Danielle's party was running smoothly. She was tired of having to talk with several of her husband's work associates, but otherwise she was having a good time. She was grateful that for the first time she had bought enough food and drink for the many guests who had come tonight. She usually ran out of food because she would underestimate the number of guests who actually showed up.
Annie and Auggie spent the whole night together. They would periodically talk to other guests, but for the most part they spent time alone talking about things such as work, History, and other somewhat useless trivia.
Annie knew that she would be bored and miserable had she come to her sister's party alone tonight. She looked over at Auggie who was in the middle of a conversation with Danielle's husband and smiled. He and Auggie were talking about politics; a subject which Danielle refused to talk about with him because of how heated he became when he disagreed with something that was said.
Annie walked over to them and was about to say something to break up the conversation, until suddenly her nieces came running over to her shouting, "Annie! Annie!"
One of them said, "Please don't let Mommy put us to bed. We don't want to go to bed. We aren't tired."
The other girl added, "Please, Annie. Help us. Explain to Mom why she can't put us to bed. We are having so much fun."
"Girls, you promised that you would cooperate with me by going to bed, if I let you come to the party tonight," Danielle said as she came running into the room where the girls were clinging to Annie.
"But, Mom," one of the girls cried.
"No buts," Danielle interrupted them before they could say more. "I want the two of you to go up to bed right now. If you don't, there will be no ice cream tomorrow when we go shopping."
The girls sighed as the youngest one looked up at Auggie and asked him, "How did you go blind?"
Annie cut in saying, "Hey! That is none of your business."
"No, it's ok; seriously," Auggie replied. "I was in a car accident a few years ago. It was pretty scary."
"Alright, time for bed," Annie said. "Goodnight girls, I love you. Danielle, I'll see you later. Auggie and I are leaving now. I'll see you tomorrow."
Danielle nodded her head as she, her husband, and the girls walked out of the room, leaving Annie and Auggie alone. Annie guided Auggie outside and helped him to get into her car.
As they drove off to bring Auggie home, Annie said, "I am sorry about my niece, earlier. I didn't think that they would have taken time out from playing with the other kids to interrupt us."
Auggie responded, "It's not a problem, Annie honestly. If it bothered me every time someone asked how I lost my sight, then I would have left the CIA and became a hermit. Anyway, thank you for bringing me tonight. I had a lot of fun, even during the conversation I had with your sister's husband. It's been a long time since I've had the opportunity to argue over something as pointless as politics."
"It should be me thanking you, Auggie," he replied. "You saved me from another night of my sister drilling me on why I don't date. I don't know if I can handle it much longer."
"You know, there is an easy solution to your problem," he said. "I mean, it may not be easy, but you really should start dating someone again. What about Conrad? Didn't he ask you to go out with him a few times? I know he likes you. I don't have to have eyes to see that."
Annie looked over at Auggie and asked, "You mean Conrad Sheehan from work? Please, he's nice and he's handsome, but he is a little too self-centered for me. It's like you said when we first met. He works for Arthur Campbell and he acts like it. Anyway, I don't want to date anyone right now. I'm not ready to."
As they pulled up in front of Auggie's apartment, Auggie looked over toward Annie and replied slowly, "You have every right to be happy again, Annie. You should not be so afraid to move on with your life and give someone else a chance to love you."
Annie looked into Auggie's eyes and for the first time saw how beautiful they were. As the silence grew, Annie and Auggie leaned in closer to each other. Without thinking, Annie leaned up and kissed Auggie passionately on his lips. Suddenly, she pushed him away and got out of her car.
"This is still about Ben, isn't it," Auggie asked as she came around and opened his door for him? "What happened between you and him was years ago. If he loved you at all, then he would want you to be happy now, don't you think so?"
"I want to give Ben the chance to explain why he left," Annie said. "What we had in three months isn't something I can just forget about."
"I'm not asking you to forget about anything," he responded as she helped him out of the car. "I understand what it is like to be in love and to lose it. Believe me, I know how you feel."
Annie became defensive and replied, "How would you know how I feel, huh? Did someone make you feel like you were the most important person in the world and then rip your heart out as they just disappeared with no explanation why? Why are you even questioning me about my love life? You aren't dating anyone either. Just because you're blind, doesn't give you a right to lecture me about love."
Auggie lowered his head and turned to walk into his apartment. He used his walking stick to guide him. Annie knew that she had just hurt her best friend very badly for no reason. She regretted what she said as soon as the words slipped out of her mouth. However, before she had a chance to apologize to him, he stopped walking and slowly turned around to face her, with tears in his eyes.
"You're right that I am not dating anyone right now," Auggie said slowly. "But that doesn't mean I haven't tried. I was in love with someone once. She was beautiful and amazing, and we were engaged to be married. Then, I was sent on a mission to Iraq. I came home blind and a mess. After a few days, she couldn't accept me anymore and she left. I was devastated, but in time I moved on and I have managed to fall in love with someone else who accepts me for who I am. You've just got to move on Annie, or you are going to end up miserable and alone the rest of your life. Goodnight."
Auggie turned around again and disappeared into his home. Annie couldn't believe she said those things and just stood there as he walked away. What had come over her, she thought. How could she hurt the man who has been there for her every day since they met?
Part of her wanted to go knock on the door and beg him to forgive her, but she knew that he needed some time and space. She needed it too. She needed to figure out what he meant. When Auggie told her he had fallen in love again with someone who accepted him, did he mean that he was in love with her? The kiss they shared in her car definitely made it seem to be so.
Annie got back in her car and drove toward home. Once she got there, she planned on going straight to the guest house, but Danielle came outside and walked up to her. She could tell that Annie had been crying as she turned around to face her.
"Annie, what is it," Danielle asked. "What's wrong? You and Auggie were having a great time tonight."
"I said some terrible things to him and I hurt him really bad," Annie replied. "I didn't mean to say them, but everything came out so fast."
Danielle said, "Let me guess, Ben came up, didn't he? You are falling in love again, Annie. However, you're afraid to let go of Ben because you are afraid to get hurt again. Don't let Auggie go. After the way the two of you looked tonight, I can tell that he would never do anything to hurt you. He loves you and something tells me that whatever you said to hurt him, he will forgive you."
Annie wrapped her arms around her sister to give her a hug. She thanked her and told her goodnight. Then she walked inside her apartment and took out the scrap book which she made all about Ben. She looked at the shell bracelet and his picture once more and closed the book.
Annie walked over to the waste basket, dropped the book into it, and said, "Auggie was right. I need to let you go so that I can move on with my life. I won't hurt him, like you hurt me."