A/N: Rated for angst, I guess. This is a spin-off one-shot to my other one-shot, Fades in the Summer. You'll have to read that first in order to understand this one. I wrote this because... well, because some reviewers have asked for a sequel. I'm not going to write a sequel, because I like the way Fades ended, but I do feel like I have to explain some things about Dylan. So here's a spin-off in his point of view. It's kinda short but... I hope you enjoy.
fate fell short this time,
fades in the summer
©2014 dear-llama. All Rights Reserved.
How does it feel to lose the love of your life?
The one question after Talia's death that I've never quite been able to answer.
How long does it take, to figure out if someone is the love of your life?
We were only together for slightly over a year. I was seventeen when she died. I'm nineteen now. By now, I've been without her for two years. That's twice the time that I was with her.
Maybe when you're sixty, and two years is only one-thirtieth of your life... Maybe then, two years doesn't feel like so much.
But two years, to me, right now? It feels like forever.
And for these past two years, I've been turning the same agonising question over and over.
Was Talia the love of my life?
The answer to that question is... I don't know. That is the problem with living – you never really know, until it all ends. You never really know who the love of your life is, until the very end of your life.
A part of me suspects that if hers hadn't ended so soon, she would have been mine.
She could have been.
But the thing that really kills me inside, every time, is the thought that I might have been hers.
Tara doesn't remember the night Talia died. I envy her for it, sometimes. She's free from having to replay every detail, every last word, in her mind.
I can't stop.
The night that Talia died – it was all my fault.
Talia and I argued on the night she died. It's getting easier to say – she died. Talia died. My girlfriend died.
No. My ex-girlfriend. She was my ex-girlfriend when she died.
Nobody else knows, because I didn't tell anyone – not even Tara. Not the whole story. Once, a year ago, I let it slip in anger. I don't know if she remembers. I hope she doesn't.
The night started off okay. Talia and I were going to a party – I don't even remember whose party it was, just that it was a big one. I remember feeling irritated. I was often irritated back in those days. I didn't know when exactly, but Tara had started avoiding me. My relationship with my best friend was rapidly going down the toilet and I didn't know why. I found out why that night. And when I did, I wished I hadn't.
That night, Talia had cajoled Tara into coming to the party. I'd wanted to pick Talia up, but she'd pointed out that Tara wouldn't be able to escape as easily if Talia drove her herself. Talia had noticed too. She had been trying fix things between us. I almost wish she hadn't.
I had been against coming in separate cars. "What if you decide to drink?"
She'd laid her hand on my arm and flashed me a beautiful smile. "Then you drive us home."
To my dying day, I will remember her smile, the way she looked up at me as she said those words. I should have driven them home.
I should have driven them home.
I wasn't that surprised when I met up with Talia at the party and found out that Tara had managed to give Talia the slip before I had arrived. This had been becoming the norm. Tara was avoiding me. She had been for a year now.
"You two have to talk," Talia insisted. "This is getting out of hand."
We didn't spend much time looking for Tara. There was no need. The party had just started, but she was already drunk out of her mind. We found her at the center of attention, dancing on top of a table with a bunch of equally drunk guys cheering her on.
"Dylan," Talia said from beside me, "you have to talk to her."
"Trust me, I will." I pushed through the crowd and hauled Tara away. She struggled, but I pulled her into the kitchen where it was slightly quieter.
"Okay. What the hell is your problem?"
She was belligerent. "What problem?"
"Your problem! Why are you behaving like this? What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Nothing." She turned to go, but I grabbed her arm to stop her.
She whirled around, teetering drunkenly, eyes flashing. "All right. You want to know what's happening?"
I should have seen the spark in her eyes and known that nothing good was coming. I should have left it well enough alone. But I didn't. "Yes," I said.
And as I stood there, staring her down, she leaned into my face and snarled, "What's happening is that I love you, damn it! I loved you long before Talia!" Then she pulled me down with surprising strength and kissed me right on the mouth.
I was so caught off guard that I froze for a moment, before coming to my senses and shoving her away. "What the fuck–"
A wounded noise by the doorway made me look up. Then I was moving, reaching for Talia, trying to explain. Talia was stepping backwards, away from me, a horrified look etched on her face.
"Wait," I said, but Talia didn't wait. She turned and ran.
"Wait," I heard Tara echo weakly from behind me.
At the sound of her voice, I felt red-hot anger rise within me. I turned on her. "Did you do this on purpose? Did you see her standing there and thought it was a good idea to play this... this joke! Are you that jealous of your sister you have to fuck up her relationship too?"
"I'm not lying," she whispered.
I didn't for a second believe her.
She was lying. She had to be. We had been friends for almost all of our lives - and she chose now, the exact moment when she knew Talia was watching,to 'confess her feelings'?
Tara had forgotten - I used to be her best friend. I'd lain beside her on the floor, listening to her complain about how perfect her twin sister was, how inferior she felt next to Talia. Talia was better at everything. She got better grades. She was nicer. She had more friends, more boys after her… Even their own parents, Tara had told me, preferred Talia over her.
Once, when we had been ten, she had turned to me after such a rant and asked, achingly, "Do you like Talia more than me, too?"
"Of course not," I had scoffed, with all the confidence of a ten-year-old boy convinced that most girls had cooties. "She's such a girly girl. She's boring. I'll never like her more than you."
"You better not!"
Sometimes I had the feeling that if Tara hadn't loved her sister so much, she would have hated her. Maybe a part of her did.
"You were the one who told me to get with her," I reminded her, my voice sounding harsh even to my own ears, but I couldn't stop. I couldn't believe that Tara, of all people, my best friend, could do this to me. "Are you regretting it now? Do you think I'm stealing your sister away from you? Or that I'm with her so much I don't have time for you? Because if you remember, you're the one who walked out on our friendship first."
"I don't want your friendship if you're with her," Tara choked, shoving past me to stumble out of the kitchen.
I stood in her wake, watching her move further away but unable to bring myself to follow. So, was that it? She no longer wanted to be friends because I was dating her sister now? If I was on Talia's side, I could no longer be on hers? Did it always have to be a competition?
Then I scoffed at myself, because this was Tara we were talking about. Of course it was a competition. She was always secretly comparing herself against her sister and coming up short. I doubt even Talia knew just how much of an inferior complex Tara had when it came to her twin sister.
Hands fisted by my sides, I strode through the house.
I found them both outside, Talia bundling Tara into the passenger's seat of her car. She slammed the door shut on Tara's lolling head just as I reached them.
I grabbed Talia's arm when she turned to go around the car. "Talia, listen," I said, "I didn't..."
"I know you didn't," Talia said softly. She wouldn't look at me even though I was trying hard to catch her eye. "I heard everything."
"Then you know there's nothing–"
"It's over, Dylan," she whispered. "It has to be."
I stared at her, feeling like someone had thrown me into a parallel dimension. Everything was going so wrong, all at once.
"Why?" It still made me wince, every time, remembering the way the crack in my heart had shown up in my voice too.
"I can't date a guy my sister is in love with."
"Can't you see that she's lying?" I shouted then, my frustration taking over. "She's jealous of you, she always has been. This is just a way to screw things up for us–"
Talia shook her head. "She would never lie about something like that."
In that moment, I hated Talia. Did our relationship mean so little to her, that she would throw it away just like that? Based on one impulsive, drunken lie told by a selfish, jealous sister?
A sister who had thrown away our eight years of friendship with the same cavalier attitude?
"Fine," I remember saying, clenching my jaw hard to stop the boiling pressure behind my eyes. "Go. I don't care."
It was then, when I was stomping away, that she said the last words she would ever say to me. "Dylan..." She sounded like she was crying, but I was too angry to turn around to make sure. "I'm sorry."
And my last words, ever, to Talia were, "Go to hell."
I was drunk when the phone call came that Talia and Tara had gotten in a car accident on the way home. I sobered up too quickly after that.
When I got to the hospital, Talia and Tara's parents were there. They had seen me, smelt the stench of beer on me, and looked at me as if I were dirt. Then they'd told me that Talia was dead and Tara was out cold.
I stayed long enough to make sure that Tara woke up. But when her eyes opened and I saw the same green eyes that Talia, just earlier that night, had used to look up at me and say, then you drive us home, my lungs froze up. I couldn't stand there and look into those green eyes and know that Talia would never open hers again.
Talia was dead.
Talia was dead because of me.
Because I had stomped away, like a petulant child, instead of driving her home.
Because she had broken up with me.
Because Tara had kissed me.
Because Tara had somehow, somehow gotten it into her head to screw up my relationship with her sister – the sister she had always been jealous of.
And because it was easier than hating myself, I started hating Tara.
It didn't occur to me until later, much later, that Tara could've been telling the truth.
I love you, Tara had said that night.
I love you.
Two sisters falling for the same guy. That's every guy's dream, right?
It was a fucking nightmare.
The first time I had an inkling of the truth was the first time I stayed after the sex. I'd fallen asleep and woken up to the sight of her cuddled against me. She had her arms around my neck, her cheek against my chest. I pushed away a lock of hair to expose her spiky eyelashes, still wet. She had been crying.
"Dyl," she whispered. I froze, but she didn't wake up.
Shit, I remember thinking, tracing the path of her tears with my thumb. What have I done?
But for a moment, I was almost happy.
Maybe it was selfish. But that, I think, is what loss does to you. It makes you realise, all too acutely, just how little you matter in the grand scheme of things. That death can come and touch the corners of your life at any time. That if someone so close to you could be gone so suddenly... you could be next.
And it is this realisation that makes you selfish.
Talia was dead. Gone. But Tara... Tara was here. She was the closest I could ever get to being with Talia again.
And if she loved me...
I needed... I needed someone to love me.
And then in the next vein of thought, self-preservation kicked in – No.
She couldn't love me.
I needed to believe she didn't love me. I needed to believe she had lied.
Because if she hadn't lied that night... It would've been all my fault.
I knew Tara slept with other guys. I never found out how many for sure, until that day at the diner. I admit, I had brought Annie to piss Tara off. I wanted to push her away. I wanted to hurt her.
I also wanted her to care.
She hadn't cared. She'd thrown the number in my face – sixteen. She had slept with fifteen other guys in the few months we had been fucking. I was just a number to her.
That assuaged my guilt for a while.
Until that day, at yet another party, in that storage room with her. The moment she had tried to plead with me, I had known. She hadn't been lying the night Talia died.
The truth had sunk in then.
It was my fault.
It was all my fault.
I know what people say about us, when they see Tara and I walking together now, down the same streets where Talia and I used to walk hand-in-hand. And I know how it makes Tara feel. She pulls her hand quickly out of mine every time someone so much as glances at us. She turns away from me, mid-conversation, when someone walks past. And, although I know her relationship with her father is slowly improving, she has never, ever brought me home to dinner.
I know people – my own parents, specifically – think this is a summer fling. A special mourning of sorts. The kind we used to do. The kind that stops when we go back to college for the new semester.
They don't remember that our colleges are just thirty minutes apart. They don't know that the apartment I'm renting is just fifteen minutes away from her dorms. I almost ran into her, twice, in our first year away at college. I crossed the road to avoid her, both times. They don't realise just how easy it is to run into your past in the city, even with four-million-to-one odds.
They don't understand that if we don't last, it will not be because of geographical distance.
Sometimes, I find myself thinking that we should just end it. Cut our losses and run, far, far away. Find something new, something – someone that isn't a constant reminder of this chapter of our lives.
Yet… I can't stay away.
Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with her. Ironically, she doesn't believe me. I see her casting quick glances at me sometimes, wondering. I know she goes back and forth in her own mind, making lists, making excuses. Hating me one moment, loving me the next. But she stays with me. Just like I stay with her.
I know she wonders how long love born out of guilt lasts.
I don't know, but I wonder how long guilt born out of love lasts.
I miss her.
Especially on summer nights like this, so close to mid-August, so close to the night she died.
On nights like this, I sometimes feel an overwhelming urge to get away. Away from everyone else. But more specifically, from Tara.
I know. I know that she's different from Talia. Even with those haunting green eyes, they don't look remotely alike.
And no one knows better than I do, how different they both are.
Tara is, still is, my best friend, my closest confidant – the one girl who understands and accepts every part of me, even now. Even when I don't deserve it.
And Talia... Talia is my...
My dead ex-girlfriend.
They are nothing alike. But in every line of Tara's face, I sometimes still see... the lingering ghost of Talia's smile.
Big green eyes, looking up at me – then you drive us home.
When that happens, I have to close my eyes and look away. Tara knows. It's in the curve of her lowered eyelashes, the droop of her down-turned lips when I look back at her.
I look down now, at the watch on my wrist that tells me it's midnight. It's the one Talia bought for my birthday before she died, the one Tara threw at me before we slept together for the first time. Tara hates this watch. She thinks I don't know, but I do. She thinks I don't see the way her brows draw together and her eyes dim whenever her gaze falls on the watch. She thinks I don't see the way her heart breaks every time she reaches for me and her hand brushes against its strap for a brief moment. She thinks I don't see the way her fingers tremble, just a little, before she snatches her hand back.
But I do.
I know she thinks that this watch is the symbol of my relationship with Talia, that wearing it every day is the only way I can stay close to her.
A part of me thinks that, too.
When I was still mourning Talia, the grieving part of me needed to think that.
But the other part of me, the part who was Tara's best friend before he was Talia's boyfriend, knows the truth. This watch has always been Tara's, even before I believed she loved me. This watch is a reminder, from her to me, every time I thought I couldn't go on, to go on. It saved my life every day. She saves my life every day.
Tara thinks I don't know, but I know it must have been her who thought of this present. It would never have occurred to Talia. Talia had never encouraged my hobby of diving. She hadn't even wanted me to work as a lifeguard. She worried about me swimming in the open sea. She thought it was too dangerous.
I look up and sigh. It's a clear night – beautiful, really – with stars scattered all over the sky. There are people who believe that the dead turn into stars to watch over us. I'm not one of the believers. And at this moment, I'm not very sure I want Talia to be up there, watching over us.
I don't want her to know what we've become.
My fist clenches in the sand, the rough grains cutting into my palm. Then I breathe out and slowly push to my feet. In the background, I hear the gentle crash of the waves beating onto the sand. The waves are gentle tonight. But Talia was right. The sea is always dangerous, even on a night like this.
Especially on a night like this.
How easy it would be, to simply walk into the waves and let go. Let myself sink. Let myself be with Talia again.
I almost did that, once, earlier this summer. I let the water close over my head and I went down, down, down. It would've been so easy to close my eyes and breathe in. 72% of the human body is made up of water. One little breath and I would've been home.
But survival instinct kicked in, and I had kicked my legs, hard, propelling myself upward - broke through the water – and breathed.
And then I had seen Tara, a few feet away, vanishing into the water the same way I had - and my chest had tightened so much it felt like I was drowning again. Not Tara, I remember thinking. Not Tara too. I can't lose Tara too.
If Tara had drowned that night, maybe I wouldn't be here now. It would've been so easy. So easy to sink into the waves and let everything go. Dying is easy. It's the living, being reminded of the dull ache in your chest every second of every day, when you walk past the place that used to be your special spot, the way you absently take out your phone to text a person who will never, ever reply again – that is excruciating.
They're wrong – the people who say that time heals all wounds. It doesn't. Some wounds cut so deep that you never fully recover from them. Some wounds leave permanent scars. Some wounds cripple us so badly that the only thing we can ever hope for is to hold on and keep breathing, to the best of our ability, one day at a time.
I get to my feet and dust the sand off the back of my jeans. Then I take one last look at the lulling waves. They're lapping softly at my feet, beckoning, like a seductive lover. But I turn away.
Tara is waiting for me.
A/N: Review, please? Let me know what you think?