I count to thirty, the long way, with the Mississippi's, before Seth speaks.

"Are you ending our fake relationship because I told you I want to make it real?" he asks. He breathes the words out like he's been holding them in for days.

"No," I say. I have to figure out how to explain this without making things worse. "I've been thinking about this for a while. I just, I knew it was complicated and I was waiting for the right time. But then you said that and I knew it wasn't fair of me to drag things out any longer when I don't reciprocate your feelings."

Five Mississippi's before Seth answers. "How long?"

"How long what?"

"How long have you been thinking about this?"

I have to tell him the truth. "Awhile. I hate lying, and it's not fair to our fans or to anyone, really, that we're not being honest. So I was thinking we'd go through with the Chicago show and then grow apart on social media, less Instagram posts and stories and stuff, and then we'd announce it a few weeks after Chicago."

"You had this whole thing planned out? What the fuck, Cody?"

"I'm sorry, it's just—"

"Why do I get the feeling I'm the butt of some huge joke here? Is this some scheme you cooked up to humiliate me?"

"What?" I nearly drop the phone. My voice is growing red to match his. "Of course not! You know me better than that, Seth. You're one of my best friends. How could you say that?"

Seth groans. "Fuck, I'm sorry. I'm just... I'm lashing out because you hurt me and I don't know how else to deal with it."

I fumble with that for a second. "Your therapist say that?"

"Yes. But she's usually right."

I sigh. I curl up on the couch, feeling small. George sits at the table, pretending, as always, not to listen. I wonder how he does it. How he's not as gossip-hungry at the rest of the world. "For what it's worth, I really am sorry, Seth. Hurting you is the last thing I wanted to do."

"Well, you did," Seth snaps. He might be lashing out because he's hurt, like his therapist said, but the anger sounds real. I've never heard Seth like this, and it's scaring me.

"Stop acting like this is all my fault," I snap back. "I'm sorry you're hurt, but this isn't my fault. It's not my fault I don't like you back. I'm your friend, but that's it. I don't owe you anything more than that."

Seth doesn't answer. I swallow down the urge to apologize for what I just said. None of it was wrong, and Seth needed to hear it.

"We couldn't keep doing this fake relationship thing forever, Seth," I say. "It had to end sometime."

"I know that," Seth says. "But I thought... I thought it was becoming real for both of us. And there doesn't have to be an end for that."

"I'm sorry, Seth." I wipe at my eyes, trying to keep them from crying. Don't they know I'm not the one who's getting their heart broken here? "I'm sorry things couldn't be that way."

I will say I'm sorry a million times, even if it'll never make a difference. Seth's heart is breaking, and that breaks mine because I care about him. I don't feel for him the way he feels for me, but I care about him deeply. I value his friendship and I like talking about music with him and he's funny and fun to talk to.

I love him, just not the way he wants me to.

Seth sighs. "What about Chicago?"

"We do the show. We act like everything is normal. And then a few days after, we announce the break-up. Mutual, going on our separate ways, better as friends, all that."

the other side of fear // n.h.Where stories live. Discover now