It got easier.
A week later, I didn't feel so devastated.
I stopped crying.
When I felt able to, I knew I had to tell him the truth. I couldn't bear not to.
I couldn't phone him. Apart from the fact that I was terrified he wouldn't talk to me, I knew that I'd break down, and I wouldn't get it right.
So I wrote him a letter.
I miss you. Like crazy. And I know you'll never forgive me for what you think I did, but please just read this letter. It's all I'm asking.
What you think you saw – wasn't. I never cheated on you. Ever.
I don't know quite how to explain what did happen, but I'm going to try. Here goes.
Over Christmas, things with me and Daniel became a bit strange. They were awkward, and I will admit it, there was a little bit of tension between us. But nothing more. You know how I am – I blow things right out of proportion. I thought about it too much, and I felt so guilty. That's what the resolutions were about.
On New Year's Eve, I'd had too much to drink. I know it. But I'd been trying to get Redding and Daniel together, however hard that may be for you to believe. Except it went terribly wrong.
See, Daniel admitted that he liked me.
And I didn't know what to do.
He's a friend, and I felt bad that he was hurting, and so I hugged him. Nothing more.
I realise that this isn't going to bring you back to me, I just needed you to know the truth.
I will never forget you. I loathe myself for being responsible for ending the wonderful thin we had.
Truth is, Lucas, I love you. I didn't want to tell you that, because it makes it so much harder, but I hope that you can see how everything went so terribly wrong.
And I hate myself for not realising until it was too late.
Yours with all my heart,
Sophia x x x
And I slowly began to get over it.
I tried, at least.
That was two weeks ago.
School had resumed, and my days were filled with work and friends. Tony and Eric were constantly arranging things to keep my mind off it, to keep me busy.
I loved them for it.
On the outside, I got back to normal. And for the most part, I could ignore my grief – put it in a box in the back of my mind and forget about it. But deep down, I was still hurting. Terribly. And for me, it wasn't over. Despite what I'd put in the letter, it didn't feel finished to me. Something wasn't right yet.
I hadn't spoken to Daniel since that day, I couldn't cope with it. I'd seen him in school, and nodded in the corridors, but neither of us attempted to make contact.
But it wasn't finished. And I didn't know how to make it so.
I jerked awake, sitting bolt upright. As soon as my head caught up with the rest of me, I sighed, and lay back down. I allowed my dream to wash over me – I never seemed to dream of anything but him. It never got easier.
There was a very loud knock at the door. It was very persistent. I wonder if that's what woke me…
Right. Logical hat on.
Number One: Get out of bed. Right. Harder than it sounds. I have somehow managed to climb half inside my duvet cover, and it's all twisted around me.
Okie doke, Number one done. A little wobbly, but upright. Good start.
Number Two: Go downstairs. That means leaving the room without falling down, if I remember rightly… Ouch. Best not to try and jump over a pile of clothes when you have a bag strap around your ankle.
And they're knocking again. Give me a minute! I have the stairs to do yet.
Hehe, took those a little quicker than I wanted to. Still in one piece though.
I couldn't see anybody through the glass. I opened the door nonetheless, but there was no-one there.
Straightening my pyjama bottoms, (you must never leave the house in pinstripe pyjamas unless they're straight, everyone knows that) I went outside and looked up and down the street.
He turned around, looking at me with an expression I couldn't read.
I can't actually speak. What's wrong with me?
He's just standing there. Please speak, Luke, please. Don't leave me.
He walked slowly back towards me.
"What are you doing here?" I croaked.
He swallowed. It seemed that he couldn't speak either.
"Happy birthday," I whispered.
He paused for a moment, then suddenly he was holding me, his arms around my waist, my arms around his neck. His scent engulfed me, and the smell sparked so many emotions that I thought I'd learned to forget.
"You remembered," he murmured.
"Will you come in?" I asked, almost shaking with fear and relief. "Please?"
He let go of me, but didn't say anything.
I turned and went inside, hoping beyond hope that he was following.
"Just give me one minute." He nodded mutely, and I ran upstairs. I brushed my teeth, and scrubbed my face quickly. I grabbed a jumper from my room, and pulled it on, walking back downstairs. When I walked into the living room, I thought for a second he would be gone, but he was sitting just where I'd left him. His eyes lifted and met mine.
I didn't know what to do for a minute – I was scared of doing anything that might drive him away, scared of doing nothing in case the same thing happened.
Eventually, I sat next to him, carefully keeping that space between us, knowing that he didn't want that now. Not after what I'd done.
"Where is it?" I whispered.
He smiled sadly. "I should have known you'd know." He pulled something from his pocket, a tattered, dog-eared envelope, yellowing with age.
"Are you going to open it?"
"I don't know."
I paused. "Why are you here, Luke?" I could feel a lump beginning to form in the back of my throat. My voice wasn't shaking though. Thankfully.
He bit his thumbnail, and wouldn't meet my eye.
"I needed to see you."
"Why?" I couldn't bear to ask, couldn't bear not to.
"You're the only one that understands." His pale green eyes finally met mine, after avoiding them for so long.
My heart nearly broke.
"Did you …" I couldn't finish the question.
He didn't answer for a moment. I couldn't bear it any longer. I needed some space to break down. All logic escaped me, and I just knew that I needed to take a breather for a moment. I stood up and left the room. When I opened the back door and stepped out, I numbly registered the cold blast of air, but it did nothing to sort out my thoughts. I sat on the cold step, and buried my face in my knees.
I didn't hear him come and sit beside me, I just felt his arm around me, and his comforting presence next to me. I couldn't help myself, I buried my face in his shoulder, feeling his other arm slip around my waist. He kissed the top of my head, holding me close against him.
"I got your letter," he replied, to my unanswered question.
"I'm so sorry," I said, only just managing to stop my voice from shaking. A sob constricted my chest but I bit my lip and just about stopped myself from crying.
"Me too," he said heavily, with a sigh.
We sat in silence for a while.
I didn't want to move, speak, even breathe in case he got up and left me here.
I didn't even know how he felt.
"Do you …" I was beyond tentative. "Do you want to go to Rachel's grave?"
He swallowed, and didn't speak.
"Let me just go and get dressed," I said, standing up. I went to the dining room door. "You won't…" I hesitated. "Leave, will you?"
He paused as well, thinking before he answered. "No."
I had a shower in a daze, and pulled on the first clothes I could find.
I couldn't believe he was here.
We walked to the station in silence. I badly wanted to touch him – to feel his fingers laced with mine, to hold his body against mine, to feel his lips against mine. My feelings for him hadn't changed – I'd just realised what I'd lost.
The train journey passed in silence as well, although when we were almost there, I felt him hook his little finger through mine, and I smiled as I looked out of the window.
Compared to what I had lost, it was nothing. But now, I couldn't keep a smile from my face.
I recognised her grave as soon as we arrived. It looked the same as it had before, and it struck me as ironic that so much could have happened with us, and yet here we were, in the same place, back where we started.
We sat on the grass for a while, not speaking, just being. There wasn't a single thing I could think of that was worth saying. Nothing could say how I felt.
He took the envelope out of his pocket, and looked at it. I couldn't imagine how he could possibly open it, after so long, and so I couldn't conceive how he must have been feeling.
He turned it over in his hands, then slowly slid a finger beneath the lip and opened it. The way he was handling it, you would have thought that it was made of glass.
The paper crackled as he pulled it from the envelope and unfolded it.
My eyes ran over the headstone before us as he read silently.Rachel Luella Jacobs
14th September 1988 – 27th November 1995
There was a stifled, choking sob from Lucas, and from the corner of my eye, I could see his hand shaking.
The shell must break before the bird can fly.
My own eyes began to prickle, and I bit my lip. It was so hard not to reach over and pull him against me. I wanted so badly to stop him from hurting.
To Rachel, who walked in the rain, we love you dearly.
He ran a hand over his face, and folded the letter in half along its crease. I glanced up at him, uncertain, and he hesitated before meeting my eye. When he did, there was so much pain and love in his look that I couldn't believe he hadn't already broken. I couldn't help it, I reached out and placed my palm against his cheek. He suppressed a sob, and closed his eyes. I hugged him tightly to me, trying to hold him together. He held me in return, and I felt hot tears against my neck. I buried my face in his shoulder.
I don't know how long we sat like that, but I never wanted to let go.
"Sophia," he said softly, later. We were still before his sister's grave.
I swallowed, and turned to him.
"I don't know what to do about you," he said, and smiled sadly.
My heart began to beat a little quicker.
"I can't-" He paused, and seemed to gather together his thoughts before continuing. "I knew that there was more to it than what I saw," he continued. "But I was so afraid that it had been real I couldn't face it. Then Daniel phoned-"
He nodded, looking surprised. "You didn't know? He explained what had happened. Then I got your letter…" He trailed off, then seemed to shake himself. "I tried to forget. I was scared, Sophia. Scared of how destroyed I'd been when I thought…"
I leant forward and kissed him.
"Still scared?" I murmured, resting my forehead against his.
"Shall we go home?" I asked. He nodded, and we got to our feet.
"I love you, too," he whispered, as we walked back to the station. I smiled, and reached for his hand.
The words sounded strange… I'd never had them said to me in this sense before. Not from someone who I loved back.
I didn't ask what was in the letter. I didn't need to ask. I knew that if he wanted me to know, he would show me.
Everything seemed almost right again.
Now before you say anything, I cannot get these two chapters to feel right. And I don't think I will. At least, not until I rewrite the whole thing (which will be done soon, as soon as it's finished.) And I know they're not very Sophia-esque, but I haven't been feeling in a very Sophia mood, and I'm finding her really hard to write at the moment for some reason. I don't think I have enough energy. Anyway - next chapter is almost written, and will be posted shortly. Thanks for reading, and I promise the next chapter is better! ;)