Title: One More Start Over
Warnings: death/suicide, depression, Michigan weather.
I watched lazy flakes of snow drift from the sky over the rim of my mug, sipping the scalding tea with caution and patience. Inside the coffee house, rich with student life, was relief from the frigid November elements. The air outside rubbed my skin raw and each necessary breath of life felt like swallowing shards of shattered glass. Michigan winters are always early, never gentle, and have the tendency to make everyone suffering them chronically late.
Of course, Drew was always late anyway. Never on time for anything, even in the most positive weather possible for northern Michigan. It was always better to tell him to meet you an hour earlier than you intended, just so you could meet up at relatively the same time. Of course, then he would shake it up a bit and be two hours late for a change.
This day was one of those two-hour days. Not that I particularly minded, I had no class to attend later and being here in the warm campus coffee house curled up next to the roaring was better than my freezing dorm room and huddling next to my space heater. Of course, I would pretend to be angry, as usual, and make him squirm a bit. It seems cruel, yes, but he deserved some sort of punishment when he leaves me waiting like that. He'd never learn otherwise. Once I'd had my fill of his stammering excuses and pleas for mercy, I'd laugh it away and allow him to drink his latte.
Better late than never.
"You're late," I informed him, hiding my amused smirk behind my tea cup and averting my eyes to the fire lest I give my true feelings away.
In my peripheral vision I saw his shoulders slump. "Steph," Drew whined. "I couldn't help it, I had to – "
"– walk here, I know."
"– and, before that, I – "
" – had class."
" – so I couldn't leave any earlier than – "
" – three, got it."
I ventured a glance in Drew's direction and nearly snorted into my tea at the tremble in his lip. If it hadn't been so utterly pitiful I would have outright laughed at his distress!
Come to think of it, I did laugh.
"Drew, calm down!" I coughed the tea out of my lungs. "I'm not angry, really."
Drew's posture relaxed in a visible sigh and he ran his un-gloved fingers through his hair. "That wasn't funny, Steph."
I snickered. "I disagree. I thought it was very funny."
Drew draped his flannel coat over the back of the chair across from me and slumped down into the seat, tugging the sleeves of his damp turtleneck over his purpling hands. His lower lip protruded from his face in a pout, his gray eyes narrowed at me in disgruntlement. I grinned at him and put down my tea cup.
"It's not my fault you're late for your own appointments," I reminded him, wagging a disapproving finger in his direction. The haphazard bun at the base of my neck, pinned with an unsharpened pencil, loosened and tendrils of my own dark hair fell into my eyes. I swept them behind my ear and continued, misinterpreting his transfixed gaze for rapt attention. "If you're going to call me all the way out here, when I should be working on my term paper for Lit class, then you should at least be on time."
Drew was watching me from across the table, chin perched on his entwined fingers as he followed the movement of my lips. Something in the pit of my stomach clenched and I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.
"Besides that, wandering around in the elements isn't good for you."
Drew's smoky eyes were unfocused and staring at me, nearly through me. His eyes longed for me, I could tell.
"You...you could catch a cold..."
I begged him, from the day I met him until that day, not to look at me that way. Not to look at me with such ferocity that I could never return. I always left him feeling so horribly guilty.
"...and you don't want to miss out on mid-terms."
"Mhmm...," he sighed, watching my nervous motions with intent. Another piece of hair fell from my bun and I reached up to sweep it away, only to feel Drew's large, cold fingers in the way. With a tenderness that made my stomach lurch he tucked the hair behind my ear, rubbing my cheek with the pad of his thumb as it swept past.
"Drew...," I begged. "Don't."
His chair moved around the table, closer to mine. "Don't what...?" Drew's hand lingered on my face, stroking my cheek affectionately with the back of his fingers. I whimpered in helplessness.
"Your face is red," he noted, leaning closer to me. "You've been sitting too close to the fire. That's unhealthy."
His lips brushed my temple in a chaste yet sensuous kiss that left no room for alternate interpretation. He hadn't gotten over it like he'd promised me.
The hardened lump in my chest contracted painfully as the tears threatened to overflow. "Stop, Drew. Please stop...," I choked, pushing his hand away and leaning closer to the window. "I still can't do it. I can't see you that way, not ever."
Drew's searching hand fell short of my chin, frozen in reach. I didn't even have to look to know that he was heartbroken, again. This conversation never did end well and the conclusion remains incomplete to this day.
"Steph...," he whispered, pleading for the only thing I couldn't give him.
I took a shuddering breath, "No."
We didn't move for a minute, each turning thoughts over in our heads, but I finally heard the scrape of a chair and felt the absence at my side. In a flurry of snow he was gone. I stood behind the table, hand reaching for the door to stop what was already gone.
Damn it all. Damn it all to hell.