857. - Lucien
It's just a breath, a gust of air that feels almost lost in the storm that has taken over the room. At the same time, the tiny word seems to hush over the worst of that hurricane, or at least the one inside my mind.
I shake my head, trying to make sense of jumbled words and scattered emotions. My heart throbs painfully at the realisation that she thinks I might want this, and that this has somehow become to subject of conversation instead of the fact that she was assaulted by someone she had come to trust so deeply. I squeeze my eyes shut, shaking my head again.
"That's not... Between everything that's been going through my mind, breaking up was not one of them. Not for a second, I swear that on my very life." That, much like my whispered 'no', seems to take some more tension away, but it does little to calm the commotion in my veins, bouncing off every nerve ending like electricity. "Bear with me?" I ask; a careful glance upwards lets me catch Emma's tentative nod. "I'm not exactly great with emotions, I think we've both learned that over the years." Her little laugh makes my heart jump. "And I don't think I'll ever be as eloquent as other people, as Matthew or Brie, let alone you. And right now, they're a disaster. I can't make sense of them, and it makes me feel... lost." I frown to myself. "This somehow became about me, despite you having been through the traumatic thing, but I'm such a mess I'm not sure I can change that narrative around. Which, you know, makes me feel... more lost."
"So talk me through them." She quietly says after a brief pause. I stare at her, a little taken aback. Her cheeks are still tear-streaked, her eyes still watery, but they're also full of love and compassion. "Maybe if you can't make sense of them, I can."
The warmth in her gaze makes me feel like a boy, a teenager so tangled up in his feelings and nowhere for him to go, and it almost causes me to break down then and there. She must have seen it, too, because she offers me her hand. I take it. As I hesitate, she smiles small.
"Tell me the things that make you feel things. Not what they make you feel, just why you feel things." She encourages me.
"This." I say immediately. "The fact that you're taking care of me, when I should... You're the one who -" She cuts me off with a curd shake of her head.
"I'm choosing this." She says, in that way that tells me there's no point in arguing. "I'm making this about you. I give you permission to have this entire conversation be about you, because I think you know you won't be able to help me if you don't sort yourself out first." She squeezes my hand, swallowing. "What else?"
"Remember my very helpful 'you aren't?' question when you first said the words you weren't in love with him?"
"I was entirely ready you to leave me for him. I had pretty much convinced myself that it was going to happen, you just had to tell me. I had made peace with it, accepted it. I was mentally checked out, and I was okay with it because all I've ever wanted is for you to be happy." She nods, and considering her very specificly mentioning that she wants to stay in this relationship tells me that we're both remembering our first breakup. "So then when you told me that you weren't, between this absolute panic and worry for you, there was this rush of relief. I'd convinced myself of a lie, and I wasn't going to lose the love of my life. Only to find out that something had happened, and suddenly I wasn't all so sure if I'd convinced myself of a lie and it wasn't as crystal clear any more."
"And then you felt guilty for prioritising that while I was breaking down in your arms." She guesses, and I nod. Her lips are slightly pursed, and no doubt her brain is processing my emotions better than my own, piecing together things I won't realise for another few days. "More?"
"Ian." I blurt out, and Emma laughs - I laugh with her. "I just... Whenever his name dropped in the last few weeks, I wanted nothing more than to erase myself from the conversation. The man had everything I would've had if I'd been in Scotland. Instead, he got it all. You, the family, meeting Alfie, helping you through everything that was thrown at you. And all the while, I was rotting away in this mansion." My eyes get unfocused as I recall some video calls I had with Emma. "But you liked him, so I had to pretend that I liked him, too. Expressing any concerns I had only caused tension, and I wanted to hold on to what little good things we had left. But it felt like he was dragging you away from me."
"He might have been." She says softly, staring at her hands.
"Yeah." I scoff. "And it made things worse. Knowing what he did, how it must've made you feel..." I shake my head and shoulders, trying to get rid of that awful feeling. "I hate him. I honestly do, Em."
"I know." She squeezes my hand again. "So do I."
When the silence lasts, her head tilts sideways. "Is that all?"
"You sound surprised."
Her lips purse again. "I kind of... expected something geared towards me."
I consider that for a moment, but then shake my head. "That's the thing." I say softly. "You're here, dealing with whatever responses these things pull out of me, but none of them are actually geared towards you. You are completely innocent in all of this. Yes, you should've told me about that first kiss, but like I said before... I don't really care. I know it didn't mean anything."
"You just didn't know right after finding out."
I'm not sure if it's a realisation for her, me, or possibly both of us. But somehow, it seems to lift the last of the heavy weight pushing down on us - for me at least. My emotions are still jumbled, but I suspect that Emma's got them figured out and therefor understands them. Understands me.
And I understand her.
She moves into my arms slowly, but as soon as her arms lock around my waist and mine around her shoulders, I feel more whole than I've done in a long time. Slowly, we lay back on the bed, and take our time to listen to the sound of our beating hearts. We're okay. Individually still in chaos, possibly, but as a whole we are okay.
"I'm sorry Ian is such a cunt."
A chuckle. "Yeah. Me too."
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