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Relied on my Illusions

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Abby Mills kisses Henry Dunn when she is seven years old. She does it because instead of trying to squash the newt darting around the playground like the other boys, Henry picks the small reptile up and runs it to the woods.


She's nine when they kiss next. The cat she'd grown up with dies in his sleep, curled up behind the stairs. Henry visits and finds her crying over the tiny grave. He helps Abby lay roses over the fresh dirt and holds her hand as she says a prayer. When she tires, they sit on the back steps and her head nods toward his shoulder. He kisses her lightly when she whispers a last goodbye to her beloved pet.


She's only a week into dating Jimmy when Henry kisses her again. Feeling guilty about her positive reaction to the kiss – and this time it's with parted lips and some tongue – Abby slaps her best friend across the face, which just adds to her guilt. She doesn't speak with him, retreating inside the house. Two hours later she peeks out her window and finds that he's still sitting on the deck. Reluctantly she rejoins him, though she sits on the highest step and over a foot so that they won't touch. He doesn't apologize and neither does she.


The boat drifts away from the dock and Abby grips the rail tightly, staring at the mainland longingly. A warm hand falls on her shoulder and she jumps, even though she knows it's Henry. She smiles at her comfortingly and nudges an open beer into her hand. He thanks her for going back to the Island for him. She smiles crookedly and says that she wouldn't make the trip for anyone else. There's a strange, solemn expression that crosses his face then. She doesn't have time to question it, he leans in to kiss the corner of her mouth and then pulls away. Abby turns to watch him make his way to his bride-to-be.


She knows the Island brings pain, she just hadn't realized how much it could spread to others. Every member of the Wellington clan seems to choke on their secrets. Abby tries to turn a blind eye to as much of it as possible, as well as stay away from Trish's niece, Madison, who has a tendency to stare with a disturbingly blank expression. There are other things going on, more dramas than she cares to deal with, so she sticks with her friends as best she can. She knows when some problems bleeds over to bridal pair.

Although part of her recognizes it might not be wise for the single, female friend of the groom to seek him out alone, she's Henry's best friend and won't let him wander off alone and upset. She catches up to him, wraps her arm through his, and tugs him along the perimeter of the gardens. She used to like the woods, but now she's too tense to appreciate the scenery.

They walk together and Abby talks about chatting with Nikki Bolton. Eventually Henry tells her about the tangled web of infidelity among the Wellingtons and how Trish's ex is hanging around, and there's doubts he has while Trish is struggling to accept family betrayals. Abby bumps her hip against his and makes a joke about prime-time soaps having too much of an effect on rich families. It's lame, but Henry laughs. Abby grins and leans her head against his shoulder, forgetting for a moment the day and place. The skies are blue overhead and the air is so clean – this she has missed while in the city.

Henry stops abruptly and it takes a second for Abby to halt her momentum. She pulls away slightly to send him a questioning look. His hand is on her cheek instantly but he doesn't move closer, staring at her solemnly. She doesn't move and admits to herself that she doesn't want to. It feels like she could stay like this indefinitely.

When he kisses her it starts as gentle as their childhood exchanges. He waits until she opens her mouth to press forward, wrapping his arms around her and hungrily increasing the pressure. His tongue strokes the inside of her cheeks, her cleft, her tongue. His fingertips burn through her shirt and she wishes they could continue but knows they won't. She rides it out, enjoying the kiss and their contact for as long as possible. Eventually they draw apart, slowly.

Abby stares at their hands, fingers overlapping. She doesn't know what to say that won't sound trite or cruel or too eager. They're best friends. They're something more than best friends. She's known him for as far back as she can remember and he's always known how to read her; so she looks up and meets his gaze. They don't say anything – no apologies or excuses or thank-you's.

When they start walking again, only their arms brush from time to time. They don't speak as they complete the garden circuit. Only as they come close enough to hear company in the pool does Abby wonder if anyone saw.

Before they part, Abby smiles at Henry and brushes her hand against his arm. His response is another serious stare, some fathomless devotion in his gaze that shakes her. He catches her hand and squeezes it gently before turning to leave. She stares after him as he turns away.

Soon she'll wonder if there was anything she could have done to save him because even a week later when she finds herself with his blood on her hands, she knows that part of her still loves him.