Pucked Page 92

Two days later, there’s a knock at my door. I assume it’s Melvin because it’s about the right time of the evening for him to come knocking. If that’s the case, I can’t even pretend I’m not home because he can hear my television through the wall much like I can hear his death metal serenades. I peek out the peephole and discover it’s not Melvin, but Alex.

All sorts of weird things happen inside my body. I feel like my stomach is going to come out of my throat. My heart is pounding like I’ve had a massive orgasm. My beaver is so excited she’s gnawing at my underwear—which, incidentally, are hideous—and tears spring to my eyes. After almost a month I should have a better handle on my emotions, but I don’t.

He looks exhausted but gorgeous, as usual, even with the full beard he’s currently rocking. Especially with that damn beard. He’s all rustic and lumbersexual looking.

I squeak when he raps on the door again and clamp a hand over my mouth.

“Violet?” His forehead comes to rest against the door so I’m only able to see his fuzzy jaw, and I hear him sigh. “I know you’re in there. I saw your 4Runner in the parking lot and I heard you make a noise.”

Hands pressed against the steel panel separating us, I say nothing. Even though I hate him, I love him, and it fucking hurts so bad. I just want it to stop. I wish he hadn’t done this to us; I want him to leave, but I want him to stay. I also want to know how the hell he managed to get up here.

I have to bury my face in the crook of my elbow and bite my hoodie to stifle my pathetic sob.

“I know I fucked up, Violet. I just want to talk to you. Please, baby? I miss you. I made a mistake. If you let me explain, maybe we can work things out. I wanna work things out.”

I take two or three deep breaths and clench my fists so I don’t reach for the doorknob. I want to talk to him. I want Alex to have a reason for what he did to us. But whatever it is, it can’t be good enough. There’s no justification for that kind of humiliation.

Knowing this doesn’t prevent the ache in my heart from flaring until it reaches yeast infection levels of discomfort.

“Baby, open the door. You don’t have to let me in. I’ll stay here in the hall. You can even leave the chain lock on. I only want to see you.” He pauses and waits a few endless seconds. His head thumps against the door. “Everything sucks without you. I was under a lot of pressure. I didn’t mean what I said—”

“Then why did you say it?” I scream and then cover my mouth with my palm, horrified I’m too weak to maintain my silence. I put my eye back to the peephole in time to see him lift his head and brace his hands on either side.

“Because I’m an idiot. Please, Violet. Don’t make me talk to you like this. Give me a chance to explain.”

“Why bother? Everything you say is bullshit anyway.”

He stares directly into the peephole as if he knows I’m on the other side, coveting his beautiful, annoyingly perfect face. “You know that’s not true. People make mistakes. This is a really huge mistake, and I wish I could take it back, but I can’t. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

I close my eyes, the pervasive ache inside rippling outward. I want so badly to believe him, but I’ve learned my lesson. “But you did, Alex, and you’re right, you can’t take it back. Nothing you say is going to change that.”

“Baby, please. Hear me out.” The desperation in his voice is echoed in his eyes.

“You need to leave.” My words are at complete odds with what my heart wants. More than anything, I want to open the door and do exactly as he’s asked: hear him out. If I do, there’s a good chance I’ll be tempted to give him the second or third chance he’s looking for, and my poor beaten-up heart can’t take that right now.

“All I want is five minutes. Can’t you give me that?”

I have to hand it to him; he’s persistent to the point of infuriation.

I’m about to threaten to call Buck and have him escort Alex out of the building by his balls, when the door across the hall opens. It’s Ms. Bullock. She’s a feisty little old lady with a mop of white, permed hair.

She eyes Alex with suspicion. “Excuse me, young man. Do you need help with something?”

“He was leaving!” I shout through the door.

“Violet, please.” Begging might have worked once, but it isn’t going to now.

I rest my forehead against the door and cringe at the crack in my voice. “Just go, Alex.”

Ms. Bullock takes a long drag from her cigarette and raises her drawn-on eyebrow at Alex. “You heard the young lady. It’s time for you to go.”

Alex rubs a palm over his face and winces. “I’m not giving up on us.”

Ms. Bullock goes back into her apartment, but leaves the door open. Alex returns to the peephole. “I get it if you need more time, but I care about you too much to walk away.”

“You sure have a shitty way of showing it.”

My hand is on the doorknob. Thankfully, Ms. Bullock comes back with a whisk broom. She doesn’t give Alex a chance to leave peacefully. Instead, she starts whacking him on the shoulders.

“When a lady asks you to leave, you leave, dammit!” Ms. Bullock shouts.

God bless her violent, ancient heart.

Alex covers his head with his arms. “Okay! Okay! I’m going.” He stumbles out of my line of sight. “I’m not giving up, Violet. I’ll find a way to fix this.”

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