Fiction | Short Story | Relationships
Who To Forgive
The phone rang as she fumbled with the key, trying to beat the answering machine. She knew she’d lost the race when she heard her roommate’s voice say “please leave a message” so she slowed down and took her time, listening to the caller.
“Hi, it’s me,” said a familiar deep voice and her heart reacted with a yearning that she thought she’d left behind. It took all her willpower to stay where she was and not run to pick up his call.
‘Be strong. Let him think you aren’t here,’ she thought.
When she realized how much she wanted to run to the phone, she was disgusted with herself.
“Unbelievable. You still want to run to him when he beckons. It’s been months and you’re still right there.”
Deliberately, she set down her purse and waited. A little part of her was curious to hear what he had to say.
“I wanted to talk to you. I’m still in town. Can we get together? Maybe for a coffee? I’m buying.” There was a pause as he waited. Maybe he somehow knew she was listening. Should she pick up?
“Don’t be so stupid”, she admonished. “Of course, he doesn’t know”.
“I’m going to be at the diner tomorrow at 10. It’s Saturday, so I was hoping you might be able to meet. I think we need to talk.” There was another pause and he said, “Ok, well I hope to see you there.”
It was inevitable. She had to see him.
But she knew she would have to be careful. He knew her so well and he’d persuaded her in the past.
Sometimes you love a person just because they feel like home but it’s not always where you belong. Spending time together could fool you into thinking you had things in common.
When they first met, he was enthralled. He watched everything she did and noticed all the little things. How she took her coffee, the way she always needed to wind a certain scarf around her neck before she went out into the world. He used to tease her about it.
He called it her magic scarf.
One night he told her he had to find a new place to live. His roommate was moving out of town to find work. They had both been laid off and were struggling to make rent.
“What about us?” he said. “Two can live cheaper than one.” She loved the way he had a tiny dimple on the corner of his mouth when he was being persuasive.
“Such a romantic,” she teased. And found herself inviting him to move in.
It was great at first. She was happy when she came home from work to find he’d made them dinner. He was so respectful, pulling out her chair as she sat at the table, serving her a glass of wine.
“I could get used to this,” she thought, sinking into his grey-green eyes.
He took care of them both. No worries that he’d had a bit of a hard time finding a job. Something would come up, they reassured each other.
Then there was the day the scarf went missing from their closet. And the night a couple of weeks later at the local pub, where she noticed their waitress smiling down at him, the scarf wound around her neck.
That night she stuffed his clothes into garbage bags and dumped them on the street.
She showed up late on purpose.
No way was she going to be the one sitting there alone, waiting for him to show up. He’d either be there or he wouldn’t and then she could leave.
She had on her favorite cowboy boots because they always made her feel strong. When she pulled a jean jacket over her dress she felt comfortable and dressed up at the same time. Alicia wanted to remind herself who she was now. A stronger, more independent woman. She wasn’t going to be a fool again.
The door dinged quietly when she entered and she saw him sitting in the booth at the back — their usual booth, the one with the best view of the rest of the diner. She watched him check her out as she approached and he surprised her by standing.
“I’m glad you came,” he said; his voice and that smile made her knees wobble.
“I can only stay for a bit,” she’d decided to set a time limit, for her protection.
Her body wanted him back; she could feel it responding to his presence. “What did you want to talk about?” She slid into the booth across from him, tucking her purse beside her.
“I need you in my life. Let me prove how much you mean to me,” he said. “I’m nothing without you.” He reached for her hand, caressing her fingers.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said, wishing she could have a smoke. She was trying to quit and the weekends were the worst.
It was hard to understand this pull he had on her.
She knew he was a scoundrel; yes, that’s exactly the word for who he was. This was some kind of test and she was determined to stand her ground. She gently removed her hand from his and placed it in her lap.
The waitress came to take their order. “Two coffees please Honey, thank you,” said Rick, turning on his smile. When they arrived, Alicia saw her slip him a couple of extra creams. She sighed, thinking of all the times she watched him charm people into giving him what he wanted.
“I miss you,” he said and returned his attention to her. It was like he held a beam of light, and he shined it in her eyes.
“Are you seeing someone?” he said.
“What? No, of course not.” That was irritating. As if she couldn’t be without a guy.
“I guess you’re too busy studying.”
“It’s not about that. I like being on my own for once.” As she said it she could feel it ringing true, so she smiled her most appealing smile.
Two could play that game.
“Please forgive me; it’s all been a big misunderstanding.” He made a cute puppy dog face. There was that tiny dimple again.
“I understand the situation. I’m pretty sure I understand that Penny is pregnant. And that you were still screwing around on me, even after you said you ended it. I found someone’s shirt in our bedroom closet, remember?”
“I was set up. I can prove that shirt you found wasn’t anything to do with me. Just give me another chance.”
“I’m not interested in hearing any more lies.” It was taking all her effort to stand her ground.
“Can you tell me one thing? What happened to us? We were so good together. I don’t understand what happened.” He was turning it all on, the smile, the eyes and he reached over to touch her arm.
A part of her wanted to believe him but there was another part that was watching the show. Watching him turn on the charm with the waitress reminded her how he used it to get what he wanted.
Another part of her was in awe of his acting. He was so convincing. All the facts were there in front of her and yet he knew exactly what to say to get into her heart.
“I guess I grew up. And you didn’t. That’s what I think happened,” she said, and then she stood and reached out to shake his hand.
Standing tall, she felt grounded in her boots and they reminded her of how strong she was. “I do forgive you, but that’s for me. I refuse to feel this way anymore.”
He took her hand and pulled her in closer, hoping for a kiss. She leaned in, surprising him and took his head in both her hands, looking right into his eyes.
“This has got to be goodbye, Rick. We can’t do this again. I can’t do this again.” She released him and then wrapped her arms around herself.
Walking out, her body felt lighter, as if she was floating in the air.
‘I forgive me too’, she whispered quietly, “I forgive myself.” It was exactly what she needed to hear.
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