He coughs to cover up the laugh that wants to escape him.
“Yes,” he says. “I’m asking you on a date. Do you want to go?”
I really have to be dreaming. But, if it’s a dream, I don’t want to wake up.
“Yeah.” My voice trembles with excitement. “I’d love to go on a date with you.”
I don’t know why this is happening. But I’m not going to question it, though, not with things finally going our way.
Hopefully it will stay like that.
Part of me thinks that I must be utterly insane. How could I even think that this is a good idea? It’s just going to happen again, and then where will I be?
But, over the last few days, I’ve put an awful lot of thought into everything. Why did something like this happen? At the end of the day, it came down to the fact that Jessica and I didn’t know each other nearly as well as we should have.
We’d been together just over a two and a half years when Jessica found those documents. It’s morbidly funny to realize that she and I have been apart now, longer than we were ever together. I know we loved each other truly.
But I also know that neither of us put everything we had into the relationship. She was too quiet and shy, hesitant to speak her mind for fear that I would shoot her down, which led to her building som
ething awful up in her mind until she just couldn’t handle it anymore. I was too suspicious and angry at the world, used to holding things close to my chest so that no one hurt me anymore.
We were young or bitter or quiet, and we just didn’t know each other as well as we should have. How could I have expected Jessica to know that I wasn’t a murderer when I was so cagey about my past? Or how could she have expected me to think positively about the fact that she was so obviously keeping secrets when she was too nervous to tell me what was on her mind? In the end, our silence ruined our relationship.
Would it do it again? We’re older now and both more world-weary. I’ve lived through three years of obsessively wondering what went wrong, and it’s already occurred to me, before this, that I didn’t trust Jessica with parts of myself that I should have. She has had to raise a child alone and face the world that blindsided her with secrets she wasn’t ready to hear.
Maybe it is insane.
But, then, maybe it’s the chance the both of us need to start over and find something new.
In front of me, Jessica’s face is light with shock and joy. She hadn’t expected the question. I’ve been wrestling with myself about whether to ask it all day. But my decision was made earlier, as I watched the way she laughed and crawled around the floor. Her hair was flying around her face, and her already ripped jeans were becoming more so at the knees and she had never looked more beautiful.
And I had thought, as I looked at her and Owen and remembered sitting down to breakfast with them, I can have this. This family is something that I could be part of.
For the first time, it’s something that I want to be part of.
“Alright,” I say to her. “I have the day shift on Tuesday, so I’ll be finished around four or five. How does that sound?”
“Perfect,” she assures me.
I’m surprised that she hasn’t yet asked me why. I’ve seen her watching me all day, trying to puzzle out my behavior. Or maybe she just doesn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth when something is finally going right for us. She’s cautiously optimistic and it’s nice to see the smile blooming over her face.
I still don’t know if this will work. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to ever look at her and not remember the secrets she kept and the things she thought about me, even if it was only three years ago.
But I can try.
“Thank you,” she says as I go to leave.
I know what she’s thanking me for. She’s thanking me for giving her another chance, for not giving up entirely.
“It’s fine,” I say.
And then I’m gone. Butterflies are swimming in my stomach now. I was so confident in my decision, both when I made it and when I blurted it out. But, now that we’ve made a plan, I’m oddly anxious about it all. When I decided to cut Jessica from my life, the path my life was going to be simple. All it meant was doing what I always did, and remaining as distant from Jessica as I could while seeing Owen.
Now there’s so many winding roads in front of me that I don’t know which one to take anymore. What is the right course of action here? Or am I just overthinking everything again?