Adrien, August seven years ago
“Why not?” I demanded. My frustration was getting the better of me; I struggled not to yell or scream and cry like a child.
“Because that’s where my life is!” Holly snapped. “Why don’t you understand that? Why can’t you get it through your thick head that I want to go home?”
Because you said you loved me, why would you want to leave? “You called this your home.”
Holly ran both hands through her hair and turned her back to me, probably trying to hide the tears. Again. My chest ached, I felt cold, and I just wanted to pull her into my arms and forget this entire fight. Our only real fight. I watched as she wrapped her arms around herself and my stomach twisted. I should be the one to comfort her, to apologize, but I couldn’t. For some asinine reason, I couldn’t let it go that she wanted to leave; I had everything here that she wanted or needed, I worked hard to make this her home too - so why did she want to go back to the states so badly?
“This is-- it’s not the same-- I just--” She stopped again, and I heard her shaky breathing speed up. “My family is on the other side of the world…I want to be closer to them, I miss my parents, Adrien.”
But I’ll miss you more than anything in this world. “What about us?” I asked quietly.
She turned back around to face me again, her cheeks wet with tears. “You can come back with me--”
“To the States? Why would I give up everything here for that?” Malice oozed off my words and I couldn’t hold back my obvious revulsion.
Holly flinched as if I had slapped her and I immediately felt regret wash over me like an ice water bath. “That’s what you think?” she whispered. “I don’t want to fight anymore, I’m done.” She held up her hand to wave me away as I reached for her, she walked briskly down the hall into the spare bedroom and locked the door behind her.
It might as well have been her bedroom at this point, we had spent almost two weeks going at each others’ throats, and despite my begging and pleading for her to sleep in our bed she only slept in the other room.
I was never going to forget the way she had just looked at me, I don’t think I had ever felt as much remorse for my lack of forethought. I watched the door for another long minute, my stomach twisted and my heart heavy as I hoped that she would come back out. I dragged myself into the study, the only place that felt untouched by our toxicity, to try and forget the latest round in a never-ending battle.
Her painting still sat on the easel; a view of the harbour where the yacht was stationed, the elegant waves painted indigo with gold sunlight washing out the boardwalk. Holly said it could be mine when it was finished, she hadn’t completed it yet, but it was still stunning.
I sunk down into my chair and stared at the door, unseeing as I felt the familiar burn in my eyes. I didn’t want her to go, and there was nothing she could get in the states that she couldn’t get here - with me. And there was nothing for me across the ocean, was I just supposed to sit around and wait for her?
No. I couldn’t do that, I would go crazy. I laid my head down on the desk and closed my eyes, maybe when I woke up I would have a better way to approach this.
I woke up with a jolt; my head was pounding, and my neck ached. I groaned and stretched out in the chair, I sat there for a minute while I got my wits about me. What time is it? I fumbled for my phone and stood up so fast the room spun. 8:27. I had spent the entire night in the study, I hadn’t even come out to wish Holly goodnight. Holly. I swallowed the sudden lump in my throat, she should’ve come and woke me up by now - she always did. I hurried down the hall and knocked on her door.
“Ma chere?” I called.
No answer. Maybe she went out for a bit, I tried to reason with myself. But she would’ve texted me, wouldn’t she? I wiped my sweaty hands down my jogging pants as I looked back down the hall. I called her name as I ran to the living room, the panic was starting to settle in, and I was quickly losing control.
Something was wrong; the room looked different. My chest heaved as I felt tears form again; her stuff wasn’t here, her bag wasn’t on the couch, her coat gone from the rack. No. She wouldn’t leave without telling me. With blurring vision and a tight throat, I ran to our room; the closet was left open, the bed freshly made. A pair of her heels were strewn under a shelf in the walk-in, but the rest of her clothing was gone.
I spent nearly an hour scouring the apartment for something, anything, that I could interpret as a goodbye. There was nothing. I found two shirts, a pair of pants, and most of the jewellery I gave her - except for her birthday necklace. I sat on the bed and held her black tank top in shaking fists, I sobbed uncontrollably as I pulled it to my chest.
She was gone; she had left me. I doubled over as I heaved, and tears streamed down my face. I tried to calm myself somewhat as I pulled my phone out and dialled her for the tenth time.
“This is Holly, leave a message.”
“Holly,” I choked out. “Please call me, I just want to know that you’re okay.” This was the first time I allowed myself to actually leave a message. Afterward, I laid back on the bed and cried silently into the sheets.
I had no idea when I passed out but when I woke up again the sun was setting, and I still didn’t have any missed calls or messages from her. I dialled her number again and waited patiently. “Holly, s’il vous plait, I’m so sorry ma chere. Just…je t’aime.”
There were no more tears, I had cried myself out. The child in me wanted to call Maman, possibly even go stay with her for a bit, but I didn’t want to tell her yet - I couldn’t admit that I had pushed Holly to run away in the middle of the night.
The adult in me knew that I needed someone to reach out to, and the only person that I could think of that wouldn’t hate on me for my shitty behaviour was Emilie. I waited a while longer until I thought I could sound at least somewhat stable before I called her.
“It’s a bit late to be calling your ex, don’t you think?” Emilie teased as she answered.
“Are you in the city?” I asked, my voice thick and strained.
“Yeah, I don’t leave until next week - is something wrong honey?” The worry in her voice made me feel worse.
“Holly left,” I whispered. “I don’t know what to do…” I choked on the new wave of sorrow.
Emilie sucked in a sharp breath. “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. Do you need anything? I can bring you food or I can come over--”
“Come over, you can get something to eat but I’m not hungry.” Will I ever be hungry again? I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before.
Emilie agreed and promised to be here within the hour, in reality, she took less than thirty minutes to get dinner and arrive on my doorstep. As I opened the door, she threw her arms around my torso in a tight hug. She was the same height as Holly, and something sick in me made me close my eyes and bury my face in Em’s hair, I could almost pretend it wasn’t her.
“It’s going to be okay; I know it’s hard right now, but it will be okay,” she promised quietly.
“I did this,” I sobbed. “She left because of me and I don’t know what to do.”
Emilie rubbed my back and gently guided me to the couch, I rested my head on her lap and we sat in silence. Her fingers brushed through my hair and she told me about her day; a failed attempt at distracting me but something I was still grateful for. She tried to get me to have some of her pasta, but I refused, I wasn’t sure I could keep it down if I started heaving while I cried again.
The silence in the room was almost suffocating, I broke it by asking her the question no one wants to ask their ex. “Why did you leave me?”
“Holly or I?” Emilie asked.
She took a large bite and waited a long time before she answered, “I told you months ago. You didn’t want a girlfriend Adrien; you wanted someone who would do whatever you wanted. It always had to be your way; whether it was with sex or forcing things on me that I wasn’t sure about, you were a demanding control freak.” She paused and looked down at me with pity. “Holly lasted a lot longer than I did, or any of your exes that I’ve met. I don’t know if that’s because she didn’t have a backbone or if she was able to get you to do the impossible.”
Ouch. “I don’t think I’m a control freak…” I grumbled.
She rolled her eyes at me. “Yes, you are, you can’t even accept the answer to the question that you asked because it’s not the one you want to hear.”
“Well, I didn’t force anything on you!” I snapped.
“Not sexually, but gifts were foisted upon, surprise trips because I didn’t accept it when you offered so you decided to ‘surprise’ me with it anyway, or the countless times that things went missing from my closet only to be replaced by things that you bought for me.” She patted my head. “You wanted things your way, and it was easier to enforce boundaries as a friend, you respected my choices more.”
“I loved her,” I said with a sinking stomach. “I tried so hard to make things work between us. I didn’t think that giving her things or asking her to stay here was a heinous crime.”
Emilie smacked my arm before she spoke, “Seriously! For fuck’s sake Adrien, try and recognize that your actions come across different to other people. Holly stayed with you because she cared and she was willing to overlook your laundry list of flaws, but she left because you didn’t give her a choice. What would you have done if she told you she was leaving? And I don’t mean telling you that she wanted to leave, I mean saying she was going - no if and or buts.”
I thought hard about it, and I had no hard answer, I would have begged her to stay, but would I have chased her to the USA? What else could I have done? “Emilie,” I whispered. She looked down at me and I saw the deep pity in her eyes again that made me hate myself more. “I’m sorry.”
“I know you are honey, and like I promised, you’ll be okay,” she murmured.
The small forced smile she gave me was comforting in its own way, even if she didn’t believe her words, I still would.