My entry for the "Heartbreak" competition on the Meg Cabot board.

I'm actually thinking about writing ONE more chapter after this.

I dunno. I might.

Love Lolly.

- 8 -

Here Lies Hector De 'Jesse De Silva, 1830-1850, Beloved Brother, Son and Friend.

Jesse looked up as I came to stand beside him. Wordlessly, he held his hand out over the top of the headstone. I slipped my fingers into his.

'I'm sorry,' he said, his gaze darkly opaque as ever, 'about everything.'

'I shrugged, keeping my gaze on the earth above his coffin - dark as his eyes. 'I understand, I guess.' Even though I didn't. 'I mean, you can't help it if you . . . well, don't feel the same way about me as I do about you.'

I don't know what made me say it. The minute the words were out of my mouth, I wished that the grave beneath us would open up and swallow me, too.

My heart was a mess. I wasn't sure what I was even doing here. I mean, Jesse . . . he had no idea what he'd done to me, by what he'd confessed to Father Dominic. I don't think that he'll ever know, either.

Whatever. At that, Jesse looked at me a little sharply. I kind of recoiled, under the intensity of his demanding gaze. 'Susannah . . . ' he said slowly, eyeing me with a concentration that served to make my heart break that little bit more. 'Susannah . . . are you saying that . . . I was right? In believing what I did? That you thought - '

I licked my lips, just staring at him with wide eyes, not trusting myself to speak.

There were so many ways he could have put that. And he chose to phrase it like that. As if it was such a disgusting concept.

'Susannah,' he stopped, coming to stand in front of me. He paused. I was trying to just walk away, but messages weren't being sent to my brain properly. He wasn't even touching me. There was hardly any affection in his voice.

' . . . Susannah,' he said my name, again. His accent still caressed it . . . but then, it caressed any word. My name must be just another word to him. 'You must understand, I -'

For some reason, I didn't know if I was ready to hear his explanation. Why he didn't love me, I mean. What, was I too immature for him? Too young? Too brunette? My waist wasn't sixteen inches, like Maria's was? My feet smelled? Too FAT for him or something?

I didn't understand why he didn't want me . . .

Was I gross? Did I repel hotties like Jesse or something?

I mean, the hotties who WEREN'T mentally deranged?

I took a fearful step back. 'No, really,' I assured him. 'It's totally okay, Jesse. I get it. It's fine. I don't need to um . . . you know . . . hear it. I'm totally good. You know what? I think that I have to go, because seriously, CeeCee is running the cannoli stand, and I'm here, talking to you, and I really should be fulfilling my duties as Vice President - '

I guess I DID need to hear it, though. I just didn't want to.

'Susannah,' he said. Again. 'I . . . there is no other way to say this . . . but I don't - I'm sorry. I'm not in love with you.'

I stopped completely.

And I felt my world slip through my fingers, like a glass orb.

And I felt it shatter.

Just like glass.

. . . It even hurt.

Just like glass.

As if, my world was one of those globes on the stand. For the past few weeks, it had been breaking off the hinges of that thingie that made it spin so fluently.

And just now, it had snapped right off, had rolled off the table, and had crashed.

With a thunderous noise that caused my heart to rip right down the center.

'Please,' he begged of me. 'Susannah, please, don't look at me like that. It's - it's hard for me too - '

'Why?' I breathed at him.

'Because, I can't stand to hurt you - '

'No,' I sook my head. 'Why - ' Oh my God . . . please Suze, don't say it - 'Why don't you love me?'

. . . She did. Oh my God. What a loser.

Jesse swallowed, his eyes growing darker, and more desperate. One of his hands came to my arm. I shivered at his touch.

He felt like a ghost.

Cold.

Jesse wasn't supposed to feel like a ghost. Usually, he felt so warm. So loving. Tender. Gentle, and affectionate.

Now, he gave me chills.

Like they all did.

The shadows of his face kept moving, as if we were standing in front of a fire. As if light was flickering just beside us. But it wasn't.

Then I realized that it was because my vision was getting blurrier by the second.

'Oh, Susannah,' he said slowly, and took a breath that he didn't even need. Oxygen was meant for the living. For mortals. Jesse's lungs didn't even function anymore. They had corroded away. He'd decomposed, a long time ago. He was lying, six feet beneath where I stood. ' . . . I just - you cannot ask that of me, Susannah. No man can force themselves to love.'

I wasn't FORCING him. I SO was not!

The shreds of my heart halved themselves. I felt like I was bleeding internally. My gored heart was dying in my chest.

. . . I knew he didn't love me. I KNEW. Father DOM told me. So WHY was I acting like this?

. . . Because he'd told me.

I had hoped that it hadn't been true. Hope had glimmered in my heart.

Now I felt like there was no heart left.

I shook my head.

Hell, every other part of my stupid body was shaking, too.

He doesn't love me . . . he doesn't love me . . . he doesn't love me . . . I'm unloveable . . .

'Susannah, be reasonable,' he went on. Trying to redeem himself. 'Love between the living and the dead is a fool's dream, Susannah. I knew better than to lose myself in love for someone alive. I thought that you would have known this too. You know that it would never work between us. You are alive. You'd want more than me. And that is why I need to leave. We both know it.'

We SO don't.

He must have thought I was such a loser. A stupid sixteen year old, crushing on him. Oh my God. I was such a FREAK. How the HELL could he have loved ME?

Of COURSE he couldn't have. Why had I even entertained the idea?

I was having trouble breathing. I really was. I couldn't get enough oxygen. And there was Jesse, heaving all of those breaths, of air that he didn't even NEED.

His hand still held onto my arm. Like he thought I was going to faint or something any second.

God. I'd never felt anything like it. A pain so absolute, so horrible, so artistic. It was disgusting. It made my head spin in unbelievable pain, and my breaths short and cutting. The air literally scratched my throat. My body felt like it had fallen for a lifetime, and had just landed on cold stone. With as much impact.

I felt dead.

Like him.

. . . And still, he didn't want me.

I was hiccuping on the air that I had managed to obtain. Father Dominic SAID not to do this . . . not to cry. Not to guilt him.

I didn't MEAN to. I just . . . .oh God, I couldn't stop –

'Why did you kiss me, then?' I choked. 'Why? Did you - wasn't I good enough for you?'

He went a dark shade of red. More clouds came in on my blackening world. I felt numb. And pathetic. This was the worst pain that I'd ever felt.

And Jesse's words were killing me.

'Susannah, that - ' he began, but stopped, to drag his hand through his hair. He looked torn. Like he kind of wanted to lie to make me stop crying, but he didn't want to lead me on. Why couldn't he have thought about that BEFORE he kissed me?! 'I . . . I did not intend to do that. It was impulsive of me. I was . . . I was so grateful for you. And the fact that you cared so much for me. It was an act of appreciation. Nothing more, Susannah. I'm so sorry that you took it the way you did . . . '

He was sorry.

I knew he was. Sincerity drenched his voice. Regret. Sympathy. And pity.

He didn't mean to hurt me like that. I knew that, somewhere. But I just couldn't understand how he COULD have hurt me so thoroughly, if he hadn't wanted to.

Tears were literally pouring out of my eyes with each blink of my sodden lashes.

I felt so young. So juvenile. So immature. Like a twelve year old.

Like he wasn't taking my love seriously.

And I just stopped breathing, totally, for a moment.

'I . . . I didn't mean to take it like that,' I apologized. 'Jesse, I'm sorry, I – I won't ever take it like that again. I promise. I'm sorry for everything. I didn't mean it.'

I was asking for forgiveness from him.

'No,' he said. 'I'm sorry. It was indecent of me to stay with you. You are so young. I have toyed with your heart. Don't you see why I must leave?'

I did.

I so did.

And he did.

Leave, I mean.

Where, I didn't know. He just dematerialized, leaving me standing there, above his grave, getting colder and colder.

I sucked in another breath. Mistake. An involuntary sob was loudly ripped from my throat.

He didn't love me.

I wasn't dead.

. . . I was dying.

Which hurt so much more.

Dying definitely is a fate worse than death.