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Stay With Me, Emily

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"Karl, I can't do this right now."

It was clear Emily was tired. Karl was too. He wasn't trying to start a fight but these thoughts have kept him up for weeks. He's spent most nights lying on this very bed, staring at the ceiling as his mind races. He couldn't get his heart or his mind to slow down. How could he? The last day he saw her has been replaying in his head like a broken record. Now he finally gets the courage to talk about it and she continues to push him away.

He bit his lip in frustration, clenching his fists. The pale skin stretched taut over white bone. It reminded him of the way Emily's knuckles showed as she gripped his dorm room bed sheets. Her hands were much smaller and daintier than his. Her skin seemed to catch the moonlight perfectly as it filtered through the blinds. He shook his head free of the thoughts, his long hair bouncing as he did. Thinking about exactly what they did that night didn't help either of them.

"Emily, please.." Was all Karl could muster, his voice sounding a lot more meek and strained than he was hoping for.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them again, Karl could see the shine of tears threatening to spill. The corners of his mouth immediately lowered at the sight. Hesitantly, he reached out a hand. His intention to be there for her never faltered, no matter what happened between them. Turning her head away from Karl, Emily ran a hand through her hair. His own returned to his lap.

"Listen, Karl, I can't help but think you planned the whole thing." She paused to look at him. "Get me drunk just so you can have sex with me. It's revolting." She grimaced.

Karl's mouth hung open in shock.

"Do you- Do I really seem like that kind of person to you?" He stuttered, unable to gather his thoughts.

Emily lowered her head, avoiding his gaze.

"I don't know who you are anymore."

Her voice was soft but that didn't soften the pain it sent straight to Karl's heart. He instinctively placed his hand on his chest.

"Emily.." He started, waiting for her to look back up at him. "You know me. We've been messaging all this time. I haven't changed. I'm still the guy from high school, I promise."

"But we've changed. Everything's changed. It's all so confusing." Emily knitted her brows together.

Karl let out a sigh before responding. "I know exactly how you feel."

The air sat between them, heavy and full of unspoken thoughts.

Playing with the threads that hung off his sweater sleeves, Karl couldn't stop her words from bouncing around his skull. His mind was everywhere. There were so many things he wanted to say, so many confessions he hit backspace on. But he also knew his chances were falling like sand through his fingers. He fucked up. Would she give him a second chance? Did he even deserve it?

"I'm-"

"What did it even mean to you?" Emily asked, cutting him off.

Karl felt his whole body heat up and a hand went to rub the back of his neck.

"I-uh" He stammered out.

Was now really the time to confess? Karl has tried to plan this out a million different ways, but this was not one of them. There was no way to predict this. No way to predict Emily at all. Her unpredictability was as nerve-wracking and exhilarating as a rollercoaster.

"Do you do this with other girls too? Like Emma?" The way her voice fell on the last syllable, it started to piece the puzzle together.

Even if Emily wouldn't admit it, she was jealous. At least a little bit.

"No, no. I promise I haven't been sleeping around." Karl assured her, and she looked satisfied with his answer.

He sucked in some air, deciding to go all in. He needed to tell her.

"To me, it wasn't just a drunken hookup." Karl held his breath, waiting to see Emily's response. Her expression remained unreadable.

"It was an amazing night that I haven't been able to stop thinking about. While I wish I could have made it more special, I didn't think I would ever have the nerve to do it if I was sober." He continued, but she remained staring off into the distance.

Grabbing her wrists, she finally looked Karl in the eyes again.

"I'm in love with you, Emily." Finally, he said it. He could feel a weight lifted off his chest and a flurry of butterflies in his stomach.

She sat there blinking, processing the words that came out of Karl's mouth. Looking down, she noticed the hands touching hers.

"This can't be happening." Emily denied, shaking his hands off. She stood up. Karl noticed what almost looked like fear in her eyes. He grabbed her wrist again, stopping her.

Glancing at the door, Emily pulled her arm away from Karl.

"Emily, please don't run from me." He pleaded, standing up to block her from the door.

Her face softened. She placed a hand on his shoulder. Karl swore he could melt from even the simple touch.

"I-" Emily started.

Karl's heart soared, filled with hope. Hope that just maybe, she could feel the same way. Just maybe they could spend more nights talking, without the keyboard.

"I'm in love with Brad."

Her words shattered his heart like glass, and for a second Karl thought the sound was audible. They hung in the air and caught in Karl's throat, forming a lump. He tried to swallow it. Looking down, he tried to blink back the tears. Long fluffy hair covered his eyes from her sight. For once, Karl was thankful he didn't get that haircut.

"I'm sorry, you are an amazing guy." Emily looked at him with remorse.

"No, I- I understand." He stuttered out, all too aware of the way his voice cracked.

She walked past him, resting a hand in the doorway. Glancing back, their eyes met for what both of them knew would be the last time.

"Goodbye, Karl"

"Goodbye, Emily"

Hearing the click of the door, Karl fell back onto the bed, the old boards creaking in his wake. Taking one shuddering breath, he let the emotions consume him. The pain rose in his chest, throat producing noises he was too engrossed to be embarrassed by. The sound of his sobs reverberated off his thin dorm room walls.

Seeing her leave was a fate worse than death.