He’s not sure when it got so muddled.
When everything in his life sort of caved in and got messed up, all the layers and filters blurred and smeared out.
Part of it started when he got into a deeper collaboration with Kari, at work. Kari who develops indie games for a tiny company that has signed a contract with August’s shop, Geek and Sundry. A mutually beneficial deal with lots of details that he’s asked for juridical help to understand.
He had been upfront with her from the beginning, though it had probably appeared strange to her that told her “by the way, I have a girlfriend in college” when all they did was plan advertising and upcoming release parties for games. Or maybe it hadn’t. From the very start, there’s been some level of tension between them, a little shiver in the air whenever he thinks about her.
The way he used to feel about Jean.
The way he feels about Jean somewhere beneath the confusion, perhaps?
No, he doesn’t think he still feels the same way, even if he can’t rule out the possibility. He thinks he has left that part of his life, somehow, like Jean has left hers by going to college and getting drafted by a football team. It will lift her up and plop her down in a completely different setting sometime in the near future and August wonders if he’s just intimidated by that fact.
He does know, however, that Kari is someone he meets almost every day, someone he is excited to see and talk to and text whenever they aren’t hanging out.
“Hey!” He calls out when he runs into her in the city hall, having been through all of his gibberish paperwork twice with a very patient woman in a suit. She had given him a look that made him feel small, but helped out all the same.
There had been a semi-party with her co-workers at the game design company. One rainy afternoon with too much to drink and he had been flirting his ass off. He knows that’s the truth, that’s how it had seemed to everyone who was there and he’s ashamed of it but at the same time he isn’t.
After that, Kari has more or less pushed herself a little bit further away every day.
But today she smiles at him, gives him a hug. He sinks into it with a deep sigh.
“Missed you,” she confesses and the words light up inside him, like fireworks.
Fireworks that result in him inviting her over for a housewarming party for Juno who’s just finished moving all of her stuff from the dorm to his place. Their place, even, she’s offering to pitch in more than he’s asked for and help him pay off his loans if needed.
August had more or less expected her boyfriend David to move in with her, but she claims that’s not the case. They’re serious and exclusive from what he can tell but you never know. He doesn’t really want to know any kind of details from his sister’s love life, if he’s being completely honest.
Atticus tries to impress Vendela Savoy for the bulk of the party, throwing around lame jokes and compliments. August remembers his brother having some kind of half-hearted fling with Vendela back in high school, though it never amounted to much and neither of them seems to be particularly keen on the whole thing. Maybe it’s just one of those “better than nothing” solutions a lot of people seem to make for themselves.
August just isn’t interested in dating like that. He doesn’t really care for the whole romance scene either. He likes hanging out with a girlfriend and care for her, go out, plan trips and the future. Work takes a lot of his energy and free time and what little he has left he wants to offer someone who feels the same way.
It sounds so simple in his head.
And then nothing is.
“I’m breaking up with her,” he tells Kari when he manages to catch hold of her downstairs, away from the rest of the party.
“Okay.” She doesn’t move closer to him or indicate that she’s going to do so. He isn’t sure what he had expected, if he had though she’d throw her arms around his neck and kiss her. Maybe he had, maybe his imagination is just that stupid. “Look, August, I really like you-”
“I like you, too.”
He feels silly, out of place. He hasn’t been doing this since he was a kid and Jean had kissed him after PT class and left a note in his bag – date Saturday night? burgers and cinema? I got money for my birthday /J – and things just gradually sort of changed until they were a couple and everyone knew it.
“I don’t want to get hurt here,” she says then and he realises things are much more complicated now. “You and Jean… I don’t want to be dragged into that. I can’t.”
After their conversation, the party kind of dies for him. But everyone else still dance.
And the following morning, something else dies, too.
She knows. Without even asking, without anyone even telling her anything, without anything to tell her about, she knows.
“It’s really not you,” he says, like a tired old trope.
“Right.” She doesn’t look convinced.
They try to argue about it for a bit, mostly for show. They haven’t broken up before, they’re unsure of what’s expected of them. But their relationships has decayed slowly, over the course of Jean’s years at Uni, and there’s nothing dramatic about it.
It’s just sad and it hurts, in a dull and quiet kind of way.
Juno hangs out with him a lot when she finds out about the breakup. Challenges him to play video games and takes him out for burgers and beer.
He tries to pay her back for that by cooking most of the meals, making sure she’s got a lunch box to take with her to her teaching gigs around the city. She’s temping here and there, never knowing from day to day where she’ll be in a week’s time.
And when she’s had enough of his whining about girls, she promptly calls Atticus and orders him to come over to “do a shift or two”.
Their scheme is completely transparent of course, but August is really grateful for his siblings in times like these.
* This is in Barchester 2.0, actually. I’ve been fast with the rebuilding, mainly because I hadn’t reached any further than generation 3 at most and my families were easy to re-create. The hood is completely different, and far from finished, but I want to play so I’m modifying as we go along. My goal for 2017 is to complete two rounds which is pretty slow, but this round has taken me over a year, so…