Say I Am You

Author's note: This story is dedicated to my friend Davis.

She was seventeen, and she was certain that she would love him forever.

She was as certain that she would love him forever as her mother was certain that she would not. She loved him as much as her mother hated him, she wanted him as much as her mother wanted him to leave and never come back.

These thoughts ran through Lily Rhode's mind as she walked up the many flights of stairs to her boyfriend Rufus' studio apartment. Even though this walk invariably gave her blisters, and even though it occasionally occurred to her that it was crazy to live somewhere without an elevator (let alone valet), it thrilled her. What other girl's boyfriend had his own apartment?Their boyfriends were dependent on their mothers for coddling and their fathers for their trust funds. None of them could be this cool if they tried, and Rufus didn't even have to try.

He was waiting for her outside the door when she arrived, vaguely pretending he hadn't been waiting for her by casually smoking a cigarette.

She threw herself into his arms. She had no reason to pretend.

Hours later they lie in bed, limbs entangled. Too close to discern where she ended and he began. It is so, so, easy to block the world out.

She was eighteen, and she still loved him. Really she did.

Only it was so much harder now. She had figured that after a year her mother would stop caring and she'd stop having to sneak out. Or that he'd maybe become just a little bit more responsible, bend to what Cecilia Rhodes expected of him.

She was about to go off into her future but she had the strangest feeling that he had no plans at all to do the same.

Worst of all, she is eighteen and she isjealous.

Of course, it's ridiculous. She tells herself. Allison is dirty blonde (perhaps even bottle-blond. Lily shudders at the thought.) But she is attainable, she has no prying mother in the background forever insinuating that he is not good enough.

Allison is not easy, per se, but what they have could be.

Rufus Humphrey was twenty-two, and he realizes that he should have fought harder.

It occurs to him every day, every minute. Even when passably attractive Allison parades herself in front of his nose, even when groupies throw themselves at him, even when thongs are thrown onto the stage.

He could have fought harder, and he should have, and this thought occupies his thoughts constantly until he realizes that there was nothing left to fight for.

Lily was twenty – three and she realizes that she had made a mistake.

It's not that she does not love the baby in her arms, because she does. Always, forever, more than anything.

And it's not as if she doesn't love the older, appropriate man she left her first love for. Because she does, sort of. He is exactly the type of man who is sort of easy to love. He is kind, he is gentle, and he is boring.

She loves her daughter. When she hears of Rufus's wife having a son only months before her daughter, she is sure he loves his son, too.

She loves her daughter, and knows that she would have been born as she was no matter what. Because of this, she can't help but wish things had turned out just a little differently.

Rufus Humphrey was twenty-seven, and he is fine with how things have turned out.

More than fine. Elated. He is maybe not a rock star anymore, but it was nice while it lasted.

And he has Dan, and he has Jenny, and he has Allison.

It is only occasionally that it occurs to him what else he could have.

She is forty – one and she needs to tell herself that she is in love, again.

Of course, it is a necessary step in preserving her lifestyle. She has already sacrificed everything to maintain it, so she figures she might as well keep on going. After all, it does come easily to her.

And after all, Bart is a nice man. She is at least somewhat certain that he will not cheat in her, and slightly more certain that he will make a good stepfather to her children.

It really was the best of all possible circumstances.

It is what Serena wants, at least comparatively, and Lily can tell this to herself to make her believe that what she is doing is selfless and not cowardly, yet another reason to stop herself from following her heart.

There are so many reasons now, why bother to keep count? She knows he loves her, always has, and can finally admit it now. It should be straightforward, but nothing is as straightforward as it was when she was seventeen.

She is going to marry Bart Bass and she hopes that it will last, even though she knows it will not.

Nothing ever has before.

She is forty – one and even though it doesn't matter anymore, she knows she is going to love him forever.