Read Part I here The Last Goodbye.
Somehow the city seemed colder alone. She had pushed him away. She could admit that now. She’d begun to feel crowded but she loved him. Couldn’t he see that?! She loved him so badly it hurt and now she was alone. Angry she looked up at the cheerful sky. Stupid sunny day. Ignoring the concerned smiles of the woman seated across from her on the bus, she stared off into space and missed her stop. Cursing and irritated she began the three block walk back to her favorite coffee spot. No, their favorite coffee spot. Everywhere she went reminded her of him. She hated it. She hated occasionally running into old friends, couple friends, who would ask about how things were going or would call to check on her. She didn’t want their concern. She wanted to disappear. Bury all the feelings of regret like the relationship had never happened.
She had come home from work that day a little later than usual. It was her turn to cook but figured it would be fine since he had been coming home later and later every night. She knew he was trying to move up in his architectural firm and was proud of him. Though she never told him that, she thought bitterly. No, she’d preferred to pester him and accuse him of neglecting her. He never did though. Squeezing her eyes shut she acknowledged that he never treated her the way her behavior might have warranted. She’d been childish and increasing petty. But it wasn’t until she found herself alone in the apartment that she realized he’d finally had enough. She’d seen the letter and instantly tore it to shreds knowing exactly what she’d find in it. Knowing she couldn’t face it.
It took her two days before she forced herself to go into the office and check her email. Her neck ached from sleeping on the couch. She couldn’t sleep in the master…not without him. She signed in and went through the motions of checking her inbox without really seeing the content. As she slid away from the desk her eyes glimpsed a padded envelope. Thinking it was something he had left behind she ripped it open and saw the neat small hand print of the man that her left her. Cursive. He was the only man she knew who actually still used that style of writing. The thought alone had crushed her.It had taken her hours to pick herself up off the floor and crawl into the bed. With the blackout curtains drawn she’d laid in bed for days.
On an exhale, she released those thoughts. No more reminiscing. It’d taken her weeks to pull herself back together but she had. She was determined to learn from her mistakes and in time she would try again. She would love again and in time she would convince herself that she was worthy of the love of a good man. Like him…he was a good man. Sliding into the corner booth she pulled out her book and began to read.
He was focused on his coffee when he saw her walk in from the corner of his eye and nearly dropped the mug. He hadn’t seen her in months. He’d come to this coffee shop because he missed her. He swore he was experiencing withdrawals. He convinced himself that it was all apart of the healing process but each day without her proved harder than the last. Today he’d all-but dragged himself out of the bed. The shadows under his eyes had sunken deeper. He’d blamed it on work but everyone who knew guessed that work had nothing to do with it.
Suddenly she looked up. His eyes hadn’t left her since she sat. She’d felt someone staring at her but her heart almost exploded when she realized who was staring. Frozen in time neither moved for what seemed like forever. Abruptly he stood and began to close the gap between them. Her breath caught. What should she do?
He felt like he was in a trance. What the heck was he doing? This was probably the dumbest thing he’d done in a longtime but he seemed powerless to stop. He heard himself ask if he could join her and was amazed when she numbly nodded. Her eyes were swollen. She’d been crying and felt guilt wash over him like a tidal wave.
Small talk. She forced herself to engage in small talk. How have you been? How’s work? Did you get that promotion? How’s your family? Anything but what’s really going through your mind right now!
“How could you leave me?” The words were out before she realized she was going to say them. She saw his eyes widen in shock. Then go from grim to understanding.
So she would play the victim huh? It was either that or she thought I would stay despite the pain. Looking her in eyes he spelled it all out. Every argument, every accusation that she’d leveled at him, how she’d changed over the last year. As he spoke he tried to keep his voice level and not show the anger that came as he relived it all.
She saw it all. She mused that he thought himself hiding it but it showed in his word choice, in his eyes. They always were the most expressive part of him. She hadn’t realized how deeply she’d hurt him or just how deeply he’d loved her. That was the worst part. Not the words he was saying but all the words he hadn’t said. Though she could sense the pain dripping from his words he still wasn’t blaming her. He still wasn’t attempting to pay her back. Why?
He’d spilled his guts and would live to talk about it. She hadn’t interrupted him. She’d listened and tried to understand where he was coming from. As she sat absorbing all that he’d said the silence lengthened. He worried that the storm was brewing. They’d had fights before where it seemed like she was really listening to him only for her to explode in anger after a few minutes.
The words were spoken so softly that he barely heard them in the midst of his imagined scenario of her smashing her coffee mug and sugar shaker.
She saw the shock and surprise. Both were more scalding than any look she’d every gotten. Swallowing, she clenched her hands and spilled out her heart. How she was sorry for her behavior. How she’d changed into a woman even she didn’t recognize. How she missed him. How she wanted to put it all back together again. How she simply missed being around him.
Her words tore at him. Ripped open old wounds that had begun to heal. He felt himself shaking. He saw her sobbing. Saw his own hand reach out and comfort her. Heard the distant alarm ringing in the back of his head and felt the murmurings in his heart begging for caution. He held her hand. The feeling of his skin on hers sealed the deal. They spent the rest of the day together. Agreed to have dinner the next day.
Days slipped into weeks and they created a kind of routine. They would call and check in on each other throughout the day. They both felt like they were falling in love all over again. His father was over the moon but his mother was hesitant. It didn’t escape his notice that when they’d taken another photo at the request of his father that his mother again stationed herself on his right side.
That night he invited her over to his apartment. She hadn’t seen his new place since they’d gotten back together. She didn’t want to rush it. Plus, everything was going so well she didn’t want to rush the intimacy. The industrial styled condo suited him. Rich hardwood, rich oxblood walls, and plush couches, created an ambiance all its own. Curling up on the couch she accepted the glass of wine he offered and the lapsed companionably into silence, watching the sunset. When he reached for her hand she thought she would melt. Seeing the hunger in his eyes she rose and followed him to the bedroom.
Hours later when he left the room to get something to eat she gave into curiosity and open the drawer of the nightstand next to the bed. Noting mail she was about to close it when she a saw black box. She slowly pulled it out of the drawer and gasped as she stare at the delicate ruby ring.
He froze. His head and heart went into full panic mode. She’d found it. She’d been in his drawers! The anger flashed quick and hot. He should’ve known she would but it was the way she looked at the ring…with hope in her eyes…it was hers. Of course it was for her he just wasn’t sure if he should…cursing he watched her, trying to think of something to say.
She looked up, tears in her eyes. She looked at him. “When did you buy this?”
He wanted to say something witty like, “How do you know I bought it” or “How do you know its for you?” but he decided against it. He stepped into the room and leaned against the dresser.
“I bought it eight months ago when I went out of town for weekend.”
Her mind blurred. “You bought it eight months ago and then left me a few weeks later…why? How could you?!” Her anger burned so hot she couldn’t see the anger and bitterness flare in his eyes. Months later she’d realized that was the moment she’d thrown away her second chance at happiness.
“I wanted to propose then but every time I came home you would pick a fight. Why would I give you a ring when I could barely remember the good times without effort? Why would I vow to spend my life with you when I could barely share an apartment with you?!” He spit the words out. His heart breaking as he spoke.
He listened as she ranted and raved. Watched her grab her coat, slip on her heels, knowing it was over. Wincing as she called what they’d just shared a mistake. She threw the antique ring at the bed and stormed out. Long after she left he picked up the box and located the ring.
Regret, rich and bitter flavored his mouth. He’d fallen even deeper in love with her than he had the first go round. He questioned whether he’d recover this time. Walking into his living he noted that she hadn’t destroyed it. Perhaps, somethings are better left alone. Perhaps, some romances are better left in the past. To be revisited in moments of wistfulness. Perhaps, some stories aren’t meant to have a happy ending. Noting the time he headed to the shower and prepared for the day. Some lessons are harder to learn than others.