a/n

Hello all.(: I'm sure it seems as if I've been on some sort of a sabbatical, and in some ways—I have.

From the world of writing, anyways.

In other ways, my life has been quite filled with lovely and new experiences that college has been able to offer.(:

This piece of fiction was first composed by me in a moment of sporadic inspiration, but after the muses stopped supplying my fingers with words to type, I sat helplessly wondering how I could ever finish something that had such a vibrant beginning.

So, I didn't.

I gave the beginning of this piece to a very close and very dear friend of mine, and it was our joint effort that birthed this fiction.

So please, take a moment to observe our mingled writing.

& be sure to let us know what you think about how it turned out.(:

In fact, I have a challenge for all who read this: Try to determine the exact sentence, phrase, or even word that marks the switch between authors.

Give us your best guess in the form of a review (and also, let us know what you think! This is definitely open to interpretation) and we'll be sure to let you know if you're right or wrong.

Cheers,

Kayla.

. . .

It wasn't like her to be intrusive. In all the years that Damian had known her, she had never once violated his privacy in any way—and certainly not to this degree.

It made sense, then, why it had come as such a surprise—his own eyes daring his mind to believe what he had witnessed before him. And how could he not, when there she sat, her golden curls twisted on top of her head like some sort of angelic halo? He could smell her perfume mingling with the earthy and stuffy scent of his room: a tropical breeze blowing through a dark, empty cave.

Her eyes—her blue, sparkling eyes, so innocent—raised and met his own, and she didn't smile, or wink, or cry. She just looked at him, for once completely expressionless, and he felt his heart rise into his throat. She slowly turned her piercing gaze back down to the book she now held in her hands, and they looked together at the pages full of words and drawings and secrets and emotions and soul that he had bared. She flipped and flipped and flipped, not stopping, and he felt with every page that was turned as if she was taking a knife and stabbing him over, and over, and over.

She reached the end, ran out of pages to flip, and the back cover closed with a dull thud. Her fingers—with fingernails painted such a vibrant red, so fitting—traced his name on the black binding endlessly: Damian Spencers. Damian Spencers. Damian Spencers.

She knew everything. Everything that no one else was ever, ever supposed to know. She was never supposed to find out—she was the only thing, the one good thing that he had ever had—that he had ever called his own.

And how would she ever want to stay his? How could she ever stay his?

She couldn't.

Did he even want her, anymore?

The answer exploded into his mind with such violent force that he was sure she had heard his thoughts, and in a panic, he looked up at her face, her perfect, pale, gentle face. She wasn't looking at him, or at anything, really—her eyes remained unfocused, trailing his dirty and worn carpet aimlessly.

He had to speak, he had to know what she was thinking, he had to let her know what he was thinking. But what words were there that could ever suffice at a moment like this?

How could he ever explain to her how he wasn't the monster from that journal?

That the monster wasn't a part of him anymore?

Instead he leaned heavily against his door frame, suddenly feeling very weak. He wanted to scream, to cry, to fall to his knees in front of her and command her attention.

He needed to know what she was thinking.

"Hanna?"

He hated himself for sounding so defeated. He had wanted the word to come out angry, betrayed, and accusatory. Instead, it had hardly come out at all, as if it was afraid to leave his mouth.

Her eyes flitted back over to him, starting first at his feet and making their way up to his face. She held his gaze bravely, her perfectly plucked eyebrows risen—asking the question that she couldn't vocalize. It was a question he'd hoped she would never even know to ask.

And yet, here she was, all at once a vibrating and cataclysmic ball of energy—the only good thing in his life, the only thing that made him feel alive—waiting for an explanation. An explanation that he couldn't give, because it was an explanation he didn't possess.

"Hanna, it was never like that with you. With you, it's always been different. I've always loved you," he said, taking a step closer towards her, desperate to feel her atoms mingle with his, to feel together and as one in some small way. She flinched, drew away, her face immediately contorting into repulsion and disgust at his words. That was all he needed—that was all that it took to trigger his understanding.

She could never love someone like him.

She pushed the journal off of her lap and stood up from his bed quickly, with finality. He took a step back, now, as if there was an established unspoken rule—at least three feet between them at all times.

His back hit the door, and she stood before him, her hands on her hips, her pink and perfect lips quivering. Her eyebrows pulled together, and she drew in a breath as if she was going to say something, but then she didn't, and the air was let out through clenched teeth slowly. He watched as tears filled up her eyes, causing the brilliant blue to fog and distort. One of the clear drops spilled from the inside corner, and the gem traveled slowly down the cavern between her nose and cheek. Damian resisted the urge to cling to her, to grab her and wipe away every tear.

"Damian, I never want to see you again," she said slowly, clearly, with precision and sincerity. He felt himself start to die instantly. Her words were a poison that, once inhaled, immediately spread their dark disease throughout his entire body.

"Hanna, please, just give me the chance to explain. I am not the man I was when I made that journal."

She looked at him, her head shaking slowly in disbelief. She started towards him, but he wasn't ready to move, he wasn't ready to let her through, to let her go, to let her walk away from him forever.

"No. You're not a man at all, Damian. Move."

Her words, venomous. His skin started to crumble, to fall away from his body piece by piece.

"No."

Her eyes refused to meet his, and her tears hadn't stopped—instead they spawned and multiplied. Damian looked at her, his heart breaking with every tear she spilled. He was a monster. Unloved. Hated. The words of the journal were a testament to that.

Her blue eyes looked down at the ground as she looked away and took a step closer. Defying him. Proving he was worthless.

There was nothing to do now. If he made her stay, he would only be proving the kind of monster he was. But if he let her go, he would never be able to forgive himself, and she would be gone forever. The pain grew immense, and it took all his strength to utter his final word: "Please."

She pushed her shoulder against him and left the room, half running, still clutching the journal. He sat on his bed as a million thoughts ran through his head, chasing each other away before he had to think about anything. What she would do with it, he wasn't sure. Show the authorities? Display it to his friends and coworkers? It could easily destroy him. She would destroy him. The one person who had actually loved him.

Memories flashed through his mind. Taking her to the beach for the first time. Shrieking, she had run towards the foamy waves, only to have them chase her back onto shore when they came crashing in. They had buried each other to their ears in the warm sand, relishing in the feel of the sun against their faces, and struggling to get out when a crab had walked by and teasingly pinched his nose. That's where they had had their first kiss. With the salt of the sea on their bodies, and sun setting to a brilliant red and orange blaze, the day growing dark, and the smell of sand, he had dared to lose himself in her kiss. It was his first. No one had ever dared to love him before. But this, this was all different.

And now, in the blink of an eye, it was gone. The dream he had been living was gone, and the harshness of reality settled in on him.

The front door slammed, and he knew she was gone. Just like that. And it was his entire fault. Things he could have said kept replaying in his mind, only to be pushed away by the reality of what happened. She had really left.

He buried his head in his hands and lost himself in his grief. Everything faded away, and he felt the weight of his loneliness wash over him, enveloping him, drowning him.

. . .

All that she was to him came back with a vengeance. He could hear her footsteps, smell her perfume. But that was all a dream, she was g—he was startled when he felt a soft hand on his shoulder, and a thin journal pushed into his lap. The lump in his throat rose, his body racked with sobs. If this was another dream, it was a cruel one.

A hand brushed his hair back, out of his face. The tenderness. He didn't deserve it. He was a monster. His hand moved to the journal on his lap, and curled around the smooth cover. He was afraid to open his eyes. What if when he did, it wasn't what he wanted?

"You didn't have to give it back." His words came out harsh. Angry. Why did they sound that way?

"Damian…" she started, but he didn't want to hear anymore. He opened his eyes and looked at her. Her eyes were puffy, her mascara smeared, and her hair was a mess. But he didn't care. She looked more beautiful than he had ever seen. "Damian, I… I love you. I don't care what you've done, or who you've been. I love you, and that's all that matters."

She placed a hand on his cheek and brought him close, kissing him deeply.

His hands wrapped around the binding of the journal. "What are we going to do about this?" Hanna half whispered. Damian knew that no matter how hard he tried, he could never escape what was in the journal. But he knew what he was going to do. What he had to do.

"Burn it."

Ten minutes later, they both walked back into the house, a pile of ashes remaining where the journal once sat. Hanna smiled up and him and squeezed him, giving him a quick kiss.

"Look, I need to get home. It's already late, and today made me exhausted. But I'll see you tomorrow right?" She asked a little playfully, grabbing his hand and swinging it around.

"Of course." He said, and walked with her out to the car. He waved as she drove away, and waited till the lights were mere flecks in the distance before he turned and walked back into the room. There, he kneeled down and felt underneath his bed. He knew it would still be there, tucked away safely. He felt what he was looking for and pulled it out. He traced his fingers around the words he knew so well. Damian Spencers. Damian Spencers. He placed the book on his nightstand. He would figure out where to put it tomorrow, when he had time to think of a safer location. But for now, he had done what he had to. He had kept the journal safe.

-THE END-