AN: Thank you for all your support and nice reviews. Especially my serial reviewers.
It started to rain on our summer ball, can you believe that? I bet that somewhere out there, there is a fifties' ballad that starts with that line. The middle of summer and it began to rain just like the static heat and distant rumblings in the air had been trying to warn us that it would. Huge, fat blobs of water fell in straight lines, but they were warm like an outdoor shower. It really wasn't all that bad.
There was no wind, and the shrieks and whoops of the other partygoers carried clearly across the football field where I was aimlessly traipsing around the goalposts. It seemed like a message, someone trying to tell me something important, only I couldn't figure out what it was. Was I really so blind?
In the two years I had been at the university, I had never seen one football game, never cheered on any of the sports teams, in fact. I don't know why that suddenly seemed so important to me, but it did. Where had I been instead? Tucked away in Hell's Bells probably, watching the world pass me by. The rain was a stroke of luck, as now nobody would guess that the rivulets of black mascara running down my cheeks were actually made by pathetic tears about things that really didn't matter.
So, I'd never watched our lousy football team defeated, so I'd never met any of the players on the girls' team that Casey kept talking about introducing me to, so I'd never done any of the stupid things that kept popping into my head, I'd been with Sunday; I had been busy loving her.
Except, next year would be different, wouldn't it. If I carried on hibernating in Hell's Bells, if I still spent all my time watching videos and going to strangers' parties, I'd be doing it alone. If I continued to love Sunday, I would be alone. I'd never been alone in my entire life.
"You lost your shoes." I frowned at the mud-spattered objects that Casey was brandishing at me. I vaguely remembered becoming stuck in the mud and tripping over. My feet and knees were caked in clay-like dirt.
"I've never been any good in heels, I don't know why I wore them," I laughed, retrieving them in embarrassment. Casey would never do something as shortsighted and illogical as wear heels to a venue on mud. No, Casey, as usual, was dressed perfectly, immaculately, and still looked amazing. Only her hair, which she had let grow to her jawline, had succumbed to the rain; it dripped off the slick tendrils and obscured her eyes.
"Well, they did look great, before you decided to play football in the rain." It was probably the most diplomatic thing she had ever said and I appreciated it. It was a little too late to start valuing things like that, though, what good did it do anyone now?
"I didn't choose to fall in love with Sunday, you know," I blurted. "It's not like I ever made this rational choice. That's just not the way it works." She gave a lop-sided smile as she wrapped her jacket around my bare shoulders. It didn't make much difference, it was wet and heavy and I would probably catch a cold, but I appreciated the gesture.
"Yeah, I know. Believe me, I know."
"You don't think I've ever made a choice about anything, do you?" I remarked, shivering and clutching the sopping material around me. I could see her berating herself for coming after me. She could have just gone to the bar and got another drink, but no, she just had to chase after the talkative drunk.
"It doesn't really matter what I think," she murmured evasively, turning to watch the trail of taillights at the far end of the field, they belonged to the cars of all those students, who had probably lived in England all their lives, but strangely couldn't take a little summer rain.
"I guess not. I just wanted you to know it wasn't personal, that's all. It wasn't like I purposely didn't choose you."
"You know, we should really probably get back. You see, Joe sent me to find you. We're going to go back to someone's house. I can't remember the name of the guy, Dave something, I think. I-"
"I've made a decision about Sunday," I interjected, not too solemn to appreciate the sight of Casey babbling with embarrassment. It was a moment that passed quickly.
"Oh." I slid my arms into the sleeves of the jacket, the wet weight of it dragging on my shoulders.
"I'm actually pretty scared. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing, if it's the right choice, and I won't have you around to fix everything if it turns out to be wrong." She stepped forward, oblivious to the patch of squelching mud I was standing in the middle of, and wrapped her arms protectively around my shoulders. As usual, she was solid, warm and safe, and I wondered if I held on long enough some of her power would flow into me. So, I kissed her to find out. There was my ballad completed. Maybe I'd had my fairytale ball after all.
"You're on your own now," she whispered, kissing me on the forehead. That didn't frighten me that way it had before, and I touched my lips with an air of wonder. I could feel strength inside me for the first time, and the ache of uncertainty had finally evaporated from my stomach. Forget cheering them on, maybe I would join the football team next year and show them how it was done. That was if I hadn't failed my exams, of course. Whoops, I'd almost slid back then. No, I was sure to have passed, I was moderately intelligent and I'd revised, there was no reason why I wouldn't be back next year ready to begin my final year alone. Ready to leave the shelter of Hell's Bells and venture into the world just a little bit more.
I knew I'd made the right decision about Sunday, because when she said that her transformation was down to me, it was partly true. I had shown her freedom and a glimpse of life without undeserved guilt and fear and it wouldn't be fair to take it all back now. I hadn't been able to choose whom I'd fallen in love with, but I could still decide whom I would be able to love forever.
I slipped my arm through Casey's, knowing that she hated it as much as I did.
"Yeah, well so are you," I replied petulantly, grimacing at the sucking noise my shoes were making as I negotiated the sodden field.
"At least I'm not covered in mud," she retorted, manoeuvring an arm around my waist to stop me lurching so dangerously.
"Yeah, well," I began, stumbling clumsily and almost bringing her down with me, "at least I still have one more year where I can act like an idiot and get away with it!" And she couldn't argue with that.