f o u r t e e n

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"You're sure you want me to come in? I could just wait for you back at your place if you want to do this alone," Harry said as they both stared at the house

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"You're sure you want me to come in? I could just wait for you back at your place if you want to do this alone," Harry said as they both stared at the house. She knew he wouldn't say, but she suspected he was pretty nervous about whatever was about to happen too.

She closed her eyes, thinking about it. Maybe she should go in alone. She had no idea what she was about to face, and maybe it would be better if he didn't see it. Plus, she wasn't sure it was the best idea for him to meet her parents for the first time under whatever these circumstances were. Her parents weren't the most pleasant people in the world normally, and she could only imagine how they were going to be right now. She opened her eyes, looking up at him again.

"You promise you'll be there when I'm done?" she asked, and something that looked a lot like relief washed over his face for just a moment. He nodded firmly.

"I promise, love."

"Okay, I..." she paused, rummaging around in her handbag for her house keys. "I guess I'll see you whenever whatever the fuck this is is through then," she finished, handing him the keys. He nodded.

"Okay. I love you," he said softly, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close. "And just remember, you're so fucking strong, River. You're the strongest person I know and I'll be waiting for you when you're done," he whispered close to her ear, making goosebumps raise over her skin. She wanted to stay in that moment with him forever, but pulled away after a long moment anyway.

"I love you too," she said, her voice small and timid. He smiled encouragingly, pressing a soft kiss to her lips.

With a final look back at him, she squared her shoulders and walked slowly towards the house. She watched as his car drove away and took a deep breath before forcing herself to reach out and grab the doorknob.

Her mother was on her immediately, like she'd been watching through the window.

"River Elaine Molina, just what the hell do you think you're doing?" she demanded, and River took a step back towards the door.

"What do you mean?" she tossed back, and her mum rolled her eyes.

"We needed you here. You... you needed to be here," her mum said, her bristly front already falling down. There were tears in her eyes and River didn't know what to say.

A moment later, Jasmine appeared at the top of the stairs and River realized that up until that moment she'd almost figured she'd hallucinated it all. Even though she'd heard her voice multiple times, there was a part of her that thought Jasmine was just a very elaborate hallucination. It was even something she'd mentioned to Harry while he'd sat up with her the night before. She'd been exhausted but completely unable to sleep and had convinced herself that hearing her sister's voice had been completely in her head. He'd disagreed, of course, reminding her that he'd listened to the voicemail too, but she'd still sort of thought it all couldn't be real.

But real as anything, there she was. She looked as exhausted as River felt. She was thinner than she had been before, looking almost gaunt, but it was her. She was really there. River's eyes filled with tears as she watched her walk slowly down the stairs. She approached and River took an involuntary step back. She was afraid for some reason. She felt like she was seeing a ghost in the flesh.

"Riv..."

Jasmine's voice was soft and pained. She was crying and River realized she was too.

"I..."

She trailed off, unable to say anything real. Jasmine nodded, reaching for her hand. She gave it to her and she led her upstairs and into what had been her bedroom. It was exactly as she'd left it. It was almost eerie; if River didn't know better she would've felt like it was just a normal day six months before.

"Just let me talk, okay? Let me get it out because if I don't do it all at once I'm not sure I'll be able to do it at all," Jasmine told her, waiting for a response. River nodded, still unable to speak.

"I... I tried to kill myself. That part's true. I didn't jump from anywhere, though. Remember when Jesse broke his arm last year?" she trailed off with the question, referring to the guy she'd been engaged to... or was still engaged to? Either way, River nodded. "He had a bunch of pills left over and I found them and I took them. He found me and took me to the hospital and... and I told him everything, everything about how burnt out and lost and confused I was feeling. We talked about all of it and finally decided I was going to go away, go traveling and try and get my head on straight. The only problem was that I didn't want anyone to know where I was. I didn't want anyone to find me, not even him. So..." she trailed off, her voice catching in her throat.

"So... you faked your fucking death?" River finished for her, suddenly furious. She was crying again, but it wasn't with sadness. It was with absolute rage. Jasmine didn't respond, staring at her with wide eyes.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" River demanded. When Jasmine was still silent, she continued. "I almost actually killed myself, Jasmine. I seriously considered fucking DYING because you were gone, because I felt like I was only half a fucking person. You did that. You made me feel that way and now... now you're just... back and I'm supposed to cry and welcome you and act like everything's fine, right? Well, nothing's fine and I don't forgive you, so don't even ask," River ranted, standing from where she'd positioned herself on the bed. She crossed the room, looking at a shelf full of dainty figurines Jasmine had always collected. She picked up a ceramic cat and tossed it across the room. Jasmine just watched her, like it was exactly what she'd expected her to do. The cat slammed against the wall, shattering into a satisfying mess on the floor.

"River..." Jasmine said her name, trailing off and closing her eyes. "I was... sick, okay? I still am. I just... I didn't know what to do. Everyone always relied on me for everything. You relied on me for everything-," Jasmine started, but River turned on her, her eyes still flashing with rage.

"Don't fucking do that. Don't you sit there and tell me this is my fault. This is not my fault, Jasmine. This is you running away instead of taking care of your shit. I'm fucked up too, remember? I'm supremely fucked up. I'm sick too, I always have been. But I've never and would never fake my own goddamn death. That's... that's... you broke my heart, you know that? You broke my fucking heart. Then you leave me a note telling me to go out and live my life and-," River ranted, but Jasmine cut her off too.

"And you did it, didn't you?! I know you're dating Harry fucking Styles, River. Would that have come anywhere near happening if I hadn't left? I don't think so," Jas said, her tone building with the same rage River's was. River scoffed at her.

"Don't you dare try and take credit for that. You might be the reason I reached out to him in the first place, but you've got nothing to do with our relationship. You know why I reached out to him? Because I was so fucking desperate for some sort of companionship since my best friend, the only person I shared my soul with, was gone... dead. You let me believe you were dead, Jasmine. You don't even get to say his goddamn name right now. He's the only reason I'm alive right now. He's the only fucking light in the darkness you left. He's the only thing that's filled the massive hole you left in my heart," River told her, her voice choking with sobs. She cast a glance around the room, landing on a small end table near the door. There was a small handbag and a set of keys on it and she grabbed the keys.

"What are you doing?" Jasmine asked, and River shrugged.

"I've got to get the fuck out of here, and since you're dead I guess you won't mind if I borrow your car," River told her, her tone quiet and cold in a way she wasn't sure it had ever been. She walked out the door, slamming it behind her and ignoring her parents as she made her way to the front door and slammed it behind her too. 

She opened the garage with the button on the keyring and made it into the driver's seat of her sister's black Mini Cooper before letting herself cry again. Once she started, she wasn't sure she'd ever stop.

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