Prompt Exercise: 500 words, 20 minutes. No editing.

Prompt: Start with the reveal of a secret.

Word Count: 869

The words hung heavy between them. There was a small measure of relief on Clarice's part. Holding it in had been a nightmare, so letting it out even in a burst of frustration had cleared something inside of her. It was having the opposite effect, however, in the real world. Lola's face was still stunned, and she hadn't said a word in the five minutes - Clarice had been counting - that had passed since everything had spilled out.

"You what?" Lola said, finally. She squeezed her eyes shut, pinching the bridge of her nose. Shoulders hunched in and nearly doubled over, Lola was the picture of frustration. Any hope that Clarice might have had that Lola felt the same way was tossed aside and trampled on. Fine. That was fine. It didn't have to be- but, no. It wasn't fine. Not with her sitting like that, not with her face twisted in pain. All relief Clarice had felt a moment ago was gone, too.

Watching Lola physically try to block out what was happening, as if ignoring it would make it go away; that felt like a knife to the gut. She'd known Lola for years, been in love with her for half of that time. She knew what that gesture meant.

"You-" Lola shook her head. "No." Firm, insistent.

Clarice swallowed, and then she had to swallow again because the lump in her throat just wouldn't move. "I didn't mean-"

"No?" The look of relief on Lola's was another knife, this one trusted in slow and steady followed by a sharp twist. "Oh!" She laughed a 'thank goodness I misinterpreted that' kind of laugh.

In theory, she could go with it. Take it back. Allow them to go back to what they had, but the problem with saying something out loud? It was already out there. Lola's reactions had already wounded her. Pretending wouldn't undo any of that. There was nothing for it, but to come forward. Clearing her throat caught her friend's attention. "To say it," she added equally firm and insistent. "I didn't mean to say it."

Lola froze, but Clarice pressed on. It had to come out now; she couldn't stop it even if she wanted to. "It was the truth, I just hadn't planned on telling you." Not now, not like that.

"You-" Lola shook her head, abject horror written all over her face. "You can't."

"What do you mean I can't?" Clarice folded her arms over her chest, tightening them like it was the only thing that would hold together the pieces of her self that Lola was carving out with every word, look, and expression.

Lola lifted her hands up, shoulders shrugging. "You just. I don't-" Lola blew out a breath, the hair of her bangs flopping upward. It was a gesture of frustration Clarice had adored innumerable times. Now, though, it only served as another cut.

"But I do. Just because you tell me it isn't and just because you might not feel the same way, doesn't mean it isn't true."

"Why would you do this?" Lola shook her head. "How are we supposed to- how am I supposed to?"

Clarice stood, arms still tightly wound around herself. She was not going to fall apart here, not in front of her. "I'm not asking anything from you, Lola. I just wanted you to know."

"What do you expect me to do with this information?"

"Nothing." It was her turn to spread her arms wide. "I just. You were sitting there despondent about that one chick who can barely give you the time of day, wondering what's wrong with you; I just wanted you to know that you're perfect, that I've loved you just the way you are before you started hiking up your skirts and buying bras and shirts that focused more on your cleavage. I've always loved you; I've always thought you were beautiful, and god- just god - I wanted you to know." Clarice inhaled deep and she tasted tears.

It would seem she was going to fall apart after all.

"I wanted you to see yourself the way I do. How was I supposed to sit here, your best friend, and let you think that no one has ever loved you or thought about you the way you wished. You've just always been too blind to see it."

Lola shook her head, forceful. "No. You just. You can't. I can't. I don't feel the same."

There it was, another slice cut from her. She was surprised she wasn't bleeding all over Lola's bedroom floor. "I know."

"Then how are we supposed to move past this?"

Clarice shrugged. "I can move past it, but I've had years of being in love-"

"Stop saying that!"

Clarice raised her voice. "I've had years of being in love with you, I'm used to not having it reciprocated. I can live with it; I can get over it. It's up to you to figure out if you're willing to let this come between our friendship." That had always come first, anyway, their friendship. With that, Clarice swept out of the room, leaving a large chunk of herself and her heart on the floor behind her.