Every day, I went to James' grave; he was the only person left to talk to. But this time, this time was different. A familiar silhouette was bent over the grave, and my breath hitched. He was back. He was actually back. My mouth opened to speak his name when a blonde girl stepped from behind him, staring at me. "Freddie, where am I?" she asked, looking at him with furrowed brow. My mouth snapped shut, as he blocked me from her vision. He was protecting her.. like he used to do to me, all that time ago. It had been two years since he'd disappeared, and he looks exactly the same. They were talking, their hands waving as they talked, and a flash of gold made my stomach clench. They were married.
I turned to leave, and was stopped by the sound of his parents' voices. I made to leave, but something stopped me. I whirled around, to witness an argument between the four of them; his parents were demanding an explanation, while the girl, who I realised was called Cora from Freddie's reassurance, was demanding who I was, with much fouler language than her pretty face and delicate frame suggested. I hid behind a tree, and I listened as she proceeded to demand to know who I was, why he reacted so, and where she was. The insults towards me became stronger the longer he stalled, and I stifled a laugh. The laugh stopped as he began to explain me away, reduce me to "a girl he used to know." That was enough. I wrestled with my anger for a moment, breathing deeply, but as soon as "she's nobody, " appeared in the conversation, it was too late. I ducked from behind the tree and strode over to him. I stood, trying to see any trace of the boy I used to know, staring at his shocked face, his hand curled protectively around his wedding ring.
She placed a hand on my shoulder, trying to soothe me no doubt, but I shrugged it off. She swore and stepped forwards to pull his parents away from me. What enraged me most was his stare. Cold, like you would a stranger in the street. "Why?" I asked, stepping forward. " I get it, you're married, but why reduce me to nothing?" I could tell from his face I was provoking him, but I ignored it. " Come on, tell me." I said, spreading my hands. His eyes flashed. "You left me to rot, for your demonic sister to drag me away and you didn't care. I'm happy now, with Cora, with someone who loves me, and that's all there is to it. Maybe I reduce you because we weren't anything much. You used me, as a distraction, and later a scapegoat. Erin, I'm happy now, without you, and you're not. That's why you're here."
Later, I would look back at my reaction and wonder where it came from, all that hate in one surge. I shut my eyes, blocking his stare out, and exhaled once, deeply and slowly. And then I punched him hard in the face. From the back, I heard Cora gasp, but she didn't move to help him, sat on the floor cradling his nose. "You think I didn't care? How wrong you were. How bloody wrong you were. I loved you, the real you. Not this person, the person that leaves his family behind for a girl he's met. Your parents love you, Freddie. They ALWAYS loved you. No matter what I did, or didn't do, you left them behind. That's how I know you're not Freddie, not really, any more. Freddie would never leave his family behind. Freddie used to draw in secret, and care for everyone. I don't know who you are, but you're not the Freddie I used to know. That's why you're nursing a broken nose. Because you're not the boy I loved. You took his face, that's all. I wish you well with Cora, whoever you are now."
Agrona left me alone after that. I think she finally knew I had lost it for sure. The mad girl was no fun to play with. She thought she could use Freddie against me, that if I found him again that I would fall for him again, fight for him, but thanks to my display in the graveyard, she got the message loud and clear. He didn't want me, and I had given up on him ever coming back. The Freddie I had fallen in love with had been gone a very, very long time.