All the King's Horses
Part I: Chapter 5


“I-I don’t know why I didn’t see it before… It should have been so clear, you know? The way you’ve been moping around lately, how you get these secret smiles and then say you were thinking about me when I can see in your eyes you’re lying… You… What kind of an idiot am I? I was blaming it all on him, I actually thought it was all coming from his side… But it wasn’t. You made no move to stop him, you just… My God, Ally… You’re in love with Rafe?”

She grabbed the dishtowel, swooping down quickly and picking up the largest pieces of glass first. The syrup was sinking into the floor, spreading and staining as it went. Alison glanced up when the trashcan was placed in front of her, and she knew immediately that it was a mistake to do such. She threw the glass away, bringing her finger to her mouth without a thought, licking away the thick, sweet liquid from her skin with a quick flick of her tongue.

“Alison, you aren’t answering me.”

Blinking, she pulled her finger from her mouth and turned her attention back to the mess at hand. “I don’t know what you expect me to say, Jamal.” Her hands were shaking, and she couldn’t stop them. The tremble was spreading up her arms, soon it would claim her completely.

“I want you to either deny it or say it’s true.”

“I love him.” A tear fell, tainting the sweet syrup. “I love him, Jamal. Like you love a friend. I’m not in love with him. The way I feel about Rafe and the way that I feel about you are both completely different things. I’m not going to get married to Rafe, or have children with him, or sleep with him even. That’s not the kind of relationship that I have with him. He is my friend, and it doesn’t go anywhere beyond that.”

“You sound kind of disappointed,” he whispered dryly.

“Well, you know, maybe I am! Maybe I am more disappointed than you’ll ever know. But not about me and Rafe. I’m disappointed that you would even ask me that! You just asked me if I was in love with Rafe for crying out loud! Or you told me. I mean, you don’t see me going around asking you if you’re in love with Valerie.”

“That’s because you know I’m not!”

“No! No, I don’t know that you aren’t!” When she looked up at him again fire had replaced the tears in her eyes. “I don’t know anything about how you feel towards Valerie, because you don’t talk to me anymore! You don’t listen, you don’t talk, you don’t believe me… But I don’t ask you because I trust you, Jamal.”

His eyes bore into hers, unsettling her stomach with the way he appeared to look inside of her right then. When did it become uncomfortable to have Jamal look at her that way? Alison suddenly felt the urge to try and pinpoint the day. Something reminded her that it wasn’t today, this wasn’t the first time. And the walls went up, blocking off his unasked questions. She wasn’t going to let him see her mind. Not now.

“You don’t know.”

Alison blinked again. “What?”

“You don’t know. I just threw out the option of you being in love with him. It was never on the table before, you never considered it or thought about it. My God, Ally, when did you fall for someone else?”

“I didn’t fall for Rafe,” she growled. Her movements became quicker as she threw piece after piece of glass into the trash. She hissed suddenly, pulling her finger into her mouth once more and getting the coppery taste of blood in her mouth this time, and it over powered the sugary syrup. So much for her Christmas muffins. Between her and Rafe it would be next year before she managed to keep a jar long enough to even try and bake with it. “I did not fall for Rafe,” she repeated. “I’m not in love with him. We’re just friends.”

“Yeah, maybe if you say it enough times you’ll start to believe it, but I’m not buying it. I’ve seen the way you look at him, Ally. I’ve seen the way he looks at you! A blind man could see that you two set off smoke alarms when your eyes meet across a room!”

She sat against the cabinet door, the sharp metal handle digging into her back. “That’s not true, Jamal. You’re jealous of Rafe, and you’re seeing things that aren’t there! We’re just friends! It’s nothing like that between us!”

“Right. Nothing at all like that, huh? Then why can’t you stay away from him, Ally? Why do you always end up running to him? It’s not an accident, I’m not buying it, and it’s not just because he’s your friend and he makes things easy. You can’t stay away from him, and you don’t want to. You’re in love with him!”

“No. I’m not in love with him.” She pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them protectively and rested her forehead on her knee, fighting the trembling in her limbs with everything she had. “I’m not in love with him.”

“There you go repeating it and hoping you’ll believe it again.”

“I’m hoping you will believe me, Jamal!”

“Yeah? Well don’t hold your breath. I know you too well to not know it now that it’s slapped me in the face. You’re in love with your ‘angel’ and you can’t stand it because he’s going to leave soon. Maybe if you beg him he’ll stay.”

“He can’t stay, Jamal, he has no control of the situation. You wouldn’t understand! I’m not in love with him! He isn’t in love with me! He isn’t after me, and I would never, never cheat on you with him.”

“Right, because he’s an angel,” he sneered, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Your own personal guardian angel.”

“No,” she mumbled under her breath. “But he wouldn’t turn down the job.” Alison raised her head, looking at him with an expression that was too jumbled with emotions to read. She spoke louder, clearer, “I’m not in love with Rafe. I didn’t fall for him. You are just jealous of him and jumping to the wrong conclusions. It’s like you’re projecting or something. You cheated on me, so I must have cheated on you right?”

“Alison, that’s not what’s going on…”

“Oh, well then, you know what, Jamal? Please, inform me what is going on here, because I obviously don’t know.”

“You know exactly what’s going on here, Alison! If anyone is “projecting” it’s you. Why don’t you just stop lying to me? Stop lying to yourself! Even though your angel is leaving you, you’re in love with him. And you’re pushing me aside after everything we’ve been through to have a fling that won’t last.”

“I’m not pushing you away, Jamal,” she said calmly. “I’m being pushed. And I’m tired of trying to dig by feet in and stay in place! You’re not paying any attention to me at all, except when it’s to throw some jealous fit over me having a friend who happens to be male. You know, it’s like totally unfair of you to say these things to me. I’m not lying to anyone. I’m not in love with Rafe. He’s leaving soon. He’s my friend. He helps me, I help him. That’s how it works. I didn’t fall for him. I am not in love with him. Neither of us have any intentions of ever having a “fling” so can you please just drop it?”

Jamal sighed. “Forget this, Alison. I’m not going to fight with you about it anymore. When you wake up and decide whether you want a man that will stay with you and treat you right or your angel that is going to be leaving, let me know.” He turned swiftly, walking out and slamming the door behind him before she could get in another word.

Alison surrendered to the tremble of her body, and she ignored the tears falling freely from her eyes. “I’m not in love with Rafe,” she repeated to the empty apartment. “I’m not.” Unable to stand, she pulled her cell phone from her pocket and dialed with shaking fingers. “Hi, it’s me… Yeah… I really need a friend right now.” She nodded, and hung up, finally giving into another sob. “I’m not in love with Rafe. I didn’t fall for him.”

So maybe Jamal wasn’t totally off about her trying to convince herself. She couldn’t possibly be in love with Rafe though. He’s an angel. He’s leaving. He doesn’t feel the same way. He couldn’t possibly. He spent all day trying to convince her to give Jamal another chance and to have faith. “I’m not in love with Rafe,” she sobbed.

Working quickly once more, she tried to clean up the sticky mess in the floor. Of all the things to drop she had to drop syrup. Working the rag over it, she scrubbed furiously, trying to work off the anger, pain, fear, and confusion. Another shard of glass embedded itself into her skin, and she ignored it. “I’m not in love with him. I didn’t fall for him.”

“I didn’t fall for him. I didn’t fall for him. I didn’t fall for him.” The mantra passed her lips barely above a whisper, for how long she didn’t know, before breaking off into sobs once more. Still the words ran through her mind. I didn’t fall for him. I didn’t fall for him. I didn’t fall for him. I didn’t… I didn’t fall for him.

“Alison,” he whispered, taking her hand and removing the rag from it forcefully. Rafe studied the cuts for a minute before sighing and placing his fingertips to hers. She didn't so much as blink at the flash. He pulled her close, holding her while she cried for the second time that day. “It’s ok. Everything is going to be ok,” he promised.

“B-But… But I’m falling.”

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