Holly had broken things off with Karen. It had only been right – never mind that she was truly in love with the younger woman and that Karen had legally been of age – for there were boundaries that should not be crossed when working in a professional environment. But Holly, at the time, hadn't cared. Karen had made her feel alive again, in a way that Jim (James? She couldn't remember) had never even came close to. She had loved Karen, and that had made it hurt so much more when she had broken it off.
"It's not that I don't love you," Karen had stroked her thumb, smiling sadly. "I do. But I need time. They're making me re-take my GSCEs. I've explained to them that you would have never even thought of 'helping' me cheat the examination, but they don't care. So my parents have hired a private tutor," Karen had rolled her eyes here, "to make sure that I know everything."
Holly had been quiet. "Karen," she'd broken off, cursing the words that she couldn't say. Karen had pressed a soft kiss to the inside of her wrist, not making it any easier. Holly had gently twisted away from the younger woman. "Karen, we can't."
"But what about our plans? Leaving, going where they can't find us, starting over?" Karen's eyes had been wide, and so innocent. Holly couldn't allow herself to ruin her life.
"Don't you see that we can't? I'll never find another job, not in this country."
"Then we'll leave," Karen's voice had been so earnest that Holly almost believed that it would work.
"And go where? Anywhere we go, someone will find out about us, about what happened here." Holly had run her hands through her hair, the fear and anxiety obvious.
"I'll be of age next month. It won't matter any more," Karen's voice had been thick, choking back tears. Holly hated that she was the root of her soon-to-be former lover's anguish, and couldn't help but reach out to brush the teardrops from Karen's cheek.
Karen. She missed Karen, even after three months. She hoped that the younger woman was as happy as she could be, that she passed her GSCEs with the flying colours that she had the first time. She wanted to reach out, but knew that if she ever did, it would be impossible to say goodbye again. She could never see Karen again.
Holly felt the tears stream down her face as she came to that conclusion and knew in that instant that it was true. She could never see Karen, not even for one second without being reminded of what she had lost. Love was a risk, she reminded herself, wiping her face dry. And it was a risk that she would have to be willing to take with someone else.