I had just finished writing part one of the story when I thought I had the makings of a good sequel. I wasn’t sure I wanted to post it though because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to write it well. Thank you Specsclad for telling to write it. I hope you like it. 😉
It was the lowest thing she’d ever done. She’d dug through her laptop, scoured through photo albums, scrolled through her phone, until she’d found it. Printing out the photo, she watched it drop onto the desk. She felt the slick, greasy, ball of guilt coating her empty stomach. She loved him. That was her justification. She really loved him and the neat as pin, uppity, stick-in the-mud he’d tied himself to couldn’t possible love him as deeply as she did.
She consoled herself with this thought as she slid the photograph into the manila envelope and mailed it on her way to work. She couldn’t be causing that woman any pain. She thought of the photo she’d seen of the two of them. No. She couldn’t possibly be hurting. She looked as if nothing could cut through that ice. No, he was better off with her. She could give him everything he could possibly need. Forcing herself not to think of the other woman she listened to the radio and focused on the day ahead.
This had to be rock bottom. As she sat on the floor of her bathroom trying to keep the tears from continuing there hour long assault. She couldn’t believe it. Two days ago the man she loved sat proposing to her while she sat clutching a photo of a half-naked woman and the love of her life. She had convinced herself when that she deserved to be happy that he had really fallen for. She knew that behind his initial interest was the true motivation of career advancement. She felt it on their first date. She fit the mold for the type of wife he would need on his arm. It also didn’t hurt that she had a strong work ethic and a great career too. For three years she thought they’d been building something deeper than the shallow initial pull of promotions. Thinking about the photo, she realized didn’t have a fair shot to begin with.
He’d been furious when he saw the photo. It was four and half years old! He tried to tell her that but she wasn’t listening. She told him that she knew. She knew from the beginning the reason why he’d initially approached her. She’d wept, cursed, threw things! He’d never expected so much…so much emotion…such a depth of emotion below that polite exterior. That had shocked him the most. He thought he knew her. He thought she was all manners and polite concern. Thinking back over the years he’d only seen a hint of her passion. Sinking down on his bed he realized what should’ve repulsed him only deepened her appeal. A wiser man would probably run from the fight in front of him but he’d never been particularly wise, he thought with a smile. No, he’d chosen better than he realized three years ago when he chose her. She was a real woman and he was determined that she realize he was the man she needed. But first, to deal with his ex.
The idea only caused his hair to stand on end. She’d been a trip to the sensuous side. He didn’t know it could be or feel like that. Being with her was, well, an adventure. But beyond that they’d had a strong connection. It wasn’t until he’d brought her home to meet his family that he realized she was missing something. She was his love, yes, but she wasn’t the love of his life. He could leave her, he realized and eventually be ok. She wasn’t home. Thinking of his girlfriend he felt a deep sense of longing, of…homesickness. Looking around at his neat, tidy, apartment he realized it’d become a holding pad. Everything he really used everyday had slowly migrated to her house without him really noticing. Now, this place felt…like some place. It wasn’t his anymore. Frustrated he swiped his hand across the desk. Sent a silvery vase clattering to the floor and cursed himself. He cursed the folly of youth and cursed the idea that he could lose the very thing he didn’t know he needed most.
It was a gamble she knew, going to his apartment unannounced. Did he still live there? She didn’t know but she would go anyway. Tempting the fates, her aunt would call it. She would tempt any fate, defy anything, if it meant having him back. She entered the building and got on the elevator. She had no intention of being out of breath when he opened the door. She hesitated only a moment after she got off the elevator, struggling to remember the room number. She was about to knock on the door when she heard glass shattering. Going on instinct she turned the nob and stumbled into an apartment in disarray. Her breath slammed into her lungs and stuck there when he entered the room.
The obscenity that came to mind was quickly dismissed when he saw her. How the heck did she get in? How the heck did she remember where he lived when he couldn’t remember her zip code?! All thought ceased when she touched his hand. He saw the pulse on her neck, the little vein that hammered away. She still loved him. The thought hit him like a ton of bricks. All the anger he felt towards her cooled to a deep sense of pity. She was still gorgeous. She’d grown her hair since he’d last seen her, giving her a soft more delicate look. It touched something deep, primal, in him. An urge he hadn’t felt in a longtime stirred.
She watched the tug of war in his eyes. Knowing he felt it too she smiled and stepped towards him only to watch him recoil. She felt like she’d been slapped in the face. He didn’t love her anymore. She could see it even before he started speaking. She’d made a fool of herself. For the second time in seventy-two hours his words washed over an absent woman. She was still in a daze when he walked her to the door and gave her a side hug. A side hug! She stormed away from the closed door, on to the gold planted elevator, and into her car. A flood of emotions pouring out into one gut-wrenching scream. It would be weeks before she realized what he’d said and even longer before she realized he’d been right.
Dressed in jeans, a plain t-shirt, and a distressed old leather jacket, he knocked on her door. Yes, he had a key but he wanted to be invited in. He didn’t want to force himself into her space. Not after what she thought, he’d done to her.
Closing her robe she tried to pull her fluffy hair into a better looking bun. Her eyes couldn’t believe it what they saw. He was scruffy! Not the cute scruffy either. Shocking them both she said, “You look like hell.”
He ran a hand over his hair and the beard that was well past 5 o’clock.
“Yeah. I feel like it. Can I come in?”
She thought a moment. He had a key, why didn’t he use it? He wanted to be invited in. The idea had tears brimming up in her eyes. She turned away, walking into the living room and took a seat in an armchair.
He closed the door behind him and spilled his guts. How she was right about his initial reasons for wanting her, about his ex, about what drew him to his ex, about why they didn’t work. Though she listened quietly without interrupting, she struggled to hide her cringe and the flash of anger at learning his ex had been to see him. She also failed to hide her surprise when he said, “You’re a real woman.”
“What on earth is that supposed to mean?!”
“See! That! I knew you had feelings but I never felt them. It was always cool and calm. In the three years we’ve known each other, I feel like I’m only now really seeing you. All of you. Not just come carefully crafted version of you. I’d see glimpses ever-so-often. When you were really happy or when you were sad or, in this case, angry.”
He went to her then, clasping her cold hand in his warm hand. “This is what I mean. Your hands are so cool to the touch. I honestly that this was you. I liked that. Your calm exterior. Always in control. It must do wonders when you’re at work. But knowing I could create this reaction in you. Knowing that you love me this much, that your this invested in me, in us. Made me realize how much I want this too. I admit it.” He said backing away when her eyes flashed.
“I loved you. I wasn’t in love with you. I started the night I was going to propose. As I sat thinking about all the things you’ve done for and with me. I realized you’ve become more to me. When I went to my apartment I realized it no longer felt like home.”
He knelt again, wiping away the tears that were streaming down her face.
“I know I’ve been an idiot -hey!” he said when she rolled her eyes and laughed.
“As I was saying. I know I’ve been an idiot. But if you’ll let me I’d like us to be real people. Together. I wanted to give you this.” He said and pulled the gold trimmed black box out of his pocket.
“I wanted to, but I don’t want to rush this. So much of our relationship has been according to my timetable. When you’re ready. When you trust me again, just say the word. This ring isn’t leaving my side until then.”
“Well”, she said in a watery voice. “Can I speak now?”
Smiling he told her yes.
“Thank you. I hope you threw that woman out on her butt! I also hope to never see her face again. I also…I also understand. I’m crazy enough about you to probably think about doing the same.” She continued in a calmer voice, ignoring his bulging eyes.
“You’re right. I do have a cool exterior but I thought I’d let you in past all that. I’d told you always how I felt about everything. I’d forgotten that emotions are meant to be felt, not just recited. I want us to be real people, with real emotions. No more pretense. No more facades. I love you. Now, give me that ring.”
His beaming smile shifted to a shocked grin. “What?”
“You heard me. We can spend the rest of our lives being real people and I want that rest of our lives to start right now”, She said at the edge of the chair with her hands planted on the arms of the chair.
“Well!” Picking her up he spun her around. “Forever is a longtime”, he said gently leaning down so her feet touched the ground. “Are you sure?”
Arching her eyebrow she elbowed him in the stomach. “Yes!”
Clutching his stomach with one hand, he reached in his pocket for the asked for box and produce a beautiful one carat sapphire ring. Dropping to one knee, he slid it on.
“Its beautiful” she said, lovingly touching his face. Tilting her head to the side she said, “You know, the scruff isn’t a bad look on you. The jacket was a nice touch too. You should keep it a while…”
“Well this certainly has been a day of surprises.” He said, wrapping his arms around her.
“You think you can handle it?”
“I can handle anything as long as you’re the one dishing it.” He said with a wink.
“That’s sooo cliché!” She said mocking a gag.
“Oh really, I’ve got your cliché.” Tossing her over his shoulder, he ignored her squeals and said, “Did I ever tell you the story about this jacket?”
She stopped squirming for a moment to think. “No you haven’t. I didn’t even know you had one.”
“Well, it’s a great story. I’ll tell you about it later.”
Chuckling as he climbed the last three stairs he thanked his ex. If it hadn’t been for her, he might have married a diamond and never known.