Half a piece of pizza is all I manage. I want to feed my leftover pieces of pepperoni to Frank - if anyone is happy in this house tonight, let it be him - but am left confused when I can't find him. 
"He's still at Brie's." Emma explains when she catches me looking. "I didn't think I was going to stay." 
"Oh." I put the meat back on my plate now that there's no cat to eat them. 
Emma's put on my favourite season of bake-off, and I try to focus on it so that I don't get distracted by my thoughts, but it's proving to be of little effect. Every time, I'm brought back to Piper. Encounters we've had, things she said to me. It feels so obvious now, and I can't help but furious with myself for not catching on. The part of me that once loved her wonders what will become of her now. Will she still come to school? Is Callum going to ruin her life somehow? I should feel sympathetic if he is - but I don't. Not after this. 
Emma tries her best to convince me to eat some ice-cream, because I have to eat something, but no matter how right she is I just end up staring down the sweet treat until it resembles a puddle. I hadn't even noticed that enough time had passed for that to happen.
"Sorry." I mumble when Emma takes the cup from me to toss it. She manages a weak, half smile and shakes her head. 
"I get it."
The only hill she turns out willing to die on, is me drinking tea. It's not even an argument, just a statement. I need to drink. So I do. It's the very least I could do for her. To cater to my needs once more, she pours me a hefty glass of whiskey afterwards. It's in a regular water glass, because I've destroyed all four of the crystal ones that matched with the decanter I had - a birthday gift from Matthew many years ago. Maybe I should ask for a new set over Christmas.
The doorbell rings. I expect the insulted meowing of our cat, but then I remember he's not here. Judging by Emma's frown, it's no time for anyone to ring our bell. I want to go get it, but she forces me back down with a hand against my chest and goes herself. I mute the tv so that I can hear who it is. It's muffled, but if I try hard enough I can just make out the words. 
"Brie!" Emma sounds genuinely surprised. 
"I'm sorry." Brie replies. "After that phone call, I was worried. I couldn't… I had to be sure, you know?" 
A brief pause. "I get it. But we're... okay. It's just messy." 
Brie doesn't take that the way Emma must have hoped he would; there’s a mumbled argument of just a few sentences, and then I hear his heavy footsteps walk into the apartment against Emma's attempts to stop him. 
Our eyes lock before he's even made it to the living room. He stops dead in his tracks. No matter how mad he is at me, he is still my best friend. He immediately recognises that this isn't some argument between me and Emma, but something much more painful. Emma comes up behind him, looking pained. Brie whips around to face her, unsure of who to ask. He settles on Emma, and when he talks it's with such gentleness it's like a knife across my skin. 
I never had understood why Emma went to his place, instead of Kenna's, or Beth's, or even Charles's. Something persuaded her to go to Gabriel. 
Revenge? The little voice in my head offers. He was into her. She might have returned the favour, while you were entertaining yourself with Piper. I frown to myself, knowing that's ridiculous but unable to shut up the voice. Why else would she go there? It would only be fair.
I'm vaguely aware of both of them staring at me. With pity, concern and even anger. I can't handle it. Brie wants to know the story, I can't get myself to tell it. Then, with an unreasonable surch of anger, I decide to leave them alone so they can gossip about me - just like they must have done this afternoon. I grab my pack of cigarettes - nearly finished - and a blanket and head outside on the balcony. It's well below freezing, so I wrap myself in the blanket even though it doesn't do much. I stare out over the blinking city lights. The smoke and the cold together do a good job of numbing my thoughts, even if it's just temporary. Just when I press out my last cigarette, I hear the balcony door slide open. 
"He's gone home." comes Emma's voice. I don't face her just yet, sitting on the edge of our terrace couch. 
"What did he say?" 
I feel the couch move when she sits down. "Do you really want to know that right now?"
I consider that. "Not really." 
There's a moment of silence. "Come here, I made a hot water bottle. You'll get hypothermia." 
I glance over my shoulder to her. She's got on her coat and two more blankets. I want to listen to her, but seemingly can't get my legs to work. Instead, I lay down; my head falls perfectly into her warm lap. Without a word, she tucks the hot water bottle between my arms where I keep it against my chest, and drapes the other blankets over me. Not a long term solution, but it'll do. She says nothing, just starts playing with my hair with soft, warm hands.
"Do you think I'm stupid?" 
Her hands still for just a moment. "No." She says after considering the question. "Just... someone who wants to see the best in people, to a desperate amount that you become blind to their flaws."
I mull over that for a while, coming to the conclusion that she's not wrong. What an idiot I am. Still… "And there isn't a part of you that thinks I'm stupid?" I roll on my back so I can face her. "Just a tiny bit, for getting fooled by her and not listening to you?" 
"I…" She stares down on me, unsure of how serious I'm being. But then she smiles small, eyes softening. "Maybe a little bit stupid."

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