She stood there, watching him, her face impassive and her gaze casual. It had been months since his eyes deigned to return the glance, and she knew that now any such attempt should be futile; the anticipation of something between the crush and the crushed was long since dead. However, she was painfully aware that as he strummed on his guitar, her heartstrings were feeling the vibrations. Deep down, she knew that she was not quite ready yet to say all of the scathing, candid speeches she had planned out and she knew that he would not receive them well. Seeing him there had not been a part of her plan, and her carefully crafted nonchalance was about to be put to the test, because really, what do you say to the only person who ever managed to shatter you?

She picked up her shot glass, and winced as the warm liquid ran down her throat. In the dark recesses of her pathetic subconscious, she was vaguely aware that you weren't supposed to drink on an empty stomach and that it was already making its way to her head; alas, the need for Dutch courage overcame the need for rational thought. She checked her watch in feigned indifference, and noted with relief that help would soon be on its way, ready to rescue her fragile heart from the grasp of the oblivious breaker. She picked up another drink.

As the song ended, she clapped half-heartedly, allowing her eyes to wander to the door on her right. In just a few minutes, it would be all over, and she would be wrapped up safely, free to cry her last over her erstwhile paramour. She would no longer have to stand in the corner of the club as he played the songs she had watched him fall in love with. She would no longer have to remember how she did the same with him. Just a few more minutes of that excruciating anticipation, as she waited for him to notice her and held out for a hero; surely it couldn't be that difficult?

It was. Because, as always happens in stories such as this, said boy spotted our heroine, and made his way over.

"Alright?" It was a simple word, but it was one that was so English and careless and purely him that it threatened to destroy the facade of normalcy that protected her. He said it lightly, teasing, his eyes focused on her; she couldn't help but look into them, knowing as she did that it was self-destructive. The eyes, the eyes, the eyes. They could make or break a person, and as soon as she allowed herself to look into them, she understood why. Once upon a time those eyes had made her day, and had made her fall deeper and deeper and deeper in love. And now, looking into them, she could feel her defences crashing down around her. Looking into his eyes was like drowning in an ocean that wasn't even blue.

She trembled under his stare, wishing for some sort of salvation as she cleared her throat.
"It's been a while."
She hoped that the currents of agony running through her voice were not discernable, hoped that as before, he would not be perceptive enough to pick up on the depth of her emotion.

"Yeah, why is that? You just stopped stopping by," he began, and she knew that she could no longer continue to pretend everything was okay. She placed a hand on his chest and she cut him off with an abrupt shake of her head, as she whispered the only thing she could say.
"You know why."

The tension in the air was palpable as confusion gave way to understanding. Finally, she shed the last of her masks, and allowed him to read it on her face. She knew not to hope anymore, because 

every signal that he had previously sent her had been misread, but as he looked at her intently, she began to wonder what he was thinking, and feeling. He was not known for disingenuity, and the look he was giving her was far too candid to be misunderstood; why on earth did he look so shaken? After all, she had thought that he had known of her adoration all along, because it was a tremendously badly-kept secret and it was surely far too blatant to go unnoticed.

As he moved towards her, every fibre of her being radiated euphoria. But still, she felt that something was wrong. Something was definitely missing, and somewhere along the line, something had happened. She looked at him again as he came closer, and closer, realising for the first time just how wrong it felt. It was just another chapter of the game he had always unwittingly played- in a week's time, he would be giving her the cold shoulder again and everything she had worked so hard to rebuild would shatter again, all because of his thoughtless whims. And she began to realise that he would never change, and that because of that very character flaw, it was unlikely that he would ever really make her happy.

She knew, in the deepest recesses of her bruised heart, that his interest was fleeting, and that when autumn came and summer faded, so would his affections. She knew that she could not trust him, and it pained her to acknowledge that no matter how much she still cared for him, it would probably never be enough. It would hurt her too much, and after all this time, after a year of pining and crying and drowning her sorrows, she was not prepared to let it happen. Let him do the pining for once. Let him feel the rejection. She loved him. She hated him. She was done giving him second chances and trying to prove herself worthy, because it should have been him doing so.

He kept inching towards her; every millimetre crossed brought her closer to breaking point. His lips hovered far too close to hers, and she read the signs of temporary attraction in his eyes. She smiled wanly, pressing her cool hand against his cheek and marvelling at how sober she suddenly felt. He grinned, going in for the kiss, and she turned her cheek at the last minute, trailing kisses up his jaw line. She ignored the treacherous celebrations of her heart and body, and finally, whispered her verdict in his ear.

"No."

With that, she pulled away, seeing his beautiful face fall in a mixture of indignation and hurt. He opened his mouth to protest, confident that she could be persuaded, but she was through with falling in love with him. She gently pushed against his chest, putting the necessary space between them as her eyes begged him not to reply. Time almost stood still, as they gazed at each other, a thousand things passing between the two pairs of eyes. I loved you and you hurt me and I'm sorry and please don't say I'm too late hung in the air, but neither moved to say them. And finally, she broke the connection.

She turned, walking slowly and deliberately towards the door as it opened. Her hero stepped through, a worried shadow crossing his kind face. And she could still feel the eyes burning into her back, as she refused to turn around and acknowledge what she had just done. Suddenly she could breathe properly; there was air in her lungs and she felt like crying in relief. She knew that he would get over the sting of her rejection and she knew that it was not a victory, because in terms of moving on she still had a long way to go.



But somehow, as she made her way out to the waiting car, she was able to smile. She thought about the flash of hurt in his eyes, and sighed as a wave of tiredness washed over her. Finally, after a year of being in love with him, she was able to conquer her adoration, and she had never felt better.

She would always remember it as the day she walked away.
And she never looked back.