Flying back home to London for my mum's funeral wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I'd prayed for a reason to go back. In fact, seeing my mum was the main reason I'd even wanted to go home. No one had told me that she was sick; I wasn't sure anyone knew. But she and I had been close, so the fact that she had kept something like this from me hurt.
I picked up my luggage from the baggage claim area and got into the waiting taxi outside. My heart hurt and my stomach felt like it had been left at 39,000 feet. Things with my family had never been easy. My dad had a habit of criticizing my every move; my brother and I weren't even on speaking terms, which we blamed on each other; my sister tried to keep in contact with me, but after what I'd done to her, it was hard. If I couldn't even respond to a text, how was I supposed to look her in the eye? It had been over a year and the guilt was still eating me alive.
As the cab came to a stop outside my parents' house―now simply my dad's house―I brushed my hair from my face, fixed my lipstick, tried to make sure I looked perfect. Anything to keep my father off my back. He was sure to give me enough crap over how my job was still going nowhere after being an assistant for three years. He was grieving, I had to remind myself. Go easy on him.
The house wasn't that big, on the edge of town. A wrap-around porch, small kitchen, even smaller living area, the main bedroom on the first floor. There were two rooms upstairs that overlooked the large front yard, a yard that my father had once dreamed of turning into a flower garden for my mother. That was before things had gone down hill, financially. Now, the yard was still empty, the old gazebo on the hill undoubtedly ready to fall apart by this point.
I walked inside the house without knocking, leaving my suitcase and purse by the front door. Voices could be heard coming from the direction of the kitchen, so I took a deep breath and walked that way. The house had a distinct empty feeling without my mother there. She would usually be making lunch around this hour, something healthy followed by a sugary dessert, even at lunchtime. Instead of my mother's laughter ringing from the kitchen, it was the sniffling of my sister, the deep voice of my brother. The weight of grief was crushing the house, crushing me, making it harder to breathe.
"Em," Elena, my sister, exclaimed, jumping from her seat to wrap me in a hug. Over her shoulder, I saw my brother nod at me. At least he was willing to be civil. "Thank God you came."
"Of course I came," I replied. "She was my mother, too."
Elena pulled away, giving me an apologetic look. "I know, I'm sorry. I've just missed you. You know, I've been trying to get in touch with you for months."
"We'll talk later, okay?" I moved past Elena to give my father a hug. He looked haggard, dark circles under his eyes, his hands shaking. "Dad, how are you doing?"
Dad nodded once, his lips pursed. "I'm just glad you're here, Emmie," he said. "I'm glad all my kids are here." Dad pulled Elena and Oliver in for a group hug, squeezing me in the middle.
When we were finally released, I decided that now was as good a time as any to ask the question that had been eating me alive since I'd gotten that fateful call. Oliver went back to his seat at the small kitchen table and Elena went to the fridge for some lemonade, or maybe something stronger. I squared my shoulders and looked my father in the eyes, something I rarely did.
"How long did you know that Mum was dying?" I asked him. Oliver glared up at me, Elena didn't look at me, but she put the pitcher down on the counter and I could tell that she was holding her breath.
My father clenched his jaw, the lines at the corners of his eyes more refined than ever. "Em, now isn't the time―"
"Well, when is the time? She was our mother. We have the right―"
"Emilia, just let it go," Oliver said harshly. "God, you never know when to keep your trap shut, d'you?"
My eyes went to Elena for backup, though I had no right to ask her for anything. She was looking at me now, but she shook her head. "Everyone just needs time, Em," she said.
"Right, of course." I swallowed, trying to hold back the tears until I was away from them all. "I need some air." I turned and went out the back door that was just off the kitchen and stalked up the hill to the gazebo.
Kit looked up at me through dark lashes, looked at the tears streaming down my face. It had been over a year since we'd seen each other last, over a year since our stupid mistake. He was the last person I had been expecting to see, though I know I should have seen it coming. He and Elena were dating, after all. And luck never seemed to be on my side.
"Do you want me to leave?" Kit asked me, preparing to stand.
"No," I said, surprising both of us. "Can I have one of those?" I motioned to the cigarette in his hand and took a seat beside him.
Kit handed me a cigarette with a wary expression. "I didn't know you smoked," he said.
With a shrug, I lit the cancer stick and inhaled, causing me to go into a coughing fit. "I don't," I said. "But why not start now?"
"These things kill you, you know."
"Everything kills you."
Kit and I sat in silence for a while, both of us either too stubborn to speak, or unsure what to say to one another. The last time we'd seen each other, things had been tense, to say the least. It had been over a year since that day, and everything had changed. I still had my crap job and yeah, my hair was shorter, but that was about everything was different with me. However, the situation was all new. Whatever Kit and I had had back then, it was nothing. It could never be anything. He was with my sister, that was that. No amount of secret cigarettes or dead mums could change it.
"Elena's looking for me," Kit said, moving to stand. He offered me another cigarette, but I shook my head, eliciting a smile from him. God, I'd missed that smile. I tried to ignore the way it made my heart skip a beat. "I like your hair, by the way," he added before walking away, back down the hill towards the house.
I gave Kit time to get back, putting out the last of the cigarette. How the hell was I supposed to pretend like nothing was wrong this entire time? I mean, aside from the obvious. I just wished my mother was there. She would be so disappointed in me, but I knew that if I'd told her what I had done to Elena, she would have kept my secret. She was like that, minded her business. If it wasn't hers to tell, then she wouldn't bring it up again. I know she would want me to be honest with Elena, but I just couldn't. Not yet, not now, after we'd just lost our mum. She needed us all to be united; if she found out about Kit and I now, it would totally destroy her. And I couldn't take it.
Finally, I forced myself to my feet and left the gazebo, heading for the house. I heard the laughter before I got inside; I stopped outside the door, listening. They were talking about the time Elena, Mum, and I had gone to the zoo. Elena and I had stolen nine stuffed animals from the gift shop while Mum wasn't paying attention. She'd almost gotten arrested, but had managed to talk her way out of it after we returned the animals. I smiled at the memory. She'd been so angry with us, but her anger never lasted long. By the time we all got to the car, we were cackling with laughter, Mum the loudest of all. She'd told us not to tell Dad, but she couldn't keep it hidden. Almost as soon as she was through the door, she was laughing again, telling Dad the whole story.
I wasn't sure when I had started crying, but I felt the tears streaming silently down my cheeks, almost choking on a sob. I slid down the door until I was sitting on the top step, my face hidden in my knees. I was a horrible, awful person, but I loved my mum. I needed her. How was I supposed to go on about life without her, without the knowledge that I could just pick up the phone and dial her anytime? Who was I supposed to talk to about my job and my lack of relationships and how I was thinking of getting a puppy? Mum would be the one to tell me that getting a puppy was a ridiculous idea. I couldn't even keep a plant alive, let alone an animal. She was the one meant to talk me out of terrible decisions, like the puppy and that perm I wanted a few years back. She was meant to give me recipes, even though she knew I couldn't cook worth a lick. But she would pretend that whatever I made would turn out great, because I was her child and she was my mum, and that's what mums do.
And she was gone. And I was alone, in a family that didn't know just how terrible of a person I truly was. In a home that didn't feel like home at all. In the company of a boy who was in love with my sister, but whom I'd fallen for.
The door opened and I quickly wiped my eyes, trying not to sniffle, lest the realize I'd been crying. I know it's acceptable to cry when you lose a family member, but I was always the strong one, the one who didn't cry, the one who took on everyone else's pain to help them through it. Emilia didn't cry.
"Em, are you all right?" Elena asked, sitting on the step beside me. Kit was with her, but he stayed back, giving us space. What made me feel even more terrible was that I wished it were him down here, comforting me.
I nodded, taking a breath. "I think I'm just gonna go up to bed," I said, suddenly exhausted. I knew I wouldn't sleep, though. My mind was racing a million miles a minute.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, El. I'm fine. I just need some time alone." I patted Elena's knee reassuringly and she wrapped me in a hug. Kit and I locked eyes and I could tell he wanted to say something, but couldn't.
Pulling away, I kissed Elena on the forehead and stood. "Goodnight," I said.
"Love you," Elena called after me.
You wouldn't love me if you knew, I thought.
I laid there for hours, begging the sun to come up, but also dreading having to see my family again. We were meant to plan the funeral today. It was going to be a rough one and I already knew I would be the one planning everything while everyone else fell apart. While Elena fell apart and everyone comforted her. It was horrible, but I couldn't help the bitterness of my thoughts just then. Elena had always been the baby of the family, the youngest, the one who got whatever she wanted and had everyone looking out for her. It had been that way her entire life and I didn't expect it to change now.
Glancing at the clock, I saw that it was 3:32 in the morning. I was sleeping in my old room, the posters of old rock bands long since faded by the sun. My comforter was the same, though a bit dusty. All of my old knick-knacks that I had left behind were just where I had left them. It was a room frozen in time and I suspected it would stay that way until our father was ready for us to clean it out.
There was a knock on my door then, almost imperceptible. The door opened just a crack, the nightlight in the hall casting a sliver of gold across the otherwise dark floor. The silhouette of a head peeked into the door and if not for the curly hair poking out at odd angles, I couldn't have guessed who it was. So I turned on my lamp and sat up, motioning for Kit to come in.
Kit closed the door silently after him and stood there awkwardly, unsure of where to sit. The only place to sit was the bed, so he took a seat on the end farthest from me, leaving about a foot of space between us. His hair was pulled back into a ponytail, a few strands sticking up in the back, a couple having fallen loose around his face. His brown eyes, surrounded by dark lashes, were staring down at his hands in his lap. I just wished he would say something, anything, to break the tension.
"I'm sorry about your mum," Kit finally said, his voice low.
My heart dropped a bit. I'm not sure what I had been expecting him to say or even what I wanted him to say, but that wasn't it. "Thank you," I said just as quietly.
"I just can't do it, Em. Elena, she needs me. You...You're strong." Kit shook his head. It sounded as if he were trying to convince himself rather than me.
"I'm not asking you for anything, Kit," I said.
Kit raised his eyes to meet mine. "I know," he said.
For a moment, we just sat there, his eyes staring into mine, mine into his. Out hearts and minds both in a race to take what it wanted. And then Kit had closed the short distance between us, his hands on the bed on either side of me, his lips on mine. My hands pulled freed his hair from the tie and entangled in the curls, holding him to me. The comforter between us was suddenly gone, his body pressing against mine, lips exploring places they hadn't explored in years.
My mind was shouting at me to stop, to stop what I knew was about to happen. This was my sister's fiance, for crying out loud! It was wrong. It was awful. But Kit wasn't stopping and I wasn't either. And in that moment, it didn't feel wrong. It felt perfect.
When I woke up the next morning, Kit was gone and the bed beside me was cold. Of course he was gone. Had I really expected him to stay? I couldn't expect anything from him. I was the Other Woman and my sister was his fiancee. Thinking or even hoping that anything more would become of whatever Kit and I had was ludicrous.
Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I grabbed some clothes and headed for the shower. I opened the door without knocking, not being used to sharing a house with other people. My mind was apparently still in sleep-mode, as it took me a beat too long to realize what I was looking at. Kit was standing there, buck-naked. He grabbed a towel and immediately covered himself, his face and mine both turning beet red. I jumped back out into the hall and closed the door. It wouldn't really be a huge deal if the circumstances were different; I'd seen Kit naked many times. But the circumstances weren't different.
I decided to skip the shower entirely and dressed in my room, then made my way downstairs for breakfast. By the time I reached the kitchen, Kit was already there, seated beside Elena, letting her pop a blueberry into his mouth. I swallowed, trying not to think about where Kit had been the night before, the way his body had felt against mine. I tried to ignore the guilt eating away at me.
My father walked into the kitchen then, starting to make himself a plate alongside me. "Emmy, your hair is dry," he commented. "Have you been using that conditioner your sister recommended?"
"I'm allergic to it, Dad," I replied.
"Hmph. Well, you should do something. If you want a man, you're gonna have to try extra hard."
"Why do I have to try extra hard?"
My father poured syrup on his pancakes, not meeting my gaze. "You're nearly thirty, Emmy. I want some grandkids before I die. And no man wants to run his fingers through brittle hair."
"It's just hair!" I nearly shouted. Kit, Elena, and Oliver all looked at me. Dad looked at me. "Elena can give you grandkids, I hate children. You would know that if you ever listened to me." I left my untouched plate of pancakes on the counter and grabbed my bag from the hall, heading for the door.
"Where are you going, Emilia?" Dad called after me.
"To plan a bloody funeral!"
When I got out to my father's car, I gripped the steering wheel tightly, taking a deep breath. I hadn't meant to snap at him. He was having a hard time, we all were. And seeing Kit and Elena being happy, like Kit hadn't just been in my bed a few hours before, had gotten to me more than I'd realized. I wanted my sister happy, of course I did. But this wasn't right. None of this was right. My mother wasn't supposed to be dead. I wasn't supposed to be sleeping with my sister's fiance.
After I'd calmed down, I put the key in the ignition and turned it over, only to realize that the battery was dead. I tried several more times before I gave in and went back inside. Everyone was seated down to breakfast as if my little emotional explosion hadn't even happened.
"The car battery is dead," I said.
Elena grabbed her keys and tossed them to me. "You can take my car."
"I can't drive a stick."
"I'll take you," Kit offered. I waited for Elena to suspect something, to say that she would rather take me than Kit, but I knew that wasn't true. Elena was terrible at stuff like this. She would surely break down if she went with me.
Elena smiled at her fiance and kissed him lightly on the lips. "Honey, that's so sweet," she said, kissing him again. "Thank you." Kit planted a kiss on Elena's forehead and stood, following me outside.
I handed Kit the keys and got in the passenger side of his silver BMW. I didn't say a word to him, didn't look at him. This would go a lot smoother if we just didn't speak. It seemed like every time Kit and I were alone together, we said or did something stupid, something we couldn't take back. Guilt was already eating me alive, I didn't need to add anymore to that.
Once we were on the road, Kit broke the silence. "About last night..." he said.
"Shouldn't have happened," I finished.
Kit sighed. "Em, I'm sorry."
"No need to be sorry, Kit. Just forget it ever happened. You seem to be doing a pretty good job it already."
I shook my head at him. "No. I don't want to talk, okay? It's better if we just don't. I have a funeral to plan and I need to be focused on that, on my dead mother, not on some insipid affair."
"Insipid." Kit sighed again. "Fine." He turned up the radio, neither of us saying another word.
Kit stopped outside the funeral home, turning the music off. We sat there for a beat before I took a deep breath and got out of the car. I was glad to hear Kit following me; I wasn't sure I could actually do this alone and I was far too prideful to ask Kit to go with me. Fortunately, he either knew me well enough to know this or he was just the perfect gentleman. I was willing to bet on either of those things. As messed up as it was, Kit knew me better than anyone now that my mother was gone.
The funeral home director was waiting for me, a book full of caskets and flower arrangements on the counter in front of him. He introduced himself as Mr. Schiles and went on to talk about how his funeral home was the best around and how he would do anything he could to make my mother's memory be honored. I knew it was crap, just some dude trying to sell himself to me while I was going through the most difficult time in my life, but I didn't care. He was nice and I wanted my mother's funeral to be perfect. It was the least I could do for her after all that she had done for me.
I swallowed as I opened the book and looked down at the first page of caskets. My hand gripped the counter tightly as I tried keep myself together. I hadn't ever thought that I would be in this position. Sure, I knew that no one lived forever, but I just never imagined that I would have to plan my mother's funeral. I never imagined that I would have to plan it alone.
Kit placed his hand on mine then, reminding me that I wasn't alone.
"Maybe I should give you and your husband some time alone," Mr. Schiles said politely.
"Oh, he's―" I started, but Kit interrupted me.
"Thank you," he said with a nod. Mr. Schiles left the room and I pulled away from Kit.
I couldn't bring myself to look anywhere but down at those stupid caskets. In truth, there were so many other places I would rather be. But if I were going to be back home, picking a casket for my dead mother, I was secretly glad Kit was with me. Even if our relationship was too complicated for words, our friendship wasn't.
"Thank you for coming with me," I said quietly. "Now can you help me pick a damn casket?"
Kit turned the page, his chest pressed against me as he looked over my shoulder. I could feel his heartbeat through his thin tee shirt. "Your mother preferred simple things, didn't she?" he asked me.
I nodded. "Yeah, so the opposite of Elena."
Kit chuckled. "You're not wrong there." A few more pages turned. Kit pointed to a plain pearl white casket, with silver trim. "What about that one?"
"It's perfect," I replied, my voice cracking.
Kit's hand was on my back then. "Em, it's okay to cry," he said softly. "You just lost your best friend."
"You need to stop doing that."
"Being so nice, touching me." I pulled away from Kit, whose expression was shocked and a bit hurt. "I know you're just a good guy, Kit―aside from cheating on my sister―but I can't have you doing things like this and then try to stay away from you. What happened last night can't happen again."
Kit frowned. "So, what? We're just going to―"
"Stay away from each other. As best we can. I'll finish here and take the bus home."
Kit shook his head. "No, Em. I'm not letting you do this alone."
"Please, Kit. Just respect me and leave me be."
For a moment, Kit stood there, looking torn. And then he nodded once and left the funeral home.
After I somehow managed to plan my mother's funeral alone, I found myself sitting in the park down the street. The sky was covered in dark gray clouds, just begging to explode in a shower of rain, the sky seemingly about to cry for my mother as well. I sat there, staring out at the families packing up their things, all preparing to leave before the oncoming downpour. It reminded me of the times I'd spent with my own family in that park, back before I moved off and Elena went to college, before Oliver joined the military.
Before things were so goddamn complicated.
The sky finally couldn't hold back any longer and the rain began to fall in a torrential downpour, soaking everything in seconds. People screamed and laughed as they tried to escape the deluge. Me, I just sat there. The feeling of the cold rain against my skin, soaking through my clothes, down to my bones, felt better than anything had in a long time. Of course, that wasn't true. Any time spent with Kit was worth it, but it was tainted with the knowledge and guilt of hurting my sister, of twisting the knife I'd stuck in her back even deeper with every impure thought of her fiance.
The feeling of being shaken caused me to open my eyes. Rain was still beating down on me and it wasn't until I felt my teeth knock together that I realized I was shivering. I must have fallen asleep somehow, lost in my thoughts of Kit. When I glanced up, it was his face I saw first, followed by Elena's and then Oliver's.
"Emilia, what the hell are you doing out here?" Oliver asked, pulling me to my feet. His eyes were narrowed in anger, a hint of worry behind them. Raindrops were hanging from his dark lashes, falling only to be replaced almost immediately.
The dark sky lent me no help as to what time it was or how long I'd been in the park. "What's wrong with all of you?" I nearly shouted over the loud storm. "I'm fine!"
"It's nearly nine in the evening, Em!" Elena shouted back. "You've been gone for hours! We were worried sick!"
"Let's get in the car, we can talk there!" Kit said, leading us all away from the park bench.
Once we'd closed the doors against the weather, Elena and Kit up front, Olly and I in the back, the questions started again. Elena and Oliver came at me hard, asking me what I had been thinking, telling me they'd been searching for me for hours. They yelled at me for making Dad worry more. I sat there, silently, listening to it all, as did Kit.
"Okay, guys," Kit said. No one listened; Elena and Oliver continued yelling at me. "Guys!" The car fell silent as we all stared at Kit, who never raised his voice. "I think that's enough. She gets it." Kit's gaze fell on me. "She worried everyone. Everyone thought something terrible had happened." I swallowed, realizing he was telling me that he had been worried. Kit looked back to Elena and Oliver. "But she just lost her mum, too. So how about we just take it easy on her, okay?"
Oliver sighed and turned to stare out the window. Elena, on the other hand, looked at me with pity. Tears filled her eyes and she reached back and took my hand. "Kit's right, Emmy," she said. "I'm so sorry. You've done everything for us and we're just shouting at you. Tomorrow, you just stay home, okay? Oliver and I will finish setting up the funeral."
I nodded, my teeth beginning to chatter again. "C-Can we just g-go home?" I asked, turning to stare out the window myself.
When we got back to the house, I went straight upstairs and into my room. I peeled out of my wet clothes and climbed under the covers naked, pulling them up to my chin. I wasn't tired, surprisingly. My mind kept wandering back to the park and the funeral home and the talk I'd had with Kit. I would have given anything in that moment for him to walk through the door and climb into bed beside me. To let me cry into his shoulder about my dead mother and about how alone I felt. But that couldn't and wouldn't happen, and it was messed up for me to even think of it.
The door opened again later, just like it had the night before. I didn't have to look it know it was Kit. Who else would be sneaking into my room at 2:41 in the morning? I was laying on my side, staring down at the squares of light on the floor made by the moon leaking in through my window. I usually slept with the curtains closed, but I was too numb to even care at that point. The door closed with a quiet click and Kit sat on the floor in front of me, the moonlight now landing in odd angles across his face.
"I just wanted to check on you," Kit said quietly.
"I'm fine," I said, my voice muffled by the blanket. "Jesus, I just sat in the park for a bit."
Kit's brows knit together in concern. "Emilia, you sat in the park for at least six hours. In the pouring rain. You'll be lucky not to catch pneumonia."
I rolled my eyes, turning so that my back was to him. "Don't trouble yourself with me, Kit," I said. "You have a fiancee."
I heard Kit sigh heavily behind me. "You're right," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. "And I love her." I took a breath and closed my eyes. I knew he loved my sister, but to hear him say it to me, it was harder than I thought it would have been. "I love Elena, but...I loved you first."
Opening my eyes, I felt my heart swell. I thought it might burst through my chest right there. But I couldn't be happy that Kit was professing his love for me. His fiancee―my sister―was just down the hall, dreaming dreams of her future with this man. Thinking he was right beside her, sleeping peacefully. But instead, he was in my room telling me he loved me.
Rolling back over, I sat up, keeping the blanket pulled up to cover my naked body. "You can't say that to me, Kit," I said. Even though those words were what I'd been wanting to hear for far too long, he couldn't say them. Not now. "I told you we had to stay away from each other. And then you come in here and you tell me you love me―"
"So you don't feel the same way, then?" Kit asked me, getting to his knees, his hands resting on my bare thighs, the blanket barely covering them. "Tell me you don't and I'll leave right now. I won't even look at you again."
I swallowed, my heart beating faster with every passing second, my stomach in knots. "I can't―"
Kit's lips crashed into mine, pushing me back onto the bed. The thin blanket between us fell away and I let myself get lost in Kit's body against mine. I let myself get lost in the I love you's and the way his lips left a hot trail on my skin.
I let myself forget about my sister once again.
A knock on my door forced me to open my eyes. The sun was barely shining through my window and the body against mine was snoring lightly. Through my sleepy haze, I froze as Elena's voice sounded from the other side of my door, asking if I had seen Kit. For a second, I didn't move, hoping Elena would go away and give Kit a chance to get out of my bed and out of my room. There was the guilt again, hitting me like a ton of bricks. It was funny (in a not-so-funny sort of way), when I with Kit, I didn't think much about the guilt. Hell, when I was with Kit, I didn't think much about anything, except him and me. But once reality came back and hit me in the face, so too did the guilt. And I was really feeling it this morning.
Elena tried the doorknob. "Since when do you lock your door?" she asked me.
"Uh, I'm naked," I called back, which was true. "Hold on."
As quickly and quietly as I could, I shook Kit awake, a finger to my lips so he'd know to keep quiet as well. I pointed to the door and then to the closet. Kit nodded, the same guilty expression on his face as I was sure was on my own, and slid off the bed, wrapping my blanket around his naked body. After the closet door was closed, I threw on a robe and unlocked the bedroom door, forcing a sleepy smile for my sister.
"Have you seen Kit?" Elena asked again.
"I've been asleep," I replied. "When would I have seen Kit?"
Elena forced her way past me and sat on my bed. I tried to keep my gaze from wandering to my closet.
"He said he was coming to bed after the news last night, but he never did," Elena said. "I dunno, it just seems like we've been drifting apart lately."
I wasn't sure what to say. The fucked up thing is that hearing my sister say that she and Kit were having problems made me hopeful. It was ridiculous, really. Not only because I was feeling joy at my sister's misfortune and pain, but because I knew Kit wasn't going to be with me. Even if they did split, it would never work.
Swallowing the guilt and the sickness I was feeling towards myself, I crossed my arms over my chest and looked down at my younger sister. What made this whole thing worse is that Elena had always looked up to me, always asked for advice on boys. Always trusted me.
I didn't deserve her.
"But you guys look so happy," I said.
Elena shook her head. "I don't know, maybe―Hey, where are your blankets?"
My first instinct was to look at the closet, but I refrained. "Uh, they're in the wash. I got so hot last night, they were covered in sweat. I put them in in the middle of the night and just slept without them."
Elena made a face. "You should shower, Em. That's gross."
"I will." Elena stood to leave. "Are you going to be okay?"
"I'll be fine. Just go shower, please. And comb your hair. You look like you've been having wild sex all night." I made a face and Elena laughed. "Bye!"
Once I'd locked the door back, I put my face in my hands. My closet door squeaked open and a naked Kit walked over to me. He pulled my hands from my face, hooked a finger under my chin, and made me look up at him. "It will be okay, Emmy," Kit said, his voice low.
I shook my head. "How do you figure that?" I retorted.
"We'll work it out, okay? Do you trust me?"
With a sigh, I nodded, letting Kit pull me to him and wrap his arms around me. I rested my head against his bare chest, listening to his heartbeat. I wished I believed him.
The funeral was set for the next afternoon. Kit had managed to sneak out of my room and go for a run, both a cover for our escapades of the previous night and a thing he actually liked to do. Elena had believed him when he'd told her that he had fallen asleep in the den and woken up early to take said run. Me, I was just staying quiet, avoiding the family altogether. I hated lying and I hated seeing the trust in my sister's eyes when she looked at me. I hated myself.
It was already evening and I had managed to avoid everyone. Oliver and my father were watching some football game, clearly trying to distract themselves. Elena and Kit had gone to get dinner for everyone. I was back in the gazebo, having another secret cigarette. I'd stolen Kit's pack from his and Elena's room while they were gone. Since then, I had smoked nearly three of them and Kit was down to two. He was going to kill me. When I was stressed, I smoked. It was a bad habit.
"There you are," I heard him said and groaned inwardly. "I was wondering where my cigarettes got to." Kit picked up the pack, saw that there was only two inside, and shook his head at me before lighting one. "These are bad for you, you know?"
"I'm going inside," I replied, because being around Kit was too difficult. It was too hard to resist giving in to him. Being with my family was difficult, but at least I knew what I was getting into with them.
I put out the cigarette, stuffed the butt in my pocket, and stood to leave. Kit grabbed my wrist, his hand sliding down to take mine. "Em, don't," he said quietly.
"This is wrong, Kit. On so many levels. I thought we were done with this, but here we are again. I don't think I can keep it a secret this time. It's killing me."
Kit pursed his lips. "I know, me too. But it will kill Elena if she finds out."
I looked down at our hands and sighed. "She's going to hate me, Kit. I've lost my mum and now I'm going to lose my sister, because I'm a goddamn selfish idiot."
Kit pulled me down onto his lap and I rested my head in the crook of his neck. I knew they couldn't see us from the house, but in that moment, I kind of wished they could. I wanted this to be over. I was sick of the lying and the secrets, but I was too much of a coward to tell my sister myself.
Kit whispered lies into my ear about how this would all work out and everything would be okay. We both knew that was crap, but we pretended to believe it anyway, because my mother was dead and we were meant to be good people, we were meant to be there for the family, not fucking it up even more.
The dress was black, lacy and mid-thigh length, with a boat neckline. It had been my mother's, her favorite. I hadn't wanted to wear it, but Elena and Dad had insisted. Elena was dressed in her own black dress, and the guys were all wearing suits. My hair was curled, falling about my shoulders. I was wearing a bit of makeup, though I didn't really see the point as I would undoubtedly cry it away.
There was a light knock at my bedroom door and I turned to see my brother entering. Oliver looked older today, with his dirty-blonde hair slicked back and his suit crisp and pressed. He was the epitome of perfect. He always had been.
"Can we talk?" Oliver asked me, blue eyes searching my own. For what, I wasn't sure.
I nodded and we sat on the edge of my bed. Oliver shocked me by laying his head on my shoulder; I rested my own head on his. It had been far too long since Olly and I had done anything but fight and argue. It seemed to be the only thing this family knew how to do. I was certain that after today, after our mother's funeral, we would go right back to that painful cycle of hurting one another. But for now, it seemed everything else, all our problems, were on the back-burner.
"How are you, Em?" Oliver said.
I shrugged. "Fine," I lied. I was so far from fine.
"You don't have to lie to me, you know? I know we fight a lot, but you're still my sister, just like Elena. You can talk to me."
I smiled at the sentiment, but I couldn't talk to Oliver. Not about Mum, not about Kit. He and I had never had that sort of relationship. It was sad, but true. "Thanks, Olly. But I really am fine. What about you? How are you doing?"
Oliver sat up and looked at me. "I can tell you're hiding something, Emilia. Something is bothering you. Whatever it is, you should just say it. Everyone who is important will still be around." Oliver patted my knee and left me alone, wondering how he could still read me so well after being apart for so long.
We all piled into Kit's car and he drove us to the funeral home. There were already so many cars there. It seemed we were a few minutes late. Mum would laugh her arse off if she could see us now, late for everything, even her funeral. We shook the hands of everyone, thanked them for coming, talked to the family who only ever came around when someone died, answered the typical life questions. We fake-laughed. We pretended to be a happy family. A happy family who was about to bury its only truly happy member.
After the service, we made the short trip to our family cemetery. I had somehow managed to hold in all my tears. I'd comforted Elena, comforted Oliver and Dad. I had kept myself from looking at Kit, though I could feel his eyes on me when no one was paying attention. I was Perfect Emilia. The one who never showed just how broken she truly was. The one who was strong for the sake of everyone else.
As we sat there, listening to the priest speaking over my mother's casket, the sky released a downpour on top of us. It was fitting, honestly. Didn't it usually rain for funerals? I'd heard it was a sign your loved one was in Heaven. I didn't know if that were true. I wasn't even sure if I believed in Heaven or Hell. But that rain did something to me, broke some part of me that had been bending and bending, until it finally snapped.
I couldn't breathe as the ice cold droplets landed on my shoulders, in my hair, dripped from my eyelashes. The guys were trying to set up the rain tent in a hurry. My hand was on my chest as I gasped, my lungs seemingly tired of working. Elena was knelt in front of me, asking me what was wrong, if I was okay. I choked on a sob, my eyes flying to the pearly white casket a few feet in front of me. My mother was in there. My best friend was in there. What was I going to do without here? I'd made such a mess of things. Who was going to help me fix it now?
Somehow finding the strength to get to my feet, I passed Elena and threw my arms over the casket, sobbing, crying out for my mum. I sunk to the ground, feeling hands all over me, trying to help me back to my feet, back to my chair.
"No, no, no," I cried, fighting them, just wanting to see my mum one last time.
"Emilia, it's okay!" they all lied.
Two strong hands grabbed my shoulders and forced me to look at him. Kit's brown eyes met my green ones; he moved my wet hair from my face. "Em, listen to me," he said calmly, "you're all right. Everything is going to be fine."
I shook my head. "No, it's not," I said. "Nothing is going to be fine, Kit."
"Hey, you said you trusted me, right?" I nodded slowly, vaguely aware that we were being watched by most of my family, by Elena. "So trust me."
I let Kit help me to my feet and turned to see my father, my brother, and Elena all staring at the two of us. It was clear to them, to everyone, that something was going on with Kit and I. Elena looked crushed, but she still found the strength to speak, the tears in her eyes not yet spilling over onto her cheeks.
"What's going on with you two?" she asked us.
"Elena―" Kit started, but she cut him off.
"Have you two―Have you―?"
I took a deep breath. It had to be said. It had to be over. "Yes," I said. "We have."
Elena choked on a sob and took off running into the storm.
Being a barista at a small bar in New York City wasn't where I had pictured myself five years out of high school. No, I'd had big dreams of coming to the city and becoming a movie star. Of course, I'd started out in the wrong city. I had had plans of getting into Juilliard and having this amazing resume before I went out to Hollywood. My family had been right to doubt me, but I hadn't told them that yet. They all still thought I was chasing that dream, that this job at this run-down bar in Manhattan was only temporary. How was I supposed to tell the most judgmental family on the planet that I was a failure and a loser?
The bar tonight wasn't so crowded as it was a Sunday and not football season. Most people preferred to not drink after church, so we tended to close up rather early on Sundays. At the moment, there were only a few people scattered throughout. I glanced at the clock and saw that it was merely five in the afternoon. We wouldn't be allowed to close until at least nine, no matter how slow it was, so I grabbed myself a water and began reading.
It wasn't long before the bells over the door rang and a group of four guys walked in. Immediately, I recognized one of them. Tall, dark, and handsome, Kit Harington had always been dreamy. Back in high school, I'd been one of many who had had a thing for him. Of course, he'd never looked in my direction. Not because he was too popular or rich or even because he was an ass. Kit had always been simply too into his books for girls. The hipster glasses on his face and the Lord of the Rings shirt he was wearing told me that he hadn't changed much.
"What can I get for you?" I asked, closing my book and looking at the men in front of me. I didn't recognize any of the others, presumably friends he'd made after graduating.
Kit squinted at me through his glasses. I wondered if they were prescription or simply for fashion. He didn't seem the type to care about fashion trends. "Emilia? Emilia Clarke?" he said.
"Uh, yeah," I said quietly. I definitely hadn't been expecting him to remember me. I hadn't even known that he knew who I was at all.
"It's Kit. Kit Harington. We went to high school together?"
"I know," I replied, feeling the blush rise to my cheeks. "What brings you to New York?"
Kit slapped one of his friends on the shoulder. "It's this guy's birthday, so we're heading up to Niagara Falls for the weekend. Just making a stop to say hello to Joshua's mum on the way."
I had no idea which one of these guys was Joshua, but I just nodded and smiled. The fact that Kit had recognized me was still making my heart flutter, though it was highly likely that I wouldn't ever even see him again after he left the bar.
Kit shuffled his friends off to a table in the corner and then returned to order them all drinks. While I worked, he chatted, telling me all about what he'd been up to since graduation. How he'd traveled to Ireland, where he'd met Joey (whom I assumed was one of the guys in his group), how he'd graduated from college there and then began writing his first novel, which was nearly completed. It was nice to hear that he was doing so well, even though I had never spoken more than two words to the guy until tonight.
"So what have you been into since graduation?" Kit asked me. "I'm sorry, I've been so rude, only talking about myself."
I laughed once. "No, you're good. I haven't really done much since high school, honestly. It's kind of embarrassing."
Kit shook his head. "No, it's not. What do you want to do?"
The blush crept to my cheeks again. "I want to be an actress, but I've been stuck in this dead-end job for years now."
"Em, you can do anything. You just have to trust yourself." I smiled at his words, hoping they were true. "Have a drink with me."
"I'm on the clock."
Kit looked around at the nearly empty bar. "I don't think anyone here will mind."
With a smile, I asked my co-worker if I could clock out early, not wanting to leave her to do all the work if she wasn't actually up for it. She agreed, probably just glad to see me talking to someone in public (I didn't get out much), and I sat with Kit for a drink, in the best mood I'd been in in a while.
The sound of an unfamiliar alarm jolted me awake. I glanced at my clock in a momentary panic, afraid that I had somehow slept late into the evening. After drinking like a fish the night before, that was highly possible. But my clock said that it was only eleven in the morning. So whose alarm was going off, then? Slowly, I forced myself to roll over in the bed, only to see a toned back and a head full of dark curls.
I froze in horror. Was I naked? I peeked under the comforter to see that I was, in fact, naked.
The alarm was still going off, the theme song to Bojack Horseman on repeat. It was loud, so I wasn't sure how Kit was still managing to sleep through the damned thing. Pulling the blankets up to my chin, I reached over and nudged Kit's shoulder. He moved as if to shrug me off, groaning once.
"Kit," I said, nudging him again. Nothing. "Kit!" I nudged him harder, causing him to roll off the bed and onto the floor with a thud!
"Sorry!" I exclaimed, peeking over the edge of the bed. Kit was laying on the floor, buck-naked, his phone in his hand as he tried to shut off his alarm. I was still staring at him when he looked up at me, attempting to cover himself. I felt my face heat in embarrassment. What was with me? We'd clearly had sex, so why was I being such a prude about it?
A minute later, Kit sat up and looked at me from his spot on the floor. "My mates already left," he said. "I'm meant to meet them at Josh's mum's house."
"Wanna get breakfast?"
I couldn't help the smile that sprang to my face. Did people usually get breakfast with their one night stands? "Yeah," I replied. "I'm gonna shower first."
"Can I use your shower also?"
"You go first. I'll make some coffee while you're in there," I offered.
Kit and I walked down the street in awkward silence. I wasn't really sure what one said the morning after a one night stand. It didn't appear that Kit did, either. Which was a good thing, right? If he wasn't sure what to say then maybe he didn't do this often. Not that it really mattered. I knew that Kit and I would not become anything more than what we were in that moment: old school mates who'd slept together once. But it was nice to think about anyway.
We stopped outside a cafe and Kit moved to enter. I grabbed his arm. "Not this one," I said urgently.
Kit's brows knit together in confusion. "Why not? Bad food?" he asked.
I shook my head, my eyes flickering through the window into the cafe. "Ex-boyfriend."
Pursing his lips, Kit nodded and we continued on, choosing a cafe further down the street. There were tons in New York and they all looked nearly identical. We took a seat in the back, away from the window and the busy streets. We both ordered cinnamon buns and more coffee, sitting in the same awkward silence we'd shared on the walk over.
Until Kit broke the silence.
"So what's up with you and your ex, if you don't mind me asking?" Kit said, his brown eyes meeting mine.
My heart started hammering in my chest. I didn't like talking about Salem. He had been a dark point in my life, when I was depressed and looking for any kind of distraction life could offer. That distraction had come in the form of a bad boy with a nice car and a pocketful of drugs. I hadn't allowed myself to spiral long, just for a week or two, but it was enough. The hardest thing I ever did was cocaine, but that wasn't even the escape. Salem was the escape, with his sweet words and his impossible promises. He was good, until he wasn't.
"Uhm," I said nervously. "We just...I..."
"We don't have to talk about it," Kit said.
"Thank you," I sighed.
After the food came, the conversation seemed to flow more easily. I'm not sure why, but I felt comfortable with Kit. I hoped that we would remain friends, though it seemed unlikely since he was leaving after breakfast.
We finished eating and walked outside, standing there as awkwardly as we did anything else.
"Well, I should go meet up with the guys," Kit said, rubbing the back of his neck.
"It was nice to see you―"
"Can I kiss you?" Kit asked me suddenly. "I'm sorry," he added with a shake of his head. "That's crazy―"
Kit looked down at me, desire in his eyes. He leaned down and paused, a breath away from my lips. Standing on my toes, I closed the distance between us. A second later, Kit deepened the kiss, puling me to him, our chests touching, my arms snaking around his neck, my hands in his hair. This might very well be the last time we even spoke, so I was going to make the most of this kiss.
When we separated, both our faces were red, both of us out of breath. "See you," Kit said with a grin.
"Yeah. See you."
I hadn't thought he was serious, but every time he came to town, which was at least once a month, sometimes more, he would visit me. We would go out to dinner and hook up. Sometimes we would just lay on the sofa, watching movies until we fell asleep. We weren't a real couple, but I believed we were going to be soon.
Until the next time I saw Kit. It was at my sister's birthday party. She introduced him as her new boyfriend. He and I pretended we'd never met, pretended we had no idea who one another were. But everything comes full circle. We got drunk that night and hooked up just like the first time we'd truly met, back in New York.
Unfortunately, we just couldn't stay away from one another...
My father and brother ran off after Elena. Kit tried to follow, but my father angrily told him to stay back. The rest of the people at the funeral - family and friends alike - were all glaring at Kit and I. There was no way I could blame them. We were horrible people. We had done a horrible thing. And maybe it wouldn't be so bad if we'd only done it once. But we'd done it over and over, digging the knife in my sister's back every time we allowed ourselves to feel anything for each other.
I slowly got to my feet, my knees trembling beneath me. Kit reached for me, but I swatted his hand away. He and I had done enough damage today. I was drained emotionally and physically, and I just wanted to go home. To my home. Unfortunately, I would have to go back to my father's house and face the music that I had been avoiding for so long. While I was dreading it, I was also kind of relieved. My family was falling apart because of me, but at least this secret was out. There was a huge weight that felt lifted from my shoulders. I wondered if Kit felt it, too. I wasn't about to ask.
Kit followed me to the car, not trying again to touch me. I didn't blame him for wanting to leave, either. Why would he want to stay here with my family? They all surely hated him now. They definitely had to hate me as well. I let him drive us back to my father's house, where we sat in the car in silence for what felt like forever.
It was me who spoke first. My voice was raspy from crying and screaming, which I now realized made me look insane. That, on top of what had just been revealed about Kit and I, had to make me seem like I'd finally gone and lost my mind. Nothing to do about it now, I supposed. It wasn't like I had much to do with that part of my family, anyway. They only came around for weddings and funerals.
"Where do we go from here?" I asked Kit.
Kit's hands were still on the steering wheel, his thumbs tapping it anxiously, his gaze straight ahead. The rain had stopped for the moment, the sun barely peeking through the heavy gray clouds. I wondered if Dad and Oliver had found Elena.
"I don't know," Kit replied quietly. "Maybe we should wait and ask that question after we've faced everyone."
I nodded. He was right, of course. But what was I supposed to do in the meantime? My stomach was in knots about all that had just happened - my mother's funeral, my sister finding out what kind of person I really was, me possibly losing my family and Kit in one fell swoop. There was no meaningless task that could distract me from all these thoughts that were whirling around in my skull, all these bumblebees buzzing around in my stomach, stinging me over and over again.
Luckily, or maybe unluckily, my family pulled into the driveway before I even had the chance to get out of the car. Kit didn't move, but I opened the door. I had to know if they'd found Elena. A wave of relief washed over me when I saw her slowly getting out of my dad's car. Oliver and Dad were glaring at me, then at Kit, switching back and forth between us, sharing their anger with us both. I was fairly certain that Oliver and Dad both wanted to drag Kit from his car and beat his arse, but they were holding back.
Elena brought her eyes up to meet mine. I didn't move as she walked over to me and slapped me across the face, hard. I felt the sting in my cheek, my eyes watering. I didn't retaliate. I deserved it. But when Elena brought her hand up to slap me again, a hand caught her wrist. I looked over to see Kit standing beside me. Oliver and Dad both stalked over to us; Oliver shoved Kit away from Elena, making Kit stumble backwards.
"Don't you fucking touch her," Oliver said. "After what you've done, don't you ever lay a hand on my baby sister again." Oliver pushed Kit again, but Kit didn't react. "D'you hear me, you bastard?"
"Oli!" I shouted. "Stop."
Oliver turned on me. "And you - what kind of fucked up person screws her sister's fiance?" he asked me. "What would mum think of you? What would she think if she knew that you were a slut?"
I felt tears spring to my eyes. Oliver had never spoken to me like this before and I couldn't believe I was hearing him right. A slut? Is that what he thought of me? And I coudn't tell them that Mum knew about all of it. It wouldn't be right to make them angry with her, today of all days.
Kit came back over and got between Oliver and I. He had to know that he was only going to make things worse, but I didn't stop him. My heart hurt; I wiped away the tears that had began streaming down my already-red cheeks. "Oliver, she's your sister, too," Kit said. "She's not a slut."
"Why are you taking up for her?" Elena asked. I turned to face her, seeing that our father was consoling her in a way that he had never done for me. Another metaphorical slap to the face. "You're my fiance, Kit. She's my sister. I'm supposed to be able to trust you two more than anyone else in the world."
"I'm sorry," Kit told Elena. "It started before I met you, before I knew that you were sisters. I fell in love with her and I didn't know how to handle it. We didn't want to hurt you."
Elena sniffled, but her face was contorted in anger. "But you did it anyway." She shoved past us both to go into the house. "I never want to see either of you again."
"I think you should both get your things and go," Dad said to Kit and I.
"Dad..." I started, but he held up a hand, cutting me off.
"Get your things and go."
This update was specifically for Emilia Clarke's birthday (my khaleesi) and for @StarkShewolf
I packed my things and left the house. My heart hurt in more ways than one. It hurt for my mother, it hurt for my sister, and it hurt for myself, though that was hardly fair. I didn't deserve sympathy. I was hardly a victim here. Which is probably why my karma was going to force me to ride with Kit, as my car still wouldn't start. I sighed heavily and slammed my hands down on the steering wheel in anger, over and over, until I heard my door open.
I knew who it was without even having to look. Couldn't I just go home and forget Kit and try to pretend all of this had never happened? Couldn't it all just be a bad dream?
As much as I wanted to believe that I would soon wake up and find that my mother was still alive and that I hadn't been sleeping with my sister's fiance, I knew that was absurd. So with another resounding sigh, I grabbed my bag and got out of the car, following Kit to his. I wondered if my family was watching my leave with the man who had just helped me destroy them all.
The ride was silent all the way into town, the radio playing nothing but static. The sky was still a dark gray, the clouds trying desperately to break and reveal the sun that was hiding behind them. I cursed the sun in that moment, hiding behind the clouds. All I wanted was to hide away from the world, just like the sun. To be away from my judging family and their hate-filled eyes. To be away from Kit and my feelings for him. I just wanted to get away.
The music (static) shut off and I heard Kit breathe out through his nose. I glanced over to see his grip on the steering wheel so tight that his knuckles were white. His eyes were on the road in front of him, but I sensed that he had something to say.
"Where do you want me to let you off?" Kit asked me. Apparently, we weren't going to talk about this. That was fine by me.
I shrugged. "The Royal National," I told him. Staying in a hotel that night seemed to be my only option. It was getting later in the evening and I just wasn't in the mood to board a plane right then.
Neither Kit nor I said a word the rest of the ride. When we pulled up to the Royal National, I silently grabbed my bag and moved to get out of the car. Kit's hand on my wrist stopped me. He sat there for a bit, staring back at me, this pained expression on his face. I knew there was still something he wanted to say, but all he said was, "Goodnight," and released me, his eyes once again staring out the windshield.
My room wasn't big. A bed, a small bathroom, a minibar. It wasn't much, but it was far better than being back at my father's house and having to hear how much they all hated me. It was far better than being stuck with Kit, who only seemed to know how to make me uncomfortable. I just wished he would have said whatever it is he wanted to say. Everything was supposed to be out in the open. It had always been that way with Kit and I, but now that we had come clean to the family, Kit apparently thought it was wise to suddenly not talk to me.
I dropped my bag on the chair in the corner, plugged in my cell phone to charge, and got all the tiny liquor bottles from the minibar. I wasn't sure if it was enough to get me drunk, but at least it would make me feel a bit of something.
Something was buzzing. Loudly. I sat up slowly, the room spinning slightly. Okay, so maybe I couldn't hold my alcohol as well I'd thought, because those small bottles had clearly had some kind of effect on me. The buzzing had started again and I looked around the dark room to see my phone vibrating on the bedside table. Through groggy eyes, I looked at the phone to see that it was Elena calling.
I considered ignoring her, but I owed her. I owed more than just answering her call.
"Hello?" I answered quietly.
"Where are you?" Elena asked me, sounding urgent. "Why haven't you answered your phone? I've been calling you."
I checked the clock. It was nearly two in the morning. "El, do you know what time it is?"
"Kit was in an accident. He's at the University College Hospital. I just thought his lover would like to know." Click.
My heart fell from chest, straight to my feet. An accident? I barely registered the comment Elena had made about me being Kit's lover. My mind was overcome with the fact that Kit was hurt, that he was in the hospital. I grabbed my wallet and phone and ran from the room, taking the stairs two at a time, rather than the elevator. When I got downstairs, I hailed a cab as quickly as I could and told them to hurry to the hospital.
I knew that I wouldn't be allowed back to see Kit―I wasn't an idiot. I wasn't his fiancee. I wasn't even sure Elena was still his fiancee, but she would be allowed to see him. That fact hurt me, though I knew that wasn't fair. Should I even be going to the hospital at all? After all, I was the other woman.
When I reached the hospital after what felt like forever, I stood just outside the door. A few minutes later, Elena passed by me. "Are you coming or what?" she asked me. It wasn't necessarily an invitation, but I took it. My stomach was in knots again, just at the sight of my family―Oliver and Dad were with Elena―but I would have to suck it up. Kit was more important.
As a kid, I had always hated hospitals. They stank of anti-septic with an undercurrent of death. Of course, as a kid, I hadn't known hospitals were places people came to die. It was where they came to get better. Even now, for a lot of people, that was still true. But anyone I'd ever known in a hospital had died. My grandma, my uncle Sammy, my mother.
I hadn't been here when my mum was in the hospital, but I was here for Kit. I just hoped he didn't leave the same way everyone else had.
My family sat away from me, in a group, all around Elena, who was in tears. I was sat on the other side of the waiting area, my hands in the pocket of my jacket, my legs freezing. I hadn't ever changed out of the dress I'd worn to my mother's funeral, or the heels. My sneakers were back at my dad's house. My leg was moving up and down, my eyes focused far away, as I tried not to cry. Here I was again, being Strong Emilia, even though my family hated me and I had no reason to be strong anymore. I had nothing. The only thing I still had, even a little bit, was in some hospital room, being operated on. And if his luck was anything like the rest of my family's, he wasn't coming out alive.
Finally, the doctor came out. He asked for Kit's family. I knew that Kit's only family lived in America these days, so they wouldn't be here, not this soon. But his fiancee was, along with her family, along with me. We all stood and approached the doctor, listening intently.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm only allowed to speak with the patient's fiancee."
With my heart feeling heavier than before, I went back to my seat. Dad and Oliver did the same, neither of them looking at me. I tried to hear what the doctor was saying to Elena, but I couldn't, so I just watched her and gauged her reaction. She seemed relatively calm, though her hands were fidgeting with the zipper of her jacket. The doctor patted Elena on the shoulder and walked away.
I watched as Elena went over and talked to our father and brother. They both wore solemn expressions and started talking amongst each other. Elena glanced up and over at me. She silently cursed herself and rolled her eyes (probably at herself), slowly, awkwardly, walking over to where I was seated.
"He's all right," Elena said quietly. "They had to do emergency surgery to stop the internal bleeding from the impact of the car, but he's going to be fine. The doctor said he should be awake in a few hours, but that we can't see him until morning."
I hadn't realized I was holding my breath until I wasn't anymore. Gasping for air, I felt the tears finally come. All the stress of the day―all the stress of the past couple years―was finally catching up to me. The secrets and Mum's sickness. I had barely allowed myself to have a reaction all this time, but today had been too much. Burying my mother, losing my family, nearly losing the only man I had ever loved...it was too much.
Elena knelt in front of me, her hand on my shoulder. "Emilia," she said firmly. "Emilia, breathe."
Her words seemed to knock the life back into me and I found my breath. "Thank you for telling me," I said quietly.
Elena straightened. "This doesn't mean I forgive you. I don't know if I can. But I do love you, you're my sister." Elena winced, clearly thinking the word 'sister' held no meaning in my eyes, after what I had done. "I'm done with you, Em. I can't do it. So I'm done."
I watched Elena rejoin our dad and brother. There was no way I could sit there and watch them be a family, not when I'd so obviously lost them all. I couldn't leave the hospital, either. Kit wouldn't leave if our roles were reversed. So I just wandered down to the cafeteria, purchasing some tasteless food and even more dreadful coffee from the vending machines. Taking a seat at a table in the back, I called my mum's phone, just needing to hear her voice.
"Hi, you've reached Annie. I can't come to the phone right now, so...leave a message? Is that what you're meant to say on these things? Oh, how embar―"
The voicemail ended with a beep, but I just sat there, leaving a blank message on my dead mother's phone. When the call hung automatically, I immediately redialed, listening again to my mother's voice. This time, I was ready to speak.
"Mum," I said, my voice barely above a whisper. "I miss you. I―How could you leave me like this? I've made such a mess of things and all I want is my mum. All I want is for you to just tell me that everything is going to be all right. But you're gone. You're gone and I'm left here to pick up all these pieces that I'm not even sure fit together anymore. You were our glue, Mum. How will we ever be one piece without you?" I swallowed, unable to hold back my utter agony at having lost everything. My cry came out as a choked whimper at first, but quickly evolved into a loud sob. "What am I supposed to do? I don't know―I don't know what to do. Mum―"
The call cut off and I didn't bother to call back again. People were beginning to stare as I cried noisily, but I didn't give a damn. I was beyond caring at this point. I rest my head on my arms and continued crying, not caring who heard or what they said about me. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore. A world without Annie Clarke wasn't a world worth living in. Especially when the people closest to me wanted nothing to do with me. What was the point?
I thought of Kit. And then I thought of easily he'd brushed me off the night before when he'd dropped me at the hotel. Was he done with me, too? It seemed that way. So who cared what happened to Emilia Clarke?
The sun had been up for about three hours. My family was in the waiting lobby. None of them had said a word to me since we'd found out about Kit's condition. I'd left the cafeteria after my sobbing session, opting for the roof. There had been a couple people up there when I'd first arrived, but now it was slowly getting a bit more crowded. There was a slight morning chill in the air, but the sky was clear.
I had been on the roof for hours. In the short periods of alone time I'd had, I had allowed myself to get lost in my dark thoughts again. Once, I'd climbed up on the ledge of the building, staring down the several stories to the nearly vacant street below. It would have been easy to step over the edge, to let it all go and give up. It would have been easy to join my mother.
Yet, here I was.
Kit had taught me back in New York that the easy thing wasn't always the best thing. And damn him, he'd saved my life. Had it not been for that thought in the back of my mind the entire time I stood on that ledge, I would have given in to my demons. I would have stepped over the edge and I wouldn't have cared. I wouldn't have cared what it did to my sister or my brother or even my father. It wouldn't have mattered in the slightest. They had made it quite clear that they were done with me. In the end, it was Kit who brought me back, who made me climb off the ledge. I'd cursed him for that. I had had a way out and the bastard hadn't let me have it.
My cell rang. I was surprised it still had any battery power left after all this time. I answered it quietly. "Hello?"
Elena was on the other end. "Kit is awake," she said. I heard her take a breath and release it. "He's asking for you."
I wasn't sure what to say. Luckily, I didn't have to say anything. Elena hung up without giving me a chance to reply. With a sigh, I tucked my phone into my jacket pocket and headed for the stairs. I had no idea what I was going to say to Kit or what he was going to say to me. Did I tell him that I was glad he was alive? That I hated him for keeping me alive? I had no idea.
When I finally reached his room, I stood outside the door for a moment, collecting myself. We hadn't exactly departed on the best of terms. Not because we'd done anything to one another, but because we had both, together, destroyed my sister. Broken up my family. Which brought me to another question: did Kit and I even deserve happiness?
Kit was the only one in the room when I finally had the guts to enter. He was sitting up in bed, pale, his face scraped up. He looked like Hell, but at least he was alive. I slowly walked over and took a seat in the uncomfortable chair beside the bed. Kit watched me the entire time, not saying a word. Maybe he was just as nervous as me. I hoped not. One of us had to speak and I didn't think it could be me.
"You look like shit," Kit said, a smile playing on the edges of his lips.
"You're one to talk," I replied.
Kit laughed, then winced, his hand going to his abdomen. "You got me there. Have you talked to them about anything?"
I knew he meant my family. Had I talked to them about he and I? Of course I hadn't. What was I meant to say? Sorry I screwed your fiance, but would you mind if we got together now that the truth is out? Ridiculous.
"I'll take your silence as a no," Kit said. "I talked to Elena." I leaned forward, unable to help myself. This was kind of the moment of truth. "I told her about our past, everything. I apologized. I apologized over and over." Kit's eyes landed on mine. "What we did was fucked up," he said, as if I didn't know. "But I think Elena is going to be okay."
"She won't forgive me for this," I told him, sitting back in my chair.
Kit shrugged. "She seemed open to it. It's just going to take her time, Em. We totally screwed her over."
"I know that, of course I know that. It's not like I'm just losing Elena here. I'm losing my brother and my dad. I just buried my mum. I don't even know where all this leaves you and me."
Kit held his hand out to me. I took it and let him pull me closer, so that I was standing over him. He put our clasped hands to his chest, to his heart. "I love you," he told me firmly. "That's where it leaves us. I'm so sorry to Elena. I can't ever make it up to her. But you're the one I want, Emilia. It's you. It's always been you. I was just too damn stupid to see it."
My heart swelled, even through the pain. Hearing Kit speak those words was all I'd ever wanted for so long, but I knew how this hurt Elena. And that was the last thing I'd ever wanted to do. I brought the back of Kit's hand up to my lips and kissed it lightly.
"I need to talk to Elena first," I said.
I found my sister in the cafeteria with our brother and father. I'm not sure why, but talking to Kit had made me feel...better. Hearing him say that he loved me and wanted to be with me had taken a weight off of me. But there was still another thing weighing on my mind, on my heart. I couldn't lose my sister. I couldn't let all this ruin the relationship I had with my family. I wasn't stupid, I knew that it was going to take time for her to forgive me, and for things be even close to normal. But if Elena could tell me that she was even going to work on forgiving me for what I'd done, I would take it.
Elena saw me and told Oliver and Dad to go on without her. She looked tired, but still as beautiful as ever. "Can we talk?" I asked her. She nodded and we took a seat.
"I want to say that I am so sorry, Elena," I said. "I am so sorry for everything. If I could take it back and start over, I would. I know I can't. I can't change any of this and I'm sorry for that, too. You're my sister and I'm supposed to protect you from people like me. I've been a shit sister and a shit friend." I took a deep breath. Here was the hard part. "But I'm in love with Kit." Elena closed her eyes and sighed. She'd known it was coming. "I can't not love him, as much as I wish that were possible. It's so wrong of me to even ask anything of you, but I'm not going to be with Kit unless you give me permission. But before that, I want to know that you'll be able to forgive me for all of this."
Elena sat there for a moment, just staring at me as if she didn't know me. When she finally spoke, I felt my heart drop in anxiety, in anticipation. I wanted my sister more than I wanted Kit. She was more important. But I did love Kit and I didn't know what I would do if I lost him now.
"You and Kit have hurt me so deeply, Emilia," Elena said quietly. "I don't understand how you both could keep it up for so long. How it was so easy for you both to lie to my face day after day. I guess that explains why you didn't talk to me for so long." I looked away in shame. She was right. "But I can see that you do love each other, as much as it kills me. It hurts. So bad." Elena's voice cracked, but she continued. "Be with him. Be happy with him. You deserve it, in some sense."
I swallowed and met Elena's eyes. "What about you?" I asked. "Can you ever forgive me? Can you forgive us?"
Elena shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe. But it's going to take time. I don't want to see either of you for a while. I just need to be away. And then maybe I'll figure out a way to move past it."
Elena stood to walk away. "Elena?" I said. "Thank you." I watched my sister sigh and leave me behind.
Kit reached over and turned the radio up. The warm California wind was blowing through my hair, the road winding in front of us, the ocean on one side, mountains on the other. It had been nearly four months since Kit had had his accident. Things were good now. He was healthy and we were happy. We were together, just like how we'd wanted to be all this time.
My father and brother had finally come around and forgiven me. They were even working on forgiving Kit. Elena, however, was still having a tough time with it. She and I had only talked once since the hospital and she had told me that she was getting right with God and working on forgiving Kit and I. She had no idea how proud of her I was, even if she hadn't yet found a way to put everything behind her. I told her to take her time, that I would be here when she was ready.
Now, Kit and I were in California, on our way to our new house in California. My dream was to become an actress and he had insisted that I finally get to making that dream come true. I looked over at him and he grinned at me, his dark curls a mess in the wind.
Life wasn't perfect, by any means. There were always going to be problems or obstacles. But the trick to life was finding something that made you happy, finding the things that made you want to overcome the troubles so you could see the good again. For me, Kit was that thing. He'd quite literally saved my life, and he made me happy every single day. I had hope that my sister would allow me in her life again, that my father and brother would come around to Kit. That my mother was looking down on me from Heaven or wherever, and that she was still proud of me.
Things weren't perfect. But they were well on their way.