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The Sum of Contradictions: 38 Winter
By beurre blanc


"Oh Jesus, no. No, no, no, no… You stupid, fucking… Noooo."

…you have insulted, and manipulated, and - hurt – me…

Olivia stood, sat, stood and turned, and finally picked up a vase and hurled it into the corner of the room.

…I have fallen so hard for you… "Noooo…" …everything I have offered you – my trust, a tremendous leap into the unknown, my heart. My heart. "Oh, my love, my love, my beautiful, beautiful Alex…"

As she uttered her lover's name, a sob finally overtook her words and she buckled, crumpling to the floor, hot tears spilling unchecked.

"Alex, Alex, Alex…" …you don't – you won't – trust me… Another burst of anger claimed the empty bourbon glass, and she stood again to throw two cushions after it, walking briskly but pointlessly across the room before the turned her back to the wall, and slid, sobbing, down its smooth surface until she collapsed sideways, curled tight.

…right into your own goddamned insecurities… "Jesus fucking Christ, Benson! You're a goddamned imbecile." …they control you…slave to them… "You stupid, worthless pathetic moron…" Pathetic. Worthless. Stupid.

Olivia had never felt more wretched in her life. The crushing pressure in her chest was literally splitting her heart in two, her ears rang with recrimination, and no matter which way she viewed the future there was an Alex-shaped void which overwhelmed her every rational thought.

At 2 AM Olivia dragged herself into bed. Her cheeks felt hot, tight with the dried salt of unwiped tears; her throat was raw from crying, and her head throbbed and ached. And even now she couldn't lessen the ceaseless twist and hum of reproach. She reached for the bedside table, slipping her hand into the top drawer. A moment later she drew forth her bracelet, the links glinting even in the soft incident glow of the city's lights. She laid the chain across her bent knees, just as she had done so many times, on so many nights, in the past.

"Hey, Ted," she whispered, sniffing. "I need you again." The little gold bear stared impassively back at her as she placed the talisman in her palm, closed her fingers over the top, and held him to her heart. Fresh tears fell as a wave of teenage memories and regrets washed over her.

"Happy now, Mom?" What began as a hoarse whisper rose quickly to a strident demand. "Are you? Are you happy? Thanks to you – and to him – I've just fucked up the best thing that's ever happened to me…"

It had been so many years since Olivia had felt this way – so desperately alone, despairing and lost. So many years... And yet the sense of hopelessness and abandonment was no different from that which she had experienced in her darkest teenage years, except, perhaps, that this felt worse. So many times she'd sat like this, clutching the little bear, willing herself to remember the good things, the good times, forcing her focus away from the fights, and the manipulation, and the blame. The polar opposites of "you're the best thing to have happened in my life" and "if it wasn't for you, my life would have turned out so much better"… and then, on really bad nights, the irrational kicker: "why can't you just look more like me, instead of him?". As if she'd had a choice…

She raised her eyes to the ceiling as she squeezed the bear into her palm, and let go a near-hysterical scream, "Are. You. Happy. Now?"

Mrs Cabot's eyes narrowed, and her lips thinned with concern as she studied her daughter. Alexandra was sitting forwards on the couch, shoulders hunched, and hands clasped in her lap, a picture of dejection. She had never seen her self-confident, forthright, resilient daughter adopt this posture before, and that, more than anything, showed her the depth of her daughter's distress.

"It's over, isn't it?"

Alex looked up in brief defiance, but the protest died on her lips. She knew that everything about her demeanor broadcast her misery, and trying to deny it would be pointless. Especially to her mother. Or to myself. She nodded, feeling her eyes fill with fresh tears at the finality of it all.

Moving to sit beside her daughter, Mrs Cabot reached out and took Alex's hand. Alex leaned slowly towards her, eyelids burning, throat raw, and complete dissolution imminent. The sob which finally broke free almost rent her mother's heart, and she gathered Alex into her arms. All the countless embraces of a lifetime, yet never before had she offered her daughter comfort for a broken heart.

Only after she had held Alex through many minutes of deep, wrenching sobs did she venture to speak again.

"Darling, are you ready to tell me what happened yet?" She leaned back, watching, taking in every clue.

Alex brought her knees to her chest and drew her arms around them, wrapping tightly, as if making herself smaller would let the waves of grief and devastation somehow wash over her with less force. She made no move to answer her mother – the question might as well have gone unasked for all the response it received. Mrs Cabot placed her arm around her daughter's shoulders again, hugging as tightly as she could.

What the hell, Olivia? How could you let this slip through your fingers? Olivia glanced at her watch. Only now, thirty-two minutes into her run, was the rhythmic pounding of her running shoes on pavement beginning to dominate the pounding ache between her temples. She gripped the bear a little tighter, addressing him, as always, in her mind. You know, Ted, you'd think by now I'd be used to having no sleep… And, as always, he helped focus the internal debate, helped her to rationalize, interpret, decide.

As it had for much of the preceding night, Olivia's mind followed the same path – a memory of something Alex had said, her own misinterpretation of it, an accusation, a patient correction, and often – too often – the look of fleeting hurt on Alex's face. Damn it! God. Damn. It! She hated that look – hated what it had become: hated the fact that it heralded yet another instance in which she had failed to be what Alex deserved… Olivia put on an extra burst of speed, to absorb another rush of frustration and regret.

And it's not like this is new information, is it? "It felt like you were trusting me with your heart … but then you took that trust away." Jesus, Mom! Are you happy now? Happy with the way I turned out? Or would this whole fuck-up be just another failing you could happily attribute to my bad genes, huh? His fault? Triumphantly point out – yet again – how he fucked up your life, and mine too?

She let out a frustrated roar, hoping to silence the incessant and destructive railing in her head, and succeeding only in drawing the suspicious glances of other early-morning joggers and walkers in the park.

You have to face this, Olivia. No matter how much it hurts to admit, it's not rocket science. She already told you why… "I have opened my heart to you, Liv … you dominate my very existence. And yet you don't – you won't – trust me." Stop running, Olivia. Stop running away from the truth…

Olivia slowed to a walk, and made her way across to a vacant bench, chest heaving. She sat, scrubbed a hand across her face, then swept her sweat-slick hair back from her forehead with her fingertips. Leaning forward, Olivia rested her forearms on her knees, and took a few deep breaths of the sharp chilled air. Snow soon, she thought. To be followed by grit, and slush, and the thick filth of frozen mud as the snow sucked a year of grime and dust into itself. Great. Just great… Snow. Winter. Christmas. Alone.

Suddenly she felt her chest caving once more under the crushing weight of love lost, collapsing again beneath a flood of future memories once glimpsed but now gone. She pictured herself wandering across a pristine blanket of white, arm around Alex's waist as they shared a comfortable silence, and the realization that this would be no more than a fantasy now filled her yet again with remorse. Tears again. More fucking tears! Jesus! How could I possibly still have tears left to cry?

Olivia drew her arms about herself, and shivered in the invading chill. Suddenly she heard – no, she felt – a shout in her head, a demand which welled up from her heart, and shot blazing into her mind. Goddamn it, Olivia! Get your act together! You're a grown woman – you're a cop – and you know damn well what you have to do to fix this. She handed you the key right before she walked: you know exactly what she needs to hear. If you want her, if you want Alex back, then you know what to do!

The End

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