Warning: NSFW Pictures
Graduation was bittersweet for Cole.
In less than three months his life as he knew it would change.
He was going to miss his friends, Doc, his parents, grandparents and even Ami.
Ami had grown like two feet this past year. It shocked Cole when he looked at her. She was a young woman now. 13 going on 20. He sorta wished he could be around to scare off the boys that would inevitably be knocking down her door. But he figured his Dad would have that well under control.
And Noah. He would miss his best friend. Noah had indeed inherited a fair amount of money and the house was now in his name. He unceremoniously kicked out his Uncle when the balance of the trust was signed over to him. He would need his job, but at least he wouldn’t struggle. Rumor had it he would be promoted to foreman when the volume ratcheted up during the summer.
The one Cole would miss most of all was Laney. In one more week, she would be out of his life forever.
They hadn’t discussed their situation again after the night of the phone call, pretending it wasn’t a thing. She was so busy getting things ready to leave, it had left very little time for them. He could feel her distancing herself from him already, even if it wasn’t intentional. He had never seen her so happy and full of life. This was what she was always meant to do and would spend the rest of her life doing in some capacity.
Cole was relieved to be going to Brindleton Bay because he would have no memories of Laney there to haunt him. He wished he could leave the same day that she would leave for Bridgeport, because the next two months without her in Willow Creek, would be hell.
Cole wanted his and Laney’s last day together to be memorable. He made a reservation at the Grand Hotel in San Myshuno for dinner at their rooftop restaurant, The Terrace. The Hotel was the tallest building in San Myshuno with breathtaking views of the city.
They arrived just before sundown. The setting sun cast long shadows across the rooftop as the sky turned all shades of yellow, orange and red.
They got up from the table and went to watch the show. “Cole, this is breathtaking,” she said as she looked around.
Cole thought Laney was breathtaking, but then, he always did. It made it that much harder to say goodbye.
“I wanted it to be special,” he said, “So enjoy. I have a surprise for desert.”
“There’s more?” she said, her eyes sparkling.
He reached into his pocket, pulled out the room key and showed it to her.
When she realized what it was, a knowing smile split her face. “You got a room? Here?”
“I wanted to have some time alone with you before you leave.”
“You are going to make me cry,” said Laney and laid her head on his shoulder.
“Shhh. No tears. Tell me about your apartment in Bridgeport. After we eat, we can go to the room.”
“Cole look at the view – it just keeps getting better. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful. I feel like a princess!”
“Good, because you are,” he said and kissed her deeply until they had no need for words.
“Wow. That was amazing….” said Laney when her breathing returned to normal. “I will be counting the days until I see you again. I can’t believe I’m leaving tomorrow. It’s exciting and yet so scary.”
“You don’t have to count,” said Cole mostly to himself.
Laney turned to face him and smiled. “Why? Are you going to Bridgeport with me?” she asked, running her finger down his chest playfully.
He looked at his tiny dancer, tears fighting to escape. He reached over and brushed her hair back. “No. I’m not. And you’re not coming back here, at least not to stay.”
Laney’s face fell. She sat up and hugged herself and looked at him, fear written all over her face. “Don’t start this again Cole,” she warned, “It’s not like we will never see each other again. I’ll be back before we tour. And after the tour, I’ll have a break. I can see you then too.” Her tone was desperate.
Cole was strangely calm. “Laney, listen to yourself. Can’t you see, that won’t work. I don’t want a weekend with you four times a year. I want you every single day. I could live with weekends, if it was temporary, until we were out of college. But Laney, once I graduate, I’m anchored to a practice. You, on the other hand, are already beginning your career. You will probably be traveling the world before Christmas. So no, you won’t come back to Willow Creek – ever. Your home will be Bridgeport or wherever you happen to be touring at the time.
Silent tears were rolling down Laney’s cheeks dripping off her chin and onto the sheet she had wrapped around her. She swiped at her face before she replied. “It will only be until you are out of college. You can open up a practice in Bridgeport. Then we can be together. You are not breaking up with me Cole. I won’t let you. I love you. And you love me too. You said so!”
This wasn’t going like Cole envisioned it would. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly so he could talk. “I do love you. Don’t you see, even if I was In Bridgeport, you would only be there occasionally. Would you want me to throw away my scholarship, and all that I’ve worked so hard for, to follow you? You wouldn’t ask me to do that anymore than I would ask you to turn down this opportunity and stay here with me. This is bigger than both of us. If either one of us sacrificed our dreams, our relationship would become toxic. And if we stay together, and tried long distance, we wouldn’t be able to make it work. You can’t have a relationship when you aren’t together.”
“Don’t say that Cole. You don’t know.”
“Laney, tell me, honestly, that once you get on that plane tomorrow you will come back to Willow Creek to live….”
When she didn’t respond he continued, “See, you can’t. You were meant to dance. I am giving you the freedom to do it without having to worry about us. Focus on yourself…” Cole swallowed hard so he could get the rest of his words out, “Maybe you will find someone that can be there for you. Travel with you and watch your performances. That can support you like you deserve.”
Laney was crying hard. “I don’t expect you to do that! I know you can’t. You’re making this my fault! I can’t just stop loving you. How can you do this to us? We were going to get married someday and have little blue-eyed babies.”
Laney was sobbing and it was killing him. His own tears were hot behind his eyes. “Laney….how can we have a family if we aren’t together? Don’t you see?”
“We can figure it out Cole, please,” she said trying to pull herself together.
Cole was crying now. “How Laney…tell me how.”
He reached over to her and she pushed him away. “So this is how it ends for us?” she said unable to look at him. “Just like that? After all I did to get you back in my life and to get you to forgive me, you walk out on me?”
“Laney, I didn’t think it would be this way…I thought you would be in school too, not starting your life. It’s not easy for me either…I…”
She got up and put finger in his face. “Then you should just leave. And don’t come to the airport tomorrow. Don’t call me either.”
“Go! Now!” she screamed as she grabbed her clothes and ran into the bathroom.
Cole got dressed but didn’t leave. He couldn’t leave with things like that between them. Besides he was her ride. He sat on the bed to think. He could hear her crying in the bathroom.
He wiped the hot tears from his face, then he got up and knocked on the bathroom door. “Laney, please come out. I’m not going anywhere..”
“Why did you do it? Why did you make me love you?”
“Open the door…”
Finally the door cracked open and he backed up. Laney walked out of the bathroom and slapped Cole hard across the face.
Then she started beating at his chest with her fists.
“Owwww,” said Cole and grabbed her wrists. “Laney, stop it. Talk to me.”
“About what? My broken heart?” she cried still trying to hit him.
“Shhh, stop!” said Cole holding her wrists tight.
When Laney ran out of steam and could no longer fight him, she finally stopped resisting and fell into Cole’s arms crying. “I hate you,” she said into his chest.
Cole felt like he was going to be sick. He held Laney, rubbing her back until her breathing was back to normal. “Come on. Let’s sit down and talk. Please.”
“What’s there left to talk about? You’ve made up your mind. You don’t want me.”
“Laney…no. That’s not true,” he said and led her to the couch.
“Then what is it? You don’t trust me. You think I’ll just hook up with someone else just because we are apart? Either way, it doesn’t matter. You will obviously never trust me again. One stupid mistake and I ruined everything. I tried to make up for that.”
“Laney. Look at me,” said Cole holding her still so she wouldn’t move. “I love you. This has nothing to do with Ryker. Our lives just suddenly went in opposite directions. In your heart, you know it too.”
“I am going to miss you,” she whispered.
“I am going to miss you too.”
“Can I call you?”
Cole breathed a little easier. “You better.”
Laney relaxed and laid her head on his chest. He stroked her hair, calming them both. She felt so right in his arms.
“I don’t hate you….much,” she said into his chest.
Cole chuffed out a small laugh. “I know. You okay now?”
“I guess. No – not really.”
“I know. Me either. But, I need to get you home. You have to rest. You have a big day tomorrow. The first day of the rest of your life.”
“Kiss me, one more time, please.”
Tears came again. Cole kissed her as tenderly as he could, their salty tears mixing together. He leaned his forehead on hers. “You ready to go?” he whispered.
She just nodded.