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We pass the frosty fields in silence

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We pass the frosty fields in silence. Pale rays of December sunlight filter through the truck window and illuminate James's tight grip on the steering wheel. I hold my breath. He's trying and failing to keep his composure. I've told him the bare facts about Finch: how I'd kissed him drunk - that made his jaw tick - how it was my choice to keep it secret – that made his eyes roll - and, in a faltering voice, how it was now over. That had made him silent.

'James?'

He gives a non-committal grunt.

'I need you to say something. Please.'

He exhales. 'I just don't get why girls fall for his crap.' His knuckles burn white against the black leather. 'Girls say they want a gentleman, a guy who'll treat them right, yet none of y'all fall for them.'

He falters on the last word, and his veiled meaning is clear. For us.

'You'll tell me you're dating Brody next.'

'I will never tell you that, James. I'm trusting, not remedial.'

He snorts. 'Finch and Brody are cut from the same cloth.'

'No, they aren't.'

'Dang, you got it bad if you believe that.'

'Finch is an idiot. He's cocky and egotistical. He's impulsive. He's quite selfish-'

'No disagreements so far-'

'-but he can also be sweet, clever and funny. And a complete gentleman. At least with me.' I swallow hard, choking on a ripple of sadness.

We fall back into silence. James drums on the steering wheel and chews his lip. He sneaks furtive glances my way, and an unanswered question hovers between us.

'So, you guys never-' He leaves the question unfinished, but his ears turn scarlet so I know what he's asking me.

I shake my head. 'It was all very PG13. We snuck around to kiss and held hands ice-skating.' The memory of our moments glow like Spring but leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

Tears prick my eyes and I close them tight. I wait for the inevitable sarcasm. I deserve his anger, but I'm not sure I can weather his vitriol. Not when he always cut so close to the bone. His hand closes over mine. He doesn't speak, doesn't even look over at me, just holds it as we bump down the dirt track. It knocks me over the edge, tears spilling over and splashing into my lap.

We're ok. Finally. Funny to think heartbreak brought us back to us again. Both mine and his.

As the truck pulls into the parking lot, three figures turn their heads. I grimace. My hopes of getting to school without Elodie hearing I've seen James are dashed at the first hurdle. Her pale eyes narrow as they flicker to the way his hand lays in my lap. God, I can almost hear the mistaken conclusions she's jumping to.

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