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Sentenced to Guilt

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They walked to the car, side by side, but with three feet between their bodies and miles separating their thoughts. It took everything he had not to envelop her in his embrace and whisk her away from all of this pain. Inside the car, they stared straight ahead. Diane was the first to break the silence, partly because she felt he deserved an explanation.

“It was only four stitches.” She looked at her hands that were firmly clasped in her lap. Another few minutes passed, neither speaking.

“Diane...” Kurt began, unsure how to proceed. He wanted to avoid causing her any more stress, but needed to voice his concern. “I love you,”

“But?” Diane braced her already unstable emotions by shutting her eyes.

Kurt shook his head and turned in his seat to face her fully, “No ‘but’s.’ That’s not what this is.” How could she even think that? “ That’s not what we are. It’s never been ‘I love you, but .’ It’s ‘I love you and .”

Diane looked at him with confusion.

“It’s always and. And  I want to help. And  I want you not to be in pain. And I  want you to stop beating yourself up about all of this.” Kurt saw her press her lips together, her usual attempt at fighting the tears. He’d pushed a bit too far, realizing that his voice had become tense. He softened both his expression and his tone.

“Look at me.” He threaded his fingers in her’s. She met his gaze and found, not disappointment, not worry, but adoration.

Immediately looking away and untangling her hands from his, she rubbed her palms across her pajamas.

“Diane, if you won’t tell me what’s wrong, I can’t help.” Diane considered this. She wanted to pull him close and squeeze him so tight that he would always be safe. Wrapping him up in her shame would be a mistake that she feared their relationship couldn’t overcome.

“Maybe it’s for the best,” she lied. Her headache had returned with a vengeance and all she wanted to do was sleep. Kurt stared at her, blankly, before sighing and turning on the ignition.

The fifteen minute ride home felt like an eternity. Diane, dozed off, ignorant of the knife she had just stabbed into Kurt’s heart. He didn’t know how to reach her at this point. A glass curtain had fallen between them; he could bare witness to her misery, but was forbidden to save her from herself.

Pulling up to the front door, Kurt shut off the car and let the silence seep in. Her slow breathing was a minute assurance that, at least, she was peaceful for a moment. But he knew she would give him hell for letting her sleep all night in a car, so he gently rubbed his palm across her shoulder, careful not to jar her injury.

“Honey...” he spoke, almost inaudibly, “We’re back.”

She turned to look through the fog that had fallen over Chicago at their front door, illuminated with light from the inside. She stared for a moment, then Kurt watched her features twist into utter despair. The tears couldn’t be stopped as they glistened under the lights of the street lamps and passing cars.

Her crying spell was noiseless. Just tear after tear.

Patiently, Kurt finally spoke, “You don’t have to tell me what’s wrong, but you might feel better if you laid down. It’s been a long night.”

Diane immediately shook her head, swatting at her cheeks.

“I can’t go inside. Not with you.” She spoke with a ragged breath.

“Why not?”

“You just don’t get it, do you,” a hint of exasperation accompanied her tone. She opened the door of the car, stepping out onto the pavement. Out of this confined space.

“Apparently not,” Kurt countered as he closed the door after exiting the driver’s side, “What is it I don’t get?”

“That you should be furious with me!” She shouted, a roll of thunder punctuating her mood.

“For what!”

“For fucking up our lives! God, I feel nauseous just being in the same room with you because I can’t even begin to pardon myself for bringing this whole mess into our home.” Drops of rain commenced saturating the sidewalk. Diane, still standing in the street next to the car, didn’t seem to notice.

“Just come inside, your gonna get soaked.” Kurt started up the steps, until he realized she had not budged.

“See. There you go, pretending everything is fine.” She was almost laughing, in an exhausted, delirious sort of way.

 

“I’m not saying it’s fine, I’m trying to get you out of the rain.” He unlocked the door, as the sky opened up, soaking everything in sight. Including Diane.

“I don’t understand how you are so easily forgetting the fact that I could have gotten you killed.” Water dripped from her hair into her eyes. Oddly enough, it felt cleansing.

“For God’s sake, Diane!” He shouted and marched down the stairs, into the downpour, and pulled her into his chest. Disregarding any protest she might throw out, he let the torrent rinse them of their trepidations. Merely clutching her shivering body to his.

“It’s not that I’ve forgotten what happened,” he whispered into her ear and pulled back, smoothing her frizzy waves behind her ears, “It’s that I love you too much to care. Whatever happens to you, Annie, happens to me. Do you realize what I would give to have our roles swapped?”

Diane shook her head away from his hands. His last comment virtually unbearable to comprehend in her mind.

Realizing he struck a nerve, he continued, “Listen to me.” His hands held her in place, but it was the intensity of his eyes that made her feet feel like cement blocks.

“Stop torturing yourself. After all of this, after everything. Look around. We still came out together. Isn’t that the only thing that matters?”

Diane searched his eyes for doubt or uncertainty, but only found compassion. It soon came to her that there wasn’t an ounce of hesitation in his words. She was so prepared for him to shun her and distance himself after the incident, but it only made him want to protect her more. Why had she categorized him with all the other men of the world? He didn’t have a conventional bone in his body. Their relationship had been everything but archetypal. Why had she feared this situation would be different?

Nodding in reply to his question, her nausea practically evaporated. Taking a deep breath, she gave herself the tiniest allowance of grace, with his unspoken approval. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

“Good. Now can we please get  out of the rain?”