36 | in which he fantasizes about her

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My madness has a way of tearing me apart.
Your madness has a way of keeping us together.

.\.|./.

Ryan Falls

| in which he fantasizes about her |

Lunch is terrible, but due to the sheer amount of hunger I feel, even the rubbery sandwiches taste like Gordon Ramsey's chef-specials. 

Crystal probably feels the same way, devouring her batch of soggy fries and flattened zinger as soon as she possibly can. With my own sandwich between my fingers, I can't help but smile as I watch her eat.

"What?" she asks, her mouth full of the fries that taste like plastic.

"No wonder your thighs jiggle when you walk," I joke.

Crystal rolls her eyes and keeps eating. I can't help but love how much she just doesn't care what I say.

"I'm glad you noticed," she mumbles, too busy eating to spare me a glance. "I've noticed your belly-fat too."

Almost having a heart attack, I glance down to see my not-at-all fat belly. Crystal bursts out laughing, wiggling her eyebrows when I scowl at her. I let her get away with it.

As usual.

Despite my insistence, she's the one in the driver's seat when we get back in the car. I already know she loves driving, but having to sit by and do nothing bothers her, and now I've realized it. Even when I was driving, she kept scrolling through her phone and then burying her nose in my laptop to read some of my unfinished projects.

"You're pretty good," she complimented me, closing the laptop when she couldn't find anything interesting. Crystal's lack of enthusiasm towards political debate took a toll on her and she couldn't take more of my work.

Now, as she drives, I watch her. This is the best part of letting her drive; since she keeps her eyes on the road, I can keep mine on her.

"Stop staring, Ryan, you're making me nervous," she says at last, not sounding the least bit nervous.

I roll my eyes. "Seriously?"

"No. But I want you to stop staring at me. It's weird," she says bluntly.

I burst out laughing, unable to contain it.

"You're really weird, you know that?" I ask her, still laughing.

"Says the weirdest man in the world," Crystal counters, casting me a shady look. "Just stop staring."

Not wanting to risk getting smacked in the face by Crystal, I obey. Instead, I turn my gaze outside, watching the scenery change as we move farther from Alaska and closer to Los Angeles. The weather has grown warmer, or perhaps we're moving towards the heat.

As day turns to night, my calm begins to transform to anxiety once again. The wind is growing cooler and the sky darker, and as darkness falls on the world outside, my own demons come out to play in my mind.

It worries me, how much more of this I can take. Yes, I want Crystal to be okay, safe and happy, away from everything that can hurt her. But can I really protect her when I'm standing on the brink of insanity myself.

"Ryan?"

I jump at the touch, relaxing when I see Crystal pulling over into a motel parking lot. Her hand is on mine, her face unsmiling and eyes cautious. I try to control my ragged breathing, knowing I can't hide it from her even if I try. It's too obvious, especially to someone I spend my entire day and night with.

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