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December 5, 2018 1:46 am  #1

Only Jerks Cry

[I don't think I need any context for this one. I hope you guys like it!]

“Hello?” Natalie calls out as she enters the apartment through the front door. She tucks her keys in her pocket and hangs up her coat before pausing and listening. “Nick?” She yells louder. Eyebrows pinching together, she explores the living room and kitchen before heading towards her and Nick’s bedroom. She opens the door. Nick lies on his back on the queen-sized bed, his headphones on. He lifts his head and stares blankly at Natalie for a few seconds before letting his head fall back onto the pillow.

Ignoring Nick’s casual indifference, Natalie sits on her side of the bed and takes off her boots. Tossing them into her open closet, she lies down facing Nick, scoots closer to him, and lifts his headphones from his right ear. She can hear some obscure metal music blasting through the speakers. “Hi,” she says into his ear. “How was your day?”

Nick sighs. It sounds more like a groan to Natalie. He turns off the music and tugs off his headphones, finally noting how concerned Natalie looks. She has that small crease in between her eyebrows that she gets whenever she’s worried. He frowns and puts his thumb on the crease, as if he’s trying to smooth it out. Natalie gently grabs his thumb and removes it.

“I’m fine,” he finally says, hating how false it sounds. He can never convincingly lie to Natalie.

She frowns even more, the crease deepening. “I don’t think you’re okay.”

This time, Nick really groans. “Can’t we pretend that I am?” He tosses his arm over his eyes, feeling something… something in his chest. Not heartburn, not acid reflux, and not heart palpitations--just something. He takes a deep breath, trying to clear out the feeling.

Natalie scoots even closer to Nick and places her hand on his shoulder. She rubs slow circles with her thumb. “Nothing good can come out of pretending you’re okay when you’re not. You lost your mom, Nick. You’re allowed to feel sad.”

“I know,” Nick says a little too harshly. “Sorry. I guess I just don’t know how I feel.”

“Well, why don’t we figure it out together? I know that I didn’t get to meet her, but I’d like to hear about her. Why don’t your start with your favorite memory with her?” Natalie suggests, fully expecting to be rejected. Nick isn’t the type to talk about feelings and such.

Nick hesitates before speaking. “Sure,” he says, not entirely certain why he agreed. “Um…” He searches his memory for any special moments. He turns onto his side to face Natalie, continuing to think.

“Didn’t you tell me once that you and your mom used to go blackberry picking?” Natalie prompts.

Nick’s eyes glaze over as he remembers. “Yeah, we went every year in August. We lived about a mile from our elderly neighbor’s fields, and she would always invite us to pick berries with her. Mom loved blackberries the most, so we mostly picked those over strawberries or raspberries. We’d go there with my red wagon and buckets and pick the blackberries. Mom would make blackberry pies and milkshakes so we’d eat them all before they went bad. Dad never went--he was too busy. So, it was a time when Mom and I could laugh and chat and simply be together. The last time I went was--” Nick’s voice shakes, and he clears his throat. “I think it was the summer before my senior year of high school. That was about… ten years ago? Eleven? Gosh. And to think that I passed on the opportunity all of those years, and now I can’t--” Nick suddenly coughs, springs out of bed, and speed-walks out of the bedroom.

“Nick?” Natalie gets out of bed and jogs out of the bedroom, following Nick. He’s clamping one of his hands tightly over his eyes. He clears his throat repeatedly, trying to get rid of the lump that’s there. “Nick. Talk to me,” Natalie pleads, but when she catches up to him, he turns away from her.

“I can’t,” he manages to choke out. He can feel the heaviness and heat in his eyes--a sure sign that he’s about to start crying like a jerk.

“Please,” Natalie gently tugs on Nick’s arm, but he won’t budge. She lays her hand flat on his back and rubs back and forth. “It’s okay. You can cry. Just let it out--come on.”

Nick walks out of Natalie’s reach and sits on the edge of the living room couch. He keeps his hand covering his eyes, even though he can feel the tears start to slip out. Natalie sits next to Nick, fully expecting him to scoot away from her or get up and leave. To her surprise, he stays.

“Let it out,” Natalie whispers, rubbing Nick’s back again. She tugs on his arm again. “Talk to me, Nick.”

Nick removes his hand for just a moment to look at Natalie. His eyes are puffy and wet, and the tears glisten on his cheeks. She feels a pang in her own chest, and feels like she is about to start crying as well. Feeling too vulnerable, Nick shields his eyes from Natalie. She swallows and wills her tears to recede into her tear ducts. She wraps her arms around his broad shoulders and pulls him close. Reluctantly, Nick removes his hand from his eyes and returns the hug.

The hug is too comforting to stand. Despite his own sheer willpower, tears continue escaping one by one out of Nick’s eyes and falling onto Natalie’s sweater. Instead of focusing on stopping the tears, Nick focuses on not sniffling or sounding like a complete jerk. Jerks cry, yes--but even bigger jerks sob.

About five minutes later, Nick breaks the hug and turns away, trying to discreetly wipe the tears away. Natalie catches his hand and wipes the tears for him, her slim fingers cool against his flaming-hot cheeks. Nick gives up and lets her wipe the tears. The damage is already done.

“I’m sorry,” Nick whispers as she wipes his tears away. “I don’t usually cry.” He cringes as he says the word “cry.”

Natalie stops for a second and grabs Nick’s shoulders. She stares deep into his glistening eyes. “Do not feel sorry. I want you to feel safe at home, okay? Like you can share your feelings and not be judged for them.”

“Okay,” Nick sighs. He rubs his eyes with his sleeve, soaking up the remainder of the tears. “I hear you.”

They hug again.

Still, by the clock's revolution each hour,
I dissolve into tears about ev'ry half hour.

December 5, 2018 3:02 am  #2

Re: Only Jerks Cry

I like it, I like how he at first tried to avoid the situation and she cleverly brings him in the mood. Another thing I saw as a typical reaction is how he tries to escape when the crying is inevitable.
She seems used to this type of situations as she step by step makes sure he cries in front of her, even allowing her to comfort him with a hug. One thing I loved is how he tried to hide his tears from her and she cleverly manages to wipe them away, also how she suppressed her own tears just to be there for him, just lovely.


December 5, 2018 3:06 am  #3

Re: Only Jerks Cry

Thank you for such a wonderful story.


December 5, 2018 3:32 am  #4

Re: Only Jerks Cry

You're welcome! It was a pleasure to write.

Still, by the clock's revolution each hour,
I dissolve into tears about ev'ry half hour.
     Thread Starter

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