Say the Word

By: Julie Johnson


This one’s for Buffy.


For Veronica Mars.


For Elizabeth Bennet and Hermione Granger,


MacKayla Lane and Katniss Everdeen.


For all of my favorite fictional ladies,


who’ve always been there for me.





And, of course, for their wonderful creators.





“I shall either find a way or make one.”


Hannibal the Conqueror





Prologue





I’ve always thought that relationships are kind of like stars. The majority of them burn brightly for a time and then slowly die out, leaving a luminous legacy in their wake. Their residual light shines brightly for years after their dissipation – a dazzling imprint of what once was, that lingers even in the absence of the star itself.

Normal relationships, like normal stars, are no less beautiful in their ordinariness. They light the sky, weaving an infinite constellation of love, trust, and commitment. In fact, I’d always gazed rather enviously at that galaxy of wonderfully mundane relationships.

So, from what little I could tell from my view on the ground, there were these ordinary, healthy stars – glowing with a serenity that could only be indicative of domestic bliss.

And then, in another solar system entirely, there was my relationship with Sebastian.

We weren’t a normal star. We were a supernova, a red-hot sun – the kind that blazes so strongly it eviscerates life on any planet foolish enough to orbit too close. And we didn’t burn out. No, we imploded, leaving behind nothing but a gaping black hole so dark and so fathomless that not a trace of our light existed anymore.

So black, we didn’t just repel the light…

We absorbed it.

I guess, in simpler terms, it’d be safe to say our breakup didn’t go very well.





Chapter One





Then


“Don’t do this, Lux,” he pleaded, his eyes full of anguished incomprehension.

I don’t want to do this, believe me. I would give anything to not be doing this right now. But I don’t have a choice in the matter.

Not anymore.

I schooled my face into a mask of callous indifference and forced myself to say the words in the flat, cold tone I typically reserved for the bitchy cheerleaders who ran in the popular cliques of our senior class, and who’d never approved of their perfect Sebastian dating the trailer trash girl on welfare.

“I don’t want to be together anymore, Bash,” I bit out. “We’re going to college in a few months and I think the long-distance will be too hard.”

Lies, lies, lies. Falling from my lips like raindrops in a storm.

“We’ve talked about this,” Sebastian said in a steady voice, as though he thought by remaining calm he might somehow change my mind or force me to see reason. “I don’t have to go to Princeton. I don’t even want to go there, Lux… It’s just my dad – you know,” he broke off.

Yeah. I knew all about his father and the big dreams he had for Bash, his only son. The golden boy who was destined to carry on the Covington legacy.

“I’ll go to State with you,” Bash continued, moving closer to me. “We don’t have to be apart, Lux. Not ever.”

“It’s college,” I shrugged in what I hoped was a casual my-heart-isn’t-splintering-into-itty-bitty-pieces-at-this-very-moment gesture, moving a step backward so he couldn’t enter my space. I knew if he touched me, I’d either shatter to pieces or breakdown crying in his arms, unable to conceal the true reason I was doing this.

I forged on, determined. “There’ll be tons of other girls at Princeton. It’s not fair for either of us to be tied down.”

He shook his head, taking another step toward me. “I don’t want anybody els–” he began.

I cut him off before he could finish the thought.

“I don’t love you anymore,” I said.

I love you more than anything, I thought.

“You’re lying,” he denied, his eyes fierce.

He was resolute in the belief that I loved him. He thought our love was stronger than anything.

I had to shatter that belief, wreck it so completely that he had no choice but to walk away. Sure, I’d be ripping out my own heart in the process, but that was just collateral damage. All that mattered in this moment was that he believed me.