She got along with Elle well enough, but after the incident Lesley didn’t envy the other girl.
A part of her wondered whether Elle would walk away. From a three year relationship. From easy times and good memories. From Victor.
Lesley watched Elle cry in the hospital. She watched her shoulders shake with every sob.
To her credit, Elle spent as long as she possibly could by his bedside, holding his hand, caressing his face. Being a good girlfriend.
But there’s only so much a girl can take before she breaks.
Lesley opened the door early in the morning, half expecting Elle to be sprawled on a chair, snoring soundly. Another part of her figured Elle had gone home to rest, to recover.
But Elle wasn’t home. She was right here.
She wasn’t sprawled on a chair or sleeping either.
When Lesley walked in, Elle looked up, not in the least bit startled. She stood closer to the doorway than to Victor’s bedside, as if expecting Lesley’s arrival.
How’s he doing?
Elle’s eyes flickered to Victor but it didn’t hover there long. Same old, same old.
Good. Lesley took the single seat in the room. A chair by the window overlooking the back of some industrial building. She imagined Elle spending many nights in this very chair, contemplating. Lesley tried to put herself in Elle’s shoes. Would she have walked away? Could she?
Elle turned her body slightly, so she could watch Lesley, but her feet faced the direction of the door.
How are you doing?
Lesley detected the sarcasm in Elle’s voice.
I’m really sorry.
Elle bit her lip. You should be.
Lesley felt like Elle just punched her in the face. Excuse me?
It’s your damn fault he’s here. Elle spun around to face Lesley.
I didn’t want this to happen.
You think I did?
Lesley drew a hand over her face and cupped her chin. I don’t know what to say.
I do. Elle gripped the edge of the bedframe, her knuckles turning white. Leave.
I said leave. Get out of here. Victor doesn’t want you here.
Don’t bring him into this.
He’s in this mess because of you. Elle’s voice rose in pitch.
I’m not leaving. Lesley folded her arms across her chest and leaned back in the chair, which was not padded at all.
What makes you think you have any right to stay?
Because I’m his best friend?
I’m his best friend. Elle shot back.
Lesley exhaled and inhaled. I’m not leaving.
Elle shook her head. Then I will.
Go ahead. Walk out that door. Don’t come back.
She turned to go but hesitated before making it to the doorway.
It was so easy loving Victor for three years, wasn’t it? Everything was fine. He loved you. You loved him. Now that something horrible has happened, you can’t even stick around. Lesley snorted. He should’ve known.
Elle ignored everything except the last sentence. Known what?
That you were a waste of time. That once things hit the fan, you’d walk out. Go on, why are you still here? Find some other guy to pretend to be in love with and steal their money, their time, their life.
I never once pretended to be in love with Victor. Elle clutched the strap of her purse, digging her nails into the hard plastic.
What are you trying to say?
I’m saying that I’m in love with him. Always have, always will. This—Elle waved her hands around in the air—doesn’t change anything.
If you’re so in love with him, you’d stay. Lesley stole a glance at Victor before shutting them.
She didn’t reply right away. I can’t. This is…too much.
Lesley watched Elle slide to the ground, but she didn’t get up from the uncomfortable chair.
Elle’s shoulders shook as the tears streamed down her face. It’s hard seeing him like this.
It’s hard for both of us.
Elle coughed and cleared her throat. You’re in love with him, aren’t you?
This caught Lesley off guard enough that her eyes sprang open.
Don’t lie. Elle wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. Ever since I came into the picture, you changed.
You don’t know me.
But he did. Elle pointed at Victor. He said you changed. You were distant, not the same. It was because of me. She sniffed, taking a tissue out of her handbag. You must have hated me. Still hate me.
A second passed before Lesley replied. I don’t hate you.
Elle, you made him happy.
So? You loved him a lot longer than I have.
Seven years isn’t that long was Lesley’s attempt a light-hearted remark to defuse the tension in the room.
Lesley steeped her fingers together. We made a promise to each other before high school. No matter what happened, we put each other’s happiness before our own.
Her head tilted to the left, studying Lesley before settling on Victor. Why?
Because that’s love.