After Alo left she had absolutely no energy left to do anything other than sleep. Everything was going well until 12:00 am. Grace woke up to the thunder…but not really waking…no…she was somewhat conscious. She turned her head and looked at the floor. Funnily enough there was a white rabbit staring right back at her…but that couldn’t be true….oh no…she was doing it again wasn’t she…she was seeing things that weren’t actually there. But it looked so real…maybe it was there?
“Your not real little rabbit, when I open my eyes you will be gone okay?” She did what said and the rabbit was still there. Watching her, as if waiting for her.
” What do you want little rabbit?” the white rabbit turned and ran out the front door. Figuring it wanted to follow her, she put on her slippers and went after it. She looked on either side of the hallway and found the rabbit all the way towards the courtyard. She ran after it it. Windows on either side of the weather seemed to get worse with each passing step. The rabbit made a turn towards outside and Grace stopped. It was gone, like it poofed out existence. To be fair it never actually existed but still that did not stop Grace from going out there.
“Little rabbit where did you go? Please come back…it’s not safe out there…please…don’t leave me alone.”
“P-please don’t leave me alone…” The rain became torrential, her normal wild hair was plastered to her head. Her clothes soaked through. She just stood there…lost.
Rich couldn’t sleep. All he could do was stare at the ceiling through the darkness of his room, watching his ceiling fan circle around and around and listen to the rain pouring down outside. He thought everything was going to be okay that morning, but it was just the antidepressants making him feel optimistic. He knew that it was all just fake happiness. Or maybe, it was just his depression making him feel terrible, and the optimism was normal? He didn’t know. All Rich knew was that he felt like shit and he could do nothing to help it. It was around midnight, he couldn’t sleep to save his own life, so he hopped out of bed and began pacing. His desk was still thrown onto the floor from his breakdown a few days ago, paper was still scattered about and he didn’t even want to think about all his clothes on the floor. He was a slob, and the mess was making him physically ill. He threw on a Napalm Death t-shirt, a pair of jeans and his leather jacket, then left his mess of a room to wander around the ward. There were a lot of crazies who wandered at night, but he paid no mind to them. The nurses and guards seemed to have been slacking off, there was a lot more wanderers out in the hallways than usual. Rich walked for a good ten minutes, until he passed by the exit to the courtyard and he saw her. Grace. Standing alone in the rain. Go out there, Rich. See what’s going on. One voice in his head told him. No, Rich. You have a girlfriend. She’ll be fine. The other interjected. Rich bit his lip, not being able to help himself from going outside and seeing what was wrong with her. Grace seemed lost, standing out in the middle of the storm. What if she had a delusion? Rich wondered as he stepped out into the courtyard and walked toward her. He knew that’s what was probably going on… Just like Matty, disappearing whenever a delusion came along. “Grace?” He called out, his voice slightly muffled by the rain pouring down. “Are you alright?”
Grace didn’t hear him, she was wrapped up in her own head. The white rabbit…it disappeared…just like everything else in her life. The weight of abandonment physically dropped her to the ground. I-it’s not real Grace…the rabbit is not real…it doesn’t mean anything…Then why did it hurt so much? Watching it leave hurt like nothing before. Everything leaves Gracie didn’t you know that? Oh poor little naive Gracie you thought her king, her metalman would come for didn’t she…whisk her away from that school and they would live happily ever after. He doesn’t love you Grace…probably never did..why else would he have moved on so quickly? And Alo…supposedly you friend pushed him to do it all because he didn’t want to deal with the fall out of his failed relationship. H-he was trying to be a good friend…Rich…he was going to do something drastic…Gwen weakly defended. Against who she wasn’t sure.
You said it yourself Richard is not a child…he made the conscious decision to move on that Creevey boy did not put a gun to his head. And if he loved you as much you think why did he try to seek you Grace? Isn’t that what a person in love does? She recognized the voice now it was her father…no it wasn’t her father…it was figment of her imagination.. but he sounded just like him. She tried to shut him out but no matter how hard she tried it didn’t work.
After a moment of watching her, Rich realized she hadn’t heard him. His heart began racing being in such a close proximity to her, and when she dropped to the ground his heart broke for her again. She seemed so drained, so lifeless. He made his way toward her, wanting nothing else but to comfort her and make her happy again. He knew it was wrong, but he couldn’t stop himself. “Grace…?” He said, as if he was stepping on eggshells around her. Rich sat down next to her on the ground and examined her face. He couldn’t tell if it was just the rain or if she had been crying, her brown eyes were filled with sadness and the expression on her face just made his heart drop down into his stomach. He couldn’t handle seeing her so emotionally drained, especially after admitting to Franky that he was still in love with her. “Grace…” He repeated, and this time she looked up at him. So fucking beautiful, he said to himself.
She slowly moved her head to the one that called her name, Rich. Sweet Rich..Oh how she loved him…
He’ll only abandon you Gracie…don’t let him do it…he got what he wanted and moved on the next girl. It will always be someone else Grace, the Angel of Death, Katie…he’ll always leave…they all leave you…abandon you…but we won’t. No we won’t, we were always here for you. We helped you deal with those horrid girls at your old college didn’t we? Alice, Dumbledore, Aslan…we never left you…and we never will…B-but your not real, my friends…they all have their own lives…no one of them tried to contact or seek you while you were away. Images of her friends smiling faces came into her mind. Why didn’t come for me? Am I so easily forgotten? Did I mean nothing to them? No! Franky s-she always cared…and where was she when Alo set up Rich and Katie? Hm? I would think that a true friend would put a stop to it. They never cared Gracie….Get away him Gracie..run away little doe…the wolf will gobble up if you’re not careful.
Suddenly, Grace got up and ran. Blindly, she ran towards the forest. She had to get away from the wolf who was close behind.
“Shit!” Rich said out loud as Grace ran, cursing himself for being so stupid. He needed to help her, though. He couldn’t handle seeing her like this. He stood up and ran after her into the woods, calling her name. Thankfully, the moon was bright enough that night for him to be able to see as he ran through the woods, Grace not to far ahead of him. He watched her stumble over stumps and fallen trees, and he easily caught up to her. “Grace, what’s wrong? Please tell me…” Rich bit his lip, not being able to stop himself from letting a few tears fall. She’s exactly what Franky said… Broken. Rich grabbed her arm to stop her from running again, and turned her toward him. “Grace. Look at me. You’re okay.” He said with a cracky, rough voice. Hot tears were falling from his eyes and he hoped to god she couldn’t tell that he was crying. “Please talk to me…” He muttered.
Run, run little doe the wolf is not far behind…Grace ran as fast and hard as she could, the only thing slowing her down was the fallen limbs of trees and stumps. Her heart began bumping harder and harder, whether it was due to adrenaline or actual fear was anyone guess at this point. She heard his voice shouting at her.
“Grace, what’s wrong? Please tell me..
She had to get away, he was coming to get her, she had to get away. She felt a hand grab her arm and turn her around.
“Grace. Look at me. You’re okay….Please talk to me.”
She struggled, hard. She had to get away. He was going to hurt her like he did before. She didn’t look at him, she couldn’t look at him. All those lies she believed…she couldn’t do it anymore.
“Let go of me! Let go!” she hit him on the chest but it did nothing. She was trapped, which only made her struggle more. Her strength leaving quickly, her struggle lessened. All she could was sob and “Let me go…let me go…”
“Let go of me! Let go!” She yelled at Rich, but he stood his ground and didn’t let her go no matter how hard she struggled. She was sobbing uncontrollably, and Rich couldn’t stop the tears from falling from his eyes. “Grace…” He felt all her strength leave her body and she almost fell limp, but she continued to mutter ‘let me go’ over and over. “I’m here, Grace.” He wrapped his arms around her and held her, promising himself he wouldn’t let go until she was okay. “You’ll be okay, Grace.” He muttered in her ear, smoothing down her soaked hair and praying to god she’d be okay. She had to be okay. She was Grace. His Grace… No, Rich. She’s not yours anymore. Stop thinking like that… He bit his lip, not caring what his voice of reason was telling him. He had to make sure she’d be okay, no matter what it took.
” I loved you…why did you abandoned me….?” Grace was thinking aloud instead of actually questioning him. ” I gave you everything that I had and you still could forget me so easily? What did I do…?” She finally stopped cry and began to think. She tried to remember all of the times they had together. They had almost a year and he could move on with some one else with a little coaxing and month.
“I’ll always be your second choice..the angel of death…Katie…I’ll never be good enough will I…no because you never loved me in the first place…I was just a place-holder until someone else came along.” She finally made eye contact with him her voice now deadpanned, ” Let me go of me Richard, I finally understand why you did it. It’s alright. Go back to bed, go see Katie tomorrow…forget I even existed.” She tried to pull away but he still wouldn’t let go.
Rich tried to blink away his tears but it was no use. They were streaming down his face, his breathing was shot and he could barely think straight. Listening to Grace made him get chills down his spine, and his worst fears came rushing to the surface. He knew this would happen. He knew she’d do this. But he didn’t let go. “Grace…” He tried to compose himself. “Please don’t say that. I never forgot about you. Ever. I thought that you didn’t love me anymore, that’s why I was such a prick. I never got any of your texts, e-mails, calls… Don’t you realize what your father did? He made sure we couldn’t contact eachother. I tried so hard, Grace…” He bit his lip and clung on to her tighter. “I’m so fucking sorry. I’m sorry about Katie. I’m sorry that I ever tried to kill myself. I’m sorry I ever gave up on you. But I’m not giving up now. I won’t give up now..” Rich could barely speak through his sobs, but he managed. “I hate that this is complicated. I hate that I’m still in love you and I hate that I can’t escape it. I’ve tried so hard to escape this, Grace. My feelings for you scare me. I can’t do anything about it either.” He was thinking out loud— letting everything that came to mind come out his mouth before he could process it. It was the first time he was ever completely honest to anyone, including himself, in such a long time, and it make him feel so relieved. “Just please be okay… I need you to be okay. I won’t be able to live with myself if you’re not…”
Despite herself, she giggled ” Don’t worry about me Richard. All the world’s a stage remember? And all the men and women merely players…They have their exits and their entrances…Shakespeare wrote that. I can’t remember the last part right now but…but the important part is realizing when to exit. I’ve over stayed time in this particular scene. You must go on… and enjoy your happy ending.” She patted him on the chest, his shirt completely soaked through. She pushed away and then this time he let go. She began walking back to the ward
It really didn’t surprise her that her father tried to play interference and succeeded. They both fell for it, hook line and sinker. Maybe they didn’t belong together…maybe love wasn’t enough. Maybe it was time to face the fact that they cannot change the past. That it was time childish beliefs and dreams and face reality.
“But I’m not giving up now. I won’t give up now…”
How she wished that she could believe that…but she just couldn’t. Too much has happened…too much time has past. Her heart could take it any more. Her mind weaved in and out of his speech…
“I hate that I’m still in love with you…I hate that I can’t escape it.”
“I need you to be okay…”
It didn’t matter anymore…their scene…their chapter was done. She walked a little bit more until she heard him shout,
Rich was taken aback by Grace’s speech, caught off guard at her words. She was so broken one second, then so fine with everything the next… It wasn’t right. He knew that she wasn’t okay with it. It was written all over her face and in her voice. She walked way from him, and after a second of hesitation to gather his thoughts, he turned around and followed her through the trees until she reached the opening where the courtyard began. “Grace!” He called out when he was a few feet away from him. She turned, and he walked toward her. “Grace…” He muttered, closing the gap between them, wrapping his arms around her small body without any opposition from Grace. She was freezing cold and soaked through her clothes, so he pulled away from the embrace for a moment to slide of his jacket and drape it over her tiny shoulders. He pulled her in for another tight hug, this time he kissed the top of her head and closed his eyes tight, losing himself in the moment. “I can’t stand seeing you upset, Grace…. I can’t handle it. You’re not okay, I can see it in your eyes. Neither of us are okay…” He muttered the last part and let his tears fall again.
She felt disconnected, and maybe that was a good thing for right now. Her emotions were spent. She was flying on autopilot. It was cold but at least it stopped raining. She felt Rich put his arms around her but did nothing to stop it or encourage it. She did nothing when he put his leather jacket on her and especially when he kissed her on the forehead. Someone had to end this…whatever..this was. They were hurting each other and she didn’t like it. She didn’t like the feeling of having her heart being trampled over every time she saw him. This ended now and it was obvious Rich wasn’t going to do it.
Silently she took off his jacket, looked at it and then looked at him. ” No Richard I’m not okay…I haven’t being okay for a while now. But that’s why I’m here to fix what’s been broken. I need to focus on me and my mental health. And it’s obvious that being around each other is not helping either one of us get to where we need to be. So I suggest a temporary parting. I think we jumped the gun when we thought could still be friends. Friends don’t act the way we’ve been acting and we need to do something now before we do something we regret.”
Grace handed back Rich’s jacket and he reluctantly took it back.
“Don’t you agree? ” She was calling upon the part of herself that Sub Rosa existed. It was the only with that attitude she was going to get through this.
“Grace…” Rich didn’t put his jacket back on. He just held it and stared at the ground. “I know. It’s not helping anything at all… But I don’t think I can stay away from you. I can’t…” He lost his voice and gave into a quiet sob. His chest hurt from crying so much and he could barely breathe without shaking. He tried to compose himself and think reasonably. “I’m sorry, Grace. For… This. Tonight. For fucking things up… I just…” He blinked away more tears and took a steady deep breath. “I just feel so worthless and I thought that if I helped you, those feelings would go away…” He trailed off and put his jacket back on, still staring at the ground. “I’ll leave you alone from now on… But only if you promise me that this is what you really want…”
“It’s not your job to fix me Richard…it’s not your job to save me. Only I can do that. It will be hard…very hard but it needs to be done.” Grace sighed. Tears glistened in her eyes, ” This isn’t what I want…I can’t have what I want but this is what I need…what we both need.”
Was this goodbye? She wasn’t sure but certainly felt like it was. A temporary parting was the logical choice, it was the necessary choice. No matter what her heart said. Richard Hardbeck was her first in almost every milestone of her life, she could’ve easily pictured a future with him but perhaps fate had other plans for them. They would find out soon enough, but right now they needed to focus on the present.
Rich let a few more tears go, and after a few deep breaths they finally stopped. He looked at Grace’s beautiful face one last time, then glanced away, slowly building up his walls again. The same walls she broke down the year before. He made a subconscious decision to never let anyone break them down again, not even Katie. It would be hard to get them built back up, but from what she said it was necessary. He avoided eye contact, wiped away the last of his tears and tensed up. “Well, if that’s what you need.” He said in an almost bitter voice. Rich looked off into the distance, knowing he had to leave her soon, and the second he did so he’d change. Change back into the person he used to be before Grace Violet Blood fixed him. No, Rich. She didn’t fix you. She broke you, he reminded himself, biting his lip. “I guess this is goodbye then.”
She didn’t like his tone. Did he honestly think that this was easy for her? She couldn’t keep going around in a circle and neither could he. Something had to give. He was beginning to tense up…she could just tell. He was trying block her out and part of knew that it was probably the right thing to do but…
" Yes, it is what I need and it’s what you need too even if you don’t want to admit it. I care about you Rich and as someone who does genuinely care all I ask is that you don’t shut the people who love you and who you love out. Shutting yourself in won’t do you any favors…take if from someone who has yet to regain control of such an ability."
" You have a good heart Rich, don’t let anyone change that."it was getting late and she was staving off actually saying goodbye. It all seemed so final.
" But yes… this goodbye…for now anyway…goodnight Richard." An ‘I love you’ was attached to that final phrase whether either one of them wanted to admit it or not.