Soon, the lobby was empty again, and Elizabeth stood awkwardly beside Belle, who was still standing there, obviously struggling just to stay standing.
“Belle, are you--”
But Belle cut Elizabeth off.
“It’s okay,” she managed to say. She sounded dazed and far-away. “I... I need to be alone. I...” The light for the “up” elevator went off, the door opened, and Belle stepped in alone, not looking like she even knew where she was going.
Elizabeth watched her friend as the door shut and knew there was nothing she could do anymore. There was no use going after her ... nothing she could do or say would help now. She sighed and shook her head. Belle was right. She had to be alone now.
Belle somehow remembered what floor her room was on and succeeded in making it there without completely falling apart. But when she opened the door, wanting desperately to just sit down and not have to think anymore, she was faced with yet another obstacle...
Wing-Yee was in the room, face down on her bed, crying.
Oh, God. Belle immediately pushed her own problems aside the second she saw her distraught friend in tears.
“Wing-Yee, what’s wrong?” she asked, rushing over to sit beside her on the bed.
Her friend hadn’t even realized that she was no longer alone in the room, and sat up frantically at the sound of Belle’s voice.
“Belle?” She fiercely began blinking back tears, but gave up when she realized it was far too late to pretend that everything was alright. “I... I didn’t know you were back yet... I...”
“Shhh...” Belle comforted, reaching over to the bedside table and handing her friend a tissue. “C’mon. You have to tell me what’s wrong. It can’t be a secret anymore if I’m going to come in and find you crying like this.”
“Everything is such a mess, Belle!” Wing-Yee sobbed.
Belle winced. She could hear her own voice in Wing-Yee’s words, but she knew she couldn’t let herself go right now. Her friend needed her...
“What’s everything?” she questioned gently. “God, I knew I should’ve made you tell me sooner... when you started disappearing every night... this does have something to do with that, doesn’t it?”
Wing-Yee nodded amid tears.
“Are you in trouble?” Belle asked in concern.
“Trouble doesn’t begin to describe it,” Wing-Yee managed to get out. “Oh, Belle, I don’t know what to do. I have to go back in three days, and I don’t know what to tell him, and I don’t want to leave, and...”
“Wait a second,” Belle interrupted. “Tell him? You mean this has something to do with a guy?” Inside, her head was spinning thinking about her own him. Just when she’d finally figured out her heart, she was lost again... and just like Wing-Yee, she didn’t know what to tell him...
“His name is Mark,” Wing-Yee began, wiping away tears that kept falling. “I met him before the tour began... when we were practicing in Lake Placid.”
“That was almost two months ago!” Belle exclaimed. “Two months ago, and you didn’t tell me?”
“I wished I could’ve, but I couldn’t,” her friend explained tearfully. “It had to be a secret... if anything got out, I could’ve been in such trouble. They wouldn’t have stood for it. I might’ve even had to quit the tour.”
“They?” Belle repeated, thinking. “You mean the federation?”
Wing-Yee nodded once again. “At first, I thought it would just be fun, you know? I liked him. We went out a few times. But then I realized that things were getting more serious, and I... Belle, it wasn’t just like anymore. It was... I don’t know, I guess I couldn’t say it was love after two weeks, but it was something more. I’d never felt like that before...”
Belle sighed inwardly. Oh, the familiar refrain...
“So we made a plan,” Wing-Yee went on. “He works in computers, and it just happened that they were sending him on a project to Vancouver for a week. So he followed us. He came to Vancouver, and then he took a few weeks off because I told himI didn’t know how long we would be able to spend any time together once the tour was over. He stayed in the same hotels as we did... that’s where I used to go at nights.” She blushed.
“Ah ha,” Belle managed to smile, but inside, she was thinking “Two stories, so the same...”
“But today was the last day,” she said. “And he has to go back to Lake Placid tomorrow, and I have to go back to Beijing the day after, and... I don’t want to go. I... Belle, don’t call me crazy, I know I’ve barely known him two months, but... I think I love him, Belle. I really do. And if they found out, they’d never let me out of the country again.”
“I don’t think it’s crazy,” Belle said softly. “I think it’s romantic. But Wing-Yee... what do you want?”
“I want to stay here,” her friend said shakily. “With him. In Lake Placid. For good. I’ve lived there before. I love it there. And he’s there. But I... I don’t know how... and if I have to go home and he finds someone else...” She was on the verge of sobbing once again.
“Hold on there!” Belle cut in. “You just told me he followed you across the continent. He let all this go on, he let you do what you had to, just to be with you. I don’t think he’s going to go off and find someone else quite so easily, Wing-Yee. It sounds like this Mark of yours really loves you.”
As she spoke, she realized what she’d just said. He followed you. He let all this go on, he let you do what you had to, just to be with you... Hadn’t her Him done the same?
“You really think so?” Wing-Yee asked, a hint of a smile beginning to appear.
“Yes,” Belle said resolutely. “I do.”
“But if I go away, I might never see him again!” Wing-Yee wailed. “Or only on tours, and that’s, like, two months in a year! I don’t think I could live like that, Belle, I really don’t.”
“So don’t go home,” Belle said with a shrug. “It’s your life. I know it’s not that easy, but...”
“There is a way, actually,” Wing-Yee said quietly.
“What?” Belle wasn’t sure she’d heard correctly.
“There is a way,” Wing-Yee repeated. “I’ve been given an offer to join the tour. Full time. I haven’t said anything yet, but I know they will never let me do it. They don’t want me in North America. They want me at home. They want me to coach, overthere, and just to basically be promotion for the stupid program.” She spit the words out as if they were evil. “That’s all I ever was to them, anyway. Promotion. A big name for them to build on. I hate it, I hate it!”
“So, forget about them,” Belle said. “Break away, Wing-Yee, or you might never get the chance again. All they need is your name on that contract. Do it.”
“But what if...” Her friend hesitated. “You don’t know what could happen, Belle. If I do that, every time I went home I’d have to be so careful. I might not even be able to go home for a long time. And my family...”
“You have to decide what’s more important,” Belle said softly, squeezing her friend’s hand reassuringly. “I’m sure you’ll make the right decision.” The words “right decision” were too close to home for the poor girl, and her voice broke. Belle turned away from her friend and tried to stop the thoughts from taking over once again...
Wing-Yee finally realized she wasn’t the only one in the room going through a tough time. One look at Belle’s face told her that something was very wrong.
“Belle?” she asked, biting her lip. “Oh, God, I should’ve known something was going on with you, too... I was going to ask you that day on the bus, but I was so busy with my own problems... please tell me you’re going to be okay, that it’s not somethinglike this...”
“You don’t need to hear about it,” Belle replied over the lump in her throat. “Everyone else has, anyways. And there’s nothing anyone can do to help. It’s all my fault...”
“I do need to hear about it,” Wing-Yee insisted. “I’m your friend, Belle, aren’t I? And what do you mean, everyone else has already heard about it?”
Belle quickly went through her whole torrid story, starting with the scene in the lobby and going backwards. By some miraculous emotional dam she’d built up inside her, she managed to get the story out entirely without tears.
“And I love him, Wing-Yee,” she finished, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. “God, I love him so much! But now I can’t even tell him, because he’ll think it’s because Colin is gone and it’s all I have left... and I don’t want it to be like that. I want it to be whole, but now it’s never going to be... everything is so wrong...”
“If you really love him, that’s right,” Wing-Yee said softly. “And if that’s the first thing that’s right, you’ll find the next. It’ll get easier, Belle... I hope it will. The first step is always the hardest.”
“You don’t think I’m awful?” Belle asked. “Tell me honestly. You don’t think what I’ve done is the most horrible thing you’ve ever heard?”
“Well...” Wing-Yee paused. “I don’t think you really knew what you were doing, Belle. It was wrong, but you know that now, and you weren’t just playing games with them. You were confused...”
“I’m still confused,” Belle sighed.
“Me, too,” Wing-Yee whispered.
The two girls sat there in silence for awhile, just thinking, but feeling stronger now that they had each other for support. They were torn up, they were confused, but although a lot of turmoil was still ahead, the worst of their ordeals was over. They’d taken the first steps. They would be okay.