Heart to Heart
By the time Lesly made it back home, she was already determined to have an honest discussion with Alec and to put an end to their entanglement with one another. She firmly believed that it was not too late to save the two of them from the drama that was bound to ensue. The only problem was that she did not know how to bring it up. She could not think of a way either because her head felt like it could split open any second. Her allergies were acting up, and they made her feel more miserable than ever.
Alec seemed oblivious to the fact because he had taken his coat off and asked if she was interested in having a drink with him. She agreed reluctantly, removed her coat and followed him to the kitchen. Lesly watched him as he grabbed two bottles of beer from the fridge and sat across from her on the kitchen counter. He removed the cap off one bottle before he handed it to her and kept the other bottle for himself. It did not take him long before he began telling her about one of the cases that was assigned to him. Apparently, he had encountered an issue, and he wanted to run it by her to see if she had ever experienced a similar situation. Lesly listened to what he had to say, but her mind was half occupied with how she was going to handle the delicate matter she wished to approach him about. He must have noticed that something was off about her because he immediately began asking if something was wrong.
“Did something happen today?”
“No, why are you asking?” Lesly responded casually.
“Your eyes and nose are red. I did not want to say anything about it earlier, but now you seem distracted as well.”
“It’s nothing,” Lesly said with a dismissive wave. “A colleague of mind got into a major fight with her boyfriend, and he kept on sending her flowers to show her how sorry he was. We all thought it was sweet at first, but eventually it became difficult for those with allergies to walk around the office without sneezing like hell.”
Alec smiled when he noticed how viciously she was rubbing her eyes. He was tempted to stop her, but then he decided that it would be better to fetch her a box of tissues instead. With that thought in mind, he stood up and walked towards the coffee table to get it for her.
“Did you take your antihistamines?” He asked from behind her.
“I tried. They didn’t work. I just have to suffer through the episode until it passes.”
“Did the guy at least win your colleague back?”
She could hear the hint of amusement in his voice echoing behind her. This made her mutter her answer in frustration, “Not yet. She’s not ready to forgive him, and I don’t think she’s ready to forgive him any time soon.”
“What did he do to get her so mad?” Alec inquired as he placed the box of tissues in front of her on the counter.
“Beats me. I just hope she forgives him soon for our sinuses’ sake. God the headache is killing me!”
Alec watched her as she laid her elbows on the counter, shut her eyes and began massaging her temples furiously. Thinking that alcohol would make her condition worse, he tried to take the bottle away from her. Her eyes fluttered open and saw him reaching for her drink.
“Maybe alcohol isn’t the way to go,” he tried to explain.
She shot him a threatening glare, “Don’t you dare take that away from me! I need it.”
Alec watched her with amusement evident on his face as she took one sip after another. The frown never left her face the entire time.
“How long do you think she’s gonna stay mad?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t think it would make much of a difference. Even if she does get over it, it will only be a matter of time before they get into another fight. It’s been a turbulent relationship from the get-go, and it feels like the entire office is in for the ride.”
“That bad, huh?”
Lesly shrugged in defeat, “Haven’t you ever been in a relationship like that?”
“Not really, no.”
“So you don’t get it?”
“You’ve been in one?” He asked, curious.
“I guess you could say that,” she answered evasively before she took a sip of her drink.
Alec watched her curiously, wondering all the while whether he should ask about the one person whom he believed to be the source of her hesitation.
“Was it with Henry?” he finally asked after a moment of silence.
He waited for her to explain, to say something, but she continued to evade his inquisitive looks.
“So it wasn’t the least bit turbulent with him?”
Lesly stared at him for a moment, not knowing how to answer his question.
“Why are you asking about him again?” She finally inquired.
Alec shrugged, “I just can’t wrap my head around what you told me.”
“And what exactly did I tell you?”
“That he’s the one who broke it off.”
“What’s so strange about that?”
“I can’t imagine how anyone would let you go.”
Lesly smiled. She knew that his answer was a devious attempt at flattery in order to cover up the real reason behind his curiosity. He firmly believed that Henry had something to do with her hesitation to walk into another relationship, and in a way, he was not wrong, but she was not about to give him the confirmation he needed so easily.
“I have my flaws,” she maintained casually.
“I am aware of them, trust me,” he muttered with a devious smile, “and while they can be infuriating, I can’t help but find them endearing sometimes.”
She frowned at him. He winked as he took a sip of his drink.
Her frown intensified, but a smile began tugging at her mouth, “Something is clearly wrong with you.”
“Oh I’m well aware of that,” he chuckled.
She laughed and directed her attention to the bottle she was holding. Her mind began wandering into different directions, but his voice brought her back to reality.
“So?” He arched an eyebrow.
“What happened there? With Henry I mean?”
“We couldn’t make it work,” Lesly stated matter-of-factly, “He tried. I shut him out.”
“I guess it was too soon for me.”
Lesly sighed. The conversation was making her uncomfortable, but she answered him anyways. “It was a year after the Davis’ scandal. I was still in a really bad place.”
“Did he know?” Alec asked. The amused expression he had on earlier was replaced with a more serious one.
“He didn’t. There was no way he could’ve known.”
“Why didn’t you tell him?”
“I don’t know. I guess I was in denial. I wanted to believe that I was okay. I think it’s the same reason why I refused to quit my job. Michaela tried to get me to do it, but I refused. I hoped that by pretending that everything was back to normal, I could at least gain a semblance of order back. I poured all my focus on my job. I forced myself to take on the cases that brought reminders of what happened. I wanted to prove to myself that I was over it, that that incident did not shatter me. I wanted to obtain a sense of normalcy, you see. I hoped that by encountering the same ordeal over and again, my mind would finally become numb to everything that reminded me of it. I didn’t realize that I was trying to accomplish so much so soon.”
She did not break eye contact with him the entire time she was explaining her reasons. Her voice was soft, even. It barely betrayed any of the negative emotions he was sure she felt, but he knew that she was putting an act. Inside, she was in turmoil. He could see it in her eyes. She was close to breaking down, and yet, he needed her to keep on talking to him hoping that he could finally address the fears that kept her from opening up to him.
“You thought Henry was part of the solution?” He said to her when he noticed that she went quiet.
“In a way, but it was never my intention to drag him into the mess.”
“How did you two meet?”
“I met him at the hospital once when I came to pick Michaela up. She introduced us to one another. He asked her for my number the following day. She told him that she would check with me first. Michaela saw through me. She told me I should take my time, but in my attempt to prove to her that I was fine, I agreed to meet him.”
“And?” Alec encouraged her to keep going.
“He was sweet, patient and kind. Of course, he had no idea what I had gone through before. I didn’t want him to know. I didn’t want anyone to find out. I don’t know why. I guess I was trying to deny that what had happened had happened. I deceived myself into thinking that I was okay with being involved with someone so soon. The reality, however, was the exact opposite.”
“What happened?” Alec asked with a hint of concern.
Lesly’s hand shook as she tucked a stray strand behind her ear. She kept her eyes fixed on the bottle as she tried to explain.
“I couldn’t put an act anymore. I tried. I really did. The first time we became… physically intimate, I gave him everything I had just to prove to myself that I can. Later that night, however, I could not get a wink of sleep. All the feelings I felt while I was in captivity rushed back. I felt used, violated, humiliated. Reality hit me hard. I was still the same broken woman I was the year before. Nothing had changed.”
Lesly remembered all too well how the events of that night unfolded. Henry had fallen asleep and was completely oblivious to the demons that began haunting her. She could not stand lying in bed next to him any longer, so she immediately got up, began picking her clothes off the floor and put them on. She left his apartment a moment later and drove back to hers. The minute she arrived, she got into the shower, sat down on her bathroom floor and broke down. She waited for the water to wash away her feelings of self-loathing and humiliation. They never left her, however.
Alec’s voice was gentle as he asked, “You put up with that for five months?”
“Yes,” she whispered. Her gaze avoided his.
“He didn’t notice that something was wrong?”
“Eventually, he did.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt him,” Lesly’s voice shook, “I liked him. I really did. Still, I refused to let him in, even after I found my resolve to deceive myself waning. I became cold, distant. I avoided him as much as I could. He tried to get me to talk to him. I would just tell him that I was busy and that I had a lot on my mind. I dragged this stubborn selfish act for five months. I put him through a hell of his own.”
“What happened then?” He inquired in a low deep voice.
“I found out that he was cheating on me.”
He did not say anything, but she knew that if she looked at him, he would be frowning. Her hold tightened around the bottle as she continued, “I confronted him about it. He said that he felt that he was forcing himself on me, that the old me had disappeared. He told me that I shut him out, that he could barely sense any life in me. My eyes were dead; my mind was someplace else. He was not wrong. It was all I could do to keep myself sane throughout the whole thing. I didn’t chastise him. I couldn’t be mad at him. I realized then that I never loved him, that I was just using him to get myself to believe that I was fine. We broke it off that night.”
Lesly took a deep breath and tried to gather the courage to keep on going. This was a matter that she hated talking about, but he needed to know where she stood.
“Michaela lost it when I told her what happened. Her love and loyalty to me blinded her to the part I played in the drama that unfolded. She felt responsible for introducing him to me. This pushed her to seek him out and to give him an earful. She didn’t tell him what exactly happened to me, but she told him that he shouldn’t have said what he said because of something I went through. It all made sense to him that instant. He tried to call more than once, but I was still dealing with the realization that I have failed miserably to pluck myself out and that I would never be okay again… I was…I tried…”
Lesly struggled to continue, but she decided to end her account right there when she noticed that her voice began to quiver. She felt Alec’s intense gaze on her. He was probably waiting for her to finish. She wanted to let him know there was nothing left to be said. However, she was worried that if she did, she would break down and he would know that she was barely keeping herself together.
“Is that all?” Alec finally asked when she went quite for a while.
“Yes,” she whispered.
She had no idea what went on inside his head because she still could not bring herself to look him in the eye. It would have been useless anyways because her vision was cloudy with unshed tears. A few seconds later, she heard the sound of his chair being pushed away and she knew that he got up. In her distressed state, her mind could not comprehend what was happening. She soon found out, however, why he left his seat. It hit her when his arms wrapped around her and brought her closer to him. She broke down instantly and buried her head in his chest.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he whispered to her as he placed a hand on her head.
She said nothing. Her hands gripped the front of his shirt and she continued to sob silently.
He kept her in his embrace and struggled hard to search his mind for something that he could say to her. Nothing came to him, however, except the word ‘sorry’. He was sorry she met him that day. He was sorry he asked her for help. He was sorry she had to endure this soul-crushing experience after saving his life. He knew now the extent of her fears and how responsible he was for them. He knew how difficult it was for her to tell him what she just told him. He knew how worried she was that if he showed her any hint of understanding or compassion, she would break down before she told him everything.
Lesly was locked securely in his hold for what seemed like an eternity. She eventually laid a hand on his arm to let him that she was better now. Alec released her and took a seat next to her. He still kept an arm on the back of her chair as he fixed his concerned gaze on her.
“Is there anything I can get you?” He asked.
“No, I’m fine,” she whispered as she wiped her tears away.
Alec brushed her hair away from her face and was rewarded with a sad smile. He began caressing her cheek with the back of his hand, but she covered his hand with hers, brought it down, and gave it a gentle squeeze before she released it.
Lesly was determined to see the matter through to the end. What she wanted to do next was going to be just as difficult as telling him about her past. She locked her gaze with his and sought to explain the purpose behind sharing her experience with him.
“That discussion we had the other day, you told me it wasn’t over,” she began.
Alec knew what went on in her mind. He sought to discourage her immediately, “We don’t have to talk about this now.”
“I told you what I just told you for a reason. You know that,” She explained calmly.
“It’s been years, Lesly. You’re not the same as you were back then. You’ve come a long way since.”
“There are things that haven’t changed,” she reasoned and hoped that he would understand where she was going.
“How can you be so sure?”
“I don’t have the courage to find out,” she replied. Her voice was trembling.
“I’ll wait. I don’t care how long it takes. I’m not giving you up,” he said stubbornly.
“It won’t be fair to you.”
“It won’t be fair to me if you won’t at least give me a chance,” he retorted. His tone became just as emotional as hers. He knew where she was going with her argument and he felt a sense of frustration at not being able to talk her out of her decision.
“I don’t want to take any risks.” Her eyes were over brimming with tears again. “I care about you. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Alec was slowly losing control over his temper. His hands turned into fists as he struggled to maintain a calm tone.
“You’re not making much sense,” he reasoned. “You’re doing it now by pushing me away without hearing me out.”
“There’s a reason why I didn’t want to tell you about my past. I didn’t want you to feel obligated to stick around just because you think it’s the right thing to do. I know you. Your sense of decency wouldn’t allow it. Nonetheless, I took the risk because I felt that you deserved an honest answer.”
“Lesly!” He warned. His voice grew louder when he realized that she was basically denying the feelings that he held for her.
“You feel sorry for me,” she continued stubbornly. “You think that your walking away from me now would break me. I get it, but you don’t have to worry about me. I’ll be fine.”
“Don’t you dare insinuate that I’m in this for decency’s sake.”
“You might not be aware of it now…”
“For God’s sake, do you hear yourself?!” He interrupted. His frustration and anger became more apparent.
Lesly gave him a minute to calm down before she tried to reason with him again. Her tone was soft as she spoke to him. “I’m sorry if this all seems a bit much. I just wanted to bring some clarity into the situation.”
“No, that’s not what you’re doing,” He retorted in frustration. “You’re insulting me. That’s what you’re doing.”
“Alec…” She began pleadingly, but he interrupted her.
“Get this fact into your head,” his voice quivered from having to suppress all those emotions. “I love you, damn it! I can’t give you up.”
Lesly went quite as she stared at him with teary eyes. For a moment, Alec thought that he had finally reached her. What she said next, however, told him that he had been wasting his breath this entire time.
“Please don’t make this harder than it is,” she whispered.
“Lesly…” He tried to reason one more time, but she would not let him.
“I beg you,” she pleaded. “Please. Let’s not drag this any further.”
He did not want to give up. He still had much more to say. The reality of the matter, however, was that nothing he said to her right now would change her mind. She seemed determined. He tried to reach for her hand and tell her that they should talk about this once they have both calmed down, but before he could say or do anything, she stood up, walked away and left him.