Simpler words had never been spoken, and, yet, at that very moment, they were the most complicated words ever stated, … and he wasn’t even finished yet.
“I don’t love you anymore.”
Wow, talk about a slap across the face; but a physical slap wouldn’t have hurt as much or cut as deep.
“I’m not sure I ever loved you.”
Another blow but that time to my stomach, knocking the wind right out of me.
“Sarah and I are starting a family of our own. I want a divorce, Elizabeth.”
I couldn’t breathe by that point. I couldn’t process the information quickly enough. Sarah and him … Sarah and him starting a family. What does he mean by that? Does he mean … Oh, God, is she pregnant? She must be pregnant. He always wanted lots of children.
Never had words felt so final. I couldn’t take anymore. I had to get out of here and into the air to breathe again. Otherwise I might pass out. Rising from the table, I stumbled, like someone who had had a little too much wine with lunch. If only that was it.
Bolting from the restaurant into the fresh Edinburgh air, my thoughts were only of getting away from him. Away from my life falling apart. Away from all the fears building inside me, and, without looking where I was going, I careened straight into a brick wall.
I came to such a complete stop that the inertia drove me in the only direction it could—back and down. I was about to fall with such a thump that the physical pain might have matched some of my emotional pain, but a hand reached out and stopped me at the last second.
Dazed, confused and angry, I couldn’t understand what had just happened. I had to get away, to run with all the energy I could muster to stop my thoughts from catching up with me. But a hand firmly placed on my wrist would not release its vise grip on me anytime soon.
I looked up to see what I had run into, and I saw him for the first time. Not a brick wall after all. He was the most gorgeous specimen of perfect physique that I had ever seen.
Towering over me, all six foot two inches of raw muscle, I couldn’t take in all of him at the angle I found myself in. I did, however, notice his athletic build, sandy blond hair that looked almost golden next to his tanned skin, that protruding chin, but the best, most noticeable feature, however, were those piercing blue eyes. Their intensity was like nothing I had never seen before.
He was immaculately dressed in a fitted black dress shirt and tan chinos. Both of which accentuated all the right features, which, for him, was everything.
Words completely escaped me for the moment, as did my manners. I could see Benjamin was about to leave the restaurant, and I just couldn’t bring myself to take any more knocks from him today.
I stumbled backward and awkwardly said, “S-s-sorry,” before I was off again, running in the other direction. Not the best thing to do in heels, I had to admit, but I was in survival mode and wasn’t thinking clearly.
I noticed though the puzzled look on the stranger’s sculpted face. Something else was present as well. Perhaps bemusement? Hard to say in my hasty retreat, but I was pretty sure a little smirk appeared on his face, making him even more delicious—if that was possible.
I finally made it to my car, my makeup running profusely from my tears. I must have looked a mess, even if I hadn’t seen my reflection in the mirror yet.
What a day. I had thought, when Benjamin had asked for a trial separation not that long ago, that we would eventually find each other once more. How stupid was I to think he was reconnecting when he invited me out for lunch?
I felt even dumber now as I had spent quite a bit of time primping: picking out a new dress, getting a complete wax—which was something I never did—putting on makeup and generally getting all dolled up. And for what? For Ben to break my heart completely and wreck me with his words.
I never realized, before today, that he could be quite that cruel to say those words in such a public place. I had no idea why he would humiliate me in front of so many people. No, I did know why. He didn’t want me to make a scene and probably thought meeting in a restaurant would ensure that. God, he was a real piece of work.
I struggled to remember what I ever saw in him. How could I not have seen him for the coward that he truly was? I should be thinking that I would be better off without him, but all I could focus on at the moment was whether or not I could make it on my own. Then the tears started again.
Ben and I had met shortly after I graduated when I was working for a marketing firm in Boston, and I moved over to the United Kingdom after we attempted a year of the whole long distance dating thing. I left behind my family in New England and came here where I knew no one outside of him. It had always been the two of us against the world, but truthfully that had changed when we had our son, Lucas.
I know people say, children change your life, and logically I know that has to be the case when there are three people involved rather than two, but I thought Benjamin and I were still a team, with a slight shift in focus. We had difficulties connecting over the last year especially, both of us spending more time focused on our careers.
Reflecting on it now, we had gone through the motions of what a married couple should do, and, while I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what our issues had been, I never thought he would turn to someone else. He had worked later hours, but he did get a promotion a while back, and I believed it was par for the course. I was proud of him for taking on all that responsibility.
Now, however, I wondered whether he had been seeing his work colleague Sarah back then.
Since Lucas was born, my relationship with Benjamin had changed, but any relationship dynamic fundamentally changes when a third person is added to a family. I was amazed how someone so small could make such a big change, but I loved Lucas so much, and I guess a lot of my “spare” time had been spent looking after him rather than Benjamin or our marriage.
I couldn’t deny that I had felt Benjamin and me growing apart. The more time he spent at work, the more time Lucas and I spent together. So I got into a routine without Ben, but surely all couples have their lulls. I had hoped that we would get back on track and that today, well, he would do just that. Now I knew that wasn’t the case.
It was no longer him and me against the world. Now it was just me, and I didn’t feel strong enough to make it on my own. I did know one thing for certain: I needed to get a serious grip on things. I would not allow myself to cry over my husband—well, soon-to-be ex-husband—as I deserved better than him.
Thank God Lucas was with his grandparents for a long weekend visit so I could pull myself together.
Monday came around too quickly, and I found myself once again at the Petrolis Group in my office, struggling to focus on anything but the decimation of my marriage not two days ago. Maybe I was a tad melodramatic as things hadn’t been great for some time, and Benjamin did ask for a trial separation two months ago.
Yet I knew nothing about Benjamin seeing someone else. With this new bit of information, it helped explained why he was against my idea of couple’s counseling. I mean, how could we focus on couple’s counseling when three adults were in our relationship?
I had been ignoring Ben’s calls but listened to all his messages. To an outside party, I must seem pathetic for wanting to listen to his voice when he had destroyed me so completely. Stop it, Elizabeth. Stop fixating on his words, and pull yourself out of this. He said that he might come to the house soon but, regardless, that we should talk shortly about how to divide everything up and move things forward.
He sprang this bombshell on me and then wanted me to discuss it rationally straight afterward. I wondered how long he had been planning this.
While wading deep in my thoughts, playing out the complete obliteration of my personal life, I didn’t notice the work reminder that flashed on my screen. When I finally did glance at the monitor and saw the calendar event, I was due to attend an internal Petrolis progress meeting downstairs in five minutes’ time and had not read any of the related reports.
What was I doing? I can’t let my entire life fall apart. My marriage may be over, but I can’t stand by and allow my career to go the same way.
I rushed to the printer as quickly as possible without breaking into a run, grabbed the documents and hurried toward the door. I haphazardly swiped my badge, pushing through the doors with my hip, while doing a half twirl, all the while focusing on speed-reading the first report, which was probably why I walked straight into a wall. Again. Twice in the span of a couple days. … Down I fell with a thump this time, cascading my papers like confetti around me.
Wait a second. Where did that wall come from?