Coming Up For Air, Chapter 33

Previously: Chapter 32 [A]

There’s some vague plot advancement in here somewhere. I think. Anyway, I have a massively important exam on Valentine’s Day, so I wasn’t going to post anything till then. But I got itchy and finished this chapter. If you’re lucky, there’ll be another one before February, but don’t count on it.

This one (while always dedicated to Dev), is for goldflecks. If you haven’t yet read her Rizzles, get your lil’ butt over to fanfic.net and DAMN WELL READ it cos she’s like, fucking awesome.

* * * * *

Chapter 33: Frog fish

When the fog clears, things become just a little bit clearer.

A few things become achingly clear.

One: I am a complete idiot.

Two: I have really, really, really screwed things up.

Three: I really was a completely rude little shit this evening.

Ashley took me out to meet her friends. I said no more than twenty words the whole evening. When anyone attempted to engage me in conversation, I was mono-syllabic. And then, to top it all off, when Ashley finally decides to say something about it, I accuse her of cheating. Well, not cheating per se, but of… something that’s close to cheating. Cheating-adjacent?

I am very, very, very bad at relationships, as it turns out.

And I knew that, I knew that going in, but I kept going. It wasn’t supposed to become a relationship, but it turned into one. And I knew that I’d screw it up. I knew I’d make the world’s worst hash of it.

When I get home, I woodenly find myself feeding my fish. There is nothing I can do that will possibly change what I’ve already done tonight, and I know that. More to the point, there’s nothing I can do to change the way I feel about it.

I feel sick.

A long time ago, I promised myself that it would just be me. I would look after myself and that’d work out fine. So long as I didn’t let anyone too far in, then nothing bad could happen. Of course, I wasn’t so much protecting myself from other people as protecting myself from, well, me. I’m always my own worst enemy and tonight has proven that beyond a doubt.

I was a fool.

I am a fool.

But she was… she is… she’s Ashley. How could I say no to her? How could anyone? She is – was, will always be – irresistible and I let her in. I let her in and then I screwed it up. Of course I screwed it up. How could I do anything else?

I flop backwards onto my bed and stare at the ceiling. I’d cry, only I don’t really know how. I feel so wooden that I’m surprised my name hasn’t been changed to Pinocchio. And I had my chance at being a real girl. What did I do? I ruined it. Of course I did.

I stare at the clock. It’s late. It’s late here but that means it’s just heading into the afternoon there. I lean over, grab my phone and dial a number. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been the one to make this move, and this is the last incident over which I expected to be calling but, here I am, on the phone.

The dial tone seems to go forever and I’m about to hang up, weasel out of it, when it’s answered.

“Yello.”

“Hey, Dad.”

“Spenceroonie!” Only my father could call me that, with that amount of joy in his voice, and get away with it. “How lovely to hear your voice.”

“Yeah,” I almost whisper. “Just wanted to hear yours.”

He’s at work. I called his work number. I don’t want to talk to my mother, God knows, and hopefully Glen is no longer living at home, but I didn’t want to take a chance either way.

“How you doin’, sport? The fish still biting?”

“I’m not a fisherwoman dad!” It wouldn’t be us if the same lines weren’t trotted out every time I call. And yet, like an old blanket, there’s definite comfort in them.

He chuckles. “How’s my little marine biologist doing?”

“I’m fine.”

There’s a bit of a silence, just long enough for him to sigh slightly. “Talk to me, honey.”

“I’m fine, Dad, really. Fine.”

“Spencer, you haven’t called me in around six months, and that was for my birthday. It’s nearly midnight there and you don’t sound fine, so how about ya level with me, whadda you say?” It’s my turn to sigh as I turn the words over in my mouth. I try to consider them, wondering what to say to him. “Say, you got any new fish at that aquarium of yours?”

My father, always willing to break the ice. I can’t help but smile, loving him more every little minute. “Yeah, we just got a few new tropical ones in. One of them is just about as awesome as you can get.”

“Really? What is it?”

“It’s a multi-coloured psychedelic frog fish.”

“Well now you’re just making shit up.” I hear him clamp a hand over his mouth. “Do not tell your mother I said that word.”

I giggle, a sound escaping without any barriers. “Naw. It’s real. It’s incredibly cute. They use their little fins to push themselves along the bottom of the tank, and their gills are like propellers.”

“Okay, granted, that is one cool fish.”

“Yeah.” I grin. “It really is.”

“Well, nothing much is different around here.” I hear a clunk, and I know that my father has just put his feet up on his desk. “Same old social work.”

“Nothing much changes, eh?”

“Nope.”

“Dad?”

“Yes, honey?”

I take a deep breath in. “I met someone.”

There is a degree of measure in the silence that follows. Eventually he speaks. “Well that’s great, baby girl. What’s her name?”

My father. Oh, how I love my father. I could cry now, except nothing remotely like emotion is allowed to really flow through me, in case I shatter into a million pieces and spend the rest of my life dragging myself along the bottom of an aquarium by my fins.

My mother. My mother would be pursing her lips and disapproving. This is not something we talk about. This is our little secret, this thing the rest of the family does not know about. This is something I do not mention.

My father, he just asks me. Like it’s normal. I know it’s normal but, well, where I come from, it’s not so accepted.

God how I love my Dad.

“Ashley.”

“Well, that’s a pretty name. Are all Australians named so nicely?”

I chuckled. I’ve met a few Australians with some very interesting names. Apparently calling your children Neveah in the hope people might not notice that it’s ‘Heaven’ backwards was a thing for a while. And don’t get me started on people who name their children after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Then again, we Americans aren’t really all that likely to name our children anything better. For God’s sake, I was named after a dead male actor who my mother just happened to fancy.

“She’s American, Dad.”

“American? You go all the way to Australia, where it’s sunny and warm and there’s always some kind of crustacean on the barbeque, and you meet an American?”

I laugh again. He’s right – he’s so right – and it’s not like I haven’t thought the same thing a million times over. What can I say? Ashley is one in a million, no matter where she’s from. And that just makes me sadder. I end my laugh on a sigh.

“So shouldn’t we be having a conversation of joy?” my father asks in all seriousness.

“Probably,” I agree. “If I hadn’t already screwed things up.”

There’s another measure of silence. Then, tentatively, “When you say ‘screwed’, Spence…”

Now that takes me a minute to grasp and then comprehension sinks in. “Dad!” I can’t believe what he’s implying. I mean, it’s kind of a valid point, but still, he’s my Dad. “No. Absolutely not. No.”

“Oh, well, then there’s no problem.” He sounds so laid back and relaxed on the other end of the phone.

“There’s more than one way to stuff things up.” My avoidance of the word ‘screw’ is now oh-so-deliberate.

“Aaah, so true, and yet, if you haven’t done what I might have inadvertently suggested you did, well, then there’s a way back.”

My father is confusing me. I am confused. When did he get so wordy?

“What?”

He laughs. “You can fix it, honey. That’s what I’m saying.”

I grump at him. “I’m not sure I can.”

“Well, what did you do?”

I don’t want to tell him, I don’t want to vocalise what an idiot I’ve been. How do I summarise this for him?

I met a girl. I slept with her way too early. I kept sleeping with her because she’s more addictive than cocaine and I’ve never had so many orgasms in my life. I might, also, kind of sort of, have fallen completely and utterly in love with her. I’m lousy with people, which is why I stick with fish, and she has just come round to realising this – I mean, really realising this – and it turns out that’s not what she likes.

How can I fix that? How can I fix the fact that I’m a loser and Ashley is not the sort of girl who dates losers?

“I was a bit, well, quiet at dinner with her friends.” Hello! Understatement of the decade.

My father is silent for a moment. “Well, now you’re just being ridiculous.”

“Dad -“

“No ‘Dad’. Answer me this, do you like this girl?”

I sigh. “Yes.”

“I mean really like this girl?”

That one, despite taking me less than a nanosecond to know the answer, takes me a few seconds to compose myself before I can say “Yes” without choking.

“Then there really isn’t much to be going on about, sweetheart. You go, you say sorry, you tell her you’ll try not to do it next time and you mean it. If she doesn’t listen and understand, then she’s not the girl you think she is.”

“Yeah.” Why must he make it sound so easy when I know it isn’t? I know I don’t sound certain. I know he knows that.

More silence. I swear the silences in our conversation tonight are more meaningful than the words, although I’m even less adept at discerning their meaning than I am in what we’re saying.

“Spencer?”

“Yeah, Dad. I’m here.”

“I know, honey.” I can almost hear him smiling. “You can stop punishing yourself. You never deserved it anyway.”

“Dad…”

“You deserve to be happy.”

“Dad…”

“Sorry, sorry, just being hokey ol’ Dad over here. I’ll stop.”

Now it’s my turn to smile. “Never stop being you, Dad. Never stop being you.”

And he chuckles. “Twenty-Four-Seven. You should get to sleep, though.”

I’m completely and utterly not going to be able to sleep, but I know telling him that will just result in another round of very well-meant concern and discussion. I’m honestly not up for that.

“I’ll be all right.”

“Oh, I know. I have infinite faith in you. But you should have more in yourself.”

“Goodnight, Dad.”

He chuckles again. “G’night, Spencer.”

I sigh as I push the red button on the phone, tossing it to the bed next to me.

My dad has far too much faith in me and my ability to have meaningful relationships, but he’s right about one thing.

I really need to talk to Ashley.

* * * * *

Next up: Chapter 34 [U]

12 Comments

  1. nenus
    Posted 9 December 2011 at 8.04pm | Permalink

    I love this fanfic so much!! And yeah, she really needs to talk to Ash =)

  2. Scarsoflove73
    Posted 9 December 2011 at 10.10pm | Permalink

    Arthur is so awesome I love him!! Spencer get off the bed get out the house go find your girl and for the love of Santa kiss and make up!!

  3. Toni
    Posted 10 December 2011 at 1.26am | Permalink

    Spencer, go directly to Ashley, do not pass go, do not collect $100. Apologize to Ashley then Kiss her for all you’re worth, Apologize to her friends, except maybe Rachel ( okay even Rachel, though she was hitting on Ashley IMO).

    I love this story and can’t wait to read more!

    Don’t you get $200 for passing go?… And who says Rachel was hitting on Ashley? We do only see things through Spencer’s eyes…

  4. Mel
    Posted 10 December 2011 at 1.48am | Permalink

    Awwww Spencer’s dad is awesome! I wonder how the chat with Ash will go. Betcha sex will be involved.

    I think February is a wonderful month for a CUFA update ;) but if you feel inspired, we’ll gladly take one sooner! *hugs Sezzy*

  5. Posted 10 December 2011 at 3.24pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the update :) Love this part “I feel so wooden that I’m surprised my name hasn’t been changed to Pinocchio. And I had my chance at being a real girl.” Lol. Brilliant.

  6. Gilmar
    Posted 11 December 2011 at 3.22am | Permalink

    She’s too freaking hard on herself.

    I loved the update tho :) and whoa, that IS a cool fish!

  7. spikkels
    Posted 11 December 2011 at 6.08pm | Permalink

    Always a pleasure to receive a new update from one of you 2 ladies!! Thank you for still thinking of us.

  8. whenanxietykicksin
    Posted 12 December 2011 at 2.13pm | Permalink

    Spencer might be an idiot, but she’s my kind of idiot…fish loving idiot. Idiot.
    Ugh, I have overused the word, I apologize. I won’t say it again… Now, all we have to do is wait for Ashley to forgive her idiot of a girlfriend…Oh, I said i-d-i-o-t again. Again, idiot.

  9. tuesboomer
    Posted 13 December 2011 at 3.14pm | Permalink

    Ok, ok, in the interest of moving this thing along here’s some help with your exam study…’the head bone’s connected to the neck bone, the neck bone’s connected to the back bone… etc., etc.,etc. Got it?

    Now, commence with writing the apologizing, forgiving and make up activities already!

  10. Dovega
    Posted 20 January 2012 at 7.54pm | Permalink

    Spencer is adorable. She might have made a mistake but I’m glad Arthur made sure she wouldn’t give up so easily on Ashley. I do think Ash has to apologize as well and they have to talk about what happened. Spencer’s personal insecurities have to be out in the open and they need to understand how to deal with them as a couple, while Spencer works through them in her own.

  11. stacey
    Posted 23 January 2012 at 12.24am | Permalink

    Update please?

  12. stacey
    Posted 1 March 2012 at 2.22am | Permalink

    So I reread this again and now I’m again ready for an update lol =) so please? Sometime soon?

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