Destiny, Roses & Romance
Part II: Chapter 31

Her fingers didn’t tremble, they couldn’t. Her knuckles were white she was holding onto the sponge so tightly. She couldn’t control the shaking throughout the rest of her, but her fingers would not continue to tremble, she couldn’t stand to see her hand quivering any longer. Tears blurred her vision once more, and Alison shook her head and tried to chalk it up to the fumes from the dozen or so cleaners she’d used throughout this place. There was an urge inside of her to blame what she was feeling on anything but her emotions, and it would not be denied.

Right now, her emotions were very dangerous things.

Very dangerous things, and they threatened to either take her over or bring her down. She couldn’t deal with them. Not the feelings, not the thoughts, not the dreams and most of all not the reality of the situation that she’d landed right smack dab in the middle of. She couldn’t deal with any of it, because it was all dangerous and terrifying. The fear she’d had of falling had nothing on this fear she had now. The fear of feeling all of the emotions that were raging like a storm inside of her. The only thing she could think of was this need to find shelter, a place to keep her safe and warm in the midst of chaos and power that fueled a storm.

She needed to find a safe place to stay where she could wait out the storm without feeling it’s effects. If she could hide from the storm itself, would she still have to deal with the aftermath? How long would she be picking up the debris from this hurricane of emotions? She couldn’t do this. Not yet… Maybe not ever.

For the first time in as long as she could remember, the window above the kitchen sink was so clean you wouldn’t know that it had glass in it at all if not for the reflection. But she continued to scrub at it, desperate to find something to do to keep her mind from working correctly. She needed to not think of him, she’d promised not to think of him. But dammit, her mind always, always returned to him.

Again she shook her head. Dropping the sponge on the counter, she wiped her hands on her faded blue jeans. Alison sighed shakily, upping the volume of the CD player just a notch with the remote. She closed her eyes briefly and ended up nearly swaying on her feet. With a muttered curse she straightened herself just before she fell, grabbed a dry rag and crossed to the stereo. She dusted like she was sure she’d never dusted before, and this was the second run through.

Alison bit down on her lip hard to keep it from trembling in time with the rest of her. Her strokes on the front of the TV became just a little harder, but still they flowed smoothly, easily with the heavy blues rhythm pouring from the speakers.

The music was depressing, and it was hitting close to home. Too close, really. But she liked the song. It seemed to fit her mood perfectly. Besides, she’d alphabetized the CD’s by artist hours ago… Or maybe it was by title... She really couldn’t be sure. All she knew was that she’d pressed play, hit random, and found this song. After the first few chords it was on repeat. Christmas music was nearly all that was being played on the radio, and she couldn’t stand to listen to it. In fact, if she could just pretend the holiday wasn’t coming at all this year that would be ok with her.

The Christmas tree was the only part of the apartment left untouched by some sort of cleaning material. She couldn’t stand to go near it, couldn’t take the reminder of the how many days.

Whatever happened to counting down the days until Christmas with excitement and happiness? Why couldn’t she look forward to Christmas so much that she was counting down until it got here, until she could open up all the presents under the tree? She used to do it every year as a child, counting down the days until Santa came. And every Christmas eve, she’d count down the minutes until midnight, until it was officially Christmas and the most magical day of the year.

It wasn’t going to be like that this year. Her counting down of the minutes until midnight was just her clinging to any time she could have with her angel. It wasn’t a happy countdown this year. It wasn’t like when she was five and trying to take off pages of the calendar so that it would get here sooner. Laughing, she wondered if maybe she could just ignore time until it went away. Maybe if she left the calendar on today then tomorrow wouldn’t come and she’d have just one extra day with him. Was that really so much to ask?

Left over decorations and things that had yet to be put up where packed safely in a box and hidden in the back of the closet. She couldn’t stand to look at them anymore. Her Christmas Spirit was nowhere to be found, and she was fine with that. Alison had decided quickly enough after bursting into tears upon seeing the Christmas things that ignoring the holiday all together this year wasn’t that bad of an idea. Something told her she’d be spending it curled up in bed and waiting for it all to end.

She’d vacuumed the floors at least two and a half times. The kitchen floor had been mopped with so much bleach and scrubbed until she was pretty sure it was sanitary to eat off of it. She’d already broken about four glasses while washing and rewashing every dish in the kitchen. And two plates that she’d thrown down just to hear them crack. Alison shook her head again, unable to completely comprehend just how dirty some of them had actually been. Or maybe she just needed to keep her hands busy. Maybe she hoped that busy hands would make her mind too busy to think.

Because he was gone. He was gone, and even if he came back, he was leaving her again.

And she couldn’t think about him. Not anymore. Already it felt like someone had placed her heart on a platter and spoon fed it to her. This aching inside of her, it wouldn’t ease. It just kept right on hurting, no matter what she did, it kept hurting. And the pain just increased as the seconds ticked by on the clock that was hanging on the wall. She couldn’t do this, she just couldn’t. She didn’t know how. She didn’t know what to do to make this hurt go away.

She was sinking. That’s what the feeling in the pit of her stomach was, a sinking feeling. Slowly, she was going under. The hurt, the anger, the pain, and the heartache were filling her slowly, and soon they’d take her over completely. She’d be over her head, and drowning in all these emotions while she tried to get a grip on the one man that had become her lifeline. She wouldn’t be able to reach him though, no matter how far she stretched, no matter how hard she tried. He couldn’t save her from this. And it didn’t even matter how much he wanted to.

This hurt… It was an ache. A steady, painful ache that pounded in rhythm with her heart as they both refused to stop. They didn’t care that all she’d ever dreamed of had shattered, it didn’t matter to her heart that her soul was breaking. She was aching for him and because of him, and nothing could make it go away. God, she needed him here to hold her. She needed him here to run his fingers through her hair and tell her that it would all be ok.

But she knew that he would never tell her that, even if he were here he wouldn’t say that to her. Because he wouldn’t lie to her. Once again her teeth bit down hard on her quivering bottom lip. He wouldn’t tell her it would be ok, because it wouldn’t. There was no way that it could all be ok in the end. He was gone. Either way, when it all came down, he’d be gone.

And she’ll be here. When it all comes down… Alison dropped the rag on the floor to dig the heels of her hands into her eyes, hoping to fend off the tears before they could start yet again. She’ll still be here, and he’ll still be gone when it all comes down. He’ll be gone, and she’ll be here, broken hearted, in love, and aching to have him back here with her while she cried for the family and happiness and the life that they should have been able to have together.

She was back to wanting to crawl in bed, pull the covers up over her head, curl up into a ball and cry herself into oblivion. Alison chuckled through her tears and shook her head. As if that was even possible. After seven hours and twenty-two minutes of sniffling and crying and whining and wanting the world to either stop or bring her angel back to her, she was nothing if not convinced that crying did no damn good. And there didn’t seem to be a way to just blackout and pretend none of this ever happened.

It would be so much easier if she could just do like he said and pretend that today didn’t happen. If she could just pretend that she hadn’t told him she wanted to have his children, that she was in love with him, that she wanted to marry him. If she couldn’t still feel his arms around her, his thumb stroking her bottom lip as if it was something he thought should be treasured. If she could just forget the way that he looked at her as if she was some breathtaking work of art made by the hands of God himself just for him to admire, cherish and love. It would be so much easier than feeling like this – like she’d handed herself over to him only to be refused.

He was just trying to protect her, she knew that. It didn’t make it hurt any less, but she did know that. It wasn’t that he didn’t love her or want her or wish they could have all their dreams come true together. Maybe it would have been easier if that was the case. But, no, as it is, he would do anything for her. Including trying to keep her from getting even closer to him than she already is no matter how much it hurt them both. He didn’t want to hurt her, so he just ripped her heart out.

The worst part about it was, she really did know what she was getting into. She’d known without a doubt that falling for him was going to hurt. Alison sighed, she just didn’t know how badly it would really hurt. She didn’t know anything could possibly hurt this much without killing her.

Shaking her head, Alison took a deep breath. She forced her hands away from her face as she tried once more to push all these thoughts of him out of her mind. “Stop it,” Alison hissed at herself in disgust. “If… when he gets back, he doesn’t need to see that you’ve spent the entire time crying. Get a grip and get over it.”

A shuddering sigh of relief passed through her as the sound of someone knocking sang through the room. A smile found it’s way to her face, and before she could attempt to stop it she heard his name pouring from her lips. She tried her best to ignore the slight shaking in her knees as she crossed quickly to the door.

Alison paused with her hand on the doorknob and with little thought pulled her hair free from the ponytail with her other hand. It had nothing to do with how she’d look and everything to do with the longing to feel his fingers in her hair. Shoving the holder in her pocket she swung the door open to find her best friend. The wave of disappointment that hit her was nearly overwhelming, threatening to drown her here and now.

Seeing the look on the other woman’s face, she tried to shake the urge to slam the door and crawl in a hole to cry herself to death. The worry in her eyes was simply too much to take, so Alison tried to force her very best fake smile and knew she hadn’t even come close. “Oh,” she whispered after a second. “Hi, Livvie.”

“Hey,” Livvie said, her smile bright despite the questions being screamed in the look in her eyes. “Lucy thought that you and Rafe…”

She was still speaking, and somewhere in the back of Alison’s mind it registered that maybe she should pull herself from this to listen. But she couldn’t seem to find her way out, she was swimming against the tide just trying to keep her head above water, and the sound of his name was almost enough to undo her by itself. Rafe… Oh, God, she want to cry even more than before.

“Ally,” her friend said softly, catching her wandering attention with nothing but concern laced throughout her. “It’s your favorite?” she offered, and from the look on her face it was obvious that she knew it wasn’t what the blond needed or wanted.

Shaking her head to try and clear any thoughts of what, or rather who, it was she needed and wanted that were threatening to pop up, Alison stuttered a weak thanks. Stepping back from the door, she tried to gesture for her friend to follow and found she couldn’t move smoothly any longer. “You… um… you can come in.” Another step back, and she found her movements frighteningly jerky and on the edge. And this was an edge she couldn’t handle falling over, not now. “I… R…” Alison bit back a groan at her inability to say his name for fear of bursting into tears. Walking to the counter absently, she tried to push this feelings from her mind as she spoke over her shoulder, “He’s not here, though. So… um… sorry. I think I ruined your plan.”

Alison suppressed a sigh and absently took the sponge she’d dropped on the counter earlier back into her once again trembling fingers. She could feel her friend’s eyes on her as she roughly wiped at a nonexistent spot on the counter. But she knew that she couldn’t deal with anyone else’s emotions right now. She still couldn’t even begin to try and deal with hers.

“Why don’t you sit down and eat something, Ally,” Livvie suggested, her tone not all that different from the one you heard “mothers” use on TV commercials for children’s medicine.

Because sitting down meant staying in one place, and if she stayed in one place she’d fall apart completely. Moving was the only way thus far that she’d actually managed to keep it all together for five minutes at a time. “I… I’ve eaten,” she said instead. “Plenty.” Rolling her eyes, Alison tried to laugh only to find that it was about as close to a sob as it could get without being one. She wasn’t sure if the following curse was ringing in her head or her ears.

Her swipes of the sponge against the counter became harder as she heard Livvie speaking into her phone from what seemed like miles away. She didn’t listen to what she was saying, just heard voice rumbling. Alison openly flinched as she heard his name and turned to face her friend with what she hoped was defiance in her eyes instead of pain.

Livvie sat the pizza box on the counter, and Alison wondered if she ignored the warning glare shot her way or if she just didn’t notice. “Alison… Did… Did Rafe get…” Once again Alison flinched when she heard his name spoken, but Livvie seemed too wrapped up in trying to find the right words to catch her reaction. “um… taken back?”

“No,” she answered, surprising herself with the ice that was thrown in that one little syllable.

“Oh,” Livvie whispered, blinking in surprise. “Then what happened?”

“Nothing.” That’s it, Alison told herself, one word answers and maybe, just maybe she would be able to get through this hell currently disguised as a conversation.

“You can tell me,” she prompted gently. “I know all about Rafe being an angel.”

“My angel,” the blond murmured under her breath before turning her back to look out the window above the sink. “There’s… There isn’t anything to tell, Livvie.”

“There’s a lot to tell, Alison! When I left the two of you here earlier you were laughing so loud I could hear you through the door. Obviously, there is something to tell because now you look… I don’t know, destroyed or something. What happened, Ally?”

Shaking her head slightly, Alison pressed her palm against the glass as she watched a blond little girl cross the street. Tears were in her eyes and their laughter echoed through her mind with his words as the most beautiful backdrop possible. He wanted children with her. If she closed her eyes tight enough, if she tried hard enough, she could still feel his hands on her. God, please let her always be able to remember his touch. Her tongue darted out to wet her bottom lip as she closed her eyes against the tears she felt welling up yet again. For a second, it was almost as if he was standing in front of her, brushing away her tears. She could help but wonder if she’d always be able to remember his touch this way. She wanted too. And he wanted her.

“Ally?” Livvie asked again, panic creeping up in her voice. Gently she laid a hand on her friend’s shoulder and caused her to jump nearly a foot in the air before spinning around. She swallowed hard at the site of tears and desperation in her wild eyes, God, she knew that look. “What happened, Alison?”

“I…” Alison shook her head forcefully. “It doesn’t matter.”

She grabbed her trembling hands, knowing somehow that she needed to find a way to reach her. “Yes,” Livvie corrected sternly. “Yes, it does matter, Ally. Tell me what happened. What did Rafe do?”

With quickly widening eyes, Alison pulled her hands out of her friend’s a took a step back. “He didn’t do anything.”

“Obviously he did, Ally, or you wouldn’t look like this right now!”

Running a hand through her hair quickly, Alison attempted to laugh it off only to find that laughing wasn’t a possibility. “Look like what?” she settled for asking after a moment, hoping the innocent act would actually work.

“Like you’ve just lost your best friend,” she answered, pity lining her tone.

“You’re here.”

“I meant Rafe.”

“He’s not here.”

Livvie took a step forward, reaching out again with the intent to take her hands only to stop when Alison started backing away. “Ally, what happened? What did Rafe do to you? Was I wrong about him? Did he hurt you?”

“He’s an angel, Livvie,” Alison sighed, trying hard to gather the energy to be upset by the obvious meaning behind those words. But all her fight seemed to be going into the battle against breaking, against shutting down completely. “He’s my angel, Livvie.”

“Ally… If he hurt you…”

“He didn’t hurt me! Not… He would never raise a hand to any woman. I mean, my God, Livvie, he’s terrified of scaring me when I grab him and kiss him! Stop looking at me like you’re expecting to find bruises. He’s an angel, Livvie! He’s a goddamn angel. He’d never, ever purposely hurt me.” Alison turned her back again quickly, looking back out the window in an attempt to block out any more of this conversation.

“Oh…” Trailing off, she studied her back in confusion. “Is this about Jamal?”

“Who?” Blinking, she tried to get a grasp on what had just happened. Alison couldn’t be sure, but she thought that maybe things had taken another turn without signaling properly. “Oh… No, this isn’t about Jamal. I don’t even know what this is.”

This is you looking like you’re two seconds from breaking down, Ally!”

“I-I’m not,” she answered, hoping her words sounded stronger and more convincing to Livvie than they did to her own ears.

“Alison,” Livvie whispered, her voice raw when emotion for her friend who looked so close to the breaking point. “I know that Rafe’s an angel… And I know that you love Rafe-”

Before she knew what was happening, Alison had a plate in her hand and was throwing it across the room. “Stop,” she ordered. “Just stop. Stop saying his name.”

Flinching, Livvie took a step closer to the other woman who was now openly crying. “Ally, just tell me what happened. What did R… What did he do?”

Shrugging, Alison slid down until she was sitting with her back against the cabinets. “Nothing.”

“That’s not true.”

Bitter laughter finally flowed from deep within her, clashing with her sobs to tear at any soul that could hear her. “He just ripped out my heart, Livvie, it’s nothing. Really. Just like I said, nothing. He just ripped my heart out, and I think he broke his too, but it doesn’t matter. It’s nothing. Just let it go, please, I can’t do this if I have to deal with it. I-I can’t even do this without dealing with it. I can’t… I don’t know what to do to get out, you know, and it hurts to be here…”

Not knowing what to do, Livvie settled finally for sitting beside her and rubbing her back as she sobbed. “Hey, Ally, it’s going to be alright.”

“No,” she shouted through a sob. “It’s not going to be alright. I can’t be ok if he’s gone. Can’t you see that? It won’t be alright.”

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