by Chlark Fan

"Clark", Chloe stood in the doorway of the torch and watched Clark while he sat at her desk working on the latest issue. "I found it", Chloe said in a flat yet hoarse voice while holding up her hand to reveal a large manila envelope.

"What is that?" Clark asked staring at the contents of his girlfriend's hand.

Chloe had swollen eyes and blotchy cheeks; she looked completely disheveled and drained of emotion. As though she had been overwhelmed by some heartbreak and had exhausted all her feeling with a heavy session of crying. Chloe's appearance correctly revealed that she had in fact spent most of the day lying on her bed weeping, contemplating and collecting herself into a total state of indifference. She was now fully resigned to the certain end of her and Clark's relationship. "It's your dirty little secret," she said calmly. "It's the reason you've been so distant and cold lately".

Clark recognized the envelope as the one containing his University of Miami acceptance letter. "Chloe, where did you get that?" his voice quivered lightly at the realization of her discovery.

"I found it in a drawer containing a few other secrets you were hiding from me." She gave a weak grin, which seemed to be half smirk and half sad-smile. "Clark, I saw the one-way plane ticket to Miami that's scheduled to leave next Tuesday and," Chloe looked down desolately. "I..Uh...I saw the congratulation letter from Lana that talked about her going with you."

She had half expected Clark to get angry or defensive by her invasion of his privacy or at the very least she thought he would try to explain himself. She had hoped that there would be some rational explanation for everything and that Clark just needed to unveil it to her. Then the only offense would be hers for snooping in his private belongings. They would quickly recover from her discrepancy and all would be right with the universe. But she knew that wouldn't happen.

He looked at her with regretful eyes and said simply, "I'm sorry" and then looked irrevocably down at his hands on his lap.

Chloe stood stunned by the piercing pain of his lofty words, "You're sorry for what Clark?" she asked. He looked up and began to speak, then hesitated. "Dammit Clark, Sorry for what?" yelled Chloe. "Is it true then? Is the letter from Lana right? Is she also going to Miami to be with you?"

Clark stood and approached her; he removed the envelope from her hand and gently grasped it. "Chloe, calm down. Let's just sit down and discuss this rationally, ok?" he led her over to the couch and they sat together. "I'm sorry that you had to find out this way. I was obviously planning to tell you about Miami before Tuesday but I just couldn't find the right time."

Chloe gave a pained laugh, "Well there really is never a "right time" to tell your girlfriend your going away with your ex is there?"

"I'm going to college" Clark defended himself. "It just so happens that Lana, my ex-girlfriend, is going to the same college. That's all there is to it Chloe. There's no big conspiracy, I'm not trying to run off and leave you behind".

"But that's exactly what you're doing Clark." Chloe knew she was exactly right about her accusation. She was more motivated by her worst fear being realized than by shock or hurt. "I would gladly welcome your decision to go away to college if it..." Chloe bit her lip and looked to the side, "..if it weren't for the fact that you're only going to Miami because she is. Because that's what you're doing isn't it?" Chloe's voice was filled with confounded emphasis. "Don't tell me you both just happened to decide on the same school. You weren't just waiting for the right time to tell me you're leaving; you were waiting for the most convenient moment to dump me..... weren't you Clark?" She closed her eyes and bowed her head dejectedly.

Clark felt horrible and his chiseled features lugubriously reflected compassion. He was quickly discovering that there would be no way around breaking her heart. "Yes," he mumbled. "I was going to tell you I think we should end our relationship because I don't think it's fair to make you wait around for me."

"No Clark! You were going to dump me for Lana." Chloe said sadly but firmly.

"Lana and I are just friends," Clark lied with culpable ease.

"No, you're not," she muttered despondently.

"Chloe....I," he started.

"Stop lying, Clark. Please just spare me the anguish of hoping you're telling the truth this time. Be honest with me, are you in love with Lana?"

Clark felt the pressure. He felt the pain in Chloe's question and he decided to stop hurting her, to once and for all be truthful about his feelings. "I never meant to hurt you. I DO love you Chlo', just.... not the way you love me." He grabbed her hand and squeezed it consolingly.

The pain of his words bit her deep but she continued, "Answer the question, Clark." Chloe said softly. She hated how he skirted around every question.

Clark knew what he had to say in order to make things right. He was going to have to admit to Chloe and to himself what he had tried to avoid ever since their relationship began. "Yes, I am and have always been in love with Lana. For your sake I wish it weren't true because I really don't want to hurt you Chloe. But if I'm being honest and following my heart then you need to know that my heart is leading me to Lana", He could see the shock and disappointment on her face.

Chloe felt the serious weight of his words and honestly felt that her heart must have poured out of her chest and shattered onto the floor. She felt desperate and wanted it not to be true, she tried to not believe what he had just told her. She wanted to stop him from speaking and yell out to him, `Why can't you love me, I'll change for you. I'll play the part! I can be like her!' But even as she knew she would not say it and that saying it would make no difference a devastating sense of love still filled her, "How is it possible that I am so in love with you and you're not in love with me at all?" she asked. Clark bowed his head and looked miserably at his feet. Chloe continued, "I guess I thought if we started a relationship and you saw how I cared about you that fate would let you fall in love with me. I figured irrationally that my love would radiate through my body and permeate into your soul somehow, like if you got the chance to see me the way I see you, you'd feel it too."

Clark hated that he had disappointed Chloe but didn't know what to say except, "I'm sorry," he whispered, "so sorry". A tear fell down his cheek and he continued holding her hand for as much his own consolation as hers, he abhorred how much he must have been hurting his dear friend.

She wasn't mad at him, if anything she felt sorry for him. Here he had just simultaneously declared his platonic love for her and his tremendous, romantic love for one of her best friends and all Chloe could think of was how much she loved him for not wanting to hurt her feelings. She was consoled by that love, even if it wasn't returned. "It's okay, Clark." She didn't want him to feel guilty for hurting her; he was after all only being honest. "Goodbye, Clark," Chloe whispered in Clark's ear as she hugged him.

Clark squeezed her firmly and knew that everything was forever changed "So that's it? Don't you wanna talk more?".

"We have all the time in the world to talk, Clark. Just as long as you keep in touch," she smiled with sweet sadness.

"You're my best friend, Chloe, of course I'll keep in touch." He leaned in and softly kissed her cheek before standing and exiting the Torch leaving her alone on the couch.

It was over. Chloe knew her and Clark would never again be more than just friends. After years of desire, hope and finally acquiring a relationship with the man of her dreams, there was no longer any chance for a happily ever after with him.

She was okay with just being friends with Clark. Somewhere along the way Chloe was struck with a visceral realization that `Maybe it's not about the happy ending.' She realized that her love was hers alone and that she owned it. It helped her to recognize that love doesn't have to be mutual to be real and that it doesn't devalue her feelings just because they weren't reciprocated. After all, she idealistically reasoned `we are what we love, not what loves us.'

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