I try to wrap my head around the work in front of me, the piles and piles of paper. The day had started off weird with Jacks funeral but now I have to actually work I can’t seem to concentrate. I set myself to finishing at least half of the papers when my phone vibrates. I look up from the papers. The caller-id tells me it’s Steve. I frown and pick up. “Hi Steve, what’s up?” “Can I come over for a bit?” Steve’s voice is quiet. “Sure, but I am doing paperwork and I’m really getting behind on it.” I fumble with my pen as I dabble in a margin. “I just… I just need someone to talk to.” His voice wavers as he speaks the last words. “Isn’t Sarah at home?” I close my eyes, mentally hitting myself over the head, Steve needs me and I push him away. Bad move. “She’s still at work for a couple more hours. I just really need-” Steve’s voice breaks. For Steve to be this upset something must really be wrong. “It’s okay. Come on over, I can do this later.” “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” He is quiet for a few moments. “Thank you.” Steve makes a sound but then hangs up. I sigh, put the phone down and look at the table covered in papers. I don’t think I’ll be able to finish them today. First the funeral this morning and now this. Steve sounded distressed, more distressed than I saw him this morning. I put water in the cooker and clean the table off. Why does everybody always come to me? Why am I the one taking care of everybody's problems? I walk around the kitchen, putting stuff away, keeping myself busy with useless tasks. I look around, everything is clean and in its place. I grab two glasses, a roll of biscuits and two tea bags, putting them all in the middle of the table. Then I look into the garden, knowing he will come through there, just as he has been doing lately.
I open the door for some fresh air just as Steve comes through the back gate. He is a mess, his clothing is rumpled, his hair ruffled and a cigarette butt hangs from the corner of his mouth. As I come closer I can see that one of his cheeks is bright red. Something is really really wrong, Steve is not a fighter, not as far as I’ve seen him and the red spot looks very much like a hand. I quickly close the distance between us, stopping him in his tracks and tilting his face so I can see his cheek better, but the only thing I see are the tears in his eyes and the yellow stain on his lips from smoking too many cigarettes in too little time. I quickly guide him into the safety of the kitchen. As I close the door behind me I can no longer keep quiet. “What happened? You look horrible.” “Eric and I fought, we are over.” Steve sits down and frowns, taking another cigarette from the pack. “What? Why?” I kneel in front of him, trying to catch his eyes. “Because apparently I didn’t spend enough time with him. He apparently got tired of waiting for me and started hooking up with other guys.” Steve puts the cigarette between his lips. I take the cigarette from between his lips and in an afterthought also the pack from his hands. “Since when?” “He said two weeks ago. That weekend you were over at our place.” “I’m so sorry.” “It’s not your fault. He and I were having problems before that.” Steve stands up and starts pacing through the kitchen. “Yes, about me mostly. I’ve heard some of them.” I try to grab his arm but he shakes me off. I sigh. “Please stand still.” “Not just you. Sarah, Jack, school, work, everything. He thought everything was taking time that I could have spend with him. It was never enough.” Steve stops pacing and looks out the back window, his face gloomy. “He’d been at this one guys place the whole weekend Vic was missing because I wouldn’t spend time over at his place. And he said it was my own fault he went to see that guy the night I had cancelled our plans because Jack had died.” Steve started pacing again, moving his arms in angry motions, mumbling words I no longer understood. That last sentence made me sick to my stomach. How can anyone blame someone that they cancel their plans when their brother dies? How? How can anyone break up with someone on the day they bury their beloved brother? How sick was this guy really? How? Too much, this was too much. Vic’s attempted suicide, Adam’s worsening condition, Vic’s beating, Adam’s hospitalisation, Jack’s death, Vic’s worsening condition and now this. This amazing guy who does everything he can for everyone he knows gets dumped because he cared for others. Because he cared. Because he fucking cared about people. Steve’s cold hand touches my cheek. “Are you okay? You don’t look too well.” I look him in the eyes, eyes that are full of grief and concern. How can Eric dump this guy? Does he even realise what he lost? This guy is looking after me, is concerned for me, even though he is in pain over his ended relationship. “Anne?” Steve softly shakes my hands. “I… I can’t deal with all of this. I need a break. Tom was right, I need to get away from this all for a while.” I look up. “I’m sorry.” “Can I… Can I come with you?” Steve’s voice is pleading. “Everywhere I go are painful memories. I don’t know how to move on, I don’t think I can move on if I keep being reminded. Maybe I can ground myself again after a bit of time away.” I touch his face, the lines that have formed in the past weeks. “I’ll see what I can do. I can’t promise anything.”