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Steady as the Snow Falls(45)

By:Lindy Zart

In a low, too-even voice, he asked, "What do you want?"

"This is all your fault," she spat. "You did this."

Silhouetted by the light from inside, his features were kept in shade,  but she caught the glint in his eyes, the shifting of his jaw. She  wanted to hit him. Beth's hands twitched with the urge. She wanted to  hit him and hit him and hit him and never stop. Ozzy, with his forever  dreams and his angry heart. She wanted to hit him for Harrison. Beth  wanted to hit him for being selfish, and for not being able to let her  go, and for all she couldn't put into thoughts or words.

"You ruined any chance of him having peace here," she choked out. "And  for what? To get back at me? To hurt me for moving on from you? That  wasn't supposed to happen, right? I was supposed to love you forever,  and pine after you, and take you back, always take you back. No matter  what you did, no matter how you hurt me."         



She sneered at him, feeling the ugliness of the expression in the pit of her soul. "And you say I'm sick."

He remained mute, calm. Only a faint tick under his eye showed that he  felt anything at all. The door clicked shut behind him, locking the  light inside the house and leaving them both in the dark. It was  fitting. That's where the memory of her and Ozzy lived now, in the dark.

The words were volcanic, a scream of pain and hatred, as they left her. "Say something!"

A crack showed in his flawless exterior; it grew as she watched. Anger  roughened Ozzy's voice, turned his features into sharp knives, blades  that sliced and cut. "What do you want me to say? You picked a corpse  over me."

His words stabbed her, broke through the skin, twisted. And twisted. Her  body shook, and it wouldn't stop. She didn't think it would ever stop.  It shook with grief, with unfairness, with pain. With fury.


And fury.

The two emotions rotated through her, wounding her heart on repeat.

"I chose not to be with you long before I knew Harrison. I picked myself  over you. I couldn't be with you anymore." Beth shook enough that her  words trembled from the force of it. "I couldn't. I couldn't do it  anymore. I couldn't live in your world, Ozzy."

She trained her eyes on him, wondering how he got so lost. "And because of that, you sought to hurt mine."

His nostrils flared, and he took a step closer. "You never should have  left me, Beth. We were supposed to be together, work through our  problems, love each other, and instead you left me. You left me for  some-some diseased guy. How do you think that makes me feel?"

Beth gasped, feeling the blade of his words deep in her being. Entitled  Ozzy. Always the victim Ozzy. Manipulating Ozzy. He gathered guilt in a  basket of righteousness, distributing it as he saw fit, but never to  himself.

"This isn't about you," she hissed, holding a hand to her heart, as if she could shield it from his words.

"No. You're right." He nodded. "This isn't about me. This is about you  deciding to ruin everything we've ever been to one another by choosing  to be with some guy who probably has less than five years to live,  instead of choosing to be with me, someone you grew up with, someone  you've known your whole life. You just tossed me aside for Harrison  Caldwell." He said the name like it was bitter, and filled his mouth  with sourness.

"We were over before I ever knew Harrison!" Madness shouted through her  words, shouted that she was falling, and she didn't know how to stop.  Beth was falling into the darkness, and she wasn't sure if she could  survive. She didn't know if she cared.

They had to be making a scene. There had to be neighbors listening,  watching. Spying. Let them. Let all the world see the moment Beth  Lambert fractured. It was overdue.

"No, we weren't!" Ozzy slammed a hand to the side of the house, causing  her to jump. He looked at her over his hunched shoulder, more animal  than man. His eyes glowed in the partial dark. "We weren't over yet. I  could have gotten you back. We could have worked things out. We always  did. We could have again."

He straightened, ran a shaking hand through his unruly hair. "What is it? Is it his money? Is that what's keeping you with him?"

She laughed. It was harsh, and giddy. It was the kind of laughter no one  hoped to hear, because it rang with the promise of a meltdown.

"It was a mistake to come here. I can't talk to you. It's like talking  to a wall." Beth swung away, marching toward the Blazer on legs  stiffened by cold.

"Because you know I'm right."

Wrath tightened her hands into fists, and she spun around. She could  feel the imprint of her own hands on her throat, squeezing, choking. "I  can't talk to you, because all I can think about is how pointless  everything is that comes out of your mouth. There is a man, a good man, a  man who doesn't deserve what's happening to him, alone, in a house,  with-with no one, no one but-"

Beth broke off, her throat scraped raw by invisible blades. "This was  our first day out, as a couple, and it blew up. It was perfect, and then  it was ugly. Because of your vindictiveness. Because you can't see past  yourself. You can't understand, not any of it. How I feel … how he feels.  I'm trying to let him know it's okay to dream, to smile, to think  beyond what he knows."

She went quiet, staring at the sidewalk streaked with snow.

"I knew it wouldn't last, this box he shoved himself inside of. He knew  too. I know he did. But … we weren't ready. He wasn't ready. I'll never be  ready." Her thoughts changed, went from Harrison's life being altered  to the possibility of it being erased. "He might … he might just be gone  one day. How does that happen?" Beth's voice ended on a whisper, so  quiet it was shrill, piercing her eardrums and reverberating through her  body.         



She sank to her knees on the pavement, the ice and snow numbing her  knees and legs, and she bent her head. Beth inhaled slowly, fighting  tears. She didn't want to cry, not in front of Ozzy. The only thing that  registered was how much it hurt. It felt like every part of her was  torn apart. Waves and waves of agony swept through her, closed her  throat, burned her eyes and mouth.

"I'm sorry." His voice broke through the grief, his hand heavy and warm on her shoulder.

Beth scrambled away from his touch, stumbling to her feet and closer to the Blazer. "Don't touch me."

"Beth. I'm sorry." Ozzy's eyes were entreating, and he almost seemed genuine.

"You're not sorry," she denied, shaking her head. "You're never sorry for anyone but yourself."

"I'm sorry you're hurting like you are. I mean that." Ozzy pulled in a  breath. "I didn't know." He stepped closer, his face broken up in pieces  of emotion. Some she understood, others she never would.

"Didn't know what?" she demanded in an unsteady voice. Beth wanted to  shrink away from him, but instead she went motionless, waited until he  stopped walking to breathe.

"I didn't know you loved him."

Beth lifted her head.

"You know I didn't mean it." Night covered him as wholly as it covered  her. "That night … I was messed up. When I … when I hurt you. I'm messed up,  Beth. This whole thing has got me crazy. I just … when you told me you  were leaving, I felt like I was trapped inside of a nightmare, and I  haven't stopped feeling that way since. I don't know how to deal with  you not being in my life." His jaw jutted forward, a scowl taking over  his expression to hide what he didn't want her to see. His shoulders  shot up, as if to deflect whatever words she was about to say.

Beth said nothing.

Ozzy shifted his jaw back and forth, looking like the words he was about  to say were ones he'd rather not. "I could have made different choices,  better ones. I could have thought about you more and me less. I should  have loved you like you deserved. I know you don't believe me, and you  probably won't forgive me, but I am sorry."

He gave a short bark of laughter, shaking his head. "I wasn't thinking  when I contacted the news. I saw you together, and you looked so happy,  and I couldn't stand it. I wanted to hurt you, and I knew hurting him  would do it. I am sorry. I'm a million times sorry. I thought I would  feel better, seeing you like this, but all I feel is sick."

Her head pounded along with her heartbeat, and as she met Ozzy's  unwavering gaze, she felt profound relief. It coursed through her veins  with the power of a wave, cleaning away the dirt. Eradicating the black  taint of their association. They could both start fresh, without the  other to poison them with the past. Alone, as if strangers. They would  be strangers.

"I have to go." Beth paused as she got to the Blazer. She looked up, met  the eyes of the man who had once been everything to her, and she felt  him drift away. Ozzy let her go, in that instant. She couldn't tell him  it was okay, because it wasn't. She couldn't tell him she forgave him,  because she didn't. Not yet. Maybe not ever.