Nathaniel paced the living room, feeling like a mess.
His world had been perfect less than twenty four hours ago. Was this his payment for the pain he had put Zara through before?
He sighed roughly and raked his hands through his hair. He hadn’t slept at all last night. He couldn’t. He couldn’t think about anything except the pain in his chest each time he remembered how Zara had looked at him when they had exited the restaurant.
Like she was dead inside.
He berated himself, willing his mind to focus on anything except what his worst fear was.
Susan had come home that night as soon as Matt had apprised her of the situation. But when she had arrived, Zara was asleep in bed. Nathaniel had grabbed the chance to touch her. He had laid his palm on her cheek, afraid that she’d wake up any second and shove him away. Gently wiping away the remnants of the tears on them, he had felt the sting of tears in his own eyes. Her grip on Amy was tight even in sleep. He hated seeing her like that. Hated knowing that he couldn’t do anything about it.
He took a seat on the couch, placing his head in his hands. His eyes felt like they were on fire and he hadn’t eaten anything, even though Matt and Susan forced him to, repeatedly. Susan was on the phone with Zara’s mom while Matt stood beside her listening with attention and talking to her quietly. When Nathaniel had told them about seeing Zara’s father, Matt had grudgingly spilled out everything he knew about the scum of a man.
He had left Zara’s mother with the pathetic excuse of wanting a boy with another woman. Nathaniel couldn’t digest the fact that he would say something like that to walk out on the woman he had taken vows with. He wanted to punch something. He wanted to hurt Zara’s father, bruise his body so fucking badly so that he would know exactly what he had done to Zara and how his actions had broken her heart.
Laying his head against the cushion on the back, he rubbed his face with the front of his palms. Her father had lied to her mom. He had said he wanted a boy, but he had a daughter too. And Nathaniel knew that that was what hurt Zara the most.
He looked towards the bedroom. He had wanted to sit next to Zara the whole time, but Susan had pulled him out. She told him to give her space. That she was hurting and she needed to cool off.
He was slowly dying inside wondering what was going to be Zara’s idea of cooling off.
The next half hour passed by. Rachel had told Susan to call her the second Zara woke up. So they waited. The three of them sat in the living room, Susan next to Matt, as he kissed her head and rubbed his palm up her arm, consoling her. Susan looked like she was going to cry any second. Nathaniel could see that she loved Zara like a sister.
He just hoped that he would love Zara even more.
It was another fifteen minutes later when they heard a sound in the bedroom.
Nathaniel jumped to his feet, waiting with bated breath. Susan and Matt had stood up, their faces anxious, gripping each other tightly.
They didn’t have to wait for long.
Zara stepped out of the room, Amy held in her arms. Amy looked around at them and smiled.
“Hi.“, she said sweetly, before yawning and giggling.
Then she turned in Zara’s arms and hugged her neck, laying her head back on her shoulder.
The room was silent now and Nathaniel could hear his heart beating away like the loudest drum. Zara refused to meet any of their eyes.
It was Susan who went to her.
“Hey.“, she said softly, coming to her and hugging her slowly.
“Are you okay?“, she asked, pulling back and touching Zara’s cheek.
Zara nodded. Just once. She didn’t even glance in his direction.
Heading toward the kitchen counter, she patted Amy’s back and slowly put her down, seating her on the surface.
“I’ll be right back, sweety.“, she said, her voice sounding worn out and cold.
Amy nodded, yawning again and put her arms out to Susan, waiting to be picked up. Susan hoisted her up, setting her on her waist.
“Do you mind brushing her teeth while I have a shower?“, Zara asked without looking at Susan, going to the refrigerator and removing a bottle of water.
Matt started toward her, “Zara, we-”
Zara held her hand up. “Not now, Matt. Please.”
Then she went back to the bedroom, followed by Susan and Amy.
Nathaniel slumped back onto the couch, feeling almost defeated. Matt was next to him in a flash, gripping his shoulder.
“You need to get through to her.”
Nathaniel didn’t acknowledge him.
How could he do possibly that?
Zara stepped out thirty minutes later.
She was dressed in a oversize tshirt and a pair of tracks. She smelled freshly showered but the bags under her eyes remained the same. She had tied her hair up in a loose bun, stray strands scattered across her face.
To Nathaniel’s surprise, Susan went to Matt, holding Amy in her arms.
“Why don’t we go to your apartment? Amy has her clothes there right? I need to get some of her stuff.”
She turned to Nathaniel and stared at him pointedly.
Then taking Matt’s hand, she led him out of the room, stopping only at the door, when Amy waved enthusiastically at both Zara and Nathaniel.
When the door clicked shut behind them, Nathaniel looked at Zara, who stood near the kitchen counter with her back toward him.
He stood up, panicking inside slowly. He couldn’t mess this up. One wrong word and she’d throw him out.
“Stop right there, Nathaniel.”
Her voice was devoid of any emotion, low and husky as if she had been crying.
His hands clenched at his sides. He was taken aback by her tone.
She turned around slowly, this time looking straight at him.
“We can’t see each other anymore.“, she said, deadpan.
He opened his mouth to say something but his brain refused to work. He couldn’t think. This was the exact nightmare that he had been dreading.
“Why?“, he said finally, refusing to believe what he was hearing.
She looked unfazed. “It’s better that way. We could still be friends if you’d like-”
His control snapped. “Now you stop right there, Zara.”
For a moment, for just a second, he saw surprise flicker in her eyes before it died out and the numb look was back.
“You are not going to do this to us.”
Her look turned into a glare of disbelief.
“Excuse me?“, she sounded almost angry.
He welcomed the emotion. Anything was better than her silent treatment.
“I said you are not going to do this to us. I know about your dad, Zara.“, he saw her freeze completely, her eyes widening by a fraction but she didn’t move.
He took a step forward. “I know what he did to your family, but you can’t let him govern your every decision. You can’t let him-”
“Don’t talk to me like you know how it feels!“, she burst out, her fingers clenching into fists, a sheen of tears appearing in her eyes.
“I didn’t say that-”
“I don’t want to have anything to do with anyone! Do you get that?!”
Nathaniel felt a stab of pain in his chest when he saw the tear rolling down her cheek. She angrily swiped at it.
“Zara, please. Just talk to me. We can get through this-”
“There is no ‘we’! I don’t want you! I want you to leave me alone! So get out right now!“, she was shouting now, her face turning red with emotion, tears running unchecked down her face. She started to sob, breaking his heart into a million pieces.
“No, Nathaniel.“, she was crying now. “Get out of my life, I need you to get out!“, her voice rose toward the end. Turning away from him, she kept wiping at her cheeks and grabbed the bottle of water next to her.
He felt helpless. The only thing he was conscious of was that he couldn’t let her go. Not this way. Not ever.
“I’m sorry, Zara. But I can’t do that.“, he kept his voice calm, his chest aching.
She slammed the bottle down on the counter and turned back to him, her eyes flashing even though they still had tears in them.
“What do you want from me?! Do you want to see me beg you to leave?”
“Do you want to gloat over the fact that I suck as a daughter? Do you want to stay and then walk away from me to watch how good I am at picking up the pieces you leave behind?“, she belittled herself, hurt and anger stark in her trembling voice.
“Zara, stop it-“, his voice held a warning.
Her voice lowered, “Or is it because you feel obligated to stay and make up for what you did to me because of Danielle-”
“Stop it!“, he shouted, losing his composure, stunned at how she was degrading herself, degrading what they shared.
“Then answer me! Why can’t you leave me alone?!”
“Because I fucking love you!”