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Joella Curtis & Alistair Johnson
One last time.
Mon Nov 7, 2016 10:12

Joella had been surprised when Darius had showed up at her house with an ugly black-eye the day before she departed for Sonora, and when he revealed the story behind it she’d been suitably horrified. Then confusion had kicked in and she had been plagued all night with the question of why Alistair had done it. Darius had been convinced it had something to do with her because apparently when one’s ex-boyfriend punched one’s current “more-than-a-friend” in the face with no explanation, it had to have something to do with you.

The excitement of starting her sixth year of Sonora had helped her push all of this out of her mind when morning came around but eventually seeing Alistair again, bruises and all, had soon reminded her of it.

Joella had hoped to figure out the reason for Ali’s unusually aggressive behaviour without actually having to talk to him about it. It wasn’t that she feared talking to Alistair, as they were on good terms nowadays, but bringing up the incident could have implications, which definitely wouldn’t be good if it turned out that Darius had been wrong in thinking it was related to her in the first place.

“Alistair!” Joella called out when she spotted the familiar tall figure in the corridor after class one day. “Wait up!”

Alistair had done a lot of thinking since the night he’d fought with Darius. As much as he tried not to think about it, he couldn’t help but ask himself what it all meant. That aggressive monster that had erupted inside of him, not just anger but this strong protective desire, had confused him. What Darius had failed to realised was that Alistair had come to terms with the idea of Joella being with Darius, or anyone besides himself for that matter, so it was not jealousy or any such thing that had caused him to act out. It appeared that Alistair’s violence stemmed from the realisation that Darius wasn’t serious about Joella at all; he didn’t love her. Darius was clearly just attracted to her, like he was to many other girls (such as the redhead he’d been touching up at the party), and wanted to have some fun with no regard for Joella’s feelings or reputation. Joella deserved so much better than that. She was an intelligent young witch and Ali didn’t like to see her being played for the fool. He knew that they’d never get back together but that wasn’t was this was about. There was no reason why his childhood sweetheart couldn’t find someone else who was right for her and who would treat her with respect.

Alistair turned when he heard Joella’s voice call his name, not knowing quite how to feel about it but quickly realising that she was going to want to talk about him punching her boyfriend. Nevertheless, he looked at her openly, not smiling and friendly but neither frowning and unwelcoming.

“Can we talk?” Joella asked tentatively.

Alistair nodded solemnly. “Gardens,” he spoke quietly and seriously.

Joella was surprised by the suggestion but nodded in agreement and followed him outside to the Labyrinth Gardens. She’d wanted to talk to him in private but didn’t need it to be this private. Not that she minded at all as the weather was fairly pleasant that day and the gardens were a nice peaceful place where she could comfortably talk to Alistair without fear of interruption but him suggesting it did make her wonder… What if he wanted to talk to her too? And if he did, what was he going to say and was it something she’d want to hear? The only way to find out the answer to the sudden influx of nervous questions in her mind was to be patient and let him say whatever it was that he needed to say.

The two of them walked out in silence. Joella was a few paces behind and she watched as Alistair strode forward, noticing how tall he’d grown. He was becoming a man now and not just physically. There was something about the calm way he’d looked at her, as though he was finally becoming comfortable in being himself and not putting on that whole show. She couldn’t help thinking that perhaps it was Ginger’s influence, since she seemed like the kind of girl capable of bringing the best in everyone and she had clearly made an impression on Alistair (an impression that Joella never could have made), but the Pecari knew that she was probably just being bitter, because it didn’t sound as though her ex-boyfriend had had much success with said classmate.

“Darius told you?” Alistair broke the silence first when they found a bench and sat down.

Joella nodded, not sure exactly how to phrase the whole thing. At first she’d planned on going for mad ‘what-the-hell-were-you-thinking’ kind of approach but that didn’t seem appropriate for the current lulled mood that hung in the air. Were she and Alistair finally at peace with one another? That was probably something that would be decided by the outcome of the conversation, not the beginning of it. “Why? Darius said he didn’t do anything to prompt you…”

“Joella, there’s something you should know,” Alistair sounded so serious it was almost scary and Joella waited in somewhat nervously for what was to come next. “I was hoping someone else would tell you but they clearly haven’t. I don’t want you to think that I’m saying this just because, well…”

“Ali, just tell me what it is,” Joella wasn’t growing impatient as such but she worried about what he was talking about because his words sounded so hesitant.

“Darius,” began Ali slowly. “He’s not trustworthy.”

“What do you mean?” Joella frowned in confusion. It was such an odd thing for Alistair to come out with.

“He’s unfaithful to you,” Alistair expanded, trying to phrase it in the nicest way in an attempt at softening the blow. He didn’t want to be the one to tell her; he didn’t want to witness her reaction when she realised what he meant.

Joella wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. “Alistair…” she bit her lip, disguising a smile because she didn’t want him to feel foolish. “Darius and I aren’t together.”

This response was far from what Alistair had expected. He’d foreseen either Joella breaking down in tears in front of him or disbelief and accusations of him being a jealous ex-boyfriend but he certainly hadn’t anticipated this. “What do you mean? Not together?” Alistair was utterly bewildered. He was suddenly furious to find the tables turned and he sat looking like a fool, instead of Joella. Then it dawned on him and he felt so stupid all over again for such an overreaction. “You broke up?”

“Alistair,” Joella shook her head. “We didn’t break up - we were never together.”

Alistair frowned, trying to piece the information together. “But you two had a… a thing?” He didn’t like what he was hearing. Joella had been an innocent in his version of the unfortunate story and now things were beginning to unfold before his eyes and it looked as though she weren’t as innocent as he had at first thought, as he wanted to believe. “Joella, I hope you understand how dangerous this kind of thing can be.”

“Dangerous?” Joella couldn’t help mocking the notion.

“Yes, dangerous to your reputation,” Alistair continued nonetheless. “You have to think of your family here too, and how it looks on their name. And yourself-”

“Come on Ali, I play Quidditch,” interrupted Joella. “I don’t think I have much of a reputation to lose. If I don’t have any rumoured relationships, I’ll be deemed a lesbian anyway.”

“Get yourself a boyfriend if you think it will help you,” Ali shrugged, more affected by what she was saying than he wanted to let on at this point. Did Joella really think that or was she just saying it for arguments sake? Did society really still think that? “But you certainly aren’t going to help with this philandering.”

“Do you hear yourself?” Joella was suddenly very irritated. How had a little bit of harmless fun with Darius suddenly turned her into the common hussy that Alistair seemed to think she was?

Alistair realised that perhaps he’d taken it too far but he feared for her reputation. He clearly hadn’t kept tabs on her very well but he should have known her public love of Quidditch was going to come back to bite her one day. But times were changing, just like he was, so why did Joella insist on speaking so lowly of herself? “All I’m saying is,” Alistair struggled to find the best way to put his feelings on the matter into words. “As a friend, I’m just looking out for you… and, well, we’re not kids anymore so it’s time to start taking things a bit more seriously.”

“You don’t get to do this,” Joella shook her head, standing up very abruptly in her indignance. “I don’t know who you think-” she broke off. She and Ali were past being angry at each other and if she wasn’t careful she’d undo the truce they’d finally reached.

“Joella,” Ali began, hoping to calm her down and make her see that he wasn’t the bad guy here, but then Joella spoke again and her words silenced him once and for all.

“Ali, I think it’s time to move on,” she said quietly. “We don’t want the same things anymore.”

Alistair sat there feeling rather dumbfounded as he watched Joella disappear from view. It felt as though she’d just broken up with him despite them not being together for the past two years. She’d essentially just asked him to stop caring but that wasn’t the part that concerned him the most. We don’t want the same things anymore. Somehow that sentence didn’t seem to be related to the conversation they’d just had but something bigger, more important, and Alistair didn’t want to think about what Joella had just danced around telling him.

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