I felt guilty as hell. Ash avoided me like he would to the plague when he got closest to it. He maintaned his distance the moment we got off the coach, walking around the famous landmarks. He made sure that he stood at least a few feet away from me, enough to avoid accidentally brushing our shoulders or touching hands. He also was careful of what he said around me, keeping a minimal on his usual flirting and charming charisma that was part of his character. It made me feel horrible for what I'd done. It wasn't his fault, it never had been. The conflict really was deep within me.
The rest of the tourists were in awe as we walked around the city centre, splitting up into groups that wanted to visit the museams and art galleries. I, however, ended up sitting next to one of those wishing fountains. Whatever enthusiasm I'd had at the start of this trip had died down with the battle that seemed to be raging inside me. I wanted to tear my hair out, cry, just let my emotions free. I had no one to blame but myself for all that was happening now as I lived this new Natalie.
And so when Ash approached me, looking a little worried, I decided that I shouldn't be the cause of any negative things I made him feel. He deserved to know the truth. At least a little bit of it.
"Are you alright?" He asked, sitting down next to me after making sure we'd have enough space between us to remain comfortable.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, staring at the ground. "You don't deserve this, anything you're feeling for me. I guess I was playing both ways from the start; acting interested and hiding the real truth behind my own emotions."
I sighed, my voice shuddering slightly. It was one of the symptoms that I'd start to cry any second now. But I held it in a little longer as I continued to speak.
"I haven't been completely honest with you about myself. The bruise that you saw that night, it was the cause of an accident. But not like the one you might have guessed it to be."
I paused, looking at him once and noticed he had a patient expression on his face, waiting for me to go on. Taking this as a form of encouragement, I went on.
"I was in a past relationship with someone who was...abusing me." I winced at the words, memories flying through my head. "He directed most of his anger towards every blow he gave me, and that's how I ended up having many bruises on my body. Most of them wear off but the past will never. I've been trying to avoid it, but I guess being around men in general, since that experience is a little intimidating for me."
"So you're scared of me," he stated simply.
I nodded slowly, still not looking at him. "A little."
The silence that followed was torture. He didn't say anything as I waited for him to, wanting a reaction. And so I sat still, hoping that Ash wouldn't react as badly as I imagined him to.