My father let me stay home for a week. After a heated discussion, he essentially left me no other options. "It'll be good for your mental health," was his most used excuse. For the days following my suicide attempt, I spent the vast majority of the time sitting on the couch in pjs, eating ice cream straight from the tub, and watching all the sappy love stories I could find on cable.
Unlike my friends, who might have called a total of six or seven times, Wynter refused to let me be. I knew she was scared. Scared if she let me alone I might slit open the stitches. Scared I might really try next time.
When she got home from school, my sister plopped down right across my lap, looking up at me with a smile. I knew how badly she wanted to make it sincere. "I like the black," she said, taking her fingers and brushing them through my newly dyed hair.
I only shrugged. "I had to do something today," I replied. "I'm losing my mind in this house."
Wynter hoisted herself up into a sitting position, instead dropping her head onto my shoulder. "You could've...cleaned my room," she suggested. I let out a hollow laugh, moving so that I could meet her gaze.
"I wish I understood this," I admitted softly. "I wish I knew what to do."
Wynter frowned slightly. "What do you mean?"
I turned my head, looking absently out the window on the wall parallel. "Never mind," I muttered at last. The last thing I needed was Wynter worrying about me all hours of the day. I had a feeling she already did.
"Fuck it," I said at last. "Fuck it. I need to see Xander." Rising to my feet, I left my sister there on the couch with only her confusion.
I wasn’t certain he was home, and I didn’t particularly care. I pounded on the door until it opened, revealing Xander's younger brother, Wyatt. "Reina," he greeted with a lopsided smile. He had just enough of Xander in his expression to make my heart cringe. "He's up in his room."
My heart elated as I moved past him and to the stairs. I took them two at a time, rushing past photographs lining the halls, memories of brighter days. Then I turned sharply into his room.
Xander jumped at the sound of the door as it slammed into the frame. For what seemed like ages, I only stood there, staring at him and breathing hard. He rose to his feet slowly, never taking those cursed blue eyes from my face.
"Hi," he said softly after the silence had grown too thick with tension. "The black looks really good."
I completely disregarded the compliment. Xander was standing in front of his bed and it was taking all I had in me to stay where I was.
"Everyone really misses you at school" he told me.
"Skip the bullshit," I snapped. My emotions were rising to the surface, all my hate and love and lust and anger. How much I wanted to hold him and how much I wanted to push him away. How much I needed him and how much I hated myself for it.
Xander kept his own expression perfectly composed "What do you want, Reina?"
As I fought back tears, I tried to convince myself things hadn’t changed between us. But I knew we both knew it had. The gossamer web that was my life was being ripped apart even as I clutched at that pieces. "Was it ever real?" I asked at last. "Did you ever love me?"
Xander crossed the room in easy, measured steps, and with each one his breathing grew a little shorter. "Fuck, Reina," he said, but in a gentle way. "I loved you. I still love you. But we're both so shattered now."
"Then let's put ourselves back together," I pleaded, throwing away any dignity I hadn’t lost by coming here in the first place. "Xander, I cant go on unless I have you with me."
Xander reached out to take one of my hands in his own, caressing the back with his thumb. "Reina, you don’t need me. I cant promise you much, but I can assure you of that. Yes, I love you. You're my best friend. You're my savior. You are all that I see. But I'll break you down."
The tears had broken free and were spilling down my face. With a dramatic sob I collapsed into his chest, clutching to him because he was all that I had to hold on to.
"Come on," he whispered, stroking my hair. "Please don’t cry."
I stayed like that until I was quite certain I'd regained self control. Then I lifted my head to meet his gaze once more. "Kiss me," I whispered. "Tell me you love me."
Xander moved his hands to cup my face, at last lowering his own to mine. Our lips brushed ever so slightly, a tantalizing taste of disaster. I fisted a hand in his black hair and parted my lips against his. Fr a few fleeting moments, we were perfectly in sync. And there was nothing between us. Nothing to keep us apart.
When at last we broke the kiss, when the last strands of the magic came crashing down around us, and all I could do was stare up at him in all his flawless ways, Xander leaned forward and told me he loved me.
I knew it was over, then. I knew that and I would never be more, or even as close as we had been. So I did what I had to. I turned and walked away. I held my breath and my tears. When I reached the door, the sadistic part of me made me turn around. Xander was still there, watching me in that inquisitive way of his.
"Can you promise me something?" I asked softly, leaning against the doorframe. Xander's only response was a nod. "Don’t ever forget," I said. "Don’t let me slip away."
Xander was across the room in seconds, pulling me to his chest in a tight hug. "I'll never let you go," he replied, taking a fistful of my black hair in his hand. "Hear me? I'll hold you forever."
I nodded against his chest, but pulled back because the pain was just too much. "I'll be free soon," I murmured. "Like a butterfly. Butterflies are free."
Xander tilted my head up and kissed me again. "I'm sorry, Reina. I wish I could be whole enough for the both of us."
I tried to smile, but my face only fell. So I slid out of his arms and turned to leave for real. "One more thing," I said, this time without turning back. "If anything were to happen, promise you'll take care of Wynter."
I didn’t stick around for a response. I didn’t need to. I knew he'd never let me down. Besides, I didn’t think I could bear to look at his face one more time.