It was different now they didn’t talk. Olive and Lotte had always been something, even when they were fresh-faced fifteen-year-olds, too young to put words to the feelings that were growing between them. By the time they’d reached second year they were everything. But now, after Olive had gone off to Italy for six months and come back, something had changed. 

If Olive had to, she would probably pinpoint the moment of their decline as that argument they’d had one evening in Rome. It had been months without seeing each other in-person, tied together only by phone calls. Late at night for one and early in the morning for the other, Olive sometimes thought maybe it was then they started slipping away from each other. One of them was always tired from their day, ready to go to bed and the other would inevitably be pulled away by the lures of the whole day awaiting her. 

So this trip – the first time they’d been reunited in months – was meant to be for them to reconnect. It had, unfortunately, been going in the opposite direction. That day had started with a trip to the Vatican Museum, and while Olive had walked through the rooms listening to the guide, content to simply look and observe, Lotte had started to become restless. 

The afternoon had continued much the same. After leaving the Vatican, they had struggled to agree on a place to eat. Olive had wanted to find some hole in the wall, a place with a real ‘feel’ about it. Lotte just wanted to eat. Eventually Olive surrendered, agreeing to eat in one of the many restaurants just beyond the entrance to St Peters. She had not made it pleasant – firing snide remarks at Lotte every time Lotte had tried to brighten the mood. 

The trip to the Colosseum went much in the same way. Olive had wanted to walk, breathing in the city as they went. But they had argued so much trying to find a place to eat that there was simply no time, and they had had to run for the metro in order to make it. At some point in the train ride, pressed up so close against each other, Olive wondered how they got here, and hoped that maybe they would be able to fix it this afternoon at Palatine Hill. 

It was no use. Olive was, as always, enthralled in the history of the place. She was so taken, so distracted by the weight of the history that surrounded them, so drunk on the way that the crumbling marble absorbed the light of the setting sun to the point that it no longer seemed white, but golden – that she had completely missed that Lotte was struggling along beside her. Having only arrived in Italy three nights ago, Lotte was tired, and hungry, and ultimately bored. She had arrived, desperate to see Olive, to spend time with her for the first time in months and all Olive had done was drag her from Florence to Rome, from landmark to museum to landmark all over again. They had walked, and walked, and walked, and Olive had sat and looked in awe at all of the different statues and hills before her. But she had not once looked at Lotte, not once touched her, not once really talked to her, except for a quick glance behind her every once in a while, to make sure she was still there. 

So they had fought that evening after sitting through another miserable dinner. A bottle (or two) of wine in, and still suffering from jet lag, Lotte no longer had it in her to be pleasant. When Olive had started on explaining her plans for them tomorrow, Lotte had just snapped. 

“What about me?” She had asked. “What about something I want to do?”

Olive had stopped, and paused, and before she could even help herself, snapped back. Later she’d look back and wish that her temper, her undying need to be in the right could have been controlled, but it was too late. 

They argued for what seemed like an eternity, when eventually, exhausted from the words they had hurled at each other, Lotte looked up at Olive and asked “What happened, Olive, when did you change?”

Olive had refused to face Lotte. 

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“It’s like you’re not the same person anymore.”

“That’s not true.”

“Yes, Olive, yes, it is.” Lotte paused, and grabbed Olive’s hand. “You went away, and I stayed, and now you’re different. You’re not like the Olive I used to know.”

Olive sat and stared down at the table. On one level, she understood Lotte. She had changed, she was different, she knew that. But there was also anger burning deep inside of her. Anger, and that indescribable feeling that one gets when they have had their eyes opened to the smallest glimpse of what the world has to offer and they know, deep down, they cannot return to the person they were before they had seen it. 

And so Olive, unwilling, or perhaps, unable, to explain to Lotte all of this, had simply answered, 

“These past few months, I have felt more like myself than I ever have.” 

It was so cruelly honest that Lotte felt as if she’d driven a knife down into her heart. 

They had not lasted much longer than that. Olive wished sometimes that it would have ended immediately. Instead it petered out over a few more months, like the flame of a candle struggling to keep alight even though there was not enough wax left to fuel it, until one day, everything that had been keeping them going simply stopped. Olive often liked to think of them like that candle. Liked to think that they had been something definite, that it was not their fault that they had ended. She had gone away, and Lotte had stayed, and during that time she had grown so much that there was simply nothing left between them.


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