Alight [Completed]

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Chapter 22 - Knox

Snow and I both looked at each other, stunned.

“I’m sorry. I came to apologize - I’ve let this go too far,” we heard Hailey’s voice travel, and she sounded the closest thing to nervous I’d ever heard her.

“Not interested, sorry. I said that if I walked yesterday, that was it. I meant it," Connor’s voice radiated exasperation.

“Let’s go, um...” I started saying at the same time as Snow...

“I think we should...”

We both stopped and smiled.

“You first, although I have a feeling we were both going to say the same thing,” I ventured a guess.

“Let’s give them some privacy,” Snow suggested softly, and I nodded, taking her hand, starting to walk down the long corridor.

“He didn’t sound too happy to see her,” I stated the obvious.

“No...” she sighed. “I hope they can work out their differences, though. There are clearly a lot of feelings there, but they’re both so incredibly stubborn.”

“Connor has feelings for her, but he has his pride,” I vocalized my observation of their situation.

“I think you’re right. But they’re lucky, you know?” Snow said softly.

“How so?” I raised a brow.

“They have all the time in the world. But they choose to spend it apart.”

And that sledgehammer slammed right into my chest again. But before I could say anything to try and respond to that, we heard a commotion behind us, and as we turned around, we saw Hailey storming down the corridor in our direction, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“What happened, Hailes?” Snow asked her sister as she came to a standstill in front of us, sobbing.

“Sorry. I can’t... he doesn’t want to see me. He’s not interested in what I have to say now.”

Snow sighed. “I’ll go talk to him. Wait right here.”

“No,” Hailey shook her head adamantly. “He’s made up his mind. It’s too late, Mel.” She wiped her tears with the back of her hand. “If you don’t mind... I’ll just go wait inside the car.”

“Sure,” I handed her the key, and Snow looked at her sister with concern.

“Are you okay?”

“No. But I will be, eventually,” Hailey said stubbornly and swiveled around.

Snow and I entered Connor’s room moments later, and his face lit up - clearly, we were getting a much warmer greeting than Hailey.

“Mel, Knox, thanks for coming to see me,” he grimaced as he shifted on the sterile-looking white bed.

“Merry Christmas - what a way to spend the day, right?” Snow teased and leaned over to kiss his cheek, and he stretched out an arm to embrace her, returning her gesture.

“Merry Christmas to you as well, gorgeous.”

I knew damn well that Snow and Connor were just friends, but I couldn’t help the flare of jealousy welling up inside of me just then. I didn’t like it when Connor kissed her - even on her cheek. And just then, a thought snaked inside my head - what if they got together after I left?

I pushed that thought right away again. I couldn’t go down that path right now. When I left, I wouldn’t have any claim to her anymore. That was what we’d agreed on, wasn’t it? We’d walk away, because the last thing I wanted to do to us both was try to keep a relationship alive while being half a world apart. It wasn’t fair to either of us. We were both still young. We had our entire lives ahead of us. It may feel like our world is ending right now, but down the track, we’d look back on this and smile as we remembered. Because Snow and I never had forever written in our future. There were never any promises...

“So, what’s the verdict? Will you make it?” Snow teased again, and I realized again just how much of an easy friendship there was between the two of them. I wasn’t the jealous type - at all - but just then, I almost felt jealous of Connor, because he’d have her right in front of him after I’d left. What if he fell for her because she looked so much like her sister? Because Snow was relationship material, whereas her sister still had a lot to learn about life.

‘Fuck - no, I can’t go there. I can’t. Don’t do this to yourself.’

“Fractured collarbone. I’m pissed, Mel. Pissed. This is going to cost my chances of going professional. I was so damn close. This will set me back months, at least. And then, hopefully, I can recover from that, but I don’t like my chances of being offered a contract,” he sounded defeated.

“I’m so sorry, Connor. But at least it’s a treatable injury - something you can recover from. It could’ve been a lot worse,” she reminded him gently, and he smiled, patting his bed, motioning for her to sit down.

“Knox - take a seat, man,” Connor motioned to a visitor’s chair, and I nodded and obliged. Connor was a decent guy and an enormously talented football player, but all of a sudden, I started not liking him that much. He was very proprietary with Snow. Shit - my mind was going there again. I had to stop this shit, right now, it was going to drive me insane if I let it.

“Treatable, but still... there goes everything I’ve worked for,” Connor sounded defeated, and Snow took his hand in hers. And all of a sudden, that gesture grated at me as well. I was losing the plot - it must have been the stress of having to move halfway around the world and leaving everything and everyone I knew here, behind.

“You’re going places, Connor Blake, mark my words. This is just a temporary hurdle. You’re going to come back bigger and better after this little setback, because you have star-quality, my friend. You’re going to be just as famous as your dad; I’m willing to make a bet,” Snow smiled at him, and that pang of jealousy shot through me again.

“Can I get you anything, actually, while I’m here?” Snow asked, and Connor nodded.

“Yeah - if you wouldn’t mind - I have this craving for...” he started, but Snow interrupted.

“Let me guess - those protein bars you live on, right?” She raised an eyebrow, and he laughed.

“You’re a woman after my own heart, Mel. Yeah - if you wouldn’t mind if you come around again.”

“Actually - let me run downstairs to the convenience store and see if they have any - I’ll be right back,” Snow stood up from the bed and smiled at Connor, then at me. “Be right back.”

Connor shifted uncomfortably on his bed after she left the room. “So, Knox... how is this thing going to work between you and Mel?”

My heart slammed wildly inside my chest again, just hearing that question, but I kept cool outwardly.

“How do you mean?”

“I mean... how are you going to manage this thing long-distance? Is she moving over there soon, what are you going to do?”

The fact was that Snow and I hadn’t said anything. We’d avoided the topic like the damn plague. I tried not to think about it. Tried to push that thought of saying goodbye aside, almost hoping that the problem would go away if I didn’t think about it. But I knew better than that - that hollow feeling inside my chest told me otherwise.

“We’re not,” I said stoically, not inviting further discussion.

“You’re not what?” Connor looked confused as hell.

“We’re not... doing a long-distance relationship.” And saying it, made it even more real.

“Oh... so she’s moving over there, then, soon? Her dad is going to skin you alive,” Connor smiled, but I didn’t smile back as there was absolutely nothing to laugh about.

“No. We’re staying... friends. But... from the beginning, we both knew that I’d be leaving soon,” I clarified.

His eyebrows rose. “You mean... you’re letting her go?" He asked incredulously.

And right then, I wanted to punch him, despite the fact that he was lying in a hospital bed with a fractured collarbone.

“Put yourself in my shoes. You’re twenty-one and about to move halfway around the world for two years - at least - if not longer. You’ve just met a girl - a great girl, but she has commitments here, and you’ve barely had a few weeks together. Does it sound fair to you to try and impose something like that on both of you?” I fired, almost feeling as though I had to justify myself.

Connor looked at me skeptically. “You’re letting a girl like Mel go - just like that?”

“It’s not just like that; I can assure you,” I said extremely coolly. “I don’t want to do that to us both. We’ve only been together for three months. It’s a hell of a lot harder than it sounds to try and make something like that work. There will be a hell of a lot of temptation for us both. Mel and I are both twenty-one, and I have years of study ahead of me still. It sucks, but it won’t work long-term, and I don’t want to do that to myself or her. It has heartbreak and bad decision written all over it.”

But why did it feel like I was having a hollow argument with myself?

Connor shook his head. “Your grave. Your funeral. But I see the way the two of you look at each other. The way you are together. That doesn’t come along often, just saying. If I had a girl like Mel, I wouldn’t just let her go like that.”

And then I felt something deep within me explode. “That’s none of your damn business, thanks. Perhaps you should mind your own business, working things out with her sister instead, because from where I’m standing, it looks like you’ve made a spectacular mess of that, and you’re the last person who should be giving relationship advice.”

His eyebrows shot to the roof. ”Right. I look forward to the day when you’ll be eating your words—all of them. Because to me, it seems like you’re blind. But suit yourself. It’s not you I’m worried about - it’s Mel.”

And just then, Snow walked back into the room, carrying a bag full of what looked like confectionary.

“Okay, so I cleaned out the store for you, Connor, here you go. All flavors of protein bars - chocolate, caramel, mint even.” She smiled, completely oblivious to the tense situation inside that room.

“And you’re already making good on your word - you’re throwing me a lifeline,” Connor teased, and I realized there was some sort of inside joke between the two of them.

What the hell was wrong with me? I wasn’t the jealous type. They were just friends, and I damn well knew it. Why did her friendship with Connor grate at me so much today?

“About your conversation with Hailey,” Snow started carefully as Connor started unwrapping a bar, but his eyebrows shot right up, and he immediately cut her short.

“This conversation is not happening, sorry. I’m not interested in anything anyone has to say about her,” he said adamantly, and Snow nodded, letting it go.

I let Snow and Connor do most of the talking for the rest of our visit, not feeling particularly inclined to engage with him further while I was feeling like a firecracker resting near a blowtorch. Nothing I could say could make this situation any better than what it was. Because there was only one word for it: painful.

And when Snow and I walked out of his room about half an hour later, I held onto her hand - tightly. Because at this moment, she still belonged to me. But I’d be lying if, deep down inside, a part of me didn’t wonder if Connor had been right, even though I didn’t want to admit it...

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