Maybe this won't last very long

But you feel so right

And I could be wrong

Maybe I've been hoping too hard

But I've gone this far

And it's more than I hoped for

-o-o-o-

I don't care what consequence it brings

I have been a fool for lesser things

I want you so bad

I think you ought to know that

I intend to hold you for the longest time



Ellie came home from her least favorite class- she was convinced the instructor was a total tool- and headed into the kitchen for some much needed chocolate. She opened the cupboard, took out the box of granola bars (Paige would never open them so her chocolate was safe in it), and pulled out a Dove bar. Ellie had just taken her first bite of the stress-relieving chocolate when she noticed a note on the counter addressed to her.

She read:

Hey El,

I was cleaning and I found this behind the table by the door.

-Marco

P.S. Read it.

Why would he tell her to read it? Okay, so maybe sometimes she paid her bills a little late. And maybe if it was something from her mother she'd avoid it like the plague- but she would read it eventually.

Ellie got her answer when she noticed the return address. Alberta. She only knew one person in Alberta.

She stared at it sitting there on her kitchen counter. A envelope. From Craig. To her. She noticed the postmark; because it didn't make sense that it was from Alberta now when she knew he was in Europe with Ashley. But it was from three whole months ago, when he was in Alberta, when he was still in rehab.

Marco was right. Part of her really, really didn't want to read it. Part of her did want to read it- fully expecting every second of finding out of what was in the envelope to majorly suck and to keep on sucking for days and weeks to come. Because she knew she wasn't at all over him, no matter how much she tried to be.

Four hours later, Marco knocked on Ellie's bedroom door. When no response came he poked his head in. He found her sitting on the floor next to her bed, the letter before her on the ground unopened. "Hey," he greeted.

"Hey," she replied not looking up at him.

"Umm…" Marco hesitated, "Okay, so I obviously didn't open that and I don't know what's in it. But I do know what's in it and you really need to read it."

"You called him?" Ellie deduced.

Marco nodded, "I wanted him to know that you hadn't gotten whatever he sent until now." When Ellie didn't respond and still hadn't looked up at him, Marco entered the room further and knelt down on the ground in front of her. He managed to catch her gaze after much effort and added, "Things are all ready bad enough between you two, opening this envelope and seeing what he sent can't really make it worse. It could, possibly, make it better though."

Marco rose from his spot on the floor and headed out the door with a final encouragement, "Read it."

Slightly over two hours later Ellie was still sitting on her bedroom floor and still staring at the unopened envelope. What Marco had said made sense. She hadn't spoken to Craig since that awful weekend and things were already bad enough between them and despite all of his faults she knew he wouldn't send something to make things worse- not intentionally at least. So, whatever he send could have the potential to make things better. But was she ready for that? Was she ready to give him another chance? To give him the opportunity to break her heart again?

She picked up the envelope and opened it. She unfolded the many papers covered with Craig's messy scrawl and read:

Dear Ellie,

Six hours? I'm just guessing how long it took you to open this. I get it, I know. I know

you so well…it makes all this a lot harder.

I don't really know where to start. I had to write an album of songs, but this is the hardest thing I've ever had to write. Especially without sounding cliché because clearly that's already been unavoidable and I know you'll hate the clichés and as stupid as they sound, just…remember I mean them.

I'm supposed to write letters to everyone my drug addiction has hurt. We don't have to send them, but I owe a lot of people a lot. I had some trouble writing to Joey and Angie, but it was pretty easy for everyone else and to let the letters slip into the on-site mailbox. But yours…the problem with yours is that I started hurting you long before my first high and hurt you more than I could possibly imagine with every continued use. And I'm sorry just sounds so meaningless because they're just words and it can't fix anything, can't change anything, and can't heal the pain I've already caused.

So all of this is just the truth. Everything ignored, everything hidden, everything real. I told you, and I told myself, that I was always honest with you, but that was just another lie. Because there have been lies that have existed about you and me and us since…since forever. And it's so long past time that I tell the truth and come clean. I guess that makes this Craig 101. The part where I say everything that was never acknowledged, never thought, never said.

I should start at the beginning, I know I should start at the beginning, it's only logical. But God I miss you Ellie.

I miss you more than food with flavor, which is something they don't serve at this particular rehab facility. I miss you more than fresh air, which I haven't breathed a single ounce of in five months because I haven't stepped outside this building in five months and the few windows have bars on them. I miss you more than sunsets and sunrises, which I haven't let myself have a glimpse of since I got here because then it confirms that days are actually passing that don't have you in them and I know I can't handle that thought.

Top 5 That Suck About My Life Right Now:

1. You're not in it.

2. You're not in it.

3. You're not in it.

4. You're not in it.

5. You're not in it.

Sorry to get all Rob Gordon, High Fidelity on you, but I feel like I am Rob. I'm obsessive, I make lists like he does (you know it's true, remember summer before senior year?), and I've screwed up everything good in my life like he did…before the happy ending of the movie at least. In Rob's words, I keep following my gut and my gut has shit for brains. Except when I don't follow my shit for brains gut I do something even more stupid like actually use my brain and convince myself that I have to give you up. And the thing is, that still makes sense to me Ellie. I'm not good enough to be in your life. I've destroyed every relationship I've ever been in. I break people, and I've broken you enough already. I hate myself for hurting you. And knowing all that you'd think my gut would learn its lesson, but as I said, shit for brains, and all I want is you, still, always.

I'm getting ahead of myself, I know, I have a tendency to do that. You know that too, how hyper I can get when I'm passionate about something (i.e. you, music, you, family, you, friends, you).

There's a lot of things that I know I should explain, that you deserve an explanation on and I'm going to try and do my best and you probably won't like a lot of it because I'm an idiot, but please just don't stop reading.

Before Ashley left you were sort of just there. I had too many problems, I was too self absorbed, and I knew you had your own stuff so it felt like we just sort of co-existed. Then Ash started hanging around me less even though we were together and then I got diagnosed and she threw me in a group with you. She gave me you and I've thanked her for that. And once you were in my life I couldn't imagine it without you. I mean, I was still with Ashley and I wanted to follow her to England, but I had this really odd thought as I was packing up to pretend to go (before I didn't take my meds and go a little coo coo cahoo). I was putting a t-shirt (you know, that The Who one?) in a bag and I thought, "If I played 'Baba O'Riley' for Ellie she would know it's 'Baba O'Riley' and wouldn't make the stupid mistake most people do and call it by its incorrect name of 'Teenaged Wasteland." Weird huh? I think on some level that was the moment that I started to realize that you weren't just some girl or just a friend.

And then I had the breakdown and I remember the first time I saw you after it so clearly. I was in the hospital still and you came strolling through the door to my room and plopped in the chair next to my bed, put your feet up on my bed, as you said, "Way to pull a super cliché rock star move Manning. A meltdown? Seriously? Could you get any lamer? Or cockier-because you do realize you're not a pampered tabloid trash rock star, right?" At that moment, with your sarcastic-sort of insensitive-teasing, my life just seemed a whole lot better and I didn't even realize it yet. I kind of started to notice it when you left a few hours later though because once you went out that door again it just suddenly came back to me, "I'm in a hospital. I majorly screwed up." While you were with me, I was just with you, and there wasn't anything else to notice or think about, just you.

Then, all summer, it was just you, just us. It was the best summer. For two and a half months the world melted away and despite the fact that we went to group twice a week to talk about how screwed up we were, it was still- somehow- fun and just…amazing. And group was supposed to be my therapy, but I think it was you that made me better.

Summer ended and I was still with Ashley and when someone asked me about her I'd respond and hope that no one noticed that until someone said her name, I hadn't thought about her. And when she broke up with me I wasn't pissed because you didn't tell me and I knew that you knew that I could handle it. I was mad because I knew the fact that I was with Ashley was really the only thing stopping me from doing something stupid with you. Like kissing you, which I started thinking about doing after we were hanging out after our second group session after I got out of the hospital. We were at the park and you were explaining to me why Breakfast at Tiffany's the book is so much better than the movie. And then I said something that made you laugh and you were smiling from then on, through the rest of your explanation. And I don't know, you sounded so smart, everything you said, and I had never realized how nice a smile looks on you, or a laugh sounds from you, and I really wanted to kiss you, in that moment, and for every moment that followed. So, when Ash broke up with me I knew I didn't have a reason not to kiss you anymore, but I knew that I shouldn't.

The same day I realized I wanted to kiss you was the same day I realized how horrible it would be for you if I did. First, initially it would have made me a cheater- and you deserve way better than that. Second, we group together- I'm too screwed up for you. You don't need any more hardship in your life and that's all I am. Third, I'm too much of a coward. I never wanted anything as much as you and if I failed at that, if I couldn't make you happy, I don't know if I could survive that. Fourth, I've messed up all the other relationships I've been in and if I messed up with you…I didn't want to be one of the people that hurt you so bad that you hurt yourself-because of me. I still can't handle that thought.

So when the time came I chose Manny. I chose Manny because I knew it would be bad for you if I chose you. And I chose Manny because I had screwed up with her before, she deserved me to be better, and if I could be better for her, maybe someday I could be better for you. I knew I hurt you- but I hoped that you only reciprocated a fraction of my feelings for you so you would get over it and move on. So I wouldn't be tempted to kiss you and hurt you anymore. When you started hanging out with me again I thought you had moved on, but I didn't it turned out. Because just like when I was with Ashley, whenever I was hanging out with you or talking to you anyone would've had to convince me that I had a girlfriend because when I was with you I was just with you- they didn't exist.

Then I went away because you talked me into being brave enough to take a chance and because you believed in me so much I had to go. I failed though. I went away and you believed I would be great, but I wasn't. I was miserable and missing you and I could only write something decent after talking to you. And I had been up on stages before I was on them with you, but after…I got up there for the first time by myself and I suddenly realized that I was all alone, and how far away you really were, and how I couldn't do this alone. But I was there, alone, and having to do it anyway so when a way to get through it presented itself… At first I only used when I had to perform- to get through being alone on stage. Then I used to get me through the nights when I couldn't talk to you. Then I used to get me through the days without you. And suddenly I was always using.

I missed you. (I miss you.) It's no excuse, I know. But I told you I'm a screw up. I'm not strong enough. I worried about being with you and not being able to make it work and then falling apart because of my failure, but I fell apart without you anyway. And none of it's your fault, I know that and I want to make sure that it doesn't sound like I'm saying it is because I really really know that I used because I'm messed up. Because I loved you (for the longest time) and I needed you and I couldn't muster up the courage to just say so, to take a chance and try and be the person you deserved without going off to become a rock star or rectifying an old relationship first.

The thing is, every decision I ever made to not be with you still makes sense to me. And what's happened now seems like pretty clear proof that I was right- I'm not good enough for you, I hurt you. And I know a lot of that hurt is because I used which was because I'm a screw up, but still, I would have messed it up some other way if I hadn't left and developed a drug addiction. I had a record deal, I should have been in a good place and I still managed to turn it into a disaster. If I had you (better than a record deal), I would have mucked it up.

Am I writing in circles? I feel like I'm writing in circles. You're the writer among us though so I know no matter how many times I write this letter or revise what I've written I'm going to make some stupid mistake that you never would have.

You know, I don't remember kissing you or telling you I love you. I was too high. I have dreams where I do both, and we're in the dressing room at The Stairwell and…I don't know if it's what really happened or just a dream. I know what happened. But by closing my eyes I can't feel the moment. I can imagine, but I cannot remember. And sometimes in the night my mind plays cruel tricks on me because it has us back stage together and I'm sober and we're happy and I don't do the show because we run away to a movie theater for a date (and making out), or your place to be alone, or we hop a plane to Atlantic City or Las Vegas and we end up in a chapel. And I wake up and I'm all alone and none of it happened.

And none of it had to happen. You told me to stop using and I did. And I did come to group. I was late because…you know I can never manage to be punctual and then I got held up by an accident on 5th. But I was there, and you thought I wasn't coming and I saw you through the window by the door. You were snapping your rubber band around your wrist, you wanted to be cutting, and it was because of me. I promised myself that I would never ever be that guy- the one that makes you want to hurt yourself. And I was him. It was the worst moment of my life and I couldn't…I used again. I used a lot. And part of me hoped that it would be the end. That I used enough to…I didn't feel like I deserved to live, after what I did to you.

But I'm here now. And I'm clean. And I'm never using ever again. Ellie, I swear, I promise, I'll never use anything ever again.

The point of all this was to tell you how sorry I am, because I am so sorry Ellie- for everything. Part of recovery is to ask for forgiveness from the people we've hurt. I don't deserve your forgiveness, I know. But I'm asking for it anyway. And I'm asking for more. Ellie, I still love you. And I know I'm a bi-polar recovering coke head, and that means that I'm not a smart choice for a boyfriend, or a husband, or a father of your future children, but I'm hoping that you'll give me a chance to be all that anyway. As I said, thinking with my head hasn't worked out too well for me in the past. So, I'm putting it out there. I love you, and that's not going to change. I want to be with you.

When I was coked out I signed something that, well, I have one of Ashley's songs on my album as my own, without giving her any kind of credit. And so she doesn't kill me for that (and thankfully the record company was wiling to agree to a deal since they don't want to be sued by Ash) she's going to come on tour with me. The record company only liked the idea of her touring with me under certain conditions. They think it will work out better if we seem like some high school sweetheart couple (they actually gave me a script to use during the show where I'm supposed to declare that I play for her). They think it will "look" better. They have plans to break us up once Ash gets her own following. Anyway, I want you to know that I'll have to say that I write every song for her, but I wrote every song for you. And every time I'm up on stage I'll be singing every note for you, playing every note for you.

So, I'm going to be in Europe touring. I know I've written a lot. I know I'm asking a lot. If or when you feel like you may be willing to give me yet another chance, or when you decide to take pity on my pathetic self, call me. Call me and when I come back I'll come back to you. If not, I suppose maybe I'll run into you sometime around Toronto (they said I could work from there if the tour is a success). If you really don't want to risk running into me because you don't want to ever see me again, which I understand, have Marco call and I'll move somewhere else at the end of the tour so the chance of a run in isn't there.

I love you. I miss you. And I hope you'll call.

Yours,

Craig

Ellie read the letter again, and then again. When Marco came knocking on her door around midnight she let him read it. Then he asked her what she was going to do so she kicked him out again.

She thought back to the question that had made her hesitate after Marco had come to see her the first time. Was she ready to give Craig another chance? He hadn't been wrong when he said he had broken her. Or when he said that he made her want to cut again when he didn't show up- no one had been able to do that to her for a while now.

He loved her. Part of her was surprised at that. Yeah he said it when he was high, but she couldn't believe him then- even though her longing heart desperately wanted her to. She had wanted him to love her for so long and right now she really didn't have any reason to believe he was lying, but she had every reason to believe he was telling the truth.

If he loved her though, then this time when he broke her heart it would be worse- and it had already been unbearable. Maybe he wouldn't break her heart though. Maybe it could work out this time. The real question was, was she still in love with him enough to risk her fragile heart again?

Ellie glanced at the clock. Four a.m. But it wouldn't be four a.m. everywhere.

She picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number.

The Beginning


A/N: I hope you enjoyed the story. And just to make it clear, it's the beginning for Craig and Ellie, but it is the end of the story. That's right THE END. No more will be added. This story will not be continued.

Thank you for reading and, again, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please let me know your thoughts on the story by reviewing- I was really unsure if I was in-character throughout the story so I'd love some feedback.

-Sarah