It was dark when Jen left the bar. She’d given up on the weather warning system, despite issuing a category seven cyclone, she’d been ignored. Drew and Kay had sat there laughing like old friends remembering the good-old-days. It had been painful, humiliating and heart-wrenching to watch. But she’d stayed. She’d watched them both drink the bottle dry without saying a word.
It was when Kay had insisted that they move onto a nearby club that was part of their history, that Jen had spoken up. She’d tried to convince Drew that he had drunk enough and that it was time to go home. This didn’t go down well with Kay, and she’d reached into Drews jeans before tossing the car keys at Jen and telling her to get lost. Kay’s disregard for her hadn’t hurt, she’d expected that what did cut her to the bone was the lack of response from Drew. He’d stood there and shrugged. Then he’d allowed Kay to pull him away leaving her standing on the pavement like a fool.
She’d watched them disappear into the night with no idea about what to do next. She had no experience to guide her. She watched the man she loved be towed away by his ex-lover, and she didn’t know how to react. She wanted to scream and shout, but she knew she should trust him too. He’d told her that he loved her, right? He’d said that he didn’t love Kay anymore, correct? If those were true, then she had to trust him.
She sobbed in the car all the way back to the apartment. She drove through the blinding tears and only through good fortune and a quiet Sunday night, did she get home accident free and in one piece. The apartment was empty as she sat in the middle of the bed and cried. She thought about ringing Belinda for advice, but that would mean she’d have to tell Belinda who Kay was. Drew had trusted her with his past, and she knew that Belinda didn’t know anything about this. She couldn’t betray his trust despite the feelings of hurt that were ripping through her heart.
She woke up alone in the middle of the bed. It was morning. She must have fallen asleep sometime during the night. She was curled up in a ball but, even before she opened her eyes, she knew she was alone. He hadn’t come home. He’d stayed out all night with her, that woman.
Fresh tears. Her eyes weren’t yet open, and yet warm rivers were oozing from between her eyelids. She might be wrong, he might be in the bathroom. She sat up quickly, opening her eyes and spinning her head to search. Nothing had moved. Everything was in the same place as it had been last night. She was alone. He wasn’t here.
She dropped her face into her hands and cried.
Her phone? Maybe he’d tried calling? Was her battery dead? She threw herself towards the side-table, stretching out an arm with her fingers grabbing for the device. She grappled with the buttons and was surprised when the screen came to life. The battery was fine. No missed calls. No messages.
She hovered her finger over his number. Uncertainty prickled at her skin. What if she was being too clingy? What if he objected to the interference?
No, she told herself sternly, he’d not come home. She had every right to be worried. He might be injured, involved in an accident, intoxicated and passed out somewhere, or having sex with her, damn, she didn’t need to consider the last one. He loved her.
She pushed the icon and brought the phone up to her ear to listen to it ring. It rang for a long time before it timed out. She tried again. It rang out again. She tried again, often he didn’t pick up Sam’s calls immediately. She listened to it ring and ring. He didn’t pick up Sam’s calls because they were having sex. Was he having sex? Was that why he wasn’t answering?
She curled up on the bed again. This was her fault. She was the one who’d re-introduced him to Kay. She rang her. She arranged it. She had asked him to do it. If she’d not done that then Drew would be here in this bed right now and Kay would still be history.
She wanted to hate Kay, but all she felt was envy. Kay was bubbly, fun and lively. She’d been like a bright light, and she’d lit up the entire bar. Her laughter was musical, and her personality was so big that people couldn’t help but smile at her. She’d made friends with strangers and had them laughing with her. She might look a little like Jen, but she was everything that Jen was not. It would have been so much easier if she’d been an absolute bitch.
And it didn’t help that Kay had a solid excuse for what she’d done to him. She hadn’t denied that she’d cheated on him and the reason she’d given had almost made Jen feel sorry for her. If Drew was the only man Kay had been with, and he’d wanted her to marry him at twenty, then it was understandable that she’d felt she needed to be sure before she committed to him. Jen didn’t agree with her sleeping around to get that assurance, but she understood what she was trying to do. And she had tried to patch thing back up with Drew, he might have been too drunk to remember, but he still didn’t attempt to contact her either. Jen could see Kay’s point of view. He’d deserted her without giving her a chance to explain.
She lay on the bed and cried as she wondered what she’d do if he never came back.
She was half asleep when she heard the key in the door. It turned, but the door didn’t open. She pulled herself up and wiped her eyes as she listened. It was almost as if he’d unlocked the door but was still standing in the hall, mustering up the courage to enter the room.
When the door did open it did so slowly, he closed it behind him just as slowly. He was alone. She released a long breath. Kay wasn’t with him.
“Drew,” she whispered causing him to turn to her, “Where have you been?”
She wanted to punch herself in the face. What sort of jealous-wife-question was that?
“You’re still here?” he stood there looking at her.
“I told you I wouldn’t leave you,” she looked at him staring at her from across the room and felt the tears budding again, “Why are you standing there?”
“I broke my promise,” he said without moving, “I got drunk. I promised you that I wouldn’t drink.”
“Did you sleep with her?” she bit herself angry that she’d asked.
“You’re angry with me,” he stated the obvious but avoided the question, “Are you going to leave me?”
“Why do you keep asking that?” she flung back at him, “I told you that I love you. People who are in love don’t walk out just because you had a couple of drinks. Love isn’t something I can turn off and on. I love you, and I will stay in love with you.”
He stood there unmoving.
“Why didn’t you come home last night?” she asked again.
“We went to a club,” he looked away from her.
“You slept with her didn’t you,” she stood up and walked over to lean of a chair.
He didn’t move, and he didn’t answer her.
“Do you love her?” the tears fell down her face.
“I don’t know,” he whispered, “It’s like I’m twenty all over again. I can’t think straight.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she shook her head, “What sort of answer is that?”
“I love you,” he said without looking at her.
“You love me?” she sobbed, “Really? How can you say that after last night?”
“I don’t expect you to believe it, but I do love you,” he words sounded pained, “I don’t want you to leave. My head is just all over the place.”
“If you want me to stay with you then what happened last night?” she asked not wanting the answer to that but knowing she had to demand it.
“I didn’t expect Kay to be so much like herself,” he glanced at her then looked away, “It was like I was transported back in time.”
“And you forgot about me?” she wiped a tear away with the back of her hand.
“I became the man I used to be,” he winced.
“Which means?” she sobbed.
“I got drunk and behaved like an asshole,” he scrunched up his face, “And I let go of everything.”
“Everything,” he said, then he lifted his eyes to her, “But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love you.”
“What now?” she felt like she couldn’t breathe, “Are you seeing her again?”
“No,” he grimaced and looked away, showing the lie, “Yes.”
“She said she’d not let you go,” Jen’s chest was aching, “Is that what you want?”
He looked at his feet without answering.
“Where is she now?” her voice was croaky.
“Hotel,” was all he said.
“Are you leaving me for her?” Jen couldn’t stop the tears, “Is that why you’re here.”
“No, I love you,” he lifted his eyes to her, “I just don’t know how to process what I’m feeling for her. I’ve loved her for so long that it hit me like a freight train seeing her like that. I don’t know what to do.”
She sat down into the chair and dropped her face into her hands unable to hold back the sobs.
“Give me some time to work this out Jen,” he said, “I just need some time to work out what I want.”
She looked up at him in disbelief. Tears burning hot trails down her cheeks and her mouth opening and closing without any words coming out. She couldn’t believe what he was saying. He’d fallen back in love with Kay.
“You love her,” it was no longer a question.
“I love you too,” he said as he brought up his hand to his head, “I’m in love with you both for very different reasons. I need some time to sort through that.”
“You’d never stopped loving her, had you?” she didn’t try to wipe away the tears, “All the women you’ve been with since have all been nothing but bedwarmers.”
“That’s not fair,” he replied.
“But I’m not wrong,” she sobbed into her hand, “It was always her.”
“You’re not like that. I fell in love with you,” he insisted.
“And the others?” she laughed while crying, “How can you say you love me when you can’t deny that?”
“Jen, don’t do this,” he shook his head.
“Me? You’re asking me not to do this? What about you?” she cried.
“I know I’m being unfair and selfish,” he stood there looking at her, “But I’m also being honest. Kay is like a drug and I thought I could handle seeing her after all this time, I was wrong. I need some time to work it out.”
“And then what?” she blubbered, “You want me to hang around waiting to be tossed aside like a used toy?”
“It wouldn’t be like that,” he looked guilty.
“What will it be like, Drew?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted and grimaced as she cried out, “I’m not going to lie to you, Jen. I don’t know what to do. I feel like my heart is being torn into two pieces.”
“I should go home,” she started to stand, “I’ve got work to get back to.”
“No,” he almost yelled the word, “I want you to stay here. I need you here. Don’t go.”
“Why?” she sniffed, “So I can sit here waiting for you to get home? Do you want to torture me? Do you expect me to wait for my turn, while you have sex with her?”
“Stay here,” he flinched at her words, “I don’t want you to leave. Don’t go back there.”
“I’m not going to give up my job while I wait to see if you’re going to dump me,” she said, “I have rent to pay, a debt to service, and I need to be earning money to survive.”
“I’ll give you what you need,” he blurted the words.
“I’m not a prostitute,” she recoiled, “You can’t pay me to be available when you’ve finished with Kay.”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” his voice became raised.
“I have to go while I still have a life to return to,” she clenched her teeth.
“You don’t have a job to go back to,” he yelled before he closed his eyes and exhaled and said in a monotone voice, “You no longer work there. You’re unemployed.”
“I’m what?” she spluttered the tears stopping, “When did that happen? I’m on leave. Ian said that I should take holidays.”
“No, you don’t,” his eyes were still closed, “You no longer work there. Your job doesn’t exist anymore.”
“What? Why?” she blinked her confusion, “When did this happen?”
“Tuesday,” he whispered.
“If it was because of little Sammy,” she gasped, “I can go and talk to him. I can fix things with them.”
“No,” his voice was still a pained whisper, “It had nothing to do with the jerks you work with. I knew how you’d react, so I told you that to make it easier for you. I asked Ian to make it sound like leave so I would have enough time to ease you into the idea. I just ran out of time.”
“You ran out of time?” she turned on him, “This was your idea?”
“Ian rang on Tuesday morning while you were in the shower and this was the best solution we could come up with,” he looked away.
“But he can’t do that,” she shook her head, “That’s not fair. It’s wrongful dismissal.”
“Yes,” Drew nodded, “And to compensate you for that he forgave part of your debt.”
“He what?” she stared at him, “What did you just say?”
“He wiped roughly about half of the debt off,” Drew shrugged, “Which was equivalent to the compensation he’d have to pay if you’d pressed charges.”
“And the rest?” she blinked, “How am I supposed to pay that?”
“I’ve settled it,” Drew whispered, “You don’t owe him a cent. And you don’t owe me anything either.”
“You did what?” she blurted.
“I knew you’d get angry,” he shrugged, “It wasn’t a problem for me. And it’s what you do for the one you love.”
“You lied to me?” she stuttered.
“Yes,” he looked away, “But I did it for the right reasons.”
“The right reasons for whom?” she asked, “Because from where I’m standing, you’re the only one who will benefit from any of this. You lied and paid my debt to manipulate me into staying with you.”
“I was doing this charity work, working up to this weekend’s performances,” he growled back, “How was I supposed to get you to love me if we weren’t even together? If you were working twelve hours of the day? I needed you here.”
“You needed?” she tilted her head and looked at him, “This is all about you.”
“No, it was all about us,” he corrected, “I wanted it to be about us.”
“Us?” she shook her head, “You needed me near because you can’t stand to be left alone, can you? Do you have a fear of being single, Drew?”
“Did Sam say that to you?” he narrowed his eyes, “They’re wrong. I’m not like that.”
“Sam didn’t say anything to me, he didn’t need to,” she dropped her head, “You said it yourself. You go from one girlfriend to the next, desperate to have a someone there to hang your love off. You need to be in love because you can’t stand the thought of being alone.”
“No,” he started to say.
“You moved me in as soon as Veronica left because you couldn’t get her back,” she blinked as the tears came back, “And now you want me to hang around while you work out if Kay is going to stay or not.”
“No,” he shook his head, “You aren’t like anyone I’ve ever met before. I love you more than I ever love anyone.”
“Except Kay,” she finished his sentence for him.
He looked at her for a long time as he exhaled, “I don’t know. All I know is that my love for you is different than anything I’ve felt before. I can’t lose you, but I’m not able to let Kay go either.”
She looked at him with tear stained eyes.
“You can’t go back to Trenton, you have nothing to go back to there,” he looked at her, “And I can’t let you leave while you still might be pregnant.”
“I’m not,” she exhaled.
“Don’t say that,” he interrupted, “If you’re carrying my child, then my decision is easy.”
“What did you just say?” she gasped.
“I’ve said this before,” he gave a small shrug, “I’m going to be there for you and our child.”
“Do you have any idea how demeaning that is?” she shook her head, “Can you even hear the words that you’re saying.”
“I won’t abandon you to raise our child alone,” he frowned, “How is that demeaning? You don’t have a job or any form of income, our child should be raised in a stable, loving environment.”
“Are you listening to yourself?” she growled, “You’ll decide whether you love me more than Kay depending on whether I’m pregnant or not? How is that not insulting?”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” he shook his head, “You took that out of context. Irrespective of whether you’re pregnant or not, I don’t want you leaving.”
“Yet, you don’t want me leaving, yet,” she finished his sentence for him again as her voice became rant like, “Until you’ve played me off with Kay and made your ‘decision’. Then one of us will be cast aside. Did you wear a condom? When you slept with her last night, did you use protection? Is she going to be pregnant too?”
“No,” he rubbed his face, “I mean, yes we used protection, Kay refuses to have children. She has no interest in them. The only time I’ve done it without one was with you.”
“You slept with her,” she closed her eyes as he finally confirmed it.
“I was drunk, and she was Kay,” he looked away, “It wasn’t like you were there to stop me.”
“What did you just say?” she gasped, “You sent me home. I left because I trusted you to keep it in your pants and not fuck the woman who destroyed your heart and left you bleeding, never to be heard from again. And I’m the one who’s in the wrong?”
“No,” he closed his eyes, “I should have come home with you. I shouldn’t have slept with her until I knew my heart. But you heard what Kay said, she didn’t leave me.”
She sat there looking at him. He’d announced his decision right there. He shouldn’t have slept with her ‘until’ he knew, that was a clear indicator that he loved Kay. He was only waiting until such time as the baby question was solved in his mind and then he’d disappear with Kay. He’d never stopped loving her, and now he had her back.
She knew what she had to do but wasn’t sure she had the courage to do it. She couldn’t believe it had come to this. She felt numb.
“All I meant was that I want you to be here to fight for our love,” he was still talking, “Jen, you love me. You said that wouldn’t change. I want you to fight for that love.”
“Love?” she looked at him as she wiped the tears from her dazed face, “Yes, I do love you. Even after all of this, I think that I still love you and I’ll probably love that naked man inside you for the rest of my life. And that’s why I have to go.”
“Go?” he lifted his eyes to hers.
“If I don’t go now, while I’m angry,” she winced, “Then I’d probably stay. I’d sit here like an idiot, with my head on the chopping block, and I’d hate every minute of it. I’m not going to let you do that to me.”
“It wouldn’t be like that,” he shook his head, “I just need a little time.”
“And even if you did end up picking me over Kay,” she laughed like that was a foolish wish, “It wouldn’t be any better. I’d always be wondering whose bed you were sleeping in, when you weren’t with me and when you were standing next to me too.”
“It wouldn’t be like that,” he shook his head.
“If you’re undecided now,” she felt the pain etched on her face, “Then you’ll always be undecided. Even if you’re not, I’ll never be able to trust you not to have an affair.”
“I don’t cheat,” he said but stopped when he realised what he’d said, “Last night was an exception.”
“When Kay first cheated on you,” she pushed herself out of the chair to stand, “Did she stop cheating just because you tried harder? Did that work? No, it didn’t. I’m not going to watch you corrupt my love like she’s poisoned yours.”
“You promised that you wouldn’t leave,” he said the words quickly, “You said you loved me.”
“I’m not leaving,” she felt exhausted, “I love you enough to let you go. I love you Drew, and I’m going to help you by making your decision simple.”
“You can’t do that,” he blurted his eyes becoming red, “You’ve got nowhere to go.”
“That’s not a reason to stay,” she smiled a pained grin, “And don’t bring up the pregnancy thing again because I find that deeply insulting.”
“But I can’t let you leave,” his face contorted.
“You left me, remember?” she felt like a heavy blanket had been lowered over her, weighing her down and making everything feel surreal, “You walked away from me last night. You got drunk in front of me, and then you turned away and left me standing on the street. You left me. You ditched me, and you had sex with her.”
“It was a mistake,” he shook his head. The tears ran down his cheeks, “I shouldn’t have done that.”
“But you did,” she reached for her bag that she’d sensibly packed last night in expectation of this moment, “And now I’m telling you that I love you and I’m setting you free to be with Kay.”
“But what if,” he stuttered.
“If things don’t work out with Kay?” she shrugged, “Then I suggest, that you man-up and leave her. Don’t let her use you like a doormat again. Then you should spend some time as a single man, Drew. It’s not so bad. You might even learn to like yourself, if you give yourself time to get to know you. I think you might find out that the naked man doesn’t need the mask.”
“But I love you,” he cried out.
“Maybe,” she felt like her face was dead, “Good-bye Drew.”
“Don’t go,” he pleaded.
“It’s too late for that,” she turned to him from the door, “I hope you find happiness with Kay, I really do.”
“Jen, don’t,” he sank to his knees, “I won’t survive you leaving me.”
“Drew,” she turned at the open door, “Of course you will. I’m not leaving. You’ll always have a piece of my heart.”
“I want,” his voice broke as his tears flowed freely.
“I love you, and because of that, I’m giving you the gift of freedom,” she couldn’t look at him, “I want you to do better than survive, I want you to be happy.”
“Jen, no,” he cried out as she closed the door on him.
She leant against the wall next to the elevators for a couple of minutes as she forced herself to breathe. She felt like her heart had been wrenched from her chest leaving nothing but a gaping hole. She wanted to throw open the door and declare that she couldn’t go. She wanted him to charge into the hall and rescue her from this horrible choice. But neither of those things happened. Instead, she pushed herself off the wall and forced her feet to walk.
She made it out of the lift and onto the street before she had to rest against a signpost. The pavement was busy with pedestrians. She knew she had to get to the train station, but she had no energy and no will, to go any further. Where was she supposed to go anyway? What was the point? She had no job, very little money, and she’d just walked out on the only thing she’d ever wanted. She was lost.
“Jen,” she heard her name called out, but she refused to turn.
She pushed herself off the sign and lifted her bag, forcing herself to keep walking. He was calling her name as he ran from the building into the crowded street. She couldn’t go back to him. She would become everything she despised in a woman, if she turned and let him find her. She couldn’t do that to herself. She walked in slow, smooth steps away from the man screaming out her name, even though it broke her heart again.