I chuckled at Emily's attempt to lighten the mood. That was exactly what I needed after telling her all of that...heavy...stuff. God, I still can't believe I did it. I'd been dreading this conversation for so long; I mean I wanted it to happen, but was so afraid of cocking it all up. Or of having Emily hear what I had to say, and still not caring. That would have been the worst scenario. I shivered at the thought.
Emily still had my hand and gave it a little squeeze before letting go.
"Thank you for telling me all of this, Naomi. I know it couldn't have been easy on you."
"No, Ems, I told you, this is something I've wanted to do for a while now, and..."
"Actually," she interrupted with a wry grin, "I meant that it couldn't have been easy on you to do all of that talking, what with your sore jaw and all..."
Then she winked and planted a small kiss on said sore jaw. What the...what?
I smiled and closed my eyes at the all too brief feel of her lips on me, and longed for the time when that would have been the start of something wonderful. Christ, it was taking all of my willpower not to just roll over and jump her bones. I've missed her so much! But it was too soon for such a move. Just because she agreed to hear me out, didn't mean that she wanted us to get back together. I wasn't sure what any of this meant, actually. I suppose I could just ask her...
"Ems...?" I leaned towards her, resting my head on my arm.
"What are you thinking right now?"
She let out a heavy sigh. "I guess I just find myself wishing that we'd had this conversation back in August, you know? I can't stop thinking about how different things would be."
I rolled back onto my pillows.
She couldn't stop thinking about how different things would be? That's practically all I've thought about for months. Everything would be different...everything.
"I think a lot about that, too. I'd give anything not to have hurt you that way. I took so much from you, Emily...it fucking kills me to contemplate all of the pain I caused you. And Sophia... Sophia...I can't even...she'd still be alive, wouldn't she?"
"You don't know that, Naomi. She was unstable, who knows what would have happened? I mean she stalked you for fuck's sake. You can't take on that responsibility."
I'm glad Emily saw it that way, but I couldn't let myself off the hook so easily. The fact is that a girl was dead because of me. Because of me. I told Cook that we didn't kill her, which is true, but I sure as shit played a role in her decision to kill herself. The note she left for her brother made that point pretty clear. I truly believed that she'd still be alive if she'd never met me; if I hadn't used her the way I did. How do I fucking live with that? It's not something you can ever get over. Just ask Mrs. Moore. She's already asked the same of me.
Emily lay there silently, no doubt lost in her own thoughts. I really didn't want to talk about Sophia right now; I was exhausted, and the construction crew that had set up residence in my head had their jackhammers working overtime. But I knew that Emily might want some answers, and I wanted so much to finally get everything out in the open.
"Do you want us to talk about...any of that? About that day? Because I will, if you need to; if it helps, I mean. Helps us..."
She gave me a long, assessing look while she thought it over. I wasn't even sure how I wanted her to answer – which answer would be the better sign.
"I guess I want to know if the things she wrote – the things she drew in her diary – is that the way it happened?"
"I never saw her diary, Emily, but based on what Matt described, I'd say it was fairly accurate."
I felt her stiffen next to me, so continued before she could dwell too much on my conversations with Matt.
"There was quite a bit she left out, obviously. If you want, I'll fill in the blanks; tell you about that day from my perspective. But only if you want..."
"Well, I can't say that I particularly want to hear about it. But I guess we should get it all out, huh? If we're ever going to move forward, it has to be without any secrets. Right?" She gave me a pointed look at that last bit.
"Of course. I don't want anymore secrets, either, Em. I think we both know from experience how much they can hurt." I returned her pointed look with a raised eyebrow of my own, daring her to remember JJ.
The quick downward shift of her eyes let me know she got the point. And that was enough for me to continue.
"Well, as I said, I was conflicted about our trip to Mexico. I thought maybe if I went to an open day it would help me figure some things out. Maybe, after being there, I'd feel better about putting Uni off for a year. Or maybe I'd get the courage to tell you how much I really wanted to start my studies; tell you about some of my goals. I guess I just hoped I could find some clarity by going there."
"But you found Sophia, instead."
"Well, she found me, actually, but yeah. I had no idea who she was, but when she told me she went to Roundview, I guess felt obliged to chat with her. It was obvious how uncomfortable she was; overwhelmed; intimidated by the other students, maybe, I dunno. I felt sorry for her. When I told her I was headed to some reception they were having on campus, she asked if she could tag along. We went, and after a few glasses of some cheap champagne, she relaxed, and we started having a bit of a laugh."
I grabbed the glass of water from the night table, and took a long draught. I took the opportunity to glance at Emily, hoping to get a read on her, only to find her gazing steadily at me. I finished drinking, and cleared my throat.
"When the day was over, we sat together on the train back to Bristol. The guilt over not telling you about the open day was eating at me, and I found myself confessing to Sophia. She had secrets of her own, and seemed relieved to be able to share them with someone. We talked the entire ride back … about so many things. Her Dad had been in the army, and was killed when Sophia was young. Her Mum never got over the loss, and acted out in fucked up ways; took things out on Sophia and her brother. I could relate, obviously."
"Did you tell her what you told me, earlier? About your Mum...?"
"No, no...I never talked about any of that before today. I couldn't go there. No, I just...I held her hand, and told her I understood. I guess she saw something in my expression that convinced her that I meant it."
That seemed to settle something in Emily, as I heard her let out a breath. I took the opportunity to take another sip of water before continuing.
"When we got back to Bristol, I asked Sophia if she wanted to come back to mine. I was actually enjoying it – the talking – and didn't want it to end. I felt some form of release being able to tell her things; things I was too afraid to tell you. When I told her that I was in a relationship, she didn't seemed surprised. Maybe she saw us at the Love Ball, or heard something about it, I dunno. She asked me what it was like being in love. Christ, she was so fucking...wistful. That's when I told her that, for me, loving someone, being loved, was the hardest fucking thing there is; and how it made me feel trapped."
"You know I fucking hate that you were able to tell her these things, but not me. Why couldn't you tell me? Why, Naomi?" The tears were slowly trailing down her cheeks, and I felt my heart breaking for the millionth time.
"I could tell her, Ems, because she didn't matter. Whatever she thought of me after wouldn't matter. But you...you...Emily, you mean everything to me. And I was terrified that telling you those things would make you question whether you wanted to be with me. I mean, who wants a relationship with someone who thinks love is a trap, for fucks sake?!"
"I just wish you could have trusted me with those feelings, you know? We could have worked through them. It hurts so much that you felt you couldn't trust me..."
"I know that, Emily; well, I do now. But at the time I was so confused. I didn't exactly have a good role model for how to handle this sort of thing, you know? The only example I'd had was that when you were upset and hurting, you just shut down and locked yourself away from the world. Actually dealing with things has been a steep learning curve for me. But I'm really trying, OK?"
"Yeah, yeah, I can see that you are." She sniffed a bit, then turned to face me full on. "But what I can't see is why you had to then go and fuck her."
Shit. Well, I guess this part was inevitable. There were so many stupid reasons I fucked Sophia – spite, pity, to fucking forget, because she was looking at me that way – but none of them were going to be easy to explain. I ran my hands through my hair, trying to find the right words. I didn't think I'd ever find them.
"Emily, there were a million and one things going through my mind that day. I was on emotional overload, and the short answer is that there was no one reason why I had sex with Sophia. But I did, and it was fucking wrong, and I was sorry for it before it was even over. If you really want me to try to put into words the things that led up to it, I'll do my best, OK? But is it really something you want to hear?"
It took more than a minute before Emily responded, leaving me to worry that talking about this might hurt more than help; causing her to shut down again and distance herself from me. I rolled my head back a bit to see if I could read her expression, but the afternoon light was starting to fade. I turned on the bedside lamp and looked again.
I heard her let out a deep breath, and steeled myself for the most awkward conversation of my life.
"You know what? I don't think I do. Want to talk about it, I mean. I thought I did, for the longest time, but, sitting here with you now, I just don't think I need to go there. Not right now, anyway. I think I already have a good enough idea."
"Oh, thank god..." I groaned and leaned back heavily in my pillows.
Emily leaned over me, not quite ready to put an end to this.
"But what I really do need is for you to convince me that nothing like this will ever happen again. I need to believe that I can trust you, Naomi. I need to believe that I can trust myself."
"Wait. Why can't you trust yourself? I don't understand..."
"You lied to me, Naomi; you fucking lied to me again and again and I believed you. How can I trust my own instincts when I can't tell whether..."
"Whoah – wait a minute, Ems. Your instincts are fine. More than fine, actually. With every lie that I told – even though you seemed to accept it – you knew something wasn't right. I know you wanted to believe me, wanted to trust me, but you sensed things were off. That's why you went to Sophia's house after I said to leave it alone; it's why you went to see what was in her cadet locker – why you went back again to get that box; and it's why you called Matt to help you open it. Your heart told you not to trust me, Emily, and it was right."
"Yeah, I guess..."
"So the question I have for you, Emily, is will you let yourself believe what your heart is telling you now?"
I looked her straight in the eye, and tried to convey every ounce of love and sincerity I had in me.
"I swear on my life, Emily, I will never cheat on you or give you reason to doubt me again. I love you so fucking much, and I'm not afraid of it anymore. I'm not. And I promise you that if something comes up that does scare me, or causes me to doubt, I will talk to you about it. I won't lock my emotions away anymore. I don't even want to. Please forgive me, Em, and ...and just trust whatever your heart is telling you. Please..."
I didn't even realize I was crying until she leaned in to wipe my tears.
"I do forgive you..."
Well that's it – thank god. :-) This was difficult to write, but I really needed to find closure on this for Naomi and Emily (the canon version just left me with too many unanswered questions). I hope my alternative was somewhat true to the characters. Anyway, thanks SO MUCH for reading, and especially for your kind reviews. You have no idea how much they meant to me.