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"Two hours later, Christian sat at his desk studying for his politics midterm, all the while listening intently for the sound of footsteps outside his door he felt certain he would hear. He trained his attention on the heavy textbook in front of him, trying to ignore the growing anxiety he felt each time he picked up his cell phone to check if he’d missed any messages.
None came.It was well after midnight when he crawled into bed, convinced she just needed some time to realize he was right. He had to be right. He wouldn't allow himself to think otherwise, so every time that wave of guilt came, he pushed it aside.He envisioned her awake, just as he was, tossing uncomfortably in her small bed that rested in the far corner of her studio apartment and slowly coming to terms with what she needed to do.But when he dragged his unrested body from his bed the next morning, his phone was still devoid of messages.He had been cruel—he knew it. He could only hope he hadn’t pushed her too far, but that she would somehow understand he was just trying to protect their future.Christian ate a bowl of cold cereal and then forced himself into the steam of his shower, desperate to find anything to chase away his fatigue. He found his head in a cloud, both from lack of sleep and from the scenarios running through his mind, ones including a life without Elizabeth.What if she never came back?Could he really give her up?As he rubbed the soapy washcloth over his body, he tried to picture an existence without her. A life void of the perfect pitch of her voice, the way it rang out when she laughed. A life in which he didn’t touch the softness of her skin or have the right to pull her body against his. A life without a child crying out from the next room as he tried unsuccessfully to study for the bar.Groaning, he shook his head and forced it all away, telling himself it would not come to that.He was certain when he saw her in class today, she would take her normal seat beside him in the lecture hall, lean in, and whisper in his ear that he was right.But when her seat remained vacant, his unease grew, gnawing at his stomach. The moment the professor dismissed class, Christian raced from the room and to the café where Elizabeth and he studied every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. He frantically scanned the room, finding several mildly familiar faces but not the one he wanted to see.By the time he reached her apartment complex, he was panting, both from exertion from the mile he had run and the constriction fear had placed on his heart. He pounded on the door, giving her no time to answer before he yelled, "Elizabeth!" There was no sound from the other side, no rustling of curtains or faint shuffling of feet. Even then, he wasn't satisfied. Fumbling with his keys, he found his spare and pushed it into the lock.The door opened to the quietness, the small studio comfortably cluttered as always. The only thing that seemed amiss was the blankets from her normally neat bed were strewn on the floor. Christian crossed the space to the only separate room. The door to the bathroom rested ajar, that room as empty as the first.Christian pressed his back against the wall and took a deep breath. He wasn't prepared for this. He'd never thought it would go this far.Reluctantly, he forced himself out of the apartment, shutting and locking the door behind him before he left, hating the voice inside his head that kept telling him this was for the best."
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