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The Fall

by Cameo-Rose Neal 5 months ago in Love · updated 5 months ago

One step, one glance, one word. How long before we fall?

One step, one glance, one word. That's all it took for me to fall.

The cracks reverberate beneath my feet, spreading outwards and reaching for him before I can stop them. Like a deadly kaleidoscope, they surround me, bigger cracks interweaving with the smaller that branch from them. Small buds of water occasionally spill from the gaps that puddle where I step and I find myself dodging more and more as I go.

I force myself to breathe slowly as he takes my hand, offering me a coy smile that sucks me into his bubble. I smile despite myself.

"Come on," he says and inclines his head towards the pond we visited every day when the world went underground.

I take another step closer and the cracks spread a little more.

"You know," I begin and tug a piece of hair behind my ear. "I'm not entirely certain that I like winter."

My breath fogs in front of my face as heat collides with the bitter air. Each lungful that I suck in through my nostrils feels sharp as it hits my throat. It's invigorating, addictive and suffocating all at once. I long for the warmth of my bed but I know, no matter what I do, that I cannot turn back now.

He places his gloved hand in mine and turns away to walk across the pond first. "What?" He laughs. "You love winter! You call it your favourite time of year."

His footfalls leave no damage on the smooth plain in the way mine do. He glides forward without a care in the world.

Biting my lip, I try to mimic him, However, the groaning drumbeats of my soles mirror the thundering in my chest.

My heart is heavier than his. I was sure before, but here's the proof.

I shrug even though he cannot see me. "I do love winter most of the time, but, sometimes ― I don't know." I break off with a frown.

"What?" He asks. "Too cold?"

My chin snaps to stare at the back of his head and I'm shaking it from side to side before I can process my actions.

"No, not really...I like the cold, really, I do. It's just ― do you ever miss something as soon as it's gone? And, even though you know you don't prefer it ― wouldn't prefer it now ― you want it back simply because it is no longer there?"

He stops suddenly and turns, hand still holding onto my own. His face hangs just in front of mine, eyes contorted, head tilted to the side. "I think so," he says but I can tell he is just trying to placate me.

I sigh. "It's just, I can't get the idea out of my head sometimes...that I'll never be truly happy. I spend most of my life craving whatever is out of reach, so much so that it's like I can never possibly be full.

"I prefer winter, yes, but in the absence of summer how can I know for sure?"

He squints at me and places the palm of his hand against the side of my face. "You don't need comparisons to be happy," he tells me, voice soft, and it occurs to me that he might understand more than I had realised.

I shake my head to clear it of thoughts and blink at him. "Yeah," I say softly. "You're right."

He gives me a tight-lipped smile and drops his palm from my cheek, pulling me forward by our locked hands again. I try to smile, but my eyes are still focused on our feet as we move towards the centre of the frozen pond.

There's still a thin layer of snow blanketing the panel of ice we tread. Surrounding us is the copse of trees that have already been stripped of their leaves, bricks of snow taking their place.

The skeletal bushes hold frozen teardrops of ice that catch the light whenever it peaks between the clouds, which is rare as of recent. But, as I watch, it does so for the first time in weeks.

The sun moves stealthily from its cover, offering the faintest effervescent glow that encompasses the land. A hundred shades of white sparkle and dance. It should be beautiful.

I remember the first time that we walked this path, some years ago now. He hadn't taken my hand then ― he'd been too nervous. It had seemed, then, that the ice was thin. Only where we walked did it thicken enough to hold our combined weight.

A cold gust shook me from my thoughts and I looked up at him just in time to see him settling down upon the icy ground.

He crosses his legs and, still holding onto my hand, gives me a small tug.

I laugh lightly and nod once, folding my legs to join him.

"How are you?" He asks, surveying me from the corner of his eye.

My smile falters and I have to force myself not to wince. "I'm okay," I tell him.

"Right," he nods, head bobbing as he squeezes my fingers, but I still feel cold. "Right...and, uh, how are we?"

I look up at him, lashes encroaching on my gaze. "I―"

My voice cuts off and I clear my throat with haste. I open my mouth again but nothing comes out so I sit, flailing, and the cracks grow deeper.

My gaze remains downward cast. Looking up becomes one of the most difficult challenges I've ever faced.

The first time we came here, we'd sat just like this. Cross-legged and opposite one another, knees barely touching, hands enwrapped with the other's as we shared breath to keep warm on the ice.

I'd looked at him then and wondered what he was doing with me. Me, with my messy hair and pink-tinged cheeks that were only partially afflicted by the cold. Me, with chapped lips and little cuts that constantly surround my nails from years of biting the cuticles. Me, with endlessly bruised knees from nights I don't remember.

He'd looked at me then as he is now, with pure unadulterated affection.

My breath had caught in my throat as he'd lifted his hand to sweep a strand of hair from my face. It was one of the first times he'd ever touched me.

I think I'd stopped breathing for a moment, and all I could do was stare at him as he had bit his lip and grinned.

The ice had become solid that day; the foundation rock-hard and impenetrable.

We'd laid there for hours without speaking, the only sound being the other's breath as our fingers danced around one another ― not quite holding hands but not separate, either.

How are we?

I'd been refusing to let myself feel it.

The fact that there was something very, very wrong.

I snuck a glance at the man sitting to my side and, after a second's deliberation, removed my hands from his own.

"I'm not sure," I tell him, voice barely above a whisper.

I watch as his eyes widen, just slightly. He swallows visibly and his hands hang limp before he moves them to rub against his thighs in small, circular motions. Behind him, the cracks spread deeper and wider.

"You're...not sure." He repeats, eyes fixed on something behind me in the distance.

I scrunch my eyes shut and shake my head like I can make it all go away. Rubbing my palms across tired eyes, I try again.

"I don't know," I sigh. "It's just ― I've been feeling as though there is something not quite right with us for a while."

I look down at my lap, fingers fiddling with one another in defeat.

"Wow, I, uh, I'm not even sure what to say right now."

I sigh again and look up at him. "After the last time we spoke about this―"

"I told you, I'm happy. I'm happy with you!" He says, looking at me with so much hurt in his eyes.

It's almost too much for me to bear. "I know! I know that you said that you're happy and that you think everything will be okay and that you believe I'm worth it. I know.

"But, what I don't know is whether I can keep pretending that I feel the same way."

The last part barely came out as a gurgle of sound and for a moment, all I could do was stare at him in horror.

What have I done?

This is what I wanted, what I've been planning. I knew that we couldn't go on the way we have been for much longer. I still know it now.

If I stay with this man, I'll end up hating him.

And, though he denies it, I'm sure he'll end up hating me, too.

I can't imagine anything worse than growing to hate my best friend. He's the person I love most in the world, who knows me better than anyone, who I trust more than any I've ever trusted before.

When we'd laid here side by side that first day, we were just children. I'd turned to him and planted a small kiss on the side of his cheek, giggling as he looked at me, eyes wide with happiness.

I'd fallen for him that day. I'm sure of it.

Now, sat across from each other in the exact same spot, I fear we're two adults who are destined to drift on separate paths.

"I love you," He tells me.

A tear runs down the side of my face and I make a decision in that moment that I know will change us both.

I take his hands into my own, glove folding against glove. "I love you too," I tell him, and I mean it. "But, I think that I need to start loving myself more."

With that, the cracks that had been filtering in and out of my vision shattered.

I stand fast before I can change my mind and drop his hand from my own, eyes catching his once more.

"Goodbye," I tell him, tears still streaming.

One step, one glance, one word. The ice cracks beneath my feet.

And, finally, I fall.

Love

Cameo-Rose Neal

Wannabe writer, midnight adventurer and lover of all things that transcend the typical.

University graduate just trying to make it in the mixed-up world of fire breathing dragons, murderous courtesans and wronged princes.

Read next: New Beginnings

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