Charlie sinks to his knees, fighting back the tears burning behind his eyes. I’m a fool he kept repeating in his head.
Footsteps approaching him snap him out of his thoughts. He looks in the direction of the sound, eyes widening when he sees the last person he’d expected to see.
He stumbles to his feet, quickly walking towards the empty, abandoned crate on the sidewalk and sinking onto it.
“Lola...you’re still here?” Charlie questions weakly, avoiding her eyes.
Lola shrugs, crossing her arms over her chest.
“You can just keep walking, trust me...you don’t want any part of this.” Charlie sighs, gesturing weakly to himself.
Lola rolls her eyes, “You may be right. But it occurred to me not long after I left that the person who said those things to me in there... was not the Charlie I’ve come to know.” she explains.
“Maybe you just hadn’t seen the real me. Charlie Price...the epitome of a joke.” Charlie whispers, avoiding Lola’s eyes.
Lola lets out a soft laugh, “I have to hand it to you Charlie Price, you sure know how to wallow in your own self-pity.”
Charlie lets out a sigh, “Well don’t hand me nothing unless you want it destroyed.” Lola’s smile fades at those words, replaced with a sad look.
She slowly walks over to Charlie, gesturing to the spot next to him, “May I?”
Charlie hesitates for a moment, sliding over to allow Lola to sit beside him.
They sit in uncomfortable silence until Lola decides to speak up.
“Is that really what you think of me?” Lola asks, glancing over at Charlie. Finally, Charlie grew the courage to look up, meeting Lola’s eyes.
“What?” Charlie questions, although he was certain that he knew what she was referring to.
Lola lets out a sigh, looking down at her lap, “Do you really see me as daft? A joke? As someone who is just fooling themselves?”
Charlie flinches at hearing his own words, overcome with a strong sense of guilt. He shakes his head, running a stressed hand through his hair.
“GOD no, Lola...of course I don’t. That’s the opposite of how I see you.” Charlie admits. Lola lets out a sigh.
“That’s not how it seemed back there. I mean...it’s not like you’re the ONLY person who sees me that way. I just...thought that maybe you were the first person to truly see past all of this.” Lola explains quietly, gesturing to herself.
“But Lola...that’s NOT how I see you. I didn’t mean ANYTHING I said back there...except for me believing in you.” Charlie admits.
Lola remains silent, folding her hands in her lap.
Charlie slowly stands up, pacing back and fourth as he tries to collect his thoughts.
“Lola...you don’t even understand how terrible I feel for what I said to you. When you left, the factory no longer felt the same. There was a monumental gap where you belong, that nobody else could possibly fill.” Charlie confesses, turning to meet Lola’s eyes.
“Charlie, I-“ Lola begins to talk, but Charlie holds up a hand to stop her.
“Just please...let me get this out.” Charlie pleads. Lola nods, gesturing for him to continue.
Charlie takes a deep breath, “Lola...you came into my life when I was struggling to find out who I was...what I wanted to do with my life. You became my inspiration, my light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel, and helped me find my passion that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to discover on my own.” he continued, resuming his pacing.
Lola raises an eyebrow, heart starting to race.
“Forget Milan, the boots, all of it. You are so much more than that. I never meant to question your integrity as a man. If being a man means being brave enough to face the entire world, and still managing to stay true to you...then you’re the only man I’ve ever known. And the best one, at that.” Charlie confesses.
Lola’s eyes widen, “Charlie...”
“Leave it to me to finally find my passion, and use it to hurt those that I love. Someone that I love,” Charlie says, turning to sit back beside Lola.
Charlie lets out a shaky breath, “Lola...Simon, I’m so, terribly sorry. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.” he apologizes.
Lola glances over at Charlie, reaching over to rest her hand on top of his. Charlie looks up to meet Lola’s eyes, a glimmer of hope behind his.
“You continue to surprise me, Charlie Price. You’re a good man.” Lola says, in lieu of an acceptance of his apology.
“Well, I can’t possibly size up to you. But...you’ve taught me a lot.” Charlie admits, shrugging his shoulders.
Lola laughs softly, “Likewise.”
They sit in comfortable silence beside each other, Lola’s perfectly-manicured hand still resting on top of Charlie’s, neither making a movie to move it.
“So...Charlie, from Northampton...you love me, huh?” Lola questions, a smirk on her lips. Charlie’s eyes widen when he realizes what he said.
He had been planning to say that in the worst case-scenario situation, not to put it out in the open like he’d just done.
“Before you came along, Simon, I’d never been around anyone quite like you. You’re different, in a good way. I’m not sure how to explain what I’m feeling, but I’m certain that I love you, no matter what connotation that holds.” Charlie explains. Lola smiles, squeezing his hand reassuringly.
“Well...Charlie Price, I love you too. Even if you are occasionally a fool.” Lola laughs.
Charlie smiles softly, intertwining their hands together.
“Oh it’s not an occasion. I’m a fool most of the time. You weren’t the only person I hurt today...At this point, I could kiss my friendships, and Milan, goodbye.” Charlie sighs.
Lola lets out a gasp, “Charlie, look!” Charlie looks up, following Lola’s gaze to take in the lit-up appearance of the factory.
He jumps from his seat, offering Lola a hand to help her to her feet. They both enter the factory, taking in the busy environment.
Charlie gasps, immediately making his way over to Lauren.
“Lauren! Did you do this?” He questions. Lauren shakes her head.
“It wasn’t me, it was Don. Don did it.” She informs him.
Charlie raises an eyebrow, “Don? But why would Don...”
Lauren cuts him off, walking closer so he can whisper to him, “Lola challenged Don to accept someone for who they are, and he did exactly that. He accepted YOU for who you are.”
Charlie glances over at Lola, smiling.
Lauren gives Charlie a knowing look, “I guess you have a lot to thank Lola for.” she says. Charlie nods in agreement.
He goes to make his way over to Lola, when a hand on his shoulder stops him. He turns around to see Don, an envelope in his hand.
“Don...thank you.” Charlie says. Don smiles, holding up the envelope in his hand. He takes it into both hands, ripping it in half.
“Last weeks paychecks,” he explains, “Now...we have the money we need to get to Milan.” Charlie’s eyes widen, happy tears burning in his eyes. He offers his hand, shaking Don’s.
Don pulls his hand away, looking over at Lola.
He walks over to where Lola is standing, looking at the new collection of heels.
“Lola, I just wanted to say thank you. For showing me what it means to be a real man. I only hope I can be half the man that you are.” Don exclaims. Lola smiles, offering her hand. Don shakes his head, pulling her into a hug.
Lola laughs softly as Don walks away to return to his station.
Charlie walks over to Lola, a smile on his face.
“Lola...thank you for this, for everything that you’ve done. This wouldn’t be possible without you.” Charlie says gratefully. Lola walks closer to Charlie, smiling.
“Of course, Charlie. I would do it all over again for you. Now...we have a Milan debut to prepare for!” Lola exclaims, clapping her hands together and going to walk away.
“Lola wait!” Charlie calls out, jogging to catch up to her. Lola turns around, a confused look on her face.
Charlie grabs her hand, lifting it up and placing a kiss on it.