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Even after three weeks since her makeover she hadn’t been able to recognize herself. Gone were her signature curls and glasses that used to make up who she was.
In a way she felt naked without them, but she also felt a sense of flirtatious danger.
Her hair was now pin straight, not permeant, but she styled it straight all the time now. The color of her hair had been dyed a lighter blonde, almost platinum; it fell down thickly past her breasts and seemed even longer now.
She liked it, even though it did seem too provocative and model-like for her.
As for her glasses, those had been replaced by clear contacts. Those had been a pain to get used to. She and May had enjoyed a good laugh mixed with fright getting them in.
So now her eyes seemed more exposed and opened, and all too big; she was still getting used to it. That hadn’t been the end of her makeover though; she had thought she should go all out and completely transform herself. There hadn’t been anything wrong with her before, that’s not why she had undergone the makeover. No, she had done this because she needed a new start, and she needed to do something for herself.
So she had pampered herself.
Even her nails were done, painted in a nice clear coat that made them glossy.
But she hadn’t stopped there.
She had taken to wearing makeup now; surprising herself by how much she liked how the colors and features could enhance her natural appearance. She would often settle for a nice coat of translucent powder on her face, some mascara, and lipgloss. Before, she hadn’t liked makeup because it took too long to take off, but now she enjoyed the time it took to steam her face and the wipe off the cosmetics with lotion. All this self care really did wonders to her mood, it made her feel somewhat better.
It reminded her that she didn’t need anyone to take care of her or love her; she could do that herself. So she had put Bill out of her mind, as much as it hurt. She had used this hurt to push herself forward.
Sadly, she knew in her heart of hearts that she still loved him; but she wouldn’t succumb to that anymore. She had given him a chance and he had failed.
So yes, things were still difficult.
For example, when May, Lola, and her had been at the mall; she had gotten a whiff of Bill’s cologne as it had been being promoted, and it had brought tears to her eyes. Still, she hadn’t given into those tears, not that time. She had decided that she wasn’t going to waste anymore tears over him.
So she had transformed and tried to rid herself of him as much as possible.
She had gone so far as to splurge on a whole new wardrobe. She hadn’t thrown the clothes he had bought her away; instead she had kept them hidden in the back of her closet, not able to wear them; they reminded her too much of him.
So she had taken to wearing mini skirts with dress up shirts and stockings. It was different than her old wear, these new outfits of her showed more skin. She loved now dressing herself with more care, often matching her shirt to her stockings and the headbands she had taken to wearing.
So it was a full transformation. She had loved seeing her co-workers reactions and the children’s as well; they hadn’t recognized her at first. Although the drama with the pictures had abruptly stopped a few days ago, she still got many admiring looks from the guys in her class, but she paid them no mind; she didn’t want to get involved with a guy ever again.
So she had thrown herself into all areas where she had a purpose including her school work, work at the daycare, and student council. She had also begun to do other things that always made her feel better including reading more self-help books and going on long walks with Cotton. Even sleep was coming to her more easily now, but still too often her dreams were about him. She didn’t let that bother her. She had been taking a different approach. She had recognized that she loved him and maybe she always would, but she now acknowledged that thought without giving into it.
Now she acknowledged that she was putting herself first, and that meant focusing her love on herself and not him.
Loving herself meant making connections with other people and making an effort to go on. She had done this by getting closer to her new student council friends including May and Chris. They would often all eat lunch together down town and Hillary had even tried her first alcoholic beverage due to not wanting to miss any experience. She also wanted to make more memories, and thanks to her new friends she did. For instance, they had all gone to a hot air balloon lighting, gone roller skating, and on a road trip to New York City.
Under the Time Square Lights and looking at each of her companions, she had realized that it was the first time she had ever really had a group of friends.
So in some ways things were better.
After all, it was nearly the end of the semester, and the tree lighting would be happening tonight. They had decided to light the tree a week before
Christmas due to students traveling to see family over the holidays. She herself would also be going back to Illinois to visit her family over the holidays next week; but for now, she poured over the final touches of the tree in the student quad.
“It looks great. You really did a good job,” Peter said from behind her. The two of them had decided to come and check on the tree instead of going to lunch with the rest of her group. More and more these days she found herself spending more time with Peter. She liked his company, he was easy to talk to and she never second guessed herself when she was with him.
“We all did a good job. These blue gem lights for example were your idea and I love them,” Hillary said happily. The gem lights really were a beauty and she suspected that they would be more beautiful once lit. Only suspected. Peter hadn’t let her seen them light up because he wanted her to wait for the surprise.
“Yeah, I thought you would like them. Blue is your favorite color isn’t it?” he asked. She stiffened a bit. Blue was her favorite color, but she hadn’t told him that. It was no fault of Peter’s. Actually it had nothing to do with him at all, and everything to do with Bill. She loved blue because of Bill. The color reminded her of how he had looked when he had made love to her; shaded blue from the outside lights peeking in through their window. She shook her head a little to get that thought out of her mind. She wasn’t going to let him ruin anything else for her, especially not this tree lighting.
“Yes blue is my favorite color,” she answered simply and went back to admiring the tree. She remembered how her and her group of friends had struggled getting it into the back of the car, and the memory brought a smile to her face.
“I brought some muffins and sandwiches if you’d like. You know since we didn’t go get lunch with the rest of the group,” Peter said drawing her attention back to him. She turned around and saw that he had placed the food on one of the tables in the student quad.
“Of course. You know I’m always hungry,” she said and went to ravish one of his muffins. They often called Peter the mom friend because he was always looking out for them and of course always baking his signature cherry muffins. As she ate one of the muffins she noticed Peter’s eyes on her. Green eyes, almost lime in color.
“Hillary. I came with you today because I wanted to tell you something,” Peter said. She nodded.
What could he possibly want to tell her?
“Go on,” she said through muffin bites. He seemed to be hesitant.
“You’ve been nothing but a good friend to me, you can tell me anything really,” she said. He really had been a good friend to her, and the rest of the group had even taken to calling them ‘the twins,’ due to their closeness.
“That’s exactly it though. I don’t just want to be your friend I want to be more, and I know you can’t give me that, but I just want you to know how I feel,” he said. This came as a complete shock to her. Never would she have imagined that he liked her in this way. He had always been so respectful and shy, and maybe that was exactly why she hadn’t noticed; because the last man she had been with was always so direct about what he wanted.
Yet, he was right.
She couldn’t give him more.
Not just because of Bill, but because she wanted to focus on herself.
“Well now I know,” she said simply and she hated how it was so simple but she didn’t have anything else to say. She didn’t feel guilty however, her readings from her self-help books had shown her that she didn’t need to feel guilty for how she felt.
“Yeah, and I respect that, and I don’t want anything to change in our friendship. I’m not trying to make you feel uncomfortable and this is the only time we have to talk about this,” Peter said. She nodded, she could tell her was genuine, and nothing would change. Besides, after all this time he hadn’t come on to her or made her feel uncomfortable.
“So how do you feel about this bowling competition May has been thinking about setting up now?” She asked now changing subjects. They both laughed knowing how terrible she was at bowling but he proceeded to telling her anyways.

 

He had joined The Royals, but it wasn’t for personal gain. It was to track down the guys who had been distributing Hillary’s pictures. Once he found them, he had quickly put a stop to that a few days ago, then he quit The Royals.
They were a bunch of sleazes and he saw that now.
He saw things a whole lot clearer now. In these past three weeks he had made an effort to find her and explain to her everything that had happened. He had gone to the library and sat for hours on end waiting for her to walk in; she never did. He had still felt empty without her, almost lifeless, but he had soon realized that sulking wasn’t going to bring her back. No, only making an effort to seek her out would do him any good. Still, he hadn’t shown up outside of her classes or even at her dorm where she may possibly be. No, he respected her too much for that and he wasn’t going to make her feel corned. He wanted to make their run in seem natural and he hoped like before, the universe would just bring them together.
It had amazed him that after she had told him she hated him, he only wanted her back more.
He still felt desperate and he saw her in everything, so he wasn’t giving up.
This is why he was now at work finishing working on yet another car, because he would still have to pay the bills on the house for when he won her back. When not if. He still believed in what they had together and he would remain optimistic in that, even if every moment without her was excruciating.
Because what else could he do? He had to hold on to that hope she had restored within him, and keep doing everything in his power not to give into the demons that had come back in her absence.
His inner demons threatened to take him over again, and he now had two voices in his head.
One was Hillary’s, urging him to go forward and to do the right things.
The other was that of his demon, of the cold Bill he used to be. That voice would say things like ‘see that girl over there? Sleep with her it’ll help you forget your problems.’
He couldn’t give into that voice, not if he planned on getting his girl, his very reason for living, back. Lucky for him, Hillary’s voice was stronger and so was the hope that they would be together again. Still, the demon voices kept on raging and they sent impulses through him that he fought every day within these past weeks. It exhausted him to fight them all the time and he feared that if he didn’t have Hillary back soon then he would give into them.
“How are you holding up? Dad says that’s a terrible car to fix,” Luna said coming to sit down on one of the chairs in the garage where he was working. He paused to give her his attention. He was grateful that Mr. Jenkins had allowed him to keep his job even though he had missed several shifts. He was also grateful that Luna had been kind and understanding when he told her about what had happened with Hillary. She had seemed genuinely sorry for him and had listened to him rant about Scott, Bambi, and Packer.
Luna was a good friend, she was everything Bambi hadn’t been and he was glad that unlike the latter, she made no passes at him or had any intention of scheming or betraying his trust.
“it’s alright. I like the challenge,” he said. It was true working on cars gave him almost a sense of peace.
“How are you, Bill really?” she asked now. He sighed. On his last shift, Luna had been eating a cake pop and it reminded him so much of Hillary and how beautiful her birthday had been that he had cried.
He had really cried.
He had always been sensitive at heart, but old Bill would never cry, but now given that Hillary had restored his humanity, he found himself more open to emotions.
“I haven’t seen her so that’s terrible. I’m sure she’s still mad at me. I’m going to the tree lighting thing the school is putting on though so I hope I see her there,” he said. It made him feel like a nervous teenager just thinking about it, but he would go to see her. He was sure she would be there, it seemed like her sort of thing.
“That’d be nice. You just need a chance to explain yourself,” Luna said. She had been all too understanding of both sides after Bill told her what happened. She understood why Hillary would be so hurt, and why Bill was hurting as well. According to Luna, it seemed like this whole problem was because of a miscommunication.
“I hope she’ll let me. I don’t think she wants to hear what I have to say,” he said trying to sound light hearted. The truth was that it hurt beyond comprehension. The way she had looked at him in complete anger as she had told him she hated him haunted him.
“All the more reason to tell her. It’s often times the things we don’t want to hear that turn out to be what we needed to hear,” Luna said. That struck a cord within him and he would keep that thought in mind. Luna was always offering insight like this that he found valuable.
“I’m scared,” he admitted. It was more than that though. It was the fear of rejection from the one person he loved most in the whole world. It was the fear that her world would go on without him and his world would come to a stop.
He feared now more cruelly than ever that they were both spheres that would never touch and that she would forget him.
“We all are,” Luna said almost as if she were feeling that same sort of relational fear herself. They were quiet for a moment and he went back to working on the car.
“So how’s Sunny?” he asked wanting to shift the tension away from himself. He knew that Luna had a complicated relationship with her friend, she had told him that much but had left it at that. “She’s okay. I’m going to see her tomorrow,” Luna answered and began to blush. Bill never understood why she blushed whenever she talked about her friend but he didn’t feel it was his place to probe further. All he knew was that Luna and Sunny had become friends in college and remained in contact. Sunny lived in New York but would at times come to see Luna.
“Fuck. I’m sorry I keep talking about it but i’m terrified of seeing her again,” Bill said suddenly as his thoughts returned to Hillary. He wasn’t sure what he would do if he saw her, all he knew was that he needed to talk to her.
“It’s fine. Look Bill you know her, she’s just hurt. If you want I can go with you,” she offered. He thought about it, that would make things better. After all, it would be nice to go with a friend. Then a thought occurred to him.
He didn’t want Hillary to look on and think he had moved on so quickly, no after the fucking
mess that happened with Bambi, he was taking all the precautions necessary. Plus, he knew how jealous she could get and the sight of him with another girl she didn’t know would only worsen things.
“Thank you Luna, but I really think I should go alone. I don’t want Hillary to misunderstand and think I’m seeing you, she would lose it,” He said. Luna nodded in understanding.
“Good luck then Bill, I’ll keep you in my prayers,” she said. He only nodded. Whatever previous spark of belief he had had been taken away when he had lost Hillary; because he couldn’t understand how if there was a really some mystical being with a plan, how it could be part of the plan to make him a loser fall in love with an angel then snatch her away. So maybe they really were just products of molecules and cells on this Earth, running aimlessly about and trying to make sense of this stupid crazy life.
“Thank you,” he replied either way because he would after all need whatever luck he could get. He only hoped that she wouldn't reject him because if she did he would let her go, he would never force her to stay. And fuck how he wanted her to want to stay.

 

She didn’t have work today as her schedule had been changed to working every other day. She was grateful for this because while she loved the work at the daycare immensely, she had wanted to change her schedule so it wasn’t the same as it had been when she had been dating Bill.
The more different things were than when she was with him, the better. So now, she headed down to the kitchen in the dorm entrance. Another great idea of Peter’s for the tree lighting had been for everyone to bring food; so flyers had been put up telling everyone to bring appropriate snacks and appetizers to share.
She had missed cooking and had decided to make her grandmother’s famous grits. She had bought all the ingredients recently and put them in the fridge with sticky notes saying not to use. She was glad they were still there and she placed them on the counter to begin cooking.
Then she heard someone scoff rudely behind her. She turned around and saw that Bambi was there, by herself for once.
“Seriously? You look like a cheap blonde whore. I think I liked you better before,” Bambi sneered. Hillary sighed. She hadn’t seen her nemesis in the longest time and she had thought it was simply because she was skipping classes with Bill or something stupid like that.
“It looks like you work the streets,” Bambi said still jiving on. Maybe the old Hillary would have been too scared to say anything but not this time, not ever again. She had found a newfound strength within her and this time would not be like the time in the laundry room when she had been reduced to tears.
“You know what Bambi you can fuck off!” She shouted so loudly that the girls watching the tv in the living room of the dorm entrance turned to look. Bambi seemed surprised and raised her eyebrows.
“You think just because you get a new makeover it means you’re the shit now? Well you’re not! I don’t know who you think you’re talking to cheap whore my father is the dean,” Bambi said coming to stand face to face with Hillary now. She was still taller than Hillary but now Hillary stood full height looking her straight in the eye. She would never fear this girl again. Her self- help books had also shown her that she did not need to take anyone’s negative attitude.
“I’m talking to you how you talk to me. If you want respect you earn it and give it back,” Hillary said her voice still just as serious, confident, and unflinching. Bambi raised a hand almost as if she were going to hit her, but Hillary caught her wrist.
“Do not ever try to hit me again. I’m not one of those people you can bully,” Hillary said and threw Bambi’s wrist back at her, the girl went stumbling back in her heels.
The girls watching the tv were snickering now and Bambi’s face grew flush with humiliation. She stalked off giving Hillary one last angry look, but Hillary didn’t care.
She turned her attention back to cooking and for a second she found herself wanting Bambi to go tell Bill how she had stood up to her. She knew she shouldn’t care about him in more, but she wanted him to know that she wasn’t meek and innocent anymore. No, he had taken that part of her away and she had to reinvent herself; grow thicker skin.
So she wanted him to know that she wasn’t the innocent little girl he had corrupted. She was stronger now, and an even more independent woman.
She threw herself into her task of making the grits, focusing all her energy on that. For a moment she found herself hoping that he would be at the tree lighting and that he would try to talk to her; because if he did this time she would not be talking to him with tears in her eyes but instead a look of strength.

 

He felt a bit foolish getting himself cleaned up for the tree lightning. He had decided on wearing that leather jacket that he had given her, as he knew she loved it and he wrapped a red and black planned scarf around his neck.
He had shown up to the tree lighting a little late, as he was still nervous to see her. It was dark, and it had begun to snow lightly. It reminded him of the last time it had snowed, and the tiny snowflakes had fallen on her nose. His eyes scanned the crowd for her as students mingled in the student quad with cups of hot chocolate and food that was set up on one of the tables.
He felt strange, almost as if he didn’t belong here, he was a stranger looking in and he couldn’t find her. There was christmas music playing from a record player and he felt a sense of sadness wash over him, because even though he was trying to be optimistic he kept remembering everything he had lost.
They had planned a while back before the bet had been revealed, that they would visit her family over Christmas break.
Now he would be spending Christmas alone with his family back in Arkansas. He was only going back there for Roger’s sake, but quite frankly he didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to go back to that house without her. His heart felt heavy and then someone announced over a microphone that the tree lighting would be happening in a matter of seconds. He felt a hand at his shoulder.
Bambi.
“Hey Bill why so glum?” She sneered. He rolled his eyes and tried to contain the fury he felt looking at her. She had left him alone for several weeks as Packer had fully discarded her and she hadn’t left her dorm room, sulking for days.
He wasn’t feeling sympathy for her, it served her right after what she had done to him and Hillary. “Fuck off. I don’t want to talk to you ever again, and if you bother me again I don’t care who your father is, I’ll make you regret ever meeting me,” he said sternly and walked away from her. He walked to stand on the other side of the tree where students had begun to mingle.
Someone again on the microphone started a countdown and when they reached one, the tree lit up with beautiful blue gems.
That’s when he saw her.
She was standing on the other side of the tree, surrounded by her room mate and other people he suspected were her friends by how close they stood together.
She looked so different, but as he had told her, he would recognize those eyes anywhere.
She wore her hair sleek straight now, and a blue headband adorned it.
Her glasses were gone and while he had seen her without her glasses before, it still surprised him how much bigger her eyes looked without them.
Even from where he stood, he noticed that she was wearing makeup and while he stood by his claim that she didn’t need it, she still looked stunning with it.
Then there was her outfit. She had worn a mini black pleated skirt and high black knee socks that matched with her black sweater. She was also wearing a red scarf and that comforted him; they were still thinking alike.
As he watched her look at the blue gem lighted christmas tree, a smile decorating her face, he felt both despair, joy, and anger.
Despair because she represented all that was beautiful in the world and without her, he would never be allowed to engage in that sort of beauty again.
Joy, because he loved to see her smiling even when he wasn’t the cause of it. She deserved to
smile and her high glistening cheek bones illuminated blue by the Christmas lights, made her even more stunning.
Lastly there was anger.
Anger because it was so fucking cruel that he had been given a chance with someone as ethereal as her and he had ruined it. It was sick torture that he had been able to feel her, love on her completely, and then suddenly have her taken away. It made him almost wish that they had never made love to begin with so he didn’t have to miss her so much in that way.
He felt frozen, and not just because of the snow that had come down even more now.
He felt frozen because he knew if he were to go and try to talk to her now, that joy would vanish from her face. He knew that maybe it was just his fears and like Luna said, everyone was afraid, still he had more reason than most to be fearful. Because he feared he was losing her already and he saw how happy she was surrounded by her friends. She had told him once that she had always wanted a group of friends, and he was glad that she had that now.
It still made him devastated that he was becoming a faint memory to her.
He knew that he wanted to go to her and he every atom of his body was desperately screaming at him to go to her, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He couldn’t bring himself to ruin this moment for her and to once again take away her joy.
He couldn’t do that. He wouldn’t do that.
If he could wish for anything in the world as selfish as it may seem he wouldn’t wish for world peace, he would wish for her to always have joy. He would wish for those high cheeks to stay smiling forever.
With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he knew what he had to do.
He had to let her go, or at least try to. All the optimism and all thoughts of getting his girl back were ripped from him because what good was any of that if she didn’t want it? He didn’t want her to be miserable at his side and to be there by force, no he wanted her like they had been before, except without all the lies and deception.
So he turned and like a lonely ghost walked back to his car.

After the amazing tree lighting she had felt so elated, but she knew there was one thing left she needed to do before this year was out and the new year came in next week.
She had to go see the house, she knew he wasn’t there since he was back in his dorm, and that only made her want to see it more. It may have seemed like a strange choice since she was trying to move on, but this would only help her. She needed to see it one last time. She needed to see the empty house and see what had become of it; it would convince her that there was nothing left for her here. It would also be one of her New Year’s resolutions to never come to this house again, so if she wanted to see it now was the time.
So she solemnly got out of the car and trudged in her flat shoes to the door, hating how the slush mixed into her socks. She unlocked the door, and she was surprised to feel how cold the doorknob was, almost as if no one had been here in so long and she supposed no one had.
When she went into the house and closed the door behind her, all the memories threatened to come back.
They didn’t.
They were simply nuances that were kept in check by the iron curtain she had installed in her brain to protect herself. But still, she noticed how unchanged the house was.
The rug was still fumbled up like it always had been due to their constant tumbling around on the floor tickling each other.
The green frog clock she had insisted that they buy several weeks ago still ticked like a pendulum with the ever beating theme of time.
Time.
It amazed her that with everything that had happened and how much time had passed, this house still seemed eternal and unchanging.
Time was infinite and their love had been but a spark in time, and she knew that now.
She was about to leave the house, not being able to step foot in the bedroom again when she heard a noise. It came from the very place she didn’t want to go: the bedroom.
She knew that it would be the safest and most logical decision to just leave. Given everything that had happened when she didn’t trust her instincts, it still amazed her how her feet took her of their own accord to the bedroom. It was as if fate or some other force was pulling her to the room where she knew she didn’t want to be.
Upon entering the dark room illuminated only through the christmas lights from the neighbor lights and porch light; she saw him sitting there on the bed. His face was in his hands and the sound she had heard was him crying softly.
He seemed like a weeping angel.
Now she knew better.
Now she knew that he was a silver tongue devil, but still he didn’t seem to know she was here so why was he crying? She put a stop to that line of thinking and turned to leave before he could see her. Yes, she had wanted to see him at the tree lighting and tell him off, but she hadn't seem there and she most certainly didn't trust herself to talk to him when he was like this.
“If you want to go, I won’t stop you. You don’t have to run from me,” his sad voice said. She stopped in her tracks at having heard that familiar voice for the first time in weeks.
She looked at him, his hands had now slid so they were only cradling his cheeks and even in the dimly lit room she could tell his eyes were puffy. He wasn’t going to stop her? That was strange. He had been begging her to stay and let him explain the last two times.
“It looks like we’re matching,” he spoke again softly and she noticed that he was also wearing a red scarf. She didn’t know what to say, but she just stood there. She wasn’t going to be bitchy with him unless she needed to and right now he made now intention of getting up or trying to prevent her from leaving. She knew she had said before that she never wanted to see him again, and she hadn’t expected him to be here, but now that he was she couldn’t bring herself to leave, even though she had been trying to before. It always seemed that she was caught in the middle between wanting to be around him and to never see him again. What she wasn't in the middle about was her self worth. She knew what she deserved now so no matter what happened, she would speak to him with her dignity.
“Your socks are wet. Aren’t you cold?” He asked curiously and a bit concerned. That concern in his voice almost melted her heart to be like the same slush in her shoes, but only almost.
“A little,” she admitted finally finding her voice, “I didn’t know it was supposed to snow.” His eyes remained ever watchful on her and she knew that he was taking in her new appearance. She waited for him to ask about it, but he didn’t.
“You should get some snow boots. They help keep you warm,” he said.
“I’ll look into it,” She answered.
She could tell that he was trying to be super respectful like he had been at the beginning and some of that same hesitation she had seen when they had first started dating was there in his impeccable eyes. Outside, she heard people singling carols and laughing, and then came silence one more silence between him and her. She wanted to hate him things would be so much easier if she did. For a moment, a fleeting moment, she wished she were like Bambi; she wished she were the type of girl who could discard others without caring. Still, she knew that would never be her, she felt things too deeply. Ever since she was young she was sensitive, often crying when a thorn would pierce a rose. When she was younger she had thought the rose could feel pain, and her empathy caused her to feel that pain as well. Now, given her transformation and what she knew, she knew that thorns were the trials in life and they pierced beautiful things like roses, but the rose was still beautiful.
She was the rose now, and she wouldn’t allow this thorn to impact her life greatly.
So she stood, staring back at him unflinching. There was something powerful within her, about facing those eyes head on. Before she had been too shy to hold his gaze but now she did; now she felt compelled to, she lifted her chin and undauntedly looked back at those tear filled eyes.
“I miss you so much,” he finally spoke again and he sounded so heartfelt and broken that for a moment she wanted desperately to believe him. She had told herself that the next time she saw him she would confront him. Now she would, but she would in a way that was strong but not
rude. It had nothing to do with him and everything to do with her. She wasn’t a rude person and he wasn’t going to turn her into one.
“Didn’t seem like it the last time I saw you,” she threw back and was grateful for how confident her voice sounded. He shook his head and swallowed, no doubt trying to keep back more tears threatening to give way.
“Sweets, that was nothing. I told you what happened, and I know you don’t believe me. You have every right to doubt me but believe me when I tell you that I would never hurt you like that,” he said.
For a moment, hearing him call her the old endearment he had used for her, she wanted to go to his arms. His hellish arms that had been the trap and cause of all this, but she knew she couldn’t. “You took my virginity because of a bet. I wouldn’t put it past you,’ She retorted.
“I took your virginity because I love you,” he refuted, his voice breaking at the end.
A storm was going on within her.
She had changed in many ways, but what would never change was her love for him, and hearing him say he loved her back still sent her heart fluttering, but she was better equipped now.
“You don’t keep things from someone you love! And you don’t sleep with someone who hurts the person you love!” She shouted back.
For once there were no tears and her water ducts did not try to break through.
No, now she was made of steel, he had forced her to be this way.
He on the other hand was entirely weak, sniveling and looking like she had just punched him in the gut.
“I’ll own that I made mistakes, and I hurt you. I’ll own that. But those mistakes do not mean that I love you any less don’t you dare tell me I don’t love you,” he said and for a second he sounded cold like he had been before, but it was a different type of cold. It seemed that now this coldness came because there was nothing else left, because he was almost lifeless and without the blood of life like a corpse.
“Don’t tell me that you don’t love me,” he whispered and for a moment he seemed so small despite his tall build. She didn’t answer, because she didn’t know what to say. Yes she still loved him, but she couldn’t act on that love anymore. She couldn’t allow herself to be hurt.
Her silence was answer enough for him however and his face seemed to shatter even more.
She thought that he may be a well trained actor, but somehow she knew that wasn’t true.
“You said you would never leave me,” he choked out, and one silver tear fell down until it hit his lips. It hurt her that he was this way, and she didn’t expect anyone to understand how he who had cause her so much pain could also mean so much to her. This was unprecedented and she felt like she was trying not to walk into a burning fire that would consume her again. She stepped back, she would need to leave soon. She had come to say goodbye to this chapter of her life and she had fulfilled that, there was no reason for her to stay any longer.
“That was before when I foolishly thought that you were being genuine with me. I’m going to go,” she said and inched closer to the door. Like he had said, he didn’t try to stop her and again that confused her, hadn’t he wanted her back?
“You’re not trying to stop me,” she observed her thoughts voicing themselves out loud. He shook his head again.
“No. I want you to be happy more than anything that’s what I want, and if leaving will make you happy then I won’t stop you,” he said simply. It seemed like he was having trouble restraining himself though and that he would much rather have her in his arms.
She didn’t know what else to say. No words would be sufficient enough to explain what she was feeling.
“Just know that I will always love you. You are still the most wondrous and precious thing in the world to me, and no matter where you go or what you do I will love you endlessly,” he said unflinchingly. She wanted to believe it, she wanted to wrap her arms around his neck like she always had done before, but knowing what she did now she couldn’t.
She wasn’t as trusting as she had been before, and now she looked out for herself and her interests more; because despite all her love for him what good was it if she neglected to love herself? So she couldn’t say anything because she didn’t have anything to say.
All she could do was turn her back on him and walk out the door. As she left, she heard him say “Have a nice Christmas, Hillary.”

 

He knew when he had seen her lingering at the doorway of the bedroom that she hadn’t come back for pleasure. No, she had come back for the same reason as him: to say goodbye to the house.
She had changed, he could see it in the way she held herself. While she had always been confident, now she had held herself in a way that let everyone know that she knew her worth. Still, she had turned almost back into that mystery again.
He hadn’t been able to tell if she felt nothing or everything for him, she had been detached; an ice queen.
Her words had pierced through him like frozen daggers; because he could see it now in her eyes, she didn’t trust him; that much he was sure of.
‘You took my virginity because of a bet.’
Those words had been his breaking point, because that had been a far cry from why he had made love to her. He had took her virginity because he had wanted to be the first and only one to make her feel that good. He had wanted to show her that she was everything to him, the whole universe and galaxies were her.
Yet, his universe hadn’t said she loved him.
That had been when he had made his decision to let her leave, because if her love for him was gone that only meant that she didn’t want him or what they had before.
Now, the earth could explode and the heavens could pour down because she didn’t love him anymore.
There would be no more reading, late night snuggling, or long talks.
That was lost to him forever now.
He felt that his greatest fear of truly losing her had come true.
For a moment he wished he had never been optimistic in the first place so he wouldn’t be feeling more crushed. Strangely there was a flicker, a small burning flame in all this that caused him to feel a little better, only a little.
That flicker was that Hillary was happy now or she at least could be.
For this, he wouldn’t go back to being cruel like he had been before her. No, he would value what she had taught him and he would stay true to that.
So he looked around the house one last time. He looked at the Sombrero and the Unicorn he had won for her, and it brought back so many joyous memories.
Those memories brought him a weird sense of joy through his pain and he found it odd how people could feel so many things at once.
He mostly felt pain and regret, because it still pained him how all of this could have been avoided if he had simply told the truth.
So he sat there for a while longer, breathing in their mixed scent that surrounded the house and when he finally got up he used their telephone for what he thought was the last time.
“Mom? It’s me, Bill. I was just letting you know that there’s been a change of plans and I will be joining you and Roger for Christmas,” he said trying to sound normal; trying to sound like the world wasn’t collapsing in on him.
“Oh that’s lovely! Will Hillary be joining us again? I thought you two were spending Christmas with her family,” his mother replied over the line.
“No Mom. Hillary won’t be joining us,” he said and then gulped, but it did no use the tears came through all the same, “I lost her, Mom. I lost her.”