Chapter 35: Liam
Jere and I are watching The Tigger Movie, and the entire time my mind has been racing. This has been normal though, as of lately. There’s never been a time in these past two weeks where my mind has been at peace.
Libby, Cal, Mom, Dad, Jere, over and over again. I think up scenarios of what will happen in the future - what I will tell her, how I’ll do it, when, where, and all the other questions that worry at me.
I’m supposed to be having much-needed alone time with my son, enjoying a movie with him, but as the hyper tiger bounces on his tail once more, I lose interest all over again.
Jere, on the other hand, is loving the movie to pieces. A movie for three-year-olds is entertaining my five-year-old, and a small tug at my chest occurs when I remember the first time we watched it together. It’d been at the back of his closet this entire time, until the day came where he came to wake Libby and I up and we all made it a Disney Movie Day.
It seems like just yesterday when my legs were entangled with hers under the sheets of my bed, her smooth legs brushing against my legs, her fingers playing with my hair when she thinks I’m asleep... But now she sleeps in her room - Jimmy’s room - and Jere is asking questions. Things aren’t right, and every morning when I wake up and she’s not there sleeping beside me, my heart lurches a little more.
Things aren’t right.
But Cal’s words come right then, reminding me of why all of this is occurring.
She deserves better.
I love her. It’s not a lie, and never has been. I knew I loved her before I even met her, as she had pointed out the first night we spent together. But now I have to pretend, and nothing has hurt so badly.
Right then the front door opens to my and Jere’s right, and I reach for the volume remote. I watch as Jimmy steps into the house, his lazy posture a clear sign that he’s drunk, and holds the door open for Libby as she stumbles into the house as well. She has khaki shorts on and a white v-neck, and her navy Converse are starting to wear at the soles, but never has she looked so beautiful.
After a complaint from Jere that the movie is too quiet now, I hand him the remote in surrender, but when I turn back to the pair, I find Libby stomping up the stairs and Jimmy plopping onto my Ottoman. I look between the two in confusion until Libby has disappeared up the stairs, and when I hear the door slam, I rush off the couch.
Something isn’t right.
The trip up was quieter than hers, despite me taking the stairs two at a time, but once I reach the upstairs I realize that it is Jimmy’s room she has closed herself in. I hesitantly walk over to the door, and I knock lightly on the white wood. I hear crying.
“Libby?” I call softly, and I hear an intake of breath. I wait several seconds for a reply, but when none came, I call her name again. “I’m coming in,” after no response, but when I reach for the knob, it’s locked.
“Libby, what’s wrong?” I try and say through the barrier between us, and a shallow breath comes not too far away from the other side. “Libby, let me help you.”
She murmurs two words, and my heart is torn away from me: “Go away.”
I stumble back in shock, my hand leaving the doorknob. I hear Jimmy laugh below me, probably something stupid in the movie, and I find myself blind with anger. He hurt her, I realize as I stumble down the stairs and over to where Jimmy lies carelessly. It’s like he knew this would happen.
He looks up at me with a lazy smile and notches an eyebrow. “Awh, is Liam mad?”
My jaw clenches and I set my hand on his shoulder, the tightness of my hold on him hopefully sending him a message to take me seriously. “This isn’t a game, Jim,” I say, my voice low as to not concern Jere. “What did you do to her?”
He guffaws. “What did I do to her?” I watch as he laughs, my face contorting into pure outrage. My hand beside me clenches into a fist, although with no intention to hurt him, I want him to know just how much this behavior unsettles me. “Liam, what did you do to her?”
My hold falls from his shoulder and stops loosely beside me, my other hand un-clenching and my stomach flipping. Turning around, I stare up the stairs. I hear her footsteps above us, and I feel my hands brushing my hair back nervously.
“She’s had enough, Liam,” Jimmy says softly beside me, as if trying to choose his words carefully for once. “She’s packing.”
Packing? “For what?” It doesn’t make any sense. Why is she packing? “Where is she going?”
I can almost hear him roll his eyes. “She’s going home.”
A lump forms in my throat and my pulse quickens in my chest. “But she is home,” I say, swallowing the lump that won’t disappear.
Jimmy shrugs beside me and sighs. “Not anymore.”
“What did she say?” I can’t stop looking at the top of the stairs, as if hoping she will manifest there and be smiling down at me, telling me it’s all an act.
“She misses feeling like she belonged,” he almost whispers, knowing that this is something that I can so easily provide for her. “What the hell are you doing, Liam? You’re breaking the poor girl’s heart and watching her leave.”
“What am I supposed to do?” I ask, my voice and thoughts defeated.
“Dude,” he states, punching me loosely at my hips as he is still sitting in my Ottoman, drunk. “She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you, and you’re watching her walk away. What wrong with that picture?”
I swallow once more, trying to clear the same annoying lump in my throat, and find my feet slowly leading me to and up the staircase. The steps creak as I place my weight on each one, but the only sound I can hear is my pounding heartbeat and the voice inside my head telling me to save her, to apologize, to beg for us to start all over.
But I don’t.
Instead, I walk up to her door and place one hand on the doorknob and lie my head on the wood.
“Libby,” I whisper, my voice just loud enough for her to hear from the other side. It’s silent, but I take the chance of her possibly listening and continue. “I-” I start, but my voice chokes up. I love you, I want to say. I’m sorry. But instead, I close my eyes and begin again. “If you’re packing...” I sigh, trying to prolong my words as if trying to convince myself that this sentence will take a turn of direction, “don’t.”
After a small pause, I hear her voice in whisper, closer to the door than I thought she was. “Why?”
The lump grows bigger, causing my voice to grow hoarse as I respond. “Because....”
“That’s not good enou-”
“Let me finish,” I interrupt, trying to get out what I have to say before I can take the words back. She stays silent, patient. “I don’t want us to be strangers again, Lib. I can’t watch you walk away, too.”
I didn’t say much, but it was true - being strangers with her once more, going on with life as if we didn’t know the other existed, would be the end of me. I don’t know who I would be without her in my life. She is a part of me now, and I cannot imagine a world where she does not exist by my side.
I want to put all of this into words for her, but I know that if I do, there will be no going back to Cal’s plan. If you love her, let her go. A tear dribbles down my cheek. “But you can, if that’s what you feel is best.”
And then I turn around, walk gently across the hall as if it were the one that is fragile, and close my bedroom door behind me.
I don’t even hug her goodbye.