~ If You're Gone ~
by xenickz


The Disclaimer: This here's an uber piece. Ie, the story-and characters-are mine. Mine, mine, mine. Possessive? Me? Noooo÷
The Story: This is part one in what should be a trilogy. But hey,what do I know?*shrug* I just write this stuff. Btw, let's just say subtext is a given here.
The Author: Would love any constructive criticisms (that's read adoring fan-mails btw). Send 'em my way at xenickz@hotmail.com
Special thanks to : Frankie, Rocky, Left, Teresa and Joyce, without whom, this wouldn't be back up online. You guys are like the FBI of fiction :)

Part 2

"I'm sorry.
Why should I say I'm sorry?
If I hurt you,
You know you've hurt me too.
But you, get lost inside your tears
And there is nothing I can do
'Cause I get lost inside my fear
That I am nothing without you."

- I get lost
Eric Clapton

 

Chapter Two

I stepped out of the house, inhaling the crisp evening air. The sun was dwindling on the horizon as the day faded into the night, painting the sky with a myriad of colours but all I could really think about was Beth.

Suddenly the possibility of being alone again was frighteningly realistic and it scared the hell out of me.

I can't really pinpoint the exact moment when we drifted apart but it happened some time when Beth made partner in her law firm, a highly coveted position considering her age.

My God, I'd been so proud. I knew she'd wanted it more than anything.

She'd warned me from the beginning that it would mean countless hours of work: overtime, working weekends, she'd practically be living in the office.

I told her to go for it. That if that was her dream, then she should go out there and accomplish it, secure in the knowledge that I was behind her every step of the way.

I suppose I never really thought it through. I thought it would bring us closer together. I'd harbored this fantasy that it was something we could embark on together, a new chapter in our lives.

I saw myself surprising her in the office with a romantic dinner on a late Saturday evening.

I did not see her snapping at me, or telling me that she couldn't take the time out to eat with me.

I suppose I should have realised the amount of pressure she was under and tried to rationalise the situation, but she'd really hurt me.

It's not a very nice feeling when the love of your life doesn't seem to need you anymore.

She'd come home late all the time, exhausted and terse, wanting merely to tumble into bed.

We stopped talking, really talking, the way we used to.

Beth had always been my best friend. Even before we'd fallen in love, she'd been there for me every step of the way. I could talk to Beth like I couldn't with anyone else. She's the most amazing listener, she has this way of making you want to tell her your deepest thoughts and feelings.

And she made me laugh. We made each other laugh. Well, we used to anyway.

She has an incredible laugh, it just washes over you and you find yourself wanting to make her laugh as much as possible. I miss hearing that.

I guess I felt I wasn't just losing the woman I loved but my best friend as well.

I felt shut out and abandoned. It hurt thinking that I meant so little, that I was so easily replaceable, that she didn't seem miss me that way I did her.

I got tired of our constant fights. We would fight about her spending too much time in the office, about my expecting too much from her, about who's turn it was to buy the milk or do the laundry that week.

So I protected myself the only way I knew how.

I pulled away.

It was childish but I derived a certain sense of satisfaction from knowing that I could hurt her too, that I wasn't the only one vulnerable here.

She reacted by throwing herself in her work.

It's quite safe to say that things generally went downhill from there.

And it was somewhere around this time that I met Rachel.

I was at a pretty low period in my life at that point. I felt so lonely, sometimes more around Beth then when I was by myself.

I thought I was losing it really.

When I was alone, I wished I were with her. When I was with her, I could barely spend five minutes around her.

I began to resent Beth, to blame her for the way things were between us. I felt like I'd aged so much.

I couldn't talk to Beth about it and Beth didn't seem to give a damn one way or another.

I've always been a private person so spilling my guts to anyone else didn't quite seem like an option.

Well, not until Rachel anyway.

Rachel was an acquaintence at work, someone I knew well enough to wave to in the office but that was pretty much it.

After a paticularly bad fight with Beth, I'd arrived at work that day in a foul mood, snapping at anyone who was stupid enough to be in a five mile radius.

I was really just hurt and tired and frustrated. For some reason, Rach seemed to have sensed this. She sat down next to me at lunch, silently handed me two aspirin and a cup of coffee and then proceeded to tell me every dirty joke she knew.

Some of them were really bad, but eventually she got me to laugh, which she claimed was her greatest achievement ever.

Rach and I became really close.

We went for coffee and bad movies and basketball games. We'd talk for hours on the phone, late into the night. She loved my sense of humour, said I was fun to be with. I felt different when I was around her, I was different around her.

I began to spend most of my free time with her. What was the point in going back to an empty house anyway?

Beth became more and more aloof.

Sometimes we'd go days without even seeing each other, with her having left before I'd even woken up and me returning home when she was asleep.

The worst bit was that I liked it.

I liked being able to have a good time with Rachel and not have to argue with Beth over the fact that sometimes I did not want to spend every waking hour at her mother's.

The explosion came three months later.

I woke up one morning with the hangover from hell and was surprised to discover that Beth hadn't left for work yet.

So maybe asking her somewhat sarcastically who'd died wasn't been the best opening for a meaningful conversation but goddammit my head was spinning like what's-her-name in the Exorcist and that doesn't really put you in the best of moods.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and let's just say hell had nothing on Beth.

She blew her top, said she was sick of the way things were, that she was tired of the way I was "carrying on" with Rachel.

I lost my temper as well and said somethings I shouldn't have.

Like how I wouldn't need Rachel if she was around half the time. Or that at least I could talk to Rachel.

I made her cry.

God, I'd felt like a complete asshole.

I'd stood there and watched as her eyes grew red, hating myself for hurting her.

I'd promised that I'd never make her cry.

She locked herself in the bathroom and I spent half the night outside the door, pleading and apologising.

She finally came out two hours later and we had a long talk.

We both swore that we were going to make things work.

It was the first time in months that she fell asleep in my arms.

Things were all right for a little while.

I spent less time with Rachel because I knew Beth did not approve, which I felt bad about because I knew I'd hurt Rach's feelings. Even though she told me repeatedly that she understood, I know she didn't really.

But what could I do?

I loved Beth and I wasn't about to let her go. I would have given up everything else of importance in my life first.

Without Rach around, it wasn't long before I felt lonely again. Beth was busy all the time and although I didn't realise it at the time, deep down I was angry at her for making me choose between her and Rach who'd been nothing more than a friend to me and a good one at that. I've always been a fairly independent person and I didn't like the fact that Beth was choosing my friends for me. To say it was somewhat stifling was an understatement.

Eventually, things went back to the way they used to be.

I guess when I think about it, we'd been deceiving ourselves when we told ourselves that everything was going to be okay. Because everything wasn't okay. It hadn't been for a long time.

Chapter Three

I studied Beth out of the corner of my eye, watched as she frowned at her salad.

For some reason, the romantic evening at home was not quite going exactly to plan. For starters, she was paying more attention to her entr»e than to me.

I'd come back from my walk determined that I wasn't give up without a fight. Goddammit, she'd been in love with me once. I'd just have to get her to fall in love with me again.

Some flowers, dinner by candlelight, Diana Krall playing in the background. What could go wrong? I'd reasoned.

Apparently a lot.

She'd stopped short at the table, looking stunned.

"How nice," she'd smiled weakly.

Nice.

I wasn't aiming for nice, I'd wanted to say but there was something in her eyes, an emotion I couldn't identify.

I suppose if I were forced to put a name to it, I'd say it were claustrophobia.

I'd said nothing.

So there we were, her staring at her food like a child who'd been forced to eat her greens and me cutting up my chicken into perfect little bite size pieces.

She dropped her fork with a clatter.

I looked up questioningly.

"I can't go on like this".

I stared at her uncomprehendingly. "What does that mean exactly?"

"What do you think it means? I÷can't keep doing this. We can't keep doing this. Pretending that everything's all right when it's really not. We're living a lie".

"So that's what we are? A lie?" I asked dully, holding my breath.

She refused to meet my eyes.

I could feel myself getting angry. "So what was real then? Since you seem to have a handle on everything, why don't you break it down for me because I'm having a little bit of trouble with this. How much of us was a lie? What about all the time we've spent together? Was that a lie? When we held hands? When we kissed?" When you told me you loved me, I wanted to add but couldn't get the words pass the lump in my throat. "What about fucking forever? How much of it was real, Beth? How much of it meant anything anyway?"

She looked weary and for a moment I thought she wasn't going to reply. "I don't know," she whispered finally, more to herself than me. "I just don't know anymore."

The room fell silent, painfully silent except for the sound of our breathing. She looked tired and her eyes were suspiciously shiny. I've never seen her look so defeated, so beaten.

"All I know is that this isn't working. You're miserable. I'm miserable. This is ruining us."

"Apparently, there was never any us," I spat sarcastically.

"Look at us, Cole . Look at where we are. We've lost everything÷we don't even know how to be friends anymore. Why are we holding on like this? "

Because I still love you, I wanted to say but those weren't the words she'd wanted to hear.

She looked so sad and I realised that this had taken more out of her than I'd realised.

"Okay," I said. "If that's what you want."

She looked surprised, as though she hadn't expected me to give in so easily.

"Okay," she echoed.

Silence fell again before she stood up.

"Beth?"

She turned around. "Yes?"

Don't leave me. Please.

"Nothing."

She looked at me hard and our eyes locked. I could tell she didn't believe me but she didn't want to push the issue.

I looked away first, afraid I would lose my composure. I studied my plate intensely, refusing to meet her eyes.

I heard her sigh heavily, heard her footsteps as she made her way up the stairs, heard her shut the room door the sound echoing throughout the house. Only then did I allow myself to give in to the overwhelming need to break down, to bury my face in my hands, knowing that I'd just lost my world.

Continued In Part 3 (Conclusion)

That's part one folks. Send all fan-mails/cash cheques/chocolate to xenickz@hotmail.com


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