Burn Us Down

11: If I Could, I Would

Running the tips of his fingers through his hair, Gerard kept his eyes on Olivia’s empty pillow, the familiar knot in his stomach giving its customary flip as he recognised the start of another morning where she wasn’t curled up next to him. It’d been a couple of weeks since he had last woken up next to her, but still every time he opened his eyes and found the pillow empty felt like the first, reminding him over and over again what had happened between them. He hadn’t seen her for a few days, after Olivia had mentioned the possibility of beginning to cancel the wedding plans that they had made, Gerard hadn’t quite known what to say to her, and so he had stayed away, not wanting to make things worse.

He knew that there was some truth in what Olivia had said. Even if they did manage to figure things out between them, the chances were that their already chosen wedding date would come along too soon for it to be a realistic target, but that didn’t mean that the idea of cancelling their plans, plans that Olivia had been so excited to make, didn’t feel like a swift kick to the gut. They’d both had their doubts about the engagement. Olivia had thought that Gerard hadn’t really thought it through, and Gerard had argued that Olivia would have settled for any guy, just as long as she made it down the aisle, but one fight didn’t take away the memory that Gerard had of Olivia’s face when he asked, or the feeling that had bloomed in his stomach when she had said yes. All those memories made it hard for him to contemplate that their wedding date could pass, and Olivia wouldn’t be his wife.

Reaching his hand out, he gently caught a hair that Olivia had left on the pillow between the pads of his fingertips before he let out a quiet sigh, gently twining it around his fingers.

“You’re not up yet?”

Gerard turned over quickly, his wide eyes landing on Olivia who stood in the doorway, a small, sheepish, smile on her face. “Hi” she greeted softly.

Gerard blinked a couple of times before he waved a hand. “I…I didn’t hear the door” he stumbled out.

“I was quiet” Olivia replied “I mean, you’re normally up by now, but I didn’t…I didn’t know if that was still the case, so I erred on the side of caution. I just wanted to get a few more changes of clothes” she added, gently gesturing towards their wardrobe which stood across the room from where she was.

Gerard followed the gesture, staring sadly at the wardrobe for a moment, before he turned back to her, offering her a tired smile. “You could always just call” he quipped “I mean, I am pretty sure I could pack you a bag and drop it off at the front desk” he said, trying, and failing, to keep his voice bright and playful.

Olivia, who’d stopped in front of the wardrobe, closed her eyes for a second, hating the tone of his voice, before she gently shook her head, turning to offer him the best smile she could push up onto her face. “No offence, but I am pretty sure that your tastes and mine are very different” she joked feebly.

Gerard quirked a half-hearted smile, but didn’t play along, something which caused Olivia to turn back towards the wardrobe, silently perusing the clothes inside.

Gerard itched to stand up, to walk over to where she stood and just wrap his arms around her, but he stopped himself, instead fidgeting with the duvet in the silence. Twisting the material in his fingers, he watched as Olivia carefully folded her clothes into the bag at her feet, before he shook his head. “I miss you” he said quietly, so quietly that, for a moment, he wasn’t sure that he’d said it loud enough for Olivia to hear. It was only when she slowly turned around to look at him that he knew that she had.

“What?” Olivia said quietly.

“I…uh…I said I miss you” Gerard repeated quietly.

Olivia just blinked.

Gerard carefully stood up from the bed, stepping into the space in front of her. “Livy…”

“You think I like staying in a hotel?” Olivia’s voice was quiet, but still enough to stop him midsentence.

Gerard shook his head, his eyes fixed on the floor. “I know, Ok?” he muttered “I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to call me selfish. You’re going to point out that we’re only in this mess now because of me and my stupid behaviour, and I fucking know that, Ok? I know I messed up, Livy, but that doesn’t change the fact that without you here, I am going crazy” he added, his voice low and firm.

“Really?” Olivia replied “Because every time I’ve seen you since those pictures came out, you’ve just been so…so you” she added.

Gerard lifted his head, mirroring her eyes with his. “What does that mean?” he asked.

“You’re still making bad jokes” Olivia pointed out “You’re still showing up at my job, and tasting my food. I know you say that you’re sorry, and I know that you mean it, but there’s very little evidence that this is affecting you like it’s affecting me. You just keep trying to…”

“You don’t think this is affecting me?” Gerard cut in sharply “You don’t think that it killed me when I tried to kiss you, and you just…pulled away? I am trying to walk on eggshells for you, Livy. I am the one in the wrong, the one who messed this whole thing up, and if it’s feeling like it doesn’t hurt me as much as it hurts you, it’s because I don’t want you to think that I am trying to sway you into deciding to stay with me. But rest assured, this hurts, Olivia, it hurts me so damned much” he almost grunted the words.

Olivia’s eyes just searched his face.

“I don’t know how to be!” Gerard couldn’t quite stop himself from yelling “I don’t know what you want me to do here. I can’t take it back, I can’t make it hurt you less, because if I could, I would, but other than that, I don’t know what to do for the best. I tried giving you space, I tried just hoping for the best, and short of just dropping down onto my knees and begging you to forgive me, I don’t know how to fix this, and it more than hurts me, Livy. It’s excruciating” he insisted, clutching at the front of his t-shirt as if that would clearly express how much it hurt him.

Olivia shifted her feet, causing Gerard to take another step forwards, his fingertips hesitating ever so slightly before they gently settled on her jaw, keeping her eyes on his. “You saying that you wanted to cancel our wedding plans tore my heart out” he said slowly.

“You don’t think it was the same for me?” Olivia asked quietly, leaning into his touch “You think it’s what I want?” she added.

“I couldn’t blame you if it was” Gerard replied “But I just…I can’t fathom that day getting here and you and me not coming out of it as husband and wife” he added.

Olivia’s eyes closed as she edged her cheek into his palm, allowing him to softly brush his thumb across her cheekbone, collecting a couple of tears on the pad of it. “I miss you, too” she whispered softly.

Gerard rested his forehead against the top of her head, his thumb still tracing her cheekbone. “I don’t know how to fix us” he repeated quietly “I want to, so badly, Livy, but I…I don’t know how too. I’m so, so sorry, Livy” he added, sniffling a little as a few of his own tears dropped onto her head.

Olivia wrapped her arms around his waist, embracing him tightly as he cried into her hair and she cried into his t-shirt.