Falling
All the King's Horses
Part I: Chapter 14

She loved this. Right here, right now, standing in his arms, she’d be more than happy to stay forever. Her arms tightened around him slightly, and he only pulled her closer, held her more securely. As if he knew that all she wanted was to be held… by him. She wanted to be held by her angel.

Alison knew, somehow she knew that he was trying to comfort her, but she hadn’t cried. She didn’t even really feel the need. The ending of Alison and Jamal was just that. The end. And it wasn’t a happy ending, or a sad ending, just an ending. A place to stop the story, close the book, and put it on the shelf to start collecting dust.

And tomorrow she should probably pick up another book and start the next chapter of her life.

But her brain was fighting with her heart right now. Her brain wanted her to cry, to be devastated, hurt, broken. Her brain kept telling her to feel something that related to Jamal at all. Sadness, tears, helplessness, anger, pain… it may even settle for happiness or contentment. Something in her screamed that the life they had deserved to be mourned. Her heart on the other hand, really wouldn’t let her think about her ex for very long at all before it drew her attention back to the man she was hanging onto for dear life.

This wasn’t an embrace meant to comfort. In all honesty, they’d both realized a while ago that she didn’t need to be comforted over this. And they had long ago passed the time limit of a friendly embrace. But she couldn’t seem to pull away from him, and something made her wonder if he’d even let her go if she tried.

Was it wrong of her to hope he wouldn’t?

“What is wrong with me?” she asked suddenly, murmuring her words against his neck, and breaking them both from their thoughts. Alison still felt no urge to move from the place they were rooted in.

“You’re hurt-”

“No, I’m really not.” A bitter laugh escaped her. “I’m not hurt, I’m not sad, I’m not disappointed… I’m really not anything. And I should be, you know? After what he did… I didn’t even notice he didn’t come home last night, I mean, I noticed, but I didn’t mind. I just… I should care! I should be feeling something about all of it. But I’m just not you know?”

He started to pull back, then decided against it. He really didn’t want to let go of her, and she wasn’t showing any signs of wanting to be released. “Maybe it just hasn’t sunk in yet or something? Or maybe you just don’t know how you do feel about it all just yet.”

“I know how I should feel. I should be like… totally devastated or something, you know? I mean, Jamal was my future for so long, and like my entire life was wrapped up in him. I don’t… I don’t feel like I just lost my future, though. I don’t feel like I just told my heart to go take a hike.”

Rafe turned his head and kissed her forehead. “Who gets to decide how you should feel? And why do they matter so much?” Despite not wanting to be the one to pull from the embrace, Rafe released her. But he couldn’t seem to let her go completely. His hand took hers. “Just feel how you feel, Alison.”

“I’ll get right on that after I figure out how I feel.” She pulled her hand away and crossed her arms in front of her, trying to pretend they didn’t suddenly feel empty. “But I don’t want to feel anything about it. Look at everything he did!”

“Alison, you two still have… had a life together. It’s not to late, you know.” Rafe shifted uncomfortably, the situation made everything he did feel wrong. “I… I know for a fact, Alison, that Jamal is always going to love you, and you’re always going to love him.”

“I know! I know, it’s just… It all feels so different now, you know?” Her voice lowered, and her head dropped, she watched her shoes to avoid having to met his eyes. “I used to be like so in love with him, right? But it’s just… Lately I don’t feel the same way that I used to. And it… It’s not all his fault either. It’s not just because he cheated on me, or because he changed. It’s like we both had to grow up a lot because of Caleb and everything, you know? Only instead of growing together like we planned we sort of grew apart or something.”

“Yeah, but, Alison, you can work on things like that. You can-”

“But I don’t want to,” she interrupted. “I don’t want to work it out with him. And it scares me that I don’t. Because I was supposed to spend my entire life with him. But now… I don’t want to. I just… I’m tired of working on what we had. And that’s what it has been to me for a long time now, what we had.”

He shook his head. “No, Alison-”

“Look, I love him, alright? I’m always going to love Jamal, Rafe. Always. But… I still love him, but I don’t think I’m in love with him anymore, you know? I mean… When I did notice that he hadn’t bothered to come back or call, I was glad. And I didn’t want him to. I just… Am I a really bad person?”

“Of course not.” Sighing, Rafe put his hand on the small of her back and led her to the bench he’d been sitting at earlier. “You’re a great person, Alison. Why would you think otherwise?”

“Because I… I know that Jamal is going through a lot right now with Hope and the Hartman’s and Valerie. He’s going through a lot, and I just kept making it worse-”

“How did you make it worse, Alison? You never did anything wrong.”

“Except I practically mauled you last night,” she muttered under her breath.

Rafe couldn’t help but laugh at the remark. And his laughter earned him a glare before she turned away to try and keep him from seeing her reddening cheeks. “Alison,” he said finally, drawing her eyes back toward him. “I didn’t exactly try to discourage you.”

“Of course not, you’re too sweet for that.” She rolled her eyes, sliding away from him about an inch on the bench. “Anyway!” she said loudly, over the sound of him once again laughing. Finally, she gave in and giggled with him. “How did you know about Jamal hitting on Valerie yesterday?”

“Um… Let’s just say a little bird told me.”

“Ah! Gotcha.” Alison tipped her head. “I would have thought I’d be mad about it, you know? But I wasn’t. I was just… indifferent. And I think that’s even worse than hating him because of it.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because at least if I hated him I’d feel something about it. Instead I just told Valerie if she wanted him she could have him. I don’t think she’s all that wild about him either after that stunt though.” Alison once again wrapped her arms around herself. “Livvie stopped by with Jack and had lunch right after you left. They seem to be fine again. So I didn’t mess them up too.”

“Hey, you didn’t mess anything up.” His eyebrows lowered when she turned her face away with a shrug. Before he knew what he was doing, he reached over and turned her face back toward him with a hand on her cheek. “I mean it, you didn’t mess anything up.”

“Ok,” Alison nodded slowly. “So… You were going to tell me something about a mystery woman?”

“Ah! Right. How dare I forget?” Rafe grinned, and she returned the gesture. “Julie.”

“What?”

“Julie is sick, there’s no cure, so she’s bringing Christina back to Lucy. Kevin is just playing middle man and setting everything up for her.”

She grabbed his hand in excitement. “That’s so wonderful! I mean… Not about Julie, but about Christina. Lucy gets her daughter back!”

“Yeah, and that’s the big secret.”

“In other words, keep your big mouth shut, Alison?” she mumbled, rolling her eyes. “So, like, there’s nothing anyone can do for Julie?”

Rafe shook his head sadly. “It’s just her time, Alison.”

“Well, I know, but it’s still like really sad. You know?”

“Yeah, I know.” He cocked his head to the side, smiling over at her softly. “You have a really big heart, Alison, and a lot of love to give.”

“Lots and lots,” she agreed. “But if you mention you know who, I’m leaving.”

“Alright, alright,” Rafe held up the hand that wasn’t holding hers in mock surrender. “I will not mention your boyfriend.”

“Ex-boyfriend,” she corrected. “So, like, what exactly was he saying to you before I got here? And how did you know I was here?”

“Magic,” he grinned. “Basically the same thing we went through last time, and what you went through yesterday. Nothing important, nothing worth repeating.”

“Next time, just don’t get into it with him. Just walk away and ignore him or something, alright? You should haven’t to listen to that.”

“I can take care of myself, Alison,” Rafe answered with a smile. “Besides, I think he actually got some of what I was saying that time. With some people, you have to repeat it to get through. Or you have to say it at the right time in the right way, you know?”

“Yeah, I know.” Alison bit down on her bottom lip and glanced away for a second. “So, you really aren’t going to tell me what you said to Lucy to get her to stay in town?”

“Nope.” He winked at her. “But I will tell you I practically had to beg to keep her in her apartment.”

“Well, you do what it takes to get the job done.”

“Yup.” He pushed her hair away from her face out of some newborn habit. “You’re freezing. Wanna get out of here?”

“Yes!” Standing, she held on to his hand. “I have a bunch of cookies packaged up and stuff, I was really bored around dawn, so I wanted to drop them off to the kids at the hospital. You want to come help me do that?”

“Anything you want, Alison.”

“Watch it.” She turned back to him, smiling slyly. “I may just take you up on that.”


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