I actually loved writing this and I am proud of the end result. (This is a rarity, guys, okay.)
Title from Richard Siken's poem Visible World.
breaking the bones of your heart like twigs.
There are two people in this world: the one who loves you and the one who doesn't.
This is the story of the one who doesn't.
Caroline writes her life in fragments — unfinished thoughts in margins, scribbles on bar napkins; the sweetest ones written across her victims. She writes Elena Elena Elena on all of the brunettes, takes extra special care of them, smoothing out the dark strands of their hair. Writes a book on the boy who looks like Matt and Tyler both in the eyes and the mouth. There's one in Albuquerque who looks so much like Bonnie than she has to close her eyes to write I miss you.
She writes long, bitter letters to Stefan on the ones that look like Elena. You did this, I hate you, I love you, How's Damon?, I don't care, Hope Elena's doing well, All your fault, You bastard, Could have had it all, What happened to you?, Sweet, sweet Stefan.
Damon is on the bar napkins. She dabs up a spill of her bourbon with a crisp white one, is overcome with this bout of nostalgia of the Grill and east Tennessee, scribbles down a few words that go like this: you'd be proud.
She catches one with Klaus' saccharine voice and rips and pulls at his head until it's on the ground beside her. With ragged breath and bloody hands she writes: this is all your fucking fault.
She leaves Mystic Falls on a Sunday, but promises Elena to be back in a fortnight.
It's been months. And too many Elena's later, she's still ignoring phone calls and texts messages, slurps her bourbon at a bar in Oklahoma, writes to Damon that she hopes he's doing well.
She doesn't say i'll be back soon or tell Elena not to worry. Only makes sure her grammar is proper and her handwriting is legible. Sends it by way of a boy who looks too much like his brother to be anything other than a sick joke.
Caroline almost laughs at that. Almost.
Caroline starts a letter to her mother, but then she —
Damon gets her note. He calls her and she answers on the first ring.
"I thought you would've already thrown your phone in a Great Lake." He says in lieu of hello, hey, how are you.
"Why'd you call then?"
"I got your note." She smirks and traces the rim of her glass.
"Nice touch — leaving him on my doorstep." She can't tell if he's smirking or frowning, decides she shouldn't care, swallows more bourbon before she responds.
"Well. I've only ever heard stories about it. Never quite understood the enjoyment until now." He feels her smirking through the phone.
"Blondie," he treads on uncharted territory, pauses, recoils. "I'll talk to you later."
She does not throw her phone in a Great Lake or in the Mississippi.
While traveling through a small town in Virginia, awfully close to Mystic Falls, she compels a boy to tell her he loves her. She wants him to stumble over the love and hesitate just before the you. He does it perfectly, just like Matt did.
She smiles, a feeling growing in her stomach that resembles guilt and loneliness, desires to stifle it — could use a pen and some paper to write this down, has none, apologizes desperately as she sinks her fangs into the boy's neck. He begins to resemble Matt then — the blue of his eyes clouding over with fright — writes it all down the only way she knows how.
"Are you going to leave a body on my doorstep every time you miss me? Stefan's starting to worry."
"Are you going to call me every time I do?" She pushes him, a small smile settling on her lips as she twirls an olive in her martini glass.
"Yes," he tells her honestly.
"Then yes." She smiles and ends the call, fingers itching to write him again — scribble something vile, something horrid to change his mind. She doesn't want him to, no. But she thinks maybe he should.
Caroline, sometimes, doesn't send anything. Only sits at a desk in a damp motel with a small lamp supplying light and scribbles and erases, practices her penmanship, then crumples the paper and starts over.
Always starting over.
Stefan seeks her out. He finds her in the bar of one of the most elegant hotels in Atlanta. When he walks in, it doesn't take long to spot her. She's wearing a red dress that stops above her knee, accentuates everything about her that is amazing, and her golden locks fall around her shoulders and shine under the dim lights. She's at the bar, finger tracing the rim of her martini glass, carrying on a conversation with a guy who isn't good enough for her — Stefan can tell.
When he gets close enough, he can hear her giggle and watches as she lays her hand on the man's arm, pulls him closer to her.
"Excuse me, miss?"
"Yes?" But she doesn't pay attention to the voice, doesn't listen to Stefan's inability to be impolite, doesn't catch that he hesitates like he sometimes does; doesn't realize it's Stefan. She should have realized.
"Care." He says then, looks only at her, waits for her to turn his way.
She does, in time, but first there's this feeling in the pit of her stomach that knocks against her ribs and slices through her completely. Stefan. But she gathers herself, never faltering, and dismisses the man easily.
She turns towards him in her seat, a small stressed smile on her lips. "What are you doing here?"
"It took a while for me to find you, I admit. After Bonnie declined to help me with a location spell and Damon refused to just ask where you'd gone off to, I remembered that you've always liked it here."
She freezes on the thought that Bonnie might not care anymore, didn't want to help find her. There's that feeling in her stomach against, knocking against her ribs, I miss you she had written.
Her face doesn't falter though; she's still cautious, wary of the situation. "I haven't been here the entire time." She wants him to know that he maybe doesn't know her as well as he claims to; not even a sliver of the amount he thinks he does.
"No, you haven't. But you don't stray too far from home for too long, Care. I know you."
(You don't fucking know me anymore, she writes the next time on a boy who doesn't look anything like Stefan but she imagines that he does.)
"What do you want, Stefan?" She bites out, stabs at the olive in her martini glass.
"I want you to come home. Elena's worried. I'm worried. Damon's worried." There's that tone in his voice that's understanding but tired and he's been down this road so he wants to help but he can't help because there's nothing wrong. She won't let anything be wrong.
"It's good to want things, Stefan." And with that she hops off the seat and walks away.
She leaves Atlanta that night and vows to never go back. Because Stefan does not get to be right about her, not anymore.
She writes to Damon and it's sick. There's a slick, wet sound when she pulls the heart from the boy's chest. She delivers it personally in the middle of the night when the boarding house is dark and quiet and she's sure Stefan's over at Elena's house and Damon's in there but he won't hear her. She is quiet when she walks to the door, lays the heart down on the welcome mat, backs away without a second glance.
He almost catches her though. She stumbles and knocks over a plant and it's so fucking cliché and she'll probably try to write about this later. He's there, with the door open, in a flash and she only slips into the woods at a normal pace.
This way, she's sure he could have seen her.
She writes don't worry, please don't worry on the arms and legs of a girl with brown hair but green eyes and a nasty smirk. She takes her time, wipes her mouth clean when she finishes.
"You only gave me the heart this time." In lieu of hello, hey, how are you.
She doesn't respond, only stops trying to get her key into the door of her motel room. She turns and leans back against the door, sighs so maybe he'll hear it.
"Why'd you only send the heart?" She hears the curiosity in his voice, imagines his brow pinched. Almost wants to laugh at the image, smooth out a wrinkle or something.
"You should stop worrying about me, Damon." Her voice sounds tired and like she's been doing this for too long and she's sick of it; or maybe she's just tired.
"Stefan stopped by for a visit, I see." He connects dots, thinks of where she's been, where he's been, and why they haven't been in the same place at the same time. "And I'm not worried. You know how Stefan is."
She lets out a soft chuckle because he's still trying to dissuade anyone from believing that he has actual feelings and he is capable of caring and worrying and loving. And it is all so recited.
She almost says something like, you should be. But doesn't. Tells him instead of how the sky's not as clear where she is and the traffic's loud and she kind of hates it.
"Where is that, by the way?" He questions. "Where are you right now?"
She almost tells him too. But this is only because she's tired and a little lonely. She'll tell him all about it in her next letter, she concludes. "Wouldn't you like to know." Then she says something that sounds like: his heart is my heart. But she also thinks she may have conjured that up in her head because she is awfully tired from today's work.
She'd only imagined it, honestly.
Later, she writes without knowing, and I give it to you.
Once, in the beginning, before she was even supposed to go back, she almost did.
She missed seeing Elena's face, missed Bonnie's judgey comments, missed bunnies with Stefan.
She was going return to her brightly painted room and sit the chair in the corner of her room and she was going to write about her trip in a pretty pink diary with a flower on the front.
Caroline was going to do this, she was.
But life kind of got in the way — or maybe she did. She's not too sure anymore.
She is sure that her diary sits filled with dust and all the sentences she never finished.
Like this one:
I love you, but I —
Or this one:
There is a girl and she loves a boy and he hesitates when he says I lo —
But maybe this one too, it's the one she regrets the most:
This is the story of the boy who loved you most —
Caroline never finishes her stories. Her life is a collection of moments in between and short, sweet kisses to the cheek, followed by rambling thoughts and quiet admissions.
He calls and she answers on the second ring, doesn't want to answer, doesn't want to hear his voice, but needs to hear it—the faint lilt in between letters and scattered throughout sentences.
"Hey." In lieu of I miss you, won't you come home, where are you, I miss you, I hate you, I mis—hate you, you, you, you.
"Hey." She says back quietly and she sounds tired but she's not tired — she hasn't been writing, hasn't been wandering. Thinks maybe she's tired of being tired.
"You must be doing fine out there on your own." It sounds like one of his own quiet admissions, something he'll hide beneath other words, scatter in meaningless sentences.
"You miss me?" She asks suddenly, a feeling climbing up her throat, she thinks it might spill over and out.
"You haven't sent me anything in a while." He ignores her, as if she said nothing at all. She thinks he's really too good at that. "I was really getting used to the bodies on my lawn." I miss you.
(Just fucking say it, she'll write next time.)
"I've been meaning to send one." There's a lilt in her own voice that she catches, tries to swallow it back down.
"Have you now?" He questions, and she thinks there's a smirk there, maybe a glint in his eyes.
(I miss you, I miss you, I love yo—miss you, she writes over and over again.)
Or maybe it's the story of the one who does.