Three Days Later…
Natalie waited for three days. For three days she didn’t leave the room. Not even to eat. She didn’t feel hungry. She didn’t feel anything. She just waited. Waited for Scott to come back.
On the third day Pete entered the room.
“He went back to the city.” He said, not needing to say Scott’s name, she knew who he was talking about.
“Okay.” She said, getting to her feet, letting them carry her out his room.
He wasn’t coming back. Last time he’d stayed away for eight years. This time she knew it would be permanent. Her heart ached, and she wanted nothing more than to cry and never stop crying. She refused to though. He said he’d destroy her, he said he’d hurt her, he said he’d break her. She wasn’t going to let him. She’d prove him wrong.
“It’s for the best.” Pete said, stopping her dead in her tracks.
“Excuse me?” She asked, her voice so void of emotion it scared her.
“I know it hurts.” He replied warily. “But it’s for the best.”
“Fuck you Pete.” She said, the words oddly cathartic.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” And just like that she was no longer numb. All at once she was back to being angry, angry and hating all the people who’d hurt Scott. “You’re the reason he left. You and everyone else who always made him feel like a screwup. Yeah, he made mistakes, everyone does, but with him it was like everything was a mistake. He was never good enough for you, nothing he did was ever good enough, no accomplishment ever worthy of a celebration.”
“He didn’t accomplish anything.”
“He got a full scholarship to one of the best football college programs in the country and you didn’t go to a single game.” That shut Pete up, and for once he actually looked shamefaced. “You all constantly told him he was a screwup, a burnout, a waste of space. Now he thinks he doesn’t deserve me. And what is that? What makes me so special? Its bull-crap.” She let out a humourless laugh, the whole thing sounding ridiculous as she said it out loud. “We’re all just people. We’re all the same. We deserve to be with whoever makes us happy. You made him feel like he didn’t deserve that, you and everyone else in this town. You were supposed to love him Pete. You’re his brother. It’s bad enough coming from everyone else, but it never should have come from you.”
And then she left. Not stopping for anything as she made her way back to her mother’s. She felt free. Like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She’d wanted to say those things to Pete for a long time now, but she’d refrained, because despite his shortcomings she hadn’t wanted to hurt him. Now she didn’t care. It was about time someone told him he wasn’t the saint he thought himself to be.
Two Weeks Later…
“I found a place.” Natalie announced, entering the kitchen where her mom sat eating breakfast. Natalie couldn’t take it anymore. Scott had left two weeks ago now, but every time her mother looked at her she had this look on her face, this look that said, I told you so. It was driving Natalie crazy, and the more she saw it the angrier she got.
She just didn’t need this from her mother right now. She had enough going on inside her head. On the outside she carried on like normal, remained strong, acted as if Scott had never come back, like she hadn’t fallen in love with him all over again. She kept smiling, forced away the tears, held herself together, but on the inside she was dying.
She felt his absence everywhere. She felt it whenever she saw those stupid finger puppets hanging up on the wall of her classroom, whenever she caught sight of the orchard as she drove around town, whenever she fell asleep in her bed, his smell still all over her sheets. She felt it when she heard the stupid name Roger, or looked at any old air vent, or saw a Cluedo game. Even when she saw a bowl of spaghetti, or listened to someone talk of the mountains, or when she drove past the school and saw the football team making pre-season preparations. She felt his absence everywhere, and she wondered how he’d taken over so much when he’d only been here for such a short time.
“What do you mean you’ve found a place?” Her mom asked.
“I’ve found my own place.” Natalie repeated. “It’s on James Street, there’s a house that’s been separated into a couple small apartment type things. I’ll be renting one of those.”
“On the party street? Where all the dodgy characters live?”
“It’s just temporary until I find something else.”
“You can’t live there.” Her mom said. “You will stay here until you find something better.”
“I’m not staying here.”
“Don’t be absurd, you can’t stay on James Street.”
“I can’t stay here.” She exploded. “And I’m not staying here.”
“Because you keep looking at me like I made a mistake.”
“You did make a mistake honey.” Her mom said, condescension dripping from every word.
“And this is exactly why I’m moving out.” Natalie replied. “After work, I’ll be gone.”
“Don’t.” She snapped. “I get it. Scott was awful. He was a mistake. I never should have wasted my time with him. I get it. Message received.” She stormed toward the door, needing to get out of there before she said something she’d regret later. Then she stopped, her hand on the door handle, unable to walk away when all she wanted to do was scream. “What’s wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with you?” She said it louder this time, turning to face her mother so there’d be no confusion as to who she was talking to. “Why can’t you just be there for me?”
“You know I can’t support Scott.”
“It’s not just with Scott.” She exploded. “It’s everything. Every time I’ve ever done something you’ve questioned it, made sure I knew it was a mistake. Then when it finally did blow up in my face you became smug, and you’d walk around like you’d won some competition. Not once did you ever comfort me, or tell me it was going to be okay.”
“Of course it would be okay.” Her mom replied. “But I wasn’t going to coddle you. You needed to know you’d something wrong, that way you wouldn’t do the same thing again. I comforted you the first time Scott did this and look, you ran straight back to him.”
“You are a terrible mother.” She screamed, her words carrying loudly through the small flat, hitting her mom so hard she completely forgot whatever it was she’d been about to say and instead stared at Natalie wide-eyed, her mouth gaping open.
Natalie turned back to the door, and this time she didn’t stop to say anything more. There was nothing more to say. Her mom was set in her ways, nothing would ever change. She’d never understand that Natalie didn’t need her mom to coddle her, she just needed her not to look at her like she was an idiot who should have known better. Everyone made mistakes, and when they made them they knew it. They didn’t need their mom to come along and rub it in their face.
Not that Scott was a mistake. Scott would never be a mistake. The mistake had been letting everyone around them fill his head with doubts. It had been letting these people drive him away. That had been the mistake. If she could do it over she’d force Pete to give Scott the inheritance that belonged to him and run away with him to the mountains, where they could live the rest of their lives happy and without everyone trying to break them up.
The first thing she saw when she stepped into her classroom were those damned finger puppets, and she was instantly hit with memories of Scott and Jenny, trying to glue pieces of fabric together but instead getting the glue all over their hands.
That’s it, she was taking them down. The kids could take them home or throw them away, she didn’t care, she just couldn’t look at them anymore. One by one they came down, and while she pulled them off the wall she let herself be sad, she let herself miss Scott, she let the pain come, knowing that when the last puppet came off the wall she’d have to regain control. She had a class of four year olds to teach, she couldn’t be crying when they started to walk in. Her hand grasped the last puppet and she stopped, pausing. This was it. She sighed, took a deep breath, and pulled it off the wall. There. Done. Easy.
Her class started to arrive soon after that, each student piling into the room and excitedly telling Natalie about their weekends. She barely listened to it all, didn’t bother to properly reply, instead giving them the occasional nod of encouragement. What did she care about some four year old’s weekend anyway?
She looked to the door to see Jenny walking in, her hand in Pete’s. He didn’t bother to look at Natalie as he bent down and gave his daughter a hug goodbye. Jenny headed straight to her desk, the energetic bounce she usually walked with gone, she didn’t even skip to her spot. She walked as if a dark cloud were hanging over her head, missing her Uncle Scott just as much as Natalie did.
Pete hadn’t thought much about his daughter when he’d run Scott out of town, hadn’t thought about how she’d handle it. He hadn’t thought about anyone, his focus solely on his selfish mission to keep Scott away from Natalie. She didn’t understand how he’d convinced everyone he was this great guy. He was an asshole. Everyone was.
“Good morning Miss Natalie.” Parker said as he walked into the classroom, carrying a bouquet of red roses in his arms, so big they obscured the top half of his body. “These are for you.” He tried to hand them to her, but unable to see over the top of the flowers he held them into the air instead. She stepped forward, taking them from him before he dropped them all over the floor.
“What are these for?” She asked.
“I heard you and Ryan broke up.” He replied, a big grin on his face.
“Yeah.” Her head throbbed from the headache she knew she was about to get. She didn’t need this right now. She had enough going on. She didn’t need to add some four year old’s weird crush on her into the mix. Why couldn’t she just get a break?
“So now you’re my girlfriend.” Parker said. “And a boy should always bring his girlfriend flowers.”
“Parker, come here.” She said crouching down to his level. He seemed to sense he wasn’t going to like what she had to say, and he approached cautiously, his smile wavering slightly. “I can’t be your girlfriend.”
“Why not?” He asked. “You said when you and Ryan broke up I’d be first on your list.”
“But my dad says age doesn’t matter.”
“Your dad’s wrong.” She snapped, instantly regretting it when she saw Parker’s face fall. What was she doing? She was angry at Pete, at her mom, at every else who’d driven Scott away, she wasn’t angry at Parker. She took a deep breath, trying to calm her frustration as she racked her brain for a way to explain to this kid why a 28 year old woman couldn’t be in a relationship with a four year old.
“Parker.” She began. “Age matters. I’m too old for you. As long as you’re under 18, age will always matter. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Hmm-hmm.” He said nodding, relaxing as she changed her tone to a gentle one. “When I’m 18 I can be your boyfriend.”
Oh come on. How else was she supposed to say this? Maybe if she’d been in a good mood she would have thought of something, but right now all she wanted to do was scream that she’d never, ever be his girlfriend. She couldn’t break his little, innocent heart though, so instead of trying to explain it to him again she just nodded, agreeing with him.
“Exactly.” She said, getting to her feet. It wasn’t so bad, when he did turn 18 his crush on her would be long forgotten.
“Okay Miss Natalie.” He nodded. “I waited all year for you to break up with Ryan, I can wait until I turn 18.”
“Right.” She turned back to the class, everyone staring at her as they waited for her to begin teaching. Dread filled her stomach as she thought about the day ahead. She didn’t usually feel like this. She loved teaching. But right now this was the last place she wanted to be. She definitely didn’t want to be dealing with kids right now.
Several hours later…
Natalie had thought her day had finally ended. The last kid had left and she was ready to bolt. Instead she’d received a letter telling her the principal wanted to see her. It had finally happened, that lady from the Inter-Town Carnival had finally put in her complaint about Natalie. Just when Natalie thought she was going to get away with going off at one of the moms.
With a groan she rose from her desk and headed to the office, wanting to get this over with.
“Come in.” Stuart, the Principal, called when Natalie knocked on his door. She followed his instruction and stepped into the office, closing the door behind her before taking a seat in one of the crappy wooden chairs in front of his desk.
“Hi.” She said.
“How are you?” He asked.
“Fine.” She replied.
“Are you sure?” He asked. “It’s been brought to my attention that you’re having a rough time right now.”
Okay now she was confused. She thought she was here because Harriet, or whatever that woman’s name had been, had finally reported her. This wasn’t sounding like a disciplinary meeting though. That would have started with, I wanted to talk to you about your behaviour during the Inter-Town Carnival. Instead he was asking her how she was feeling.
“I understand your…boyfriend left a couple weeks ago.” He said, saying each word as if he were embarrassed he had to have this conversation with a grown woman.
“What does that have to with anything?” She snapped.
“Look, your performance lately has been…”
“Has been what?”
“I’m gonna cut straight to the point here. You seem unstable.” He stated. “You’re snapping at the faculty, getting irrationally angry, being sarcastic and glib to the parents. Now I know you’re upset, so I’m asking you whether you need some personal time to get yourself together.”
“Are you kidding me?” She asked. Was he seriously suggesting she needed to take personal time because she was ‘unstable’. So she wasn’t her usually perky, upbeat self? So what? Her performance hadn’t suffered. She was still doing her job and she was still doing it properly. The way she taught had not changed. She just didn’t smile as much as she used to. How did that make her unstable?
“Natalie, you’re a good teacher, but I fear if you keep going like this, the anger you’re carrying around is going to get the best of you.”
“I’m not angry.” She snapped, her voice rising. Okay, so now she was angry, but that had nothing to do with her ‘unstable emotions’ and everything to do with this idiot telling her she needed to take personal time to get herself together. “I am the best teacher you have here. I actually care about my job, and my students, and whatever ‘personal crap’ I’m dealing with isn’t effecting the way I teach.”
“A complaint was filed against you.” He said. “Just after the Inter-Town Carnival. Now I didn’t think much of it, because it didn’t sound like you, but after these past two weeks it does make sense.” Fucking Harriet. That bitch had complained after all. Of course she had. Natalie didn’t know why she’d expected anything different. “You’re a fantastic teacher Natalie. That’s why I’m suggesting this personal leave. So far you’ve been nothing but professional, but I’m scared if you keep going like this it’s only a matter of time before you snap at one of the students. I don’t want to lose you. So take the personal leave, take some time, and come back when you’re not in such a negative headspace.”
Somewhere at the back of her mind his words made sense. She was barely hanging on here, and she often felt herself on the brink of this invisible line, struggling to keep it together. Every so often she stepped over that line, like this morning when she’d yelled at her mother, or even when she’d almost snapped at Parker, and now, knowing Stuart was only trying to do what he thought was best for his school, but she was still unable to hold back the anger she felt at being forced out of her job.
“Fine.” She said, getting to her feet. “You want me gone. I’m gone.”
She stormed from the office, slamming the door behind her with a loud crash that made the whole office shake. All she was doing was proving Stuart’s point, she needed to take some time and get herself together. But how on earth was she supposed to do that? Scott had left, he wasn’t here anymore, how did anyone expect her to be okay? She wasn’t okay. She wanted to be. What wanted nothing more than to go back in time and stop this all from happening, anything so she wouldn’t have to feel like this. There was nothing she could do though. She couldn’t change the way she felt, she couldn’t take anything back, all that was left was the emptiness she felt in the pit of her stomach and the anger she had with everyone for making her feel like this.
She drove to her mom’s house in an angry daze, knowing that the moment she got there she was packing a suitcase and going to that shitty room on James Street. She packed quickly, angrily throwing her things into her suitcase before dragging it out toward her car. She didn’t even care if she’d forgotten anything, she’d just buy more. She wasn’t interested in coming back here any time soon.
“Natalie?” She heard a familiar voice say and she almost dropped the suitcase as she turned to offer a forced smile to Ryan. She’d completely forgotten he was coming over this afternoon. They were supposed to talk about the house they still shared. A few days ago they’d agreed to sell it and halve the money between them, allowing them both to move on with their lives. Now he was here to discus the finer details to this arrangement, who would organise the real estate agent, how they’d actually split the money, who’d get what furniture, all things Natalie didn’t have the energy to deal with right now.
“You need help with that?” He asked, nodding at the suitcase.
“Sure.” She said, handing it over and letting him shove it into the boot of her car.
“You going somewhere?”
“Yeah, I found a place on James Street.”
“James Street?” He asked, raising an eyebrow in disapproval.
“I can’t stay here.” She said.
“Natalie if you need a place to stay I can go stay with Pete and Eliza and you can have the house.”
“I’m not gonna do that to you Ryan.” She said cringing. Why did he have to be so nice about this? She’d dumped him for her high-school boyfriend. She’d dumped him and ran straight into Scott’s arms. She hadn’t even waited a day. He should be furious. He should hate her. Instead he was being completely sweet, polite, and offering her the house so she wouldn’t have to stay with her mother.
“Natalie it’s your house too.” He said.
“Yeah but I left it.”
“You could come back though.” He said, his voice suddenly serious. “Natalie I love you. I think I’ll always love you, and if you want to come back, I’m here. I’m ready whenever you are.”
“Seriously?” She asked, her anger growing stronger the longer he looked at her as if expecting her to rush back into his arms. “Ryan, I left you for Scott.”
“And he left.”
“He didn’t leave. He was pushed away.”
“What did you think was going to happen here?” She demanded, cutting him off before he could say anything more. “Did you really think I’d run back to you? I left you for a reason.”
“Scott’s gone.” He said. “But I’m not, I’m still here and I still want you, even after everything you did to me. You owe it to me, to us, to give this another shot.”
“Because I want him.” She exclaimed. “I want to feel the way I felt with him. I want someone who can make me see stars just by holding my hand, and I want a guy who gets me, who understands me, who loves everything about me.”
“Not like Scott does, and I don’t love you like I love him.” Maybe she shouldn’t have been yelling at Ryan like this. She’d hurt him enough, she didn’t need to be yelling that she loved Scott more than she loved him. It was just different with Scott, everything was a hundred times stronger. She felt consumed by her love for him, but with Ryan she only felt warm. She didn’t want warm. She wanted Scott. And she was angry she couldn’t have him. She was angry he’d been driven away. She was angry that Ryan was trying to take advantage of him leaving.
“I have to go.” She said to Ryan, who’d become silent after hearing her declaration. “I have to meet with my new landlord.”
“What about the house?” He asked.
“Sell it, rent it, do whatever, I don’t care.” She said before climbing into her car and driving away.
A couple days later…
This place was a shit hole. The paint was chipping, the carpet smelt like alcohol and barely any sunlight drifted in through the one window Natalie had been given. It was so small she didn’t even have a double bed anymore, her kitchen consisted of a fridge and a counter, and the toilet clogged almost every time she flushed it. It was a nightmare, and yet it was still better than her mother’s place.
It had everything she needed though, unlimited internet, a TV, and Gilmore Girls. She was re-watching every Jess and Rory episode, right up until he left. It was the only thing that seemed to calm her, that made her feel even a little bit okay.
Loud, persistent tapping on her door interrupted the episode, right before Rory and Jess were about to properly kiss for the first time since officially getting together. This always happened, every time things were getting good someone always interrupted the episode.
She got to her feet and made her way to the door, ready to send the person on their way. It was probably her mother anyway, asking her to come back. But when Natalie opened the door it was Eliza standing in the doorway.
“Come on.” She said. “We’re going out.”
“Anywhere.” Eliza said. “These past two weeks all you’ve done is mope like an idiot. You’re freaking out my daughter. Now come on.”
“I was in the middle of Gilmore Girls. Rory and Jess were about to get together.”
“Rory should have ended up with Logan.”
“Oh come on.” Natalie exclaimed.
“See, you’re already feeling better.”
“No, now I’m feeling outraged at the mere suggestion anyone was better than Jess.”
“Jess was a little punk.”
“He grew out of it.”
“Not when it mattered.”
“We’re not having this debate. Get in the car.”
Natalie did as she was told, feeling like one of her preschoolers when they misbehaved and she had to scold them. She tried asking Eliza where they were going, but she got no straight answer, Eliza just kept driving. She drove out of Spring Fields, past Summerville, past Fall Creek and past Winter Valley. She drove for an hour, not stopping until they entered the suburbs of Ketterly and a couple turns later pulled into the parking lot of a 24 hour gym.
“A gym?” Natalie asked.
“You need to hit something.” Eliza replied. “Come on.”
She didn’t know how Eliza could say something as simple as, come on, and make it sound so authoritative. How did she put so much power behind something so simple? It made you fear what would happen if you didn’t listen and Natalie didn’t want to find out, so she hopped out of the car and followed Eliza inside. They went straight for the punching bags, geared up, and began to punch. It was stupid really. Natalie didn’t need to hit something. She just needed Scott to come back.
And just like that she remembered why he was gone, all the people who’d driven him away, pushed him and pushed him so he felt like he didn’t deserve to be happy with her.
She reached out and smacked the punching bag, putting all her strength behind her punch. The bag swayed slightly and she swung again, harder this time, trying with all her might to punch it off its hingers. She punched and she punched and she punched, only growing stronger, angrier, putting more and more power behind every hit.
She hit the bag, frustrated by her shitty apartment, hating how ugly the chipped paint looked and how every time she tried to cook dinner small cockroaches emerged from the cupboards.
She punched again, for her mom this time. Her mom who always thought she knew better, who was always telling her what to do, who never listened when she spoke.
The next punch was for Stuart, and Harriet, and all those other idiots she worked with who thought she needed a break because she was just some stupid little girl who couldn’t handle her breakup.
Damn Ryan, she thought, throwing another punch, damn him for thinking she’d just fall back into his arms because Scott had left her. He hadn’t left her, he’d been driven away by his family, by his mother who refused to talk to him and his brother who constantly told him he wasn’t good enough for Natalie.
Oh, Pete, the next punch she threw was for him, for being a sorry excuse for a brother.
And screw Scott, she thought as her fist connected with the bag, making it swing more ferociously than any punch she’d thrown before, screw him for leaving.
She hit again, and again, and again, each hit clearing her head, washing away the anger, making her realise that it wasn’t Pete or her mom or her colleagues or Ryan that she was angry with. It was Scott.
Scott had left her. He’d left. Maybe everyone else had gotten in his head, maybe they’d made him think he wasn’t good enough, but Natalie had never made him feel like that. She’d only ever seen the greatness in him. And he’d left. He’d left her.
She brought her hand back, and when she swung it forward she missed, throwing herself off balance and dropping to her knees. She reached up and caught the bag before it swung back and whacked her in the face, her chest heaving as tears sprung to her eyes on their own volition, the realisation that Scott had left her finally settling in.
He was a bastard. A selfish, coward who’d left because things had gotten a little bit too hard. Why did she want him so badly? She deserved better than this. She deserved a guy who’d stick around and fight, who wouldn’t leave her because everyone told him she was better off without him. He could have been happy with her, but he’d thrown it all away because he was too scared of the possibility she might one day leave him. He still didn’t trust that she wasn’t going anywhere, that no matter what happened she’d be there. That’s where they were different. She would stay, no matter what. Scott, he left, he left whenever it got too hard.
Eliza’s arms came around her, and she pulled Natalie to her feet, her hands stronger than Natalie would have imagined. She led her back out to the parking lot and helped her into the car where Natalie let the tears fall freely, each one slowly washing away her anger, forcing her to accept that Scott really had left her, making her see things clearer than she had in weeks.
She’d been a complete nightmare since Scott had left. She been angry, and she’d blamed everyone else when really he was the one she should be angry with. He was the one who’d left her, again. No one had deserved her anger, not her mom, or her boss or Ryan or all the other people she’d snapped at. They didn’t deserve it, and she didn’t deserve to feel like this. How could Scott have done this to her, after all the pain he’d already caused her, after everything she’d forgiven him for, after promising he’d never do it again?
“I’m leaving Pete.” Eliza said, breaking the silence.
“What?” Natalie asked, the reveal instantly drying up her tears as she turned to look at Eliza.
“You know how we eventually got together?” She asked. “We had a one night stand, just before you came back. The condom broke, I took the morning after pill, but it stuck. I told Pete, and…Well you know Pete, he…”
“Did the right thing.” Natalie finished.
“Yep.” Eliza confirmed. “I’d always had the biggest crush on him, but he’d only really had eyes for you, the sweet, loving, beautiful beauty queen. I was just, ‘For a Good Time Call Eliza,’ the girl guys went to when they wanted to get their rocks off. No one ever took me seriously.”
“I’m sure Pete was different.” Natalie said, even though she wasn’t sure that was the truth.
“He wasn’t. He was angry you were with his brother, and he was drunk, and he and I kind of just happened.” She explained. “I told him I was pregnant, and he asked me to marry him, out of duty, and I said yes because it was Pete, the guy I thought I loved. But you can’t really be in love with someone if they don’t love you back. It’s not the same.”
“Because of Scott.” She said. “That idiot and his constant comments about how I’d become Accountant Eliza, the no-nonsense drill sergeant.”
“Right.” Natalie didn’t want to talk about Scott.
“I like who I am now.” She said. “I don’t want to be ‘For a Good Time Call Eliza,’ the insecure little slut who put out because she thought it meant people liked her. If people want to call me uptight and cold I’m fine with that. But Scott kept asking me if I was happy, and I’m not. I’m not happy with Pete. So, here we are.”
“Have you told him?”
“I haven’t told him, but he knows. I think he knew before I did. I think he wants to leave me too, but he stays because…”
“It’s the right thing to do.”
“Yep. He and Scott should swap for a while. Pete can be a selfish bastard for a couple days and Scott can take responsibility for once.”
“Amen to that.” Natalie said looking away from Eliza and to the doors of the gym where a man in a stripy yellow singlet, short black pants and the biggest biceps Natalie had ever seen stepped into the gym. Beside her, Eliza laughed, also taking in the man’s ridiculous attire.
“Someone’s skipped a few too many leg days.” She said, making Natalie laugh at the comical clash between his massive shoulders and skinny legs. “He looks like Scrappy from the live action Scoopy-Doo. You know when he’s shrinking back to normal size, but his legs go first and his whole upper body is still massive.”
The comparison made Natalie laugh harder, and she realised it was the first time she’d laughed since Scott had left. She was glad it was with Eliza. They hadn’t hung out like this in years. Only now did she realise how much she’d missed it, and how happy she was to have it back.
One week later…
Taking a deep breath Natalie knocked on the door to her mom’s small house. Her week had been spent giving out apologies. She’d apologised to Pete for snapping and he’d forgiven her graciously, no surprises there. She’d apologised to Stuart who’d welcomed her back to her job without holding it over her head. And she’d apologised to Ryan, who’d tried to convince her to come back to him again, only this time she’d been able to calmly explain why they just weren’t right for one another. Her mom was the last one left, and also the one she was dreading the most.
“Oh.” She said when she opened the door and saw Natalie waiting on the other side.
“Hi.” Natalie replied. “Can I come in?”
“Of course.” Her mom said, stepping aside.
“I came to apologise.”
“Well I would hope so.”
“Please don’t make this harder than it needs to be.”
“Right, sorry.” Her mom said. “For a second I forgot I was a terrible mother.”
“Mom.” Natalie complained, clutching her forehead where a headache had just begun to form.
“Sorry.” Her mom replied, holding her hands up as if to surrender. She shut the door and entered the kitchen, where she quietly poured herself and Natalie a glass of water.
“I’m sorry I said you were a terrible mother.” Natalie began. “I didn’t mean it, I was angry.”
“You meant it a little.” Her mom replied.
“No I didn’t.”
“You had a point. I don’t listen.” She conceded. “I’m very one-track minded. You’re not the first person to say it. It’s why your dad left me.”
“Natalie, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you were going through this alone. I know what Scott means to you, I shouldn’t have been judging you, I should have been making sure you were okay.”
Natalie had waited years to hear these words spoken from her mother. It felt good to hear them, like a burden had been lifted, like she wasn’t so alone anymore. All she’d ever wanted was for her mom to be there, to just stop for a moment and hear her. Now it was finally happening, and this, plus everything else was proving to be too much.
Before she could stop herself, or even attempt to maintain her control she was crying again. That was another thing she’d been doing all week, crying, no longer angry but instead sad, finally admitting to herself that Scott had left and he really wasn’t coming back. She missed him. She missed him everyday. She’d continue to miss him for a long time still. Eventually she’d miss him less, hurt less, and then one day she’d be fine. She might even fall in love again, just as fiercely, with someone who’d stay. She’d never be able to forget Scott, but she could still love someone else while thinking fondly of the man who’d broken her heart twice, remembering the good rather than the pain she felt right now.
Her mom’s arms came around her and she engulfed Natalie in a hug. For the first time since Natalie could remember she felt at peace.
“Shhhh.” Her mom said. “You’re going to be fine.”
“He left me.” Natalie sobbed.
“I know baby.” Her mom replied, tightening her arms around her. “But you’re going to be fine.”
The words soothed her, everything soothed her, and the more she cried the more she felt herself beginning to let go. She knew she’d be fine, but this was the first time she actually believed she could be. Ironic that it was in the arms of the woman Natalie had always thought incapable of such compassion.