“It looked like you were having a good time, don’t stop on my account,” Violet tells me as I walk with her to the opposite side of the room.
She was hurt, clearly. I don’t blame her, I fucked up and didn’t think everything through but the guilt is getting me now. At first it seemed harmless but once I saw the look on Violet’s face while I was dancing with Ella, everything I seemed so sure about changed.
I shake my head quickly so Violet can see that I’m truly apologetic, “No, it isn’t like that. It was just a dance, Violet. I’m sorry if it made you feel hurt... That was never my intention.”
“Well, I did mess up.”
“That doesn’t mean I would try to hurt you back,” I explain to her, taking her hands as we stop near the restrooms, “I know her from high school and she works at the company. She knows I’m with you and to be honest, she had said that us dancing would be inappropriate.”
Violet doesn’t seem convinced right away, she looks away from me and nods her head slowly, “Yeah... Well, I’m not sure exactly where we stand right now anyway.”
“You’re my girlfriend, Vi. If I wanted to break it off I would have said that but regardless of what went down last night, I still care about you.”
I mean everything I say to Violet. Feelings can’t just go away because someone makes one little mistake. What she did hurt me and damaged the trust I had in her, but I’m not just going to give up on her because of one mistake.
“Thomas, when I first messaged you I had no intentions on getting to know you and care for you the way I have. I would have never lied if I knew I would feel this way but by the time I realized that I had already dug myself in too deep,” Her eyes glisten and I can see the pain that had been partly caused by me. Maybe I reacted too dramatically, I should have been more mature and listened to her, but I fled like I always do when my emotions get too strong.
I place my hands on Violet’s waist and pull her close to me, “Babe, you look stunning... Don’t let this put a frown on that beautiful face, okay?”
She finally smiles for me and I’m hoping that means we can start getting past these past few days. I’ve been unhappy for far too long to just let Violet slip through my fingers, we both deserve better than that.
“Maybe we can share a dance?” She asks me.
I lean down to press a gentle kiss on her lips, “I’d love to, but first I have to make a speech. Stay right here and I’ll be back, okay?”
Violet nods her head and I head towards the stage to give my opening speech. I stop at Ella who is standing by the steps with her folder in hand. She was managing everything really well and she also had my speech.
I reach my hand out, expecting her to pass me my speech right away but she doesn’t. I begin to wave my fingers, emphasizing that I’m waiting for her to do her job and pass me my papers.
“What?” She asks me with her brow raised.
“I’m about to do my speech, so please... Can you hurry it up a bit?”
“I don’t have your speech,” Ella stares at me seeming confused and completely surprised by my words, “You made me a list of things I had to keep in this folder and your speech wasn’t one of them.”
She has got to be kidding me. I close my eyes and groan to myself before calming myself enough to respond to her, “Ella, I can do the speech without the paper... Inside the envelope was also the cheque for Orphanage of New York.”
“Thomas, there was nothing said to me about this.”
“Fuck!” I curse with irritation in my voice, knowing I have to quickly get to my office before people began to wonder what was going on. Luckily, we were holding the event in the same building so getting to my office wasn’t going to take too long.
As I stride towards the door I can sense someone following me and I know that it’s Ella. She feels the need to insert herself into situations when she feels like she’s the one to blame. When I reach the lobby I press on the elevator button, annoyed but forcing myself to stay quiet so I don’t make myself seem like a complete ass.
“Thomas, if this is my fault I’m really sorry, bu--”
“Why are you following me?” I ask her once the doors open. I step inside and turn around to look at her again, “Go enjoy yourself. I can grab the cheque.”
Instead of listening to me, Ella gets into the elevator with me and shakes her head, “I just want to check the list you gave me and see if it’s my fault. It’s in my desk and I will own up to my mistake.”
“Really not that big of a deal,” I mutter to myself even though I truly believe this is Ella’s fault and not mine. I would remember if I fucked up and I’m certain that this falls on Ella. I’d prefer if she hadn’t followed me because while I’m annoyed I may say things I regret.
The doors close and Ella continues to plead her case, only I ignore her this time around and watch the numbers light up as we pass each floor. Ella’s voice is distant in the background and I don’t pay attention until the elevator stops at the wrong floor.
“What the fuck...” I press the ‘close doors’ button when the doors open but they stay open. Then I press the number to my floor again and nothing happens, “I guess we walk from here... It’s only 2 floors.”
As I walk out of the elevator I head towards the door that leads to the staircase and it’s locked. My brows furrow in confusion, the locks are all managed electronically, similar to how hospitals work. It’s for safety and to prevent any theft, but if the elevators aren’t working, I’m pretty sure that means all of the doors are disabled as well.
“No, no, no, no...”
“Do you have a key?” Ella asks after a moment of silence.
“No... But for emergencies Mason and I have swipe cards!” I’m excited at my realization, quickly patting my pockets to find my swipe card only to realize that I left it on my desk, “FUCK!”
My anger quickly escalates, punching the door and leaning my head against the surface while I take a deep breath. I have anger issues, that’s no secret, but there are certain days when my temper is worse than others. Today especially.
“Thomas... It’s okay, I’ll call Mason.”
“It’s not okay!” I raise my voice at her, feeling my blood boiling and my anger rising. Everything is going wrong and I can’t take it. It’s times like this when I know that I should be taking my depression medication regularly but when I feel like I can handle life without them, I stop.
Ella jumps back, completely off guard by my reaction and I feel terrible for yelling at her but I can’t take it back. I can’t change the irritation in my body.
Without a word, Ella walks away from me and towards the large window overlooking the financial district. I watch her take out her phone and I assume that she’s calling Mason to let him know what’s going on.
The rain had held up throughout the day but it had began to pick up again about an hour ago, even then, our systems should be built well enough so shit like this doesn’t happen. I look at my phone, seeing the date for the first time today. I knew what the date was but when it comes around I try to keep myself busy, now I had nothing more to focus on.
“He didn’t answer but I left him a message,” Ella says quietly.
I nod my head, walking to the couch that was against the wall and sitting down.
“Hi... I uh, I’m Jade. I’m here for the party.”
I smile at the memory. Her face when she looked at me for the first time, seeming so uncomfortable and quiet. It was Mason’s graduation party and when I arrived this beautiful red head was at the door, waiting for someone to answer.
“Are you Mason’s brother? You look alike, sorta... I mean, I can see the resemblance.”
My eyes stare at the floor, hearing Jade’s voice in my head. This usually happened after a few days after I stopped taking my medication. She was in my head, she was everywhere. But today of all days was not a good day for me. Let alone with her voice echoing in my head.
When I look up I see Ella looking at me with concern on her face, “Are you okay?”
“You said...” She pauses and raises an eyebrow, “It just seemed like you were talking to someone.”
I shake my head, speaking quietly, “No... I’m fine. I’m okay...”
“Jade... My name is Jade.”
“I don’t care.”
But I do care. Now, at least. But now it’s too late. I had been so mean to her, just like I had been mean to Ella but Jade isn’t Ella. Jade is the love of my life and today is the anniversary of the day that I met her for the first time.
The first time I saw that bright hair, the plump lips and gorgeous smile. The first time I heard her angelic voice, only to be missing it years later.
“I do care...” I say aloud without realizing.
Ella speaks up again and I know now that I spoke aloud when I didn’t intend to, “You’re beginning to worry me.”
I bury my face in my hands and close my eyes tightly. I’ve been so happy lately but it’s clear that I’ll never be normal again. People always said that it would get easier in time but I’m a walking disaster waiting to happen.
“Today... It’s not a good day for me,” I tell her briefly.
I can see that she doesn’t fully understand but she refrains from asking me questions, instead she seems to only want to help even though I just yelled at her, “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
“Unless you can somehow bring Jade back to me? Then no.”
Ella slowly begins to sit next to me and as she eases onto the couch I can feel her looking over at me, “I wish I could... But I can listen. If you want to talk about her or get your feelings out.”
“Talking doesn’t help... I’ve done therapy, Ella. I’ve taken medications but they make me numb and then days like these just set me back.” Any days that reminded me of Jade set me back. The day we met, the day she died... Her funeral. As if days aren’t hard enough without her, those days just seem harder than others.
“What about today is making it hard on you?” Ella asks me the dreaded question, the one that I know would come eventually and that I will never be able to answer without feeling the same pain in my chest as I had when I lost her.
When I look at Ella the only thing I can do is tell her, it may seem over dramatic but to me it’s so much more, “This is the day that I met Jade for the first time...”
She seems to be at loss for words and I don’t expect her to say anything more. Nothing she or anyone else says can make this easier for me. It’s impossible. Jade will always be gone and I will always be miserable deep down inside, no matter how hard I try to cover it up.
“You know, the day that I met her I had no idea who she would become to me... I had no idea that she would make me feel so important and loved. Hell, I didn’t know that I could love anyone until I met her...” I smile at the memory, remember how my heart would pound in my chest when I would see Jade and how I couldn’t stop smiling around her, “She made me become a better person and for her I wanted to try to be better. I was finally beginning to see a future for myself when the car accident happened.”
“I can’t even begin to imagine like I know what you’re going through,” Ella’s voice is soft and somewhat comforting, much unlike my therapist. All of those assholes are just emotionless pricks.
“I lost so much that day,” My voice trails off and I feel my eyes water from the painful memory. Waking up in a hospital bed to my mom and dad telling me that Jade didn’t make it was the worse thing that ever happened to me, nothing in life could possibly be worse... Or so I thought.
“Mr. Reid, we have Ms. Cooper’s files like you asked...” The doctor said as he walked into my room, files in hand and slowly passed them to me, “You’re listed as her emergency contact and next of kin.”
I say nothing. There’s nothing in this world that I could say to make me feel better and I’m afraid that if I speak I’ll cry and I don’t cry. Not in front of people, barely at all. I open the manila folder and read the information, the cause of death was listed as a Pulmonary Embolism. I’ll be damned if I know what the fuck that means.
I point to it without a word so the doctor can explain. He glances at the paper and nods his head, “A condition in which trauma occurs after an accident. Ms. Cooper has a lot of bleeding internally and there were some things that could not be prevented and some precautions that had to be taken in order to give her the best care possible.”
Rolling my eyes, I continue to read over Jade’s paperwork. I look over her name a million times just to make sure they don’t have the wrong person, but each time her name is written there and each time I read it, my heart breaks.
“Sir, as I’m sure you’re already aware, the fetus was also unable to be saved... It was already gone when Ms. Cooper was omitted.”
My head snaps up in his direction and I raise an eyebrow, “The what?”
“The... Fetus.” He speaks slowly, furrowing his brows in confusion when I respond in such a confused way, “Mr. Reid, I assume that you’re aware that Ms. Cooper was pregnant.”
“No... No, she wasn’t.” I tell him, shaking my head at the ridiculous accusation, “She would have told me. She was focusing on school... She...”
The doctor seems puzzled but is quick to come up with a possible understanding, “It was very early on, it’s quite possible that she didn’t know.”
Everything in my body shifts and just when I think that I couldn’t be any more miserable, I learn that Jade had been pregnant. That she and I would have been parents together. I’m left with so many questions; Did she know? Was she going to tell me? Was our baby a boy or a girl?
“She was...” Ella’s voice interrupts the memory as I explained to her how that day was more miserable than anyone else knew.
“Pregnant,” I nod my head, “Our baby would be around four years old if the accident didn’t happen. A lot of tests were done, I learned that she had only been a few weeks and I’m nearly certain that she had no idea...”
Ella seems speechless and I can’t much blame her, if I hadn’t been in so much shock I would have been speechless, too. I lost everything that day. The love of my life and my chance at having a family of my own.
“I never told anyone...” I admit to her, “It isn’t something I like talking about so every year I grieve Jade and silently, on my own, I grieve my child. Alex.”
“It was a boy?” She asks me.
I shake my head no, “I don’t know. I couldn’t keep thinking of my kid without a name, so I honored my mother. If it had been a girl she would have been called Alexandra, if a boy, then he would have been Alexander. Just so my kid can have a name other than fetus or baby.”
“Oh my god, Thomas...” Her voice speaks for itself and after speaking about Jade and Alex for the first time, I’m choked up and can’t manage any more words. It felt okay while I was speaking but after I said it aloud I just broke down into tears.
Things would have been so different now. I’d be married, I’d have a four year old and maybe even more kids, but I’ll never know. I’ll never know what my life would have been like if I never lost Jade.
I feel my chest tightening and I tug off my tie roughly, tossing it on the floor and closing my eyes tightly. My sobs are so hard that breathing is coming difficult to me. It hurts so much. Without a thought, I lean against Ella and her arms wrap around me, pulling me into a comforting hug that I never realized I needed so badly.
I cry in her arms like a pathetic little boy but it feels so good to have someone comfort me, to have someone know the whole story. This doesn’t make moving on any easier but someone knows my child’s name, they know that my baby existed and at this point, that’s all I could ever want.