Chapter 26 - Melody
Three Months Later
My stomach was in knots as the plane pulled in at Heathrow. It was raining and gray, and everything looked unfamiliar. Rows and rows of planes with blue, red, and white flags on the tail stood proudly at the gates, with a good sprinkling of other international airliners adding color to the fairly monotonous landscape.
My plane arrived at the thoroughly unsociable hour of five-thirty a.m. I’ve always wondered why airlines thought it was a good idea to offload passengers that early in the morning. Everyone felt tired and out of sorts. They served breakfast at essentially four a.m. local time, which both felt wrong and confused your body clock. The fact that I flew first class helped, for sure, because at least I got a couple of hours sleep in my lie-flat bed, which I bet most people towards the back, didn’t. But still...
I was visiting London for a week to visit Knox. I was still trying to work out if this was a good idea or not. He sounded happy and excited at the prospect when I hesitantly broached the idea of visiting him a few weeks ago, but I could hear that he was trying to pull back again over the past week or so, and it frustrated the hell out of me. Put simply: I didn’t know where I stood with him. Whether he really wanted me here, or not.
My mom had booked me into one of the fanciest hotels in the city, and I was grateful that I’d have the luxury of checking in upon arrival to freshen up. My parents weren’t a fan of the idea of me flying to London to visit Knox, to put it mildly. My mom looked at me with worry in her eyes, clearly not wanting me to get my heart broken by him again. And my dad said in so many words that he didn’t approve of me chasing after a guy who left me of his own volition. And although Hailey was usually the stubborn one, I could be stubborn too, if I really wanted something. The fact was, that what I felt for Knox, was a stronger force than my pride, than rational thought. And in the end, my parents made me promise to check in every day and to come back immediately if things didn’t work out the way I thought it would.
I hadn’t given Knox my flight details, because I didn’t want him to wake up at four a.m. to pick me up. I insisted that I’d call him once I was in my hotel and freshened up after the long flight, and he didn’t try to put up too much of a fight.
But that arrangement still didn’t prevent me from looking around in the arrivals hall, as though he’d magically know which flight I’d been on. I had all of these grand images in my mind of how we’d reunite... And I berated myself for feeling disappointed that he wasn’t there, but it was my own fault, because I insisted on making my own way. I was being stupid and I knew it, but somehow, I’d hoped he’d be there, regardless. What was wrong with me? I wasn’t thinking rationally, that much was clear.
I finally made my way to the hotel, and I took a long, warm shower to wash the travel off me. I let the hot water pour all over me, and I used up copious amounts of the designer shower gel. I felt sicker and sicker in my stomach with every passing minute. Was it the right decision to come here? He sounded so happy to have me here when I proposed it at first, but then the last few days, it was as though he was extremely casual about the whole thing. Had he changed his mind? Did he meet someone else? Did I come here just to have my heart broken again?
Shit - this was hard. So damn hard. But the fact was, that I still loved Knox Vaughn with every breath I took. With every contraction of my heart. I craved to see him, to touch him again. I was hoping like hell that we’d see each other, and six months apart would fall away just like that. That we’d pick up exactly where we left things. That he’d be as happy to see me as I was him. That he’d kiss me senseless and sweep me right off my feet a second time, so that all the heartbreak and longing of the past six months would evaporate like mist.
I got dressed and carefully applied my make-up, and straightened my hair again. I felt nervous as hell. Perhaps I was getting sick. Was it normal to be this nervous to see someone you knew again?
Finally, I picked up the phone, looking at the clock. It was just after eight a.m., a much more decent time.
He answered the phone on the second ring.
“Mel?” My heart shook inside my chest, because he didn’t call me Snow. Why?
“Hi, yeah, it’s me,” I said hesitantly, my heart feeling like it was pulsing in my throat. I clenched my fingers against my palms; even my fingers felt rigid from tension.
“Are you here?” His voice still sounded sleepy, and with every passing second, this feeling of dread grew within me. This was a mistake, wasn’t it? Shit, it was. It was too late now.
“Sorry if I woke you up,” I frowned, digging my nails into my palms.
“No - that’s fine. Do you feel up to doing something, or are you tired after the flight?” He sounded so polite. So damn polite. And it killed me inside.
“Do you have anything on today?” I asked hesitantly, feeling so damn unsure of myself.
“No. I’ve cleared my schedule, S... so I could spend time with you, if you wanted.”
If I wanted? I flew halfway around the damn world to see him, and he’s asking me if I wanted to see him? That feeling of dread just rose inside, higher and higher. I could feel the onset of tears in my eyes. A pang shot through my heart. Why the hell did I think this was a good idea? He’d broken up with me before he left. He made it clear that we were over. Why the hell was I trying to resurrect what we had? Why the hell had I made this effort to see him again if he clearly wasn’t fussed?
‘Because I love you, Knox Vaughn, with every single breath I take.’
I loved him, but I still had my pride...
“I’m easy. If you’re busy, I’m happy to entertain myself...” It hurt to even say those words. What the hell else was I doing here, if I wasn’t here to see him?
“No - of course, I’m not busy. I have the whole week set aside...” he sighed and paused, and I wondered again what the hell was going on. Why was he acting so distant?
And just then, I gathered every shred of dignity I had left within me. “Look, Knox, it sounds like this was a mistake...”
“No, it wasn’t.” He said forcefully, and he confused the hell out of me again. “I’m sorry. I’m being an asshole, and I’m sorry. It’s just... I have no fucking idea how to handle this situation, Mel. This situation where we’re friends, and you’ve made this grand gesture to see me. Which, by the way, I really appreciate. Since you’ve said that you were visiting, I’ve been looking forward to it and dreading it simultaneously. Because the truth is, I don’t want to go through what we went through six months ago, again, because it was extremely fucking painful for us both, and that’s the honest truth.”
The air swooshed out of my lungs. I had no idea what to say to that. This whole thing was playing out so damn differently to the way I’d been hoping it would.
“Do you want me here, or not?” I asked quietly, feeling a warm tear streak down my cheek.
“I want you here. Of course, I do. I can’t wait to see you again,” he said with almost-desperation, and that just made me feel even worse for some reason.
“Give me half an hour. I’ll call you when I’m at the hotel foyer, okay? And Mel - I really can’t wait to see you again. I’m sorry that I’m making a giant fucking mess of this,” he sighed again, sounding defeated.
“Okay,” I said softly, but my heart still hurt. This was a huge mistake, and I damn well knew it by now.
The romantic notions that I had inside my head of us reuniting and basically running into each other’s arms when we saw each other again, was a pipedream. It was wishful thinking. I was forgetting that he never made me any promises. That he never said he was in love with me. That I was the one chasing after him after he dumped me, just like my dad had said. I should’ve listened to him, dammit.
All of a sudden, I felt my cheeks flame up with heat. I felt so damn embarrassed that I’ve put myself in this situation. This was a spectacularly bad idea, but I had to go through with it now.
Thirty-two minutes later, my phone rang again. I’d been checking my watch both nervously and obsessively, so I knew exactly how long it took him to get here.
I dreaded picking up. I felt so embarrassed and hurt.
“I’m downstairs in the foyer.”
I closed my eyes. It felt like I was choking. There was this giant lump in my throat that didn’t want to go away. My eyes were starting to tear up. This was such a big mistake...
“Okay. I’ll be down in a minute.”
I hung up and wiped a tear that escaped down my cheek again. Shit - I was going to do a whole lot of crying here in London, that was for sure. Why the hell was I punishing myself like this?
I took a deep breath and composed myself. Knowing that today I’d have to wear a mask again, just like that night when we started. But this time, I couldn’t afford to take that mask off. I’d be playing a game of charades, pretending that this didn’t hurt like hell. What I didn’t know, though, was whether he’d be wearing a mask too. There was only one way to find out...
My stomach turned and I felt shaky as I exited that elevator on the ground floor.
It took me two seconds flat to find him. Our gazes locked, immediately, as though it was a law of science that we’d find each other, again and again. I forgot to breathe. Because for the first time in six months, I was face to face again with Knox Vaughn.
But somehow, I just knew it was going to end exactly like the first time again...