Of course it was all I could do to contain myself. To hold myself back from running after her. Her words pounded through my brain in repeating echoes. Do not try to contact me. Do not try to stop me. Do not come after me. Words that dug into my heart like jagged, spearing, vicious knives.
How could she ask this of me? How could she run?
That look in her eyes, so soulful and wounded. I knew if I followed her, if I refused to respect her request, she would never take me back. I knew.
Let me go.
I was a broken man. I sat heavily onto a bench only steps from where she’d stood, picturing her, wishing I could summon her back. My honey girl. My dazzling angel. Everything I’d ever wanted out of life, delivered to me in one perfect, peachy package that was Lila.
I was vaguely aware that the wedding planner had already cleared the small crowd, ushering them into the house. The band was packing up.
Only Jake and Shawna still stood there. Jake was next to me, his hand on my shoulder. Shawna sat down next to me on the bench. I wanted to move, but I felt strangely devoid of will. I wished Shawna would disappear.
She put her hand on mine, where it rested on my thigh. To this, I did move, brushing her touch away. Something fierce and dangerous lurked inside me. I almost feared for her safety. But then I remembered: the baby.
“Alexander,” she said softly.
I didn’t want to hear her voice. I didn’t want to hear what she had to say.
I looked at her and all I could feel for her was hatred. She could see this in me and it caused tears to pool in her eyes. I’d once thought her beautiful but now she looked too thin, too pale. Sinister, almost. She had ruined my life. I didn’t even fully believe that she was telling the truth about her pregnancy, but the damage had been done either way. She’d achieved her goal. She’d broken up our wedding, ousted Lila from the scene. But she would never be in my life again, baby or no baby.
“Let me tell you how it is, Shawna,” I said, and my voice sounded weary. “I’ll financially provide for the baby. I’ll pay for your health insurance and your doctor’s bills. We can fight out the custody arrangement when the time comes. But get this straight: I do not want to see you or hear from you until the baby is born. The only reason I will ever see you again is to do the right thing for my child. You and I are over. There is no relationship between us. Now or ever.”
Tears were streaming down her cheeks. I felt nothing.
“Get out of my house.”
“Get out.” My voice sounded cold and dead, somehow. Something in me had died. That happiness I’d found for a brief moment in time, with her. My girl. “A driver will take you wherever you want to go. Leave now or I’ll have you forcibly dragged out. It would be better for everyone if you took your leave peacefully.”
She stood tentatively, as though expecting me to change my mind. “Alexander.”
“Just do it, Shawna,” Jake snarled. “Please.”
She glared at him, affronted, her face shiny from her tears. Finally, she walked away, her shoulders shaking with the soft sobs she was emitting. Someone put an arm around her and led her away.
“Jake, get me a drink.”
Jake contemplated me for a second. He could read my frame of mind: I was about to get rip-roaringly drunk and stay that way for the foreseeable future. He knew what I needed. Not a lecture or a pep talk. He wasn’t going to be able to stop me either way. I watched him walk over to the bar and grab a bottle of Jack. My brother knew me very well. I drank Scotch when I was on the up, American whiskey when I was looking to get inebriated. I had no idea why; it was just one of those things. He started to pour me a tumbler of it.
“Just bring me the whole fucking bottle,” I said.
He did, and he grabbed himself a beer.
It took a surprising amount of effort to stand. I took the bottle from Jake and I started walking away, into the garden and up the outside staircase into the master bedroom. Lila’s wedding bouquet sat on the bed. The only thing left of her.
I sat on the floor and leaned against the wall, holding the bouquet in one hand and the bottle in the other, taking a long swig. Jake had followed me and he sat in a chair by the window.
“She’ll come back,” he said. “She just needs a little time.”
In my heart I really didn’t know if that was true.
I just didn’t know.
I just couldn’t fucking bear it.