Beck Oliver was feeling a little ragged around the edges.
His trailer still smelled like her, was still littered with the intricacies of her state of being, and so he found himself spending the long nights on Andre's couch - on the floor of Robbie's room - wedged against the wall in Cat's bed... She kicked, but he didn't much mind, it wasn't like he was sleeping much anyhow.
And no one seemed to notice the dark circles under his eyes - except in those moments when Cat found clarity and wrapped herself around him, but outside the presence of Jade, those moments were fewer and farther between.
When Trina started telling people that he had asked her out - it felt like normal. Only it wasn't normal. It shouldn't be normal. And he taught her a lesson. He was so clever and filled himself up with the role, the jealous boyfriend, and he escaped within it for as long as he could... but the stage only lasts for so long and after that - after that was just another stage and then another. Another expectation and when he found himself beside her and he reached for her - oh, only for a moment as a child reaches for his mother - she pushed him away and she was right to. It wasn't fair, his searching hands, his bloodshot eyes, his hyperactive need to be perfect … who would call him on his bullshit now?
Because the whispers were louder now. His hair, it was so perfect. He was so thoughtful, so hot, so available - and it seemed anyone and everyone wanted a piece of him. Only all that was left were the broken pieces left behind, so tarnished and ragged from the endless fighting and worrying and sleeplessness...
And when they shouted at each other about happiness he felt whole for just a moment, because his world was solid again - he knew how to define himself when she was there, when she walked through it with him - but without her he was just the boy with the perfect hair and the gorgeous smile and the perfect body that the whole world could pick apart and distribute without seeing him at all. And the irony of his passion for acting was never lost on him - because when he wasn't himself and he was someone else, it didn't matter that no one else had ever bothered to look him in the eye and not see him for what he could be bought for.
When he saw her staring - not caught, never caught, Jade was untrappable, only observable - as he reached out to Tori, there were so many things that he wanted to say.
Watch me because when you watch me I am the best version of myself. Watch me when I fall and pick myself up so that I know that someone is there to celebrate when I reach the top. Watch me when I succeed so I don't get too full of myself. Watch my ego, so that it doesn't consume me. Watch me reach out the way I've always done - the way you avoid - the way I always did for you.
And when she watches him, he feels safer. The words that Tori needs come trickling out of his mouth as though they were written by someone else. And when she watches him - when he needs her to watch him - he feels himself forging a connection again, getting back into the world again. But when he is alone, and it is just him and his smiling friend with her eyes so full of a raw naivete that continues to baffle him, he reaches further. Without her watching him, he pushes boundaries - he says things that would hurt her, he talks about her the way others do... because it's easier. Because he's desperate. Because there isn't someone there to reign him in.
Because I can't stand to be alone without you watching.
But more than anything what he wants to say is I understand.
He gets so mad at Tori that moment in his car when there are so many girls and she just becomes one of the many. Jade would never have done that. Jade would never have allowed that. But Tori sits so straight and tall and silently judges with a bright smile on her face and there are girls everywhere asking so much of him - so much that he cannot give. And he thought - yes, he thought for one brief, shining moment - that this girl he cares for so much would understand how much he cannot fight this battle for himself. And when she doesn't, he feels more hurt than comforted by their differences. And when she isn't what he needs, he pushes further - trying to give Tori what all the other girls want, to prove that she's just like the others. And when she isn't, it cuts that much deeper.
Because what is Beck Oliver without Jade West if he can't count on being desirable? What does he have left?
And all he wants to say is I understand.
I understand that the long glances in the hallways and in restaurants and when I'd take you out are hurtful. I understand that a person can't live this way. Why did you think I fought you so much? Do you think I like it when random strangers run their fingers through my hair? or interrupt my auditions asking for a date? or ignoring your presence because all they want is to possess those shallow parts of me that don't mean anything at all?
Do you think it has ever been easy for me to live this way?
And so when he pushes his friend - his eyes hollow and bloodshot and he's wearing the same socks as yesterday and the circles under his eyes seem to grow darker by the minute - when he is alone with his thoughts and the pressure of what people need, he pushes his friend to prove to him his worth.
Is it better, is it worse that she rejects him?
I don't know, because I can't ask you.
Beck Oliver is feeling a little ragged around the edges, like he might split a seam and fall apart - with the whole world waiting to fight over the pieces he leaves behind. And he imagines a lifetime of searching for the wrong connection, of seeking the safety of his body while secretly needing an emotional lifeline.
You were my connection, what do I have now?
But the one thing Beck never wishes he could say is: "I'm sorry."
Because how does a teenage boy even begin to apologize for needing a reprieve from a life he never asked for?