40 - Tea and Tim Tams

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"Anyway, the thing is, what I really mean, yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen."

"Why are you topping up my glass? You know I have work tomorrow." I watch the blush liquid rest just below the rim of the pink spotted plastic - originally bought for a picnic three years ago that got rained off and ultimately forgotten about - and raise my eyes to Eve.

"Because I have tea to spill and I want you sitting comfortably before I do so." She flops onto the sofa beside me; rustling the pile of empty Tim Tam packaging that's half fallen in between the cushions. Excessive eating and drinking is mine and Eve's coping mechanism whenever anything goes to shit, and the situation with Harry definitely qualifies.

"Uh oh." I grimace, tucking my legs underneath me and disrupting a mound of decorative cushions. "I don't like the sound of this already."

Since my return down under, she's already offered to sign me up to Tinder, hire a hitman for Harry and have dog poo filled pastries delivered to whatever hotel room Camille is staying at back in LA. Whatever is about to leave her mouth this time cannot be good.

"Juniper, I will forever have your best interests at heart, and that is why I have deemed it necessary for you to be made aware of this information." Her slightly upper class, informative tone is only one indication of her inebriation. Another is all the hair hanging out of her ponytail and the red, blotchy skin covering her neck and collarbone.

"I think I'll be the judge of that." I mutter, and take a sip of my poison. Rosé goes down too easily, especially in Eve's company.

I've been home for over a week now, and the ease of slipping back into my old routine has been both surprising and comforting. The part of me that refuses to even acknowledge Harry's existence feels as though the tour of the US never happened; as if I never left Melbourne in the first place. The other part, the raw and fragile and hurting part, has clung onto the old routine like a comfort blanket, desperate for a reminder that things really were ok before I got into this mess. And yet somehow there are reminders of him everywhere.

The ghost of him sleeps in the spare half of my bed at home; tousled waves splayed out across the pillowcase, silver chain disappearing into the folds of the doona. He's there in the window seat at the gelato store and in my mind whenever Essendon appears on a road sign.

But mostly he's in the letter box under the bed. Now overflowing with concert tickets and backstage passes and American Chinese takeaway menus. The lid won't stay shut any more and somehow this just seems to make it worse.

Especially since our communication since my return has been non-existent, and I haven't got a clue how to feel about it.

"Ok, so," Eve begins hesitantly. "This morning I was browsing on the Daily Mail website—"

"Eve, if you're about to tell me that George Clooney and Amal have split up, then let me stop you now. We've discussed this before and agreed he's too old for us to be drooling over."

She blinks at me. "Not George and Amal, Juniper. Harry and Camille."

Eve suddenly feels incredibly far away; as if we are sat at opposite ends of her house with lead lined walls between us.

"Harry and Camille are finished. They broke up. Apparently she's already moved on with that Alexander Skarsgård. Do you remember Eric from True Blood?"

Her lips against Harry's neck replays in my mind for the millionth time since that night, and not even the thought of the chiseled body of Eric Northman can make me forget it. I shake my head. "Harry's love life is none of my business, he can do whatever he wants. Why are you telling me this anyway?"

She releases a puff of air. "I just thought you'd want to know?"

The rage that bubbles in me sends me whirling around to face her, and wine sloshes over my cup and onto the left knee of my jeans. "Have you been speaking to him?"

"What?" Eve's brow furrows.

"To Harry. Have you been speaking to Harry since I got back?"

I'm expecting a defensive response but instead she laughs. "Do you honestly think I would want to talk to someone who has hurt you?"

I shrink back into the cushions, officially knocked off of my high horse. "I'm sorry," I sigh. "That was a really shitty thing for me to ask."

"Don't worry about it." She waves her free hand around as if she's swatting a fly. "But on a serious note, Juniper, you know I'm well up for playing the protective friend. You know I'd willingly teach him a lesson, but if I'm completely honest, you're just not you without him."

I almost spill my wine again. "What are you talking about?"

The sympathy touches Eve's eyes before it reaches her voice. "You never told me any of it — even when you were talking originally. But you used to be so bubbly and then you sort of just changed — when we were sixteen." I open my mouth to interrupt but she shakes her head. "I'm not stupid, Juniper, and I'm more observant than you give me credit for. I put it down to exams and all those arguments your parents were having at home, but you never seemed to shake it off."

When I blink, a tear escapes my right eye.

"When you called me from Sydney and told me where you were and what was happening, I guess it all sort of made sense." She shrugs.

"Far out, Eve." I sniff. "I don't know what to say."

She smirks. "You don't have to say anything, you goose. But you were so obviously happier after Sydney. Seeing you like this now... well, it's horrible."

I'm not entirely sure where she is going with this but somehow I don't think our evening is going to result in a sick and twisted revenge plan aimed at my ratbag of a penpal.

"Well, what exactly do you propose I do?" I drain the rest of my glass and discard it on the coffee table. "You said so yourself — he hurt me. Twice. You think I should just forgive him and hope that he never does it again?"

Eve smiles at me like a sympathetic old woman who has experienced heartbreak in all its evil forms. "I think we can all agree that his track record is not the best and I am in no way condoning what he's done to you, but it's never going to be easy, Juniper. It's not meant to be easy. And if he's really done with her — what if now is the chance for a fresh start? A clean slate? There's no way that relationship was serious — she was never seen or spoken of! What if this time, you can make a go of it properly? He was an immature sixteen year old back then and a bloody idiot this time. Trust me when I say I have a good feeling that he will not do it again."

I purse my lips and attempt to douse the flicker of hope that has started to burn. "You've certainly changed your tune. You're supposed to be telling me that I'm better off without him."

"No," she shakes her head; sending wisps of hair from her already dishevelled ponytail flailing around in the air. "I'm supposed to want what's best for you. I want you to be happy."

I turn to face her straight on. Somehow she's hardly touched her wine. "What exactly are you saying, Eve?"

Her eyes twinkle. "Forgiving him doesn't make you weak, Juniper, it makes you strong for taking control of your happiness."

author's note: My friends, we have officially reached chapter 40. This means there are two chapters and an epilogue remaining (and it's not your traditional epilogue either - you'll see what I mean...). As always, thank you so much for sticking with this, even when updates are slow. I promise updates more often than I post them, so I am very sorry for that, but I'm telling - I get some strange mentality when I'm reaching the end, whereby I just can't quite bring myself to tie it all up and say goodbye. Regardless, I hope you enjoy this chapter and please let me know your thoughts, comments are always appreciated :)

I've included my Instagram and twitter handles on my profile now if anyone wants to come and say hi! :D

P.S. Enjoy the video. It gave me SO many feels. I followed 1D when I was sixteen and they were on the X-Factor and the nostalgia hit me hard. You could just tell Harry was going to be a sensation even back then. 

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