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He comes as soon as I ask

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He comes as soon as I ask. Bundled up in a dark aviator jacket, he walks across the frosted grass, each footstep breaking the silence. His gait is sluggish, and I can't help but enjoy the thought that he's lost sleep over me. Over what he did.

As he climbs up to the veranda, I hold my breath. His sparkling eyes are ringed with violet shadows and puffy. It doesn't make him any less beautiful. If anything, the vulnerability pulls at my stomach.

When his eyes meet mine, he moves forwards, hands out to take mine and apologies forming on his lips. A sharp knock on the window stops him in his tracks. Looming on the other side of the window, my father glares at him, a spectral Nemesis watching his target and praying for retribution.

'Is he going to be there the whole time?' Finch asks, pulling at the hems of his sleeves. He nods at my father who doesn't return the gesture.

'Yes. It's our terms and conditions.'

'He looks like he wants to murder me.'

'He does. That's why he's so close by.'

I expect him to sigh at this. Instead, he smiles. 'Great minds, hey?' He jerks his head over his shoulder. On their front porch, Thaddeus has carried out his leather, wing-backed chair to watch the scene unfold.

'Truth be told, I'm surprised he ain't lent your Daddy his gun.'

His face is a picture of sadness, but he forces a smile. When I don't return it, he shifts. 'Martha, I'm so sorry. I ain't got any excuses. I don't know-'

'Please stop. I need to speak first.'

When I'd practised this conversation over with my mother, she'd told me to get as much out as I could before my emotions got the better of me. He nods his head.

'What you did at Brody's was awful, Finch. But what you did before that was worse. I gave you everything I had, threw away my only first time on you-'

Opening his mouth, he looks ready to retort. I raise my hand.

'-all because I thought you loved me back.'

'I do.'

I scoff. 'Stop. If you loved me, really loved me, you would have held my hand over the breakfast table as we told our parents we were together. You'd have checked I was ok about what had just happened, replied to my messages, kissed me goodbye.' My voice rises, and I work hard to level it. 'You wouldn't have left for a whole day. You would never have let me go to that party alone.'

He sinks down onto the bench and holds his head in his hands.

'You had checked out of us before you ever left for that party. Before you kissed Lissie. We both know it.'

Shaking his head, he lets out a deep sigh.

'What I don't understand is why,' I push on. 'Why did you change your mind? Was I just a challenge to you - the virgin - and as soon as you got what you wanted, you were done?'

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