Stephanie sniffed as her mind began to drift, the words becoming a hazy blur on the screen in front of her. There was a dull ache in her chest as she blinked back the hot tears that threatened to fall, tears that she had shed every time she thought about losing the one man she had ever really loved, the one man that could have been her everything. At that moment she hated her father. She hated him for testing her loyalty to him and making her give up the one thing she treasured most in her life. He was the man of her dreams. Paul.
The thing that really hurt her the most is the fact that Vince had changed his mind and taken away his permission for them to date. When he had given her and Paul his blessing, Stephanie had been the happiest girl alive. She was with the most amazing guy, a guy that in all honesty she could picture spending the rest of her life with and as crazy as it sounded, the man she wanted to be the father of her children. She could even picture the cosy little home with the white picket fence but now she had to give it all up just because of the assholes in the locker rooms who couldn't handle the fact that she and Paul were together.
God, she wanted to just crawl away and hide and dwell in her own melancholy but unfortunately that wasn't an option for her. Unfortunately for her, the show still had to go on. Stephanie took a deep breath and tried to concentrate on the script she was in the middle of working on. She rubbed her temples trying to make the low throbbing go away when the knock at the door interrupted her and she quickly wiped at her eyes, trying her best to find her composure.
"Come in." she called.
Her breath caught in her throat and she felt a little shaky as she watched Paul walk through the door. She resisted the urge to run over to him and wrap her arms around him just as tightly as she could. Instead she sat still, her blue eyes settling on his as she drank him in. His brown pools were heavy and tired and the forced smile that traced his lips didn't even reach them. He stood there awkwardly, his big hands stuffed in the pockets of his faded jeans.
"Hey." he said.
Stephanie swallowed thickly, pushing back the lump in her throat. "Hey."
"So, how's things?"
Paul's tone was so gentle and he wore a concerned expression on his face. Concern that brought tears to her eyes, tears that she desperately tried to blink away. She had been so determined to be strong about this but seeing Paul standing there in front of her yet so out of her reach, her resolve crumbled. Stephanie quickly stood up and turned away smoothing down her black pencil skirt taking the chance to compose herself once more. She released a shaky breath before licking her lips and slowly turning to face him.
"Things are…..okay. I'm okay." she replied, forcing a smile. "You?"
Paul nodded as he quickly scanned her face. He knew Stephanie was lying to him. It was obvious she was far from okay but he decided to let it go for now because if she could pretend things were fine, it meant he could pretend too. Although the heaviness in his heart reminded him just how hard this was to stand here in front of her, being so close to her. But he couldn't stay away. He had to come and see her and of course he had told himself he just wanted to check up on her. The truth was the last six days without her had been the longest and hardest of his life. And although they had made small talk on the phone with the pretence of going over storylines and generally avoiding the reality of the situation, Paul had missed her face, her beautiful blue eyes and her amazing smile. Her smile was what he missed the most. No matter how bad or low he was feeling, one smile from Stephanie and his mood had lifted. It was dazzling and beautiful just like her.
"Did you want to go over the script for tonight?" Stephanie asked, breaking his thoughts.
Paul slowly shook his head. "Actually. I just wanted to see you."
He smiled softly as he took a step closer to her, lifting his left shoulder in a shrug.
"I guess I needed to know you were okay."
Stephanie pressed her lips together as her eyes once again glossed over with her tears. They slipped over her lashes trickling down her cheeks as she lost the battle to suppress them. Paul didn't hesitate for one second as he walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her holding her tightly while she cried. As her body shook with her sobs, the moment felt bittersweet as he realised how good it felt to have her in his arms again. It was like coming home but how he wished it was under different circumstances. Although Paul had tried his best to understand Vince's decision and to respect it for Stephanie's sake, right now he felt like telling Vince exactly where to shove it. What made the situation even more unbearable was the fact that he had given them his blessing and had given them the time to get to know and develop feelings for one another, feelings that had completely overwhelmed him. Paul knew without a doubt that he had fallen in love with Stephanie although she was still blissfully unaware. He'd never found the courage to say the words out loud and now it was far too late.
As Paul felt Stephanie's body stop trembling, he still held on to her tightly reluctant to let her go and wanting to hold on to her as long as he possibly could.
"This is so damn hard." Stephanie whispered into his chest.
Paul sighed heavily as his fingers lifted and slowly began to brush through the ends of her soft brown strands. "I know. But if it's meant to be, it will be and we have to have faith in that."
Stephanie pulled away and looking up into his deep brown eyes, she felt a grip in her chest and knew right then and there that despite what her father wanted, she was going to be with Paul no matter what. She didn't want to live without him for another second. All she had to figure out now was how to prove to her father that they were truly meant to be together.