42 | Letting Go and I Loved You
happiness by taylor swift for this chapter, that’s it. that’s the author’s note.
When suddenly things start getting better, when days start feeling brighter, when you smile often, the painful memories of the past don’t hurt you anymore.
I reach the park ten minutes late but I’m not worried. I take my time in making my way to the benches a little further away from the lake, a place I’ve spent a lot of time with the same person I’m here to say goodbye to.
When I get there, it takes me a while to recognize the mane of blonde hair, the only person occupying the benches. His hair is shorter now, no longer the same shoulder length I would have recognized anywhere immediately. But now, not so much.
I take a deep breath and will myself to walk forward and when I get closer, I take a seat on the opposite edge of the bench. He gives me a passing glance and let’s out a breath.
“What did you want to talk about?” He asks coldly, straight to the point.
I nod to myself, it’s a good thing. The sooner it’d done, the better. “Everything. I know you’re aware that there are many things left unsaid, many things we need to talk about.”
“I love her.” He blurts causing me to chuckle.
“Tell me, Sean Cooper, why should I believe you? You once said the same words to me.” I shrug nonchalantly. He turns to look at me, shocked at my words and I chuckle again. “Relax, I’m not here to convince you to get back at me. I just wanna talk. I need a closure for my sanity.”
He visibly relaxes and I shake my head, the ache still there in my heart but surprisingly, it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. It stopped hurting a long time ago, I just didn’t realize.
“I had a talk with her too, you know.” I say casually, no bad intentions behind it.
Sean frowns. “When?”
“Last Friday.” I shrug.
Recognition dawns on his face. “She told me she had some important matters to attend. I thought it was about her parents’ divorce.” His eyes widen when he realizes his slip up.
“I’m aware.” I say, telling him that I know about the divorce.
“She told you?” He asks, not believing me.
I shake my head. “No, but word flies around. I did have a talk with Kaden though.”
“That guy.” Sean shakes his head. “He was devastated when they told him they’re splitting but surprisingly, he has been taking things well these days.”
I smile smugly. “Of course he is.” Sean looks at me and soon realizes that it was me who possibly convinced the little guy. He chuckles slightly, still hesitant to let his guard down and look away in front of us.
There’s is a stretch of silence between us and it is not the tranquil and peaceful kind that I have with Axel, it’s heavy and suffocating.
“I’m sorry.” He speaks, cutting through the thickness around us.
I scoff. “For what exactly, Sean? For cheating on me? For going behind my back and getting together with my own ex best friend when you knew how much she meant to me even with the drift in our friendship? For hurting me the most when all I did was love you? Or for being an asshole to me after wronging me?”
He sighs, running his hands in his short hair. “I didn’t mean for it to happen.” He whispers.
“Of course you didn’t.” I turn to him. “But don’t you think that the least I deserved was a normal breakup and not being cheated on? You broke not only my heart, Sean Cooper, but my whole self too. You along with the girl who meant the world to me. You both did.”
He gulps visibly and doesn’t turn to look at me, not saying anything either. I take that moment to observe him, really take in all the things that has changed about him, just like Veronica and I. “You have shorter hair now.” I blurt out the first thing that catches my attention.
He smiles slightly. “Ronnie likes it short on me.”
“And you like her hair long.” I say and he nods tentatively. “You changed so much, Sean.” I say after a pause.
“You did too.” He says softly.
I shrug. “I didn’t want to but I had no other choice.” He purses his lips, letting his head fall back on the backrest of the bench and looks at the sky, not saying anything. “I still remember the first time we met, how we couldn’t stay apart for even a night. I still remember that you came looking for me after all those months, finding home in my arms. I still remember the way I loved you. I still remember the look in your eyes when I told you that I loved you. I still remember how it felt when you said it back. I still remember, Sean. I still remember what we used to be.”
He sighs and looks down, kicking a stone with his feet. “I’m sorry.”
“Are you really?” I ask back.
He sighs and his jaw clenches. He looks away, his face hidden from my view as I face the back of his head. “I don’t regret falling for her, Leah. I love Ronnie. I just regret the way I did things, with you and with her. She didn’t deserve to feel like I was ashamed of her, she didn’t deserve to feel like a hidden mistress when I walked the school halls with you. Just like you never deserved to be cheated on.” He chokes on the last words and I hope he realizes how I felt when I was the victim of it when he is so repulsed by the words being the convict. “I swear if I could go back in time, I’d make it right, everything.”
“But you can’t.” I point out.
He nods. “But I can’t.”
“I didn’t do those things to her.” I speak after a while. “Those pranks - it was not me.”
He looks at me, smiling slightly, telling me that he believes me. “Ronnie always told me that it wasn’t you but I was so damn sure that you were getting your revenge. She always held me back when I wanted to confront you.”
I chuckle humorlessly. “Even after all those years of claiming to love me, Sean, you never really knew me, did you?”
His eyes look guilty when I look back in them. “I guess I was blinded by my feelings for Ronnie that I didn’t see right from wrong. I should have known it wasn’t you.”
“Don’t blame your love for your mistakes.” I say simply. “For once, take some responsibility, will you?”
He looks away and sighs, rubbing his face tiredly. “Look Leah, I know you’re in love with me but-”
I cut him off with a loud laugh of mine, throwing my head back as if someone just told me the funniest joke. Sobering up, I wipe the tears from the corner of my eyes, I turn to face him. ”In love with you?” I chuckle, shaking my head. “That’s where you’re wrong, Sean. I’m not in love with you, not anymore. I loved you once. Loved. Past tense. And up until yesterday, I wasn’t sure about that. But right now, sitting here, I can’t be more sure of anything else other than the fact that I’m not in love with you anymore.”
Sean frowns, looking at me if I was crazy. I laugh even more at that. “What? You thought I would sit back and mope around for you forever?” I shake my head as if he was a child, mistaking the way world works. “You hurt me, Sean. And you broke me up. I was a wreck and I even felt that you ruined me forever. But I was wrong. I moped for a while, I lived and drank in the pain. But then, one day, the sky was brighter than I used to know and I was living again. I was hurting for a long time, Sean, but I was mended back too. The pieces of my heart that you broke are almost glued back. And sure, I’ll live with the scars forever, but you know what? I’ll wear them with pride.”
I look away at the scene in front of us, little kids playing in the park. “If a little kid ever fell while playing and refused to get up because it hurt so much, he would always be lying in the dirt.” Remembering my bad times, I smile slightly. “The people around me made me aware of that. And I didn’t want to lie in the dirt. So even if it hurt, I got up. Falling in love and giving your heart away to someone is like playing with fire. You are bound to get hurt but if you’re doing with the right person, you’ll save yourself too. I learned that the hard way, but I learned.”
I meet Sean’s gaze again. “With you, it was you who hurt me, not the fire. But I found someone who became my cloak to protect me from the flames again.”
He purses his lips again, looking away from me. He doesn’t say anything because honestly, he doesn’t has anything to say other than his meaningless I’m Sorry’s.
“Did you ever realize that you never stopped cheating on me?” I ask after a break of silence and he turns to frown at me.
I chuckle bitterly. “We never broke up, Sean.” I look at him. “I ran away, refusing to face my heartbreak and you never chased me hard enough to either make up or break up.”
He looks shocked when he realizes it and he is left speechless as I smirk and stand up. “So here I am, Sean Cooper, breaking up with you.”
His eyes flashed something unreadable and he stand up to, facing me directly. He gives me a small smile. “Thank you.”
I give him a sarcastic smile. “Don’t thank me, asshole. I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing this for me. I need to get rid of you before I give myself over to someone who deserves it, who deserves me. I would have killed you but I’m too hot to be in jail.”
He chuckles and steps forward, hugging me. “Still. Thank you, Leah.”
“Uh huh.” I hum, wrapping my arms around his waist and taking in this moment, savoring the last time I’ll ever allow myself to love this guy.
He pulls away and smiles softly. “Just so you know, I loved you once too. I just fell out of it and did things I shouldn’t have done. For that, I’m really sorry.”
I nod, letting him know that I understand. “Just so you know, I hate you. And if you ever come back running to me in future like you did all those months after the cruise, I won’t take you back. Not this time.”
He purses his lips, nodding. “I won’t expect you to.” He looks away into the distance, smiling slightly. “But you know, I don’t think I can run away again. She has me wrapped around her finger and I don’t want her to let go of the grip she has on my heart. I really love her.” He says, meeting my eyes.
I smile slightly, his admittance not hurting in the slightest. “She loves you too.”
“I sure hope so.” He mumbles and hugs me again. “Goodbye, Leah Carmen. You’re an incredible girl.”
I pull back and grin, flipping my pony back. “You bet, I am.”
With one last smile, I turn around and walk out towards the exit, feeling surprised that this goodbye didn’t hurt half as much as the one with Veronica did. And I begin to wonder if I really loved Sean Cooper or I just loved the idea of being with him, being with someone as a young, naive, hopelessly romantic girl.
I pause, turning around for one final glance and see Veronica in Sean’s arms, probably where she belongs as he kisses her forehead. Then both their attention turns towards me and they give small, genuine smiles and wave. I smile back too, wider than them, relishing this feeling of finally getting rid of all my clutches that were holding me down.
With that, I pocket this sweet goodbye as another chapter in my book of memories and close another painful chapter from the book of my life.
Then I turn the page to write a new one with someone I hope to fill the book.
With that, I turn around, back on my journey home.