Chapter 14:

Lights will guide you home.

He doesn't know whether he should sit or stand. Intermittently he does both. He doesn't know whether to pace or clench. Intermittently he does both. He doesn't know whether to shout or scream. He is banking on everything that he has, every jut of the muscles in is strong arms, every hurtful clenching of his lined jaw, every slash of anger through his messed up brain to get him through this particular conversation with her. And he has never felt this frustrated, this helpless before. He doesn't know what it will take for her to realise that what she does hurts so many different people, so many times.

It hurts him.

And she is late.

And he is angry. Angry as hell.

He watches her as she climbs the age old lifeguard stairs.



It takes a moment for Marissa to realise that he is standing there. It takes her even further to realise that he is angry – mad, hair splitting, 'I am going to kill someone' angry. She knows what he has come for. She knows he is going to get it all out tonight.

"Ryan…" She takes a deep breath and lets it out in a sigh.

He doesn't say a word.

She takes another step carefully. "Are you okay?"

"Open your purse Marissa." He commands roughly.

Her eyes widen a little bit but she keeps her hands clenched tightly around it. She doesn't want to antagonise him further and she knows seeing her purse will do just that. She doesn't know what he will do then, how terribly he might react and she is afraid to find out.

"I said open it." He grits out.

Her lower lips tremble. They have had fights before. But never like this. He snatches it from her hand and in one swift motion drops all the contents of her bag on to the cold plywood floor. The lipstick and the cash and the tissues drop right beside what she dreads the most. And there it is, sitting as innocently as a baby between the both of them, her bottle half full, half empty and all those pills.

He picks it up carefully and she can see the thunderous expression that crosses his face.

"What's this?" he softly asks.

"None of your business." Her chin comes up.

And he wants to hit something. He has never had that violent feeling before and the red in front of his eyes becomes brighter still. But she comes so close to frustrating the hell out of him. He somehow manages to bring himself under control and instead lashes out at the bottle itself. He throws it and it shatters with a tinkling sound of finality. It misses her by an inch.

"Ryan." She screams, dancing out of the way. "Are you freaking out of your mind?"

"You tell me." He shouts. "Why are you still doing this?"

"What… what are you talking about?"

He doesn't dignifying an answer to her question because he knows very well that she knows exactly what he is talking about.

"I thought we were doing so well." He laughs derisively. "I thought we had really taken strides in the right direction. We were friends. We were able to communicate so much better. All throughout your accident, all throughout those difficult few months after trey you have never touched a drop of alcohol. I just want to know…" he takes a deep breath trying to control his feelings, his utter frustration at what she is doing to herself. "Why now?"

She seems a little stunned by his outburst. Doesn't know what to say. She gulps, and then tries again because he is patiently waiting for an answer from her and she can't very well say that this is the only way she knows how to deal with losing him. So she settles for the second best. "It just became too hard not to."

"Too hard to leave it for the people who love you?" he questions sarcastically.

"It isn't like that."

"Then explain to me Marissa." His voice hardens. "Because right now I am failing to understand why you would do this to yourself when you're entire life and mine hangs in balance." He takes a step towards her, until his body is flush with hers and she has to look up to meet his terrifying eyes. "Because you do know right?" he whispers softly, "it is my life too."

She gulps. He is too close and his words are a soft murmur and what he says makes a tingling feeling to go through her whole body. It excites her in a dark, dangerous way as much as it scares her.

"And now you've done it again." he takes a step back putting just a little space between them. "And Taylor's gone."

"So that's why you are mad." Suddenly his words take a new meaning and she makes a move to go away but he puts both of his hands on her either side against the railing entrapping her his mouth close enough that she can smell the minty flavour of his breath that she has tasted so many times before.

"No. That's why I could have been mad." He whispers softly his blue eyes glistening in the moonlight. They are so close that she can see every fleck in his blue eyes reflected in the dark. "But that's not why I am mad. I am mad because you refuse to believe how much of an effect you have over people around you, how much of an effect you have over me. I am mad because you are selfish enough to not realise that what you do hurts other people. It hurts me. I am mad because the people that I care about the most always leave."

She sees how troubled he looks and she realises how much he hurts inside. She knows he is no longer talking about just her. He is talking about his whole family, his dad, trey… his mom. And she is sorry that her behaviour has brought all that to the forefront.

She lays her hand softly, comfortingly over his and looks deep into his eyes. She is glad when he doesn't flinch at her touch.

"I am not your mother." She whispers softly. "I will never leave."

"You may not have a choice."

She moves out of the chain of his hands and picks up the pieces of the broken bottle from the floor and the pills and throws them as far away as possible. "I promise." she looks at him then, and he can see the truth that is lurking in her eyes. Nobody has said things like that to him and meant it. Nobody has ever told then that he is more important than anything else in their lives. And her apology said in such candid, simple words touches him more than any declarations of love could ever have. "I am sorry for hurting you like that." She whispers taking a step closer to him and gently taking his hands in hers, her eyes never leaving his. "I never realised how much I was hurting you and I promise that I will never do that again. You never have to worry about that on my account."

In one swift motion, he hugs her tightly to him absorbing her with all his might. Because that is all he has ever wanted –

For her to be safe

And for her to be happy.


Taylor whips around to see her nemesis madly making her way through the throng of students in the cafeteria to get to where she is sitting. Since she always sits alone she is bereft of the cover another student could have offered her, had he been sitting there and she is left with no choice but to confront her. "Marissa…" Taylor drawls. "So what brings you to my domain?"


That single word said in such finality is enough to let Taylor know that she isn't here to make friends, she isn't here for fun. She is here because she wants some answers. And fast.

"So you've come here to rub my nose firmly to the ground? To let me know how utterly ridiculous the idea was of me and Ryan. To make sure I don't make such a stupid mistake again. Or…" she looks around, seeing Summer look at her with disdain from a little far away. "…to be utterly sure that I never reach away from the social order that I am doomed to represent like the hobbits of the middle earth. Save it. I already know that. I broke up with ryan long before you could convince me to."

"Umm what?" Marissa looks at her, confused. She tries to remember all of the words that Taylor has just uttered but gives up. Its too much and she hasn't come here to waste her time on such stuppid nonsense. She'd much rather come straight to the point. "That… All of the above mentioned by you before was not what I came here for."

"You didn't?" Taylor exclaims, suspiciously.

"No." Marissa sighs, sitting down beside her with her lunch tray. "Look, I came here to tell you what a foolish mistake you are making letting Ryan go." She answers, blunt and to the point.


For once Taylor is speechless.

"You and me are never going to be friends. And after what you have done to me, I doubt we can even be civil to each other. But," Marissa runs a hand through her golden locks trying to find the right words. "Ryan cares a lot about you. And he is important to me. Ergo, I am here on his behalf. "

Taylor cocks her head to one side, looking at her speculatively. "Why would you think that Ryan cares about me? Did he say that to you?"

"He didn't have to." Marissa replies confidently. "After everything that we have been through, I pretty much know what he is thinking. Besides I can see a different Ryan when he is with you. One that is not so dark, not so troubled. One that is actually funny even." Marissa placed her hand on Taylor's. "You make him laugh, Taylor. I have never seen Ryan laugh this much. And you make him happy. You shouldn't give up on that so easily just because of your ingrained insecurities. "

"I am not one to give up on true love."

"Then you shouldn't give up on Ryan."

"But he loves you." Taylor counters. "I don't think I can compete with what you guys have."

"What Ryan and I have is a thing of past." she utters the words, a lump forming in her throat because the words were so difficult to come. "He chose you. Out of the two of us, he chose you. That should count for something. Even if he doesn't say it, he really likes you. Don't leave him Taylor." She picks up her tray and walks towards where Summer is sitting. With a turn of her head she looks back. "Because he is the best thing that can ever happen to anybody. And you will regret it for the rest of your life. Trust me, i know."

Taylor is never one to bunk a class. She is never one to voluntarily give up on an opportunity to learn something new. But maybe that is one of the reasons that is making her stay out of the class rather than in it as she thinks about all the things that Marissa has said to her. The thing is, even though Marissa's words said something else, she gets the story behind them better than Marissa thinks she does. And she is not foolish enough to meddle in something that could only get her hurt.

After all she might be a sadist but she is not a masochist. Never has been.

That's why she is out of the classroom rather than in it, as she peers stealthily through the open window looking at the occupants with a frown marring her eyebrows.


For the second time that day, she jumps up in surprise.

"Seth!" she clutches a hand to her chest, giggling madly. "What… what are you doing here?"

"I should ask you the same thing." Seth drawls, trying to look beyond her at what she is looking at. "Why are you looking inside?" he catches a glimpse. "Ryan and marissa?" he asks shocked.

"Why would you… no… why would you even think that?"

"Taylor…" Seth warns. "If you are thinking of doing something to hurt them…"

"Au contraire… Seth." Taylor answers. "You see Marissa came to meet me today to tell me how foolish I was to leave Ryan. I am just trying to see what she actually meant by that."

"That she wants the both of you to be happy?" Seth ventured.

"No. I think it's more than that." Taylor answered. "I think the only reason she told me all those things is that she wished she still had the chance to do what she asked me to do. In psychiatry, it's called 'transference'"

"In harbor, it's called 'stupidity'. Taylor, you are reading way more in it than there is."

"Really?" Taylor asks, pushing Seth towards the open window. "Watch. See how he sneaks in glances at her between each word that utters. See how she leans in towards him even though he has nothing to say. Look at their hands. They face each other. The body language doesn't lie."

"What's your point Taylor?" Seth sighs.

"My point is, that even though they keep saying it, neither one of them is near enough ready to let the other go. They are thekind of 'couple' that will always remain a 'couple'."

"And what are you going to do about it?" Seth asks apprehensively.

Taylor turned towards Seth with a look of determination on her face. "I am going to get them to admit that." Seth's relief was short lived. "And you are going to help me with it."