1:41am. They stood on the street corner. A midnight black sky dotted with streetlights, casting shadows on their pained faces. Her hands dug into her sides, wrapped around her ribs, holding herself together. His forehead was scrunched and eyes thick with concern and care.
A couple minutes earlier and they were running along, giggling and grinning, two idiots orbiting around each other’s glow. Beaming. So ridiculously drunk on each other and lemon ice vodka. The girl’s dark brown curls blowing in her face as she tried to beat the golden-haired boy in front of her. Stumbling over their words and squeezing their palms together, fingers intertwined like berries clung to a vine as they slowed to a walk in front; far ahead of the rest of the 21st party.
But now, that happy bubble had burst and the girl was standing there, waiting for him to respond, to give her an answer. To know if this was her time to go.
“I can’t,” His blue eyes were stark against the light, drained of color, mirroring the ache of her pain. “I can’t give you this, us… I can’t right now.” He felt hollow as hurt flickered over her face.
“I know,” She said sadly, trying to squeeze her hands to stop the tears from blooming in her eyes. She had known this. It was nothing new. It’d had been over a year of wondering what they were, on and off, they were drawn to each other. It stung a million times more to be told there would be nothing more with him, by him. She had been convincing herself something more would happen, some clarity after all this time. Her hands pressed tighter. Holding herself together, trying to pretend like her heart hadn’t just broke into two, “It’s fine.”
“I wish I…” He stopped, “Please go stay at ours okay. I’ve got to go check on Dane down Hillside St. Take one of the couches.” He looked at her pleadingly.
She bit her lip and narrowed her eyes in hurt and anger, cocking her head sarcastically, “Not the bed?”
“Izabella,” He sighed, worn and worried. Hurting. But he was the one who had ended this, the possibility of them together.
“Sorry, bad joke,” Her voice cracked and she pressed her lips tightly shut. “I can get home myself, okay. I’m fine.”
“Please,” He tried to catch her eye, “I need you to get home safe.”
From giddily drunk on alcohol and each other, they both now felt stone cold sober and heavy.
“I’m fine by myself,” She insisted, refusing anything he suggested. She just wanted to run, to escape this hurt and situation but she was frozen on the spot.
He shook his head, “I’ll call you a uber okay Iz.”
“I’m fine Nick,” She pursued her lips.
He watched her, stubborn and set jaw even after he had just told her they couldn’t be together. He was at a loss of what to do. He didn’t want her to go. Not like this.
“You should come round tomorrow afternoon,” He began to say, “We can hang out, chill, the boys will be-” He trailed off, caught by her warm brown eyes shining with tears. The shaking of her head and tremble in the corner of her lip made the hole in his heart ache. But he couldn’t be the man she wanted or needed him to be. It wasn’t fair to keep playing this game any longer.
“I can’t Nick,” She said. She knew she had to put an end to this year long torment. More than friends but not lovers, she was done playing pretend that this was okay. That this was enough, and this was healthy. Far from it.
“I can’t.. I can’t see you anymore. This-” she faltered, “You… it hurts.”
“Iz,” Nick looked at her sorrowfully, “Izabella, please. We can still hang out..”
She kept her lips pressed in a tight line, shaking her head as he looked at her pleadingly.
“Nick,” Another voice called, a few streetlights away from them, “Whats happening?”
She unfroze, moving to the noise, realizing people were drawing closer to them. Despite the hurt she felt, it ironically felt like something out of a movie. The two of them standing on a empty street in the early hours of the morning. Now interrupted, and she just hoped this friend hadn’t heard anything.
Nick turned his gaze to the voice, “Regan? Hey, you live down Brown street, aye?”
The other guy came into the bask of the streetlight, “Yeah, past the brunch and lunch.”
“Great,” Nick sighed, a brief moment of relief, “Iz lives down Brown too, can you walk together? I want to make sure she gets home safe.”
Izabella had returned to being frozen. She held her face blank, arms tight and mouth firmly shut.
“Izzy,” He gazed at her, silent and sad, “Regan will walk with you.”
“I’m fine Nick,” She shook her head and moved to cross the street, to leave.
“Iz, please. Hey, you guys can walk back or you can stay at the flat?” Nick sighed, “Okay?”
“Fine, bye then,” Her bottom lip was trembling as she turned and began to walk away.
“Don’t you wanna give a hug goodbye?” Regan furrowed his eyebrows, confused about the atmosphere between these two.
Her back was to them but she was still, paused, waiting. Trying to forget this was happening, that this was goodbye. Her head was swirling, the alcohol and echo of this words hurting her on repeat. Her tears were going to spill any moment.
“Iz,” Nick said softly, walking towards her and pulling her into his chest. Her arms lay at her sides as he held her. “Get home safe,” He whispered and forced himself to draw away.
She began to move quickly, wanting to distance herself from him, from this street, from everything, to have a minute to grieve before Regan caught up with her. A sob tore from her chest as emotion gave all way.