Not being able to stop crying sucks. Big time. At some point, I didn’t even know what exactly I was crying about anymore. Was it because I saw Noah again? Was it because I realized I’m not over what happened at all? Or was it because I felt like I failed – like I destroyed every chance I had with Ben by not telling him everything?
It’s a little over 24 hours ago that the pain of my past resurfaced, and I’ve been miserable since. Pictures keep flashing in my mind – memories of when I was in the hospital and Noah confronted me with the truth about his affair.
The only thing that’s kept me some sort of sane was Ben. He hasn’t left my side since I told him everything, so I’m not sure why I can’t stop thinking I ruined it all. I can’t believe how forgiving and understanding he is. He keeps telling me he got over his anger pretty quickly because he can’t fall out of love with me just like that. Of course, hearing him say that made me cry even harder.
And now, I’m sitting next to him on his couch, and he has to dry my tears yet again. “I’m sorry I’m such a mess,” I sob.
“There’s no need to apologize, Princess,” he says softly as he pulls me into his arms and lovingly strokes my hair. “I meant what I said – I love you, and I’m not leaving you.”
I let out a shaky breath and wrap my arms around him. “I love you too. So much,” I whisper, and while I try to hold back more tears, I think about Ben and me and our relationship. I don’t want my past to fuck up my chances for a happy future with him, which leaves me with only one choice. I sit up and look at Ben. “I have to go back home,” I tell him.
He sits up too and blinks at me. “Uhm, okay – you want me to take you?”
I shake my head. “No, that’s not what I mean. I have to go back to my hometown, and I have to finalize the divorce. Noah has to sign those damn papers. I have to visit the grave of my baby and mourn. I have to leave all the bad memories behind so I can come back to New York and be happy here – with you.”
Ben sucks in a long breath and slowly releases it before he says, “Okay. Sure. Do you want me to come with you?”
“No,” I tell him and take his hands in mine. “I have to do this alone, but I have to know that you’ll be here waiting for me.”
“Of course,” he reassures me with a small smile. He leans in to give me a tender kiss that awakens the butterflies in my stomach again and makes me forget about the outside world and its troubles for a few moments. When I pull back, I rest my forehead against his with my eyes closed. Once I can be sure I’ve calmed down enough to speak, I lean back and grab my phone. “I’ll call Noah,” I explain while I dial his number. He picks up after the first ring.
Hearing his voice sends a cold shiver down my spine. “Hi, Noah,” I say in a shaky voice. “I – uhm – I’m calling to let you know I’m going to accompany you home so we can sort things out. Please tell me you will sign the divorce papers. Please,” I whisper.
Noah sighs. “Amy, I want to–”
“No,” I say a little more forcefully. “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care what you want; those times are over. I need closure. Please, do a good thing for once,” I plead.
After a silence that feels like forever, he takes a deep breath and says, “Okay. We’ll do that.”
I let out a sigh of relief. “Thanks,” I utter softly. And after telling Noah I’ll be in touch as soon as I know when I can fly out, I hang up. I drop my phone on the couch next to me and bury my face in the palms of my hands. Tears well up in my eyes when many different emotions threaten to overwhelm me; I can’t think straight or breathe properly. But then Ben pulls me into a tight hug, and again, the tension leaves my body – slowly but surely.
Ben gently strokes my back and whispers in my ear, “I’m right here, Princess. I promise.”
When I walk out of the airport in Seattle a few days later, the sun is shining brightly as if to mock my somber mood. After my six-hour journey, I have another two-hour drive ahead of me before I’ll finally arrive at my parents’ house. My stomach churns at the thought of Noah and me being in the same car for that long. He took an earlier flight and is awaiting me outside the airport to take me to my old home.
Being back feels weird enough as it is, but seeing Noah again – how he casually leans against the same car he’s always had – evokes all kinds of mixed emotions. I am anxious and restless, but at the same time, I tell myself over and over to be optimistic – to be hopeful that we’ll sort things out once and for all. I need to forgive myself, and I need to forgive him.
Returning home was even harder after I said a tearful goodbye to Ben at the airport in New York, and I only boarded the plane after he promised me yet again to meet me there on my return. As much as Ben hated to see me go alone, he was relieved I left the city after the trouble with Aaron and that drug dealer.
But again, that is not what is occupying my mind – my hopefully soon-to-be ex-husband is. Noah pushes himself off his car when he sees me approaching. He comes to a stop in front of me, and he dares to try and hug me. But I hold up my hand and take a step back. I’m not ready to be too close to him.
Noah purses his lips and takes a deep breath. “Hey, welcome home. Did you have a good flight?”
I want to tell him to get lost with his welcome, but I just nod before he continues, “Are you hungry? Do you want to get something to eat?”
I frown. “No, I don’t. Can you just take me to my parents?”
“Sure,” Noah sighs and stows my luggage in the trunk while I get in on the passenger side, and once again, memories come up, and a lump forms in my throat, but at least I manage to hold back the tears.
Noah climbs behind the wheel and starts the car. Before he takes off, he glances at me, but I avoid his gaze, just like I avoid any deep conversation during the ride. Instead, I look out the window at the landscape I know so well. I think of my parents, and I start to look forward to seeing them again. Our farewell a few months ago wasn’t a happy one, but I know they only want what’s best for me, so I hope we’ll be able to have a good talk as well.
While I’m deep in thought, Noah clears his throat. “We have an appointment with our lawyer on Friday.”
I turn my head to study him. His jaw is clenched, and his knuckles are white from gripping the steering wheel. The tension coming from him is almost palpable. I wonder why this is still difficult for him to accept.
“Thank you for taking care of it,” I tell him.
He doesn’t look at me when he responds, “You want closure, so I have no choice.”
I sigh heavily. “Noah, please don’t be like that. We both know things between us can never be how they once were. I could never trust you again. And anyway, I love someone else.”
Noah frowns. “You’re right. I fucked up; I don’t deserve your trust anymore. But it’s hard for me to let you go. I realize it’s too late, and now I have to live with the consequences of my actions. I just hope you can forgive me someday.”
I nod, but before I can answer, my phone beeps with an incoming message. A happy smile spreads on my face when I see a text from Ben: “Princess, I’m thinking of you and look forward to our reunion. I miss you.”
I answer him: “I miss you too. Being back here is weird. It’s all familiar, but I feel no warmth like I do when I’m with you in New York. I love you.”
I clasp my phone in my hand for the rest of the way, thinking about Ben until we arrive at my parents’ house. Luckily, Noah just says a quick hello before he drives off, and I’m left alone to face my parents and their many questions.
It’s two endless days later when Noah and I sit in our lawyer’s office, and the lawyer hands me the divorce papers. I don’t hesitate for even a second to sign and pass them along to Noah. He takes the pen, sighs and looks at me. I draw in a sharp breath, and my heart skips a couple of beats. He used to look at me like that when our world was still in order, and for a brief moment, I’m afraid he won’t sign, but wants to continue fighting. I close my eyes and lower my head.
I flinch when he puts his hand on mine. I open my eyes again and see him putting his signature on the document. I let out the breath I was holding and press my hand to my stomach. It’s done. Over. I feel relieved of a heavy burden, and I give him a subtle smile.
A few more words are exchanged before we finally say goodbye to our lawyer and leave his office. When I step outside and take in a deep breath of fresh air, I stand still for a few moments, letting the relief sink in.
I look up at the sky. It’s a beautiful day – sunny and not too warm. Perfect for the one thing I still have to do. I turn to Noah. “Would you accompany me to the cemetery?”
He runs his hand through his hair with a deep and heavy sigh, and I almost expect him to make some excuse. But then he nods.
So a little while later, we stand next to each other in front of a small tombstone. I put down the small bouquet of calla lilies I brought – my favorite flowers that’ll always remind me of her. With tears in my eyes, I read the inscription:
“Emilia Franklin-Stone, *May 18th †May 19th”
She lived for three hours, and even though that was the worst night of my life, I’m glad to have had that little time with her.
Noah takes my hand and squeezes it gently. “She was beautiful. Just like you.”
I turn to him. “Yes, she was,” I say in a shaky voice. “Every day I wish I could turn back time and do everything right so that she could be born healthy and live.” I rub my chest that’s heavy and tight.
Noah frowns. “Amy, don’t say that; it wasn’t your fault. You did nothing wrong.”
I wipe at my eyes and sniff. “That’s not what you made me believe.”
Noah grimaces. “I’m sorry; I was wrong to do that. I was so sad we lost her – and that we lost each other. I blamed you because that was easier than admitting the truth. I screwed up, and I’m so sorry about that. I hope you can forgive me someday.”
I blink at him. I’m at a loss for words. How long have I waited for him to tell me that? How long have I wanted to believe we can one day forgive each other? After all this time, the wounds are slowly healing. The death of our daughter will leave an eternal hole in my heart, but now I can finally discard the blame; I can accept what happened, and I can have closure.
Noah drops me off at my parents’ house in the late afternoon. After we visited our daughter’s grave, we went for a long walk and had an equally long talk. Neither of us held back, and we’ve never been this honest with each other. And when we say goodbye, I feel light and no longer exhausted at the thought of my past. There’s no more guilt, no remorse, and no hate.
Instead, I am restless. My flight back to New York isn’t until Monday morning, but now that everything is resolved, I want to go back as soon as possible – back to my new life and my new friends, but especially back to Ben.
So I decide to take the next available flight, which leaves tomorrow morning. And once I’ve changed the booking, I call Ben, but his phone goes straight to voicemail. Weird. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard anything from him today. We last talked yesterday morning, and last night we texted. He knew my lawyer’s appointment was today, so I’m wondering why he hasn’t called me yet.
I leave a message. “Hey, handsome – everything is done here, so I’ll come back tomorrow. I’ll send you my flight details. I can’t wait to see you again. I love you!”
With a deep sigh, I hang up and join my parents for dinner. We still have things to talk about as well. Even though we already discussed our issues over the past couple of days, I know they’re still disappointed I decided to live so far away. After everything that happened with Noah, the baby, and my mental health, they’re still concerned about me. So I’m trying to dissipate their worries, and in the end, they agree to visit me in New York and see for themselves how happy I am in my new home.
During our talk, my mind keeps wandering to Ben. I don’t hear from him for the rest of the day. I text Lauren to ask her if she knows anything about Ben’s whereabouts, but the poor thing is sick in bed, and she doesn’t know what’s up either, and Aaron is still unavailable.
So when I arrive in New York the next afternoon, I have to take a cab to get home from the airport. With a heavy heart, I enter my apartment. I’m terribly worried because I can’t get a hold of Ben. I spend the rest of the weekend at Lauren’s, providing her with chicken soup, tea, and my divided attention. She tries to distract me, but I know she’s worried too. We’re both wondering where Ben is, and what happened to him.
After all, he promised to meet me on my return.