Thousands Page 2

Despite the morbidness of my thoughts, one piece of sanity remained. A knowledge of how my mind worked and a tentative hope that two solutions might save me as they had before.

Distance and time.

There was such a thing as cooling off, and I was in desperate need of it.

In my past, the way to ‘cure’ me of my current obsession was brain boredom—where my mind suddenly decided it had conquered all it needed to, and the fog lifted, letting me see the world without addiction again.

A universe of sensations existed past that one compulsion, and it always seemed as if I’d stepped from a vortex of nothing but origami, origami, or fight, fight, fight to breathe a deep sigh of relief and be sane.

It took a while. It wasn’t guaranteed. But it could happen with Pim. I could grow bored of her…

I rolled my eyes.

Bullshit.

The more time I spent with her, the more fascinated I became.

Okay, time might not work…but perhaps distance could.

The second way of breaking my OCD was separation from the cause. To ignore the screaming demands to over focus and indulge. To ride through the detox no matter how agonising.

Some obsessions only took a day to overcome. Simple things like a song that’d captured my attention only for me to play it repetitively, hour after hour, until I physically couldn’t listen to the beat without wanting to kill myself while at the same time, unable to stop pressing play.

In those cases, all I needed to do was throw away the CD, or burn the iPod, or turn off the internet even as my cello called to me.

A few days cold turkey and the storm summoning me to drink its venomous rain and live in its rancid clouds dispersed into clear skies once again.

It’s worked before.

It can work again.

If I could avoid Pimlico for a few days…a week maybe…then I could forget the nirvana of being inside her and go back to the way things were. Platonic things. Rescuer and recovering things.

All I need is time.

Checking my watch, I ignored the twitch to check it one, two, three, and noticed an hour had gone by since I’d yelled at her.

Guilt chewed caverns inside me.

I’m a bastard to say she wasn’t worth it.

She was worth so much more than what I had to give, and that fucking terrified me. I’d hurt myself before I hurt another person I love—

My spine shot straight.

Love…

For the second time, that sneaky word snaked into my thoughts.

I knew sibling and parental love. I understood what it was like to give someone my heart unconditionally because of blood and obligation.

But to go from strangers to friends…to in love.

To hand over my everything and be happy that I had the ability to fall instead of freak out about what this meant.

Am I in love?

Was that what churned inside my chest? The sickening knowledge that I would throw myself out of the window if it meant it was the only way to keep Pim safe, or was it yet another layer of guilt knowing what she’d lived?

The question hissed through my blood, twisting the need for physical intimacy into something entirely different.

She was the one making me hurt.

But she could also be the one to make me better.

All my previous rationales vanished.

Glancing at the door, I stood before I gave myself permission. I’d tell her exactly what had to happen. That for the next week, she’d have to stay in quarantine for her own protection. If we crossed paths, a minimum distance would be recognised at all times with staff present. And above all, no touching.

If she obeyed, I could get myself under control again, and we could go back to being friends.

I could continue to love her. Care for her. Cherish her. And she would be given everything she ever wanted.

My hand clamped over the door-knob while my mind entered a fugue, desperate to earn Pim’s laugh again, to watch her steal something inconsequential all the while stealing my heart.

That was what I needed.

She was what I needed.

We can make this work.

We could sail side by side as cohabiters until we arrived in England. There, I’d set her free because it was the right thing to do.

I would forever be her No One, and who knew? Perhaps we could remain pen friends while I sailed the seas searching for redemption and she slotted back into the life she was stolen from.

The idea warmed my aching heart while at the same time crushing it beneath its vicious shoe.

Wishing I had a joint to take the edge off, I yanked open the door and stepped into the suite’s lounge.

My eyes fell to the carpet where she’d stood and begged me to talk to her.

Nothing.

The thick floor-covering held no indents of her feet, no sign she’d been there at all. Of course, she wouldn’t remain standing for over an hour. She’d return to somewhere far more comfortable.

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