“I love you.” He was asleep when she said it. They had fallen asleep together, on his couch, watching something stupid on Netflix.
“She reminds me of you,” Henry had said about the protagonist.
Ivy had scoffed, “Why, because she’s broken?”
“Because she’s stronger than she realizes.” He had taken her hands then, “Ivy, you’re not broken. Maybe a little lost … but we’re all lost, sometimes. And then somebody finds us, or we find ourselves. Or both.”
“I’m not the one who needs to be found,” Ivy reminded him, “We shouldn’t be wasting time watching some dumb movie. We should be focusing on finding my sister, on saving her.”
“And we will … but we’ve been working on this every night for weeks now, and you haven’t been sleeping-”
“How could you know that?”
“You’re not as mysterious as you like to think. Ivy, we will find her. We will save her. I promise. But you need to take care of you. Let me help.” In spite of herself, Ivy smiled, “What?”
“It’s just, it’s been a long time since anyone wanted to take care of me. I haven’t had … this, for a long time.”
“Well, you have me, for as long as you need. Now come on. There’s at least an hour left, and we haven’t even gotten to the good part yet.”
Ivy just shook her head, but she watched the movie with Henry. She let him comfort her. She let him feed her. And she felt safe enough to fall asleep beside him. Maybe this, more than anything else, was how she knew. She trusted him to take care of her. Maybe it was because he was a hero, Maybe it was because he was Henry. But as she watched him sleep, she could no longer deny what had been building in her since that day on the park bench. So she whispered a very dangerous truth, knowing he was too lost in dreams to hear. Maybe they were dreams of his true love. It was true that she loved him. It was also true that he loved Ella. That didn’t make her love him any less.
She brushed at the hair that fell in his face, and he made an adorable sort of snort.
Another truth flashed through her mind. He would die if the curse broke. She had all but killed the man she loved, doomed him, and if things were ever set right, they would be oh, so wrong. She had to save him, save his happy ending. It wouldn’t end well for her, she knew. She was the villain they would blame, and even if they let live, she’d still have to watch Henry with Ella and Lucy and know that it had never been her and never could be. He’d never take care of her again.
But these things were true.
He was dying. She had to save him.
He loved Ella. She loved him.
It was unchangeable.
So she would find a way. Maybe she would never get her happy ending, but if Henry lived, and Henry was happy, and Anastasia was safe, maybe that would be enough.