“I’m glad you called. But what the f**k, Vanessa? How can you two watch her keep doing this and not say something?”
She crossed her arms, hugging her body. She avoided my eyes.
“This ends tonight.”
Her gaze shot up to mine.
“If I find out she gets like this again with you or Eli, you will personally answer to me.”
“I can’t control how much she drinks. She’s an adult.”
“Then don’t go out with her.”
Not waiting for a response, I went to Maya. Unable to rouse her with words and determined nudging, I scooped her into my arms.
“Can you open the car for me?”
Vanessa nodded, moving quickly ahead to lead me out. I laid her down in the back seat, covered her with my coat, and switched the heat on high. Despite all the movement and negotiating her position, Maya never woke.
“Should I take her to the hospital? She’s not responsive at all.” I held my hand over her heart. A steady beat matched the slow rhythm of her breath. At least she was breathing.
“I know this seems bad, Cameron, but I think she’s okay. I mean, she’ll feel like s**t in the morning, but this isn’t the first time this has happened.”
“Apparently.” I pushed down a host of other scathing remarks and shut the door. “Good night, Vanessa.”
“Merry Christmas.” Her voice was sad, with a hint of sarcasm that a little part of me appreciated. Merry f*****g Christmas.
I drove to Maya’s apartment. I carefully arranged her in my arms and managed to find her keys in her purse, gaining us entrance. Her body tensed as we entered her bedroom, and I thought I heard a moan muffled into my chest. I lowered her onto the bed and switched on the side lamp. She squinted, covering her eyes with her hands.
“Cam, is that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me.”
She rolled onto her side and hummed, a drunk happy sound. I undressed her, tugging her clothes off with all the finesse of a child undressing a ragdoll. Afterward, I stripped down to my boxers and slid into the bed beside her, pulling the blankets over us.
I brushed the hair back from her face. “You okay, baby?”
The slits of her eyes opened, seeming to focus on me. Confusion then recognition passed over them.
“Why do you do this to yourself, Maya?” I whispered. I brushed her cheek, watching her slip back into sleep.
She opened her eyes, finding me again in the fog. She reached for my hand, feebly pulling it away from her face and down to her chest. “Cam… I love you. Even though this’ll never last. You and me. I still love you. I want you to know that.”
“Why are you saying that?”
“I’ll f**k it up. Somehow… The way everything’s all f****d up now. And you’ll leave again.”
Her lips wrinkled into a sad line, one that made me wonder if she’d been crying tonight. Her eyes were red and swollen, as if she had been.
My jaw tightened, my teeth gnashing against the unexplainable jolt of pain that shot through me with those words. If what I’d done to us years ago was the root of her sadness, of whatever had brought her this low, I knew her more intimately than anyone. After all, I’d brought the same torture onto myself. I’d lived with it. I’d survived it too.
I kissed her gently. “I’m not leaving. I’m going to take care of you, okay?”
She closed her eyes. A sad smile faded as quickly as it arrived, and she slid back into unconsciousness. I watched her, studied the motion of her breathing until sleep finally beckoned me too. I fought it, filled with an irrational fear that as soon as I closed my eyes, I’d lose her again.
MAYA. I’d been ill for hours before it struck me that today was Christmas. Too embarrassed to have him see me this way, I’d begged Cameron to leave me alone to purge all my horrible stupidity in privacy. Over and over, the waves of sickness came, and then the tears. I couldn’t remember much but I knew it wasn’t good. I’d woken up in bed with him, to the worried look in his eyes. He hadn’t been anywhere in my memories of the night, which wasn’t a good sign.
A while later he knocked on the door. I stirred from a merciful respite on the soft padded rug on the bathroom floor.
“Maya, are you okay?”
I rose, painfully slow to avoid the terrible rush of blood to my already throbbing head. No part of me wanted to see my face. I feared one look at myself would send me right back to the toilet, so I kept my eyes downcast as I washed my face and brushed my teeth again. I toweled dry and emerged, walking past him and back into the bedroom.
I sank into the bed, pulling the covers up around me as if they could protect me, save me somehow. He sat by my feet, silent and still.