I walk out of the courtroom after the judge finally adjourned for lunch and check my phone while walking. No message, no call yet again. It's been two days since Alicia left while I was still sleeping and that feeling of goodbye I had sitting there in my empty apartment hasn't left me since. It was shortly overlain by hope when I realized the rose was missing but that hope faded after the first unanswered calls and texts during that day. And now every time I try to reach her and fail the sadness creeps a bit more into every corner of my mind and heart and I can't stop sensing that it's over.
I step into the hall and dial the familiar number again. Partly already knowing all I will hear is her voicemail. I lean on the next wall listening to the dial tone not really noticing my surroundings when the courtroom door opposite me opens and Alicia steps outside. She has her cell in her hand and checks the display. I smile when I see her hit a button but it freezes on my face when I hear her voicemail message in my ear. I can't believe she rejected my call on purpose. I shut off my phone and decide it's time to find out what is going on. I walk over and tip her lightly on the shoulder.
"Hey!" I try to smile at her but the shocked expression on her face as she recognizes me makes me much more feel like crying.
"Hi!" she avoids looking into my eyes and stares to the floor.
"So, you screen your calls nowadays?" I chuckle trying to lighten the mood a bit as I still hope this was all a misunderstanding.
"I am sorry for not returning your calls." she finally looks at me and I see a mixture of sadness and regret in her eyes before she casts them down again, clearly still uncomfortable with the situation.
"Can we talk, Alicia? You left without a word and it seems you are avoiding me since."
"I'm sorry, Peter, but I made a decision. I'm going back to Will." she peers up again and I can see a tear forming in one of her eyes.
"I see." I swallow hard and have no idea what else to say to her. All feeling has left me as I stare at her not quite believing what she just told me.
"Please believe me that I am sorry, Peter. This wasn't supposed to happen. I never thought he'd want me back. He also wants kids now."
I see more tears slide down her cheeks but I have no idea if they are tears of sorrow for hurting me or ones of happiness as she gets what she wanted all along. The feeling of emptiness changes and I feel anger rise in me. But not really at her but at myself for falling in love with her though I knew she still loved her husband. I should've seen this coming, but I was too blind. Too happy to have met her again I ignored all the signs.
"I never meant to hurt you, Peter. But I can't give up on my dream. Not now. Not when I still love him." she reaches for my hand but I pull it away before she can touch me.
"And you never loved me. I get it, Alicia. Good luck." I turn and walk outside as fast as I can.
"I can't believe we haven't seen each other in over 8 years, Alicia. And now we run into each other on the street. Such a happy coincidence." Stacy smiles at me and I can feel she means every word. I also am glad to have met her a few days ago outside the courthouse. I was in a hurry as usual but we managed to exchange phone numbers and really meet for dinner today.
"So, you know all my life from the last years now. How have you been? Why are you back in Chicago?"
I lean back in my chair and try to recap my life after law school as briefly as possible.
"So, you really married Will? You met him like two weeks before graduation. Shame, I never got to know him. But we can change that now." she takes another sip from her wine and motions to the waiter to bring us another one.
"Yes." I nod and empty my glass.
"So, I understand you build a law firm in Baltimore with him, but you work here now? Why?"
"Long story." I try to kill her curiosity and change the subject. "How is your sister? I haven't seen her even longer than I have you. Did she really study medicine?"
"Yes, she did. Lives in Phoenix now. I try to remember when you two saw each other last."
"Must have been before my parents moved. I never came back as long as I was still in school and I can't remember her coming with you to visit me in Georgetown."
"I know!" Stacy exclaims suddenly. "You remember that night we went out before you returned to school and we celebrated your good bye from Chicago in that club?"
I nod slowly and reach for my glass that the waiter has refilled in the meantime.
"And you ditched us and danced with this handsome guy all night." she chuckles. "You never really told us what happened that night. Did you ever see him again?"
I can't think of a way to get out of her line of questioning now and so I tell her what I tried to keep to myself. I still feel sorry for the way I treated Peter and his last words still echo in my head every time I think of him. I have asked myself so many times during the last weeks if he was right. I had thought I was falling in love with him but as I still feel the same about him I am sure it isn't more than friendship that I misinterpreted into something more.
"So, you broke up with him and went back to your husband. Wow. You had quite some drama in the last months." she smiles at me sympathetically and somehow I feel relieved about getting it off my chest and talk to someone other than my brother. Someone who isn't biased for any of the two men.
"Yes." I sigh and return her smile.
"But as long as you are happy now. That is all that counts, Alicia."
"I am. We just moved into our new apartment last week and Will is going to open his new offices in two weeks. I hope things go back to normal then."
"But once you have kids, it'll be another kind of normal." she smiles at me knowingly and I remember she told me she has two kids herself.
"I know. And that's exactly what I want and I am so happy Will and I are finally on the same page."
"To your happy future, Alicia, and to meeting again." she toast me and I reach for my glass to return it.
I get home a few hours later and Will is waiting for me, watching TV on the couch.
He shuts it off once I walk into the room, smiling at me.
"Hey, honey. How was your evening?" It feels good to come home again to someone but the silent walls of an empty apartment.
"Good. It was great to see her again, catching up. We were like sisters in High School." I sit down next to him and kick the shoes off my feet while he wraps his arm around my shoulders, pulling me closer. I close my eyes, resting my head against his chest. It feels good to have him in my life again. And for the first time in a long time I feel truly happy and where I belong.
"How come you lost touch?"
"I don't really know. It just happened. We kept in touch through college and law school but once we started working the contact just faded. Less calls, no more visits, new friends and relationships. I guess life happened for both of us and we didn't pay enough attention to keep our friendship alive. Kind of like what happened to our marriage. I am glad I get a second chance with you and Stacy as well." I slide my arm around his waist and repress a yawn.
"Are you tired, honey?" I feel his eyes on me and look up to him, shaking my head lightly. I lean in to place a kiss on his cheek but he turns and our lips meet. Soft at first but soon the kiss deepens and I can feel Will's hands on my back. I relax under his touch and snuggle up closely to him as he lifts me from the couch and carries me to our bedroom.
I step out of the elevator and head for my office.
"Diane!" I turn my head towards Mary, the receptionist, who already waves at me, a few yellow memos in her hand.
I choke down a sigh and smile at Mary who hands me my messages. I stay at the reception to look them through and see what is urgent and what can wait at least until tomorrow. I turn in the direction of my office when Alicia walks around the corner accompanied by a man I haven't seen before. At first I think it's a client but when they pass by me and we exchange hellos I realize they hold hands. I remember hearing through the occasional office gossip that finds the way to my desk that Alicia has broken up with the ASA she was dating and is back with her husband. I stop, turn around to take another look at him and suddenly he seems weirdly familiar to me. I shake my head and finally head towards my office. I sit down at my desk and start making some calls, the stranger I saw with Alicia still present in my mind. I finish the call-backs and start working on the case file of a new client.
When I look up from it the next time, it is dark outside and a quick look through the glass doors of my office tells me that I am probably the last one here, as so many nights in the years before. I lean back in my chair and close my eyes for a minute wondering if I would spend so many nights in the office if someone would be waiting for me at home. As successful as I am in my job the less I can say that about my relationships. I have friends, for sure but that someone I could imagine spending my life with has not yet crossed my path. All I have to show for are a few affairs and two semi-serious relationships that had ended due to my refusal to put my commitment and the love I have for my profession second to a relationship. Do I regret it? Mostly not, but there are moments like right now where I know why I dread going home to the deafening silence of my apartment. I open my eyes again and shake my head at myself, wondering where this thoughts come from today. Usually they get triggered by someone asking me if I am married or if I have kids. My mind wanders back to the afternoon where I saw Alicia with that man I guess is her husband. Maybe seeing them together, happy as it seemed to me, caused my subconscious to come up with these thoughts that bother me now. I chuckle bitterly as another thought crosses my mind. Am I jealous of Alicia? Not for the man at her side but she seems to be able to manage both her job and a relationship. I watched her the last months and I am impressed by her work, her dedication to the job. I wonder if I could do the same or if it has to be the one or the other for me? Will I get another chance to try? I push the thought away from me and remind myself that I am not unhappy with my life. I decide to go home at last, grab my purse and head for the elevator. I wait for it to arrive as the image of Alicia and her husband appears in my mind again and suddenly I remember where I know him from.
I return to my office with a fresh cup of coffee and sit down at my desk to find an unmarked envelope on the file I am working on. I reach for it and turn it around to see if anything is written on the back. I shrug as I realize it's as blank as the front and open it. I retrieve a few pictures and as I look closely at the first I gasp in shock and let the small stack fall out of my hands.
"Alicia?" Diane's voice from my opened office door startles me and I try to hide the turmoil that is going on in my head.
"Diane?" I hope my voice sounds normal as I feel a tear rolling down my cheek.
"Are you okay?" she watches me concerned.
"Yes, just something in my eye." I lie as I can't reveal the real reason for my tears. Not to her.
"Just a quick question. The man I saw you with yesterday, is that your husband?"
I just nod and she says something more but the words pass me in a blur as I try to make sense of what I just saw on those pictures and that odd scene that just took place. Luckily she turns and walks away. I grab the pictures and shove them in my desk. I need to get out of here.