Chapter Twenty-Seven

"Open the door and show me your face tonight
I know it's true, no one heals me like you
And you hold the key
Never again would I turn away from you
I'm so heavy tonight, but your love is all right
And I do believe
That not everything is gonna be the way
You think it ought to be
Seems like every time I try to make it right
It all comes down on me
Please say honestly you won't give up on me
And I shall believe..."

I Shall Believe ~ Sheryl Crow

Minutes later, Belle stood outside the door of Colin’s hotel room, wanting to turn back, but knowing she couldn’t. She closed her eyes, gathered every bit of courage and resolve left in her, opened them... and knocked.

Jeff Stratton, Colin’s roommate, answered the door.

“Belle?” He awkwardly looked away, shuffling his feet. Belle distinctly remembered him being among those in the lobby the night before...

“Is Colin here?” she asked, cutting straight to the point. No time for small talk today...

“Colin?” Jeff looked at her strangely, and then a look of shocked realization appeared on his face. “You mean he didn’t... I was sure he’d at least... Oh, my God, Belle, I can’t believe he...”

“You can’t believe he what?” Belle asked, beginning to feel increasingly scared.

“Colin’s gone,” Jeff said quietly. “I’m sorry, Belle. I was sure he’d talk to you before he left...”

“Gone?” Belle interrupted, her mind whirling. “Gone where?”

“Home, Belle.” Jeff looked like he wanted to say more, but didn’t. “He left two hours ago.”

“Home, as in Windsor?” Isabella asked desperately.

“Home as in England,” Jeff replied. He shook his head to himself. “I still can’t believe he didn’t tell you...”

“Thanks,” Belle said, cutting him off. “That’s all I needed to know...”

She forced herself to walk, knowing if she didn’t, she’d find herself frozen and rooted to where she’d stood. She walked in a daze, not knowing where she was going, not knowing what to do...

He’d left. He’d left without a word. And now he was gone, and she didn’t even have the chance to make things right again... Four years of love, and now he was so mad that he’d left it like this. So mad that he hadn’t even thought about how she would feel when she realized hed gone without saying goodbye. Or maybe he had known... maybe he’d done it on purpose, to pay her back... Maybe he wanted her to know how it felt and was giving her a fraction of the hurt she’d obviously given him in the only way he could...

Love gone out the window, and with it, no chance for redemption. Not friendship, not forgiveness, not even a hint of the tender feelings they’d once shared. Nothing. Not even goodbye.

She suddenly realized where she’d stopped. Jason’s room. She’d come subconciously back here, even though she knew what he’d told her, knew he’d left her alone... and yet...

She knocked.

He answered. For a split second, their eyes met... and then she looked past him, saw that he was alone, and looked up at him again.

“He’s gone,” she said brokenly.

He realized quickly what condition she was in and hesitated for a second, but then pulled her gently inside, shutting the door.

Who’s gone?” he asked quietly.

“Colin. He’s gone. Without saying anything, without even saying goodbye.” She swallowed hard. “I... I never thought it would come to this. I...” Her voice faltered and a single tear slid down her cheek.

The second he saw that tear, everything he’d said was forgotten. The fact he’d resolved to stay away was tossed aside, and all Jason could see was the girl he loved, broken, vulnerable, and in tears.

Silently, without a word, he held out his arms. Silently, she fell into them as the tears that had evaded her in the past few days finally began to fall. Silently, they clung to each other as all the emotions that had driven them, controlled them since the whole affair had begun finally surfaced full-force and for once, they gave in and let raw emotion take over.

He held her for minutes... or it could’ve been hours, they didn’t know. They didn’t speak a word... they didn’t do anything more than simply hold each other. But when she finally pulled away, and they looked into each other’s eyes once again, they both knew, deep down, what they wanted to tell each other. But they couldn’t, yet... Everything was too vulnerable, too confused, too wrong. By letting each other see though, they’d opened up something new in their hearts... something that would grow, and wait until the right time would come - the time to finally make things real.

Onto Chapter 28
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