Staccato

"Hey Fred?"
"Hmm?"
"Do you regret it?"
"Yeah."

---

Waves crashing on the sun-heated sand. The beach, midsummer. Salty air, just the way she remembers it, the way she's craved it.

Pacific Coast Highway. Searching out pennies for mediocre food. The slow crawl home in a little red Toyota.

Four friends.

Really, just friends.

---

"You look uncomfortable."
"I'm not."
"You're lying."
"No, really. I'm totally and completely fine."
"Your twin brother and my best friend are making out in public two feet from us. You're nowhere near fine."
"It's just…weird, okay?"
"Block it out."
"Kind of hard."
"I can do it."
"You're not facing them."
"So look at the wall instead."
"The wall is boring, Angelina."
"Then look at me."
"I'm trying."
"No, you're not. Eye contact, Fred. Block them out. Listen to my voice."
"Okay."
"Okay?"
"…Okay."

---

Three perfect weeks of midsummer bliss. She can still taste the sweetness of oblivion, feel the warm wind in her hair from that night.

It was exactly what she wanted, two years too late.

Upon reflection (and isn't that what this is all about), she probably should've seen it coming.

---

"Can I ask you a question?"
"Of course. Have I ever been one to say no to inquiry?"
"This one's a little different, Angelina."
"Okay, shoot."
"Do you want to maybe go out sometime? Like, a movie or something?"

---

Two months of silence.

Understandable, maybe. But she doesn't want to understand.

Two months of hesitation.

Reasonable, maybe. But she's never been reasonable.

Two months of doubt.

Unsettling, maybe. But she's good at it.

---

"Hey, we haven't talked in a while."
"Yeah, I know. Been busy."
"Well get un-busy, Fred. Life is boring without your conversation."
"I'll work on it."
"You should."
"Okay."
"…Okay."

---

They dance around the subject, bury it in casualties. She's never been good at hiding things, but she's learning quickly. He's a good teacher, even though he probably doesn't realize it.

She doesn't like the pauses when they talk. She doesn't like how he always looks ready to bolt when she's around.

She doesn't like any of this.

And life goes on.

---

"You're oversimplifying."
"And you're being emo."
"I'm not being emo, it's just the truth."
"Fred."
"What."
"Fred."
"What. I'm just saying what's on my mind. You should do the same."
"Fine. I regret it."
"You regret what?"
"Turning you down, okay? I regret turning you down. Are you happy now that I've effectually invalidated your argument?"
"…Maybe we should talk about this."

---

And for a moment, it works. Fall turns to winter, and everything just works.

They're not exactly normal, but neither was how they got there.

We'll figure it out. It's like their motto. And when they smile at each other, when they talk, for the first time in a long time it's real.

Everything works.

For a moment.

---

"Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah, I'm only dying."
"You're not exactly filling me with confidence here."
"I'll be fine, Angelina."
"Can you make it home?"
"It's just a headache, nothing major. I can still drive. I'm just sorry I was such a buzzkill tonight."
"It's fine, don't worry. Just…be safe."
"Sleep well, Angelina."

---

A typical Saturday night. A typical movie.

She can see the weariness in his eyes as he smiles. As he speaks.

He keeps his distance. She complies, smiling back when it feels as though she should. They're playing roles. No emotion. She knows this, even if it's never spoken. There are just some things she can feel.

No contact, even when she reaches for his hand. Even when they kiss goodnight.

No contact.

Not really.

She knows this.

And it's killing her.

---

"Hey Angelina?"
"Yeah?"
"Do you regret it?"
"Not at all."

---

Insert lamenting love song here.

Something by Paramore would probably be appropriate.

One of those emo bands.

---

"Busy?"
"Yeah, a little. What's up?"
"Can you talk?"
"Sure. A break might be nice."
"It might take a while."
"I don't mind, Angelina. Go for it."
"…Was I too late?"

---

An unusually warm winter week. Sprawling grass, a park she loves.

They struggle through three days. Three days of fumbled attempts to figure things out using all the right words. Three days of the same phrases with different synonyms. Three days of madness and uncertainty.

At least, that's what she tells herself.

Maybe one day she'll acknowledge that the end result was certain from the start.

---

"Look, try to understand-"
"You don't need to explain this to me, Fred."
"I just don't want you to hate me."
"I don't hate you."

---

She hates him, she realizes as she drinks deeply from her third sympathy Starbucks of the day.

At least a little bit.

What feels like the thousandth person approaches and inquires after her well being, and for a second she almost considers being honest. But there's no time for emotion, no place for it right now. There's no room for a mess, there's too much to do. She can't spend trivial hours doing trivial things.

Things like feeling.

She's getting good at this whole suppression thing.

It's like a recital at this point. A practiced performance.

She's fine.

Really, just fine.

---

"You don't need to avoid me, y'know."
"I'm not avoiding you."
"Right, that's why you subjected yourself to an entire lunch period watching Ron and Lavender grope each other."
"They're my family."
"Ron is your family. Ron and Lavender freak you out."
"We're just…in different circles."
"Except not at all."
"I'm not avoiding you."
"Whatever, Fred."

---

Black lights, loud music.

People everywhere. People she knows, people she doesn't.

People she's a little too familiar with for her comfort at the moment.

She observes with a bitter smile, curled up on someone who might just care about her.

Another sip, another sigh.

The night goes on.

---

"Are you going?"
"Yeah, should be fun."

---

New Year's Eve.

Chaos. Beautiful, utter chaos.

Dancing. Rhythm. Heat. Too much, but never quite enough.

He puts a hand on her shoulder and she turns to look at him, her eyebrow raised in question.

Searching.

The music drowns out reason, and she lets it overcome her.

---

"Hey Fred?"
"Hmm?"
"Do you regret it?"
"No."

End.

This was mostly me just playing with a more postmodern form for my comtemporary fiction class than really writing a legit Harry Potter fanfiction, but I guess it works. Ish.