A/N: Been a while huh? I hope you all like this update, it was a long time coming, and I hope to update again soon. Let me know what you think, good or bad, I look forward to reading what you think. Does it stll seem to be going in the same direction? I think I'm wavering, I don't know, let me know. Enjoy.
--You'll Ask For Me--
Yesterday was pure bliss.
Out of all of the days she has been back in the past week or two, you have not seen her so happy, so content, so well, as she was yesterday.
And some of that peace, the happiness, seems to have flown over into today.
And you're happy, because she is at least content. She isn't as depressed or pained or guilt ridden as she has been on several days previous.
It's now late morning, both of you have already eaten breakfast and washed up, gotten dressed for the day, and are seemingly ready for whatever the day holds in store for you. You are momentarily taken back to years previous, back when you were in high school, when this was your routine, and have a brief moment of nostalgia, of déjà vu.
This feels right. It feels comfortable.
It feels like home.
You have an easy smile on your face as you just stand in the middle of her room, basking in this remembrance, in this old feeling.
And then your moment is over and more powerful feelings fill your body as she comes into the room, all bouncy curls and equally simple smile gracing her features.
You can feel it now. The peace she brings you.
She goes over to her desk, takes her pills, flips through some pages of her trashed AA book, and takes a seat. Upon releasing a deep breath she looks at a scrap of paper she has removed and looks up at you.
"I know Haley's called a few times, that you've been holding her off. Why don't you call her and see if we can go over and see her and Nathan? I think that would be a good way to spend today. What do you think?"
"As long as you're up for it, it's fine by me. Will you be ready in say, a half hour?"
"Okay then. I'll go give Tutor-wife a call and then I'll be back."
She pauses a moment at the pet name. Sure, you've called her by many names over the years, but this one, along with a few others, you have had to hold back on, because you were only friends then. Your already content smile only grows in response to the one she is now wearing – because of you.
"I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you being here. How much it means to me. I just, sometimes I feel like I need you so much, and part of me doesn't want to feel like that, like I'm dependent on you. But you being here, it's been helping, you know, and I wouldn't want to be going through this with anyone but you."
"I'm glad you let me be here, and I really wouldn't want to be anywhere else. And no matter how long it takes to get to whatever point you are aiming for, I'll be here, and beyond that. Because I love you. And I need you, too."
You try and hide the slight blush you can feel on your cheeks as you step closer to her to give her a kiss on her own cheek that is slightly red as well, before you leave the room to make the call to Haley.
Yeah, you really like these good days.
She answers on the second ring, her voice sounding eager and surprised that you have called so soon, or maybe that you called at all.
You chat for a minute before getting to the point, telling her this is okay with Peyton, and that you think most of the bad days are behind you. You not naïve enough to think it will be cake from here on out, that it will only be good days to come, but you have a feeling that the scales are tipping in your favor.
"So you're sure?"
"Yes, tutor-wife. We've been having a good few days, and she knows you've been calling, have been worried. She wants to see you and Nathan; she's calm, easy right now. We want to see you guys, so don't worry too much."
"Alright then, how about you come over for lunch, and we'll just take it from there, see how the day unfolds."
"Sounds good. And thank you, Haley."
"You know I'm always here, Brooke. I'll see you in a couple hours, then, okay?"
"Yeah, we'll be there, bye."
You felt like things were maybe starting to finally fall back into place. This feeling is one you're sure you haven't felt in at least three years, probably longer.
Surely not since you and Peyton were last together, last close, like you had once been for such a long time. Like you're moving toward, hopefully beyond, now.
But things change, life gets in the way, death gets in the way, and things happen. You can't be sure, but you think the last time you felt this odd sense of normalcy was as far back as junior year, maybe even when you were sophomores, before all of the stupid crap relentlessly, continuously, tried to tear the two of you apart.
You thank God high school's over.
And you know she does too.
Everyone is probably fairly grateful that the hell known as high school is over.
Some time later you are patiently sitting on the bed waiting for Peyton to finish up in the bathroom. You release a small sigh as you look at your watch wondering what is taking her so long, having never known her to be the type to endlessly primp in front of the mirror – she never needed to, she already looked great.
You stand up and make your way over to the bathroom door, gently knocking and calling out to her, wondering if she's okay, if anything is wrong.
The door slowly opens and you get your answer.
Her head is slightly bent towards the ground but you can still see the tears that are slightly making their way down her face.
She's been crying and you're not sure why, all you know is that you want to make it right, make her feel better.
Reaching out you tilt her head up a bit, so you can look into her eyes as you ask her what's wrong, why she's upset.
"Look at me. I look horrible, none of my clothes fit, I look all emaciated and ghostly. I don't know what I was thinking when I thought I could do this. I haven't even been back for more than two weeks and I think I'm better? Well I'm not, and it's going to take a hell of a lot longer than two weeks. I don't think I can face them, Brooke. What are they going to think, what will they say? I just up and leave, for three years, and come back a mess, like this. Why would they even want to talk to me, let alone see me after all I've done? Why have you? I just, I don't understand, but I don't want you to leave. Just tell me, is it worth it? Am I really worth it?"
You had been waiting for this.
On some level, you knew she was going to break like this.
For as long as you have known her, this has been somewhat of a pattern. She holds too much inside, and even if you get her to talk about whatever it is that is bothering her, she still will carry the weight of it all and then later at some point she would just have a little melt down, just lose it and everything – sometimes stuff in no way related to the problem – would just come pouring out at once in a meltdown.
You're glad that since you have known her all this time that you know how to deal with this to some degree, so you are not completely overwhelmed.
After gently wiping away her tears you give her a hug and then carefully lead her over to her bed and sit her down. You rest on your knees on the floor directly in front of her and take her hands in each of your own, caressing them with your thumbs a moment before you look up into her eyes and begin speaking in a calm, soothing voice, full of certainty, truth, and love.
"Okay, first off I feel you need to hear this before everything else: I love you. You have to know that. And if you weren't sure before, for whatever reason, you know that now. Because I really do, love you, I mean."
You watch closely as a small, watery smile makes its way past her doubts.
"Now, as far as your appearance goes…I personally think you look beautiful. And before you interrupt, yes, you are skinnier than normal, and maybe you do look a little pale. But baby, you are still somewhat sick. You said it yourself, and told me what that doctor said, when you gain some weight and get a little healthier, your color will come back and you won't be this thin. And you'll get there; it'll just take some time. But in case you haven't noticed, you already look better than the when you first came to see me when you got back. As far as your clothes not fitting quite right, that just goes back to you getting healthier, so don't fret on it, alright? We're going to find you a doctor this week and we'll get you back to where you should be in no time. And no matter what, you'll always be beautiful to me, even if you don't think so."
You pause again, making sure you still have her attention, giving her hands a gentle squeeze in reassurance.
"As far as going to see Nathan and Haley today, that is still up to you. If you really don't think you're ready, then we won't go, they'll understand, really. You're making this into a bigger deal than it is. And I know you're not better, I'm not trying to delude myself or you into believing otherwise. But you still need to try and be positive or everything is going to be a lot harder and take a lot longer. Trust me when I say this, I love you and I will protect you from whatever I can. But I'm also going to want you to try here, too. You can't always hide behind me, and as much as I will always be there for you, I realize that I have to let you do things on your own, or without me guarding you. And you may get hurt, you may not always be ready, but it's a risk you sometimes have to take."
Your eyes have lowered to the floor for a moment as you speak, as you too, realize you can't always protect her from the world, from herself. Looking back up you see she has her head slightly tilted to the side, knowing she is really listening to you, as you can see some of that realization reflected back in her eyes.
"Tutor-wife and Hot Shot are our friends. They care about you, they were worried while you were gone and they are just relieved you're home now. They are concerned and want to see you, want to know that you're okay. They aren't going to hold those three years against you, they aren't going to judge you or criticize you or anything like that. Nathan and Haley just want to know that their friend is okay. And yeah, maybe you aren't quite there yet, they'll understand. All any of us want, Peyton, is to know those things. Maybe you can't give any more than that, or even all of it, but just seeing you, that has given us so much peace in the matter. When you were gone…we just missed you so much, and we had nothing. When we didn't know anything, that was really tough, it was hard. Now you're back, just that is enough to ease so much of the worry and fear. So don't be so afraid, okay? It's only Nathan and Haley, it's only your friends, who care about you and love you. If we see them today or next week, that's all it's going to be."
She nods her head in understanding, gripping your hands a little tighter, calming more and more as you speak.
"And lastly, you are absolutely worth it, Peyton. So many times over. Never doubt that. You may not recognize it as clearly as I do, as the others will, but you are everything to me and there is nowhere in this world I would rather be. Sure, things haven't been easy, and they won't always be, but the idea of just leaving you, not caring, not seeing you again, permanently losing you…I just don't like to think about that. You're a part of me, so integral; I'm just not me without you. So whenever you think that you don't deserve the love I have for you, the friendships you have in your life, or anything else, if you truly think that, just remember what I've told you, that you do deserve those things, and are so worth it. And if you still feel down on yourself, come find me, I'll tell you over and over again, as many times as you want. And it will be the truth every single time."
She smiling now, lowing herself to the floor to be closer to you, right in front of you, knees touching. You can see her eyes shining and wipe away a tear just as it starts to fall.
Draping her arms over your shoulders she leans in to give you a kiss, lasting long seconds until she pulls away and leans her head in the crook of your neck, just holding onto you.
You tighten your hold on her, moving your arms around her back, securing her to yourself. You both stay there in the stillness before you speak again.
"So, to sum it up…I love you so very, very much. You will always be the most beautiful thing in the world to me, inside and out. You may not see it, but you'll be healthy again, back to where you were before. If you don't think you're ready to see anyone else yet, that's just fine, we can wait, they will understand. Just remember, they are your friends and they care about you, you don't have to worry so much about seeing them. And you will get better, believe me, and I'll help any way you want me, need me to. And most of all, you are worth it, worth everything in the world. I know you're more pessimistic than optimistic but you shouldn't doubt yourself so much. I love you, I don't like to see you hurting the way you are, so whatever you need, whether it be a hug or a ride somewhere or reassurances, I'll give them to you. I'll be whatever you need."
You take in a breath as you cradle her to you just a little tighter, thinking that you could stay this way forever, just holding her in your arms.
"Now, what do you want to do? You still up for visiting Naley or do you think you need a little more time? And don't worry about anybody but yourself here, what do you want to do?"
She takes a minute to really think about the answer. You watch as she furrows her brow a little and bites her bottom lip, seriously contemplating what she wants to do and trying to reach within herself to find that answer.
"I-I think…I know I want to see them. I do, I really do."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. The last time I saw Haley was at the funeral. You know I talked to her about every week after summer was over, before… And Nathan and I had been e-mailing back and forth for a long time, I even got a few after I 'disappeared.' I kept in touch with them, I wanted to, and of course I talked to you like every day, you know, but then my dad died and I didn't know how…So yes, it'll be good to see them."
"Okay then, that's what we'll do. You ready to go?"
You watch as she gets up and walks herself right back into the bathroom. She splashes some water on face, straitens her clothes, and gives herself a final once over before turning off the light and coming to stand beside you.
She gives you a small smile, reaching out to take your hand as she follows you down the stairs. Grabbing her jacket before heading out the door, you look back at her as you both reach her car, a familiar smile adorning your face as well.
It's a sunny day. There's a light breeze and you feel warmth as she gives you a hug and hands her keys to you. Pulling out of the drive way you take her hand give her a kiss before driving off.
And again, she smiles at you.
And again, you are happy and hopeful.
And again, you know everything will be alright.