BETTER MAN | RAFE CAMERON

This is a short story inspired by Better Man, a song written by Taylor Swift. This is not revised so sorry for any mistakes.

I know I'm probably better off on my own
Than lovin' a man who didn't know
What he had when he had it
And I see the permanent damage you did to me

Never again, I just wish I could forget when it was magic
I wish it wasn't 4 am, standing in the mirror
Saying to myself: You know you had to do it
I know the bravest thing I ever did was run

It lives in my head. Every day when I wake up the memories rush through my mind, so fast that sometimes I think I might still be dreaming. I wish I could forget it all, but the scar he left in me will forever be open, always burning red and I know it will not be easy to erase.

In the beginning, being with Rafe Cameron was a fairytale, for a short amount of time he was the best thing I've ever had, and it hurts knowing that I'll probably never love anyone the way that I loved him, not because there's no other man like him but because I do not think I will ever be capable of trusting any other again.

My heart raced every time I saw him and saying that my stomach filled with butterflies even at the mention of his name is not enough, it was not only my stomach but also my hands, head, arms, and the entirety of my body and soul jumped in happiness knowing that he was alive, knowing the world got to experience the person he was.

I remember everyone telling me to be careful, his own sister, Sarah, begging me to leave while I still had the chance. But I did not see why, so I stayed.

Even when seeing him and hearing his name did not bring happiness and love anymore, even when his presence brought fear and anxiety, even when Rafe Cameron was not anymore the man I once knew, even then I stayed; hoping, praying, wishing that one day something would click in his mind bringing back the love of my life.

Rafe Cameron never laid a hand on me, I still to this day know he would never do it. 

I gave my all to him but he did not see it, or he didn't want to admit it, I gave him happiness, I gave him love. I gave Rafe Cameron all the things he never knew.

I was aware that he was broken, it's a tiny island we hear and see things, I just didn't know how much. And even if I did, It wouldn't have mattered.

Now It's almost 4 am and I'm standing in front of my mirror and desperately crying while I try to put myself together just to not wake up my cat. I know it was the right thing to do, not just for me but also for him and everyone who had ever been involved in our mess.

A mess, that is what being with him felt like. One moment I was the love of his life and the next one the worst thing he ever had, but then when he saw me crying and pulled me into his arms. He would whisper the sweetest things between sorry, and I believed every single one of them.

I am proud of myself because running away was the bravest thing I ever could have done, I saved myself.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I can feel you again
But I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man
And I know why we had to say goodbye
Like the back of my hand
And I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man
A better man

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, just like now, and think I'm feeling the hands I so much loved grabbing me by the waist. I miss the good feelings, When we could not sleep because we would not stop laughing or impeding him from sleep by peppering his face with kisses.

I wish he was a better man, but he never had one to look up to, his dad was even worse. Rafe Cameron does not have a good example of a man to copy.

Saying goodbye was necessary, everyone tells me so, but I wonder how's his life now, does he still think about me? does he regret being with me? or does he regret not treating me like I deserved it? does he blame it all on me? 

Does he even think about me?

I know I'm probably better off all alone
Than needing a man who could change his mind at any given minute
And it's always on your terms
I'm hanging on to every careless word
Hoping it might turn sweet again

Like it was in the beginning
But your jealousy, I can hear it now
You're talking down to me like I'll always be around
You push my love away like it's some kind of loaded gun
Boy, you never thought I'd run

And just when I'm almost asleep again, another memory hits.

The Camerons had gone on holiday so I was spending a few days at Rafe's house with him. He had been out with his friends for some hours, I was laying on the couch reading a Colleen Hoover book when I heard the front door close so hard that I almost felt the floor trembling, "he's mad" I thought and mentally prepared my mind for what was going to be another meaningless fight.

"I'm in the living room!" I shouted and heard his steps getting closer. I was really invested in the story that I didn't see him coming until he grabbed the book and threw it across the room, "what the fuck Rafe?!" I got up.

"You're sneaking out to see JJ, aren't you? that's why you come to bed so late?" I tried to talk but he would not stop yelling, "where did you fuck him?"

"What?" I managed to say.

"Was it here on this couch?" he pushed it "or was it on the table?" he did the same with the glass table, shattering it.

"Are you out of your mind?!"

"FUCKING ANSWER ME FOR GOD'S SAKE"

"How dare you?" I tried to stay calm, I was not going to be like him, "How dare you come into here and accuse me of cheating on you?"

"Topper saw JJ sneaking into the backyard two nights ago"

"I don't fucking care what Topper saw" I walked over to him trying no to step into the glass, "JJ? I haven't talked to him in over a year because of how insecure it made you, I stopped seeing my best friend because it made you insecure AND jealous" I pressed my middle finger to his chest, "do you want to know what I have been up to? why I stay down here until three am?" he was not looking me in the eyes anymore, "I go to bed late because I am staying up preparing you stupid little surprise birthday party" a wave of sadness filled his face, "guess it is not so surprising now, isn't it?"

"I- I am sorry" I brought his hands to my face trying to cup touch my cheeks but I pushed them away.

"No, you are not" I walked to the corner of the room to pick up my book so I could go back to my house as soon as possible.

"Please don't walk out on me" he rushed to the door, blocking my way out.

"You don't get to feel bad Rafe, I have done everything for you, and you have the decency of coming in here, clearly coked up to accuse me of cheating on you"

"I am not coked up I told you I had quitted it"

"Doesn't look like it" I pushed him to the side and got out, thinking that was the last time I would set a foot at his doorstep.

I went back the next morning.

I hate me for being so naive, for thinking he was going to change, for going back every single time.

I hate myself for missing him.

Another memory rushes in, just from a few days after the first one.

"You don't do anything for me", Rafe says as he sits on my bed.

"I don't do anything for you? screw you, Rafe"

"You already have"

"Oh, so now I'm the reason you're fucked up"

"You're one of them" I opened the door for him to get out.

"Get out Rafe" he got up and started walking, "maybe one day you'll realize that I might not be around anymore".

"Please, you're not capable of leaving me".

He came back saying he was sorry two hours after it.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I can feel you again
But I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man
And I know why we had to say goodbye
Like the back of my hand
And I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man
A better man
Better man

I hold onto this pride because these days it's all I have
And I gave you my best and we both know you can't say that
You can't say that

Sometimes I imagine myself at his door to say I miss him and mentally slap myself. I am better than that, my life is better now.

I am seeing my friends again. They assure me that I did the right thing but it still feels wrong.

"You always knew he is an asshole", "everyone could see how he treated you", "he deserves being alone", that's what JJ says. And even though I know it is true, I still feel bad.

I wish you were a better man
I wonder what we would've become
If you were a better man
We might still be in love

If you were a better man
You would've been the one
If you were a better man
Yeah, yeah

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I can feel you again
But I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man
And I know why we had to say goodbye
Like the back of my hand
And I just miss you and I just wish you were a better man
A better man
Better man

We might still be in love, if you were a better man
Better man

I have a letter I never sent him but that I always read.

"Rafe Cameron, I loved you, more than you know, more than the rest can comprehend. I ignored them all when they told me you were no good. I ghosted my friends when you told me to.

I still can't believe how blind by you I was.

After I left I realized that we never talked about what we really wanted, about our future, I don't know if you want kids or you prefer traveling the world without any responsibility, if you want a big wedding or a small one, maybe you don't even want a wedding at all; that would be a shame because you look really good in a tuxedo.

I am writing this to tell you what I wanted and never told you.

I always dreamed about Italy, and I know it sounds cliché, but my biggest dream was to open a little café where you could also buy books or read them while being there. Writing this I am realizing that I never told you my dream and you never told me yours, how sad.

In my dream, I managed the café while you managed a branch of your dad's company. We had an apartment up the store, and every Sunday we would slow-dance to "she" by Elvis Costello in the kitchen just to after watch a movie you liked and I secretly hated.

In my dream, we had three kids, two boys, and one girl. We never got married but you told everyone I was your wife and I pretended not to listen. 

We would buy a house in a little village in France and spend the entirety of summer there. I would read while you cooked dinner and the kids played in the backyard, and later sip too many glasses of wine when the kids were watching a Pixar movie.

Another thing you never knew about me is how much I love to paint, I still have all the draws I made of you, I might send them one day. The first month we were together I painted us, it's the view the France house has in my mind from the kitchen window, both of us at the beach while the kids play in the ocean and the sun is setting. It's hunged up in the living room of my apartment here, in Italy. Every time someone asks who the people are I tell them my dream, no one knows that for me it's us, is my little secret.

I'm happy to say that part of my dream became true, I am in fact in Italy and I own a little bookstore, the café was too much, and my apartment is across the street, not on top. I do not have a summer house in France yet, but I am working on it.

In my dream, we spend the entirety of our lives together. And maybe if you were I would share an apartment with you and not my cat and JJ.

I want you to know that I really loved you, and that now, my dream is that maybe in another life, there's another me maybe a bit taller, and another Rafe Cameron who I hope is a better man to her than you were to me, and they are in dancing to "she" by Elvis Costello while talking about baby names with a life full of love ahead."

I put the letter into an envelope with some of the drawings I made of him. I write "For Rafe" on it and walk a few blocks to the mail and send it, and finally, after a long time I feel I've closed a chapter of my life.

I continue my walk down the beach and stop by JJ's surfboard store, he smiles at me when he sees me.

"I'll be out here reading," I tell him and sit on the sand.

I see him making his way to me a few minutes later, he sits down next to me and gives me a little folder, "I found it", he says.

"You found what?"

"The perfect summer house in France"


END

(or maybe not)