Chapter 1 : Those Girls
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I remember looking down on those girls. The ones who swore they’d do anything for their lovers, no matter how badly they were used. Stupid girls! I laughed- in the way I used to laugh. Who would ever do that? Who could ever go on loving someone after they’d been betrayed so many times, in so many ways?
Victoire smiled when I said that and told me that I’d obviously never been in love. We were friends in those days.
I envy the careless fourteen-year-old who made that comment now, with her fearless judgements and her ruthless optimism. I made a good teenager: that characteristic blend of naivety and cynicism was always my style, and if someone told me I could go back I’d be there in heartbeat, revelling in the newfound sense of rebellion which came to me at that age. I miss that. Even more I miss the sense of freedom that belongs to fourteen-year-old girls. Fourteen-year-old girls like me could go anywhere, be anyone, try anything. There was nothing life could not offer us.
Probably if I’d been able to see myself now I would have laughed. But I’m being kind- I’m more likely to have cried.
Everybody we meet affects us. Most people you come across only give little nudges in one direction or the other; they are incapable of causing the great tectonic shifts that alter the course a life may take. But he is not like that. He is intoxicating. Teddy is seismic.
The teenager who scorned those pitiful girls would like to believe that there was a moment when she starting loving him. She would like to be able to look back and point out the second when Earth and sky shifted and he became something she needed, like you need water or air. Unfortunately for her, I rather think that there was never a time when I didn’t love him, in whatever way I was capable. As a child, I loved him as a hero- an older brother if you like. His were the racing feet I strove to keep up with, his were the clever hands that gathered acorn cups, seashells, lost toys... When I grew older we became friends, and I learned how to talk to him, laugh with him. We learned each other’s lives like musicians learn melodies; made jokes, told anecdotes. His eyes flashed hazel when he laughed, green when he was angry...
But that was a long time ago. After dark, I feel cold and lonely. I shuffle into my kitchenette and flick my wand at the kettle. It stutters, gasping water like a drowning man before beginning to boil. I hate it. I hate this flat; I hate these stifling, drawn-out August evenings. I hate that I can’t count the number of times I’ve forgiven him but I hate being on my own. The Floo powder is in a jar next to the coffee and the lid is off before I remember that we’re not speaking. Did I start it or did he? I can’t remember, just like I can’t remember what the fight was about in the first place. There are gaps now- long, dead gaps in which nothing seems to have changed except the brutal passing of time. There are days when I don’t get out of bed, when I lie with the lights off and my face pressed into my pillow and try to remember what it was like to be young and stupid and beautiful.
Fourteen-year-old Dominique laughs acerbically in the corners of my imagination. My God, she says, what is with you? I banish her with a glare, and wish that I could so the same to Teddy. My lovely shadow.
When we became lovers, it felt so simple that I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing; missed by chance to check myself before my long, slow fall into the here and now. He fell in love with that awkward, romantic nineteen-year-old and I fell in love with that dazzling, tempestuous man. His wit, his charm enthralled me. He understood the things I dreamed about, and he dreamed about things I had never imagined, painting worlds with the deft strokes of his fingertips. Those early days were a giddy, blissful haze of young love- I never suspected the mire of broken promises we would one day wade through, so caught up was I in blazing plains of now. I would have scorned the idea that I could have become one of those girls, those weak, insipid girls with their limp stares, and their painted nails.
I’ll leave her, I’ll leave Victoire, he used to say to me, in those breathless early days, It’s only you, Dominique. How could it be anyone else?
He still says it, sometimes.
And it’s because of him that I can’t meet Victoire’s eye these days- poor, kind Victoire who could never dream that her sister and her husband were anything more than friendly acquaintances. There have been times when I have to bite my tongue to keep from telling her the truth and times when I have seen them together and wanted to hurt her. The sight of his hand resting lightly on hers, their eyes meeting softly across a busy room, makes my throat constrict, my fingers tremble and my stomach turn uncomfortably. He is hers in a way he can never be mine.
Lovely Victoire. She deserves better than him and me- we both know it. Victoire fascinates us- so sweet, so honest and so certain that life is a beautiful place. I believed that too, once, but I forgot it.
I’m so tired of missing things. I miss Victoire, and her love, the way I felt when our eyes met and the way she used to hold me when I cried. I miss Teddy, that strange boy who became a strange man, whose naivety turned to cynicism with the passing of the years. Most of all I miss me. I miss me a lot.
On my own, I sip bitter coffee and think about him. I wonder if- wherever he’s gone- he’s thinking about me. I wonder if he feels as tired as I do. I wonder how long it will be until he comes back... in a way, my faith in him is unshakable. He always comes back.
And some days I know that it’s all just in my head. Some days I can laugh like a teenager at the wreck of a woman who bites her nails while she waits for his owls and who knows that the only thing as certain as her taking him back is his leaving again. Some days, the fire of my pride re-kindles, and I feel that old outrage, hot as hell, at the way he treats me, and I swear never to let him in again. Sometimes, I am convinced that it would be easy to tell him that it’s over.
For a moment, I try to imagine it: what would a world be like without Teddy? The thought is dizzying, intoxicating. Where couldn’t I go? What couldn’t I do? Like an inept mathematician, I try to subtract the sum of him from my life, to take away the warmth of his skin and the calluses on the tips of his fingers. I try to picture a world without his irregular appearances, without his mocking smile, or his sarcastic remarks.
The arithmetic is too difficult.
I jump, startled suddenly by a rhythmic rapping on the door. I know who it will be. Placing my coffee cup down, I get up and walk slowly to the door- my feet are soft, almost soundless on the rough carpet. His face his blurrily visible through the door, an impressionist view of damp, untidy hair and slanting features. Raising a hand, he knocks again. Is it my imagination or is there something pleading in his indistinct eyes? I hesitate, my hand halfway to the latch.
Is today the day when I leave the door closed? When I let him blunder off into his own future, leaving mine bleak and free? When I stop being one of those girls, and start being Dominique again? For better or for worse.
He disappears from sight suddenly, and a scrabbling sound near my feet alerts me to the piece of parchment being methodically pushed underneath the door. I bend down to retrieve it. It’s instinctive.
I love Teddy’s handwriting, loopy and bold, but the words that stand out clear on the scrap of parchment make me feel sick. They are words I have heard a thousand times before.
Cautiously, I read:
It’s only you, Dominique, I know that now.
Before continuing, I glance up at his sombre, hazy face. I don’t need to read the next line to know what it will say. We both know what it will always say. Really, it is the only question that matters.
The parchment says:
Will you let me in?
And I hesitate...
A/N. Hello guys! This is my entry to patronus_charm's Mumford&Sons challenge, where I had to write a story based on a quote by the amazing band! My quote was "Seal my heart and break my pride" from the song Dustbowl Dance, written by Marcus Mumford and performed the aforementioned band. I hope you enjoyed reading- despite all the angst! Reviews makes make me pull this face --> :D