I apologise for posting this chapter a day late, but the heat and the storms in our prairies are giving me intolerable migraines; and as I felt this chapter needed my full attention to be written just the right way, I took an extra day to give it a proper thought.
It was difficult to write. I’ve been with this story for a long time, and just like Wrennie I felt I have changed and grew a lot thanks to it. (But, unlike Wren, I know it’s not the end 😉 )
I would really appreciate if you, my dear readers, could let me know you’re still here, reading it, and maybe share your thoughts, if you wish.
You come to the halls after work, and Thea predictably isn’t there. The room is empty, and you come in and sit in the kitchenette without taking off your coat. Let’s face it, you don’t live here anymore.
There’s a cup of unfinished coffee on the table. Thea left it there in the morning before running to her classes. You never leave cups of unfinished drinks. You’re a neatfreak. You don’t judge of course; it’s none of your business how other people live. You just clean up after yourself, and after those who are OK with you touching their stuff. In Thea’s case, you’ve always had green light when it came to anything but her clothes. But somehow in the years since the two of you started living together, she’s stopped leaving dirty cups around. Crumbs and spills – these are the two things that make you cringe.
You touch a grain of white sugar on the table with the tip of your finger. She often misses cups, and sugar flies everywhere. You gather the grains in a small pile with you finger, and you realise tears are running down your cheeks. You already know what’s going to happen next, and it hurts. And you also know, there’s nothing to do, and nothing can help, and there’s no way back.
Twenty minutes later, you go to your room, and pack your things. Then, you walk around the flat, gathering your belongings: tubes and bottles from the bathroom, cups and plates from the kitchenette, the coats from the closet.
You take a bus to the shop, buy plastic trunks, come back, and pack whatever is left. You end up with two trunks, two suitcases, and two boxes. Not much for an adult person’s belongings – but again, who said you’re an adult?
You take a shower, change, and text John. You ask if he’s home and if you two can talk; and he answers in his usual impeccable polite manner that he’s at a meeting, but will be home in an hour. You ask if you could wait for him there, and he answers, “Of course.”
You take the third trunk you’ve bought, and call a cab. You’re still crying, but you’re certain you’ll stop when the time comes.
In his flat you repeat the procedure. The bottles from the washroom, lingerie, one dress, your books, and the laptop go in. After everything is packed, there’s still plenty of room in the trunk.
You make yourself a cup of tea, and it’s half finished when his key turns in the lock.
He walks into the kitchen, puts his bag on the nearest chair – the gesture is painfully familiar – and stops. Your eyes meet. He looks defensive; the face is cold, eyes cautious. He’s not an idiot, after all.
Your hands are locked, fingers intertwined, in front of your mouth, elbows on the counter. You press your lips to your fingers, feeling them shake. He is, of course, silent, waiting for you to speak. Always so strategic, so calculative, aren’t we, John? It feels as if someone is performing an open heart surgery on you.
“I don’t know where to start…” You’re choked, the voice is croaky, and you have to swallow the bitter taste in your mouth before you can speak again. “I know, you’re… not on the same page as me… It’s just today everything is very different for me, from what it was like yesterday… It’ll be hard to explain.”
“You can start by explaining a plastic box in my hall.” His voice is low and expressionless. You look at him in confusion. You assumed he’d be angry about the last night’s row, and unaware of all the changes that happened for you overnight – you didn’t expect rage. And yet, you know this terrifying fire in his blue eyes – he’s furious.
“Yes, yes, let me explain…” You take a few measured breaths in; he’s waiting. “I need to remember what I was going to say…” You know you’re heading towards a disaster, but you also know you have no choice but to bash on. “I… I’m leaving you.”
In the next three minutes of complete silence there is one movement in his kitchen – he slightly tilts his head, and lowers his eyes down to the counter.
“There’s less than a month left till our wedding, Wren.” It sounds as if he’s just made a casual observation regarding today’s weather.
“There will be no wedding. I’m leaving you.” And here’s to the disastrous part. “I will do it no matter what, but I… I’m not sure what happens with my work. You can fire me, or get me fired, and you can turn my life into hell, and you can virtually destroy my career, and…”
“Are you fucking crazy?” he whispers, and you stop in your tracks. You see his large, long fingered hand lie on the counter, and you realise he’s leaning on it to support himself. He’s also very pale.
“No wonder you’re leaving me, if you think I would…” he freezes mid sentence, and you watch his chest heave in a shuddered inhale.
There’s silence again, and you realise that in the time you’d spent with him, you’ve learnt him well enough. He’s just received a blow, and he’s pulling himself together. You also love him – and you give him his time.
Another shuddered inhale – and John Crispin Thorington is back. He straightens up, and his face is calm and emotionless.
“Do you actually think I’d?..” He shakes his head stopping himself from asking, and sits down. “I would make a note to yourself, Wren, that the first thing you decided to talk about after you dumped me was your job, but for now I have one question. Why?”
That is a good question, isn’t it? Somehow you know the answer to it. It feels as if at this moment that’s the only thing you know.
“Because you’re bad for me.” The tears run again, and you’re not hiding them.
“You should’ve have said something before, love.” He’s clearly regaining his composure. There’s a venomous tone to his voice now, and the corners of his lips curve up in a strange smile. You’ve seen it before, it scares the sodding hell out of you.
“I… I didn’t know…”
“That’ll teach me not to fraternize with minors next time.” His cold words are like a slap. They are still surprisingly painful, although you expected worse. “You’re putting me in a very awkward position, Wrennie.”
“Tell everyone that you changed your mind, that I wasn’t good enough…” you whisper, and he nods, as if considering it. Is he? You have trouble breathing.
On some strange level, you think it’s fair, he’s getting the pain in the arse of dealing with cancelling the wedding; you have to build your life from scratch. And you two still work together. Given he only shows up in the lab once or twice a month, but his name is on every fucking paper. It is after all a Yamataki-Thorington project.
“Are you leaving to Rivendell Project then?” he asks, and you shake your head.
“I’ve given it a thought, but this lab is… better for me. The focus is closer to my topic, and…” He chuckle, his lips twisting in a grimace.
“I haven’t expected you to be so practical about it.”
“It’s my life, John. And my career. If I were a daft minor that you think I am, I’d of course run. And I have thought of it…”
You hope he understands that he’s just receiving the condensed version of all the thinking you’ve done in the last nineteen hours. Something tells you he does. He’s never underestimated your intellect.
He finally lifts his eyes from his hand on the table. Does he realise his fingers are twitching? His eyes are dull now.
“I think we have nothing else to talk about.”
You nod, get up, and start walking to the door. It takes twenty seven steps, then your hand lies on the handle, and you leave with your trunk. The key to his flat is on the kitchen table.
You take two weeks of hols. You go to the lab administrator and say it as if fucking is. ‘I have just broken off my engagement to Dr Thorington, and I need two weeks off.’ They are granted to you within half an hour.
In the evening you send Lan to the halls for your trunks and suitcases, while you’re shopping for shorts and swimsuit. It turns out if you live as much as a mistress of a posh neurosurgeon for long enough, your bank account becomes rather minty. You spend a night in a hotel, don’t pick up your phone, and take the plane the next morning. You spend the next two weeks on the white beach of Pollonia, Greece. You read, walk, swim, cry, and think. You turn off your phone, you don’t read your emails. On the first evening, you write a long email to Thea, Lan, and Killian. You find it rather depressing that there isn’t anyone else to reassure that you’re OK. You skim through their answers, and then hold the power button on your mobile until the screen is black, and the world is gone.
And then it’s time to come back and face it again.