'The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open'
'It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than the remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen'
Lissie was standing in the convenience store, trying to pick between different brands of muesli bars when she heard his name.
"…Connor Willemse… can't believe… home…"
As she always did when hearing that name, she perked up and found the two women gossiping down the aisle. She slowly walked towards them and pretended to be perusing the cereals as she eavesdropped.
"…I know, and after all this time! The Willemse's must be so excited to have him back home, despite his… you know… accident."
The two women spun around and faced a pale Lissie, her shopping basket now on the ground.
"Oh, my dear, are you alright?" one of them asked.
"Would you like us to get you anything? You look awfully pale, darling," the other said.
Lissie's pulse was hammering in her ears. Her palms sweaty. She slowly reached down and picked up her basket, giving them both a trembling smile.
"No, I'm fine thank you. Just felt a little faint for a second," Lissie murmured and the two went back to their gossiping. Lissie stood there for a moment, eyes wide, until she made herself move again. She had to think. Find a place to sit down, and think.
She was out of the store in moments, her basket of groceries forgotten on the floor.
Connor. Back in town?
She paced back and forth in her pink room – she'd never bothered changing it since she was a child. She didn't mind it, but Connor used to always look distinctly uncomfortable coming in here.
She'd asked her parents and they'd confirmed it. It was a small town, after all, and news spread fast. Connor, darling golden boy of the town, was returning home. It had been months since the accident and the media uproar surrounding him had died down.
And now he was coming home.
Lissie gnawed on a nail. What was she going to do? He had been her closest friend – once. A long time ago. Would he even remember? But it was only a few years ago, surely he'd remember. She hoped? A few – more than a few. How long had it been since they'd graduated and he'd taken off? Four, five? Enough for him to get well established as an international athlete and forget all about her.
Maybe that was some kind of pre-requisite, she reasoned – when you became famous, you had to drop all your old friends and embrace the new life.
Okay, now she was getting ridiculous. She was driving herself insane with all this thought as well as starting a hole in her carpet. Before she could think twice, she grabbed an old, doggy-eared Artemis Fowl book off her shelf and flew out the door.
She walked up the familiar path, passing through the beautiful garden and under an archway of wisteria. Mrs Willemse loved gardening and Lissie had even tried her hand at it with her on occasion. Since Connor had left, though, her visits to this house had become rarer and rarer.
She knocked hesitantly on the door, her stomach a churning mess of butterflies. Mrs Willemse answered the door after only a few moments, her face lined and weary. She perked up a little when she saw Lissie, though.
"Lisette! I haven't see you in a while!" Mrs Willemse came out the door and enfolded Lissie in a hug. She felt herself calm down a bit as she returned the embrace.
"It's good to see you, Mrs Willemse," she said politely, when the woman had drawn away. "But, ah… is Connor in? I heard he was back," she blurted.
Mrs Willemse's face fell. "Oh, dear, you're not the first one that's come here, having heard the news."
Of course not – their whole town loved him. Boasted about him in every way.
Lissie's heart fell.
"But I'm afraid he's not seeing anyone, at the moment," Mrs Willemse continued. "He's… he's not very happy to be back, you see."
Lissie didn't particularly want to 'see'. The old, familiar hurt was coming back. What was she doing, thinking that he'd want to see her? Or that he'd make an exception to see her? He'd made clear how little their years of friendship and book swapping had meant to him.
Lissie cleared her throat and held out the book in her hand. "Could you, uh, give this to him? If he's taking gifts, that is," she said a bit dryly, to chase away her lingering pain.
Mrs Willemse smiled.
"I can definitely make an exception for you." She gave Lissie one last hug, said goodbye, before she was back in the house again.
Lissie stared up at the closed curtains where she knew Connor's room to be and sighed.
Then she turned, and walked away.
She didn't see Connor for days – no one in the town had either, judging from the latest gossip. Not that she actually listened to it, of course. Rumours were running wild – what else was there to do in this small town but stick your nose into other peoples business?
No, Lissie told herself sternly. She was not to be bitter. She loved this town and no one, not even Connor, was going to turn her against it.
Needless to say, she was not expecting to look up from where she was taking down a patient's details over the phone and see him pushing through the door.
Actually choked, on nothing.
"Ah, are you okay?" the man on the phone said awkwardly when her coughing had subsided. Lissie was now staring wide-eyed at Connor, who was looking around the room with an annoyed expression on his face. Her heartbeat roared in her ears. She'd seen him so many times on the TV, of course, grinning ruefully with those beautiful dimples dancing around. But nothing compared to him in the flesh. His blond hair was longer than she remembered, messy and ruffled like he'd just risen from bed. His face still looked like it had been chiselled from marble.
Finally, finally, she remembered she was on the phone.
"Sorry, sir, I'll have to get back to you," she said faintly, more rehearsed than anything, and dropped the phone back into its holder. Her voice made Connor's eyes focus in on her.
There was a moment where they were both frozen and she was caught in the depths of Connor's swirling eyes, drowning in them in a way that was impossible through the TV. The torrent of emotions that raced through her scared her, but she wasn't aware enough to stop them. Such conflicting emotions, all aroused at the sight of his handsome face back in her life.
Suddenly, a grin stretched across his face, breaking the moment.
"Lissie," he breathed. He hesitated a moment before coming forward. "I don't believe it! Little Lissie Abrams, all grown up!"
Lissie refused to let herself feel hurt at the word 'little' – she was lucky to even see him. And he actually remembered her.
Those reasons didn't make her feel much better though.
She stood up with a stilted smile, coming around her secretary desk to fall into his open arms.
"Hi Connor," she said, pulling back after only a few moments and disentangling herself from him. "It's nice to see you back—" as if the past several years were only weeks and she hadn't fallen apart, realising he wasn't coming back, "—how have you been doing?"
He laughed and Lissie was happy to see such a change in expression from the one he'd entered with.
"C'mon, Lissie, don't act like we don't know each other! I got the book you sent me – why didn't you come in and say hello? I've been expecting you for days!"
That sent warmth tingling through her body. They'd both loved the Artemis Fowl books as children – that had been how they'd become such great friends, after all.
"Your mother said you didn't want to see anybody," Lissie said, quietly.
Connor made a dismissive gesture, face still bright with happiness.
"I was talking about the people that had come here to gawk, not you! You're my best friend, hardly anybody."
Lissie's eyebrows raised high at this. How could anyone remain best friends if they didn't talk to each other in four years? Before he could see her sceptical look, she ducked her head and sat herself back down behind her desk. It felt like a barrier, to her. On this side, she could hide behind the façade of professional civility. Behind her desk, she didn't need to think about the feelings roiling around inside her, making her stomach clench and shiver.
"So you're here for an appointment with Dr Kendal?" she said, scanning the computer in front of her. Surely she would've noticed his name when she'd reviewed the bookings this morning. She hadn't been that out of it, right? But no, his name was nowhere to be found. "It doesn't look like you have an appointment."
Why was he here, then? Her heart jumped to a stupid conclusion – me.
She cleared her throat and glanced up when he didn't say anything. He was staring down at her, lively face frowning again.
"I've forgotten you were like this," he murmured.
In the past, Connor had often complained that she never stuck up for herself. This was somewhat true, but she sure as hell was going to stick up for herself this time. She felt like she'd been backed into the corner, scared from all the opposing emotions inside her mind.
"Like what?" she challenged, looking at him steadily and not letting her eyes waver.
Connor held her eyes for a moment before sighing and looking down, running a hand through his already messy hair.
"Dr Kendal said she could fit me in to look at my leg between patients."
Of course. Of course he wasn't here for her. She berated herself for thinking so stupidly.
On the outside, Lissie frowned.
"She never mentioned anything about that this morning." She wasn't annoyed by it – she was just so frustrated with him that she'd release that energy in any way.
Connor grimaced. "Dad's been on the phone with her earlier on."
Ah, of course. Connor's wonder man of a dad. He was also a sporting legend, photos of him sprinting around the track hung up on the walls of the local pub. Like father, like son, except Connor was always more interested in the hurdles.
"Right. Well, take a seat," she said, hiding behind the security of her desk.
Connor was staring at her, this time with an incredulous expression on his face.
"Lissie, are you really going to—"
The door to Dr Kendal's room opened and she stuck her head out to speak to Lissie. When she noticed Connor there, she stepped all the way out with a smile on her face.
"Connor, it's great to finally meet you! I've heard so much about you." Lissie watched as Connor's face darkened until he was back to the expression he'd stormed into the room with. "C'mon in, I'll take a look at your leg and check up on your progress."
When Connor stalked past her, not even glancing her way, she noticed the limp he was straining to hide. It look like his right knee just wasn't bending properly and she frowned, immediately feeling horrible about her treatment of him. Yes, she was annoyed, but she was being completely and utterly selfish.
Connor was the one, after all, who had lost his entire career and dreams when a drunk driver had mowed him down and broken his leg so badly it was a miracle he could even walk.
Lissie still felt awful the next day. It was a Saturday, so she didn't have work today at the physio, and therefore had no chance of running into Connor again. She'd barely gotten any sleep since she felt so disgusted at herself. She couldn't imagine what Connor was going through.
Biting her lip in indecision, she finally went over to her bookcase and picked out The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. She walked out of the house and down the few streets until she got to the Willemse's wisteria archway.
She knocked and Mrs Willemse answered, yet again. Her face creased sympathetically when she saw Lissie standing there, fiddling nervously with the book in her hands.
"I'm sorry, child, but he still doesn't want to see anyone."
"Oh, uh… I saw him yesterday at the physio, where I work, and he said to swing by when I wanted to." So that might've been a lie. When Connor had left, he'd strode – limped – out without a word or a look. She could argue that he had inferred it, however, so maybe it wasn't a complete lie.
Mrs Willemse seemed to believe her and her smile appeared.
"I'm so glad! Come in, come in," she said, standing back and ushering Lissie in. "He's been holing himself up in that room for so long; it's not healthy, Lissie. We had so hoped that bringing him back home would help him recuperate but this week has been such a strain on all of us. He doesn't seem interested in restoring any of his old connections here. Until you came by, that is!" Mrs Willemse liked to babble. Lissie'd always thought that she didn't like the silence, since there always seemed to be music playing in her household. She continued on in that same strain until they'd reached Connor's door. She suddenly felt like she was in high school again, or even primary school, where they'd first met.
As Mrs Willemse disappeared back to the living room, Lissie knocked on the door and stood there nervously, her hands twisting. When he opened the door, her breath caught for a moment.
"Lissie!" he exclaimed. For one moment, his eyes remained unguarded and she saw the happiness in them. Then he seemed to remember yesterday and shut down a little. "What… what're you doing here?"
Lissie took a deep breath.
"Look, I… just wanted to give this as a peace offering," she offered him The Book Thief, "and to say that I'm sorry if I hurt you yesterday. Because we… we were best friends." Lissie didn't have the guts to say if they still were best friends – so much had happened.
The smile that spread across Connor's face was clear and startling.
"I only get a book this time?" he teased, stepping back from his doorway to let her in. "Where's the apology cake?"
While he forgot something things, it seemed like he would never forget her cooking. She perched at the edge of his bed as he sank into his chair, this situation so similar to those years before he went away. Except now, the proof of his sporting achievements had been taken away. His room used to be covered in trophies, certificates and photos from his hurdling competitions, but now it was all gone. Lissie wondered if this was him or his mother's influence.
"I, uh…" she looked down at her hands. "I wasn't sure if I'd be welcome."
She peeked up at him to see him smiling softly at her.
"You're always welcome, Lissie, you know that."
She didn't, really. She didn't understand what was going on, either. He was the one who left this town and her friendship behind.
The silence turned awkward. For Lissie, at least, it was excruciating.
She jumped up saying, "I should go—" but at the same time, Connor said, "Let's go for a walk."
They stared at each other for a moment before Connor laughed and grabbed her hand, pulling her out of the room. She ignored the warm tingles his touch sent through her body.
"C'mon, you can't go yet, you've been here about a minute. We're going for a walk."
Lissie couldn't help but dart a dubious look down at his injured leg, which he was still limping on. He caught it and half-grimaced, half-smiled.
"I need to get some exercise, you know. If it were up to my mother, I would be in a wheelchair."
Lissie cracked a smile at this, finally relaxing as he pulled her out of the house and onto the sidewalk. Much to her disappointment, he let go of her hand.
"So… what was it like?" Lissie asked quietly, studiously looking at anywhere but him.
Connor didn't need to ask her to specify. His eyes turned inward and sad.
"Amazing. It was everything that I dreamed it would be. I was training and competing with other athletes who were up to or exceeded my standard. I was pushing myself every day… it was an awesome feeling, Lissie."
His sadness weighed on her. She'd been privy to his every ambition and dream before he'd left, so she knew how much this all meant. He had wanted it with everything in him, wanted it enough that it was easily justifiable to leave her behind. So she might not be able to understand the true depth of his pain, but she was getting there.
She didn't want to push him into saying anything he didn't want to, but she couldn't help but ask, "And your leg? You won't ever be able to compete again."
He looked away, but before he did she saw the intense pain. His face was dark with it, lines of stress creasing his face that weren't there four years ago.
"No," he said softly. "I won't be. But that's not what my father seems to think."
Lissie looked at him sharply. "Wait, what? Your father thinks you can go back to hurdling at an Olympic level with that leg?"
And now she was really pushing it, she could tell by the firm set of his jaw. She'd known his father was pushy, but was he crazy? It was a miracle he could walk on it properly with the amount of damage that had been done to it!
He sighed and didn't answer.
Instead, he asked, "So what about you? I thought you always wanted to be a chef, not a secretary."
Lissie frowned. "You're changing the subject."
Connor stopped and grasped one of her hands, swinging her around so he could clasp her other one. She stopped breathing.
"I'm… I'm just not ready to talk about him, Lissie. It's not anything to do with you."
It's not you, it's me – that's what that last statement reeked of. He'd used almost that same excuse when he'd run out on her. Lissie's heart was begin to race, being this close to him. She wanted to slide her hands up around his broad shoulders and into his golden hair. She wanted to know if it felt the same as it did all those years ago. Lord, but it was soft then.
Connor gently released one of her hands and tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear, his fingers sending ripples of pleasure through her as he brushed against the shell of her ear.
"I miss your long hair," he murmured. "Why did you cut it?"
Because I was trying to move on. And she'd thought she had. But the feelings were racing through her again, not even slightly dulled by his absence in her life.
No, she couldn't do this, not again. Definitely not again. She'd been broken-hearted last time, completely lost when he'd just up and left. She had been hoping that time and distance would work its magic, but apparently it hadn't.
She pulled back and away from those hands.
"I, uh, had better to go. Things to see, and all."
She whirled around and walked off before he'd even murmured his soft 'goodbye'.
She wasn't avoiding him. Oh no, definitely not.
Technically, it was next to impossible to avoid him, because wherever she went, people were talking about him. In the supermarket, the library, her favourite boutique; filled with chatter about him.
So maybe she was avoiding him in the flesh by not going anywhere he would frequent. And when he'd come by the house, she'd pretend not to be there. Luckily, Dr Kendal spent Mondays and Tuesdays at her rooms in the town over, so there was no chance of bumping into him there for three days, at least.
She didn't want to avoid him like this. She didn't want to feel these things for him, but she couldn't help it. She'd thought she'd left all this behind; had been hurt enough to dub him an asshole and be done with the whole thing. But now he was back, charming and vulnerable and beautiful and still knowing the perfect thing to say. It was as if the past few years of his absence hadn't happened and she could not allow that to happen.
Her master plan of avoiding him worked until Tuesday.
She'd been feeling down, so had ventured into the bookshop to browse and surround herself in the things she loved.
She couldn't help an unconscious smile spreading across her face as the smell of books washed over her. Her face dropped in shock and she halted as she saw that elderly Mr Cole wasn't at the register.
He grinned when he saw her.
"Lissie!" he called. "Like my new job?"
She stared for a moment longer before she gathered herself and approached the register. She gave him a cautious smile.
"I didn't know you worked here," she murmured.
For a millisecond, a frown flitted over his face before he was smiling again.
"Yeah, my parents don't want me cooped up in my room any longer. I feel like I'm twelve again," he joked. "I just started today and you will be my third customer of the day."
She opened her mouth to say something but Mrs Lee walked in and did a double take when she saw Connor.
"Connor Willemse! I'd heard you were back in town but I had to see it to believe it! How are you doing, my boy? I heard about your accident and I'd like to say…"
Lissie smiled at Connor as Mrs Lee chatted on. The woman looked stubborn enough to find out as much about what Connor had been doing in the past four years as possible, so Lissie disappeared to the fiction section near the back. She skimmed over the names, smiling as she recognised some of the books Connor had recommended to her during school. She usually liked her standard fiction books with a bit of romance and sadness, but Connor had managed to persuade her into reading action thriller books by Vince Flynn and Robert Ludlum.
She was reading the back of a Ludlum book she hadn't read yet, The Tristan Betrayal, when Connor appeared around the shelves of books. She was so startled that she nearly dropped the book.
"Connor! What-What happened to Mrs Lee?"
He smiled at her as he stopped next to her, peering closely to read the cover of her book. "Gave her a Nicholas Sparks book and ushered her out of here. The Tristan Betrayal? Good choice. But I read this one the other day and it was just amazing."
Connor ran his finger along the shelves, searching.
Connor didn't look like the type of guy to love books, if you were judging by stereotypes. He was tall, fit and handsome, looking like he had better things to be doing in the world than obsessing over the newest book by his favourite author. But even when his training had become intense during school, he had made time to swap books with her.
She loved that about him—
Wait, no, she had loved that about him. Not anymore, she couldn't love him anymore, not when he could easily leave her behind again. He'd done it once, without remorse.
"Ah, here it is!" he exclaimed, pulling out a fairly thick novel. "This, my darling Lissie, is Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts. It's all about this prisoner who escapes to India. I read it while I was in India competing, actually, and it was so accurate and vivid. You should definitely give it a go."
She smiled slowly, taking the book from him and stamping down on the shiver when their fingers touched. She scanned the back, eyebrows rising when she some authors she recognised had recommended it. She didn't notice that he had stepped closer until his torso was centimetres away from the book. She glanced up, startled, but lost her ability to speak when Connor's hand rested gently against her cheek. She just watched in stupefied fascination as his head dipped and his lips gently brushed against hers. Once, twice, then one of his arms brought her closer and he tilted his head, moving his lips against hers.
She responded to the toe-curling kiss automatically, one hand coming up to bury itself in his hair – which was exactly as soft as she remembered – while the other discarded the book to clutch his strong back. Her head felt light and she couldn't keep her eyes open. It was everything she had remembered and more. The years had dulled her memories, apparently, because she had forgotten how extraordinary it felt to kiss him, to be this close to him. All her reservations were pushed aside for those glorious moments before the world closed back in.
And when she did come to her senses, it was like a kick up the ass.
She pushed herself away from Connor, rubbing her arm over her mouth as she stared at him.
"Lissie—" he beseeched, stepping closer.
"No," she cut across him. "No you do not get to do this to me again!"
His face dropped. "Lissie, you have to know how sorry I was. I didn't even know I was leaving, dad pretty much packed me away straight after graduation and then—"
"And then what?" Lissie interrupted again, furious at herself, at him, at his father, at the world. "You lost my number? Forgot where I lived? Forgot I existed?"
He rubbed a hand across his forehead.
"No, of course I didn't," he said softly.
"Then what?" she hissed.
"I couldn't do it!" he cried. "I was so, so busy and stressed all the time and I couldn't stop thinking about you; about that night before graduation. I had to chose between my career and you, and… and I chose my career."
She didn't want to be a selfish brat. She knew how amazing Connor was and knew that since he was little, he had been pushing to get to where he had been before the accident. But deep down, she wanted him to choose her. She wanted someone to fight for her; wanted him to fight for her.
"So what, now that the dream you wanted has been taken away from you, you'll settle for me instead?" she said bitterly, the words spilling out of her mouth. She didn't want to be feeling like this, cynical and wretched, which is why she'd been avoiding him.
"No, it's not like that—"
"Because that's what it looks like over here, Connor. Do you want me to forget about how we became more than best friends and you just left, without a word? Because that hurt and I will not put myself through that again just so you can had your consolidation prize."
"Lissie, I don't know what to do to show you how sorry I am." The naked pain and vulnerability was plain for her to see. He was opening himself up to her completely. "You're not a consolation prize to me, you could never be. I love you and I miss the old days so much it hurts. You were never far from my thoughts but I couldn't bring myself to contact you, knowing how much I'd hurt you. I missed everything about you, even all those horrid romances you made me read. After my accident, I thought I'd be stuck in that rut of depression forever but then I saw you and it all went away. Being with you reminds me of how stupid I was to ever let you go. I-I don't understand how I can be more upset about you never forgiving me than my entire hurdling career going down the drain, but I can't help feeling this way. Please… please give me another chance."
There was a dull roaring in Lissie's ears and she just couldn't cope with this right now. She was, had been for the past four years, in so much pain. The cause of it all was standing in front of her, now begging her to forgive him, and she had no idea what to do.
So she walked out.
Lissie took the next few days of work off sick. She didn't do much. She watched some television, did so much cooking that the pantry shelves were full of cakes and muffins and biscuits, and lay in bed a lot.
But mostly, she thought.
Connor's speech was in replay in her mind, over and over and over, never-ending. She hated feeling this way, so badly torn that every time she thought about, she was instantly overwhelmed. She loved him, she wanted to forgive him badly but what about how he'd left her four years ago? She felt like a broken record, repeating the same thing over again. He'd left her. He hadn't contacted her. He'd forgotten about her. Obviously she meant nothing to him.
But he wasn't the kind of guy to lie. Ever, really. He was genuine and honest and everything else admirable. And he hadn't changed much in the years that he'd been away. He was still that tall, bean-pole of a boy whose eyes had lit up whenever he saw her. Or a book. He'd been her best friend, had known everything about her and she'd loved him. That night before they'd graduated had felt like everything in the world was finally right and perfect. He'd said he loved her and then he'd left.
Broken record, indeed.
Not wanting to be alone with her thoughts anymore, she raced out of the house and set off in a random direction. It was only ten minutes later that she realised it had not been so random after all.
She was standing in front of the Willemse's house, next to their wisteria archway. She stared at it dumbly for a while before being awakened from her thoughts by the front door slamming open. In a blind panic, she did a huge leap behind a car and crouched down. Cautiously, she peeked up through the windows.
Connor was storming through the door, face thunderous as his father followed him close behind.
"…don't know why you're getting so angry, son!" he was saying. "All I'm saying is that those doctors are full of shit. If you work hard at it, you can get back to where you were. You can still go to the Olympics, Connor, just maybe not the next ones. You just gotta start training again and want it, then you can do anything you want!"
Connor whirled around, fists clenched tight. "What if I don't want it anymore, dad? Have you thought about that? Yeah, I accomplished my dreams and your dreams, but that's all over now! I'm lucky to even be walking, dad, what about that can't you understand? I've been working so damn hard these past months to be able to take two bloody steps on my own, yet when I come back here all I hear from you is how disappointing it is that I'm not training again! And you wonder why I avoided this place for so many years, huh? You, dad. I've been pushed around for you by years and now I've damn well had enough. I'm not gonna be stupid enough to train on this leg and hurt it so badly I'll be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I've accepted that I'll never be a hurdler again so it's time for you to accept that."
Lissie's eyes were so wide they were beginning to hurt. It was like a car crash: horrifying, but she couldn't bring herself to look away.
Mr Willemse just stood there, jaw clenched tightly and looking so, so angry. Then he turned and stalked back into the house, slamming the door so hard that window panes shuddered. Connor let out a loud curse, turned, and kicked the nearby garbage bin. With his bad leg. Lissie gasped in sympathetic pain as Connor let loose another fowl swear word, bending down and clutching his knee. His face was twisted in pain but eventually he regained control of himself, stifling standing up, glancing at the house once more before walking off down the street.
Lissie turned and fell to her bottom, leaning on the car door. She was in shock. She knew his dad was pushy, but that display right there had rocked her to her core. She had thought she was the only one hurting. It was a stupid and selfish thing to think, but she couldn't help herself. She had been so inwardly focused on her pain that she hadn't seen his. Sure, she'd known how hard it must be to have his dreams flushed down the drain due to one car accident, but she hadn't thought about his horrid father.
He loved her. She loved him. What was she doing? Hanging onto her hurt for pride's sake. Being too cowardly and scared to take a risk on her happiness. Too stuck in the past. Life was all about taking risks, wasn't it? If you didn't take risk once in a while, life was boring. Dull. Monotonous.
And ever since Connor had come back to town, everything in Lissie's heart had wanted to take a risk on Connor Willemse.
Before she even realised what she was doing, she was up, flying down the street after Connor.
"Connor!" she cried, grabbing onto his arm and swinging around to stop in front of him. His eyes widened when he saw her and he opened his mouth, but Lissie wasn't waiting around this time for her annoyingly pragmatic brain to catch up with her. She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him, throwing everything into it. He hesitated for a moment before his arms wrapped around her, angling his head and tugging her lower lip into his mouth.
She couldn't help but loose herself in the pure bliss the kiss created until he pulled away, resting his forehead against hers. She stared up into his eyes in rapt attention.
"Not that I didn't love that to pieces," he murmured, chuckling softly. "But what was that about? I thought you were avoiding me."
"I-I've missed you, Connor," she said shyly, biting her lip. "More than words can explain. You left and I was so angry, in so much pain, and I thought I'd gotten over you. But then you came back and turned my world upside down again. I love you, Connor, and I hate to see you in pain. I… I'm scared though. Scared that you'll leave me again, that you've changed and I'm not what you want anymore." Lissie took a deep breath and hardened her voice. "But how am I supposed to live if I don't a few risks, here and there? And I can't, I just can't, risk losing you again. I'm going to hold onto you with everything I've got."
A slow smile spread across Connor's face, turning into a brilliant grin. He dipped his head to give her a short, hard, joy-filled kiss on the lips.
"Oh, I'm not going anywhere and I sure as hell ain't letting you go again."
The happiness that spread through Lissie right then was unparalleled. She was willing, beyond willing, to give this thing between them another go, with no distractions this time. Connor still had his issues – with his leg, with his father – but they all seemed so small when she was in his arms, happy again.
A/N: this is for my lovely ADoR judge/friend Brittany, for our Secret Santa competition! Her prompt was:
Be creative with the cliche, but I'd love to read a story about a guy and girl who knew each other in elementary school (the freedom is in how they knew each other. Best friends? Enemies? Neighbors? Practically strangers? I have no idea. You tell me!) and meet again in their late teens or early twenties. Bonus points if the guy likes books or plays an instrument (or both) since those things make me all tingly.
Okay so I completely skipped the instrument part, but I hope she enjoys it still :)