~The Halo Effect~ 5
When you woke up, the first thing you noticed was the smell. This wasn’t your home. Heck, it wasn’t even your car. Where was the familiar smell of sharp cologne and fresh-baked bread?
Crap, my head… you groaned and rubbed your temples. Everywhere hurt. Your breath tasted absolutely foul, it was dark, and— What in the world were you wearing?
These weren’t your clothes. Instead of the light jacket and jeans you were wearing from last night, your body was covered with a dress shirt much too large for your body. It might have even doubled up as a dress. And when you pressed your nose to the fabric…
It has the same smell as him… you thought, your eyelids growing heavy with the familiar scent.
You clutched the shirt close to your chest. It wasn’t too often when Allistor would show this side of him. More than anyone, you knew he preferred not to have company. Perhaps that was a way of protecting himself and others from getting hurt, but then again, he wasn’t exactly transparent enough to read right away.
That’s when you noticed something wrong. There wasn’t anything underneath. You must’ve thrown up, but that didn’t mean he had to change all of your clothes, did it? Were you even wearing pants? You checked. You weren’t wearing any pants.
Suddenly, in response to your exclamation, there was a loud thumping sound followed by a loud swear as your redheaded friend went tumbling to the ground from the armchair next to you.
“Dammit, ____________, don’t scare me like that!” he snapped as he pulled himself together.
You hid yourself behind the ash-smelling blanket Allistor had provided for you.
“Did you see anything?” you asked, your face flushing a light pink.
Allistor just sat there and stared. After a few seconds of pondering through his thoughts, he let out a heavy sigh and looked you straight in the eyes.
“Aye, I did—Augh! Fuck, ____________! Why the hell are you so hyper?!”
“Putting on a straight face like that while admitting you saw it!” you snapped. “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?! How many times have you done this to other drunk women, huh?! Tell me!”
“You’re the first!” Allistor answered holding up his arms to block the cushion you were hitting him with.
“Oh, so you think taking my virginity away isn’t a big deal, is it? Is this your way of getting back at Mathias?”
“What the fuck are you talking about? I didn’t do anything to you except change your clothes!”
You weren’t convinced. “Then what was all of that nonsense about me being the first and you seeing my…my…?”
Allistor cursed. “You’ve got the wrong idea, ______________. I wasn’t talking about that. I saw…” He sighed. “I saw that mark under your neck.”
“It’s new, isn’t it? I’m going to guess Mathias gave it to you last night?”
“Yeah…” you murmured curling yourself up into a ball. “He did.”
Your friend brushed back his bright red bangs. “That bastard…He’s got some nerve treating you like that.”
You raised an eyebrow. “Then why did you let him get so out of control like that? If he was drunk, why didn’t you call me?”
“Mathias didn’t go to my place last night,” Allistor said.
“He didn’t? It must’ve been somewhere else, then.”
Just as you were about to sink into a state of despair, your friend placed his hands on your shoulders and stared at you with his deep emerald green eyes.
“______________...” he said. “I’m not telling you this as a consultant or a therapist or a bartender that listens to your problems from behind the counter at work; I’m telling you this as a friend: you need to let Mathias go.”
You could only stare. Before Mathias had done this, before he had begun to terrify you, you had always felt that he was someone who completed you. He wasn’t a bad person—not on the surface, anyway. He was kind, willing to help, an honest person, and completing the package were his irresistible good looks. But perhaps that’s where you refused to draw the line. That’s where you failed to see what lay beyond his messy blonde hair, dazzling blue eyes, and heart-capturing smile.
“______________, are you still here?” Allistor’s voice suddenly cut into your thoughts.
“Huh?” you blinked, dumbfounded.
“I’m going to tell you again, ______________,” Allistor said. “Break up with Mathias. It’s not worth the nagging fear of wondering when he’ll do something worse. Don’t say you’ll change him, either. He’s a stubborn bastard, and he’s beyond that state of help. It will only cause him to bring you down with him.”
“Allistor…” you whispered.
Then, your friend released your shoulders and began to rearrange the cushions you had ruined.
“I suggest you think about it. I don’t know what’s going on in Mathias’ head, but if it’s anything like when he gets really mad, then it’s not going to just hurt you, it’s going to destroy you.” He shook his head. “If I saw what would become of you if he finally broke you…I don’t think I’d be able to stand it.”
You didn’t respond to Allistor’s suggestion right away. Instead, you walked to the nearest window, pulled open the blinds, and threw the window completely open. Then you continued to do that for the others.
“What’re you doing?” your friend asked going after you.
“It stinks in here,” you replied. “You need to get some fresh air in your apartment every once in a while. I thought you said you stopped smoking.”
“I said I stopped smoking inside the apartment,” Allistor corrected you. “Apparently, the landlord doesn’t like having ashes and shit clinging to the carpets. The smell gets everywhere, though.”
“Then why don’t you just stop smoking altogether?”
Allistor laughed. It was rare to hear him laugh. “You make it sound like it’s easy.”
“You’re not going to get too many women to like you if you always carry that smell around.”
“Since when do I care about women?”
“You care about me.”
“Ooh, how am I different?” you asked returning to his attention.
Allistor muttered a jumbled mess of words before giving you an answer. “You’re… You’re naïve. Seeing you always getting taken advantage of and getting so easily swayed by other people, it makes me worried.” Then, he cursed. “What the hell am I talking about? I must sound so stupid.”
“No, you sound just like a friend,” you chuckled.
Your friend scoffed. “Of course, that’s what I’d sound like.”
“Don’t you have work?” you asked all of a sudden.
Allistor smirked. “Don’t you?”
“I can call in sick.”
“Sure you can.”
You snorted and hit him on his head.
“So what’s your excuse, then?”
“Don’t have one,” Allistor shrugged. “I just asked one of my brothers to fill in for me.”
“You definitely are.”
You looked at your friend. “Excuse me?”
You sighed and rubbed your head. “Allistor, what’d you do with my clothes?”
“They’re in the dryer, I think.”
You scowled and covered your chest. “Did you really have to take my bra and pants, too?”
Now it was Allistor’s turn to blush. His fair skin was nearly the color of his hair.
“Y-You told me, yourself: you don’t like to wear pants to bed,” he stuttered.
“So, then, what about the bra?”
Allistor cursed and covered his hand with his mouth. “Alright, I’m being absolutely honest here, but last night when I was getting you out of your clothes—I didn’t see anything! It was dark!”
You clicked your tongue. “Go on.”
“You— Fuck it! You told me to take it off!”
“Do I really have to tell you if you did or not?” your flustered friend groaned.
“Um…” You scratched your head. “I guess not.”
Your friend hissed. “You know how much trouble I had to go through to clean up the mess you made? Not to mention, since you were so out of it, you couldn’t drive home even if you wanted to. I could get into serious trouble if someone finds out I brought home a customer.”
“If anything happens, I’ll take full responsibility, Allistor.”
“I’d like to see that happen,” he scoffed. “You always dig yourself into problems.”
Allistor sighed. “I really wonder what would have happened if I didn’t introduce you to Mathias.”
You perked your ears up. “As in?”
“Just seeing you become like this in general,” he muttered. “I used to think I meant something special to Mathias, too.”
“Huh?” you gaped. “Uh…wait a minute…Allistor, you’re not…You’re not g—”
“I’m straight!” he snapped.
“Shit, I’m sorry!” you quickly apologized and buried your face in your hands in shame.
“Anyway,” Allistor growled through his teeth, “what I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted was that I thought I was special in that I was the only one who truly understood Mathias—not his family, not his other ‘friends,’ no one. Just me, and me alone.”
“Oh…” you breathed. You had felt like that, too, from the moment Mathias had asked you out.
“He pulled me in,” Allistor continued. “It wasn’t so much about the way he looked—I’ll be damned if that’s what I looked at first—but what attracted me was his charisma. There’s something about Mathias that just makes you want to be around him. Everything seems so much better and more interesting around him.”
He ran his hand through his hair. “Seeing as how I don’t look anything like him, I naturally became fascinated with him. No matter what, I wanted to remain his friend, and before I knew it, I was willing to let things slide even when I knew what he was doing was bad for him.” He sighed. “Maybe I wanted to see him fall in the end. When he took you away from me, I just wanted to have things go back to the way they were with me being stuck in between the two of you on separate paths of fate. I didn’t think things would get so out of control when I introduced you two.
“I was jealous. When I saw how happy the two of you had become with each other, suddenly, I was a left alone in the dust. The two people that I thought I had something for—the only two people really significant in my life—were drifting away just like that. I knew about Mathias’ drinking problem a long time ago. Before I knew it, I did nothing to stop it. I knew that if I let things continue the way they were, you’d be able to see for yourself what sort of person my friend really is, and maybe if I was lucky, you’d come running back to me.”
“I hope that hurt,” you sniffed. Your hand was shaking. Before you knew what had happened, your hand automatically flew across Allistor’s cheek. You didn’t even know if you were mad or not, but somehow, the slap felt justified whichever way.
“It did,” Allistor chuckled and touched the side of his face. “Though, it doesn’t hurt in the way you’d expect it to.”
You slapped him again.
“Allistor, you fucking moron, if you loved me, why the hell didn’t you tell me earlier?!” you shouted.
Your friend stared wide-eyed at your miserable state. You were starting to break out in tears. Your entire body was trembling now as though you were standing in a blizzard.
“______________...” he whispered.
“All this time…” you hiccupped. “All this time, I thought I didn’t have a chance with you—that I was no more than a friend and would always be. You were always so cold!
“I-I mean look at you, Allistor! It’s only common sense! Who would I be drawn to when comparing you side by side: you or Mathias? What about your stupid halo effect theory shit? Didn’t you even say it yourself? If a guy’s charismatic and smiles a lot that people would be attracted to him? You’re not bad-looking yourself, but dammit, you never opened yourself to me.”
Allistor swore. “And all of this time, I thought I knew you inside out,” he muttered.
“You’re right, Allistor,” you sniffed. “You’re selfish. You didn’t say anything because you were afraid of getting hurt, weren’t you?”
“A-Aye…” he reluctantly admitted. “What a mess.”
You didn’t say anything after that. What were you supposed to do now that you realized how Allistor really felt about you—and about his own friend? All of this time, he had been watching over you and Mathias from the background like an extra on a soap opera. Yet all the same, he could read things a hell of a lot better than you or your boyfriend could ever hope to. Despite all of that, he had been drawn in, too. All of you were. You couldn’t even be sure who was truly at fault. Maybe you all were.
“Hey, Allistor?” you suddenly piped up.
You clutched the smoke-smelling dress shirt in your hand and bit your lips.
“If it’s not too much trouble…can I stay with you for a while? Just until things settle down and I know what to do?”
At first you were afraid Allistor would yell at you for being so helpless and needy, but on the other hand, he was hard to read. Unexpectedly, he placed a large hand on your head and ruffled your messy bedhead.
“If you don’t mind the smell and the lack of good food, then I don’t care,” he simply said. “Just make sure you don’t steal any of the liquor and cigars. They’re mine.”
“Oh, I’ll be sure I won’t take any of those,” you laughed. “I’ve had enough of the smell and the headaches to last me a lifetime.”
Then, you rubbed your forehead.
“By the way…Allistor?”
“Do you have any home remedies for hangovers? My head’s killing me.”