Parallel Lives by Ana Linden by Ana Linden - Read Online

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Summary

Young, beautiful and independent, Amalia refuses to apply traditionalist values to any of her relationships with men; therefore commitment, marriage and couple routine are not part of her vision on life. Cynical and highly aware of the realities of an unromanticized modern world devoid of long lasting feelings, Amalia appears to only expect a few moments of fleeting happiness from the men in her life. The opposite sex is often no more than a refuge from all mundane problems and deceptions, so the young woman stubbornly refuses to settle down with any of the men who try to win her affection - that would only mean the death of her soul, independence and character.
A man will treat a woman as badly as she allows him and no man can offer a woman all she needs - these are two of her strongest beliefs, and needing to be in control, she will not shy away from being at least as selfish, self-involved, manipulative and cold as men are to other women in their lives. Amalia wants someone who can make her feel and forget. But as she thrives on introspection and analysis, doubt and disappointment, together with unwanted and unexpected feelings will often overwhelm her.
Above anything else, she is their confidante, the one they entrust with all their fears, hopes and mundane stories, Amalia enjoying their conversations as a means of escaping and forgetting her own issues. Infiltrating the thoughts, ideas and emotions of men who care for her becomes a guilty pleasure in which she will relish whenever she finds the power to remind herself that any drop of happiness needs to be savoured. Getting to know the various men in her life ultimately translates into a deeper understanding of herself and her needs, discovering she can still be both disappointed and amazed by the person she is.
Her evolution over the years outlines the image of a woman who refuses to lie to herself and become somebody else in order to please people and fit in, often accepting loneliness as a reward and not a punishment.

Published: Ana Linden on
ISBN: 9781311884749
List price: $3.99
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Parallel Lives - Ana Linden

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Author

Prologue

The buzzing sound of plane engines and the milky view of clouds and protruding mountain peaks below failed to provide her with their usual sleepy serenity. Relinquishing control of her life and relying on the mysterious laws of physics to transport her exactly where she needed to be had been replaced by frantic panic, as her fingernails were deeply embedded in the window seat from the beginning of a flight which would normally allow her to spend some of the calmest hours of her existence. She had to make use of all her self-control to complete the boarding procedures, to maintain her resolution and go through with the trip, but she felt the plane would take her nowhere this time. It had occurred to her that she was only drifting, she never really had a clear idea where any of the planes would take her, she was just spinning in a circle, in the vague hope that access to the right flight would eventually be gained, by chance or by mistake. She felt she was falling deeper and deeper, and couldn’t help wondering why she kept leaping from one flight to another, as none of them had proven to be the right one.

She forced herself to open her eyes, breathe in the cold, dry, almost artificial air and look out the window – the clouds, the mountains and the sun rays were the same as always. She breathed in again and she remembered why she had accepted his invitation. She remembered his smile when he heard the answer, a smile so similar to the one she had seen months ago, as she was waving goodbye to him and the car taking him away. The fingernails stopped trying to damage the resilient airplane seat while she was finally sipping the watery coffee they had offered her about half an hour earlier, looking at the revolving world above which they were floating, oddly protected in that vibrating aerodynamic shell. It wasn’t long before they would start their descent, the route was so familiar and she could almost anticipate the altitude drops that would soon follow. He must be leaving work right about now, she thought, he is almost on his way to the airport; and she could almost see him smiling at her in the Arrivals terminal. The irony of it… different airport, different terminal than last summer, Arrivals this time…

Her nails were digging into the seat again, while she was staring blankly at the misty clouds outside. Maybe it was the right flight after all…

Chapter 1

Amalia felt there was something of a sociopath lying dormant in both of them, as guilt was mainly a foreign concept in the vast majority of circumstances with which life presented them at the most mundane level possible. On a large scale, they both had a very acute sense of right and wrong that responded to their personal reasoning regarding the world, people and morals, a sense which suited their open-minded characters, their egotistic needs and their somewhat legal, more abstract rather than moral, view on correctness.

Robert was old, or at least he was old compared to her, but that was not relevant for either one of them when they initially met, just as it made absolutely no difference that he had a wife and a child at home. If anything, these aspects regarding his condition only made him more attractive and Amalia was well-aware that their relation might have ended before having a chance to begin, had he not been the man he was, leading the life he led.

It was time, she decided about five minutes after meeting him, it was time to start dating a married man. Date him? Would that be the appropriate phrase for it? She felt it instantly, nothing about it would be what common souls derive from the idea of dating. After all, he was married, there was an age difference and she had no desire to change his status or to manipulate him, so that he would present her with the opportunity of a normal role in his life. They would have whatever kind of a relationship they both felt like sharing and they would interact on a commitment-free level.

When Robert noticed Amalia entering the sun-bathed restaurant, he suddenly became aware that he was hoping she would be the woman he was supposed to meet. He was expecting a girl, but something about her, made him think woman, in spite of her youthful face and features. He realised exactly what it was. She looked cold. On the torrid summer day, she looked cold.

The clicking noise of her heels on the wooden floor became louder as she was heading towards his table and he felt he had to find a way to keep her close, at least until he could decipher whatever accounted for that cold layer and what was hidden by that elegant, beautifully put together attractive look. The long legs, the slender figure, the poised posture and the pretty face were just additional enticement, if any such thing was still necessary. As he stood up to offer her a chair when she was only centimetres away from the table, he could sense her perfume and a cold, silky hand shaking his after the quick polite introduction. Expensive was what came to his mind, and before he had any chance to decipher the implications of that thought, she was speaking to him about the reason why she decided to meet him. But the words he was more focused on were her very first ones.

Hello, I’m Amalia. I assume our mutual friend already told you a few things about me and my educational background.

But he was no longer interested in her educational background or in the fact that he had set that meeting to find a girl willing to be his assistant for a few hours a week, for the rest of the summer. Yes, actually, he did want to know things about her background, he thought, but he wanted to know everything about what made her tick. His old perverted curiosity took over and he realised he wanted to break her down into little bits of information and figure out whether there was indeed something different about her or she was just one of the many who managed to put on a nicely carved facade.

She was now talking about her studies and the thesis she was preparing and she suddenly became full of life, so he felt contagiously alive too, like he was back in time, back in his student days, in that far away, quaint university town, where – as it turned out – they had both spent years of their lives, not knowing of each other’s existence. The urge to ask her when exactly she lived there was immediately repressed, he had no intention of feeling old again; he would hold on to that surge of youth for as long as possible.

Amalia was staring straight into his eyes while she was offering him basic information about her and her studies, about her summer plans and all sorts of other trivia he felt he needed to know. It wasn’t about a part-time job that would reduce the number of boring hours a week over her summer holiday, nor was it about supplementing her income or providing additional experience for her resume. It didn’t matter that she was still using a very distant, neutral and polite tone of voice, Amalia already knew that those warm, boring summer hours would be filled with something more exciting than the tedious tasks of an assistant.

Yes, it was the right moment to finally have an affair with a married man, with the married man in front of her, and while they were both debating university and job related matters, they became aware that they knew more than enough about the person they were looking at from their mutual friend, the one who enjoyed idle gossip so much. She had no doubt he felt the same; and even if he hadn’t, her arrogance prevented her from thinking otherwise. Amalia found Robert intelligent, intriguing and strong enough in order to consider him the one to make the final cut; besides, she welcomed the new challenge he presented and the change of direction he was bound to bring into her life.

So do you have a boyfriend?

The sudden, rudely intrusive question almost shook her new resolution to the core. Could she have actually misread him so badly? Was he really that ordinary, and if so, how come she had missed all the signs that normally accompany such stereotypical individuals?

I find that people tend to have a very personal, subjective image of terms such as the one which you just used. I do know men and boys, and some of them are even friends of mine, while others are something else altogether; and some are just acquaintances. Regardless of whether this is relevant to the topic we were discussing or not, I hope at least it answers your question.

Actually, it hadn’t. He had uttered the out of context question without even thinking of what he was saying, during a very brief intermission in their conversation, and he could now see very clearly that it had been ill-received, judging by her vanishing smile and the very vague and cold answer. Other girls… women… girls… would have tried to act coy, some would have tried a flirty response, their egos hugely tickled by his interest, whereas she dismissed him with a non-answer, clearly penalizing his lack of finesse.

I apologize, that was rude of me. But I tend to be curious by nature and I have the feeling you might know a lot more about me from your friend than I know about you. Game on. He decided honesty was the best choice for the time being. Most of the people who work with me – not for me – are friends of mine and we socialize in various contexts that are in no way work-related. Whether we decide to collaborate in the future or not, you strike me as an… intriguing person and I would very much enjoy getting to know you.

I’m very curious, I’m sorry… I’d like to know you better… At least he didn’t say you’re an interesting person, which she felt was his first instinct, but he managed to overcome it just in time. She normally didn’t go for that kind of an approach, but she sensed he meant the clichés he had just uttered, he was playing his one card left after the inappropriate question. Directness would score him some points. He was clearly a spoiled man, used to being blunt in his sentimental approaches, not because of a certain lack of imagination or poetry, but because he felt that such endeavours belonged to a period in a man's life that he had already passed or outgrown.

Anyway, would you mind if I called you sometime soon, to see if you made a decision about the summer job? She kept staring him in the eyes without saying a word, so he decided there was nothing more to be done or said then and there. He was slightly annoyed by her superior, know-it-all look and he wasn’t going to pursue the issue any further, the intriguing brat could make up her mind about him all on her own. Or you can call me whenever you prefer, in case that’s more convenient to you.

He hadn’t meant to say that last sentence, but what’s done, is done, he thought, while he was watching her head out. Not wanting to completely give in to her, he figured that finding a middle ground was his best option, since she was clearly not going to respond to his hot and cold play. Yes, summer was looking up… for sure… And while she was walking away, he felt a pang of unadulterated enthusiasm and challenge, the same way he used to feel when living in the old town which had also been her home… like there was purpose in life, and everything and anything became possible.

***

The early summer heat and the salty air had always been a promise of future pleasure, one could actually believe in the possibility of a carefree, beautiful time of sensorial depravity, and Amalia was breathing it all in, focusing only on the sound of her heels on the almost deserted pavement. The lazy afternoon hours, when people would either enjoy a brief siesta or would still be trapped in their stuffy offices, and the peace she could get from the short walk pushed her to decline his offer to drive her home. Besides, she felt she had to escape his sight as fast as possible, the need of being alone was always more overwhelming than anything else. Just as some people have an innate fear of being alone with themselves, others feel the burden of human company and forced socialization so heavily, that they need to create their personal escape routes, they need to run away as fast and as far as possible, so they could preserve their sanity.

When the parking lot where she had waved a quick goodbye to him while rushing away was no longer in sight, she finally slowed down, breathing deeply and finally relaxing her tensed body a little bit, allowing the latest sensations of the afternoon to sink in, so she could split each one of them into the smallest fractions, analysing every potential implication and cataloguing any shred of emotion.

One often knows that certain situations are inevitable. In spite of telling yourself it was all sorts of coincidental actions that threw you in the middle of that particular instant of life, the truth is constantly close to the surface of your thoughts: you went looking for such a context, because – whether aware of it or not – you needed it to define yourself, as it was part of you even before having the chance to pursue it. People often deny it, first and foremost to themselves, but the buried urge is still there, a tormenting and guilt-inducing presence, pushing to surface at the most inappropriate times.

She wouldn’t deny it though; she knew that certain things were bound to happen to her and that she would go chasing after certain others. Her upbringing and education didn’t allow her to hide under the shade of stale propriety and biased morals. The thrill of the new and the chill of fear dug deep into her chest as she was slowly walking home, realising that her desire to run and hide was more powerful than usual. She had promised herself a summer free of her old constrictions, she had promised herself a summer of feeling as young as she actually was – for how long would she still be that young anyway? And now that it was there, she felt she didn’t want it anymore, she didn’t want anything anymore, other than to get home, close the door behind her, and be left alone, without having to see or hear from anybody.

***

Do you have any plans for this afternoon or could we meet for coffee?

She liked that he didn’t even allude to the summer job as a pretext for him to see her, even if his call came as a bit of a surprise. Amalia was pretty sure he would call her, she was pretty sure he was interested in the same kind of interaction she was thinking of, but he was clearly a lot more determined than her, and there was no room for doubts as far as he was concerned.

She was quite sure of knowing what she wanted too, but the difference lay in her lack of actual experience in that territory – there are steps that might be more difficult to take than others and she had been oscillating on a very thin line ever since they had met, trying to decide whether to jump or not. It wasn’t any moral issue holding her back. She knew that the only immoral thing would have consisted in being deceitful to herself, given that she was surreally aware of the world she lived in, with all its implications, with all its joy and lies. It was the side of the coin where everything was happening openly and open-mindedly, so there was no problem with that. It was the going back to that side of the world she had known up close as a child, with all its beautiful excess and spirals that made her nervous; she had to wonder whether she could belong as well as she thought she naturally would.

She could never be bothered to fit in, to merge with an environment that did not immediately respond to her needs and personality. That would have only meant surrendering one’s character and she just moved on as soon as it became obvious she didn’t belong there. But not belonging to his environment was not something she was able or willing to accept. That would have translated into a landslide of severe proportions in her world of values, and reassessing her entire system of ideas and values was the kind of undertaking she was unwilling to consider. She knew his world was her world too, and nothing contradicting that conviction was an acceptable variable.

There is a certain type of emotion which only results from considering yourself in control of what you want and value, and that was exactly what took over her anxiety, culminating in her closing her eyes and accepting to meet Robert that afternoon.

Wear something comfortable, he told her on the phone.

I don’t do comfortable.

Her dry reply played back into his ears while he was watching her approaching his car. Something about this woman made him think that no matter how much comfort he might find in any sort of a relationship with her, he would never be completely comfortable in front of her silent, drilling and draining looks. He smiled to himself, getting out of the car to say hello to her, she was only a few steps away now.

Amalia was wearing a long, flowery dress that clung nicely to her body, making her look tall and accentuating her figure, without being tight or revealing. The heels were lower this time, he thought, so that must have been as comfortable as she got. The sun glasses hid her cold stare, but – oddly enough – they made her look even more distant, in spite of her smiling when seeing him. Clearly, he shouldn't have thought it would be any easier to find a way of approaching her today, but the idea of trying seemed even more tempting under these circumstances.

You did say comfortable, right? Her smile was full of sarcasm when she made it clear she noticed him measuring her up. I hope I won’t be out of place, wherever we’re going.

Oh, you will be. And he burst into a friendly laughter, closing the door on her side of the car, then getting himself behind the steering wheel. Game on, he told himself again. Your coffee, miss, he uttered offering her one of the coffees to go, which he had picked up from the petrol station on the way over. I was thinking a less traditional coffee cup could be a nice break from the routine.

Funny, what you call a nice break from routine, other people call cheap.

She does have a comeback for anything, doesn’t she? But that was refreshing. In fact, he wouldn’t have been too pleased if she were actually impressed by some cheap cup of coffee, offered to her by a man she hardly knew, while they were driving away in his car.

It’s a really beautiful day and I don’t know about you, but I thought it would be pleasant to do something else than just have drinks on a crowded terrace. Don’t worry, you will get a decent cup of coffee, to your heart’s content afterwards. But I think you might find our little trip interesting, it will give us a chance to talk about all sorts of irrelevant things.

Afterwards? After what? The fear was back, suffocating her a little bit, pointing out to the fact that she was in a car with a virtual stranger, having no idea where they were heading, relying strictly on her instincts telling her nothing bad would happen and that the thrill she was feeling should be one of novelty, not of fear. She had the innate ability to avoid men that no woman would be safe with, and her instincts were always correct in assessing the men with whom she interacted, so she breathed in and closed her eyes tightly for another moment, taking the leap of the person who knows they are always right, the leap from fear to almost forced excitement.

Let’s just see if he proves to be petrol station coffee – a colossal disappointment – or Italian espresso… She was annoyed by the tacky gesture of offering her that lousy cup of coffee, but the fact that he clearly had something in mind and had already planned the afternoon intrigued her. That was much more relevant at the moment. She desperately needed to be intrigued, she desperately needed a man who could amuse her in any other way than by prostrating himself at her feet, like a big sheepish dog.

How long is it that you have been living here? A couple of years, I think you said last time...? Did you get to know the area well enough?

Yes, it’s been a few years now, and I did get to the point of knowing the place better than I knew my old town.

I was referring to the area in general, not only to the town… She tried to catch a glimpse of his eyes, but he had decided to pay attention to the road since they were clearly about to drive out of town, so she couldn’t really get a clue as to what their mysterious destination was.

"I do know some of the out of local… let’s call them attractions… Nature escapades weren’t big on my parents’ to do list, though…"

Well, I hope you enjoy our little touristy escapade today.

He realised it was best not to ask her whether she had inherited her mother’s dislike of the outdoors, no need to spoil the afternoon when there was still some shred of hope that his plans weren’t completely inappropriate for her. It was a shot in the dark anyway, he realised it as soon as he noticed what she was wearing, but he wasn’t ready to accept that a person who had reached maturity in the same old place where he had spent several nice years as a student would be devoid of any sense of history and would shudder at the mere idea of an afternoon away from the noise and oppression of the modern town in which they crossed paths. Her old home town still lived on the shaky mirage of history, nature and culture intertwining in a desperate attempt to take the next step into present-day reality. Robert tried to ignore the obvious detail that he had mistakenly left out – she appeared to be more than pleased to have left that place for good.

So… do you have a boyfriend?

Not that again… But some things are unavoidable, she thought, and apparently it was a valid question when people meet other people, especially when a certain type of interest arises between two persons. She couldn’t really blame her dislike of socially acceptable small talk on him.

I get the feeling there’s a completely separate conversation going on in your head.

What do you mean by that?

How else would you explain the lack of continuity when jumping from one topic to another, entirely unrelated one?

Just accept the fact that I’m used to getting my answers, he grinned at her, suddenly staring her in the eyes. Why do you make such a big deal out of answering that question anyway? It’s almost as though you were ashamed…

You tell me… Do you have a girlfriend?

Her voice was somewhere between flirty and annoyed and he knew it wasn’t shame he had sensed in her evasive reaction, but he couldn’t quite figure out what else it might have been either.

He instinctively shifted his gaze from her eyes to his wedding ring and as he replied, trying to decide whether she was just mocking him or not, he noticed Amalia was aware of his awkward pause.

First of all, I’m married, as I’m sure you must know, and I tend not to hide this particular piece of information. As for a girlfriend, I don’t have one at the moment, but I’m not adverse to the idea, and I make no secret of that either… Well, maybe only as far as the wife is concerned, she might disapprove of my extracurricular activities. Robert was pleased to notice her laughing at his little joke. But I believe things are somewhat different for you… there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be seeing somebody.

Amalia turned her head towards him. She couldn’t continue to admire the scenery that was unravelling outside the car window while sinking into her own thoughts on the matter, appearing to listen to him absentmindedly. She had had that conversation with other people before, including a couple of very close friends, and everybody – from the new guys she met, who wanted to sleep with her, to her family – seemed intent on figuring out just that particular matter, ending up being more puzzled than they were initially.

You really like labels: married, single, wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend… It’s really a matter of perception for me. Even if some people see me as having what they might call a boyfriend, I happen to believe it takes more than tolerating a person for a few years, allowing him to be part of your life when there’s nothing else better to do and no one else better to be had. It takes more to call it a relationship and no, in my book that doesn’t mean I have a boyfriend.

So you do have a boyfriend.

I see you’re just about as unable to understand as most people are.

I’m teasing you, really. It’s just that people are known to build life-long marriages on less than what you just described there. So what’s wrong with this boy, that you think so little of him? And why exactly does he allow you to behave that way? Come on, tell me what your story is, I want to know.

Robert’s voice betrayed his curiosity, but there was a hint of something else behind that half smile. She ignored it; he wanted to know, then he would know. Amalia needed to figure out up to which point she had been right in assessing him and his character, just as she needed to be accepted exactly for who she was. Narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy were not flaws she could overlook.

He’s a pair of knitted woollen socks.

What the hell does that mean?

Did you ever have a pair of those woollen socks that grandma knitted for you?

Of course, several of them, I might still have one or two in some drawer, somewhere. What does that have to do with anything?

They’re the kind of thing that you don’t really need, you don’t really wear, but you can’t get yourself to throw them away, because of what they are. Sure, they’re ugly and the rough wool makes them unpleasant on your skin, but the truth of the matter is that you have worn them a few times, perhaps on a really chilly winter night, or when you went to the mountains and the cold was too much to bear… You wore them and they proved to be exactly what you needed at that moment, in order to achieve a certain relative amount of comfort. So you can’t bring yourself to throw them out, you might need them again someday. Plus, there’s also the emotional factor – they mean something because grandma made them, you can connect them to certain memories you aren’t ready to let go of yet. That’s how they end up being kept on the bottom of some drawer, to be taken out once in a blue moon, when the situation is critical. But you would never think of wearing them in public, with your nice, Italian leather shoes, would you? And in fact, you probably wouldn’t even miss them much if you were to finally get rid of them when you cleaned up your wardrobe more carefully…

Robert was almost laughing at her analogy. I can’t believe how much sense her stupid idea makes… She actually perceives another human being – one who, by all accounts, cares about her enough not to notice such obvious things – as nothing more than some sort of outdated accessory to be trotted out and tucked away only according to her needs, with no saying in it whatsoever… He didn’t know what he believed about that, he wanted to disagree with her and disapprove of such an attitude, but the truth was he admired her bluntness. He was forced to accept that he himself had treated people no better than that, perhaps even worse, more than one time. But she seemed not to see anything wrong with it, because she made no effort to hide it.

You do realise that’s a person you’re talking about, right?

Yes, and the person in question is completely aware of my feelings. I don’t pretend he means much to me, just as you don’t pretend not to be married. There’s a difference, however. He knows exactly how things stand between us, he knows exactly who I am and what my conditions are, and he has the choice of accepting them or not. He decided he was desperate enough in order to accept anything, as long as once in a while there’s room for him in my life as well. But he is free to leave whenever he wants. Can you say the same about your wife? Does she know exactly who you are? Does she get the choice of accepting you or not, or does she just have to live with a nice cosy lie about what her marriage is?

She was right… or maybe she wasn’t… He didn’t know anymore, that kind of questions hadn’t been tormenting him for too long a time. It made sense from a logical point of view, but he knew there was more to it when it came to a relationship, especially a marriage. The make-believe factor was actually the more relevant one in keeping things together.

Marriage is different. It’s cruel to tell people things that are bound to hurt them just to fulfil some need for honesty. There’s more to it than that. Relationships, especially marriages, need to be protected, sheltered from certain aspects of life. There’s more than enough pressure on them as it is.

Right… What you don’t know can’t hurt you. How about being at the receiving end of that sheltering strategy? What if your wife protects you – I’m sorry, your marriage – from certain aspects of life as well?

It’s not like that, you’d understand it if you knew her.

I’m sure I wouldn’t, but I’m also sure you actually believe that, so just tell yourself whatever you need to hear in order to go on.

The silence was drowning the countryside scenery. Nice, cosy and nightmarish, she thought, but it's not his fault. That appears to be the vastly spread idea about marriage anyway, why should theirs be the exception? It’s probably never different. They just end up devouring each other’s soul and character in the nicely furnished confines of a home, burying all the frustration, ignorance and dissatisfaction deep under a sea of smiles and placid lies, all under the silent approval of socially accepted behaviour, most likely under the eyes of some child that doesn’t know any better and will probably just grow up to duplicate the parents’ example.

How about Woollen Socks? Why do you keep him around and not chase him away, so he could find somebody right for him? Or why don’t you make him into more than that, why can’t he make it to the next level?

We met not that long after I moved here and he immediately became somewhat obsessed with me. It was pretty obvious and perhaps I should’ve chased him away from the very beginning, because I knew myself well enough back then to be aware that I didn’t want anything serious with or from him. But I’m selfish and I was a bit lonely at the time, and the way he worshiped me was quite nice for my ego. He knew that he had no chance to be more than that, a pair of socks on a cold winter night, but he accepted it; or maybe he hoped things would change, that I might change. I don’t really know and I don’t really care. There still are times when I feel lonely and that’s when he’s just a speed dial away, he knows that total availability on his behalf is what I require, and he is more than willing to provide that. No matter how bad you think he has it, he still enjoys it a lot more than he would any typical relationship with somebody else but me. It’s me he wants and this is who I am, so that’s what he gets; no more than that though, because he is devoid of any personality, any ambitions and intelligence. He may be a nice guy, but he’s no more than that, and he never will be.

The idiot's in love with you. He didn’t know whether to get angry at her or just laugh at that boy’s stupidity. Something from the past was trying to claw its way to the surface, but he instinctively pushed it back deeper, the way he had always done.

Let’s leave this cliché for another time. He’s just in need of finding himself a new mother figure, someone to tell him what to do, to control his every action and to relinquish all his responsibility when things go badly; because, after all, it was only her fault, she was the only one with a say in it, and he can just relax, enjoy the ride and bask in the amount of drama him being the victim of the soulless woman would offer.

I almost feel sorry for the poor guy. You don’t appreciate him at all, do you?

"Of course I do, we’re actually friends, but anything more than that is subject to certain rules.