Chapter Forty-Five

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After hours of endless crying on her part, Riley crashed at around three in the morning. I couldn't sleep for a second, though. Haunted by the events of last night, I gave Riley a chaste kiss on the forehead before getting ready and heading out for a morning run. I couldn't run in dress and heels, so I borrowed Riley's workout clothes. Images of her sobbing into my shirt and blaming herself replayed on my loop in my head. The only other time I saw her cry this much was when I accidentally walked in on them months ago. The only difference between then and now is she's heartbroken and not defending her love for the older man.

I haven't witnessed her get emotional over another person, only Mr. Grant. He's not only a creep for having a relationship with one of the students from the school he resides over, but he's a disgusting man for cheating on Riley in the same place he took her out for a date. Only a prick would do that, and with a girl possibly a year younger than us, or even more.

I'm glad she's able to move on from his toxicity, but now she has to deal with natural heartache from losing the person she loved, who unfortunately didn't return the same amount of affection.

My heart breaks for my best friend, and I know what she's going through... grief wise, anyway. I felt every wave of pain that could be felt. I wanted to hide, to sink into myself, and forget I'd ever given my love to him, showed him who I am. I thought falling in love would be without fault and sorrow, but that's all it's about. It's about emotions jam packed in you, all coming out of the crevices within yourself, some you didn't even know existed until you found that one person that brought them to life. Love is about more than lust and holding hands in public. It's about ripping out a part of yourself and allowing an evolved version to grow in place. And when it's over... that new slice of you crumbles into pieces, and you're forced to start all over with someone new if you're brave enough to face the inevitable pain. But what people don't understand is that, with pain comes joy at the other end of the spectrum.

The most important thing I learned with love is: the pain doesn't last; it goes away with time, and with time, you become a whole of yourself that knows how to survive the worst of the worst.

My cluttered thoughts come to a stop when I open the door to my old dorm room. Riley is sitting against the wall on her bed, still wearing sweats and her brunette frizzy hair piled on top of her head. Last night she had me help take out her braids last night. I don't know why exactly, but I didn't have the heart to question her and interrupt her waterworks.

"Good morning," I say, not even bothering to ask if she slept okay, I know she didn't. It's hard to sleep after you're betrayed by the one person you trust.

She mumbles a reply and sniffles.

I sheepishly close the door and hold up a brown bag. "I didn't know if you'd have an appetite or not, but I brought you a breakfast burrito at Harper's Diner. I know how much you love it."

"That's very sweet of you, Lily. I'm starving," she says. I hand her the bag and sit beside her. She bites into the burrito and appears fine for a record of ten seconds before she breaks down into tears.

"Oh, Riley..." I say softly and wrap an arm around her for comfort.

"We were planning to live together," she starts, and I rub her shoulder, encouraging her to continue talking, thinking it will help with the grief. "I was going to move into his penthouse. He has the most comfortable king bed ever. And he has maid service that visits twice a week. Living there would have been gold. We were in love, or at least I was, anyway... And now I'm stuck here, all alone without you, and it's not like I can escape him now. He works here, and I took up work at his office a few weeks ago. I can't up and quit, I need the money. My folks are going through money issues and are struggling to send me anything they can already. How am I going to survive working there and seeing him everywhere I move? I thought I was tough and capable of handling heartbreak, but this is worse than I could have possibly imagine. H-how am I going to get through this, Lily? How?" She sobs halfway into her rant. I hold my arms out and she envelops herself inside of my hug.

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