A/N: Because living with these old ghosts must not be good for health. And because that "second break-up" is always the hardest.
Because We Believe in Fairytales
He knocked on her door, practically hopping from the excitement of it all. He'd managed to weasel some front-row tickets to the concert they'd both been looking forward to, and he knew – just knew – she was going to be so hyped. They'd both loved that band for ages – it had been what had bonded them, as children way back then, in the first place.
She answered the door, much slower than he would have liked. Even before the door was fully open, he jumped forward and presented the tickets with a flourish. "Ta-da! Look what I've got here!"
She took a moment to register the tickets. Her eyes brightened slightly. "Oh, hey, that's great! How'd you get them?"
He waved the question away. How he'd gotten them wasn't important – the important part was that he had gotten them. "From the guys… It was no big deal. So you're free tomorrow night, right? Let's meet at the café, then we can go together."
"Um…" She blinked. "What?"
He waved the tickets again. "What do you mean, 'what'? The concert's tomorrow night."
"And you're asking me to go with you." It was more of a statement than a question.
He frowned, not understanding her reaction. "Well, yeah. Of course." Who else would he ask? This had always been their 'thing'.
She bit her lip. "Well…"
"I mean as friends." It had suddenly hit him that – perhaps – this was what she had reserves about. "We're friends, aren't we?" He had meant it as a rhetorical question, but when she took a deep breath, he felt his stomach plummet to the ground.
"Well… I've been thinking, and…" She paused. Her next words came out in a rush, "I think we shouldn't see each other anymore."
"What?" His heart stuttered and almost stopped. What the heck was she talking about? Where had this come from? What had gone wrong? This had come so much out of the blue, his mind whirled to digest the implications of her statement.
It was like their break up all over again.
Now that she'd gathered up her courage to say the words, she didn't want to repeat herself. "You heard what I said."
"I heard it all right," he snapped. What he didn't understand was – why? He asked the question that was reverberating through his head. "Why?"
"Everything should just… you know, flow."
"Flow?" This was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard.
"Yes, flow." She stood with her arms crossed, as if shielding herself from him. She was protecting her heart, while bruising his in the process. He wanted to reach up and rub at the ache in the region of his heart, but knew that it wouldn't help.
"So…" He was still trying to understand where she was coming from. "What are you saying – that we don't flow?"
"We don't flow anymore."
He wanted to rip his hair out. What was she talking about? What was this business about 'flowing'? It wasn't like their friendship was a fucking river, for God's sake. But he tried to play along, to understand – because he was an understanding guy. Or so he liked to think. "Well, why not?"
"I don't know." She turned away, obviously reluctant to continue the conversation. "We just don't. This… us…" She gestured vaguely between the two of them, "it feels forced."
That was news to him. He could feel the rage building, like licks of flames dancing in his chest, but he tempered his initial reaction. He took a deep breath; two. When that didn't work, he turned abruptly to pace along the corridor. "So… what are you saying? That all this has been forced? Everything you've said, done–" He broke off – stood, with his back to her, by the wall.
"I don't know," she said again, softly. He mused, almost detachedly, how ironic it was that they could finally agree on something in this conversation. "It should be… effortless, you know? Talking. But now it just feels…"
"Forced," he finished her sentence for her, only because he knew what had been coming, not because he agreed with it. "Nothing is effortless."
She was stubbornly mute.
"All relationships need effort to maintain," he tried again. Even to his ears, it sounded a little too much like preaching. Even though it was true.
"Not ours, back then."
It was his turn to be silent.
"Look," she said finally, "I just don't think it's working out."
"Déjà vu," he muttered, almost bitterly. She'd broken up with him, two years ago, in the almost exact same way. There had been several months of silence, before they'd picked up their friendship again – the one that they'd had for more than half their lives.
In all the movies, all the books, people liked to wax poetry about how beautiful a romance between best friends – childhood friends – could be. What they'd left out was the part on how painful it would be to deal with the break up, when you lost both your best friend and your girlfriend at the same time.
From the beginning of his memories, they'd always been Lavvy and Jake. Jake and Lavvy. For a long while afterwards, he'd had to learn how to be just Jake.
"You hurt me, you know," she was saying. When he turned back to look at her, he realised that she'd retreated a little back into her apartment. All he could see now were the shadows playing out across her face as she spoke.
"I know," he said, the words feeling like lead on his tongue. Apologising for his callous words was basically all he'd been doing since they had gotten back into contact. He'd apologised enough, in his opinion. But she hadn't been the only one who'd been hurt. He had hurt too. For far too long and far too quietly.
She sighed, and he had a mad urge to leap forward and try to catch the sound in his hand. To protect it. To try and salvage it. Except he knew that all he would succeed in doing was to watch it slip, once again, through his grasp. This was the end. He knew it. She knew it. After this, it was likely they'd never talk again.
She spoke again. "We can never go back to what we used to be."
"I agree." And he did. It was impossible to return to those idyllic days of their youth, but he'd been hoping they could have forged a new friendship based on who they were now, rather than who they had been back then. Relationships evolved all the time, right? But apparently he had been the only one with such optimistic thoughts.
"But, well," she shrugged awkwardly. "If you ever want to talk…"
That stank too much of begging to appeal to him. Begging for her attention, when she'd made it clear that she didn't want the effort involved. "Hm," he made a noncommittal sound. "You too."
She didn't respond. She didn't need to. He knew that these were mere platitudes.
"So…" He took his hands out of his pockets, where he'd shoved them. The tickets remained snugly in his pocket. There was no way he was giving them to her now. Colour him selfish, but she'd been the one to reject his olive branch. At least he would get to keep the spoils.
"Bye, I guess." Without waiting for a reply, she stepped back and the door clicked shut.
The concert tickets were still in his pocket. He curled his fingers around them, relishing in their tangibility. They, at least, would never vanish in a puff of smoke.
He was in the café that they always met up at, sitting at their usual table behind the pillar. Except he was going to have to stop thinking of it as their café, their table, their pillar. They shared nothing now – not even a normal friendship. Not even concert tickets to a favourite band. Just long-ago memories that would slowly fade.
It was telling that the end of their friendship was impacting him more than the end of their romance had been. After their break up, he'd just been angry – angry at being wronged, angry at being ignored, angry that she hadn't cared enough to fight for their relationship. Now… That anger was gone. What was left was a sense of realisation. A realisation that this was truly the end. Even after the break up, he had never felt this crushing finality weighing on him now.
The waitress placing the cappuccino he had ordered on the table broke through his train of thoughts. He looked up into sympathetic green eyes. "Why the glum face?" she asked, whether out of curiosity or concern, he didn't know. "Bad break up?"
He glanced at the name tag on her uniform, careful not to let his gaze linger too long. Her name was Kat, and she had eyes that fit her namesake. "Not really," he replied.
"Is it the girl who always used to come in here with you?" Kat asked shrewdly. His surprise must have shown through his expression, because she chuckled. "Hit it right on the head, didn't I?"
He smiled a little. He should have known that their antics would have garnered the attention of the staff here. The café had been one of their most frequent haunts, after all. "Are you sure you shouldn't be working instead of prying into customers' private issues?" he asked, instead of acknowledging her questions.
Kat screwed up her nose in a gesture of defiance. "Oh, come on. Is this what I get for showing some friendly compassion? Listen, this may be a café, but we baristas are just like bartenders, see?" She grinned and sashayed away.
He understood hidden messages when he heard them. That last statement had been a subtle offer for listening to his problems should he decide to talk.
Amused, he allowed his gaze to follow her all the way back to the counter. Kat's accurate guesses about who had been on his mind only served to remind him how closely his and Lavvy's lives were linked. It was inevitable that he would run into her again one day. Living in the same neighbourhood and frequenting the same places pretty much guaranteed that.
It was going to be awkward, but he didn't want to spend the rest of his life crossing roads and making detours just to avoid her. He didn't want to round every corner feeling afraid that she would be on the other side. Such an existence would be worse than being strangers. And they weren't strangers – not quite. They had way too much history to be that. But perhaps one day, they could forget enough to simply co-exist without being reminded of past hurts every time they looked at each other. One day, they could look back on the times they'd shared and only remember the good, rather than focusing on the bad.
Perhaps one day, they would be able to greet each other with casual smiles before continuing their separate ways.
The bell on the door chimed. He looked up just in time to see Lavvy walk in and stride to the counter. After giving what he presumed was her usual order – a pumpkin latte, to go – she turned to survey the café. He ducked his head before their eyes could meet.
Today was not that day.
But eventually, life would right itself again, and these old ghosts could be buried and put to rest. He could finally let go… and move on.
A/N: I'm back! Life has been so hectic what with moving continents, mindless travelling, writing dissertations and impending graduation, I haven't really been writing much. Plus, I've been suffering from the longest case of writer's block. So imagine my surprise when I woke up today, sat down at the computer and churned out this oneshot in a matter of 2 hours. Whew.
This story is... a catharsis of sorts. This is not really directed at anyone in particular, although the conversation Jake and Lavvy have may sound pretty... familiar. But writing the story is just my way of releasing some feelings. The story is not meant to be a dig, but if some people involve choose to see it that way, there's nothing I can do.
I deliberately left out the details of their past relationship/friendship in this story, mainly because I wanted to focus more on the "letting go, moving on" idea. I hope you guys liked it.
I'm still working on the "sequel" (or prequel, actually) to my other oneshot, Facebook Official. And I've also been working on some new short stories. Somehow, though, I just keep getting stuck. I'll try to finish them, though. I will definitely try not to vanish for another year again.
Anyway, please review! I cherish every single review even though I may not reply to all of them individually.