Brando: Book 2

By: J.D. Hawkins

Chapter 1


“You did this to yourself,” I say to the bare-chested, unshaven, scruffy-haired mess of a man looking back at me with pain in his eyes. “You tried to have it all, and you ended up with nothing.”

I raise my whiskey glass and he does the same.

“Here’s to being a complete asshole.”

I drain the glass and look at the sorry motherfucker. He’s good-looking, even though he needs a shave and a shower. A strong jawline and dark eyes, but he’s got the expression of someone watching his pet being put down. His eyes are lidded and blank, as if all he wants to do is creep back into bed, and his lips look like they’re incapable of saying anything nice. It breaks your heart just to look at him.

“Shit. You look as bad as I feel,” I growl, stepping away from the mirror with a grim smile.

I put my glass down on the counter and stop myself just before I fill it up again – who am I kidding? I’m beyond glasses. I take the whole bottle with me as I cross the messy room, stepping on dirty clothes and other junk as I make my way to the record shelf. The place looks like a bomb hit it, a bomb filled with men’s underwear, beer bottles, and empty pizza boxes.

“Time to bring out the big guns,” I mumble, as I angle my head to flick through the very last records on the shelf – the ones I hoped I’d never need again.

Johnny Cash, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Bruce Springsteen – the old, smoky voices of men who knew too much and still had the scars from learning it the hard way.

I pick a record and bring it over to the player, taking my time as I put it on the platter. With slow anticipation, I lift the needle with my finger and drop it carefully on the groove. The comforting crackles and pops sound out from the speakers all over my apartment, and I swing the bottle to my lips as I stumble back over to the sofa and drop my heavy body onto it.

With the drink dulling my senses, I let the song take me out of myself. Guitars and drums swirling and beating like my bad thoughts, that sympathetic voice like an old friend…

Then the record scratches to a stop.

I open my eyes and look toward the player.

It’s Jax. He raises his hands out wide, looks at me incredulously, and says, “What the fuck, dude?”

“Ugh,” is all I can manage as I pull myself into an upright sitting position on the couch. I don’t need to ask how Jax got in; I gave him a spare key a long time ago – I sometimes have a habit of losing my own set in the apartments of particularly passionate women.

He steps through the room purposefully, scanning the wreckage of my apartment like he’s looking for something. With his crisp, tailored blue shirt and tight-fitting jeans he should look ridiculous in this pig-sty of an apartment, but he has a habit of making his surroundings look like they don’t fit him, rather than the other way around.

“So you had your heart broken, huh?”

“How do you know that?” I say, struggling to follow his movements as he paces around.

Jax shoots me a look. “’Cause this place looks like a crime scene – and you look like the corpse. Don’t need a detective.”

“I’m alright,” I insist.

“Alright? Dude. I haven’t seen you in nearly a month. I’ve called you—” he pauses to grab my phone from the coffee table, and yanks my finger onto it in order to unlock it, “twenty-four times,” he says, flicking through the call list on my phone. “And you ignored every single one. That’s kind of impressive, in a weird way. Looks like your boss called a bunch of times…your massage therapist…your yoga instructor…?”

I manage a little smile as I bring the bottle to my lips, but Jax snatches it away just as it reaches them.

“Hey!” I say, finding my hand suddenly empty.

“You even eating anything?” Jax says as he brings the bottle with him on his march to the kitchen.

“What are you, now? My mother?”

“Just a friend,” he says as he opens and closes cabinets looking for food. “If I was your mother I’d be hosing you down in the shower and spraying this place with Lysol.”

“We can just order a pizza,” I groan, as I drop back onto the sofa.

“I’ll take you to the salad place down the road. My shout,” he says, walking back to stand in front of me. “You seriously look like you could use a bucket of kale or some shit.”

“That sounds good,” I mumble sarcastically. “Or, we could just order a pizza.”

“Bro!” Jax shouts, gesturing around him. “You need to get out of this place. You’re a couple of video games and a superhero poster away from regressing into a reclusive teenager.”

I look up at him feebly. “I used to like video games.”

“So did I,” he says, “but even then, I never looked as bad as you do right now.”

He slows down for a second, staring at me with more pity than I’ve ever seen him use before – and this is a guy who stops to feed stray dogs. He steps in front of the coffee table and sits down on it, straight in front of me. Finally, he nods.

“So what happened with Haley?” he asks. “No bullshit this time.”

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