Blissful Aftermath [ROMANCE]

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Two

November 1st 2018

Audrey didn’t know what to do or say. Her mind went blank and all she could do was stare at him, almost in disbelief that he was actually standing in front of her.

“Expecting someone else?” He asked quietly, his eyes unwavering from her face, having been deprived of the beautiful sight that was her for nearly a year now.

Nearly a year of trying to gather up the courage and come see her, too afraid that it was too soon and she would send him packing. What had finally made him give in and bite the bullet, he wasn’t sure but now, standing in front of her, just looking at her, it was completely and utterly worth it.

Even if she did end up rejecting him.

Somehow, she managed to shake her head.

“You haven’t by any chance got my pizza, have you?” She asked coolly even though she knew he didn’t have her pizza. It was just a ploy to distract him while she used the spare moment to gather her thoughts.

Joseph Darcy was the last person she expected to see today.

“No, no pizza. Sorry to disappoint.” Joe chuckled and raised his hands, holding a big bag of Chinese takeout instead, further proving that he wasn’t here to deliver her pizza.

What a shame.

“What are you doing here?” She asked, regretting her words once she heard how rude she sounded, but Joe didn’t seem to mind. Either that, or he hadn’t noticed as neither the smile that played on his lips or the light in his eyes dimmed even a little.

“What? You’re not going to invite me in?”

“I wasn’t planning on it, no.” A teasing smile played on her lips despite how nervous she felt at seeing him again after so long. “What are you doing here?” She repeated her question and hoped for a straight forward answer this time, instead of another question directed at her.

“You know how hard it was to track you down?” Joe’s smile widened just a tad bit.

“I never asked for you to track me down.” Audrey huffed. When he didn’t answer her question, she continued. “How did you find me?”

Joe winked in response and brushed past her quickly into the apartment before she could stop him. Despite her protests, he didn’t relent.

Audrey turned around and braced her hands on her hips in a scolding manner, a deep frown set on her face.

“Well?” She asked.

“Well what?” He grinned and sat down on her sofa, reaching into the takeout bag to place the containers of Chinese food on the coffee table. When she didn’t join him and he glanced up from the food to find her still in the same position, he chuckled lightly and offered her an explanation.

“A friend of mine works in the same office as you. I mentioned your name and he recognised it. I had your address within the hour.” When she didn’t join him on the sofa, he glanced up. “Can you believe the coincidence?”

Audrey could not.

“That’s creepy.” She stated and turned around to close the door behind her. “Why were you even looking for me?” She asked as she turned around, stepping closer to the sofa but not daring to take a seat. Not trusting herself to not want more than just to sit next to him.

“I called you a bunch of times but I think you changed your number.” He explained. “This old man kept picking up and he didn’t appreciate being called Audrey all the time so I decided to up my game.”

“Yeah, I changed my number.” She admitted with a sigh, finally giving in and taking a seat on the sofa. She was careful to leave a gap between them, not ready to jump back into the brief friendship that they had shared in her old life.

Things were different now. She wasn’t the same Audrey anymore.

“I’m assuming your ex-husband is no longer in the picture.” He hummed, his body and tone appearing nonchalant but Audrey knew better.

She nodded, not sure why she was even answering him.

“I’m also assuming that he’s still bothering you.”

She shook her head this time. “One of the first things I did when I left him was change my number.”

“That was a smart idea.” He hummed aloud and handed her a container of noodles. When she didn’t accept it from him, he glanced up to meet her eyes, a small smile still on his lips. “You don’t like Chinese?”

Audrey frowned at the memories that one question brought forth. She shook her head to rid her mind of them, forcing herself to focus on him instead, desperately needing a distraction.

“No, I love Chinese.”

“Then what’s the problem?” He asked as he pushed the carton of noodles into her hands along with a pair of chopsticks. He then gestured to the rest of the food on the coffee table, indicating that she should help herself to whatever she fancied.

“You.” She said, not holding anything back.

Joe chuckled, unaffected and leaned back in his seat. He brushed off her remark as he got started on his dinner.

Audrey’s frown deepened as she stared at him, unbelieving of how unaffected he had been by her blatant disrespect. “Look, I’m sorry for being rude and I know you mean well, but now isn’t really the best time for me.” She huffed and then followed it up with a dramatic sigh for added effect.

“You’re right. I do mean well.” He chuckled when she glared at him. “I don’t see what the problem is. Were you expecting someone else, or something?” He asked, quirking a curious brow while attempting to remain nonchalant.

“No.” She sighed and played with her food, not really enjoying her Chinese food as much as she usually did. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she knew her pizza was on the way, or perhaps it was because the last she had ordered Chinese was about a year ago, with Calvin. Since then, she hadn’t been able to consume a single spring roll which was a shame as it was her favourite cuisine.

Either way, she wanted both him and the food gone.

“I was sort of hoping to be alone tonight.” She admitted honestly.

“You having a bad day?” He asked, his tone gentle but when she refused to answer his question, he placed the food down on the coffee table and turned his body towards her, giving her his full attention. “How about we finish dinner and then I’ll give you your space?”

“I’m not hungry.” She lied. “I can’t imagine that I’ll be very good company tonight.”

“Not even for pizza?” His expression was serious.

“Look, I didn’t ask you to come around and I’m not even sure why you’re here.” Audrey sighed, starting to get annoyed.

He merely blinked at her, almost as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing despite having expected to face her rejection. He had even given himself a brief pep-talk as he walked down the hallway, forcing himself not to expect too much from her.

All of that seemed to have flown out the window the moment she opened the door.

“Why are you here, Joe?”

He frowned. “You really want to know why I’m here?”

She nodded and dropped her untouched carton of noodles on the table, really not in the mood for it. It just brought up too many memories. As much as she thought she had grown stronger and had moved past everything, something like this happened and all the progress she made just unravelled around her and made a big mess she didn’t quite know how to deal with.

Even after a year, she couldn’t eat her favourite cuisine because it brought on too many unpleasant, uncomfortable memories.

How pathetic.

“I like you, Audrey. A lot.” He sighed, fully turning his body to face her now, giving her his undivided attention as he prepared himself to pour out his heart to her, as if he wasn’t already wearing it on his sleeve.

“So, you followed me here?” She huffed. “That’s really creepy.”

“I didn’t follow you here.” He denied. “My sister and her family live in town and have done so for the past 10 years. It’s just a coincidence that you moved here.”

Audrey wasn’t sure why that disappointed her. It would be completely absurd – and worrying – if he had packed up his life to move down here just to pursue her.

“My diner was on lease and once that ended, there wasn’t really much keeping me there anymore.” He said, an undecipherable look in his eyes. She frowned at that. “So, instead of signing up for another number of years, I decided to move back here and try my hand at a different location.”

“You’re opening a diner in town?”

He nodded. “It’s currently going through renovations but should be open for business in about 2 weeks.”

“Well, sorry.”

“What are you apologising for?” He asked even though he had a good idea why. Joe just wanted to hear her speak some more. It had been quite a while since he had spoken to her and being around her now, speaking and interacting with her – even if she was a little hesitant and hostile – made him realise just how much he had missed her.

Her cheeks heated and she gritted her teeth but nonetheless, forced the words out of her mouth.

“I thought you had come here for me.”

“Now, that’s creepy.” He chuckled and spread his arm across the back of the sofa. When her body stiffened as his hand grazed her shoulder accidentally and she leaned away from his touch, he retreated his hand and frowned, watching her every move.

“What’s wrong?” He asked.

“I don’t like Chinese.” She lied, hoping that he would believe her.

Joe frowned and watched her closely. “You said Chinese was your favourite.”

“Well, it’s not my favourite anymore.” She pursed her lips, starting to get annoyed at him.

What was up with all the questions and assumptions? People were allowed to change their mind about things!

“Let me guess, you much prefer pizza now.”

“I’m really tired.” Audrey nodded and faked a yawn to further put forth her point that he needed to leave, even though a part of her wanted him to stay. “I think I’m going to call it an early night and head to bed.”

Joe narrowed his eyes at her, the truth finally dawning on him.

“You’re trying to get rid of me.” He accused her.

“Yes.” She said, no longer feeling like beating around the bush since he had figured it out.

“Okay, wow.” He chuckled, the sound sarcastic and just slightly offended. “You could have just said that earlier before I came marching in here making a fool of myself.”

“I kind of did.” She pointed out, a teasing smile on her face.

“Right. My apologies, then.” He replied dryly. “Since you’re not a fan of it, I’ll just take my food and leave then.”

Audrey sat on the sofa and watched as he packed all the containers back in the paper bag and stood up, ready to leave.

Joe refused to meet her eyes as he walked by her, his leg brushing against hers in the process. She almost felt bad that she had insinuated that he leave; but couldn’t bring herself to ask him to stay.

She just wasn’t that person anymore.

Expecting for him to open the door and leave, that being the last she would see of him, Audrey was surprised when Joe turned around, his eyes more hurt than angry.

“You know, you can’t continue to live your life like this.” He started. “When you push people away, you’re just hurting yourself. I know you’ve been through a lot, more than most people your age, but you deserve to be happy. I don’t care if you don’t agree, but you really do and you need to hear this so don’t try to argue with me about it. You deserve all the happiness in the world and I just wish that you could open your eyes and see it for yourself.”

“I’ve been in town for a few months now and I’ve been wanting to stop by and see you, but have always put it off. Now looking at you, I wish I had come by sooner. It looks like you really could do with a friend, but that isn’t going to happen until you’re ready to open up to people.”

Audrey remained sitting on the sofa, her mouth agape in shock as she watched him and hung off his every word. His words had affected her more than she cared to admit.

“You deserve so much more Audrey. I just wish you could see it.” He shook his head and sighed, turning around to leave, as she had so graciously requested that he do.

Opening the door, he was surprised to come face to face with the pizza delivery man whom was caught off guard when the door had opened before he had even raised his hand to knock.

“How much is it?” He asked quietly, already reaching into his pocket for some cash.

“$15.”

“You don’t have to do that.” She murmured, having already fished out the money from her purse which she had left on the coffee table earlier. In response, Joe told the man to keep the change and walked out of her apartment and down the hallway, taking his Chinese with him.

As if she didn’t feel bad enough already, him paying for her pizza just made her feel so much worse. She didn’t deserve this after the way she had treated him, but he was already out of sight and she couldn’t call him back.

Audrey accepted the pizza from the delivery man and closed the door. She returned to her position on the sofa and opened the box, helping herself to a slice. On a usual day, she would eat about 3 or 4 slices from a medium sized pizza depending on how hungry she was, but today, she could barely nibble her way through one.

She was too full with guilt.

Giving up, she left the pizza in the kitchen and headed into the bathroom.

Since Audrey had taken a nap during the day, sleep did not come to her that night even though she was dressed in her comfiest pyjamas and had spent about an hour bed getting into bed pampering herself with a clay face mask, bubble bath and the richest and thickest moisturiser she owned.

Seeing as sleep evaded her, she grabbed her laptop with the intent of getting some work down. But it wasn’t just the lack of sleep that she was suffering from but rather, Joe’s words kept swirling around her head. Even when she was trying to relax in the tub with all her bath oils, he still played on her mind.

He had said that she deserved better, multiple times and she wanted to believe it, but it was just so hard.

Since her divorce, she had been really good at avoiding all things Calvin – other than the time she nearly ran back to him, but that was a story for another time. Other than during the first month where she had wallowed away in self-pity and self-loathing, not once had she stalked him on any social media platforms.

But now, with nothing to do and sleep the last thing on her mind, she found herself searching him up on Facebook. First, she typed in his full name but his profile didn’t come up. She scrolled through the ones that did but didn’t recognise any of them. She then moved onto looking at his Kade, Calvin’s brother, who thankfully, hadn’t blocked or unfriended her. Once again, she couldn’t find Calvin’s Facebook profile in his brother’s list of friends which was strange.

Had he deactivated it? Why had he done that? Had he blocked her?

Audrey frowned at the questions running through her mind. Calvin had always been quite active on Facebook and he had nearly 1000 friends on it, mostly people from school and work. She once had the privilege of being Facebook friends with him but when the cheating started, she was scared he would put up something and to save herself the pain and embarrassment from seeing such blatant evident of his extra marital affairs he wasn’t all that bothered with keeping secret, she had unfriended him.

But now, searching for him, she couldn’t get rid of the gnawing feeling that he had blocked her. Either that, or he had deactivated his account.

The former explanation seemed more plausible.

Since Facebook was a bust, she decided to head over to Instagram even though she knew she was probably going to regret it.

Audrey was very quickly disappointed when she found for her ex-husband to have only posted one picture of himself in the past year. It was around Christmas time and his nephews were climbing over her.

She hated that she didn’t hate the fact that he looked happy in the picture.

Before she did something stupid such as like the picture, she was quick to move off it. His Instagram was nearly as boring as his Facebook but before she left the page, her curiosity got the better of her and she ended up checking out the pictures that he was tagged in. Surprisingly, he had been tagged in more pictures than ones he had on his feed, 21 to be exact.

A few of them were of him and his buddies on a night out but most of them – nearly all of them – were him and a beautiful leggy blonde she had never seen before. Similar to the other picture, Calvin looked happily in all of them.

Audrey found herself scrolling these pictures, careful not to like any of them. In one they were holding hands at a restaurant and in another, they were both eating ice creams.

She found it difficult to swallow when she spotted a picture of the both of them lounging around on a very familiar sofa in a very familiar house, stuffing their faces with takeout from her favourite Chinese restaurant. Like the true masochist that she was, Audrey persevered and forced herself to look at more of his tagged pictures.

When her eyes landed on a picture of the camera angled towards them while they kissed, she forced herself to get off his page and off the app.

Stalking her ex on social media was a terrible idea, but at least she had learnt that he was seeing someone. And by the looks of the dates the pictures were taken, they seemed to have started dating around January.

How had he been able to move on 2 months after the divorce?

Was it really that easy for him to move on? Had she really been that insignificant in his life?

How was it fair that he was able to get himself a girlfriend a few months after his divorce, while she could barely make friends that actually stuck around a whole year afterwards?

How was that fair?

Even though she wasn’t sleepy, Audrey forced herself to turn off both her lamp and her phone, desperate for sleep to consume her so her brain would shut off. She didn’t want to think about holding onto something which she no longer had, and she certainly didn’t want to think that their relationship had been so frail and fragile that he was able to move on not even 8 weeks after she left.

Was she that easily replaceable?

-

Please do like and comment :) The next chapter will be up on Wednesday!

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Layla Knight

01.07.2020

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