Emma tried to call Veronica, but she wasn’t answering. She needed to talk through her thoughts with someone other than Can. Things had gotten extremely complicated very quickly. Again.
And right now, she missed the simplicity of the last three days. Nothing to worry about, no decisions to be made just him and her. Happy and in love. She wanted it back.
He’d been gone for a few hours, and she was starting to wonder where he’d gone to. She decided she was done sitting around waiting, she would just go in search of him. She put on a dress and started off in the same direction that he’d gone in a few hours ago. It didn’t take her more than maybe ten minutes until she saw him sitting on the sand dunes alone, a little further up ahead.
She walked slowly towards him, trying to gauge if he wanted her near or not. Maybe he just wanted to be left alone. But there was no sign that she wasn’t welcome. Instead of sitting down next to him, she sat down behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist.
‘You’ve been gone a long time, I missed you.’
He pushed further into her.
‘I’m sorry. I just needed a break and some time to think.’
‘That’s ok. So, do I sometimes. What are you thinking about?’
She felt his chuckle before she heard it.
‘You. It’s what occupies my mind most of the time.’
He kept looking out at the ocean.
‘Anything you want to share?’
He took hold of her hands and squeezed them.
‘You’ve always been like the wind to me.’
‘Ah. Winds can be dangerous. They can wreak havoc if they want with their speed and power.’
‘And leave you at the mercy of other elements when they choose not to appear.’
‘I’m right here, Can.’
‘I know. But for some reason, you have always escaped me as well. I can feel you; I can see you. But I can’t catch you. You keep slipping through my fingers.’
They sat in a comfortable silence, just enjoying each other’s company for several minutes before he continued.
‘I see now that I pushed too hard. Always have when it comes to you.’
‘My parents split when I was young. After that, I suppose I felt a little lost. Like I didn’t belong anywhere. I’ve carried that feeling with me until I met you. It was like finding a home. A peaceful place within the chaos. And I got scared.’
‘You’re not the only one dealing with fears, Can.’
‘I know. But ours are different. Mine is centred around the thought of losing you. Yours are centred around, leaving your past behind. And guilt in doing so. The problem with that is. If you can’t overcome yours, mine comes true.’
‘We managed to reach a compromise last time around, didn’t we? Why are you so worried about this time around?’
‘Because I know you. You don’t want to deal with Mr. Langham anymore, and he was the one person willing to take that building and turn it into what he needed it to be. Other people won’t want to do that. You said so yourself a year ago. It’s a lot of work turning that space into something else, and a lot of expense to shell out if you don’t own it. And he was willing to do that. Even you didn’t think you’d find someone else to offer you that.’
‘Ah. Well, yet again, you are a few steps ahead of me. I don’t even remember having thought on this.’
‘I know. That’s the other thing. I thought your memory would come back. I know I said that it was a back-up plan. And I used it as that. But there was still the hope that it would come back after you spent time here. But it hasn’t.’
‘No, it hasn’t. And it might not. But we’re making new memories.’
‘I know. I’m getting a little maudlin.’
‘Just a little.’
He half sat up and turned his head to look at her face. She could tell that whatever he wanted to say, he wasn’t sure how she would take it. So, she just gave him a small smile and took a leaf out of his book.
‘Just say it. I’m a big girl. I can take it.’
He didn’t smile back.
‘I’ve had building plans in a drawer at home in the big house for over a year. I had them made after our first night together at my house.’
‘What kind of drawings?’
He laid back down and turned his head back to the ocean.
‘To extend the house. I’m doubling it in size to accommodate the three children I imagined we would have.’
Emma really didn’t know what to say. She started laughing so hard that tears were running down her face. It was such a Can thing to do. Talk about moving fast. She loved this man.
Can heard that laugh and couldn’t help but join in. He was crazy. About her, at least. The only saving grace was, he knew it. He turned his body around and pushed Emma gently down on the sand and kissed her. Until he felt her hands on his chest, pushing him back.
‘This is not your beach, and it’s not private.’
He couldn’t help the smile that spread at the memory of them from a few days ago.
‘So, you get a peck and a cuddle, that’s it. Do not kiss me like that again. My hormones go into overdrive, and my mind takes a leave of absence. It’s ridiculous, but we will not disgrace ourselves out in public again. Deal?’
He put his forehead on hers and just laid there looking at her. He felt her hand at his cheek. And heard her soft-spoken words.
‘I can’t believe that I use to find this face intimidating.’
He pushed up a little.
‘When I ran into your cut out at the airport. I believe my exact words were that you would scare away more people than you would attract.’
‘You were wrong. They’ve sold more than they thought they would. I got a bonus. Your man knows how to sell. I should thank you for that.’
‘The campaign is launching in the rest of Europe in a month or so. I only did it on the condition that they would use my face in England as well. They decided they might as well use it across all of Europe. I hoped you’d see my face, miss me and come back.’
‘Ah. So how much do you owe me?’
‘Roughly six million dollars.’
‘Jesus. For a few pictures? That’s insane.’
‘And a commercial. What can I say? This face? Everyone wants it.’
‘I’m sure you’re right.’
’I ‘am always right. You should listen to everything that I say.’
‘So, what should we do now?’
He sneaked another kiss in, and when he felt her yielding, he pulled back, grinned, and said.
The easy laughter continued for the rest of the day. They’d decided on a hiatus when it came to anything important. They had seven days left. And he knew just like him, that Emma just wanted to enjoy them. Not sit around and dwell on things they couldn’t change or do anything about right now. Decisions would have to be made, but not today.
Emma was sitting in bed with a cup of tea while Can was in the gym getting a workout in. She had offered to join him, but he just laughed and said she wasn’t suited to the machines he had. There was a story there, but he wasn’t saying.
It was two days since they’d had their talk, and both had taken a step back from talking about plans and what she was going to do. But there was still an invisible barrier between them. If Emma hadn’t been so in tune with Can and his emotions. She probably wouldn’t have noticed. But she did. He was worried, and she was…all over the place.
She had still not made the call to her lawyer, and there were only five days left on their original two weeks. Not that the deal they made before mattered anymore.
They were together. But her court case was only a week and a half away, and no matter what, she had to make some decisions about what to do. The one thing that she came back to was, she could keep Hometown Café as hers.
If she wanted to.
Yes. She had promised to lease it, but the fact that Mr. Langham lied, meant that any sort of verbal agreement they’d reached, could be considered null and void. All it would require was a call made from either her lawyer. Or her, for that matter to the man in question. And he would drop it all, in exchange for not being called out and labelled a liar and cheat in public.
That she knew.
The question was, did she want the Café?
And how would that work, with Can and her? The Café was a lot of hard work. Now, she had excellent staff that could occasionally cover for her, like they were doing now. But they also had lives of their own. This wasn’t something she could expect either of them to continue regularly doing. The truth was the business took up most of her time. There wouldn’t be a lot left over for a relationship, especially not one that was long distance.
But then her thoughts turned to Amelia and Greg, busting their asses off for her. They’d been with them from the start. Working long hours, especially in the beginning, and not always compensated for. They were a part of the Hometown Café family. Would she really not fight for their jobs? Would she make them unemployed when she had a choice not to? Was that the responsible thing to do? Now granted, they weren’t going to be rich working in her coffeehouse. But it was their livelihood.
All of a sudden, her phone started vibrating. Finally.
‘Hey Emma, how’s it going?’
‘Where the hell have you been? I’ve been calling you for two days. I was getting worried.’
‘I’m sorry. Its been craziness and mayhem over here.’
‘What’s going on?’
‘You know the rumours that were circulating about the marketing firm I’m with? That they were going to get bought up?’
‘Turns out it wasn’t just that they were getting bought up. It was a hostile takeover. Which has had me up day and night for the past three days. And the reward for that, you might ask, is we have all been made redundant. So, next week will be my last.’
Emma didn’t know what to say. Veronica had loved her job.
‘I’m sorry, honey. You should have called me, talked to me about it.’
‘There was nothing you could have done. I held out hope that by showing my skills, they would consider keeping me on. But it turns out they’re not keeping anyone.’
‘What will you do?’
‘I don’t know. I get a severance package, a couple of months’ worth of pay. Which is better than nothing. Who knows, maybe I’ll decide to come see you. Get away from this place for a while.’
Come and see her? She didn’t even know if she would be here.
‘Oh. Well that…that’s definitely, something we can talk about.’
‘Emma? I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have rambled on. How is it going for you, guys?’
‘It’s going well. I actually had a talk with Can the other day, about Mr. Langham.’
She could tell that her tone had alerted Veronica that something was amiss. Because her tone changed to one of concern.
’What did Can tell you?
‘Mr. Langham lied. I never promised to sell. I apparently made an agreement to lease him the premises for two years with a possible extension. But I didn’t agree to sell.’
‘Are you serious?’
‘As a heart attack. Can was in the room when I made the call. He’s willing to not only make a written statement but to testify to that fact on my behalf.’
‘I can’t believe the nerve of that man. He lied knowing full well how much this means to you, it’s absolutely disgusting. What would have happened when you remembered? Didn’t he think about that?’
‘I don’t think he thinks I ever will.’
‘Has there been any more memories? Anything else that has popped up?’
‘No. I get a feeling sometimes that something is familiar. But nothing tangible. I don’t know if it will ever come back.’
‘What does Can say about all this?’
‘We haven’t talked about it much in the past few days. It’s gone on the forbidden topic list. He’s dealing with not only the feelings from this time around. But from what happened a year ago.’
‘Yeah. Apparently, we fought over it then as well. Can didn’t want me to call my lawyer and get the process against Mr. Langham started.’
‘But last time you agreed to lease the building? You gave up the Café for him.’
‘And he was still angry?’
‘Yes. He feels like that place keeps me connected to Brad. And my old life. He wants me to sell it completely.’
‘I think he still wants me to consider Mr. Langham as an option.’
There was silence on the other line when she said that. And she could tell Veronica was thinking this through herself.
‘I suppose. If you were to sell. It doesn’t matter if it’s to him.’
Was everyone around her crazy, or was she?
‘Are you serious? He tried to steal it from under me.’
‘He’s paying rather handsomely for it, Emma. So, it’s cheating but not really stealing.’
‘You’re not seriously trying to tell me that you are on Can’s side on this?’
‘I’m not on anyone’s side except yours. I just want you to look at all your options. And if one option you are considering, is selling. Then it might as well be to Mr. Langham. At least you can negotiate a good deal with him. You have him between a rock and a hard place. I’m sure he would pay extra to not have this sordid business out in public.’
‘So, you think I should sell, and blackmail him with all this to get a better price?’
‘Why not. He played dirty with you. He has shown that he has no problem breaking the rules himself. I don’t see why you wouldn’t give him a taste of his own medicine.’
‘I haven’t even decided if I’m going to sell, lease, or keep it.’
‘I could just as easily blackmail him to drop it altogether. And keep it the way I have it now.’
‘Is that something you want to do?’
‘I don’t know what I want to do, Veronica. That’s why I’ve been trying to call you. I have no fucking clue as to what I’m doing. I need advice.’
‘I can’t help you with that, honey. These decisions are too important for you to be influenced by anyone other than yourself. You are the one that will have to live with the decisions you make. No one else. That’s why you must make them on your own, Emma.’
‘I hate when you get all sensible and logical.’
‘I can still listen Emma. What does your head and heart say?’
‘They are currently not on speaking terms.’
‘Come on, Emma. Talk to me. What are you thinking and feeling?’
‘Its all so jumbled. I have so many conflicting emotions about this, I really don’t know what to say.’
Veronica kept silent on the other end, waiting for her to open up.
‘I love Can. I want to be with him. I am scared that I’m jumping into this headfirst. I’m uncomfortable that I’m not just factoring him in but basing such a big decision on someone I’ve been with for such a short amount of time. It’s crazy.’
‘But you want to be with him?’
‘I do. I love him, Veronica. It’s strong and powerful and absolutely all-consuming.’
‘It sounds to me like you’ve already taken one of the three options off the table. You don’t want to keep Hometown Café; you want to be with Can.’
‘But is that the right thing to do? That Café was Brad’s dream. Mine too, at least for a while. And I can’t help but feel that I owe it to him to keep it. Not give up on something he poured his heart and soul into. Something he built to sustain even after he was gone.’
The sympathetic kind tone did it for her, and she could hear herself choking up.
‘I can’t deal with the guilt Veronica. I thought Brad and I had a love that was special and unique, something that would last for the rest of our lives. But maybe we didn’t. What we had wasn’t even half as powerful in comparison to what I’m feeling for Can. And it’s horrible to think that not only did I not love my husband the way he deserved to be loved. But now I’m going to erase him, and his memory and legacy from my life completely? Sell off what mattered to him most in the world apart from me. Take the money from his inheritance and start a new life with someone I love more. How can I do that? Do I not owe him at least this small sacrifice of keeping his dream alive?’
She hadn’t expected that.
‘What do you mean, no?’
‘I mean no, you don’t owe him that. He’s gone, Emma. He’s not sitting on your shoulder, judging you. And I know for a fact that he wouldn’t want you to do this to yourself. You just said it. Hometown Café was the thing Brad loved the most in the world except for you. He loved you more. And if it had been between your happiness and your Café? He would have given the fucking thing up himself. He loved you, Emma. And you loved him.’
‘I know. I just- ’
‘Stop comparing. It’s not fair to either you or Brad or Can, for that matter. If Brad was still alive, you wouldn’t even have looked Can’s way. And you would never have experienced not a better, but a different kind of love. And you would have been happy with what you had. And that’s what you have got to remember. Brad was happy, and so were you. And he didn’t feel like he somehow got the short end of the stick. He had you, Emma.’
‘The only thing Brad wanted was for you to be happy. And if not having the café anymore, if you have a different dream now, Brad would have been the first one to stand in your corner and cheer you on. Wishing you good luck.’
‘So, stop making Brad your excuse for your own guilt and fear, Emma. And let him go. If you had passed away, would you have wanted Brad to live the rest of his life alone, in that Café? Or would you only have wanted him happy with someone else, as long as he loved that woman a little less than he loved you? I mean, you hear how this sounds, right?’
Yes, she did. If the roles had been reversed, she would have wanted Brad happy. She wouldn’t have wanted him miserable and alone. Veronica was right. She had loved Brad very much. Not this explosive love. But love, nevertheless. And she needed to stop feeling so guilty. Brad would not have wanted her to feel this way.
If he saw her now, he would have been the first one to tell her that there was nothing to feel guilty about. To let him go. And do it with a clean conscience and a pure heart. He would not have wanted to be the obstacle or the excuse that stood in the way of her being happy again. That wasn’t honouring his memory. The man he was. And that was a man, with no malice or jealousy. Only love. For her.
‘Veronica. I got to go.’
‘Emma. I’m sorry I didn’t mean- ’
‘No. Don’t apologise. You gave me some home truths that I needed to hear. I just need a few minutes. Ok? Don’t worry, I’m not mad.’
‘Ok. Call me when you’ve decided on what to do.’
Emma hung up the phone. Then she got up from bed, walked into the bathroom, turned on the shower, took off her clothes, and went in. It didn’t take more than a few seconds for her to feel the rush of hot tears leaking out of her eyes. She would keep the memory of Brad in her heart forever, but she couldn’t live with his presence in her life anymore. No matter what, she decided when it came to Mr. Langham or the Café. It was time to say goodbye.
Can sat on their bed and listened to the heart-breaking cries that came from the bathroom. And almost lost it himself. He hadn’t meant to eavesdrop. But the thought of Emma waiting for him in bed had made him cut his routine a little shorter. He thought to burn some calories in a more enjoyable way. When he heard her on the phone talking about Brad, he couldn’t help but stay frozen and listen.
He hadn’t understood.
He knew she had felt guilty for being with him. But he hadn’t understood how deep that went. He had never loved anyone before. He was starting with a clean slate in the love department. And he hadn’t appreciated how hard it was when you didn’t. Especially when it hadn’t been a choice to stop that relationship, but it had been taken from you.
Last year, Emma had agreed to let go of the Café. Instead of appreciating what it must have taken for her emotionally to mentally see the coffeeshop demolished into something else, he’d complained. Wanted more. Thinking only of himself. And that had not been fair.
He had known that she felt something powerful and strong with him, and instead of being happy with that, he had to taunt her with her former husband. He had to have her say that she loved him more.
Emma was right. It was childish. But more than that. It was cruel. And that he couldn’t live with. Emma had said a few days ago, that they’d been granted a do-over. And this time around, he would stop being so fucking selfish. He would put her first. Try and understand better. And make sacrifices. And not let the memory of a ghost come between them.
The cries had turned to sniffles. And Can couldn’t bear the thought of her being in there by herself anymore. The storm seemed to have passed; he would help her deal with the aftermath of it.
He walked into the bathroom and saw her sitting on the floor in the shower, water cascading over her, head bent down. He didn’t even take his clothes off. He stepped in and sat down next to her. Then he picked her up and placed her in his lap. She looked up at him, red and swollen eyes that would haunt him. He stayed quiet, pulled her closer to his chest, and kissed the top of her head. And held her in silent support.