“I got it, mom, I got the call! I'm coming to Paris!” I tell her as soon as we connect on Skype. Her face lights up.
“Oh, I'm so proud of you and very happy that I get to see my baby soon!”
“Can you believe it?”
“Of course, with your talent and dedication, I knew they'd approve.”
We end our Skype session after a few more minutes of chatting so I can call Adrian and Jenna. I want to meet with them at the Bistro to tell them the good news in person.
“So what's up?” Jenna asks.
“Yeah, what's the hurry to meet up?” Adrian chimes in.
“I've been accepted. I leave for Paris in one week to meet with the institution. They're sending all expense paid first class tickets. I brought the two of you here because out of all of my friends, I'm going to miss you both tremendously, but it won't be forever. I need you to hold things down at the gallery while I'm gone, Jen. I'll continue to send your pay, just use your best judgement on anything to do with sales.”
There's crickets from the two of them for a moment. Jenna finally says something, breaking the awkward silence.
“You know I got it covered, Ronni. I'll sure miss you, but I'm very happy for you. How long did you say it could be?”
“No less than three months.”
I look over at Adrian, his head's down and he hasn't said a word. I hope to spend my last week here with him if he's not going to hate me.
“I was thinking of having a going away dinner the day that I'm leaving out. Would you come, Adrian?”
“Whatever makes you happy, Veronica. I told you before, I'll always be here for you. Always.”
I leave for Paris this evening.
In celebration of the opportunity I've been given to explore my passion at another level, I decide to gather everyone for a going away dinner. Wanting it to be extra special, since it's the last time I'll see Adrian for at least a couple of months, I set reservations to eat at the finest restaurant in Dallas. The French Room, in the Adolphus Hotel, is of the most elegant dining – it's a perfect setting. My closest friends are here with us today, including; Jenna and her date, Mason, James and Keysha, and Riley and Tyler were all so kind to attend. We all meet up at The French Room and are seated at a gorgeous table near the front. Each of us order from the divine menu after the waiter greets us. Wine and Champagne are on ice on the table.
The conversation is flowing between us all while we await our food to be served. Talking about some of the old days when we were all growing up, bringing back memories that make me feel quite nostalgic. I really do miss the simpler days often. I look over at Adrian and realize he hasn't had much to say. We've had such a great time together this past week, but his expression is upsetting. I lower my brows to him and cock my head to one side as if to silently ask what's wrong.
“I don't want you to leave.” The emotion on his face lets me know he's sincere, it hits me like a brick wall.
What I thought was a going away dinner and celebration of my career expanding to new heights, suddenly turns into something I wasn't prepared for. I never expected him to throw this at me, especially when I'm ready to board the plane in just a few hours.
“What are you talking about, Adrian?” I whisper, trying to hide my voice from my guests.
“You can't leave me, don't get on that plane.”
“You can't seriously be that selfish. You know how much this means to me.”
“Me, selfish?” He lets out a laugh that is short and serious.
“Yes, you're being rather selfish right now. How could you do this to me right before I'm ready to leave, and at our dinner? I don't get it. What's going on with you?”
“That's something you should have been worried about before, but you were never worried about what's going on with me or how I'm feeling. I can tell from your attitude that you really don't care at this moment either.”
“Adrian you're way off, I've always cared about what's going on with you.”
“Really? Because you have a messed up way of showing it.”
“Can we do this somewhere else? I really don't think it's anyone's business what we're discussing. Step outside with me? Please?”
“Why? So your friends and all of these upper class people with their prestigous lives don't see you for who you really are? That you're not as perfect as you like to portray?”
“Fuck you, Adrian.” I've had enough. I get up from the table and walk outside to get some air. Why was he doing this to me? Why does it have to be complicated?
He follows right behind me. “Fuck me? Fuck you, Veronica!”
“That's all I've ever asked of you, to fuck me. What's the problem? That's exactly what we agreed to, and now you're acting like you own me, telling me not to leave you . . . since when are we an item? You say not to leave you like you expect me to drop everything to stay with you, but I'm not with you.” I take a step back from him.
“And you call me selfish. That's exactly what I'm talking about. You're so caught up in yourself, your needs, your world. I was nothing but a toy for you to play around with. Never once did you consider my feelings. Then you make this huge decision to leave, just like that. You're the selfish one.” He points his finger at me as he steps closer.
My voice rises, wanting to push him away from me. “Your feelings? When did feelings become a part of this? Did we not specifically state what we wanted out of this? I don't recall feelings being an option, actually it was the only stipulation, which you seem to have forgot.”
“No, I haven't forgotten shit. It's you who needs to be reminded about that night. When I asked you about what you wanted, you didn't even bother asking me what I wanted out of all of this. I didn't agree to keeping it strictly sexual, that was all you. I was willing to be that for you, your sex toy, and to learn whatever you desired to teach me. The sex has always been amazing, don't get me wrong. But that's not it for me. Had you asked me that night, my answer might have shocked you. I never promised I wouldn't fall in love with you, and I can't promise that I haven't.”
He stops and stands still, looking at me, breathing intensely with tears forming in his eyes. I don't know what he wants from me, but I can't be that woman, the one that throws it all away and leaps into his arms. It's not about love for me. We stand in silence for a moment. I know he's waiting for me to make my decision. My eyes start to swell up. Knowing that I'm breaking his heart hurts me, but he wouldn't believe me even if I told him that, apparently I'm just a selfish bitch.
“I'm sorry Adrian, I really am. I didn't sign up for this, though. You've known the deal this entire time, you can't change it on me now.”
“You really don't get it, do you?” His expression shows his pain. “So that's it?”
“I can't do this.”
Holding back tears, I turn away from him and walk to my car. I look in my rearview mirrior as I start to pull off, he's still standing there, looking like he's in shock. I can't let myself give in, I continue to drive off and head to my house.
I make it to the airport after grabbing my suitcases from home. Standing in line, waiting to board, my phone buzzes.
'You don't have to love me, just don't go. Please, Veronica, don't do this.'
The voice over the airport speaker announces that the plane is now boarding and the line starts to move forward. I text him back before turning off my phone.
'Life is only a bed of roses if you remove every thorn before lying in it. Otherwise, prepare to bleed from the wounds those thorns will cause. Some will heal, some will leave scars. My bed, it's made of thorns . . . you chose to lie in it, expecting roses, and you got hurt. I didn't mean to hurt you, but I've lost all control.”
I put away the phone and hand my ticket to the steward, never looking back.