The Future of Us
She looked at Andrew for a long second, then let the moment hang.
There were no words. Only the strange miasma between them: pain, and anger, and betrayal, and untruth, and love.
But love didn’t erase the negatives. Her heart wanted to forgive him. He even had good excuses — interestingly, provided for her by Alexa rather than Andrew himself. Through her version of events, Chloe had come to see how tightly Andrew had been bound and how hard he’d fought to extricate them both.
But no matter what she understood and no matter how great the love behind it all, Chloe still felt the hurt. She still felt the betrayal.
“You were the person I went to when I felt like everyone was against me, Andrew. You were my port in the storm.”
It wasn’t a loving thing to say, and Andrew knew it. She wasn’t wrapping verbal arms around him. She was telling him how completely she’d bared her soul before he’d plunged his twisting knife inside her.
“My only friend in the city is Slava, and we only got closer after Voyos. She covered for me, you know. When I was on Voyos, I was supposed to be working. I was supposed to be with clients, but I didn’t want to be. So, I never worked alone. I was always with Slava, and I let her do all the work so that I could stay true to you. But what kind of backward notion is staying true to you in this day and age?”
Andrew looked touched, but he hid his smile. He hadn’t earned the right and knew it.
“My mom was no help; she was half my problem. The way things were changing at work was another one, and the weird shit they had me doing at work — stuff I’m only understanding now — was yet another. Everything was uncertain. So much still is. Everything but you, Andrew. You were the one person I could talk to. You were the only thing I thought I could count on.”
Andrew exhaled, clearly crushed. He looked like he wanted to apologize again, but it was still Chloe’s turn to speak.
“That’s the worst part of this. It’s not that I thought I loved you. It was that I’d been so careful not to truly love anyone other than my family, then decided to break my own rule and ended up regretting it. The mental wall I told you about? I took it down. I figured that there wasn’t any point. Let sex and love mix, I told myself. I couldn’t bring myself to have sex with other guys, so I tore that division all the way down. Just you and me. I’d find ways to adapt to my job, even if it meant less money and fame. What could it possibly hurt?”
She looked at Andrew, then back down.
“I told you about how much O was confusing me. How uneasy they were making me. They were experimenting on me like a lab rat, Andrew! And who did I go to for comfort? You — a part of the problem. You weren’t my safe place. You were part of the experiment.”
“I didn’t want to be. Not after I saw where it was headed. Not once I got to know you.”
“But you were,” Chloe said.
And Andrew nodded. “Yes.”