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Apparently there was no such a thing as “too much pain”.

Merel’s entire body had been in a state of almost unbearable pain. Almost unbearable. Day after day she’d pulled through, with a fake smile that hurt more every time she put it on. Every show asked so much of her energy, energy the many sleepless night couldn’t provide. Every night she’d been lying awake, surrounded by darkness and her own just as dark thoughts. Her mind was a mess, and the last week of the tour had gone by in a haze. A painful haze, that had led to an even more painful decision.

And now, she was numb.

The mess in her mind matched the one in her room, and it didn’t even bother her. The once neatly cleaned desk was now covered by clothes and more or less empty plates. The floor was no longer visible and her guitars that she’d been so proud of, were now just collecting dust behind the door. Merel didn’t care. Not about herself, not about the worried looks her parents gave her. And definitely not about the voice that kept shouting her name.

She couldn’t remember how long Charlotte had been standing in front of the door. 5 minutes? 15 minutes? An hour? No matter how long it was, Merel was convinced the singer had to be in more pain than her. The way she kept shouting and slamming her hand against the wood couldn’t be healthy, but it didn’t hurt Merel. Not anymore.

Her heart still hurt with every beat, but her body was too numb to feel anything else. Charlotte’s smile used to cut through her heart, every touch, no matter how small or innocent, pushing her closer to a breakdown. And now she felt… nothing. Nothing but numb.

A loud sigh, filled with frustration, rolled over her lips as Merel pushed off her bed. Something cracked underneath her foot as she made her way towards her stereo underneath the window, of which the curtains hadn’t been open in a week. With a single push on the big button in the middle of the device, she filled her room loud guitar riffs, the volume so high it would hurt her ears if she wasn’t too numb to feel it.

She no longer felt the vibrations of the bass drum in her entire body. Her chest no longer filled with joy as she heard the masterpieces she used to adore. But it shut Charlotte out, and that was exactly what she needed.

Once again something cracked underneath her feet, and once again she ignored it when she sat down on her bed. The cracking of the object reminded her of her own heart, how it fell apart in smaller pieces every now and then, just like in that very moment. Tears were already stinging behind her eyes and Merel let them. She no longer had the energy to fight them, knowing they would win anyway.

Every tear felt as cold and sharp as a shard of glass and hurt just as much. She could imagine how they cut into her skin as they made their way down her face, leaving scars that would remain for the rest of her life. The drop that fell off her chin and onto her shirt wasn’t the deep red color of blood Merel had imagined. It was colorless, just like her thoughts. After just a few seconds the fabric had completely absorbed the teardrop, as if it had never been there at all. Why couldn’t everything just disappear like that?

Another tear fell when Merel suddenly looked up as the door to her room opened. She only had a second to recognize Charlotte before the woman threw herself on top of the guitarist. For split second she wondered how the singer got in, but then she saw her mother walking by. Of course, of course her parents would let in the one person she tried to avoid.

Merel didn’t hear a single one of the words Charlotte was almost yelling in her ear. Her body felt poisoned, every breath hurt more than the previous. One touch of the other woman, and the pain was back at full force. With all the energy Merel could find in her small body, she pushed Charlotte off of her, as far away as possible.

‘What are you doing here?!’

‘I-’

Charlotte stopped as she realized this wouldn’t work. They would have to yell at each other to be hearable over the music, that had failed to keep the redhead out. With a simple movement she turned off the stereo, the room suddenly painfully quiet.

‘I needed to know you were okay.’

‘Why wouldn’t I be?’ Merel asked, mentally kicking herself when she could even hear the tears in her own voice.

‘Come on, Merel, look at yourself. Your room is a mess, you are a mess…’

‘Have you looked at yourself?’

‘This is because of you!’ Charlotte shouted. ‘I’ve been begging you for 20 minutes for you to let me in! You quit the band in a text message, you moved back to your parents’ house without letting anyone know, you don’t answer to calls or messages and you’re not answering the door either. As far as I knew, you had killed yourself in here!’

‘Or maybe I just don’t  want to see anyone.’

‘Merel, just… Just tell me what’s wrong! We can help you.’

No, no one could help her. The phenomena that was called love was still a mystery to humankind. No one could help her.

‘No, you can’t. No one can help me.’

‘Well no, not if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.’

‘Why do you even care so much?!’ Merel shouted, already feeling sick from being so close to the other woman.

‘Because I love you!’

Merel froze. The haze in her mind was gone, blown away by Charlotte’s words. Her mind was clear, and for the first time she felt she could actually think. Even the pain was gone for a second, but then it struck back. Hope was even more painful than none.

‘No.’ Merel mumbled. ‘Don’t… don’t tell me you love me. You don’t.’

‘What are you talking about? Why wouldn’t I love you? You are such a wonderful person, we all love you and we all care about you.’

And that was what Merel feared most. Charlotte had no idea how much her words hurt, as a sharp knife cutting into her heart. Merel wanted to believe her so badly, every fiber of her body longed for the other woman to love her. But Charlotte didn’t, not in the same way Merel loved her.

‘That’s the problem. You care, but you don’t love me, not really.’

‘Why would you…?’

Charlotte’s voice slowly faded as realization sunk in. Her face changed and so did the atmosphere around them. The knot that had settled itself around Merel’s heart several months ago tightened, making the girl almost unable to breathe.

‘Are you in love with me?’ The singer whispered as she sunk through her knees in front of Merel, gently placing her hands on the guitarist’s thighs. ‘Oh my god, Merel… Is that why you quit the band? Are you in love with me?’

Merel couldn’t answer. She barely managed to nod while she lost the fight against her tears again. She’d never said it out loud, and hearing the words spoken made all of this so painfully real. Yes, she was in love with her. She was in love with every part of her best friend. With her smile, her voice, her touch and the heart that would never beat for her.

The first sob sounded when Charlotte carefully wrapped her arms around Merel’s shaking body. Her touch was so soft and warm, and the guitarist couldn’t resist hiding in her arms. She grabbed the fabric of the singer’s shirt, holding on to it as if her life depended on it. For all she knew this would be the last time she ever saw the other woman, and she needed to burn every detail into her mind. The scent of her perfume and the texture of her clothes, the way her hand slowly rubbed her back and how she lovingly held her. All the things that made her love Charlotte even more.

‘Shht, it’s okay.’ The redhead whispered. ‘We’ll find a solution for this. You’ll be okay.’

Merel knew that wasn’t true. There wasn’t a solution for love, she would never be okay with it. The pain grew the longer Charlotte held her and eventually she calmed down in the singer’s arms. There was too much pain to feel, too much pain to cry, too much pain to think. This is what she would feel if she went on with her life, and let Charlotte be a part of it. She was in so much pain it paralyzed her, the haze in her mind was back as if it never left. And all she felt, was numb.