x_moonshine_x: (narnia ♥ caspian bow down)
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Title: The truth is hard to find when it’s playing tricks with your mind (2/3).
Author: [livejournal.com profile] cloudysky.
Fandom: Chronicles of Narnia.
Pairing: Ben Barnes/Georgie Henley.
Rating: PG-13 (R overall).
Warnings: Real person het.
Word count: 6,083.
Summary: Ben hasn’t seen Georgie for a few years, so it’s a pleasant surprise when he bumps into her at a party. What he doesn’t expect, however, is to end up giving a helping hand with her love life. He takes it in his stride though and does what he can, something he soon comes to regret when he begins to see her in a different light himself.
A/N: Sorry, this part seemed to take me forever to finish – I blame Christmas for it entirely, this last week or so has been particularly hellish (aside from seeing Dawn Treader twice anyway).
Previous parts: Part one.

The truth is hard to find when it’s playing tricks on your mind.

2.


‘Are you ready?’

‘I’ve been ready for the last ten minutes.’ Ben chuckled, pushing himself away from the wall he’d been leaning against and shooting the sales assistant a look. She merely smiled in return before turning away again pretty sharpish. He decided not to ask. ‘Come on, Georgie-porgy. We’re ready for the big reveal, stop dragging it out.’

There was a soft grunt of annoyance, and then Georgie drew the curtain back with such force that she almost pulled it from the rail. ‘Don’t call me that!’ she growled, although her tone was playful.

Taking a step back, laughing, he held his hands up in defence, his apology written all over his face. He didn’t notice her outfit to begin with, too worried about having upset her, but then his gaze slid slowly down her body and a smile crept onto his lips. He said nothing, simply stood and stared, drinking her in. If this didn’t make Harry stand up and take notice, he didn’t know what would.

‘Well?’ she demanded, hands going to her hips and an eyebrow lifting a little.

Ben nodded his approval, feeling that today he could say exactly what he was thinking. ‘Anyone would have a hard time saying no to you now,’ he admitted softly.

And it was true. Dressed in black, legs on show and teetering on stiletto heels; she looked gorgeous.

Georgie’s eyes appeared to light up at his response, and then she grinned, looking down at herself. ‘Awesome,’ she said. ‘So now we need to find you something to wear. I mean, if you’re going to be my date, you have to look good, too.’

‘I have to look good?’ He chuckled, cocked an eyebrow in her direction. ‘Is that all?’

With a shake of her head, she turned and disappeared back into the fitting rooms, calling out from behind the curtain a moment later, ‘What would you prefer? Pretty? Sexy? Shaggable?

She said the last word with such conviction that it actually startled him and he glanced warily in the sales assistant’s direction. She was still trying her hardest to not look back and for that, he was thankful.

‘Sexy’ll do,’ he managed eventually, although his words caught in his throat a little.

When Georgie emerged again, dress and shoes in hand, she headed straight for him and hooked her arm through his. They walked back through into the department store and she led him towards menswear, murmuring something about tuxedos and how he’d always looked good in them. He had to agree, but he didn’t realise this Christmas party she was dragging him to was going to be quite that formal. Then again, who was he to argue? She was in charge of things today and he’d let her carry on regardless.

After much deliberation, Georgie picked out a black skinny suit for him, and a matching tie. The tux went by the wayside, but she did mention how she’d love to see him in one again sometime soon. He could do nothing but shrug in agreement, smile and tell her he’d see what he could do, which he would, without fail.

Clothes shopping soon turned into jewellery shopping and jewellery shopping into afternoon tea at The Ritz courtesy of Georgie (a thank you for the shopping trip). Come five o’ clock when they finally said their goodbyes, it seemed strange to be going their separate ways and, very briefly, Ben considered asking her to go for dinner to keep hold of her another hour or so. He thought better of it in the end though; he was supposed to be helping her with her boyfriend problems, not creating more of them. So he hugged her, promised to be on time the following day, and then watched her head off into the underground station.

He took the long way back to his flat; he needed to think.

-

Georgie was a mess, a complete and utter mess in fact, and even that was being light. She could feel tears threatening but she’d be damned if she would let them fall.

She’d been ready to leave for the party long before she needed to be, dress on, shoes clutched tightly in her hand and twiddling her thumbs as she loitered in her sister’s kitchen picking at all the goodies already in progress for Christmas. The mulled wine was out and shortly after being handed a glass, Rachael’s new puppy had run in, excitable and desperate to play. He’d circled Georgie’s legs several times and sent her flying. The glass of wine in her hand did much the same, its contents sloshing back all over her dress and into her freshly washed hair.

‘SAMMY!’

Her cry, she was pretty sure, could have been heard from the other end of the street.

Immediately Rachael came rushing in to see what all the commotion was about. She’d stopped dead the second she stepped over the threshold of the kitchen, hand flying up to her mouth in shock. ‘Oh God, Georgie, what happened?’ she asked, although the question was redundant, it was quite obvious what had happened.

Georgie bit back her tears once again and shook her head, placing her now empty glass down on the counter as red beads of liquid raced down her arm, weaving tracks in-between her fingers. She was covered in it.

‘It’s fine,’ Rachael gushed suddenly, pushing past her and grabbing for some kitchen roll. ‘We’ll fix you up no problem. Bit of soap and water and you’ll be as good as new.’ She approached, looking enthusiastic, but Georgie was already tearing the dress off, wanting nothing more to do with it. ‘George, stop it, we can sort this out!’

Shaking her head, the younger sister made her decision. ‘No, it’s no good,’ she murmured. ‘I need to find something else to wear...’

Shoving past Rachael, being careful not to slip on the now wet floor, Georgie raced back upstairs and flung open her wardrobe with vigour. Dress after dress stared back at her, each and everyone had been worn before; to premieres, parties, weddings. Anything that hadn’t was too small or too big, an item that Rachael had promised to alter for her when she had a spare five minutes or so.

Those five minutes had never come though, so Georgie was faced with a bit of a dilemma. She was supposed to be knocking Harry’s socks off tonight, that had been the whole point of it, but now she had no idea what to do.

Behind her, she heard footsteps, alerting her to Rachael’s presence as she joined Georgie in the bedroom. ‘Let me help, George,’ she said softly. ‘Please.’

Eventually, Georgie relented, handing over her ruined dress to her sister and plopping down on the end of her bed with a heavy sigh. Rachael smiled, putting her a little more at ease, but then the older sister grabbed a pair of scissors and said, ‘Right, let’s see what we can do!’ and Georgie really had no idea what to think anymore.

Placing her head in her hands, she kept her eyes trained on her sister, hoping to God that everything would be OK, just like she said.

Well, it could hardly get any worse, could it?

-

By the time Georgie made it to the party she was running just over half an hour late and things were already in full swing.

She made her way through the crowds, picking up a drink on her way, all the while searching for Ben. He should have been there by now; they were supposed to have met up fifteen minutes ago. There was no sign though and in the end, she caught sight of Harry first. She’d never moved so fast in her life as she did then, ducking behind an elderly couple and hiding her face behind her glass. Her boyfriend, and she was hiding from him, it was ridiculous really.

But her escape didn’t work out quite as planned, as the elderly gentleman she was now hiding behind turned around to her and asked if she was OK. She wasn’t, but she could hardly tell him that, so blurted out an apology and moved away again, wondering what to do next.

And that was when she spotted Ben, stood over by the window and chatting animatedly away to someone Georgie didn’t know. He saw her though; he saw her straight away and flashed a bright smile, quickly making his excuses with the lady he was in conversation with and heading over to her instead. Georgie was grateful for his loyalty and returned his smile with one of her own. It was almost infectious.

‘Everything all right? You look a bit... harassed?’ Ben said as he reached her, stifling a light laugh. He offered her his arm a moment later, which she took appreciatively.

‘Bad day,’ she said, shrugging her shoulders as she gazed up at him. ‘Better now though.’

His smile widened and she could predict what was coming next.

‘Better now I’m here, huh?’

Yep, that had been her first guess.

Georgie shook her head, biting back a gentle laugh; she didn’t want him to get his hopes up too much. ‘Something like that,’ she said, teasing. ‘You, or--' she paused, dragging it out, and then pointed out someone stood on the other side of the room. ‘Or him maybe!’

‘Hmm,’ Ben mused, clearly holding back his amusement. ‘I can see he’s just your type, George; balding, overweight, and with a nice thirty year age gap, too. Perfect, really.’

Her suddenly explosion of laughter shocked them both, causing several people to turn around and look at them, and as she hid her face away against the shoulder of his jacket, body wracked with mirth, she murmured, ‘Stop it, he’ll hear you!’

Shaking his head, Ben turned her around to face the window, their backs to the room. ‘He’ll hear me? You can talk,’ he responded, mouth curling up into a bright smile. ‘Don’t worry; he’s probably deaf, too – absolutely nothing to lose sleep over there.’ He was looking at her now; she could feel his eyes on her. She hated when he did that without warning, she always felt she needed to prepare herself for when Ben stared. ‘What happened to the dress I helped you pick out?’ he asked.

‘Believe it or not, this is it. I had a bit of a disaster with a puppy and a glass of wine.’ His only response was to perk an eyebrow and she laughed, adding, ‘I know. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?’

‘Not ridiculous, it sounds like you,’ said Ben.

Amazingly though, Rachael had done a pretty good job with the dress. She’d cut a few pieces off here and there, roughed it up a bit, and then sewn all those pieces she’d cut off back on again. It sounded bad when you said it, but the finished result was something Rachael could have easily walked down the catwalk during London Fashion Week (and Georgie didn’t hate it, which was always a plus).

Smiling at Ben’s comment, Georgie snuggled into him a little more and glanced up at his face. He wasn’t looking at her anymore; he was too busy gazing out of the window, chewing idly on his bottom lip. She always found it unnerving when he went quiet, Ben was known for talking too much most of the time, just as she was. They were very similar in that sense, didn’t know when to shut up, which usually led to trouble (for her at least).

‘What you thinking about?’ She tugged on his sleeve, knocking him from his thoughts quite abruptly. ‘We’re meant to be making Harry jealous not gazing out of the window all wistfully,’ she laughed, making sure to accentuate the last word.

‘I wasn’t...’ he argued softly.

Nudging him, she couldn’t help but grin, and said, ‘You so were.’

This time it was Ben’s turn to laugh and he spun to face her quickly, catching hold of her hand and pulling her a little nearer. ‘Come on,’ he said. ‘Let’s dance.’

She wouldn’t lie, his sudden enthusiasm took her by surprise, but she let him lead the way to the centre of the room where several other people were dancing. He drew her in close to him when he found them an empty spot amongst the chaos, his hand still gripping hers, fingers laced together. A moment later his other hand came to rest at the base of her back, and he smiled down at her, lazy, adoring, everything that his smile could be.

Georgie took a deep breath, her eyes falling closed as the hand he had placed at her back shifted a little lower, almost instinctively. The way he touched her these days, since meeting up again, was different to how it had been before. He was less cautious toward her, less brotherly and more – well, she didn’t know quite how to describe it. She was enjoying every second of it though, there would be no denying.

‘Where is he, then?’ Ben had ducked his head down to whisper in her ear. ‘If we’re going to make him jealous, we need to make sure he can see us.’

That was the moment her enjoyment was lost and she remembered it was all an act. She looked up and met his gaze, disappointed now, and then told him what he wanted to know.

Ben loosed her again; let her go so suddenly that she almost moaned out at the loss of contact. She could feel her skin burning where he’d touched, her heart hammering hard in her chest.

He didn’t notice her discomfort though, hand still entwined with hers as he tugged her into a more visible position. There he took her into his arms once more, closer this time, cheek to cheek, breath hot against her ear. If she didn’t know and hadn’t already told herself time and time again that he was pretending, she could have easily been misled. She could have easily thought a lot of things, felt a lot of things, but she had to tell herself no.

Clearing her throat, Georgie forced herself to find her voice and murmured, ‘Is he looking?’

‘Yeah.’ The reply was short, and to the point, there was no need to say anymore. ‘Stop talking.’

So she did as Ben asked and kept her eyes tight shut, swaying with him in time to the music, letting the rhythm take her. She couldn’t risk looking at him; she was scared that if she did, she’d give the game away and he’d cotton onto the fact her thoughts about him right now weren’t exactly as they should be.

It was strange though. Everything was strange.

A week ago, Ben hadn’t crossed her mind for months, but now here he was being such a prominent feature in her life once again. Seeing him at the party had been a shock, a pleasant one though. Calling him later that night had been completely unplanned, but following a rough couple of hours she’d realised seeing him would make her feel better, and it did, just not in quite the way she’d imagined it would. Not that she could complain of course, his concern had been very welcome.

Now she didn’t know what to think. She had a boyfriend, they were plotting to make her boyfriend jealous and yet, she didn’t seem to care one bit what happened in the end. She found herself craving the attention that only Ben could give – those knowing stares and warm, tender smiles.

Cuddling in closer to him as they danced, Georgie felt Ben’s hand shift at her waist, his fingers brushing against what little exposed skin she had. God, she could get used to this, she could get so used to this.

‘He’s coming over.’ She felt Ben exhale softly before she heard the words, and ignoring them, clung onto him tighter still. She couldn’t find the energy to care. ‘Georgie,’ he added, her name nothing more than a gentle murmur as he prompted her.

‘What...?’ she asked, head falling onto his shoulder, the words barely registering. ‘I don’t care, let him come.’

Ben smiled and brought a hand to her face, brushing a stray curl of hair from her eyes. ‘We’re not fighting battles now, sweetheart,’ he whispered. ‘You’re going to have to move I’m afraid.’

Shaking her head, she decided just this once she wouldn’t listen and kept on clinging to him, her fingers curling into the fabric of his jacket tightly and eyes fluttering closed again. ‘If we’re really trying to make him jealous,’ she murmured, catching Ben’s attention, ‘don’t let me go. Pretend you haven’t seen him.’

Georgie thought he’d tell her no, but he didn’t and his hand slid around to the back of her neck, cradling her head as he tangled his fingers into her hair. ‘Well, if that’s what you want,’ he responded.

Their sudden closeness had the desired effect, as a moment later Harry came marching over, demanding (quite pathetically really), ‘Hey, what the hell do you think you’re doing?’

Ben’s reaction was priceless. He pulled away, briefly, feigning shock at seeing Harry, and then instead of letting Georgie go so that she could join her boyfriend, drew her in closer. ‘I’m spending some time with my friend, what do you think I’m doing?’ he responded.

Harry bristled, his jaw clenching. ‘Looks like you’re--’

He was given no time to finish his sentence though and Ben cut across him, figuring out exactly what the younger man was going to say. ‘I’m not,’ he said. ‘But you should be more careful, leaving her on her own like that – there are an awful lot of guys who would kill to be in your position. She’s gorgeous and you’re being an idiot.’

The younger man said nothing this time, mouth agape.

‘Now, seeing as you’re obviously incapable, I’ll look after her tonight.’ Ben perked an eyebrow; he was being cocky on purpose now. ‘You can see her tomorrow.’

‘Ben...’ With a soft laugh, Georgie detached herself from Ben’s side and reached out for Harry’s hand instead. She didn’t particularly want to, but there was no point in making matters any worse. ‘As much as I appreciate it, you’re not my dad and I decide when Harry gets to see me.’

She laced her fingers with Harry’s, falling silent as she let him lead her away from Ben and towards the bar. It didn’t feel the same, not at all, his hand didn’t fit right and he held on too tight. She carried on though, sneaking glances over her shoulder as they walked through the crowds. She couldn’t be sure, but the final time she looked back at Ben, his face fell, the facade he’d worked so hard to keep up, melting away.

Perhaps she wasn’t the only one feeling something she shouldn’t have been after all.

-

It had been over a week since the Christmas party Ben attended with Georgie and they’d been in touch no more than twice. Something was wrong, but he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what. So when she’d rung to ask him to accompany her Christmas shopping in London that afternoon, he jumped at the chance.

And it was fine, it was all fine. They walked the length and breadth of Oxford Street several times, darted in and out of shops along Regent Street, even took a stroll into Soho, and Georgie laughed and joked with him the whole time, her arm linked through his. When the snow began to fall, her enthusiasm only grew and by the time they reached the underground station she was very nearly skipping along.

Ben laughed, letting her do as she wished, merely following along behind and playing the bag carrier.

‘Walk me home?’ She turned to him as she reached the barriers, holding out her hands to take her shopping from him, a coy smile on her face. ‘Please?’

Arguing with her was out of the question, so he returned the smile, kept hold of the bags and followed her through and down the escalators to the platform. They weren’t there long before the train came, the wind whipping their hair up as it came to a stop and Georgie was smiling again, grinning infectiously in his direction.

By the time they stepped out of Notting Hill Gate station, the snow was lying quite thick on the ground, something Ben hadn’t exactly been prepared for, and neither had Georgie. It was nice though, the way the roads now lay beneath a dusting of icing sugar white, the way children were running back and forth like this was something new. But it was almost Christmas and snow at Christmas excited even the oldest of children – most of the time anyway.

Georgie, of course, was all smiles the second they were out in the cold, very much proving his point. She raced off before he had time to grab her, sidestepping Christmas shoppers and swiping her hand across the nearest wall, gathering the snow together. He couldn’t stop her, couldn’t escape, as much as he tried and several moments later he found himself with a face full of it, her laughter ringing in his ears. It didn’t take him long to exact his revenge though and shortly afterwards he was throwing himself towards her, smashing snow down playfully upon her head. She screamed, although she was still laughing, and then ran off again seconds later, making her escape.

This went on for quite some time, as they ducked, dived and weaved their way through the streets of Notting Hill, receiving a ridiculous amount of dirty looks for their effort.

But they didn’t care. Why should they have cared?

At one point Ben ran straight into a young couple, sending their shopping bags flying. He hesitated, helped them, but he couldn’t stop his laughter and he was pretty sure the moment he raced off and left them alone again, his name was undoubtedly mud.

Georgie currently lived with her sister in a maisonette in the middle of Notting Hill. She lived in what a lot of people would have considered the idealistic setting, surrounded by lush, green parks and chocolate box houses, with old stone walls and wrought iron gates. Her sister’s house was decked out ready for Christmas, with a wreath of green, red and gold on the door, soft, white glowing fairy lights in every window and the traditional Christmas tree standing proud out in front. It was perfect, everything a romcom fan dreamed of, like a picture taken straight from a movie.

When they finally reached the house, Ben came to an abrupt stop, drinking in the scene before him as Georgie trawled through her bag in search of her keys.

‘They’re here somewhere,’ she was saying, crouched down on the ground as she began to empty the contents out all over the pavement. Make-up, loose change, two mobile phones and a packet of chewing gum went skittering across the ice. ‘I definitely had them when I left. I’m sure I did.’

Turning his attention back to Georgie, Ben joined her on the floor to help her look. It took him no longer than thirty seconds to find them, holding the bunch of keys up triumphantly once he’d discovered them hidden away in her coat pocket. She looked embarrassed as she collected everything together once again, which was unlike her, and idly tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. ‘OK, yeah, I’m an idiot... you can say it,’ she murmured.

He, however, said no such thing, handing over a tube of lip-gloss instead, and then helping her up from the snowy ground. ‘Come on,’ he said gently. ‘You know you’re anything but.’

She smiled when they came face-to-face, barely being able to disguise the flush of pink now adorning her cheeks beneath her sparkly beret. Whether it was embarrassment or the cold, he didn’t know, but it only made her look more beautiful to him.

A moment later she began her ascent up the steps leading to her sister’s house, but Ben was quick to follow, catching hold of her hand just as she reached the top and turning her back around to face him. ‘Do I get a hug or are you just going to leave me standing here?’ he asked with a soft laugh, perking an eyebrow at her playfully.

Her smile brightened and she shook her head, throwing her arms around his neck without warning and pulling him in close. He returned the hug easily, hands sliding across her back and pressing her body up against his. ‘Sorry,’ she whispered into his ear, ‘didn’t think. I told you I was an idiot, didn’t I?’

‘You’re not an idiot,’ he responded gently, planting a kiss to her cheek before loosening his hold on her again.

‘Yeah, OK, thanks...’ Georgie chuckled, ducking her head down before she pulled away from him. Her gaze lifted to his, staying there briefly, and then she took a step back toward the door, getting her keys ready as she added, ‘I’ll see you soon, Ben,’ and turned to head inside.

The second her back was turned, Ben felt the loss of her smile immediately, and before he even realised what he was doing, reached out to touch her arm gently. She turned, quickly, her eyes alight, and he closed the gap between them, swallowing down his pride as he brought his hand up to cup her face and pressed his lips to hers.

Her eyes went wide, he wondered what the hell he was even doing, but it took no longer than a second before she was kissing him back, desperately.

Ben allowed himself to relax into it then, his fingers moving lightly against her cheek, caressing, as his lips parted on a natural breath and the kiss grew deeper. He knew he shouldn’t have been doing this, not really; she was Georgie and she had a boyfriend, but he’d be damned if he was going to let the opportunity slip through his fingers.

Georgie’s arms were soon looped around his neck and he brought his hands to her hips, bringing her body in that little bit closer, revelling in her warmth pressed up against him.

When he finally broke away from her, short of breath and panting slightly, he laid his forehead against hers, a lazy smile crossing his face. He didn’t speak; there was nothing to say, he simply let the silence wash over them for a while, enjoying.

Georgie however, had other ideas, lacing her fingers through his as she asked, ‘Do you want to come inside?’

He hesitated, suddenly looking anywhere but at her, as the implications of that question sunk in. ‘Inside...?’ he queried, an eyebrow lifting slightly.

‘To talk, or...’ Pointing idly over her shoulder, she began to move backwards again, jangling the keys in her hand. He couldn’t move, he really couldn’t, her unfinished sentence was hanging in the air and even though she was tugging encouragingly on his hand, his feet were failing him. ‘I mean, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but I thought--’

This time she cut herself off, but he didn’t allow the silence to last too long, joining her on the doorstep and smiling apprehensively. ‘OK,’ he said. ‘Let’s talk.’

They didn’t exactly talk.

In fact, they didn’t talk at all and as soon as they had fallen through the door, Georgie’s lips were on his again and she was pulling, yanking, tugging and dragging him towards her bedroom. He let her, moving blindly and tripping over various obstacles hidden the darkness on his way. When he fell over the Hoover lying in the middle of the landing, he gave it up as a bad job, breaking away from the kiss with a laugh and reaching for her hand, letting her lead him the rest of the way.

Georgie, apparently no longer being coy at all, slammed the door and pushed him down onto the bed the second they reached her room, straddling him at the hips.

He was a little thrown by the whole thing, if he were to be honest, but leant up all the same and slid a hand around to the back of her neck as he kissed her again, pulling her down on top of him. She fell, obliging, landing with a soft and playful ‘oof’ and laying her hands against his chest. Georgie, both hungry and inquisitive, was quick to deepen their kiss and parted her lips, letting her tongue slide over his lips to hesitantly explore his mouth.

It didn’t take long for Ben to retaliate with the same vigour, losing himself in her and losing track of the time as he did so. Rolling them over, lips not daring to leave hers, he brought his hands up on either side of her head, pinning her there. He could get used to this, not the voice in the back of his mind telling him to stop, but the feel of his hand sliding over her leg, the way the fabric of her skirt brushed against his skin and the warmth of her body pressed to his, he couldn’t get enough of that.

Georgie was the first to pull away, short of breath as she wriggled her way across the bed and out of his reach. ‘Let me just--’ she started, her cheeks flushing with pink. ‘Let me change. I want to change.’ She smiled, bright and infectious, and then jumped up and raced out of the room, leaving him lying there in the middle of the bed, hot, bothered and with no clue what was going on.

For several moments, he didn’t move, but then he clapped eyes on a pin board over on the other side of the room and got slowly back to his feet. He walked over, casually, shrugging off his jacket and straightening out his shirt as he did so. Once he’d draped his jacket over a nearby chair, he took the final step, his mouth curling up into a smile. The pin board was full of photographs, nothing more, both new and old, of people he knew and people he didn’t. He edged closer, noticing a picture of Georgie with her fellow onscreen siblings back when they’d been filming the first Narnia film. They all looked so, so young then. But they had been and Georgie had practically been a baby when she came into the franchise, unlike him.

Ben tilted his head slightly, his fingertips brushing nonchalantly against her face in the photograph before he moved onto the next. Georgie and Harry wrapped around each other on a beach somewhere. She was grinning, wildly, holding onto him so tightly, with her face buried against his shoulder. Harry, on the other hand, seemed more interested in something going on somewhere out of shot than the girl who was so obviously in love with him.

That kid didn’t know what he was missing, he really didn’t.

Turning from the pin board, chewing idly on his thumbnail as he looked around the room, Ben sighed softly and brought a hand up to rub his forehead.

Georgie’s room, on first glance, was the same as any young girl’s room, full of photos of friends and family, with fairy lights wrapped around the headboard and a floaty dress hung up on the wardrobe door. Pink, flowery, generally pretty as any room could be. He recognised the dress immediately as the one she’d worn the night he’d met up with her again – it was as stunning as he remembered it being. Very briefly, he touched the fabric, but then withdrew his hand almost immediately as the sound of Georgie’s phone ringing on the other side of the room caught his attention.

He span, gaze darting around as he looked for any sign of it. But he didn’t manage to lay his hands on it until it had stopped ringing again and the screen greeted him with three words. One missed call. Harry. There was a single love heart in front of his name, obviously saved into her phonebook that way so he always came up first. She acted like such a lovesick teenager sometimes, she really did. But then again, she still was a teenager, she was only eighteen and... sometimes he forgot. Should he have been forgetting that? Was pretending that blatantly obvious age gap between the pair of them didn’t exist really the best thing for them? And was that teddy bear staring at him?

Sighing softly, he reached out, untucking the sandy coloured bear from beneath the duvet cover where it had been hiding. It looked to be a good few years old, with threadbare paws and ears, well loved. He smiled, turning it over in his hands before placing it back, face down this time. The last thing he needed was to be judged by the black and beady gaze of a stuffed bear.

Everything was so incredibly fucked up. Ridiculously so and it was all his fault.

‘What am I even doing here?’ he murmured, mostly to himself, but he could hear movement outside the door so it wasn’t entirely improbable that Georgie could have heard him. ‘This is ridiculous...’

Ben glanced over his shoulder briefly for any of sign of her and when he came up with nothing, reached for his jacket once more. Just as he was slipping it back on and making sure he had everything, Georgie appeared in the doorway. She was smiling happily, beaming away, in her comfy clothes now, with several DVD’s in one hand and a bag of Doritos in the other.

Even though her state implied nothing else would be going on tonight, he knew he couldn’t hang around; too much was wrong with the whole situation. And, truthfully, he didn’t know how much will power he had around Georgie anymore.

‘I have to go,’ he announced, keeping his tone even, impartial.

She perked an eyebrow, stepping around him and hopping back up onto the bed. Once she’d put everything down, she glanced back up at him, her eyes wide and questioning. ‘Why?’ she asked.

Ben looked at her agog, which was ridiculous seeing as how simple the question had been. ‘Well...’ he began, although he faltered there and she shot him a knowing look. ‘Georgie, please don’t make this any harder than it already is. I can’t stay here tonight.’

‘I don’t want you to go,’ she said, ignoring him and tearing open the bag of chips.

At that, he sighed, feeling himself relenting, but he needed to stay strong – if only for his own sanity. ‘And I don’t want to go, not really, but this – us – was not part of the plan. It wasn’t part of any plan, ever, and it shouldn’t be happening.’

This time she fell still, tilting her head slightly as she murmured, ‘I don’t understand, Ben...’

He shook his head, frustrated now and he didn’t even know why. ‘You wouldn’t,’ he said, a sudden edge to his words that wasn’t there before. He wasn’t even thinking about what he was saying as he pulled the door back open to leave. ‘You’re just a child, I don’t expect you to.’

The second he realised the words that had slipped from his lips, he regretted them. The look on Georgie’s face was enough to break his heart and he felt his resolve slipping. He wanted to tell her that he was sorry, that he didn’t mean it and he loved her, but he could tell it was already too late for that.

Sure enough, a moment later she was up off the bed, shoving him out of the way and gesturing to the hallway as she said, ‘Just go then.’

Ben watched, suddenly helpless, his guilt beyond words.

‘Georgie, I didn’t mean--’

‘LEAVE ME ALONE!’

This time he took the hint, her shout ringing out, and he nodded, sidestepping around her and making his way back to the front door. He left without another word, without another glance in her direction. She wouldn’t speak to him now; there was no point.

So he stepped back out into the snow, shut out in the cold with no idea what he was supposed to do, or say, to make it right again.
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May 2011

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