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Steady as the Snow Falls(44)

By:Lindy Zart

A pinpoint in the distance was her destination, and Beth aimed her eyes  and feet for Harrison's black truck. She was cold-so cold; her body was  shaking from it. Worry stroked her hair, whispered in her ear that  everything would be different now. Held her in its arms and cooed that  she was a silly girl, with silly dreams, and silly hopes, and that the  world was laughing at her.         



As she passed an alley between two buildings, a figure shifted, breaking  through the motions of her shocked brain. Beth paused, catching sight  of Ozzy lurking in the gloom of dirty snow and brick. She had to blink a  few times to believe what she was seeing. Him in his jean jacket and  his disrupted hair and his golden eyes. The depth of her repulsion was  startling.

She hated the sight of him.

Her limbs turned to stone, along with her heart, and she glared all of  the loathing she felt for him through her eyes. She looked at him and  saw something small, something weak. Ozzy stared back, not speaking, not  explaining. Not even lying. Because Beth already knew. He did this. He  followed them, and he let the news stations know where they were. He  ruined any chance of Harrison's continued peace, and all to spite her.  To think that she'd loved him once, a boy masquerading as a man.

"I will never forgive you for this," she told him in a voice that shook.

The coldness in his gaze melted for an instant, and she saw the phantom  of regret line his mouth. Beth blinked her eyes, and it was gone. Not  that it mattered. This was unjustifiable, no matter how bad Ozzy felt  about it as time went on. He slunk back into the shadows, where he  belonged. Beth left him there, like she should have a long time ago.  Some mistakes couldn't be undone, some wrongs could not be mended.

THE RIDE BACK was quiet. Harrison didn't try to talk, and Beth's throat  ached with the need to question and reassure. And comfort. She wanted to  comfort him. Her mouth felt heavy, unable to function. Thoughts raced  through her mind, powerful enough to freeze her, to stab through her  heart. She saw herself and Harrison, held together, high above, in the  palm of their surroundings, and she saw them crushed by the fingers of  judgment. Effortlessly. Without remorse.

What if he gave up on her, on them? Had he already?

She told herself that wasn't an option, but doubt was there, telling her  it was, especially when he remained quiet. Guilt sat in the middle of  them, and it was hers. Harrison would tell her she was wrong, that she  didn't have anything to do with what happened today. But it was Beth's  fault, however indirectly. As much as it killed her to not shout to  everyone what Harrison was to her, she hadn't spoken a word about him,  not to anyone. And still, because of her, he'd been sent into the water  with the piranhas.

A wall was between them, and it was one Harrison wordlessly told her not  to climb. He seemed lifeless, a robot man driving a truck. He wouldn't  look at her, and even as her chest constricted, taut enough to paralyze  her, she was glad. Beth feared what she would find in his eyes. Anger,  hopelessness, or worse-nothing at all.

His ex-girlfriend was dead. It made it real; it shouted that a similar  fate might be in store for Harrison. He couldn't ignore it. Beth  couldn't pretend there wasn't a chance it would happen with Harrison.  She closed her eyes, inhaling deeply. She clenched her teeth to keep a  sob unleashed. If she started crying, she wouldn't stop, and Harrison  would feel her tears deep in his soul. The thought of bringing him any  more pain than he was already feeling made her want to dig out her own  heart and bind it to his to fortify its resistance to hurt.

Someone he'd known and loved was gone, and even if he only had the  lingering sliver of affection yet in his heart for her, Harrison still  felt the loss. Loss she could one day share.

The loss of him.

Their perfect winter day was ruined.

The sky was as blue as any ocean, and as tumultuous. As far out of reach  as it could possibly be from where she was. The trees were dead and  dark weapons camouflaged as silent sentinels. Even the snow was lethal,  glittering like glass, and quick to cut her skin should she touch it.

Beth's vision blurred, but she would not cry. She would not cry. She  would not-a tear slipped from the corner of her eye, traveled down her  cold cheek, pooled on her chin, and dropped to her jacket.

Dusk had cast the town in gray by the time Harrison pulled the truck up  to her little house. The streets were barren, not a person in sight. She  didn't know what she expected, but it wasn't the emptiness that greeted  her. The multi-colored lights Jennifer helped her string along the roof  a few days ago turned on, added a garish spotlight to their goodbye.  Beth was in a different reality, one she didn't recognize. The earth was  numb, spinning backward. Upside down. It was all warped, wrong.

"Harrison, please talk to me," she whispered, staring straight ahead, seeing nothing.

He didn't.

Swallowing around a dry mouth and throat, Beth reached for the door  handle, and when she was about to open it, his hand touched her arm,  staying the motion. She looked into tormented eyes, the pain of his  heart splashed across his features like unseen blood. "Tell me, no  matter what, you still want me."         



Her eyes filled with tears. Beth's heart thawed. She took a choked  breath of air. And another. "I still want you. I'll always want you.  That isn't going to change."

Harrison looked like he wanted to say more, but no words came. His grip  tightened, as if the thought of letting go appalled him, and then he  did, abruptly, with finality. "I have something to do. I'll be back,"  was all he told her.

When will you be back?

Her eyes asked, her mouth refused.

Beth nodded, her head heavy on her neck, and stepped from the truck with  legs that felt like noodles. She watched a tight-jawed Harrison drive  down the street. Conflicted eyes, torn man. She entered the house, not  bothering with lights, her coat sliding from her arms to pool on the  floor. Beth kicked off her boots and sat down on the couch.

She closed her eyes, her body stilled; her ears strained to listen. The  sound of an engine, tires as they plowed through slush on the road. The  ticking of the clock in the kitchen, the faint hum of the refrigerator.  The low rumble and fanning sound as the furnace kicked on. A car door  shutting somewhere outside. Where the quiet used to bother her, this  time it offered serenity. Beth understood why Harrison chose to live the  way he did. Too late, but she understood.

Beth wanted to live in that silent, solitary world with him.

She waited for him to call, email, text, or even come to her house, but  as the minutes fell into an hour, and evening descended, Beth knew she  wouldn't be hearing from Harrison. Feeling like she should be doing  something and not knowing what, Beth turned on the television. It didn't  take long to find her and Harrison. Images of them were splashed across  the television, giving a tainted feel to their relationship, all while  sugarcoated with best wishes and eyes of sympathy.

They speculated on her-who she was and what she wanted from Harrison,  why she was in the picture and what it meant, on their possible  relationship, on his health and career. On too many things they had no  right to. Beth watched with dry eyes as something sacred was shredded.  That was what he'd gone through, every day for years, only it had to be a  hundred times worse for him. That was why he'd chosen isolation.

He made himself invisible so that no one could hurt him more than he already was.

Anger ripped through her, hot and savage, and Beth's face twisted. A  scary calm waved over her as she left her house and drove to Ozzy's. It  was a four-minute drive, the house located on the other side of the  small town. Four minutes of feeling and thinking nothing. But the anger  stayed, churning, building, wanting to erupt. She'd never felt  destructive, not like this. Like she could ransack his place, ruin  everything he loved, burn the house down around him.

Beth didn't see a brown house that once symbolized a separation of her  heart. She saw a structure that stood between her and what she wanted to  destroy-destroy the thing that had harmed what she loved most. The wind  picked up, swirled her unbound hair around her face. She felt like a  warrior on a twisted hunt of vengeance. Beth's breath left her in gasps  of white air. She'd never felt so protective, so possessive. It made her  feel faint, and insane, and powerful.

She pounded on the door of Ozzy's house; hit the door with her fist  until her hand ached and her knuckles were swollen. Until the skin  cracked and her hand went numb. She hit it until she couldn't feel it  anymore. All the helplessness she felt, all the rage, she pounded it  into the edifice like she could smash the emotions into nothingness.  Beth punched the door until it opened.

Dressed in gray jogging pants and a threadbare white shirt, Ozzy didn't  look surprised to see her. He didn't look anything. He looked at her  like he was bored, indifferent. He looked at her like she, and what he  had done, meant nothing. Her body convulsed from the cold she couldn't  feel, with rage she couldn't stop feeling.