Nostalgia is a Liar

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Chapter Twenty-Four

Present Day, Winter 2019

It’s New Year’s Eve, Cooper and Jason are out getting beers at the local pub down the road from their parents’ place.

Cooper had been nursing the same beer for the past hour.

“Okay, are you going to fess up on why you’re moping, or do I have to drag it out of you?” Jason pipes up.

“Huh?”

“You’ve been in this funk for the past week now bud… what’s going on?”

Cooper leans back in his seat, runs a hand across his tired face. Pinching at the bridge of his nose with his index finger and thumb.

“Am I doing the right thing?”

“What?”

He clears his throat, takes a big gulp of his beer “Getting married to Hannah… am I doing the right thing?”

Jason is left speechless. His mouth opening to form the words, but none are forthcoming.

Cooper proceeds, “I have feelings… love… I think… for Hannah… I’m happy with my life with her…and I don’t know… seeing Lu… it’s not fair right? To compare what I had with Lu… to what I have with Han… it’s not the same thing… right? What we had was… epic… and a lot of firsts… and…”

Jason holds a fisted hand up to his mouth. His eyebrows drawn together. Still unable to formulate an appropriate response.

“Well, are you gonna just sit there… nothing… no unsolicited advice?”

“Well it’s not really unsolicited if you’re asking…”

“Ha! Now he decides to grow a brain” Cooper takes another swig of his beer.

“Look, Coop… the whole reason I decided to give things another shot with Leo… was because of what you and Luna had. You’re right, you guys were epic. And frankly, I think you still love her…”

“Of course, I still love her… that’s not the question at hand…”

“Is the question if you love Luna more than you love Hannah?”

He shrugs, frustrated with his brother. But also frustrated with himself.

“God damn Luna Jiménez. How is this woman still messing with my head and heart… and we’re not even together anymore? It’s ridiculous!”

Jason chuckles, “What do you want Cooper? Or… who do you want?”

Cooper tosses his head back, running his palms down his thighs. Then runs a hand through his outgrowing bristly hair.

“Why’s it even a question?” he shakes his head, “I mean, what if Luna is done with us and won’t even contemplate rehashing the relationship…”

“You are not seriously suggesting rehashing the relationship with Luna while still with Hannah, right? And if Luna says no, what… do you go to your fallback option of marrying Hannah? You once gave me real sound advice when I was acting like an absolute prick… Man up kid. This is someone’s life, it’s not a game…”

“You’re right” Cooper raises a hand, palm outturned, “I can’t do that to either of them. The truth is, dating Hannah snowballed into an engagement and avalanched into these extravagant wedding plans. I was trying to move on with my life… find the new normal… trying to forget my old life… my little girl… Luna…”

Jason places his hand on Cooper’s shoulder, “Coop… do you want to marry Hannah still?”

He looks up, meeting Jason’s gaze. “No.”

Jason nods, “Then it’s time you be honest with her. And I know the answer to the next question… but do you think, maybe… just maybe… you want some stormy weather?”

Cooper chuckles, swatting away his brother’s hand.

Cooper gets up, and settles the tab.

“What are you doing?” Jason asks.

“I’m going to talk to Hannah.”

“On New Year’s Eve? Have a heart bro… don’t dump the poor girl on the last day of the year. Imagine what the start of her new year would be?”

“Should I wait until she’s walking down the aisle instead? Whether I tell her today or tomorrow… it won’t hurt any less J”

Jason sighs, “Big facts… well, good luck bro”

“Yup, am gonna need it.”

Cooper heads for the door.

“Hey Coop!”

He turns, hands in the pockets of his jeans. “Yeah?”

“What about the other conversation?”

Cooper smiles, “I might have to sleep on that… I think… not sure yet buddy…”

He waves off, then walks out the front door of the pub.

Cooper had driven over to Hannah’s place. He nervously rung the doorbell, not even entered the house before he started to spill his guts.

She yelled and cried. She slapped him a few times. Struggled to take the ring off her finger. When it eventually dislodged, she tossed it in the air, and it made its way down a storm sewer.

She slammed the door shut in his face, well more like the back of his head as he was still staring at the 10, 000 dollars going literally down the drain.

He slowly made his way down the stairs from her front door. He got down on his haunches to see if the ring was maybe still in sight, but the melted snow in a rushing stream flushed it well along now.

He gingerly rises to his feet, shoves his hands in the pockets of his navy-blue bomber jacket. He starts walking.

As the walking led to the only person, he’d had on his mind all day, all past days honestly.

He stands looking up at their old flat.

His mind flashes back to New Year’s Eve of 2011.

They had gone out to party with Luna’s work friends in Waltham. The party was continuing, but Luna had had too much of Diego’s special punch, so they decided to head home in a cab.

It was 15 minutes to the start of 2012, Luna and Cooper were sitting fully clothed in an empty bathtub, their legs hanging over the length side of the tub and their heads resting against the tiled wall.

Cariño, I think we are getting to old for this lifestyle”

He chuckles, “Hmmm”

“That punch…” she looks across at him, “Amirite? Like what the hell?”

He couldn’t help laughing out loud. Her cheeks were flushed, and her eyes struggle to widen from being squint. Luna was the tamest, sweetest and most passive drunk in the history of these traits to drunks.

“And Jackie… oh Dios mío… she’ll have some ’splaining to do to Adam in the morning de verdad… esa chica was living her best life” she snorts a giggle, followed by a tiny hiccup.

She finally succumbs, resting her eyes, laying her head on his shoulder.

“What do you wish for the new year Coop?” she mutters

“Love and happiness with you”

She smirks, “Yeah but what else?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like… do you want a promotion? Do you want us to get engaged? Get a house, start a family?”

He peeks around to see if she’s reopened her eyes. She was quietly smiling, eyes still closed.

“Do you want those things?”

“A promotion would be cool…”

“Yeah, smart ass… the other things?”

She shrugs, “… maybe…” she nestles a bit closer, wrapping her arm around his waist. “I’ve never had a house of my own… always lived in someone’s room in their house… never had a family of my own either. So yeah, I’d like to have those things at least once in my life too… ya sabes

He presses a kiss to the top of her head, “I know babe…”

He closes his eyes, inhales and after what felt like an eternity exhales as he takes the flight of stairs.

Luna opens the door, wearing grey sweatpants and his Boston University hoodie. She had a glass of wine in hand.

“Coop…”

“I don’t know what I’m doing here…” he starts

She giggles, “Are you drunk?”

He shakes his head, running a hand across the back of his head. “I had one beer…”

She widens the door, “Come on in?”

He slowly follows her inside. Waffles runs up to him, he lowers to pet their once-shared Girberian Shepsky.

“Hey boo” he ruffles the fur around Waffles’ neck, licks and happy barks all round. And just as quickly the novelty wears off and Waffles goes back to his bed in the corner, resuming the chewing of his bone toy.

Cooper slowly straightens up, rubbing the shed fur from his palms onto the front of his jeans.

“Do you want another beer?”

He shakes his head, clears his throat “I broke off my engagement.”

Her eyes widen, “You did what now?”

“But… but that’s not it… I don’t think…” he shakes his head again; he paces on the spot. “I was talking to Jase… and… I knew I had to call it off…”

He frowns, showing the palms of his hands, seeking for affirmation. “…coz it’s not what I want. And I didn’t want to call it off to do this… or to do this to do that… you know?”

“No Coop, I actually don’t… you’re kinda rambling right now, making no sense.”

She moves closer to him, reaches out and grips his forearm. “Are you okay? With… everything? I mean, you were gonna get married…”

“I…” he struggles, “I wanted… well I thought I wanted this life… this seemingly normal life… and she was there… and you weren’t…”

“Okay…” Luna takes a step back

He reaches out for her, but she steps further back. Confusion on her face.

“No… not like that Lu… I understood… I got it, you needed to heal. I needed to heal… we needed space… and I just… well, I thought that if I got a normal girl, with a normal life… that’d I’d be happy.”

Luna shrugs her shoulders, “So? Why are you here? We obviously were the furthest thing from normal… or happy”

“That’s just it…” he takes another daring, bold step. Luna stays place this time.

He reaches out, runs his thumb along her cheek.

“My world never seemed right… It was like something was missing… and I only realized it when I saw you again. You…” he smiles, nervously as she was still apprehensive, “… you make me laugh, heart and soul. I love, heart and soul… seeing you again, it felt like taking a first breath coming up after being submerged in an ocean of water.”

His thumb moves across her bottom lip, “I felt… everything. Lu, I will risk the lightning because you make me feel alive”

Her eyebrows draw together. She didn’t understand the reference. It resonated with him now, as he was talking to Jason about the comparison of loving her to lightning. He chuckles, lowering his gaze displaying those eyelashes nonchalantly.

He looks up and reconnects. Her eyes were watery now. Her shoulders more relaxed. Her cheek leaning into his touch.

He swallows hard, “… and I know everything magical in life is ephemeral… and most nothing lasts forever. I know the risk of being all in, having someone be the entirety of your world…”

His eyes glisten, as he powers through this unrehearsed monologue.

“…because when it goes away… it fucking hurts and it cripples and it changes you, it reveals all the ugly insecurities inside. But babe, I would die a thousand times over if it meant I have you in my world. I would take all the heartache and grief, if it meant just one moment in time with you. Lu, when you said you couldn’t let me in… I said goodbye. And I’m sorry for not fighting for us, for you… I would’ve taken myself apart to lend you pieces, just to put you back together… but, I was wrong. It wasn’t for me to fix you. I should’ve been the one to hold your hand as you picked yourself up and put yourself back together… supporting you, loving you, giving you time and space, not another break.”

A tear drips from her eyelash onto his hand.

“Cooper, I wouldn’t let you in. You did everything humanly possible. Our break was on both of us, not just you.”

“My life, my world… it doesn’t make sense without you…”

She carefully places her hands on his chest, palms flat against the padding of his jacket. His hands resting on her hips. She looks up at him, standing almost on her tip toes.

“I love you… I always will. But doesn’t it frighten you, that we are so integral in each other’s worlds and lives. What happens when it goes away again? I don’t know if I can handle my world shattering like that again…”

“You are so infinitely worth it!”

Luna steps back, taking a few more steps back until she’s sitting on the armrest of the couch.

“This is all so fast… and you’ve just broken things off, you were engaged… I was at your engagement party; people were congratulating you…”

He walks over, sitting on the armrest opposite her. Slightly reaching out, tapping his index finger on her knee.

“Hey, you…” she smiles, as he looks at her, “… I’m not here to rush you into anything. I get it Lu. I made a knee-jerk decision to ask Hannah to marry me, then I made another seeming odd decision to call it off on New Year’s Eve no less… I’m sounding like stuff Jase would do right now.”

She giggles.

“But the only thing I am 100 percent certain of is that I love you… and I just don’t want to be with anyone else. And I’m praying to whatever god would give me the time of day… that you’d find it in your heart to have me back.”

A loud countdown to the old year starts, emanating from outside. Then fireworks sound and light up the sky. A frightened Waffles whimpers in the corner. Another loud bang of fireworks and flashes in the night sky. Waffles runs over to where Cooper stood, bundled up at his feet.

Cooper bends down and strokes comfort along Waffles’ spine. He presses a kiss to the top his dog’s head.

“It’s okay buddy… just people being silly while excited” he continues to rub at the sides of his neck.

Auld Lang Syne blares from a loudspeaker, people singing along.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?

Cooper looks up at Luna, smiling. Tilting his head in suggestion that she takes head of the lyric.

She drops her head and giggles.

The fireworks have stopped, the cheering and celebrations taken full flight. Waffles seemed more relaxed, still at Cooper’s feet.

He straightens again, shrugging his shoulders.

Luna rolls her eyes, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “Fine… but don’t go thinking you’re moving back in mister. Waffles and I are loving our space.”

His face beams with excitement, motions suggestion to give her a hug. She nods.

He wraps her up in his arms and twirls her around, pressing kisses to her neck.

They finally settle, he holds her gaze. And finally, he kisses her lips.

“It’s been over a year ago that I’ve kissed you last…” he says

“Coop, is that one of those New Year’s jokes coz yesterday was last year?”

“What?” he tosses his head back with laughter, “OMG Jiménez, what am I gonna do with you? I mean, it’s literally been a year ago since we last kissed”

“Oh…” her cheeks flush, she giggles. She drops her head, embarrassed.

“Hey, you…” he presses a kiss to each heated cheek.

She looks back up into his sparkling eyes. She’d have looked into them a thousand times before, but at this moment she swore she’d seen them in a brand-new light.

“I love you”

Yo también te quiero, cariño

He pulls her closer, breathing in the sweet scent of her hair.

Sweet Caroline sounds over someone’s speakers blasting on maximum. A crowd chorusing along in a discordant, drunkard fashion. There were a few howls to frame the scene.

They both chuckle, Cooper adds “You gotta love Boston on New Year’s!”

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