Grace

"We're falling apart," she whispers. "And then tape can't even hold us together anymore."

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6. Five

Toby had left by the next morning.

They went to study at Toby's house after school yesterday but they fell asleep. Grace said her house isn't a "good environment to be working in". Whatever she meant by that.

She put a cup in the coffee machine, her eyes scanned the sheet of notebook paper he had scrawled his number and good neighbourhoods with apartments for sale onto. There was a note telling Grace that he had to run to Ella's.

This early? she thought.

She decided she wanted to move out soon. So she figured now was the perfect time to explore the new areas, her moving here and all.

Coffee in hand, Grace headed back to the spare room where her clothes from yesterday were. It was easy enough to locate a pair of black high waisted jeans, a band t-shirt and a cardigan she had bought from Brandy Melville back in London. It was one of her favourite shirts.

She has always been the sort of girl who liked to take the reins on certain things, and visiting apartments in person rather than scouting online was one of them. You couldn't get a feel for a place via a virtual tour, let alone figure out if this was the area you wanted to spend all your time in. Today would be just as much about exploring neighborhoods as it would be looking at apartments.

Digging around in the kitchen drawer, she located the notepad she was searching for and slipped it into her bag. 
Making her way back into the kitchen, she decided to make a to-go cup of coffee, finding one of Toby's insulated travel mugs. She'd just pressed down the power button when a knock came at the door.

Startled, she sat down the coffee mug and tentatively padded her way into the living room, pulling open the door to reveal Him, his hand rubbing the back of his neck. She frowned.

"Toby isn't here" She stated.

He bit down on his lip as he eyed Grace, as if trying to gauge her mood from it. 
If she hadn't already had her first cup of coffee, she would have slammed the door in his face. He could count himself lucky.

"I'm not here for Toby," he told me.

It took a moment for the statement to process, but once it did, she couldn't help the snarl that found its way onto her face.

"Well, whatever you're here for, it will have to wait until Toby's back because I'm busy."

She was about to shut the door when his hand caught it. He sighed, the fingers of his other hand sliding over his eyes as he rubbed the upper bridge of his nose. Her frown deepened.

"I have strict orders from Toby to not let you leave unless you're coming with me."

"What are you talking about? I'm not going anywhere with you. Besides, I have plans."

"I know. I'm your transportation."

"You sure as hell are not."

He had wedged himself in the doorway by this time, leaning against the frame while he held the door itself firmly in his grip. He chose not to respond to what Grace had just said, simply watching her with an exhausted look on his face, like if she let it all out of her system, she'd be too tired afterward to fight it.

Her coffee was finished, and a sound that sounded very similar to a growl escaped Grace's throat as she narrowed her eyes at him before turning on her heel and stalking into the kitchen. She fixed the lid on the mug and snatched her phone from the counter, dialling Toby's number. Of course he didn't answer, but she was desperate to give him a piece of her mind. She was about to leave a voicemail when she noticed that Harry was now standing in the doorway to the kitchen, so she hung up to let him have it instead.

"I don't need your help. I've got it covered."

"Yeah? How are you getting to Century City?"

"I'll take a bus," She snapped, attempting to brush past him. He didn't budge and she groaned, throwing her head back.

"You're not walking around downtown Los Angeles alone, Davies. It's not safe. And I'm sure as hell not letting you take public transportation. Please don't make this difficult."

"I'm not the one who made this difficult."

He frowned at her comment, but she couldn't be bothered to care. She was too busy typing a furious text to Toby. When she finished, he was still watching her with those sad eyes.

"Please just let me go," She sighed, trying out a new tactic. Maybe if she looked pathetic enough, he'd cave. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect and Grace found herself glaring as a smile formed on his lips.

"Don't you think after seven years I know all your tricks?"

"Three years," Grace snapped. "You knew me for three years."

With that, she reached forward in yet another attempt to try to get out of the kitchen, hands pressed flat against his chest as she surged forward. He barely budged, his strength more than she expected as he wrapped his slender fingers around her wrists. She gritted my teeth as he held her there.

"Davies, please don't do this. Not when you won't let me talk to you."

"What's there to talk about?" She spat, tugging her arms free of his grip. Wordlessly, she threw her crossbody over her shoulder and made a break for the door.

It was no good. He was on her heels.

She could hear him behind her as she bolted down the steps, toward the gate. When she fumbled with the latch, he reached forward and lifted it effortlessly, which only fuelled her anger. And when she saw his Range Rover pulled up against the curb, all she wanted to do was take a Louisville slugger to it. Instead, she stormed up to the passenger side door, knowing that if she tried for the bus stop, he wouldn't have a problem with sliding his arms around her waist and forcing me into the car.

It was physical contact she wasn't about to let happen.

He seemed surprised that Grace went without a fight, but opened the door for her nonetheless. She reached up for the handle and pulled herself in, crossing her arms tightly over her chest the moment she was sat and buckled in. He made no comment as he slid into the driver's side and started the engine.

The silence was deafening, but she welcomed it over anything he thought he had to say to her as she kept her eyes trained on the passing houses and apartment complexes. She cursed herself for not starting here first, but she was desperate to get out of her parents house.

"I know you're not ready to talk about it, especially not to me, but I am. So when you are ready, you can come to me and we'll figure it out."

"There's nothing to figure out."

She wasn't looking at him, but she knew his grip had probably tightened on the wheel, the skin moving taut over his jawline.

"You believe what you want to believe, Davies," he told her, voice low.

She was done with the conversation, so she reached forward for the radio. When a familiar song started, she couldn't help the snort that escaped me.

"The Airborne Toxic Event? Really?"

He shrugged, keeping his eyes trained on the road. It was his turn not to make a response, and in a way, she was thankful. He was already treading on thin ice.

Or non-existent ice, for that matter.

But as one of Grace's favorite songs filled the space around them, she couldn't help but remember the amount of playful arguments they'd had over this band during their short time together. Her nails dug into the skin of her biceps as she leaned her head on the tinted window beside her, recalling the time when he told her he never understood why she listened to the band when she was so anti-rock on almost everything else. She had argued it was the depth of the lyrics that hooked her, but they both knew she was growing soft for his taste in music.

"It was an old song, I once knew every note and every line. It was a long night, when I carried you and you carried me for a time."

She had always liked this song, but in the moment, she wanted to do nothing more than turn it off. It was too painful, but still better than listening to him try to smooth things over between them while it still felt irreparable. So she endured it until they hit the exit for Century City.

"Where do you want to start?" he asked, pulling up to a stoplight and tapping his fingers on the wheel.

She shrugged, picking at a piece of dark red polish on her fingernail. "Just pull over somewhere. I planned on exploring."

"You didn't have a list of places you wanted to look into?" he asked, sounding less than unamused.

"No, I didn't. And I don't think you're in a position to complain about it, either."

The light turned green and he lightly pressed on the gas, a soft sigh escaping his lips. It had been a long time since he'd had to put up with Graces stubbornness and he was out of practice. She took pleasure in knowing she was getting under his skin.

They pulled into a garage attatched to the shopping center. The moment the car was in park, she was unbuckled and slamming the door shut. He ran his fingers through his hair as his feet hit the pavement, like he knew he'd gotten himself into something awful but could do absolutely nothing about it.

He led the way to the stairwell, putting on a pair of sunglasses when he was hit by a streak of sunlight. She tried not to roll her eyes at the way he walked, a confident sort of strut he'd developed over the years. She had known him when he was an awkward shuffler.

Her eyes took in the area around her, noting every shop, boutique, and restaurant in the vicinity. It all looked rather upscale, and while she wasn't exactly hurting for money after her mom's inheritence kicked in, she wasn't really loaded either. She'd always been sort of frugal, and she knew that to afford any of this, she'd probably have to start looking into jobs as well. She mentally tacked it onto the end of a very long list of things she needed to do to get her shit in order.

The day was rather cool, but the sun felt nice against her exposed skin. There wasn't much of a breeze here like there had been in Santa Monica the night before, but the day itself was sort of clouded over and shady. Periodically, a thick gray cloud would move over the sunlight and form goosebumps along her arms, but moments later it would leave again with the sunlight in its wake. The weather was definitely better than what she'd left behind in England.

"Do you like LA so far?" He asked from beside her as they rounded a corner.

"Are you trying to make small talk?" She countered.

He sucked in a deep breath, letting it out through his nose as he kept pace with Grace. His hands were dug deeply into his pockets, a stance she always loved watching him take but was avoiding looking at due to the circumstances.

"Humor me, Davies."

Her lips pressed into a firm line as she fixed her eyes on the street ahead. They seemed to be entering a slightly more residential area to the city, at least. The hubbub of the shopping center was fading behind us, less pedestrians to be seen on the sidewalks.
"I like the weather," she conceded. "And the sort of honesty to it."

He snorted and she found her head jerking in his direction.

"Los Angeles is smoke and mirrors. It fools people into thinking it's something more than it is," came his reply.

She wasn't sure how to explain to him what she had meant. That the city reminded her of standing at a party and drinking alone while you watched the homecoming queen sidled up to her football playing boyfriend, looking stunning and put together, but you can still see the sort of sadness in her eyes, hear the hollowness to her laughs. She's putting on a show, but there's something breaking inside her.

So she kept silent as they moved deeper into the streets of Century City. She was focusing on the sounds her sandals made when they slapped the pavement and the kind of noise coming from restaurants with open sections leading out onto the patio.

"I didn't mean to offend you," He offered up a moment later. "I guess I just don't understand what you mean."

"I don't know how to explain it," she answered shortly.

He looked like he wanted to say something more, but she was already on the crosswalk, heading in the direction of an apartment complex that looked slightly more afforable than the others they'd passed. He had to run to catch up to her, and by the time he had, she was already pulling open the door to the lobby.

A receptionist looked up from her spot at a desk at the far end of the room. Though Grace had been the first through the doorway, the receptionists eyes were focused on him, the boy behind Grace. She refrained from turning to glare at him in favour of stepping forward and offering her hand.

"Grace Davies," she told her, finally grabbing her attention for a moment. Her eyes took Grace in as she accepted her hand, putting on a professional smile.

"Emma Cartwright. Apartment manager. How can I help you?"

"I'm looking for a one or two-bedroom in the area and your complex caught my eye. Would it be possible to see one?"

She nodded as Grace spoke, eyes flickering to Him only after she'd finished speaking.

"One or two bedroom's, huh? I've got a few options I could show, but they're sort of small for two..."

"No," Grace blurted before she could help herself. She raised a brow and Grace knew she'd turned bright red from embarrassment. She tried to recover. "I mean, we're not... It's not..."

"I'm a friend," He intervened, pushing his sunglasses back over his head to rest in his mess of curls. "Just along to be helpful."

Grace almost cringed at his use of the word "friend", but for the sake of being stuck with him for the day, decided against it. Charlotte grinned as she purred an "Excellent".

"Let me grab my keys and we'll get started," she said, turning and pushing open a door immediately behind her desk chair. Grace sighed in relief.

"She's friendly," He muttered. Grace half-smiled.

"Like a shark," she agreed flatly.

-

He was fed up with Grace by the second apartment, but that didn't stop her from dragging him to three more.

"How is it," he began, and she rolled her eyes at the sarcastic quality in his voice, "That you manage to find the shittiest apartments in Century City and drag me through every single one of them while arguing the price?"

"Because the prices are absolutely ridiculous for the quality of them," she answered bitterly.

"This isn't Holmes Chapel, Davies. The area itself is what you're paying for, not the apartment. I mean, how much time are you really going to be spending in it?"

"That's exactly my point! Why should I have to pay that if I'm not even going to be in that often? It's mad!"

He was pinching the bridge of his nose again as they made their way back to the garage where he parked. They were only a few blocks off, but he had been whining about having to walk for the past twenty minutes.

"Why don't you just stay with Toby, then? You seem to have became pretty good friends pretty quickly"

"Because 1. I don't like feeling burdensome. And 2. I barely know the guy"

"He adores you. You're not a burden."

"None of his friends have come round since I've arrived and I know from experience that when he hits the bars with me in tow, girls don't go for it. I'm killing what little bit of a social life he might have down here. And on top of that, I'm used to living alone. It's weird having to be considerate about someone else."

"You don't live alone," he argued.

"Technically speaking, no, I don't. But I constantly feel alone and I'd rather live alone"

He shut up immediately, and though he'd struck a sore spot with her, she was sort of glad to have hit a nerve with him, too. At least it would keep him quiet for a bit.

"Are you hungry?" he asked a couple minutes later.

"No," was her immediate reply, but the light rumble of her stomach betrayed her and he smiled, shaking his head like she was the most ridiculous person he'd ever met. "I have food at home," she tried again.

"There's an Italian place up here that I love. Come on."

He was already turning in the right direction, but paused seeing she had stopped on the sidwalk.

"I'm not going to dinner with you," she told him firmly.

"Jesus, Davies. I know you hate me. This is information I have, information you have made very clear. And I probably deserve it, but please just get over it for food's sake."

It was the wrong thing for him to say, and he knew it the moment the words left his mouth. She only had a moment to hear him mutter a string of curses beneath his breath before she was moving at an inhumanly quick pace down the sidewalk, away from him. Hearing him tell her she needed to get over it, no matter the context, wasn't something she took lightly.

"You know I didn't mean it like that," he said from beside her, breath ragged as he ran to catch up to her.

"Doesn't matter how you meant it, I'm done with this day."

"I want to be patient with you, Davies, but you're not making this easy for me."

"Oh, you're trying to be patient?" She laughed humourlessly, wheeling around to face him. "You left for four years without a word to me, and you want to be patient? You're forced into a situation where it would be slightly beneficial to you if we were at a better place, but you want to be patient? 
You see me again here, with Ella, at a party, then you have sex with me and you want to be patient?
You want to wait until I'm ready to talk about it, but you're showing up on my doorstep every day, and you want to be patient?"

He looked sad as he watched her speak, each word falling from her mouth like a stone; hard and cold. She was seething with anger, upset beyond what she could handle to be emotionally stable, and he was watching her with that expression she moved across an ocean to get away from. Normally, she would have snapped at him to quit looking at her like she was so broken, but at that moment, she felt like maybe she was starting to break.

"I'm trying so hard, Davies, but I don't know what to do. Please just tell me what to do, and I'll do it."

She sucked in a breath as she broke eye contact with him. It was too much to look at him and hear him at the same time.

"I don't know what you can do. I don't know if there is anything you can do. I just want to go home."

He stayed silent as he began to walk in the direction of the parking garage. She tried desperately to dry her welling eyes before he noticed how glassy they'd become. She stood there for a moment beneath the street light, watching him as he walked with his hands in his pockets, eyes fixed ahead and shoulders hunched against the cold that came when the sun set just a few minutes before.

When she ran her hand through her hair and sucked in a heavy breath of air, she tried to pull herself back together enough to follow him and settle into the passenger seat of his car, wondering just what it was that would become of this.

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