She had changed since she left him behind all those years ago, the last time it was just the two of them. And it wasn’t just the purple hue of her cheek of a recent a dispute as he watched her looking at the fresh cup of coffee in her hands off the reflection of his family photo. Instead of Kate, Abby could’ve been the mother of his children. He had thought that he could love Kate, and in a way he did. But it was never to the point where it had been with Abby. Maybe it was because of how they turned out, Abby and him. A beautiful leap of faith neither of them had the courage of taking. The start of a beautiful what could’ve been and treading between their more than friendship and a full on relationship.
“You can stop staring at me from over there,” Abby voiced from her seat. “It’s awfully lonely sitting over here by myself.”
Edward turned himself to face the woman whom had ultimately been a victim of who the two of them were at the time and even now. Abby and him had always joked that he would’ve been the one to get the shaft if anything had happened to them, he remembered. “It’s awfully stupid of you to come here in only a shirt, jeans and sneakers. Did you not remember that what time of year it is?”
“Funny how you can forget someone after all these years. Do you not remember me?”
“Don’t tell me you still haven’t gotten past the need to show anything and anyone, including nature that you bend to no one’s will, even hers,” he replied taking a seat across from her.
“If I did I wouldn’t be here like this would I.”
“Truly, you bend to no one.”
“If only,” he stared at her spoiled face, the mark did not suit her, nothing but her natural beauty did. Yet Edward knew he could not mention not it to her. He knew her too well, at least he hoped he still did.
“So, how’s James?”
“My brother is fine, he often writes from his tour. I keep telling him to just do a video call or something over the internet rather than mail. But you know James.”
“A lost art.”
“What a shame indeed,” they laughed. They haven’t heard one another’s laugh for a long time. It was just as they had last remembered.
“So why are you home alone, mister family man?”
“I had business to finish here, and they had a Liten party go to,” she let the words sink in, trying to make herself believe it.
“Liten, I still can’t believe you married her.”
“It just happened, to be honest.”
“Truly, marrying your brother’s ex is just a chance happening.”
“It was, things just changed… Changed so quickly it seems like blur.”
“Yet here we are. Tell me why a Liten Party can lack an in-law?”
“You know me Abby. You know them.”
“Still can’t talk, even with the in-laws. Oh how you’ve grown Ed,” he felt shivers run down his body as she said his nick name. It felt like ages since he last heard her utter his name for him. “Oh come on, you can talk to me. Don’t be so shy. At least with me.”
“How are you and Robert?” her smile disappeared as she looked at him. Her eyes forcing his to stare back into hers.
“We’re alright, as alright as we can be.”
“Look I’m not here for your pity Ed. I’m just here to talk and not about me.”
“About us,” she nodded at his response. He looked towards the photos once again.
“There’s nothing left to talk about,” the sound of her hand making contact with his cheek echoed throughout the house.
“I want to know your side.”
“There’s no point in opening something that’s lost to us.”
“Just give me something,” anything, even a lie, Edward continued in his mind.
“There’s nothing left, Abby if there was anything to start with. Silly kisses used as a currency between us was the closest we ever got. I wanted more, but you were always in a cycle of going away to find someone. You were always gone, if there was a way-” Thinking back she let out a sigh. A sigh that wasn’t of relief or exhaustion. It was a sigh of understanding. She then smiled.
“There wasn’t, not at that point,” she kissed his cheek. “Did she give you everything I never did?”
“No,” she took a seat beside him and brought him into a close embrace. “She couldn’t be-”
“It was him wasn’t it?” Ed asked playing out scenarios where they could be truly happy with themselves in this moment as he rubbed her bruised cheek.
“Of course Ed, you knew it the moment I showed up here.”
“I never thought that”
“Shh, Ed. I’ll be okay just like I’ve always been,” she rubbed the back of his head. “Just think about us and our memories, good or bad. Just try to ignore what I couldn’t give you. I’m here now,” it was oddly strange for Abby to hold him when all she could remember was him being the one to hold her. To hold her, to allow her to lean on him when she took her own legs right out from under her. She never thought he’d care about them this much, be hurt by her need to go and return.
Now there was no place to return to. They had found some form of substandard partners, well particularly in her case. Yet she knew he wasn’t as in love with his wife as he had been with her, he was just content. Abby on the other hand found nothing enjoyable about the man beyond his waning looks anymore. But she would hold stability till her children leave the nest for higher education. She couldn’t give him stability but she would give her flesh and blood at least that.
“So where’s your hubby, Kate,” looking up from her drink, Kate peered right into her brother’s brown eyes.
“Finishing some work at home and meeting an old friend later.” she replied.
“Is that it?”
“Henry, you know he doesn’t feel that well, being here. We’re social beings our family and Ed. Ed’s in best terms is a…”
“Hermit, though if that was true he wouldn’t even be going out to the kid’s events. I’m surprised he even has a friends.”
“He’s a complicated man.”
“Is he enough though?”
“When I see you two there’s nothing besides the ring and the children. You two don’t even hold hands in public.”
“We’re content.” giving Henry a smile as she looked towards the children. The boys with the exception of Josh were playing video games. Josh probably texting his friends while the twins bugged him. Linda leading the younger ones in a game of house and school.
“Then does that mean you still love Luke?”
“No, not like back then.” she leaned herself against the counter, looking at her hands. “But enough that I can’t say I love Ed. What about you and April?”
“Things are going alright. We have our differences, but hopefully things can work out. I heard Josh is on the prowl.” Kate laughed.
“He’s infatuated with Mina. It’s quite funny to see the two at the annual barbecue.”
“Why is that?”
“Josh just can’t bring himself to tell her or ask her out, just being near her pulls him into a shell I never knew my son had. But he stayed in that shell too long. Told him to ask this one girl in his math class. He’s told me that the friends they have in common, have been telling him that she’s into him.” Kate let out a sigh.
“Mina as in Robert and Abby Biro’s daughter?”
“Abby and Ed use to be close back in the day.”
“She use to hang out with Ed a lot. There was a rumor going on during both high school and college that they were a thing. I guess it never went anywhere.” Shawn replied. “Now that she’s with his best friend. I guess they kids got their parent’s genes.”
“Ed told me she was a friend. I never knew people considered them that close.” Kate pondered. “Josh!”
“Yes, Mom?” Josh responded without looking away from his phone.
“Call your dad see if he’s alright and tell him to bring the drinks I forgot earlier.”
They held each other when the call came. “It’s Josh,” Ed stated as he answered his phone. “Hey buddy. Okay, yeah I’m done with my work. She wants me to bring the drinks, okay I’ll start heading to you guys in a bit. No, we are not leaving early either just because I’m coming over,” hanging up, he looked into those intoxicating green orbs.
“Time for us to go then?” she replied with a teasing touch of her finger on his nose standing up from the couch. “It’s a real shame isn’t it?”
“It always has been, we both have thoughts on a what-if.”
“Such a shame I ruined it for the both us. Now all we can do is dream,” he went into the kitchen to grab the keys to his car and the drinks. When he returned he frowned still seeing that she had nothing to cover herself in the white outdoors he went into the closet. “There’s no need to-” he placed a large jacket around her shoulders. “Ed, you’re probably going to drive me somewhere most likely being my home. There’s no need for me to wear this.”
“Just wear it, for me.”
“It gives me comfort of old days.”
“Where I’d come running to you from ex’s and I’d steal one of your shirts or jackets. But these aren’t the times to try to relive what was. We agreed that what almost was that had been between us can’t be anything now or any point forward,” gently she placed the jacket on the door knob. “Besides, I left behind my favorite jacket for someone else as I went through many others. It’s hers now and there’s nothing I can do about it, but wish I never left it for someone else to take from me,” Ed had no words to spare to her little speech. “Best not to be late Ed.”
Ed stopped the car in the driveway, turning off the engine he looked over at his son.” We having a talk dad?” Josh asked.
“What’s with you and Mina, and I don’t want to hear nothing’s going on.”
“Dad, you okay?”
“Josh, just answer me.”
“Fine, I like her so what. All that she does is tease me while she’s dating Terry Flin. There’s no point for me as mom said to be hung up on her while she’s going out with someone else,” Josh placed his forehead against the dashboard.
“Look Josh, did you tell her how you felt about her?”
“What’s the point of telling her? Besides the obvious whereby telling her I turn our current relationship awkward.”
“Maybe mom’s right, maybe I should go out with someone who has been giving me signals.”
“You talked to your mother about this and not me?”
“Well you’re a guy and she’s a female and I was having the opposite gender problems.”
“Fair enough and who did you have in mind on asking out?”
“A girl in my math class. We have friends in common who’ve been telling me that she has a thing for me.”
“I don’t know, just what they’ve been saying might as well try right?”
“More so than Mina?”
“Are you trying to link our families together or something like those cheap dramas mom watches?”
“No, just saying you never made a move on Mina, but you’d rather ask this girl in your math class out,” his son looked out the window up at moon before looking back at the dashboard.
“I think about the possible outcomes dad. I just don’t want the two of us end up like those couples who break up and can’t even talk to one another. I like talking to her and just being with her.”
“I understand, come on let’s go in before you catch a cold. Don’t want your mother to kill me,” getting out of car the father and son approached the open garage.
“Do you love mom?”
“Do you love mom,” Josh replied very slowly.
“Of course I do.”
“No I mean love, like how mom loved Uncle Luke,” there was some silence as Ed took in the falling snow.
“No. Never have and probably never will.”
“Does mom love you?”
“No, I don’t think so not in the way she loved your uncle.” looking at his son who seems to be lost in his thoughts, Ed couldn’t help but smile. He knew his son was pondering about the concept of love now and his love for Mina. “Josh, your mom and I are a complicated pair. Don’t let that mess with what you think about love.”
“So you two are content?”
“More or less.”
“Your brother told me you needed to talk to me,” Abby stated as she enter her daughter’s room.
“Terry and I broke up,” her daughter replied rolling over onto her back.
“I’m sorry?” Abby questioned at her daughter’s lack of emotion.
“I broke up with him. He told me I completed him.”
“A bit extreme don’t you think, he was just trying to be romantic, I think.”
“No, I told him there was no way I could complete him. Or him completing me. I got into an argument with him over it.”
“Mina, you’re being silly.”
“No, I’m not. You and dad don’t complete each other, neither does Josh’s parents. You don’t need to complete each other. I don’t want to be lied into a false sense of love that you guys have.”
“Sweetie, please we… we’re… we’re a very special circumstance.”
“Mom, I’m not stupid. I know about you and dad, that you guys are in loveless relationships, how can you live like this?
“We live up to our consequences, no one’s made all the right decisions in their life. But if I didn’t take this road I probably wouldn’t have had you guys.”
“So we’re the reason why you’re living in this prison.”
“No, I’m the reason why. I let a good many men go because I was young and foolish. Your father was a good man at one time, even if he doesn’t seem like that on some nights.”
“But you don’t complete each other, you don’t need him to feel whole. You don’t need love to feel whole,” Abby looked at her daughter who seemed to be having a philosophical debate on love. Taking a seat on the bed beside Mina she ran her hand through her daughter’s blonde hair. “Terry never felt like he completed me. It would’ve been unfair,” Mina whispered.
“Love isn’t fair. He loves you or thinks he does. I thought I loved many men including your father. But at the end of the day maybe I was just trying to get away from one man I thought I could never love as he did me,” Mina looked up at her mother’s face, her mother’s eyes held a distant gaze in them. “Do you think you ever could love him or did?”
“Maybe at the start, but like the others he just lost what was special about him, about us. Is this how life works mom? Go to school, get a job, get married at some point, have kids, and die? Is love supposed to make me feel better, get me attached long enough till I die?”
“I can’t answer that question for you, only you can Mina.”
“Sorry,” she said staring at where Kate’s casket had just been buried.
“Nothing we could’ve done,” he replied looking up at the clear skies. “Best case, she’s reunited with him. Why are you here?”
“One of her brothers called me. Asked me to be here. She probably told them about our talk five years back.”
“Don’t sound so surprised. You must have picked up on her behavior back then.”
“I wondered where she learned to tease me.”
“She wanted to know more about you, and more about us. I told her everything of course you know me, the type to brag. Every quick kiss and every piece of clothing I stole from you.”
“And everything we never dared to be.”
“Everything I ran away from.”
“If I had known that was the last time I could try, I would’ve said and done everything I could to make you stay.”
“Each one would’ve made me want to run even more,” she replied giving him a big smile as he stared back again towards the horizon.
“So how are things with your new friend?”
“Oh, Zach? We’ve been together for a while, even toyed around with the idea of marriage.”
“Many times over the past eight years.”
“What’s the problem?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all,” she said as her lips formed a smile.
“Also, sorry about Mina.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry about there. We can’t control our children anymore.”
“Really that’s all you have to say about your soon to be ex-daughter-in-law catching your eldest son with my daughter?”
“What do you want me to say?”
“I don’t know something reasonable?”
“Is it reasonable that a part of me wants to take the road we never walked even now?”
“Our kids took this path on their own accord, and I can’t blame either of them because I sometimes wished I had done it,” Abby looked at him and frowned.
“Stop looking at the past.”
“Funny thing is I’m looking at now, maybe you’re the one looking back at the past.”
“You’ve seemed to have grown angry over these years.”
“You should see Robert then.”
“How is my ex-husband been doing?”
“Good,” he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. “Since when did you smoke?”
“Since she was in the hospital.”
“Must have been hard.”
“Not really, for the kids sure.”
“Oh come on Ed, you couldn’t have been a robot at those moments.”
“I wasted all my tears just as she had on what never was. There was nothing left for us to cry about. We just talked when we could till she passed. At least she’s beside him now.”
“Must have been really short talks than from what I’ve heard.”
“Yeah,” they allowed a silence to come in. It was a comforting silence that blanketed them.
“Wanna go grab something to eat?” Abby asked placing her hand in his.
“Sure,” he responded. He firmly held her hand as they turned around to leave. “What about Zach?”
“Oh he’ll find a way to keep himself occupied without me. We’re very self-sufficient in that way, me and him. Unlike you and I; can’t go long without you in someway.”
“It’s too late, always too late,” he replied with a sigh.
“Of course it is. At least life gave us a glimpse of what could’ve been.”
“Is that enough for you?”
“Nothing I can do about it now. It’s what I’m left with.”
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