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Brighten Up My Darkest Nights

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She didn’t really care either way, to be honest.

Alexis was a little sad by this development, but she was used to change. Actually, she thrived on it. The bathroom was now free of gross-smelling eye cream, which provided more room for a new row of nail polish and extra compartment for hair extensions. The two twin beds were pushed to become one, pressed against the far corner of the room. At the moment, it left a small, sad pang in her stomach, all that empty space. The feeling was short-lived with the reminder of new office decorations that would soon occupy its place. Maybe a few succulents or a motivational poster, something girl-bossy in an optimistic but unironic way.

Her brother’s suitcases were neatly lined up against the walls, holding far too many sweaters that could fit in Patrick’s apartment. She couldn’t bear to tell him though, not when his face was all gooey. David had been like this all morning, his eyes moony as he carefully packed the framed receipt in his suitcase and organized his toiletries. The past hour, he had been sneaking fond glances toward his phone, waiting for Patrick to arrive with the car to move the final few boxes. Leaving her alone. For the first time in three years.

But everything is fine, genuinely it is. It’s no big deal, she tells herself. And she knows it’s true, when she can breezily flip through her magazine with quite ease. Everything is fine.

“Do you mind giving me a hand?”

Alexis startles up from her 1996 Vogue, spying David’s hands tangled in a fitted sheet. Her heart hurts.

“I don’t even know how this thing was folded in the first place!” He huffs, but his frustration doesn't quite meet his eyes. They are still crinkled with joy, risking another glimpse down toward his rings. That would be the sixth time he admired them this morning, Alexis notes. Not that it matters in the slightest.

“I’m assuming you’re going to want new bedding for a king. Patrick has some catalogs from a store in Elmdale, if you want to take a look”.

She doesn’t know why it takes a duvet for the dams to break, but the tears stream down her cheeks and there’s nothing she can do to stop them. Maybe it was a faint memory of sitting on David’s bed after her break up with Mutt, his fingers stroking her hair as she sniffled into his shoulder. Or the time David let her use his bed to study for her last college exam, offering one of his best leather journals to take notes. The nostalgia hits her in waves, and all she can do is stare at a loose thread dangling from her sundress and allow the tears to fall.

The ruffling sound of sheets no longer serves as background noise and she knows that David is watching her, which just makes everything so much worse. She is supposed to be supportive and smiling and teasing about his excessive luggage. Now, everything is much more real and she hates it.

Eyes still averted towards the ground, she sees two socked feet stop next to hers. His big toe knocks against her Louboutin.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Alexis would really prefer to keep her head down, but the hair that frames her face is undoubtedly coated with tears. That look will never be cute. She tucks the strands behind her ears, and braves the face of her brother.

His eyes are dark and solemn, which makes something inside her break harder. She does not want him to hurt for her, not when he’s this happy for the first time in his life. This isn’t what she wants.

She honestly forgets what David has asked her, but lets herself get pulled from her chair and led to the edge of the bed. There’s a comforting hand against the small of her back, and something inside her eases.

“I can stay here for a few more nights. There is honestly no rush”.

Alexis shakes her head fervently, feeling her hoops jingle from side to side. “You’ve been engaged for weeks. You should go and live with your fiance”.

David doesn’t say anything, just keeps rubbing slow circles across the base of her spine. They both know that wasn’t an answer. She just desperately wants to keep the truth to herself one minute longer. And live in a reality where being alone is easy again, and everything will work itself out.

She lets out a shaky exhale, “It just seems that everyone is, like, starting a new chapter in their lives. Stevie’s helping Dad expand the motel, you’re preparing for marriage, and Mom’s got a new movie offer-”.

Her mind wanders to last night’s dinner at the cafe, trapped between two love birds swapping opinions about caterers and her mother’s long winded story about a missing head shot. She feels an immense amount of pride for her family, but the emotion is twisted with her own ugly self pity. And it doesn’t help that her life has become about a thousand percent duller since Ted Mullens left the continent.

David’s looking at her closely, like he’s reading deep within her words and finding the true meaning behind the disappointment. She thought she would instantly dread it, but she realizes how much she craves this feeling, someone recognizing that something is wrong and knowing just what to do. She is so grateful for it right now.

“Alexis, you are not the same person you were three years ago. You’ve grown so much, and everyone can see that. You know that, right?”

David's eyes are strong and eager, like he desperately wants her to understand. Alexis feels helpless to it and finds herself nodding along.

“You graduated high school, got your degree, started your own business. I mean, who knew there was such a big need for pubic relations”.

She catches herself off guard, as her breath hitches in a laugh. It feels light and effortless next to her brother in their motel room, a concept she never would have fathomed a few years ago. Even a few days ago, as she ended her Skype call with Ted to find herself in a dark, empty room.

It gets even crazier too, when she feels David’s shoulders unclench beside her. Some part of him relaxes, as if he were relieved he could still reach Alexis across all the noise. After all this time. And now, she wonders if David has ever woken up next to Patrick in his apartment, feeling a little lost without her blow dryer serving as his morning alarm.

David breaks up the sincerity with a small nudge of his elbow. “Also, you are maintaining a healthy long distance relationship with your serious boyfriend, which I even admit takes some serious strength. I can’t even imagine spending a month without Patrick”.

Alexis widens her eyes, lips jutting in a sympathetic pout. “Aw, remember when he left town for two weeks to help his parents pack up their house? You were moping around the motel like a sad little elephant. With floppy ears and a droopy tail!”

“Okay, so we’ve both found people that we are undoubtedly enamored with”, David says with an affectionate eye roll. Alexis watches her brother slowly shake his head, like he still cannot believe his luck. “I’m finally in a good enough mental state to admit that, if you will?”

Her lips thin into a fond, timid smile. She always teases her brother for never fully letting his guard down to love, but maybe she’s been an absolute hypocrite this whole time. Alexis watches David’s eyes fall to her desk, where Ted had left a jar of little notes. One for each week he’d be gone in the Galapagos. No one has loved her this fully before, and she knows that this love is a two-way street.

“Yep, I’ll admit to that,'' she says, giving his hand a little squeeze, “You are finally right about one thing”.

David pushes himself off the bed with a snort, irritably crossing the room to pick up his phone. With one buzz, the act fades away and he looks like he is among the stars once more.

He begins to open the door with his first suitcase, but turns around to cast a glance back at sheets. “Are you sure you don’t want me to leave the duvet behind? A reminder of your selfless brother who slept closest to the door for years, risking moths and murder?”

Alexis scrunches her face in a pucker. “Ew, David. The amount of times I’ve walked in on you and Patrick sprawled all over each other on that thing has dried up any opportunity for sentimental value”.

David scoffs, “As if I didn’t just walk in on you stripping on a webcam three days ago”.

Her groan is interrupted by the playful slam of the motel door, and everything is starting to feel okay again. She takes a deep breath, then picks up the next suitcase.