Burn Us Down

36: I Lose

Cradling a disposable coffee cup in one hand, Olivia used the other to pull at her sweatshirt, pulling the thin material around her in an attempt to ward off the cool early morning breeze which rolled in off of the water in front of her. She had been out of the house for a while. Since she had arrived in Alicante, her aunt and uncle had been slightly overwhelming despite their good intentions, and it had meant that Olivia had taken to ducking out for a run before they woke up, wanting a little time to herself before they began to fuss.

They didn’t know everything. When she had made the arrangements to visit, she had made sure to be vague about why she had decided to drop in all of a sudden, but despite her not having said anything, she knew that the older couple knew that something was up. There had been copious cups of tea made for her before she had asked, bars of chocolate and little pots of ice cream seemed to materialize out of nowhere, and if that wasn’t enough to clue her in, the sympathetic smiles that William and Thea nearly always wore when she walked into a room spoke volumes.

Lifting the cup to her lips, she took a sip of her drink, grimacing slightly at how sweet it tasted, before she felt her phone vibrate in the holder which was attached to the top of her arm. Lowering the cup, she settled it on the sand between her crossed legs before she slipped the phone out of its holder. Scanning the screen, she quickly dismissed the couple of texts that she’d received from Gerard before she opened the one she’d received from her sister, typing out a quick reply.

She had gotten better at ignoring Gerard’s texts. For the first couple of days, she had almost broken down every time his name had appeared on the screen, but with nearly a week having past, she’d grown more resolute, determined to make sure that she made the most of the time she had in Alicante before she had to go back to Barcelona. She wanted the space. She wanted to be away from Gerard, away from the pull he’d always had for her, and she knew that if she even so much as read his texts, then she’d find herself giving in and things would snowball.

Sliding the phone back into the holder, she picked up her cup again, her nose wrinkling slightly at the scent.

“This is where you get to, is it?”

Olivia almost dropped the cup out of her hand, her eyes turning to glance up at the woman who stood over her, a warm smile on her face. “Aunt Thea” she breathed “You scared me” she added.

“I didn’t mean to sneak up on you” Thea mused as she laid a jumper out on the sand “I just thought I’d come and see if you were OK. You’ve been sat out here for a little while” she added, sparing Olivia a curious look as she sat down.

Olivia tried her best to smile, but she could feel how awkward and stiff it felt, even before Thea’s face softened. Letting out a quiet sigh, she gently tucked her hair behind her ear before she shrugged. “I’m OK” she murmured.

Thea quirked a gentle smile, her hand taking a hold of Olivia’s which fiddled with the lid of her cup. “Your papa and I talked, Oli” she revealed softly “He told me about…about Gerard” she added.

Olivia couldn’t stop herself from flinching, something which made Thea squeeze her hand gently. “You don’t have to talk” the older woman said gently “I just thought you should know that I know why you’re here” she added.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you” Olivia replied “I just…I don’t know. My relatives don’t have the best track record for keeping their noses out and I didn’t want…” she trailed off, not wanting to insult her aunt by suggesting that she, like Melissa had done previously, would insist on telling her how she ought to deal with the situation. She knew how messy it was. She’d made the decision to give Gerard another chance and it had blown up in her face, but she didn’t want to have her friends and family point it out to her and tell her what a mistake she had made. She’d had enough of that when she had made the decision to stay with him and she didn’t want to face the inevitable ‘I told you so’.

Thea again squeezed her niece’s hand. “I know” she mused “And I am trying to keep my nose out, I just want to make sure that you’re doing alright. I know it’s been a while, but you were never this quiet” she added, trying to keep her voice bright and comforting.

Olivia glanced down at their hands, allowing a moment of quiet to pass between the two of them, before she let out a soft sigh. “No” she whispered “I’m not. I love him, Aunt Thea, I really, really love him and I don’t really understand how we are where we are. We weren’t our best, even before he kissed the other woman, but we were getting back towards it and now…now I really don’t know what to do. I don’t understand what changed, why he thought that the best way to end our relationship was to burn it down rather than just be a grown up and talk to me, and why, when he realised that he didn’t want to end things, he wasn’t just honest with me. I thought…I thought we were better than that. I thought we could always just talk to each other, good or bad. I thought…I thought he loved me and now…I don’t know” she added, her voice growing shakier with each sentence.

Thea leant over, using her thumb to wipe a tear off of her niece’s cheek. “He loves you, Olivia” she whispered softly.

Olivia scoffed. “What makes you think that?” she asked.

“I saw him” Thea replied “At your engagement party. You can’t fake that look on his face, sweetheart” she added, a bittersweet smile on her face.

“Then why am I here, Thea?” Olivia prodded, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand “Why would he decide to just ruin things instead of just talking to me? Am I really that unapproachable? If he had worries, or even if he wanted to break up, we could have talked about it. It could have ended amicably, but now it’s too late for that. There’s no winning. If I take him back, I’m an idiot and everyone will say it. If I break up with him, I lose the guy I saw my life with. Either way, I lose and I really don’t know what I am prepared to give up” she added.

Thea didn’t know what to say to her, so instead she gently lifted her hand, rubbing soothing circles into her back as Olivia buried her face in her hands, crying softly. Sniffling, she caught the scent of her coffee again, something which caused her stomach to roll before she gently pushed the cup away from her.

Thea tilted her head, but didn’t say anything, instead taking the cup and throwing it into a bin a few paces away from the two of them.

Olivia watched her before she felt her phone vibrate again, something which caused her to squeeze her eyes closed again, knowing almost instinctively that it was Gerard. Taking a breath, she slipped the phone out of the holder and glanced down at the screen, a soft groan tumbling out of her mouth as she studied the picture of Gerard, sporting a bruise around his eye. The text that came along with it read: ‘So, your papa came to visit…’.

Shaking her head, her fingers lingered over the keyboard, but she quickly pulled them away again. She needed time and space, and texting Gerard, who was the reason she needed time and space in the first place, wasn’t the way she was going to get it.
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Thanks to Twisted;;Symphony and Jayme112234 for the comments :)