Chapter Sixteen

"You're makin' me go, then makin' me stay 
Why do you hurt me so bad
It would help me to know, do I stand in your way
Or am I the best thing you've had
Believe me, believe me, I can't tell you why
But I'm trapped by your love and I'm chained to your side..."

Love is a Battlefield ~ Pat Benatar

The bus ride to Calgary was a long, lonely one for Belle. As she boarded, she passed her partner, but didn’t look at him - she didn’t know how to answer the questions she knew would be staring at her through his eyes. She passed Colin, but just smiled and kept walking. She passed Elizabeth, and averted her eyes ... and kept walking, right to the very back of the bus, where she found Wing-Yee already sitting, staring out a window.

“Mind if I sit here?” she asked her friend quietly, gesturing to the empty seat beside her.

“No, go ahead.” Wing-Yee’s tone was just as quiet as Belle’s. The two girls exchanged concerned glances, but said nothing more.

Belle and Wing-Yee spent most of the ride catching up on lost sleep, and the other part thinking. Ten days down, ten to go ...

The tour was beginning to take its toll on both girls. Wing- Yee knew her secret wasn’t going to stay a secret for long. Belle already knew something was wrong, and things were getting more complicated ... She’d shown up late for morning practices twice, and Lisa, too, was beginning to suspect something was up. And then there was him ... She knew he was getting tired of having to meet her secretly, tired of being hidden, tired of following her from city to city without even knowing what was going to happen ...

Belle, meanwhile, was thinking about everything Elizabeth had said, and wondering if it was true. Had the way she’d responded meant something? Was she in love with her partner? Was she just in denial? If she *was*, why was she so confused?

She searched desperately for an answer, but it wasn’t going to come that easily. It seemed the more she searched, the more confused she became ...

10:49 p.m. The downtown Calgary Weston. Yet another hotel, yet another room, yet another night when Belle found herself alone with her thoughts while her roommate mysteriously disappeared.

A knock at the door startled her up. Wing-Yee had left just minutes ago; she must’ve forgotten something ...

Belle went to the door and opened it. Without even glancing up, she turned to return to searching for her pajamas in her disorganized suitcase.

“What did you forget?” she asked.

“Belle, it’s not Wing-Yee. It’s me.”

Belle inhaled sharply, then turned to find her partner standing there.

“Jay, what are you doing here?” she whispered frantically.

“The door’s closed,” he pointed out. “You don’t have to whisper.” There was a note of defeated resignment in his voice. They’d gotten so used to secrets, to hiding ... it was becoming a natural thing, and that scared him.

“But Jason, why--?”

“I was worried about you,” he told her simply. “And I wasn’t going to sleep without making sure you were okay.”

“But Ross ... what is he going to think?” she questioned.

“He’s sleeping,” he replied. “He had a headache.”

“And Jason ...” She hesitated. “Colin could be coming up here any minute now.”

“Maybe that’s why I’m really here.” Jason laughed bitterly. “To keep him away.”

“Oh, Jay ...” She vowed not to cry. Not again. Not in front of him. “You know, I didn’t tell you everything about last night.”

He turned away. “What I know is way more than enough. I don’t need to know anything else.”

She continued nonetheless. “I didn’t tell you this, but ... Jason, it was all pretending. I ... I ...” Her voice dropped to a bare whisper. “I was so afraid I was going to call out your name.”

“Oh, Belle ...” He didn’t know how to reply.

But she wasn’t expecting him to. “And I dreamt ... something ... When I woke up, he told me I had been saying your name. Talking in my sleep. Oh, God, I barely knew what to say ...”

“What did you say?” he asked in a barely audible voice.

“I don’t know,” she responded. “I was so scared I’d given myself away ... something about how I didn’t really remember, and I laughed it off ...”

He breathed a sigh of abject relief.

“But he was suspicious, Jason.” She bit her lip. “I know he was.”

“Belle, where is this going to end?” he asked desperately. “When is it going to end? Every day, it seems like it’s getting worse. More secrets, more hiding, more lies ... I don’t know how much more of this I can take, Belle. If it was anyone but you ...”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“No,” he replied, taking her hands and forcing her to look at him. “Don’t apologize. Because it is you, and for you, I’d go through this all over again, Belle, even if it was like this and I had no idea how it was going to end.”

He leaned down, and she tried to pull away.

“Don’t, Jason,” she pleaded. “Please don’t. You don’t have to put up with me ... the closer you get, the harder it’ll be to pull away ...”

“I don’t care,” he murmured stubbornly, and kissed her. She tried to hold out, but she couldn’t battle her heart, especially when she was feeling so vulnerable. She surrendered, wrapping her arms around his neck and responding, letting all the pain, all the confusion, all the emotion drain into their embrace. Their kisses deepened, and soon they found themselves on the bed in each other’s arms ...

They were interrupted by a knock at the door.

Both partners froze. They knew it was the perfect chance to stop, a warning, to leave each other before they found themselves even further entangled in the web they had spun ...

She rested on her elbows and decided to leave the decision to him.

“Should I get up and answer that?” she whispered, gazing down at him.

He looked into her emotion-filled eyes and thought about the question she was really asking him. He knew how precarious the situation was ... he knew if he left her tonight, they might never be together again ... And he knew his motive was completely selfish, but ...

He shook his head. “Don’t.”

She didn’t give the door another glance, and let herself get lost in his kisses once again. For a few precious hours, they belonged to each other ...

Outside the door, the knocker gave up and left.

“She must be asleep,” he said to himself, trying to convince himself, wanting to believe it was true.

But he had seen Wing-Yee leave less than half an hour ago. He knew Belle would’ve called him right away ... or at least the Belle he used to know would’ve.

“She must’ve just fallen asleep,” Colin repeated to himself, and left.

Onto Chapter 17
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