Disarranged(8)

By: Sara Wolf



"You remember Rose, of course," Grace says. I tense up. Lee keeps staring straight ahead at Grace instead of looking at me.

"It's nice to see you again," he says stiffly.

"You too," I say as enthusiastically as I can. "You - You look well."

"You don't."

Grace raises an eyebrow. I feel like someone's dumped a bucket of ice into my stomach. Lee takes a sip of water, never taking his eyes off the space above Grace's head as he speaks.

"You look thinner. Have you been eating?"

"Y-Yes," I say. Do I really look that underfed?

"There's dark circles under your eyes," He continues. "You've been sleeping alright?"

"You have them too," I counter. "Yours are way bigger than mine."

Grace smothers a laugh behind a warm bread roll. Lee still doesn't look at me, but under the table I can see his fist clench on his thigh.

"It doesn't matter what I have," He insists. "If you aren't sleeping well -"

"You look like a zombie!" I raise my voice. A peal of Grace's laughter escapes from behind the bread. People from other tables turn and stare. Lee's so shocked he tilts his head and looks at me, but I falter under the intensity of his gaze and glance away.

"A-A good-looking zombie," I correct myself. "But you just don't look very happy, I think. You...you should look happier. You're getting married soon. That's supposed to be one of the happiest times in your life, right?"

Grace's giggling drops off suddenly. Lee's other hand forms a fist on his other leg. Somehow it feels like I've said something wrong. Maybe I have. But he doesn't look happy at all, and that's hurting me more than he can ever know.

"I'm sorry," I stammer. "It's none of my business."

Lee opens his mouth, but just then the waitress leans in with our food. Grace digs in, and Lee shoots me a look before taking a small bite of his. My stomach rumbles, and I devour the delicious alfredo quickly. Grace looks up halfway through her gnocchi.

"How long are you two staying here?" She asks. Lee frowns.

"Two weeks, I think."

"That's about how long we're staying," Grace says. "We should do something together, provided you aren't tied down by that bitch."

Lee's eyes get dark at the word. I swallow quickly.

"She's not really - I mean," I try to make up for Grace's lack of tact. "She's mean, but she's important to you. So she's not a bitch. Not to me, anyway."

"She's a bitch to you most of all," Lee murmurs. My eyes widen, and Grace makes a pleased humming noise in her throat. Before I can say anything, Lee puts his fork down and stands.

"I'll pay you back later, Grace. I have to go."

Grace waves it off. "Don't worry about it. See you around."

Lee nods to me, and I return his nod softly. Saying 'goodbye' would feel too formal, and saying 'see you later' would seem too casual. Words between us still feel stiff, a little rusty.

I got to see him.

The thing I'd wanted for months now just happened. He's here, for a few weeks, and so am I. I got what I wanted. I have the perfect chance in front of me - the perfect chance to say goodbye, properly.

And that's all I can ask for.

But if I can help it, I want to see Lee happier. That's Kiera's territory now, not mine, but if I can bring a little of his old smile back to him, that'd be the best goodbye present for him, and for me.





Chapter Two

In Which Rose Jensen Can’t Breathe



***

LEE

***



I slam the hotel door shut and lean against it, cradling my head in my hands. Every fiber in my body screams for me to go back out there, find Rose, and pull her into me. Sitting next to her had done things to my body I'd all but forgotten about - her smell, the way her skin looked under the low candlelight. I'm lucky I got out of there without going insane. The food had helped distract me, Grace's pointed comments had helped fill me with guilt, and that was distracting too. Guilt. More guilt. Rose's hurt expression had given me guilt, too, but it's better that way. The more guilt I feel, the more I can cover the burning flame of desire in the pit of my stomach. It douses it, keeps it cool when I can't possibly control it. I have to use it as a weapon, a shield, or else I'll touch Rose and there will be no stopping me from there.

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