Through All the Dust
Chapter Four: Tell Me Only if it's Real
Jimmy’s funeral came and went—Brian had spoken and it had fucking killed me to listen. His heartbreak was so loud, it could be heard three towns over. I was relieved when the day came to a close—it had been…a lot…to take in.
Lauren was a fucking mess.
When we got home, Brian disappeared. I tried to be understanding, like always, but part of me wished that he could appreciate that my heart was broken too. Sometimes it would be nice to have his love. It had been known in the past to soothe me. But Brian’s grief was different from mine and I needed to be there for him.
I found myself staring at the picture of Jimmy and me. If I really pushed myself, I could almost hear him with me. I could almost smell him. But then, in a flash, I was alone and he was far, far away.
“Can I borrow you for a sec?” Brian’s voice made me jump.
He laughed just a little.
“What’s up?” I asked as I followed him up the stairs.
He didn’t respond to me until we were standing in our little recording room. He gestured for me to sit, so I did. He pulled one of his acoustic guitars into his lap, biting at a guitar pick in his mouth.
“I’m working on something,” he told me—I couldn’t help but notice the bags developing under his eyes. I should really encourage him to sleep. “I need your thoughts on my progress so far.”
He played a slow and beautiful melody, he was deliberately not looking at me as he strummed. But just as I felt it was really building, he stopped abruptly.
“I’m stuck,” he told me. “I can’t seem to get passed this part…”
“Well,” I sighed, feeling a little useless, “I’m not super knowledgeable about arrangements, Bri…”
“I know,” he said quickly. “But you’re a musician, aren’t you? Use your fucking ears.”
My face stiffened. He rolled his eyes—I think at himself more than at me.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” he grumbled.
I shrugged my tired shoulders, “It’s okay.”
“It fucking isn’t,” he snapped, tossing his guitar back onto its stand. “You’re all I have left and I’m treating you like a disposable thing.”
“You aren’t,” I argued. “I get it, Bri. It’s okay, really.”
“Don’t do that,” he urged me. “Stop letting me walk all over you.”
“What do you want from me, Brian?” I asked numbly. “I’m trying to be there for you.”
“What about you?” he asked me, pulling me from my chair and into his lap. “You held yourself together pretty well today.”
I nodded absently.
“I’m sorry, Blair,” he sighed, burying his face into my neck. “I know this is hard for you.”
I turned my head to kiss his cheek quickly. Resentment had been festering in me a little, much to my horror. Brian had always been so selfless when it came to me—here I was, though, a week or two in and I was already reeling for his attention. I was pathetic. It only made me guiltier.
“Jimmy loved you, you know that?” he half-smiled, pulling away and taking my face into his hands. I was swooning. “He used to gush about you all the time.”
I scoffed, “Yeah, okay.
“He did,” Brian laughed—it felt so fucking good to hear him laugh. “He’d go on and on about how you were a goddess and I was equivalent to a peasant. He was always asking what I was doing with you; he said you deserved better.”
“Better than you?” I smirked. “No such thing.”
“Jimmy was always right,” Brian lamented. “What am I going to do without him, Blair?”
“I don’t know,” I sniffled, trying not to let myself cry.
“How did you survive this?” he asked me, his eyes pleading.
I groaned, “Why does everyone keep fucking asking me that? What am I, the keeper of grief secrets?”
Brian stared at me for a second before lunging at me. He pulled my lips to his, forcing his way into my mouth. I moaned into him, surprised and thrilled.
“That’s my girl,” he grunted as we broke apart, our foreheads stuck together.
I closed my eyes, pretending that the world was the way it had been before. Before Jimmy died. Before Tyler died.
I wanted to be back in my apartment, the first night that I ever met them. The first night of the rest of my life. I wanted to be there again—and I wanted to change how everything turned out.
But all I had now was memory…and Brian. I was willing to let one fade away. I’d fight like hell to keep the other vivid and alive.
“I need you,” I moaned into him, reaching up to run my fingers through his hair.
He kissed me again, more softly this time. I pulled away, forcing myself to look at him this time. His eyes were as gorgeous as ever, if not more burdened with sorrow than ever before.
I straightened my voice out, “I mean it, Bri. I need you.”
He nodded a little.
“You have to stop abandoning me,” I pleaded unintentionally. “It’s too fucking hard without you.”
“I know,” he sighed, pulling me into him and holding on for dear life. “I’m sorry.”
“We have to stick together,” I mused absently, trying to keep from losing my cool. “Jimmy will roll over if we end up splitting up because of him.”
Brian pulled away abruptly, his face contorted with horror.
“That isn’t going to happen,” he said insistently.
I swallowed hard. Had I said something dumb?
“You’re thinking of leaving me?” he asked, repulsed by my implication.
I panicked, “No, no. That’s not what I meant—”
“I’ll lose my fucking mind,” he told me sternly.
I ran my hand along his cheek, trying to console him with my touch, “You should know that isn’t what I meant. But it’s nice to see you still love me—I haven’t seen a reaction like that in quite some time.”
“I’ve been struggling,” he said lowly. “But I’m coming out of it, I think.”
“It comes with time,” I said knowingly.
“Do you know what I think?” he asked abruptly.
I shook my head.
I wasn’t prepared for the bombshell ahead.
“I think we should get married,” Brian said seriously.
My jaw crashed to the floor with a shatter. My heart was racing—but it wasn’t a good fucking thing. My palms grew sweaty and the room began to spin.
I sputtered in my thoughts, “Brian…”
“What?” he asked, seemingly more and more excited about the idea as the seconds flew by. “Why not?”
“Because,” I said slowly. Very, very slowly. “You don’t want to marry me…You want to stop the hurt.”
“Blair,” he scoffed. “That’s not true.”
“It is true,” I insisted. “Remember when I told you that I loved you? And you nearly blew a gasket because you were sure that I only felt that way because Ty had just died?...”
He nodded confusedly.
“You don’t think that maybe that’s what’s happening here?” I asked carefully.
His brows dropped and his eyes grew angry once more, “Are you saying no?”
“Baby, no,” I tried quickly. “I’m not saying no…It’s just….You’re not actually asking.”
“Of course I fucking am,” he snarled. “Blair, will you marry me?”
My chest fucking hurt.
“Brian,” I tried again.
He gasped weirdly, “I can’t believe you’re saying no…”
“You don’t even have a ring!” I groaned. “Brian, you haven’t thought about this at all. I know that you’re having a hard time—”
He stood abruptly, sending his chair back with a loud thud, “It has nothing to fucking do with that!”
I just stared.
“We’ve been together for years,” he told me like I didn’t know. “It seems like the next logical fucking step, no?”
“Not a week after your best friend dies…”
“Fuck you, Blair,” he barked, storming past me. “I will never ask you that question ever again.”
He slammed the door behind him. I was glued to my chair.
Part of me felt like absolute shit. Had he actually asked? Was getting married something he’d actually wanted to do? We’d never actually talked about it…Had I just missed an opportunity?
But I knew that it hadn’t come from somewhere warm. It wasn’t a message of love or permanent commitment.
It was a last ditch effort to appease his grieving soul—to replace the ache with something lighter. But the impulse would have died in time. I refused to marry someone on a whim.
Even if I really, really wanted to.