Chapter Twenty-Nine

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I've worked really hard on this chapter and tried to make it as emotional as possible. It's my aim to make you shed a few tears! So please listen to a sad song or something to get yourself in the mood, lol. I'm excited and nervous for you to read this, because you've all been waiting for so long :-) Enjoy!

Thanks to SoCallMeDiedre for the banner :-)

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There’s a party on New Year’s Eve.

            A family party, in which most of the adults drink a little too much champagne and end up like a bunch of giggly teenagers. I’m one of the few not in the party mood. The whole day I’ve been psyching myself up to get Connor alone, but each time the opportunity arises, I chicken out. I’m a sack of nerves the entire evening, barely able to crack a smile even when Uncle Joe starts telling his awful jokes. I jump every time a firework explodes in the distance. And every time Julie slings an arm around my shoulder, asking me what’s wrong, I wriggle away and mutter something about not feeling well.

            It’s only a mild comfort to see Connor’s looking just as dispirited as me. A couple of times our gazes catch, but each time I look away quickly, my mind transforming into a flurry of anxiousness. I don’t know how to act. Distant and aloof? Encouraging? The more I ponder on the thought, my confusion only increases.

            However, about an hour before midnight – when the adults are engaged in a drunken game of charades – I notice Connor slipping out onto the back deck, and realize it’s now or never.

            My heart’s beating a million times a minute as I down the last of my drink and slip out the door. I try my best to be discreet, but it’s not like it’s necessary: everyone else is too busy laughing at Julie’s ridiculous enactment of Titanic to even notice I’m no longer in the room.

            I’m assaulted by the cold air as soon as I step out, causing goose bumps to break out over my exposed skin. Eyes fixated on the lake stretching out past the cabin, Connor’s leaning on the railing. He doesn’t notice me until the door clicks shut; slowly, he lifts his head. A flicker of unreadable emotion is visible in his eyes before he redirects his attention away.

            I swallow hard. “Hey.”

            I allow myself a few tentative steps forward, the creaking of the wooden panels seeming practically deafening amidst the silence. When he doesn’t tell me to leave – or take a swing at me – my confidence grows and I continue moving until I’m standing right beside him, my arms pressed up to the cool railing.

            There’s a brief moment of hesitation before he responds with a quiet, “Hi.”

            It occurs to me that all I’d been planning to say has completely vacated my mind. In my current state of jitteriness, it’s a wonder I’m able to remember my own name. What had I wanted to say? I’m practically crippled by nerves; thinking straight is not all that possible right now. The two of us lapse into silence whilst I try desperately to conjure up something to say.

            However, Connor jumps in before I get the chance. “What are you doing out here?” His tone isn’t cold or harsh, like I’m used to. Instead it’s softer, prompting an answer to a genuine question.

            “Um...” I swallow again. “I think... I think we need to talk.”

            He looks at me, studying my expression closely. “About what?”

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