I had to grip the edge of the door not to follow Lo and H down the hallway. To not follow them, take Lo and bring her to some place I can actually protect her, not hurt her. To stop this pain.
But after they left, I went back to my group. The guys look at me warily, but it’s Damon whose eyes are not scared or curious, but filled with determination and anger.
I look at the map we were working with again, ignoring everyone, just going back to work. The idea is that we can rent the gym for a couple of days when we’re filming. But since it won’t be a very long time, we’re going to have to make and build many of the set pieces before we even go in there. We’re working on a blueprint of the gym now. Trying to decide on how to break up the space so we can put the highest amount of sets into it. Some of the set locations have already been chosen, so now we’re figuring out how to locate them.
“Are you sure you want to place the shop here?” Thomas points at the map. “We need to make sure we can get in there for both the storage room and the front of the shop.”
“Yeah.” Damon nods. “That should work fine. Unless they want to put like… a fight scene in the storage room, this should be enough space to move elements around during filming.” He suddenly looks up, at the door, and a shiver runs through my spine.
I turn around, and H is standing in the doorway, looking over the room, then his eyes fall on me and they darken.
Next to me, Damon stands up, going over to him. “Hey.”
“Hey.” H almost relaxes a little. “Do you know where Lola’s bag is?”
“Sure. At the table in the back. At least, that’s where she was sitting before.” He steps aside and H stomps to the end of the room, passing me by closely.
The girls at the writer table look at him with a mixture of surprise, anxiety, and lust. He doesn’t even seem to realize that they’re there as he grabs Lo’s things from the table, puts them in her bag and takes the bag with him.
On his way out of the room, he stops in front of me, his body tense, but he doesn’t say anything.
“I’m sorry.” I keep my voice low, hoping that even though the whole room is looking at me, that my words only reach H.
“Too little. Too late.” He looks at me, his jaw set. “Fucker.” Then he spins around and leaves the room again, narrowly escaping a crash with Tamara when she comes into the room.
She looks after him, surprised, but then looks around the room, and I quickly turn back to my group. I don’t need another talking-to by her. I have no patience for it, and I could really do without one right now, I’ve already thought everything that she could even tell me.
The rest of the group apparently gets the message as we all go back to work. There is a lot of work to be done, and we should probably get started on it.
In the back of my head, a small but insistent voice keeps reminding me that I’m the biggest danger to the one girl who I really want, and that there are few ways to make that better again. At this point, probably none.
Luckily, the next couple of days Lola and I are able to avoid each other most of the time. She’s apparently mostly moved her group of writers to the library or other places where they can work, and when they are in the main room, they’re working together with the actors and actresses. She’s working so hard, and I can’t always help my wandering eyes…
Our own group, the staging group, has been getting some help from the costume group, and we’ve been putting together color schemes, and drawings for sets. And, luckily, we’ve found a lot of on-set, or on-potential-set, location to do shoots. It kept us busy and out of the room most of the time.
After the breakdown on Monday, when Lola’s sister had to come pick her up, I’ve been having to think a lot about the past. Not just these last weeks, or the last years. But everything before that too. Things that I remember one way as a teen, but a different way now that I look back at it.
It’s a little uncomfortable at times, especially when my brain goes into some of the more extreme things I got into while at high school… Things that I shared with Hunter, or with Tessa, but mostly things that Lo and I didn’t have in common. The ways in which we were always different. The ways in which we shouldn’t have fit together. And looking back, I’ve started to wonder what happened while we were at the school together. Was it because the classes and groups were small? That we had most classes together?
Even then, there were enough other girls. There were enough other girls I could have gotten interested in. But from the moment she joined our school, my eyes were always on her. It took me weeks to bring up the courage to talk to her, and that was after Hunter had already befriended her. That was after Hunter, Tessa and Lola had started to hang out together. It still took me a long time, at least long in the eyes of a teenage boy, to talk to her.
It’s sweet in an innocent way to look back like that. But, among all the other things, we also grew up too quickly. I saw it in Lo and H, how the illnesses of their siblings really made that they had to grow up, which automatically made the same happen for Tessa and me, as we supported them. But Tess and I also knew that there were times where we couldn’t do anything. The times I’ve spent with her, while H and Lo were off talking elsewhere, or even in one of their rooms, they were some of my good memories. Not always, sure, but it was a crappy situation, and we always made the best of it.
It was also during those times that I got into trouble with Tess a couple of times… Drinking, fighting, motorbike racing. We didn’t even have licenses, I didn’t, anyway. But we’d race each other through the forest, sometimes in the twilight, and we’d feel so alive. We were grounded a couple of times over it, but the school never sent us away, we were too good, or whatever, to send us away.
The four of us, we were so close. And in the years after, I’ve shut myself off from others because I knew that something like that would never happen again. I’d never find people who understood me and accepted me just the way I was. At least not in the same way as they did. That loss has always eaten away at me, probably also why I gave up. I stopped looking for real connections with people, I was just there to have some fun, sex was just physical release, and then I’d move on.
That was the routine. A new girl every week, sometimes even two. They knew that I’d never invest more in them than what I gave them at that moment. So many of the girls liked it, or at least pretended that it didn’t matter to them. I’m convinced that the girls had some waiting list system going, that they waited their turn to have my attention on them.
It was an empty existence, but I couldn’t let myself do more, let myself feel more. Because that had nearly become the end of me in the past. Feelings are bothersome and annoying, so I cut myself off from them. Made everything easier.
I stand up, bringing my empty cup of coffee to the front of the cafe, and as I turn to the door, I’m faced with Lo.
She’s sitting in the corner of the cafe, a little hidden, away from other people, she’s looking right at me and her eyes, filled with surprise, won’t leave mine.
I do the stupid thing and check around, but I’m not seeing H or Lizzy, and the single coffee on the table in front of her, next to her notebook, tells me that she’s not waiting on anyone either. So I walk over to her, keeping her eyes, and slide into the chair next to her.
Her body tenses, and she looks at the page in front of her, not looking up at me now I’m so close.
I try to read what she’s already written, and it’s little more than a couple of lines of dialogue, connected to nothing.
[ 1: “We can’t stay here too long. These plants are poisonous.”
2: “I don’t think that should be our main worry.”
1: “Why not? It could kill us.”
2 (sad): “There are more ways to kill someone, and I know ten that are quicker than those plants, all within reach.”
That’s it. Just a part of a conversation. Lo’s handwriting is still as lovely as ever, still as easy to read, and memories of me doing exactly that pop up in my head. I have no idea how many stories of hers I’ve read. How many hours I’ve spent living in the worlds that she created.
“Have you published anything yet?” I’m surprised by the words leaving me, the soft tone to them.
Lo’s apparently as surprised as I am, but then shakes her head. “Haven’t finished anything in years.”
That makes me sadder than I think I should really feel, but somewhere, I feel like I get that feeling. “What about things from before?”
She shakes her head again. “No. I… They were finished, but not good enough to let the whole world know about them.” She starts doodling on the page, her fingers elegantly on her fountain pen, another one of those things that she did. Writing with fountain pens when she was working on stories, she said that it made things flow easier.
“They were amazing, though.” I’m not sure where I’m getting these words from.
She finally looks up at me, her eyes sad, then she lets out a little laugh without any joy in it. “That’s just how you remember them. They were boring and badly written. Nothing to show the world. They were good enough to show you, but not more than that.”
“I remember enjoying them. A lot. And so did Tessa and H. We loved them.” Those were good memories.
Lo nods, a little smile appearing. “Yeah. I loved writing them, not just for me, but also for you. I…” She puts her pen down, folding her hands in her lap. “I became much more honest about my skill after that. Especially my lack of skill in comparison to all you guys.” The smile is gone again, and I grab my chair so I don’t reach out to her, to hold her.
“Don’t say that. Please. You were great, or they’d never have accepted you at the school. Please, don’t forget that.” I stand up and touch her shoulder for a moment. “I’ll let you get back to your story.”
She looks up, bewildered, meeting my eyes as she nods. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” I walk out of the cafe, realizing that I’ve left my heart behind on that chair next to Lola. Of all the things, this is what our first real conversation consists of. A talk about high school and stories. Her stories.
I feel it inside, that darkness that slowly starts to overtake everything, that darkness that I saw in her eyes too. That darkness that we know we can’t get around. But I feel like this may have been me pushing my luck. Pushing my luck of ever being able to talk to her like this again.
So, instead of going out, of going into town, I go home. I go home and dig through folders and folders of work, old emails, trying to find what I’m sure is supposed to be in there. Lola’s stories. Her work, her love, her aspirations. All of that.
And I spend the night reading. Reading words I’ve not seen in years, words I wasn’t able to look at for years. But now I want to, I need to.
I’m pretty sure that I’m insane. Or at least, stupid. I’ve not slept all night. I’ve been reading, reading, reading. Going back in time, reading stories I remember. But reading them again now, those memories do not do them any justice. It’s different. Not in the way that Lola said, that I would remember them being better than they actually are, but the reverse. I remember them being just good stories, but what I read last night was a whole different level of things. What I read wasn’t the mind of a young teen, it was the mind of a fully-fledged storyteller.
I can understand that her memories are different, especially since she wasn’t the only writer at the school, so all the work that she saw was already of a very high standard, but also because those memories are tainted by other things that happened.
But none of that matters right now. None of it. Because right now, I’m supposed to explain to Tamara what our plans are for next week, and all that’s on my mind are Lola’s stories. I’m the leader of this group and my mind is totally blank on our project or schedule. I know that I talked about this with the rest, I made notes and everything. But none of that makes any sense. None of that makes sense to my brain, which is still so filled with other things and words.
“Damon?” She turns her gaze to the guy next to me, who raises an eyebrow at me before he shrugs and starts explaining what we talked about.
Later today, we’re going to sit down with the whole group and we’ll have to figure out more strict deadlines. The story is coming along well, and that means we need to figure out proper locations soon. And after that we’re going to figure out our priorities for the stages we’re making, making sure they match up with the availability of the different locations.
I know all of this. I know what we talked about, the decisions, but it’s like it’s in a different world, a world separate from the one I’m living in now.
How can I make Lo see that she’s an amazing author? That she’s the best and that she shouldn’t give up?
How can I, the guy who hurt her so much, make her see that she shouldn’t give up on herself? Especially when that’s what I did. I gave up on everything, including the two of us.
And I don’t want her to keep hurting over that. I need to do something. I need to show her that there is so much more in this world. More than the pain we share, even if that seems to be the only thing going on for us right now.
I need to show her that there is more out there. I have to. I really really have to. Because she’s worth so much more than she thinks that she is.
And I’m the asshole who made her think that. I’m the asshole who made her think that there is nothing to live for anymore, that she’s broken, a failure.
I need to make it better.
I need to.
I have to.
I’m going to!
Next chapter is next week! <3
Please, remember, this is just cleaned up, not fully edited, so some errors may be still in here. They will be fixed before publication!