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Installment Thirteen (the conclusion to Book I: AFTER ALL IS SAID)
They made their way over to Lauren and Tori whispered something in her ear. Lauren nodded in understanding and leaned over giving Brett a quick hug telling her she would talk to her tomorrow. They waved goodbye to Adrian and Alexi and then headed toward the French doors that would bring them to the boardwalk. Tori held Brett’s coat out for her and helped her put it on. Placing on her own, she took Brett’s hand again and they went outside.
They walked hand in hand for a long while in silence. Both were lost in their thoughts. When Victoria finally gathered her courage, she came to a stop. From where they were standing, they could see New Jersey across the river and the George Washington Bridge in the distance. The clanging of a flagpole line and the sounds of the wind across a hypnotic tide filled the crisp cold night.
Victoria had waited for this moment for so long. She wanted it to be perfect. From the corner of her eye, she could see Brett shiver. When she thought about it, she was shivering as well. Okay Tori it’s now or never. Turning, she took a deep breath and tried to calm down.
“Brett…for a long time now I’ve wanted to tell you how I’ve felt. How much you mean to me.” Tori took Brett in her arms needing to feel their closeness. Brett sank into Tori’s embrace. She could not believe she was actually in Tori’s arms again.
“Ever since we were kids, you’ve had my heart.” Tori ran her hand down Brett’s back and kissed the top of her head. “I’m sure you’ve wondered why I stopped paying attention to you when we were younger. Oh Brett. I never wanted to hurt you. If anything, I just wanted to love you.” Tori looked at Brett while she said this. She then ran the tip of her nose up Brett’s forehead and placed another kiss there. Wrapping her arms even tighter around Brett, she inhaled the scent of Brett’s shampoo.
“I was so confused back then. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I just could not get you out of my mind. I wanted you so desperately.”
Brett pulled away from Tori so she could see her face, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Tori what are you saying?”
Tori bent her head down, leaned her forehead against Brett’s, and let out a deep sigh. “I’m saying…I’m saying the reason I…Damn it Brett. I’m saying I was in love with you… I was so in love with you that I used to cry myself to sleep every night.”
Brett was so confused. She hadn’t expected this admission. The last thing she thought Tori would say was that she was in love with her when they were kids. For so long she thought Tori had grown tired of her, lost interest in their friendship.
“Tori, why didn’t you just tell me? Instead of making me think you had just lost interest in me and wanted to be with Cole instead.” Brett desperately needed to understand Tori’s motives.
“I thought if you found out how I felt about you, you’d hate me. I couldn’t bear to see the look of disgust in your eyes. I thought it was better that you thought I was just interested in boys than seeing me as some kind of pervert. That’s why I started to see Cole. Besides honey, you were eleven years old. How could you possible understand what I was going through?”
“What do you mean Tori? How could I possibly know what you were going through? Since the day I was born, you were a part of my life. We did everything together. The sun didn’t shine unless you asked it to. The moon didn’t rise until you said it was time. My world didn’t spin unless you helped it along. When you were no longer there……” Brett stopped and turned her back away from Tori. Her emotions were now too close to the surface. She paused to get her composure back looking out onto the river. In a voice so low, Tori could barely hear her. She continued. “ When you were no longer there,…….a part of me left with you.”
At hearing these words, Tori’s heart broke all over again. What have I done? Tori went behind Brett and cautiously wrapped her arms around her. “Brett it seems my actions have hurt both of us. At the time, I did what I thought was the right thing to do. But no matter what I did to protect you, it just seemed to backfire. It didn’t work for you and it most certainly didn’t work for me. I thought if I replaced you with Cole, my feelings would change. When I went away to Harvard and Cambridge, I thought a little distance between us would be the answer. But no amount of time or distance would ever erase you from my heart and mind.”
Brett stood there in disbelief. So many years she had wondered what had happened to them. Now all the answers were being laid out in front of her.
“When I was working for your father, Lauren had asked me to go with her to see you in Michigan. That weekend, I was ready to tell you how I felt. I didn’t want to waste another minute. Whatever the consequences, even if all I could have was your friendship. Then it would be enough for me. I missed you so much. I felt like a part of me had been missing too. I told myself whatever the outcome, whatever you chose,… at least you would know and I wouldn’t wonder anymore. Then I found out you were with Jenna. I can’t tell you how crushed I was that night. She didn’t deserve you. I felt like she took away what was rightfully mine.” Tears started to fill both sets of eyes and Brett turned around and put her arms around Tori, burying her face in Tori’s chest.
“Oh Tori I’m so sorry.” Brett remembered how they were always able to talk to each other when they were younger and wondered how they could have gotten so lost.
“I must have walked…Oh… 20 miles that night. I just kept picturing your face and the look you had given me. You wanted to be with me didn’t you?” She felt Brett’s tears soak the front of her sweater and felt Brett’s head nod yes. “I knew that…you were always so good about keeping your word. I knew you had made a commitment to Jenna and wouldn’t leave her. I told myself that I would understand if you couldn’t return my feelings. But to lose you to another woman just devastated me. For so many years, I had worked to keep my feelings from you and there you were committed to a woman. The irony of the situation just ate away at me. I kept seeing her touch you and kiss you with that smug look on her face. The thought of never being the one to love you left me sad, lonely and bitter.” Tori remembered the darkness that had surrounded her during the past few years and she could hear it calling to her. “I made a decision that night. I promised that I would never allow myself to feel that kind of pain again. These last six years, I did everything I could to forget you Brett. I did despicable things.” Tori lost her control as a wave of guilt hit her. Her tears spilt over leaving her a bundle of insecurity.
Brett held Tori even tighter. She hadn’t seen Tori this vulnerable since they were kids. “Honey… it’s alright. What ever it is, we’ll work it out.”
“Oh Brett. I’m not even worthy to be your friend, much less someone you could love…” This was not what Tori had wanted to happen. Her past was finally catching up with her and it was time to pay the piper. Her head was telling her the price would once again be a life without Brett.
“No Tori. You’re wrong. We both have done things that have kept us apart. And though it’s gonna take time for those wounds to heal, I can’t lose you again. I will not let you walk out of my life this time. Fight Tori? Fight for what we both know exists between us. Please…Please Tori…. Fight.”
Tori felt a glimmer of hope rise up as she heard Brett’s plea. “Oh Brett… I want to…I want to so badly… If you can find it in your heart to give me a chance, I’ll work so hard to be someone you can be proud of. I need you Brett.” Tori ran her lips down Brett’s cheek and neck not wanting to lose the intensity that was building between them.“I love you so much…You don’t know how I’ve dreamt to hold you, to kiss you, to love you. Oh Brett, I so want to love you.” The tears were flowing freely now and they both held on so tightly to each other neither wanting to break the connection.
Brett was overwhelmed with emotion. Tori was expressing to her everything she had ever wanted to hear. Saying everything she ever wanted to say. Victoria Hull loved her. There was so much wasted time. So much pain endured. She knew there was much left to say. But they would have time. Now they had the rest of their lives. And nothing was going to stand in their way. Brett released Tori just far enough so she could see Tori’s beautiful face and look into her beautiful eyes. “Love me, Tori… Love me. Just don’t ever stop.”
Tori looked at Brett and for what seemed like the first time, the two souls met finally seeing each other for who they truly were.
“Never…Never…I’m never gonna stop loving you.”
Brett and Tori kissed with the heat of passion that had long been denied. They could not get close enough and both knew that that this hunger for each other would never truly be satiated. Nevertheless, they would spend a lifetime trying.