Dana didn’t deserve a disgustingly stupid daughter like her.
On the opposite side of the room, Grant’s mother was also crying, her face pressed against her husband’s chest.
They were good people, too, Fawn thought painfully. Good people who hadn’t owed her anything, and yet they had stood by her from the start.
Good people like them shouldn’t be seen with people like her.
She heard Grant talk in a low, indiscernible voice to his parents, saw them leave quietly—-
Her throat tightened.
Fawn knew she should say something.
But she couldn’t.
Shame had engulfed her, and it was all that she could feel and taste. Shame defined her, and she had the silliest and most terrifying fear that if she spoke, her shame would afflict them, too.
The door closed behind Grant’s parents.
A shadow fell over her.
It was Dana, and Fawn couldn’t help stiffening when she saw her mother reach for her—-
“No,” she choked out before she could stop herself.
Dana’s arm fell back to her side, Fawn’s mother catching back a sob. “Oh, baby.”
Self-loathing turned her shame into something more excruciating as Fawn realized how much she was hurting her mother. She said jerkily, “Sorry. I’m…sorry.”
“Why would you think you have something to be sorry for, baby?” Dana’s tone was anguished. “You were brave. The bravest girl in the world, and I’m so proud you’re my daughter.”
When Fawn didn’t speak, Dana lifted a hand, hesitated, and then she pressed her fingers ever so gently to the top of her daughter’s head, scared that the slightest touch would make her baby break.
“I love you.”
Fawn didn’t answer, but her knees slowly went up, and Dana’s heart broke at the way her baby hid her face with her arms. She wished she had something else to say, something that could take away her baby’s pain, but Dana was at a loss. What Fawn had gone through was beyond even her worst imagination, and in the end all she could do was turn to Grant, her eyes more eloquently expressing what she couldn’t speak in words.
Please help her.
And then it was just Fawn and Grant.
She heard him take a seat next to her bed, still not the same Grant he used to be, but he was getting there, and she was happy for him. As much as her heart could still beat, as much as she could remember what it was not to feel empty, she was happy for him.
Grant said haltingly, “It’s just…like…o-old days.”
“W-won’t y-you look up?”
Fawn shook her head.
“Because you’re u-ugly?”
“No.” She waited for herself to laugh, but nothing came. She waited for herself to cry, but the tears refused to come.
She was completely empty.
Slowly, she lifted her head, turning to Grant.
Her flesh was no longer smooth, her skin nothing but a mass of scars. She was the stuff horror movies were made of, and yet Grant’s gaze didn’t swerve from hers.
“I w-was proud, you know,” she told him tonelessly. “Because I thought…it was—-”
Meredith Grayson’s words screamed into Fawn’s mind.
Do you get it now?
You’re a fucking brick around his neck he doesn’t want—-”
Grant whitened. “Fawn—-”
She turned to him, screaming, sobbing, “I know.”
And suddenly, it was all Fawn could say.
“I know, I know, I know!”
And she did.
She finally did.
The prince didn’t love her.
Nurses burst into the room, the doctor following behind them, and Fawn couldn’t stop screaming.
“I knooooooooow. I know. I know. I know.”
Nick Christakos was the first one to visit the prince, who had been sentenced to jail overnight after being held in contempt. Upon seeing his friend, he rose to his feet immediately, asking tautly, “Did you talk to her?”
“Yes.” Nick’s voice was strained.
The prince swallowed. “And?”
“She’s had to be sedated.”
Ah. The prince slowly held on to the bars of his cell, his fingers tightening until his knuckles turned white.
“That’s not all.” Nick took a deep breath. “I just learned from Fredericka…that aside from requesting you be in court when the video played…” Regret flashed in Nick’s blue eyes. “She had another condition. She had also asked to watch a recording of the proceedings. She had wanted…to see your reaction to the video, and I’m afraid—-”
The prince said harshly, “Just spit it out, Nick.”
“She saw your reaction to what happened, and she thinks…she thinks it disgusted you, the sight of her drinking her pee—-”
Torment surged inside of him at the thought that Fawn would believe such a thing—-
That he had made her feel he thought so little of her—-
“I love her,” the prince said hollowly. “I love her, Nick. More than anyone, more than the parents I used to have, more than the parents I have now—-” His breathing turned ragged. “I love her.”
Nick didn’t know what to say, and he whispered bleakly, “I’m sorry, Reid.”
“I thought I was protecting her all this time, and yet I was an idiot. I was a fucking idiot.”