I have a hard time breathing. The air seems to have been knocked out of my lungs and finding it again is nearly impossible.
Even when the recording has long ended, I stare at the screen for what feels like hours before pressing play once more, the high-pitched tone in my ears slowly fading away, able to take in a little more of the words.
I'm angry. It's a different kind of rage from the one I've been feeling all day, its roots deeper. Words are lost on me, I can't form a single sentence.
Neither of us speaks, Lucien's head still in his hands. I don't think I've ever seem him look this defeated, this broken. Even when Jacques almost tore our relationship apart, or when I miscarried, there was some fight left in him, a last sparkle in his eyes. Right now, it all seems lost.
There's plenty of things racing through my mind right now. I want to drive to Glasgow and throw Jesse's windows in. I want to find Callum, probably in some high-end rooftop bar with women surrounding him, and dangle him over the edge of the building until he's screaming for mercy, only to let him fall.
And I want to show up on Piper's doorstep and yell at her. Maybe, if this didn't concern me, I could find it in myself to feel some kind of pity for her, used as a pawn in an emotionless' man's game. Now, I can't. There isn't a single thing that could make me hate her less.
My anger no longer is directed at Lucien. Sure, it angers me that he never listened to me, that he disregarded my concerns and my feelings, but this was all a game. A ruse. Piper did whatever needed to be done to win, and she almost did.
"I need a cigarette," I finally manage to speak, my hands shaking just as much as the rest of my body, if not more.
Even agressively taking drags of nicotine in my system, so it turns out, doesn't calm me down in any way, shape or form. With the cold wind in my face, I don't notice I'm crying immediately, until my lips taste salty.
My lungs are burning and I've lost all feeling in my hands when I return inside, Lucien still sat at the dining table, hardly having moved at all.
I pour the both of us a glass of whiskey, vaguely reminiscent of the time Lucien brought me into his office after Callum cheated on me and I was in a full panic.
I slide the glass across the table at him, sitting down opposite him.
Only after he has taken a sip, our eyes meet for just a split second. His are tearshot and red, as are mine, and I have never seen them this defeated.
"Are you..." the words seem to take every bit of energy he has left in his body. "leaving me?"
Letting the alcohol burn in my throat, causing a raspy cough, I shake my head. "No."
I want to elaborate, to tell him how I'm feeling, but my already disturbed train of thought gets cut off by the buzzing of my phone in my pocket.
I wouldn't have picked it up if I didn't know this was Brie, probably worried out of his mind.
"Hey, Brie," I softly greet him. "Sorry, I should've called. We... we're working things out."
"Put me on speaker," he grumbles. "I need to yell at him, maybe then he'll understand."
"It's not like that, Brie. I... can't explain it too much right now, but we're going to get through this. We just need some time, okay?"
There's some silence on the other end of the line. "Okay, yes, I understand. Just know you can call me if you need anything, okay?"
"I will, thank you. We'll... explain, later. Thank you again, I love you."
"I love you too, Em... And Lucien, too."
I place my phone on the table upside down, the sound turned off as well as the buzzing.
"Luce...," I breathe. "I'm not leaving you. I couldn't leave you. I'm terribly hurt and angry, and it's going to take some time for us to get back to the way things were, but we've been able to survive everything life has thrown our way so far, so why wouldn't we survive this?" I reach for his hand, doubting whether or not I should hold it for a second, then eventually going for it. "Hey, Luce..." My smile is weak, but it's the only thing I can force myself to do that will avoid a full downward spiral. "In this year alone, we've survived losing our child and nearly breaking up over it. We're going to be alright, it's just going to take some time, but I'm not going anywhere, okay? I'm going to be right here."
I let out a deep breath. There's so much more that could be said, but I feel empty. A deep kind of tired that no nap could fix, sadness and frustration that only time can heal.
"I have no clue what time it is, but I haven't had dinner and I know neither have you, so I'm ordering overpriced pizza and ice cream...," I offer, "and after we've eaten, we can see what we do next. We can spend all night watching tv, or we can take a bath, or we can sit outside until we nearly freeze to death.. let's take it one minute at a time and see where tonight takes us. As long as we're going through this together. We owe each other that much."

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