23. tears.

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 It was either yell at Ethan, or burst into tears; lose my temper, or lose my composure

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It was either yell at Ethan, or burst into tears; lose my temper, or lose my composure. I went with the former, at least until I was in the sanctuary of my own room.

With trembling hands, I locked the door behind me and slowly sank down onto the bed. Heart racing, I drew in a breath to steady myself. His rejection stung like a slap as his words echoed through my ears: "I can't right now, Ryan."

I knew that wasn't true. If he wanted to, he could; I was right here. But I had my answer now and I could move on. Or keep trying to, at least.

My eyes welled up with tears. I took a deep breath and looked up at the ceiling, trying to blink them away, but they just overflowed anyway. Dammit. I didn't want him to hear me cry.

It's not like we were even together. Why was I taking this so hard?

And now I was trapped in here until I calmed down. I didn't even know where he was in the condo, but I needed to put as much distance between the two of us as possible. Maybe I could scrub the despair off of myself.

Numbly, I walked into the ensuite and turned on the shower to its nearly hottest setting. Stripping down, I stepped in and let it burn my skin as the steam swallowed me. I closed my eyes and tried to pretend all of this wasn't happening. Like everything wasn't falling apart.

It didn't work.

And then, everything poured out of me. I sat down on the shower bench and started to really cry— ugly cry with big, heaving sobs. The gasping for air type of cry where you can't stop. There was a good chance Ethan might overhear me in spite of the running water, but I couldn't control it.

It hurt. I felt like I was actually breaking in two.

Months spent telling myself that it was just a superficial attraction, when I knew it wasn't; not really.

I had fallen for him.

His adorable bedhead in the morning. All of our inside jokes that no one else understood. Late night ice cream on the couch. His terrible taste in movies. How we never ran out of things to say. Pancakes and bacon on the weekends. The fact that he was just a little bit tone deaf, but tried to sing anyway.

The way that it felt when he touched me.

I didn't know when it had crossed the line for me, I just knew that it had.

But not for him.

And now, I just felt like a fool. How could I have misread things so badly? He'd been acting so strangely lately that I should have known that he didn't feel the same way. Malignant optimism at its worst.

I didn't know what to do.

My options were limited— move out (where?), try to avoid him until things blew over (but would they ever?), or pretend the whole thing had never happened (difficult to impossible). I could stay with Iz for awhile, at least some of the nights Axel wasn't there, but it wasn't a permanent solution.

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