If we ever say goodbye, I promise not to cry.
The broken clock was a comfort. It helped him sleep at night—what little he did sleep anyway. Ezra Fitz stared at the flashing red 12:00. Apparently, it'd been midnight for the better part of three days now. He groaned and rolled over onto his back, his gaze drifting towards the window. If the gray light outside was any indication, it was far closer to six than twelve. He'd have to get up soon, button himself into a suit, and make the twenty minute drive to Hollis College.
As he rolled out of bed and stumbled towards the bathroom to shower, he couldn't help but muse on how twisted life really was. Not more than two weeks ago, he'd been thrilled to be starting his career as a collegiate professor. It meant better pay, better hours, and best of all, no more legal restrictions on his relationship with Aria. An exasperated snort escaped him. There wasn't a relationship anymore.
The main reason Ezra had accepted the position, the only reason that'd really mattered didn't even exist at present. He hadn't even seen the breakup coming. They'd patched things up after the night of the disastrous faculty mixer. She'd come to him in the middle of the night, upset and crying, and very clearly shaken.
He hadn't asked questions. Instead, he'd wrapped her in his arms and held her close. Because that's what you did when you loved someone. You took care of them, put their needs before yours, and took on their problems as your own.
And then she'd left. Ezra had woken up alone in his bed, cold and angry that she'd disappeared without as much as a goodbye. There was no note, no missed phone call, not even a text. She'd gone, and had it not been for the scent of her upon his pillow, he would've wondered if she'd really ever been there at all.
He'd tried to get up with her, but she avoided him like the plague. Aria became the last to arrive for English, and the first to leave. She didn't answer his calls, his emails, or his text messages. Then, when on his last day at Rosewood she didn't even bother to show up for class, he cracked. He cornered Ella in the hallway and asked about Aria, just wanting, for his own sanity, to know she was okay.
Apparently, she was doing just fine. So he'd straightened himself up, pulled himself together, and packed his things. If she was through, then he was too. He'd gotten home that night after a few too many beers at the bar and found her waiting on his couch.
"I think we need to talk," she'd said.
He'd almost laughed—almost. "Oh, so know you're ready to talk? What about these past few weeks? Were you not ready then? I mean, jesus Aria. You can't just ignore your boyfriend for days on end because you don't feel like talking to him. Do you have any idea how worried I've been?"
"You shouldn't have worried. I'm fine." She'd shifted on the couch, tugging her skirt down just a little lower.
"Clearly. So," he pulled of his shoes and sat down in the chair across from her, "what'd you want to talk about." Ezra had hated the callous note in his voice, and sometimes he wondered if he'd been just a little softer, just a bit more gentle, if she still would've ended things.
"I think we need to take a break."
"Yeah, I got that. The whole not speaking to me thing, you know? Anything else?"
She'd huffed and snatched her coat up off the couch. "I won't talk to you when you're like this."
"Well, who said I wanted to talk to you anyway?"
Her eyes flickered closed in pain and he reached for her, his warm hands pulling her towards him. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that."
"I'll umm…I'll come back tomorrow, alright? We can talk then." She looked at him for a moment before leaving the apartment.
She never came back.
After that, he never really tried to find her. Maybe things were better this way—more painful—but better. She could be normal, and he could pretend that he wasn't in love with a sixteen year old. It was safer, easier, and…better.
And for several days he convinced himself that it was-although that easily could have been the lack of sleep and ridiculous amounts of alcohol speaking. His new students probably thought he was pathetic, but he couldn't bring himself to care. That was always what he told himself—he didn't care. So he didn't care when he ran into her at the book store. He didn't care when they bumped into one another on campus when she was visiting her dad. And he most certainly didn't care when found random pieces of her presence in his apartment—a scarf here, a book there, an old love letter tucked into some random corner.
That morning however, after he'd showered, buttoned into his suit, and headed for Hollis college, he couldn't not care anymore. He made his usual stop for coffee when he saw her. She was sitting alone at a table, a blueberry muffin in front of her and an iced caramel latte in her hand. His gut clenched and he was sorely tempted to walk over to her—just to say hi, he told himself, just to hear her voice.
But then some guy came along, a bottle of water in his hand and large grin on his face. He'd leaned over to kiss her and she'd wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. The guy whispered in her ear and she laughed.
Ezra nearly cried. He'd used to make her laugh like that. Then she saw him, gave a sad smile and a tiny wave before turning back to whoever the guy was. She'd brushed him off as if he was nothing. Ezra didn't get his coffee. He left the shop without a backward glance, his pace rapid and his hands clenched into tight fists.
There'd be no tears, no cursed words, no angry violence. If she could act as if they'd never happened, as if they'd never mattered, then so could he. So could he…