Chapter 26

"Hello?"

"Penny? This is Mort Rainey."

Penny huffed. "What do you want, Mort? Also, how did you get my number?"

"Dylan left her phone here. It's why I'm calling; I need to give it to her. I figured you were my best shot since you two are the closest so if you could tell me where she-"

"No, I can't. Mort, you put her through hell but now you have to leave her alone. I can meet you and get her phone. She's probably realised by now that she doesn't have it and if she hasn't gone up to get it, that probably means she doesn't want to see you."

Mort chewed his lip. "I'd rather give it to her myself."

"I had a feeling you would but no. Leave her alone."

"Look, I don't want to hurt her, I never wanted to."

"Well, you did." Penny said shortly. "You can't just keep tossing her aside and picking her back up when you get bored."

"That is not what I'm doing. I just want to talk to her, explain why I did what I did and make sure she's alright."

"I think you did that when you said you wanted her out of your house."

"What did Dylan tell you?" He asked.

"That she tried to talk to you and you threw her out."

Mort ran his hand over his mouth. "I have a drinking problem. Dylan wanted to help and I didn't want her dragged into my hardships so I told her that I didn't feel being in a relationship was the best thing right now and I told her that because I thought she could do better than me, I thought she deserved better. She still didn't want to leave so I made her want to. Now I just want to know that she's okay because I don't think I'm worth her being upset…And I need to give her back her phone. I figured since my meeting with the doctor about withdrawals is this afternoon and I'll be in the city, I could just give it to her afterwards."

The other end of the line was silent for a while. "She moved back into the house."

Mort frowned. "The house? You mean her house? The house she couldn't step foot in before?"

"Yeah, that house."

"Why would she do that?"

"I tried to talk her out of it but she wouldn't listen to me. She was convinced that she had nowhere else to go."

Mort hung his head, knowing he had done that. "Great."

"Mort, I know this isn't my business but she's taking this break-up hard. If you're just looking to try and justify why you did it, it's not going to matter. Just let her get over it."

Mort sighed. "Thanks, Penny."

"Bye, Mort."

He hung up the phone and began biting his thumb.


"So, Mort, why do you think you feel the urge to drink?"

Mort was in hell. He was in actual hell. "I don't know, the typical writer cliché?"

The doctor didn't seem too taken with that reason. "When did you begin drinking?"

Mort sighed. "A few years ago. I was suffering from bad writer's block and drinking was an escape."

"An escape just from writing?"

"My marriage was in trouble too." Mort confessed. "Even when I tried to stop drinking, it got worse."

"Was drinking the root of your marriage problems or do you think your marriage problems were the root of your drinking?"

Mort tried to think about that. "My drinking was the root of the problems."

"Does that make you feel guilty?"

"Not anymore. It did up until she had an affair; then I was angry. Then I met someone else and I wasn't angry anymore until that broke apart too and I ended up drinking again."

"Mort, you seem to unconsciously depend on other people to keep you away from alcohol and when they let you down or vice versa, you resort back to it. To really get you on the right track, you need to start having faith in you, just you."

"That's why I'm here." He replied.

"That's good, it's the first step. I think it would beneficial if you did go to meetings."

"No." He said sternly. "No meetings, no AA. I don't want other people hearing my problems."

"Mort, AA is confidential. No one would even know you went and nothing would get out from the group."

"You can't guarantee that. All it takes is one person wanting to cash in and my career is over."

"All the people in AA would be like you, people just wanting to get help for themselves and not too interested in the other's personal lives. They just want to be with people who are going through the same thing, gather strength from one another."

"I thought you said I had to depend on just myself?"

The doctor nodded. "You do. What I meant was you have to stop depending on people to be your crutch, but rather your support. By all means, do let others in, let them help you but just don't depend on them unequivocally. That's not healthy for you or for them; one disagreement or argument and your entire sobriety crumbles. You need to make yourself strong enough to let people in while still knowing that only you can solve this problem."

"If only I can do it, what's the point of AA?"

"To see that everyday people go through the exact same thing and have the exact same struggle. You can see that you're not alone and this is something that affects all different types of people."

"I know it does. My problem is all those people knowing that it affects me."

"You'll have to get over your pride, Mort. Alcohol is taking over your life and you can't pretend it isn't, you can't act like you should be treated differently to those other people when they have the same problem."

"Not the exact same." Mort confessed.

The doctor frowned. "What do you mean?"

"I mean…" He wasn't sure how to put this. "I…See things."

"What kind of things?"

"People. Who don't exist." Mort felt insane saying this. "I created a character a few years ago, John Shooter. I never actually used him in a book but he was a dark, dark character. Ever since the divorce and the drinking started up again, I think…I think I've been hallucinating or something. I see him. I've spoken to him. I am him, I think or I've made myself become him. I can't explain it and I don't want to try, it's too crazy. He showed up on my door saying I stole his story, I thought he was a stalker and he even put his hands on me…But how is that possible? He's not real but to me, he is."

The doctor was listening very carefully. "Mort, I think it's best we make this a regular meeting."

"I'm crazy, aren't I?"

"No one's saying anything like that, I just think that it would be best to conduct an interview, see what's really going on and we can take it from there but I do think you need to stay in therapy for a while, at least."

"Can't you just give me some pills and send me on my way?"

"I don't want to do that."

Mort put his head in his hands. "It went away when I was with Dylan. I never saw Shooter."

"You didn't?"

"Once or twice near the beginning and end but never when we were happy."

"Why did the relationship with Dylan end?"

"I didn't want her to go through this with me; it wouldn't be fair to her."

"So you ended it?"

"Yeah."

"Do you think her willingness to let you go through this alone was a definite trigger to conjuring Shooter?"

Mort shook his head. "No, it wasn't like that. She wasn't willing to leave at all, she wanted to help me. She was great but I didn't think she deserved to be around what I was going through. I was afraid Shooter might want to hurt her or try and get rid of her or that she'd find out."

"So you drove her away?"

"Yeah."

"You didn't think she could help?"

"No, she could have. I was still drinking until she came to see me. She talked to me for a while and made me realise I wanted to stop and then she stayed with me until I made her leave but even that was a struggle. She was the one who made this appointment. She told me that I could either have alcohol or a life with her and I chose her but in the end, I couldn't let her near my situation."

"So are you expecting to get back together with her once you get your drinking and this Shooter character under control?"

"I don't think I'm that lucky."

"But do you want to?"

"Of course."

Doctor Kinney seemed to be debating in his head. "Mort, at the moment I wouldn't recommend you starting a new relationship at all. I think you need to focus on your sobriety first."

"It's not a new relationship; I was with her for months. We were looking to buy a house together."

"Dylan sounds like she wants to help you and it sounds like she's succeeded to a degree." The doctor went on. "In my opinion, you shouldn't phase out the people who want to help you, Mort. If Dylan was helping you, you should let her continue. If you don't feel strong enough to be in a relationship with her, tell her that."

"I did."

"And?"

"She said she understood but she still wanted to help me get better."

The doctor looked at him.

"I know." Mort sighed. "She did everything perfect and I still messed it up."

"Why?"

"Because I didn't want her to get hurt in case Shooter came out…And I didn't have to tell her I was crazy." The doctor nodded and began writing on a prescription pad. "You are prescribing something for me, aren't you?"

"Just something for your withdrawal. Your hands are shaking."

Mort looked down at his hands and realised the doctor was right. "I didn't even notice. That's good though, right?"

"We'll see."


Mort was walking along the trail by his cabin; Chico had decided to stay behind, the next day. He had chickened out of going to see Dylan after his phone call with Penny after hearing that she was struggling with the break up. He had taken her sister's advice and decided to just let her get over it and move on. She'd probably prefer to just get a new phone than see him right now. Mort rubbed his forehead at the thought. The pills he'd been prescribed were giving him a headache and the fresh air helped. He was tired now though so he just wanted to lie on the couch and go to sleep. He realised that would take a while when he saw a car by the cabin with someone leaning on the hood. The closer he got, he saw that it was Sam, Dylan's father.

"Mister Saunders, what are you doing here?"

"I came to talk to you." Sam got up off the car. "I heard you ended things with Dylan for good."

Mort looked at the ground and walked past Sam. "You heard right. It didn't work out."

"Hmm, she was pretty upset."

"I'm sorry about that but I didn't think it was fair to her for me to lie. It's complicated."

"Oh, I know it is." Sam nodded. "I think it's noble what you did; trying to get Dylan away from your struggle so it doesn't become hers too."

Mort turned back to look at him. "She told you?"

"No, Penny did. And it was just me, no one else in the family knows."

Mort shook his head. "Great. Bet you're ecstatic we're not together now."

"Do you know why Dylan has that name?" Sam asked suddenly.

Mort looked at him with a frown. "What?"

"It's an unusual name, you never wondered?"

Mort shrugged. "She told me you named her after the singer."

Sam chuckled. "When Dylan was seven, she came home from school one day crying her eyes out. She said the other girls had been picking on her for having a boy's name so I brought her into my den and played her some of the songs and she decided she liked them and didn't mind having the name anymore. She went to bed with it out of her mind but Constance wasn't happy."

"Why not?"

"Because when she was pregnant with Dylan, we decided on the names. Christina if it was a girl and Dylan if it was a boy."

Mort frowned. "Uh…"

"When she was born, I was the one who signed the birth certificate and when they asked what the baby's name was, I said we chose Dylan."

"You didn't know she was a girl?"

"If you go into my den, you will see a frame on the wall. In the frame are all the chips I received after staying sober."

Mort was shocked. "You drink?"

"Not anymore. Not since Constance went into labour and I decided that it was the perfect time to go celebrate by going on a bender. When I eventually did get to the hospital and saw my kid, Constance was asleep and I didn't even pick her up. I didn't know. Most of the drink was after wearing off, I was good at being able to hide it but when I went to sign the birth certificate, I thought she was a boy."

Mort didn't know what to say.

"When Dylan was being evasive over why you two ended, I had my suspicions." Sam shrugged. "From that and when I saw you that first time. Penny just confirmed what I already thought. How are you doing?"

"Not well. I didn't want Dylan having to go through that."

"Dylan's a smart girl, I know you may not think so with your writing career and college and whatnot when she didn't even finish high school…"

"I've never thought anything like that." Mort said. "I know Dylan's smart. She's way smarter than I am."

Sam nodded. "Dylan's a smart girl, but she makes bad choices." He sighed. "Dropping out of high school at sixteen to run off to Australia was a bad decision. Running off to Paris at nineteen was a bad idea. Any of her ex-boyfriends were very, very bad ideas. I was convinced you were a bad decision but the more Dylan told me about you and I thought about it, about how you found us just to look for her; the more I think I was wrong. Trying to help you was a smart decision she made, it was a good one."

Mort sighed. "I know but it would be wrong of me to put her through me trying to recovering."

"I respect that. When I first met you, I didn't think I wanted you around my daughter since I expected you might have an addiction but the fact that you're doing the honourable thing…I think you should contact her."

"That would kinda defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?"

"Look, I'm the first person to say that addiction can ruin your life but sometimes it's more favourable to recovery. When I was sobering up, I had a wife and kids to do it for. If I didn't have anyone to do it for, I wouldn't have done it."

"So you're saying I should get back with Dylan so I can use her to give me a reason?"

"I'm saying talk to her. She's devastated over what happened but if you both sit down and talk, each of you might make a decision that is more favourable than the two of you being miserable. I'll admit Mister Rainey, I would rather my daughter be with someone who didn't have a drinking problem since I've seen what drinkers can do to the people they love, but Dylan was happy with you and none of her other boyfriends ever tried to better themselves the way you have. I suppose it's better than anything I can hope for."

Mort didn't know. "I'll think about it. I don't want to have her see me when I'm not sure what I'm doing myself."

Sam nodded. "I can accept that." He looked at him. "This doesn't mean I like you. I don't know you. I just know you make my daughter happy."

"Okay…"

"I still think your books are awful."

"Alright then, good talk. Thanks."


"Mort?"

Dylan had just opened her door and wasn't expecting who turned out to be on the other side.

"Hey."

"What are you doing here?" She asked.

"I came to give you this." He held out the phone.

"I always forget that damn thing." She huffed, taking it off him. "Is that all?"

"No. Penny told me you were here and I didn't believe her at first." Mort said. "Dylan, what are you doing back here?"

"It's my house."

"Dylan…"

"Why are you here?"

"I needed to talk to you."

"That never really ends well for me so you'll excuse me if I don't want to hear it."

"Please just hear me out. I went to the doctor you made an appointment with and I think he really helped. I'm going back."

Dylan was still for a second before stepping aside. "Come in."

Mort hesitated before stepping inside and Dylan closed the door. He was about to speak but she walked away and he figured he should follow. She led him out to the back garden where she sat on the porch swing. He sat down next to her and frowned when he saw her resume a cigarette.

"You're smoking again?"

Dylan nodded. "Everyone's got to have a vice, right?"

"I thought you stopped because you wanted to improve your health?"

"Things change."

"So you don't care now?"

"It's a cigarette, Mort, not a game of Russian Roulette."

"And you're living here again?"

"So?"

"So you couldn't even step foot in this place on your own when we came here."

"Once again, things change. Clearly."

"So now it's all behind you? You're completely over it?"

"Is this why you're here? To question me? If so, you know where the door is."

"I didn't come here for that, I just felt like I needed to…I don't know, apologise I guess."

"You're forgiven. Bye."

"Dylan, please…"

"You know what? When you told me about…About your drinking problem and you're…When you plagiarised that other guy's story, I didn't care. I just figured that you were trying to be a better person, that you were a better person. Usually, whenever a guy started to be truthful with me, would tell me things he felt he had to hide before, that would be the end of the relationship."

"Yeah, well from what you've told me of your past boyfriends, I'm not surprised."

"But when you told me all that stuff, I just thought that it would be such a huge mistake to let you go because of what you did in the past. I figured that I made some bad choices in my past too which you could have gotten rid of me over but I didn't think you would. I just figured that we were starting everything fresh, that we wouldn't let the past affect us, I mean that was pretty much the entire basis of our relationship."

"Dylan, I don't want my drinking to affect my life either but it does and whether I like it or not, it's not in the past anymore."

"Were you drunk when you went to the prison?"

Mort sighed. "No."

"You can't blame that on your drinking."

"What do you want me to say? I made a mistake. I can't take it back but I am sorry."

"And I forgave you. Against all my better instincts, I forgave you. Then you threw me out of your house."

"I didn't want to throw you out, I just…Dylan, I didn't want you going through that."

Dylan sighed. "I'm not an idiot, Mort. I know why you did it. And it sucks. I can't even be mad at you for it because you were trying to do a good thing. You can't even be an asshole right."

"Your family doesn't really agree."

Dylan frowned at him. "What are you talking about?"

"Your dad came by."

Dylan looked at him. "He went to see you? Jesus…"

"He just came by to say I made a mistake by not letting you stay." Mort clarified. "Why didn't you tell me he had a drinking problem too?"

"Because it never affected me. He gave it up when I was born and only slipped twice when I was a kid. Both times my sisters made sure I didn't see anything. I would have felt like a phoney to bring up my dad having the same problem when I don't know anything of it, like I was trying to fake having some experience with the whole thing. I was clueless on how to help you. I just know that I wanted to help."

"And that was enough for me to know that I'm probably going to love you forever."

Both were silent after that and Mort looked at the cigarette in her hand.

"Want one?" She asked with a raised eyebrow, catching him looking.

"Yes I do but I'm not going to. I'm trying out this new thing where I don't indulge my bad habits, especially the ones that are hard to quit."

Dylan realised that she was probably making it hard for him and put it out.

"So," She began. "Are you going to go to AA?"

"I don't want to but the doc thinks it would be a good idea. I'm currently thinking about it. I'm just afraid that someone will out all my big, bad secrets for a quick buck and my career will be over."

"Okay first of all, what author's career ended because he was a heavy drinker? Ernest Hemingway? Jack Kerouac? James Joyce? In fact, the whole quitting aspect will probably endear you to people."

Mort shrugged. "I'd just prefer that no one knew, that no one talked."

"No one probably will."

"It's the 'probably' that's the problem." Mort replied. "It's a fear I have, can't control it." He looked at her hesitantly; not knowing if this was the right thing to do but noticing how bitter she was against him. "Dylan, about the things I told you, about the drinking and the…the plagiarism…"

"What about them?"

"It's just…I know you're not my biggest fan right now but…"

Dylan looked at him angrily. "Are you kidding me?"

"Dylan…"

"You're seriously asking me if I'm going to tell? If I'm going to cash in on your secrets? Jesus, Mort!" She stood up to get away from him.

"I had to!" Mort defended.

"You should know me!" She turned to him angrily. "You should know that I would never do something like that! Do you really think I would be capable of betraying your secrets that easily? What kind of person do you think I am? The last thing I would ever do is run to newspapers or whatever to cash in on your privacy! In case you haven't remembered, I've kind of had my own problems with that in the past." She huffed. "It's not even that, it's that you think so little of me…"

"I don't." He said quickly. "I'm just terrified that…"

"Did you ask Amy? After you split up? Did she get the same plea?"

"There was a confidentiality agreement in the divorce papers. She talks and I can sue."

"Oh wow, all your bases covered. Do you have something for me to sign or is this a verbal agreement?"

"Dylan…"

"I would never, never betray you like that. I would never do that to anyone."

Mort sighed, looking at the ground. "And here was I thinking things between us couldn't get worse."

"Well, none of this is my fault."

"Believe me, I know. I remind myself pretty much every hour of every day about how this is all my fault. I couldn't just be someone normal; no I have to get fucking addicted."

Dylan looked down at him. "That doesn't mean you're not normal." She said shortly, still angry. "You're not that special or unique."

"Believe me, I do not feel special."

Dylan shrugged. "I tried to help, I tried to do the best I could and be understanding but you didn't care."

"I did care."

"You had a lousy way of showing it."

"Why can't you understand that I was doing that for you?"

"Seeing my ex?"

"I meant trying to get you away from me. You deserve better."

She sat back down next to him with a sigh, looking ahead instead of at him. "I wanted you."

"You wanted something I couldn't give you."

"That's funny; I could have sworn I was quite happy for those first few months when you gave me exactly what I wanted. I wanted just you."

"Well, it's not just me." He said angrily seeing as she wouldn't get the point. "You want to know why I wanted you away from me? You want to understand why I felt like you should stay away?"

"Because you're too much of a coward to say it wasn't working and you can't see past my history so you acted like a martyr instead?"

"Shooter is in my head."

Dylan frowned at him. "What?"

"Shooter is a figment of my imagination. He doesn't exist. He appears when I drink or when I'm stressed."

Dylan looked at him like he was speaking another language. "Is this one of your weird jokes that I don't get?"

"Nope. I have a mental illness where I see and speak to a character I created years ago. I thought he was real, he's not. He's in my head."

"Mort, come on…" She said, shakily.

"I'm not kidding. Have you ever seen Shooter?"

"I…No?"

"Because he doesn't exist. I made him up. This is why I'm continuing to see the doctor, not for the alcoholism. I'm crazy. Everything we pinned to Shooter, it was me. I am him."

"Does this mean that you…Set fire to the house?"

Mort couldn't reply but only nod.

"Oh my God." Dylan got up.

"Dylan." Mort stood too, facing her back.

"I don't understand this." She said.

"When I realised that Shooter was…Me, I remembered but I don't know if I remembered something or I just came up with it in my head, as a way to explain it."

"So you don't know if you did it?"

"I think I did." He replied.

"You could have killed them!"

"No! I knew they weren't in the house! I saw them leave!"

"I can't believe this. I lied for you!" She cried angrily.

"I would never have asked you if I thought I had done it, I didn't know I had. I couldn't remember the things that Shooter had done. I didn't know he wasn't real. When I realised, that's why I tried to get you to leave, I didn't want you near me."

"So why are you here now?"

"Because that doctor I've been seeing recently said one thing that really stuck with me and that's how I shouldn't have tried to block you out when you wanted to help."

"That's the one thing? You should listen to him more, that's why you're going to him."

"Dylan, I'm not expecting you to want anything to do with me, not now that I've told you the truth about Shooter but I need you to know that I didn't want to lose you, I just didn't want you around me if I was dangerous."

"Are you dangerous?" Dylan asked.

"I don't think so but my head is messed up lately."

Dylan's eyes widened. "The motel manager. Please don't tell me…Oh God…"

"No. No, no." Mort said quickly. "No, that wasn't me. I told the truth then, I did. I really was at home when that happened. I never killed anyone."

"How can I trust you? We were so convinced Shooter was behind everything and if you're Shooter…Oh my God, I can't believe I'm saying these things. It's crazy."

"The doctor has tried to avoid using that word…" Mort half-heartedly joked.

Dylan shook her head. "How long have you known?"

"When I went to your parents' house and we talked and you said that you had tried to call me but I never answered or I hung up on you, I never remembered that."

"I just thought you'd been drinking and hadn't told me."

"That's true but I blacked out. I had been drinking. Shooter comes out when I drink."

"So when I came back and you were drunk? Was he there?"

Mort could have lied. "At the beginning but I got rid of him."

"You can get rid of him?"

"It's weird…I can't explain it." Mort replied. "But all I know is that I'm trying to make it stop for good. I did before but this time I want to make sure he never comes back."

"How…How long have you been seeing him?"

"Not long before you showed up, a couple of days. It hasn't been that long, I swear."

"That long? We were been together for months."

"But he wasn't around for most of it, you remember that. Remember that we said that, how he just left without a trace. He left because I was happy, because you made me happy. I didn't feel vengeful against Amy or Ted anymore; I didn't care what they did as long as I was happy with you."

"Vengeful?" Dylan frowned. "That's why you wanted to burn down the house? Because you wanted to get your own back?"

"I never wanted to burn down their house; the thought never crossed my mind. I didn't even remember doing it. I never lied, I want to make that as clear as I can. When I asked you to lie for me, to provide the alibi, I really thought I hadn't done it. I never would have asked you to do that if I remembered, I never would have, in my right mind, done it at all. Dylan, you know me. You know I couldn't."

"But you did." She replied. "I don't know who you are."

"You do. Yes, you do." Mort said desperately. "I seriously never lied to you. Everything you saw of me is who I am. This is just some sickness that I have. I'm taking care of it though. I'm really trying."

"If that's true, I'm happy for you but why are you here?"

"Because the last thing I wanted you to think was that I didn't want you, that I broke up with you because of something you did. It wasn't. I still love you so much and being with you was probably the happiest I have ever been. I just think that you deserve so much better than what I am."

Dylan looked at the floor, shaking her head. "This is by far the weirdest thing someone has ever told me and I've had some pretty shady boyfriends in the past. But usually whenever they told me that they were dealing meth from the back of their car or whatever, they were usually asking me to hide that car in my garage or something." She thought back with a frown. "But I've never had someone confess something so weird and then tell me that they love me too much to have me near their weird problems."

"Well, that's what I'm doing." Mort said. "I want you to have a happy life and I don't know if I can give you that."

Dylan seemed to be contemplating something for a second before reaching over and kissing him. Mort was confused but didn't stop it, instead wrapping his hands her to place on her back. When the kiss ended, he frowned at her.

"That's not really what I was expecting."

"You just seem to always forget that I love you too, that I wanted to be with you for the rest of my life." She said. "I don't know if I can still do that now that I know what I know but I can't stop loving you so easily."

Mort hugged her tighter. "This is too hard."

"I know." She cried. "All I want is for us to be together and to be happy. I wish that could be happen."

"So do I. I meant it when I said being with you was the happiest I've ever been."

Dylan smiled sadly. "I don't think you'll be surprised to hear that it's the same for me." She pulled back to look at him. "You're the first person who's ever made me feel like I deserve to be happy."

"You do, you really do." Mort said. "And I wish I could be the one to make you happy in the future."

Dylan couldn't resist kissing him again. She was very confused but what she did know was that she loved Mort.

"I should go." Mort sighed when the kiss ended.

"What? No." Dylan frowned. "This can't be the end of it. There's still so much to talk about."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. I just know that there is."

Dylan walked inside and Mort followed her. He saw her standing at the island in the kitchen, running her hand along the counter.

"I don't know what more I can say." Mort said. "I can't think of adding something that doesn't make me sound crazier."

"Are you on medication?"

"For the withdrawal, not the…DID. That's apparently what I have. Dissociative Identity Disorder. It's not as bad as some people have, some people have a lot of different personalities but with just one, I'm practically small pickings."

"What are they doing for that?"

"Therapy, mostly. I did some research on it and there's not a lot of doctors who are comfortable with prescribing pills for it. Anti-depressants are the main thing but with my history of becoming addicted to things that could kill me, well…"

"So it's just therapy?"

"They think it's all I need. Once I get to the root of my problems and my…Need to have Shooter around and come to terms with them and stop being so stressed and paranoid all the time, I should be okay. It gets any worse though and they'll probably have to do something, like put me on anti-anxiety meds."

Dylan nodded, looking down at the counter. "I suppose that's good."

"Hopefully." Mort looked around before looking back at her. "Dylan, what are you doing here?"

"I live here."

"Why? Why are you doing this to yourself?"

"Because I have nowhere else to go." She said sadly. "I'm tied to this house whether I like it or not."

"Only because you won't let yourself let it go." Mort replied.

"You're one to talk."

He nodded. "I am. I know what it's like, not wanting to let something go but you helped me move on. I just wish I had been able to do the same for you."

"You did."

"Not enough to make you not feel scared anymore."

Dylan sighed. "I wasn't when I was with you but him coming back into my life just seemed to correspond perfectly to the both of us growing apart. I just seem to ruin everything I touch."

"It was my fault things fell apart, not yours. The truth is, I was looking for something to lose trust with. I let Amy get to me and let your ex get to me and I let all of them come before you."

Dylan shook her head and sat down. "Maybe you just weren't ready. I should have known. We were rushing into everything and I didn't even consider that it might have been going too fast for you."

Mort walked over and sat across from her. "I was rushing things because I was so desperate to start a new life with you, one where I left Amy and everything behind me."

"I wish we had done it; bought a house and moved on together."

"You do?"

Dylan nodded. "Like I said, I still love you, that hasn't changed."

Mort sighed but didn't say anymore. They sat in silence for a while until Mort looked over at her to see her chewing on her bottom lip.

"What are you thinking about?"

Dylan didn't look up at him. "I'm starving."

"What?"

"Haven't eaten all day." She went on. "Think I wanna get pizza. What about you?"

"What about me?"

"You want some?"

"Oh…I…"

"I'll take that as a yes." She smiled a little. "You always hesitate like that when you want to say yes but feel awkward."

Mort couldn't help but smile back.

Dylan looked around. "I think there are menus around here somewhere..."

Mort stood up. "Tell you what, I'll go out and get it. It'll be quicker."

Dylan looked up at him. "You sure? You're not going to bail and drive home, are you?"

"I may be having some problems but I'm not that much of a monster." He joked.

"Okay, just open the door when you get back, it's open. Here." She reached for her purse.

"No, it's on me." He replied, getting up. "I'll be back soon."

He went to leave the kitchen but Dylan grabbed his hand. "Do. Be back soon, I mean."

Mort looked at her and nodded before leaving the kitchen and soon, she heard the front door close. She sighed, wondering what she was doing.

He burned down a house. He created an entire person in his head, and that person was a psychopath.

He didn't realise any of that. He's trying to get better.

And whether I like it or not, I still love him.


Mort opened the door and walked inside when he got back.

"Dylan?"

He walked into the kitchen and placed the pizza box down but Dylan wasn't anywhere to be found.

"Dylan?" He called out, looking around.

"I'm upstairs."

He frowned and walked up the stairs to find her in the bedroom. "What are you doing up here?"

She turned and he saw the shoebox in her hand, the shoebox that contained all of Ryan's letters. "Trying to, uh…Trying to be brave enough to throw these out."

Mort walked further into the room. "I thought you kept those in case he ever got out?"

"I do but the thing is, these letters keep me living in the past and it's pretty hypocritical of me to judge you for doing it when I am too. I keep holding on to some fear I have of someone who turned out to be completely different from what I originally thought."

"I have a feeling this is all leading up to me somehow."

Dylan looked up at him. "What's going on with you and what you did, or what Shooter did I guess, it really confuses me about you or about what I feel. He did that to me for a long time." She held up the box. "But really, there's no similarities. You're nothing like him. He wanted to hurt me all the time but the worst you've ever done was call me a mean name and even then, you apologised. Holding onto these letters is just holding onto how scared I am that the same thing will happen again. So I want to get rid of them."

Mort was confused. "Are you saying that you're scared of me?"

"No but I am scared that I'll get hurt again by someone I never thought could do it. But while you were gone, I started thinking about everything that we talked about and everything that you told me. The thing is, you did tell me. You didn't have to but you did." She looked at him. "I still don't know what I think about it or what's going to happen with us but I do know that I am not letting it make my decisions. And neither are these."

"What do you mean you don't know what's going to happen with us?" Mort asked.

"I love you. I'm not sure if I'm ready to let everything go."

"Dylan, I'm sick."

"You're getting help. You're doing the right thing, why would I let something get in the way of our lives if it's being taken care of?"

"So you're saying if I stick with this, you'll stay with me?"

She had to be truthful. "I'm thinking about it."

Mort walked over to her and began kissing her which Dylan reciprocated, dropping the shoebox to the floor. The kiss was filled with everything they'd been holding back and it wasn't long before they were lying back on the bed, Mort on top of her.

"Wait, we can't." He said, pulling back. "Not here."

"Why not?" She said, sitting up slightly. "Don't you want to?"

"Oh, I really want to but this house, this bed..."

"Is going to hold me back as long as I let it. It's just a house, it's just a bed. There are bad memories here but I'm never going to put them behind me unless I prove those memories won't rule me and my decisions. I want to be with you now and I'm not going to let what happened stop me. This is my house, not his and right now, I want to be with you in it."

Mort kissed her again, still thinking this probably wasn't a good idea despite her words but where had his thoughts gotten him lately? Every thought he had seemed to be wrong so now he was going to do what she was, he wasn't going to care about what seemed right and wrong; he was just going to do what he wanted even if it was a bad decision.

I really suck at break ups.


"I'm guessing the pizza's gone cold."

"I'm not going out to get another one."

Dylan smiled. "I can heat it up, it's fine."

"Not yet though, right?"

"No, I'm quite comfortable at the moment."

Mort sighed happily and wrapped his arms around her tighter. "Do you have any idea what we're doing?"

"Not a clue but I don't want this to stop."

"Me neither."

Dylan sat up from resting on his chest. "What if we just continued with what we were doing?"

"What do you mean?"

"What if we just stayed together and kept looking for a house like we were planning? Or you could move in here?"

Mort rose himself up slightly. "Are you serious?"

"Why not? If you're getting the help you need, what's stopping us? If anything, things should be getting better."

"Are you forgetting that I burned down a house? That I have a dangerous personality that takes over me sometimes?"

Dylan hadn't forgotten. She just tried to. "I just…Want things to go back to how they were."

"So do I but that can't happen knowing what we now know. Dylan, you should want to run a mile from me."

"I don't."

Jesus, she's just as damaged as I am.

Can you blame her? Every guy she's gone out with made her believe she didn't deserve any better, so much so that she's begging a crazy person to live with her just because I'm nice to her.

This was not an epiphany that Mort was enjoying. Dylan was confident and fun but seeing this side to her, all Mort could see was an insecure and vulnerable person who didn't want to lose the first good thing she ever had. Not only that, she seemed practically addicted to broken again?

"Dylan, could you do something for me?"

"What is it?" She frowned.

"Come to my next appointment with the doctor. I don't just mean come with me for moral support, I mean come in and talk to him too."

"Why?"

"I just think it'll help me."

And it might help you too.


I hadn't originally planned for Mort to tell Dylan so quickly, or at all, about Shooter but then just found it an interesting way to go and a good way to demonstrate how damaged Dylan is herself over her own demons. I'm looking forward to revealing why. Also, it's probably not surprising that I like boys' names for girls but I'm glad that it's finally revealed why Dylan has such an unusual boy's name.

Thanks for reading! Please Review!