Chapter Ten: Kiss Me or Let Me Go
The blonde heiress sat solemnly in grass high enough to drown her ankles. Her knees were drawn up against her chest and her arms were wrapped around them. Her head was bowed in the crater they created. The leather satchel she carried her books in lay a short distance from her feet with a half-eaten peanut butter sandwich and an empty can of Dr. Pepper on top of it. Her pockets bulged from the wet, scrunched up tissues shoved in them.
A twig snapped underneath Piper's doc Martens. Kristen pulled her head up. Dried tear tracks stained her face.
"How'd you get in here?"
Piper sat next to her. "Hole in the hedge. Heh. Sounds like a board game, doesn't it?"
Kristen didn't crack a smile.
"Everyone's worried about you, you know? Your Mom called me. Your Dad probably knows by now. I even called Ash and Zack if they knew where you were. My feet are killing me."
The shorter girl snivelled. "...You didn't have to. I can take care of myself."
"I knew that. I knew you'd be okay."
"Did you?" Kristen's voice was perceptibly throaty and tired. Probably from all the crying. "Admit it. You thought I, like... hung myself or something. You thought I tried to kill myself or run away, didn't you? Get over yourself, Piper."
Though there was really nothing to chuckle about that made Piper smile. Because at the end of the day (and Goddamnit, throughout the bullshit Kristen had a way of getting right to the point) that was what this was all about. Piper 'getting over herself'. No one knew her like Kristen did. Not even Meredith.
Piper sighed aloud. "I really need to do that. Get over myself."
"Why are you here?"
"I was worried."
Kristen glared her down. "...You were `worried' about me."
"Yes, I was. I'm not getting a high out of any of this, you know. I hate seeing you like this."
"...Should've thought about that before, huh?" She tried to snigger derisively but it came out like a congested snort. "Before you freak-nicked some skank behind my back. Before you lied to me in my face about it... before you made me parade around like a fool buying you things and telling you I love you when the whole time you were... oh, you're just... you're just such a bitch, Piper. I don't even know why I love you this much."
That made her smile too."...I know."
"Do you? Do you know that... despite everything you did, if you kissed me now, I might... I might find it in me to forgive you?" Kristen put her face in her knees again and stifled another sob. "...God, why am I so lame...?"
"You're not lame."
"Yes I am. I'm lame. I'm lame for falling for you and I'm lame for not seeing we weren't on the same page... I'm so lame. And now I don't know what to do."
Piper nudged closer to her."...I'm sorry."
The apology made Kristen look up again.
"I am so... totally, utterly sorry," Though Piper did her best to smile it down, the tears in her eyes wouldn't stop welling up. "I have no idea how hard this must be for you. I'm not even gonna try to understand. I'm not gonna try to stop you from hating me... you have every right to, the way I treated you. But please believe me, Kristen... I NEVER meant to hurt you. I SO didn't want that. I like you... and I care about you... and it kills me that I did this to you... and I know nothing I say can make up for what I did, but... I want you to know how sorry I am. So go ahead and hate me if you want. I deserve it, and... I don't particularly like myself right now, either."
Kristen's eyes never once strayed from Piper's as she said it all. Not once. They searched out Piper's feelings, observed the tears that fell free after she laboured so hard to bottle them up; and she bit her lip. Kristen looked away again as if lost in thought, trying to make sense of it all, then drifted back to Piper, who sat pensively in wait for her response.
"...I don't hate you." She said.
Piper exhaled. Was it relief she felt?
Then Kristen looked forward again. She watched a leaf drift around in the wind."...I still can't believe that you and I are over. For a moment there, it felt like... we might've spent the rest of our lives together."
"Kristen... I know it doesn't seem like it now, but... you're gonna get over this. One day you'll be telling your college girlfriend about a jerk you knew in high school who did some really stupid things... and she'll tell you that she's glad things didn't work out, because if they did, she never would've met you."
Kristen smiled a bit."...Will she be hot?"
"Oh yeah. Smoking hot. She'll be SO hot she'll make me look like the Elephant Man's even more hideous daughter."
Then a chuckle."...No one makes me laugh like you do, Piper."
"Someone will. Eventually." The singer paused a while. "Do you..."
"Do you think we could be friends?"
Kristen heaved a sigh."...I don't know yet. Maybe. I just need some time to... get my head straight about things."
"I can wait."
And she could. Piper could wait. This alone though, this moment with Kristen, was worth everything else. This girl was hurting because of what Piper did and it felt like she took the first steps towards making it right (proving that Ashley wasn't right about everything).
After a few moments of silence between them, Piper stood up, dusted the blades of grass and clumps of soil from her jeans, and extended a hand to her ex."C'mon. Let's get you home before your folks file a missing persons report."
Kristen allowed Piper to pull her up to her feet. She fitted the satchel over her shoulder and neck. As for the leftover sandwich and Dr. Pepper can? Kristen threw them both into a wooden trash basket by the oak trees.
They hadn't released each other's hand yet. "Yes?"
"I want that bracelet back."
Though she tried to hide it, that little quip made Piper grin all the way back to Kristen's house. Something deep in her heart told her that Kristen would be okay. Eventually. And that relieved her greatly.
The toast was a little spongy. The marmalade was spread too thin as well. These were all noticeable differences from the way Meredith made breakfast but Piper found herself ignoring them. It was the first time in months that she'd made herself breakfast or lunch or dinner. In a way it was kind of liberating to prepare her own sustenance. It was almost enough to make her forget how badly her cooking sucked. It didn't matter though. This was one of many things she'd need to learn to do for herself.
Her fingernails, freshly re-polished after gnawing at them throughout all of yesterday, rapped the varnish of the dining table. To say that Piper was getting a little impatient was an understatement. Ultimately though, Meredith did come downstairs. Since it was a big Saturday morning she wasn't done up in one of those fly pantsuits, instead she wore her pink bathrobe and slippers. Her hair was frizzy and dishevelled from sleep.
"Piper?" She quickly saw the toast and coffee Piper had before her. "You made breakfast? You didn't have to do that."
Piper held down the pensive feeling in her chest."This is for me. Meredith, could you... sit down, please? I really need to say something."
"Of course." She followed Piper's request and took the seat opposing her. "Is something the matter?"
The teen swallowed a deep breath and gunned it."Uh... I've been practicing myself saying this over and over and over again, but... I'm still a little nervous so please bear with me, okay?"
Meredith nodded. There was an inquiring glint in her eye.
"Okay, here goes." Piper coughed and cleared her throat. "When I found Kristen last night we got to talking and um, I guess I had myself wondering how things could've gotten so bad. When I hooked up with her... she was so sweet and friendly... I think that's why I told her about Dad. Couldn't even do that with Zack and Ashley."
"...Why are you telling me this?"
Piper sucked in breath again."...She wasn't exactly my first girlfriend but she was special. Back then, we just buried my Dad and because she was so... new to my life, I felt okay to tell her. The thing is... I liked her as a friend, not a girlfriend. For a while I thought I just liked her because she was so cute. Then I thought... maybe I dated her because I was still lonely after Dad died. But I was wrong about both... or maybe that was part of it too, just not the biggest part. You see I figured out why I did, even though I was sure it wasn't gonna go anywhere."
Throughout all Piper's rambling Meredith kept up. "Go on."
"It was you," she admitted. "You're the reason I went with her."
"...I`m not sure if I understand."
Another sigh."...I am so tired... and sick... and fed up of this. Just... us... dancing around it. It's not invisible, it... it's right there. I'm sure you know how I feel and if you don't then I'm gonna spell it out because I honestly can't make a secret of it anymore... at least not with you."
The older woman tightened. The grey of her eyes thinned, and that alone told Piper that she knew where this conversation was headed -- or at least where she thought it did.
"...Merry," Piper reached across the table and took up her satiny-soft hand. "I'm in love with you."
"Let me finish, okay? Let me finish. Merry, you mean... everything to me. You know? When you're not around I wonder what you're doing and when you are around I have to fight not to stare at you. You make me ache." Piper took Meredith's trembling hand to her chest and pressed it down for a moment so the older woman could feel her quickening heartbeat for herself. It was racing. "Do you feel that? I'm not kidding. You do this to me. You do. I love you so much it scares me."
Meredith bit her lip."Piper..."
"Just wait, okay? Let me get this out because... I'm not telling you this for the reason you think. I get why I was with Kristen now. I needed something, anything, to make me forget that I was falling for you. It wasn't fair for me to do that... and I started trying harder to break up with her that night we slept together... because at the time it felt like everything I wanted was coming true. But then... you made it clear that you just... you just wanted to forget that it happened, pretend like you didn't come into my bed and make love to me."
The older woman flushed a fiery red but kept silent.
"But that's not good enough for me anymore," Piper let her hand go. "...I can't keep doing things like this. I can't figure you out, Meredith, I really can't. I don't know if you have feelings for me too, if you're just curious... if you see something in me you saw in my Dad, or if you were just lonely. But in my head you love me. I feel like you love me. And God help me, I want that SO much... but you know what? I'm not stupid. I get decent grades, I'm gonna go to college and I'm gonna land a good job. I'm not stupid and I can't sit here waiting for you. That's what I did with Kristen... I dragged it out and led her on and by doing that I really, really hurt her... and I'm still not sure she'll forgive me. I don't want that to be me... even if I deserve to feel like that."
"...W-what are you trying to say?"
The teen kicked something heavy underneath the table."Just think for a second. How am I supposed to just... carry on like this? Me loving you so hard and you, just... being around me. Me not being able to touch you when that's all I damn well wanna do. Even now I just wanna hear the words from you, that you're mine and that you love me. That you'll never love anybody the way you love me. But I'm not gonna get that, am I? I mean, so what if you feel the same way? You'll just tell yourself that it's wrong and that I'm being childish for even thinking we could have a relationship. You'll tell yourself: if anyone finds out they'll tear us apart... or that I'm so childishly naive I'll go spouting off to everybody and their dog. You think I don't get it, but I do. You think I'm just a silly little kid, but I'm not."
Her throat was dry. Piper stopped blathering for a second to drink more coffee. Meredith was still trapped in a stunned silence.
"Look..." she fiddled with her thumbs. "...I could sit here for hours just talking about what I feel for you. I meant what I said. You mean EVERYTHING to me. And I meant the other thing I said... that that scares me. I've done so many horrible, mean things recently, and I blame myself for them, but the only reason I even did any of it was to protect this weird... thing we have and as long as we we're like this... me pining for you and you... feeling whatever it is you feel without doing anything about it... we're both gonna be unhappy. I'd still be here waiting for you, hoping, letting girls like Kristen pass me by because I can't get over you. It's not fair, Meredith. I can't wait for you anymore. If I can't be with you the way I want to be, as a couple, then... I'd rather not be with you at all."
Piper kicked that thing underneath the table again so Meredith was finally able see it. A travel bag. Her fearful glance returned to Piper."You're..."
"...leaving." She wiped the tears out of her eyes. "Look at me. I-I-I'm crying. I hate crying in front of you."
Meredith put her face in her palms and exhaled deeply. Her arms shivered. Piper didn't have a clue what she was thinking or feeling or if Merry could even keep up with all her disjointed discourse. Everything was kind of a blur at that point. Nobody seemed to know where they really were with each other.
"You want to leave?" Meredith's hands folded together in front of her nose, like she was in prayer. Her eyes thinned. "Where? Where are you going to go?"
"Uncle Frank has a room going spare. He only lives a few hours away."
"What about school? Your friends?"
Piper looked away. Even as she wiped old tears out of her eyes fresh ones came back to take their place."I called Zack and Ashley this morning. They already know. Ash even got me the bus tickets. I didn't tell them why I'm leaving though."
"Oh, this is ridiculous!" Shouted Meredith. "You can't just up sticks and leave! This is your home, Piper! Here! These four walls! This is complete nonsense!"
Fire finally found its way into Meredith's stomach. "...You know what? This isn't even up for discussion. Go upstairs and unpack your bag, Piper, you're not going anywhere. I won't allow it."
"Don't say things like that!" She yelled back. "Don't you get it? I don't even know how to read that! Are you saying you don't want me to go because you'll miss me or because you think you're my Mom?"
Meredith slapped her hand down, rattling the coffee."No, I'm not your mother. I am your legal guardian, and it's MY responsibility to look after you. That's what I'm doing, Piper. I'm-"
"You're hurting me!" Piper protested tearfully. "H-how can you expect me to live like this?! Not being with you makes me miserable and every time I see you it only makes it ten times worse! I can't cope anymore! I'm tired of hiding it!"
Immediately Meredith pulled off the chair and circled around to Piper's chair. She was crying in streams now, whimpering, letting loose wave of emotion and fear and suffering she'd sealed inside herself for months. All those months and Meredith was completely clueless about it. She crouched down and took Piper in at eye-level, cradling her face and wiped the tears from her face with her thumbs.
"Honey, I know this is hard," Meredith said soothingly. "It's not easy on me either. But you have to understand, what you're feeling now... it'll pass."
Piper shook her head."...It won't... not while I'm with you. I've tried to get over you, Merry, I've tried. Every girl... every girl I've dated... even Kristen... it's always been about you. It doesn't work anymore. I don't wanna... I don't wanna be like that. I'm so sick of hurting people... and so I'm sick of being hurt. And it'll always like that unless-"
"...Last chance, okay?" Piper steeled herself. "Kiss me or let me go."
Meredith paused indecisively.
"You can't or you won't?" She retorted.
"Piper, please don't put me in this position. You really don't know what you're asking of me."
"...You're wrong, Merry. I do know. And if after everything... you still can't tell me... open up to me... let me know what you're feeling... I just..." Piper sobbed again, but remained firm, and climbed out of her chair. "...No. No, okay...? No. I'm... done arguing with you, Merry. I'm done crying over you..."
She grabbed her bag instead."Bye, Merry."
Meredith grabbed her wrist, almost desperately."Don't go...! We'll get through this, we'll-"
Piper pulled her wrist free from Meredith's hand rather than listen to more protestation. But before she left, before she turned her back on this house and the woman in it, she unzipped her bag and removed something Meredith hadn't noticed in weeks. The wine glass. The wine glass with a kiss-shaped smudge of chocolate-coloured lipstick. Piper's trophy. She set it on the dining table and muttered a slow "...I'm done with this". Piper took her keys and jacket on the way to the front door.
Piper only heard three things when she shut that door;
An livid shriek,
the smash of glass against a wall,
and the crestfallen sobs of a woman Piper loved more than life itself.
* Meh. I'm REALLY not good at emotional scenes. It always feels like there's something I can't get... right about them, and I'm not sure why, but in this case I needed everyone to have a good cry and shout.
* You know, I'm starting to realize (with this chapter especially) that age-gap stories are better told through the perspective of the adult. Clearly Meredith's feelings right now are more complicated that Piper's, but because P&M is told from Piper's perspective I can't show what Merry is thinking.
*You know the drill. If you like what you read, visit my blog, http://ksn-kaiser.blogspot.com/ or email me at email@example.com.