn't he have the right to say that? I had cheated on him, left him for a woman, misused our friendship countless times—and I was supposed to be over him. But I was, wasn't I? I tried to think about Joanne but found I couldn't picture her.

I refused to break down in front of the entire Life Café. Mimi reached for my hand as I quietly walked out but pulled back when I gave her a furious look. Collins and Roger were staring at me.

I went outside into the frozen night—still no coat and wandered up and down the streets for a while.

It was around midnight when I heard his voice.

"You're going to catch pneumonia."

He tried to put his stupid plaid jacket around my shoulders. I pulled it off and slapped him in the face.

"Maureen. What I said back there…"

"Spare me," was all I could muster. I started walking away.

"I-I still love you."

The words stopped me for only a moment. I shuddered and kept walking.

"That girl back there—she was just a friend of Collins. Shit, I don't even remember her name. They were all trying to convince me to try and get over you, and it's been so goddamn hard, Maureen, that I gave in. I'm sorry."

Mark, ever the quiet yet forceful apologizer. I knew I'd been in the wrong too—hated my confused feelings and took it out on him.

"I'm sorry too." My voice was dull, tired.

Mark paused a moment. "I'm just tired of the way I keep on coming back to you. My life's at a standstill—and you've made it clear you don't want me." His eyes asked, Have you really? What the hell was with you tonight—were you jealous?

I was shivering. It must have been close to twenty fucking degrees out. "So you want to really get over me this time. Forget about me. Pretend I never existed. It'll be easy. It'll be fun."

"I seem to recall you doing about the same to me with Joanne," he said, almost gently.

I suddenly realized I was crying.

Her face, starkly pale in the moonlight, was glistening. My hands ached to cup her face in their palms and tell her that everything was going to be okay. But defiant Mark and lovelorn Mark suddenly came to an agreement about what to do, and it didn't involve me, spineless Mark.

"Shit." I wiped my eyes furiously.

"Maureen—say it."

I shook my head desperately.

"Just tell me you love me. You threw a fucking glass at the wall—what the hell were you feeling?" He begged, his hands suddenly on my shoulders.

"Just say you love me, tell me. Please." I didn't know what to do. I longed to have my confidence back. I didn't want to be here, didn't want to choose, was ready to take the easy way out.

Here was Mark, being a man, spilling his guts for me, and I didn't want it. This love—what ever it was, was too deep. I couldn't handle it. I was afraid.

I can't say it. Maybe I was jealous tonight, but jealousy doesn't mean much. Mark will leave, but he'll always stick around. He's under my thumb, no worries. Joanne too. They'll come back for another fuck, maybe love. I'll endure one and fake the other. I can make myself believe that want and love are the same thing. The old Maureen can deal with this. Letting people down is what I'm best at, because they'll always come back up at me. I just know I can't say it. Not to him. Afraid of commitment, I don't know. I just don't want to know about love. They'll come back.

They can try to get over me, but one fuck is all it'll take. They'll be back.

"Say you love me." He was shaking me slightly now, or maybe my shivering was just getting more violent. "Say it, tell me, please, say it—"

I buried my face in my hands. A snowflake brushed my thumb.

"Say it, say it, say it—" Say it, say it, say it.

"Please say it."

"I can't." I burst out suddenly, finally. "I'm sorry."

Mark turned away bitterly, tired. Not knowing what else to do, I ran the blocks home to the loft, snowflakes sticking to my face where it was still wet.

I realized along the way that I'd stopped shivering. At some point during his pleading, Mark must have put his plaid jacket around me again.

Some fall in love

I shatter

You make it rain.

Too bleak, too stark.

Should night not fall you make things dark.

Bang here am I

No one nowhere, no ground no sky, no light no air

-The Magnetic Fields

AN: Thanks for reading! I'm sorry for taking so long to put this chapter up, and it's not even that relevant to the first was originally going to be a standalone but then I decided to fit it in. I need to work on the Joanne part though, kinda left her out. Maybe I'll continue the story with her, but this is probably the end. Thank you for all the reviews, whether they were good or bad. I always appreciate any thought. XD