Catalina was absolutely frustrated with herself. She had nothing to do, no where to be, and life was just being plain mean to her. She hadn't had much to do since after New Years, and the day after. Now that it was finally February, she felt like all of her friends had abandoned her. Of course that wasn't true, and it was partially her own fault. She'd been avoiding Liam like the plague, being that he'd kissed her some time after she made dinner for his parents and she didn't like it a single bit. It wasn't that Liam was a bad singer, or that his lips were even chapped. In reality, Catalina had no real explanation for why she didn't like kissing Liam. Their relationship was simply platonic, for her (and she wished and prayed it was the same case for him). It didn't seem like he was offended either, being that they spoke on occasion (but never in person).

Catalina was also, again, avoiding Richard. She was too afraid to admit that she liked him, even to herself. The thought made her blush, and she absolutely loathed the feeling of her cheeks heating under her skin. It scorched her face, and the knowledge that some man could do that to her only made the heat rise.

Unluckily for Catalina, Richard was having none of that. He'd let her sit and simmer and lay about in her own self pity for long enough. He missed their daily talks, and going to Belle Gente's for late night dinners to avoid her friends. Richard missed the feather light kisses she'd place on his cheek and the way her face glowed after she laughed. He had it hard for the girl, and he liked it. It'd been a long time since he felt that way. Probably his own fault, and Richard would accept that. In all other past relationships (was his relationship with Catalina even considered a relationship anymore?) Richard had moved too fast, dove head first into shallow water.

"Hi," Richard said, hands deep in his coat pockets. It was cold in Boston, impossibly cold, but he'd taken the bus to see Catalina anyway. She was standing in front of him, dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a plain white v-neck t-shirt. He could feel the heat coming from her apartment and was thankful. The stairwell that led to her floor wasn't heated, which made walking up the two flights of stairs almost not worth it.

"Richard! Hi! Come on in, it's freezing," Catalina said, opening the door for him. He noted the paint on her hands and the paint brush sticking out of the back pocket of her pants. She obviously wasn't doing much with her time. If Richard could remember correctly Catalina had said in passing that she only ever painted when she was bored, or lonely. "What're you doing here? 'Haven't seen you in a while."

"Yeah, well, I thought a girl shouldn't be spending Valentine's Day alone, you know?" Richard said, grinning crookedly at her. Catalina could feel her heart clench lightly. She hadn't realized how much she missed his grins. Shaking off the feeling she closed her door and told him to follow her into the living room, where'd she'd moved all of the furniture to paint. There was newspaper spread over the floor, protecting her wood floors from any damage. Richard had to step carefully around the room before he could reach the large canvas she had been using to paint on. It was huge. Giant almost. About five feet wide and four feet high, it stood against the wall Catalina had once placed her television in front of. The canvas was white, and there were hues of grays adorning the stark white background. Richard had to take a couple step backwards to see the entire picture. It was a black and white picture of a baby, girl he assumed, laid on its stomach. The eyes were large, white, and almond shaped. The hair was abundant, and an ear was missing, along with a lot of detail in the clothing.

"It's my friend's baby girl," Catalina explained, immediately feeling self conscious about her painting. She was usually very comfortable showing off her artistic abilities, but she really cared about what Richard thought of her. To Catalina, his criticisms meant the world.

"It's really good," Richard said, his voice soft enough that Catalina could barely hear it. He had a soft smile on his face, a sad look shining through his eyes. Albeit curiosity had her yearning to want to know what was bothering him, Catalina bit her tongue. It wasn't her place to pry into his personal life. Instead, Catalina busied herself with picking up stray paint brushes. Richard stood in front of the painting for long moments as Catalina cleaned up. The silence was unusual, but it's wasn't uncomfortable either. It was just a silence, in memory of something Catalina knew nothing of.

After a while, Richard came back to his senses. He watched as Catalina tidied up her fairly large apartment. It wasn't as big as the one he resided in, but it was fairly large for just one person. Richard wondered if she was ever lonely by herself.

"Excuse me," she said, her eyes fixated somewhere near Richard's feet. Richard looked down and spotted a paint brush with paint on it. Smiling, he bent down and grabbed the paint brush for her. Holding the wooden brush brought a rush of emotions Richard had believed disappeared. First it was anger, regret, then just shameless despair. The wood burned Richard's hand and he immediately dropped it into Catalina's small hands. Richard tried to compose himself, but Catalina had caught his moment of vulnerability.

"Sorry," he said, giving her a lop-sided grin that usually made Catalina feel better. It only made her more worried. Her blue eyes were on him, watching his face carefully. Catalina's eyes were so filled with worry that Richard was almost sure they turned to a dark stormy blue, the strands of steel turning an impressive and frightening dark gray.

"Richard, are you okay?" she asked, putting her brushes onto her coffee table. Her hands quickly went to his face, but she hesitated. Catalina was afraid to touch Richard, afraid that she might break him somehow. His face was full of a sad memory, Catalina could just tell.

"I'm fine, Cata," Richard said, smiling at her. "Just… I've had some bad experiences with painters." Richard spoke in a soft voice, just above a whisper. Catalina turned her head to the side, trying to grab the attention of Richard's downcast orbs. Gathering her courage, Catalina brought her hand to his arm, giving it what she hoped was a comforting squeeze.

"I'm here if you want to talk about it," she said, equally as soft, her voice full of honesty. Richard felt something surge in him when she touched his arm, and he raised his gray orbs to her blue ones. A spark, a connection- neither could explain the instant connection- passed between them and Richard knew he could trust her.

"I fell in love with a painter during high school," Richard laughed, shaking his head. Catalina smiled, assuming it was his first love. "Her name was Sarah Gibson and she was a year above me. We started dating during my freshman year.

"It was like a dream. We were so complete together, and we were just so good for each other, you know? I'd watch her paint for hours, and she'd listen to me play for hours. We spent most of our time together. And I knew that when she graduated there was a good chance we wouldn't be able to stay together. I just wouldn't worry about it. Sarah didn't either. She used to say that we were too good to stay away from each other.

"And I honestly loved her, with all my heart. It was just- she was so perfect. She loved my music, she loved my flaws, and I thought she loved me. I thought that she loved herself." Richard's monologue ended abruptly when he fell to the floor. He sat down, without a second thought, and pulled Catalina down with him. He couldn't stand while telling this story, couldn't stand this story. Richard closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

"Are you okay?" Catalina asked, grabbing Richard's large hands in a soft embrace. Her small fingers wrapped themselves around Richard's, her thumbs smoothly stroking the skin of his hand. Richard sighed, trying to gather his thoughts together. Too many memories crowded his mind, too many emotions fogged his head.

"Yeah, I just need to collect myself," Richard said. He continued, "Anyway. Sarah was always so happy. There was a perpetual smile on her face, and she was always making everyone laugh. Of course she had her days, when her smile didn't quite reach her eyes. And of course I knew everything about her- she told me everything there was to tell. I knew about her older brother's drinking problems, how her mother and father pretended life was perfect, and how her little brother was stuck in a special room just because he had ADD.

"There were days when Sarah wouldn't eat because she just wasn't hungry. I didn't worry about that, because in high school girls were always saying they weren't hungry. I just made sure she was eating at least one meal, you know? But that wasn't her problem. I don't even know what happened.

"Sarah got accepted into really liberal school a couple hours away. The time to travel was too long for her to visit all the time. She started her freshman year visiting every weekend, but then it'd turn into every-other weekend. And soon I would go a few weeks, maybe even a month without seeing her.

"She changed so much in just one semester. I was still in love with her though. We talked about everyday and we were still close, even if it wasn't physical. I seriously put all of myself into Sarah and mine's relationship. Everything I had to give went into it. I knew I wanted to marry her, and I knew that I could spend the rest of my life with her.

"Then, she came home one weekend. She was high, I think. I can't really remember. She was mumbling things and throwing things around in her parents house. Sarah was turning into her brother, and as I watched her I realized I didn't like the way she was acting. So, I broke up with her the following day."

"Oh, Richard," Catalina said, her eyes fully of sympathy. Richard smiled at her, and this time it actually reached his eyes, a little. He squeezed her hands gently.

"I didn't hear from Sarah for a few months after that. She stayed on campus, taking summer courses. Some time during the next fall she came back home. We lived fairly close to one another, so I saw her one day. Sarah was really skinny, and she looked like a ghost. I didn't say anything to her though, I was too scared to approach her. She walked around with a scowl on her face, and she just wasn't herself anymore. She was this angry person that I did not love.

"Sarah came over a couple hours before she had to leave. She had a bunch of paintings and work with her. They were all of me, or something that we'd enjoyed or done together. She didn't say much. Just that she didn't want them because they reminded her of me. And that she was going to get clean. She told me she still loved me, but I was awful enough to tell her to leave. I told her I didn't want to talk to her again until she was clean. And the worst part was that she smiled at me, and that was it. She smiled at me, and left."

Richard stopped and sighed. It felt good to tell Catalina this, but he wasn't sure if he could continue.

"Sarah OD'd three weeks later. That's all I know. I wasn't allowed to go to the funeral because her parents and brothers blamed her death on me. Apparently there was a note, but no one would let me read it. I wasn't allowed to have anything to do with Sarah. They fucking left me behind and hid everything from me." Richard shut his eyes tight, trying to block all of his memories of Sarah Gibson. He hated thinking about her once petulant smile, her sparkling brown eyes and her paintings. Richard couldn't look at a piece of art without thinking about her. It hurt him to think about his high school years. Four years of his life were thrown away because her family blamed him.

"Richard," Catalina said, pulling her hands away. Richard looked at her, his eyes watching as she reached for him, bringing her hands to cup his face. He sighed, leaning against her hand, feeling it gently and hesitantly touch his skin. It was soothing to Catalina was there, and Richard liked having someone to share his story with.

"I've never told anyone about this," he said. "Thanks for listening."

"That's what I'm hear for," Catalina replied. "Your secret is safe with me."

"You know, that's another reason," Richard said, trying to lighten the mood. It was Valentine's Day after all. "It gives you someone to share your secrets with."

This chapter is a lot more intense, and it took a lot of time to get it right, or as right as I could get it. I wouldn't be exaggerating when I tell you all that I've written this chapter more times than I can count on my fingers and toes. I'll probably be re-writing this chapter again. I feel like it's missing a lot, but I am way late. Sorry for the four month delay, on that note. It's spring break though! Maybe I'll be able to squeeze in another chapter this week. Maybe. Thanks for the support, if you've read this far!

Reviews are very much appreciated.


02 April 2009