He loved her, she left him. But did she stop loving him? Because he never stopped loving her...A Frank Iero oneshot.
I look down at the book I hold in my hand, the first book I’ve read in years. And a romantic novel at that, complete with a happy ending and everything. Some how I can’t rip my eyes away from it. But I’m not looking at the cover art, or glancing at the pages to try to sneak in some reading time as I wait. I’m staring at the last page, the meet the author page. And there, staring back at me, perpetually smiling, just as I remember, is the girl I could never forget. The girl I could never get over.
The girl who ripped my heart out of my chest and tore it into a thousand pieces before walking out of my life forever.
I look up, reluctantly. The line has moved forward a bit, so I walk a few steps to catch up. There aren’t many people left, the signing ends in about ten minutes. I intentionally came late. I wanted to catch her alone. Every time someone came up behind me I let them pass. I want to be the last one she sees. I want there to be no one else to keep us apart this time.
I want so bad to make her smile again. To see her face light up the way it used to when she saw me, light up like it never did for anyone else. She loved me then, I know she did. I just don’t know what happened. I don’t know what went wrong. I thought everything was so perfect.
Apparently she didn’t.
The store is officially closing now. The few people that are left make their way over to the cashiers, to make their final purchases. I have a great life, a great career, great friends with me everyday, so I know I shouldn’t be unhappy, but some days I envy them, those normal people with their normal families and their normal lives. Some days I would give up everything I have, everything I’ve worked so hard to create for myself, and just go home, if only I knew she would be there waiting for me.
But she never will.
The man in front of me is at the table now. She takes his book and makes small talk as she signs it. I close my eyes, just listening to her voice, soft and soothing. The same voice that once told me she loved me. The same voice that told me she was never coming back.
She hands his book back to him and he thanks her. There is no one else in the store now, even the clerk seems to have disappeared. The man moves and I see her for the first time in almost eight years. God, I can’t believe it’s been so long. I can still remember everything about her. How her eyes sparkled, how her hair always smelled of cinnamon, how her lips tasted like cherries.
How sometimes I think her laugh was the only thing that kept me alive.
She doesn’t see me yet. She’s looking down, writing something on a note pad. She was always writing. Poems, songs, stories. When she was with me she was working as a journalist. She had a way of making even the most boring stories come to life. She was good with news stories, but better with fiction. The things that came out of her imagination were incredible. I always told her she should ditch the facts and write from her dreams. She always answered that she wanted to keep it real. I guess she waited until after I was gone to take my advice.
Whenever we were in Jersey I would buy every paper in town, looking for her column. For a while I could read her words and pretend I was still a part of her life. Then one day I couldn’t find her column. She had left the paper, and just like that she had left my life for the second time. This time completely. I always kept an ear out for her name anytime I heard anyone talking about authors or journalists. I never heard it though, until now. I always knew she’d make it as an author, her first novel is a testament to that. An instant best seller.
I relish this moment, finally seeing her again. Part of me doesn’t want her to look up. Part of me wants to stay in this moment forever. This could be the best moment of my evening. Because when she looks up I’ll have to tell her why I’m here. I’ll have to stand here as she breaks my heart. Again. Because there’s no way she still loves me after all these years. No way at all. Even though my stupid heart never stopped loving her.
Suddenly I can’t take it anymore, I can’t wait any longer. I need to talk to her now, need to tell her what I didn’t get to say before, need to say something, anything. This waiting is killing me. There are so many things I could say to her, so many things I need to her know, but they all stick in my throat. All I can manage to get out is her name, and even that feels like splinters as it forces its way out of me.
She stiffens, still looking down. I know she recognizes my voice. I know she knows it’s me. I wish I knew what she is thinking. Is she happy to see me? Angry? Surprised? Or worst of all, indifferent? What if she doesn’t care? It’s been so long, what if I’m just another face in the crowd to her now? I’m not sure I want to know the answer. I’m not sure if I can handle that. She still means so much to me, what if I mean nothing to her?
What if I never did?
The problem with love is that you’ll never find two people who love equally. It isn’t anybody’s fault. It’s just another example of the many ways in which life is unfair. One person always loves more, and that person always gets hurt. With Beth, that person was me.
“I knew you’d come, eventually.”
That was all she said and already my heart was melting again. She knew I’d come, that means she still thinks about me. It’s a start, at least.
“I couldn’t stay away.”
She looks up now, smiling. God, I missed that smile. She looks the same as she did back then, but older somehow. Wiser. There’s something different in her eyes, a sort of weariness, a sort of pain that wasn’t there the last time I saw her.
“You look good,” She says, smiling. She acts as though this isn’t the most nerve wrecking moment of my life. As though it doesn’t matter at all. “It’s been a while. How are you? Congratulations on the band. I hear you’ve finally reached your dreams. I always knew you would.”
The way she says it, it just seems a little off. A little rehearsed. I know that inside she’s thinking about the same thing that I am. About the night she walked away. I wonder if she regrets it. Or if she’s glad.
But she’s got a mask on. She was always good at hiding her true feelings from the world. There was a time when I could see right through her mask. A time when she didn’t hide anything from me. At least that’s what I thought. But it’s been so long. People change. I can’t read her anymore. I wonder if she can read me. I’m not hiding anything. I would never hide anything from her.
“You’ve done pretty well for yourself too,” I comment, smiling. If she can pretend everything is just fine and dandy then so can I. Right now I think I could do anything, just to be with her a little longer. “I always thought you’d do great in fiction. What happened to keeping it real?”
She frowns, but only slightly. If I wasn’t looking for it I doubt I would have seen it. “Reality got a little too sad for my liking.”
The pain in her eyes is overwhelming as she says that, but she immediately masks it again. I wonder what she was thinking about. It couldn’t have been me, could it? No, it couldn’t have. She left me, not the other way around. Besides, a lot can happen in eight years. There are any number of things that could have made her sad in that time. And I wasn’t there to share her pain.
She nods at the book I still hold, clutched in a death grip in my hands.
Chuckling, she says, “I know it’s not the reason you came, but would you like me to sign that? You know, since you are here and this is a book signing.”
Nodding, I hand it to her. Anything to buy a little more time as I try to figure out what to say. I watch her write in my book. ‘To Frankie, Always, Beth.’ Always. My heart stops at that one word.
It should have been always, but it wasn’t. We should have lasted forever but we didn’t. I should have held on to her tight and told her I loved her everyday. I guess I forgot. Stupid for me.
Unaware of the pain that one word gave me she hands me my book. “You really should read it some time,” she laughs. “I mean, I know books aren’t really your thing but I happen to think this one is pretty decent.”
“I’ve read it.”
She looks surprised, even pleased. But then her face falls back into its trained smile. I know that look all too well. I have a pretty convincing one myself. It’s the trained celebrity look. The fake smile that says there’s no where in the world you’d rather be, even if that’s the farthest thing from the truth. The look that no one else can see through. No one except someone who’s been in that same position. Someone like me.
“What’d you think?” she asks, almost nervously.
“I think you’re still in love with me.”
She stops smiling and stands. Gathering up her things she turns to leave. “Good night, Frank,” I hear her say, but it’s quiet, almost a whisper. Maybe I imagined it. She starts walking away, walking out of my life again. And again I’ve left too much unsaid. Only this time I won’t let her leave until I’ve said it.
“I’ve read your book,” I repeat. She stops walking, but her back is still toward me. “And you want to know what I think? I think it’s our story. You can change the names and places all you want, but it’s still our story, with the ending we should have had. The ending I wish we had. A happy one. You wrote it so apparently you wanted it too. So I don’t understand, if we both wanted it why did we give up? There was nothing there to stop us; we could have had our happy ending. We could have been together forever. Maybe we still can.”
At that she turns around. I instantly regret saying it. Not that a happy ending with her isn’t exactly what I want, what I’ve been dreaming of and kicking myself for losing for eight fucking years. It’s just too much too soon. I haven’t even seen her in eight years, and here I am practically asking her to marry me.
She stands there, not speaking, just looking at me. The look in her eyes is too much for me. There’s so much emotion there. Pain, anger, confusion, regret.
There, I’ve told her what I needed to. I should quit while I’m ahead. I should just leave. Now. Just walk out, like she did. But I can’t. There’s one more thing I have to know. This will probably be the last time I see her. This is my last chance to ask her. I know if I do, she may hate me forever. If I don’t I’ll hate myself forever.
“Do you ever think about that night?”
She doesn’t try to act confused. She knows exactly what I’m talking about. She never was one to play dumb. I’ve always loved that about her.
“Frank, that was eight years ago.”
“Do you ever think about it?”
She looks like she’s about to walk away again, so I reach out and grab her upper arm. She looks down at my hand, then into my eyes. Glaring, she wrestles out of my grasp, then looks down. When she speaks her voice is soft but forceful.
“You called me at work. You told me we were going out, and I should dress up. You said you’d pick me up at seven and for once you weren’t late. I wore that little blue dress I loved; you wore a suit and a tie and everything. You took me to Capelli’s, it was the nicest restaurant in town. We sat in a little booth in the back. You ordered a steak and I ordered the salmon. Yes, Frank, I think about that night. I think about it every single day.”
I can hardly breathe. “Do you remember what I said to you, right before you left?”
“You told me you loved me. You told me you wanted to be with me forever.”
“And you told me you didn’t feel the same.”
She looks down again, but I don’t care. Right now I couldn’t look her in the eye anyway.
“I was going to ask you to marry me that night,” I mumble.
I look up sharply. She knew? And she still walked out…
“Then why’d you leave?”
“Because if I hadn’t we would have gotten married, and settled down and started a family.”
“And that isn’t what you wanted?”
Her face softens and she takes a step toward me. Reaching out she takes my hand in hers and looks deep into my eyes. Finally the mask is gone. She’s closer to me now than she’s been in eight years, still I feel like there’s so much between us.
“Of course that’s what I wanted. I wanted it more than anything.”
“Because you needed to let go. Loving me wasn’t good for you. If I had stayed with you that night you would have left the band, and gone to college full time. You would never have left Jersey. You would have given up on your dreams.”
“I wouldn’t have cared.”
“I know. So someone had to care for you. You’re too talented Frank, and staying with me would have kept you from realizing that talent. At some point down the road you would have figured that out, and you would have resented me for it.”
She fiddles with the hem of her shirt. "Besides, keeping you would have been selfish."
I must have looked surprised because she adds, "You have no idea how much your music does, do you? How many people you've helped? People can relate to you, Frank. You've touched, and changed, so many lives. You have no idea how many stories there are of kids who were suicidal, then heard your music and found a way to make it through. Those kids needed someone to help them and you were there for them. If I hadn't let you go, you wouldn't have been. You saved them."
"I wanted to save you."
"You did. And then it was time for me to let you go. You had other souls to save."
“But, I love you.”
“That’s why I left.”
I don’t know what to say, what to think. I can feel her hand in mine. She squeezes and lets go. It’s true, music is my life. But I would have given it all up for her.
“But you loved me?” It’s a question more than a statement.
“I still do.”
“Then why did you say you didn’t? Why didn’t you just tell me what you were thinking? Why did you have to make me think you hated me?”
“Would you have left if I hadn’t?”
No. I wouldn’t have. She’s right. I would have married her and stayed in Belleville my whole life. But would that have been so bad?
I was born for this life. For the traveling, and the performing, and the fans. I would die without it. And she knew that, even when I didn’t. She understands me better than I do.
Then something she said finally registers with me.
“You still love me?” I ask, maybe a bit too hopefully.
She steps back, shaking her head. “Frank, you know we can’t.”
“And why the hell not?” I’m shouting now but I don’t care. I can’t take much more of this emotional roller coaster. “I love you, you love me. What else do we need?”
“It’s been too long. Too much has changed. We’re not the same people anymore.”
Then something dawns on me. “Are you with someone else?”
She shakes her head sadly. “No. I guess I never found the right person. Yours are big shoes to fill.”
“So come with me.”
She doesn’t say anything, just frowns and shakes her head slightly. And in that one, almost imperceptible motion I feel what’s left of my heart freeze. I know I will never love again, never trust again, never feel again. I am operating only on pure rational logic, there are no emotions left.
Stupidly I nod. She smiles, trying to lighten the mood, but I just stand there.
“Maybe we’ll see each other sometime,” she offers, and I nod again.
We both know we will never meet again, but it seems cruel to say it. She’s only trying to leave things on a good note between us. Not that it matters, I could never hate her. I will never hate anyone now. I will never love either. I will never feel anything. She’s taken everything I had, there’s nothing left to give. I’m completely broken inside.
She turns and walks away, leaving me behind yet again. But this time I don’t have the will to care. I open to the front page, reading and re-reading the note she wrote me. One lone tear slides down my cheek, and hits the open page, smearing her words.
She's only been gone a minute and already she's fading from my life. I sigh and close the book. I know I'm going to be okay.
I just wish I knew when.
Hey guys, this is my first MCR fic on this site. Let me know how i'm doing! Please please please review. Free hugs to all reviewers! Love you to pieces (don't make me make that literal).