I´ve been here before, but never did I stop in front of the door, breathing in deeply, closing my eyes for a second, fading out the noise from around. My headache is coming back on. It woke me this morning. My mind knew that I´d have to be doing this before I did. I turned around in bed and found myself face-to-face with my fiancée. He was fast asleep, his mouth slightly open, his hair in a mess. I looked at him for a while, then sighed and turned around again. But that must have woken him up, for he slid over to me and hugged me real tight, pulling me close to his chest, so that I could feel his chest hair on my back.
“Mornin’”, he mumbled, still half asleep. He pulled me even closer, rubbing my arm, then my hip. “You slept well?” he whispered, reaching out to hold my hand, caressing my skin, then holding it tight so that the ring started cutting into my finger.
I couldn´t really answer him. I did sleep, but I dreamed the weirdest stuff and I owed that to the night before. The night before, he had asked me to marry him. And I had said yes.
Still, I feel the need to justify my reaction to his proposal. For a very good reason, though. I love him. We´ve been together for three years now, we´ve been living together for two years. We got a cat last year. My friends told me it was just a matter of time. Time has come now, I do believe. And I´m more than happy. We are great together. We are still as in love as on the first day we met. He actually hit on me while I was out with another guy. That impressed me a lot and I spent the rest of the night with him instead of the other guy. I can´t even remember his name. But John and I have been an item since. It feels good to wake up next to him. When he smiles at me and his face lights up, I just want to touch him, knowing that this smile is only directed at me. When he hugs me, I feel safe. Really safe. I know that he can take care of me. I know that he understands me. Even though my mood changes sometimes without warning and I can be a pain in the you-know-what. He stills loves me. And so I felt free to be me. So I loved him back.
But now, things are different. Just being together was alright, but getting married makes me have to face a problem I tried to ignore for so long. I´m not very good at ignoring it. Every now and then, the thoughts pop back into my mind. I can´t marry John. Even though I want to really badly. Even though I know that it is the right thing. I can´t marry John, because I´m still married. I never got divorced. I went away, but I never got divorced.
So here I am. In front of his house. Our house. I was shocked to find out that he hadn´t moved. I thought he´d leave the house after I went away. But he only painted it blue. It used to be yellow. The blue paint looks great, especially in combination with the white window frames and the green and red curtains he hung. Or his girlfriend.
Suddenly, a sharp pain rushes through my body. He could be taken again. He could have moved on. Like I did. All of a sudden, the idea of being there didn´t feel right at all. And I was all for following my guts.
‘Don´t be a coward’, I told myself, scolding me for my cowardly behavior. ‘Ring the bell, already, ring the damn bell.’
It took me another minute before I could raise my arm and ring the bell. Thoughts about him rushed through my head. The things we did, the things we shared, the things we should´ve better not done. Every now and then, John flickered through my mind, but I pushed the thoughts about him aside. I had some business to take care of.
I had to wait for another minute, while my heart was pounding and my palms were getting sweaty. I clutched the straps of my handbag tightly and blew a strand of my hair out of my face.
As the door opened, the sweet smell of freshly baked cake wavered over to me. Chocolate cake. As I turned my head to look at him, my hands dropped to my sides.
He was drying his hands on a towel, flour on his shirt and on his black jeans, his feet barefoot. I took my time taking in his appearance, avoiding his glance the best I could. But eventually, I looked up to him and our eyes locked.
“Fae”, he said.
“Henry”, I answered.
“Well, well.” His voice was soft and teasing, but still as smooth as I remembered. It made me shiver and the hair on my arms stood up. “Why don´t you come on in?”
He stepped aside for me, holding one arm out as if to guide me in. I followed him in without thinking about it. As I walked past him, I could smell his cologne. It triggered off a memory of us together after a dinner at his parent´s house. It had ended with a big fight, because his brother had offended his sister´s husband and all started yelling at once. That night, as we went to bed, he held me tight and thanked me for not running away. My head was resting on his chest and I could smell his cologne just like I could smell it now.
“It´s been years”, he said, as he closed the door.
Suddenly, I felt the urge to leave, to walk past him, out of the door and far, far away from him. He eyeballed me and I could see a lot of questions in his eyes. It was weird to still know him like this.
“Nothing has changed around here”, I said, trying to make small talk.
He looked at me for a few seconds, and then shrugged his shoulders as if to agree to play nice for a while.
“That´s not entirely true. I redid the kitchen”, he said, pointing through the door on my left which I thought lead into the dining room. Curious, I followed the gesture and stepped into the room. He´d really redone the kitchen. He had taken out the wall so that the light from the big kitchen window now lit up the dining room as well. Without the wall separating both rooms, everything seemed light and open and free. Apart from that, though, he hadn´t changed a bit. It was the same dining table, with the same chairs that don´t match, the same picture on the wall, though it hung level now. As I walked past the table, I let my finger slide on it from one end to the other. There were some great memories connected to that table.
As I spun around, I noticed Henry watching me. As he walked over to me, I counted his steps.
“What do you want here?” he asked as he stopped right in front of me. “It´s been four years.”
“I know”, I said.
He came closer and reached out to push the strand of my hair out of my face. Though he didn´t pull his hand back, but let it drop to my cheek. There was a strange moment as we looked into each other´s eyes. Unable to think clear, I closed in on him, wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him. With the first touching of lips, something fierce inside the both of us was freed. He moaned and pulled me close, turned me around and pushed me against the wall. He ripped the handbag from my shoulder and threw it across the room. I grabbed his shirt with one hand and pulled him close. With the other hand, I went through his hair, his soft, thick black hair.
“Fae”, he mumbled, kissing my neck, my ear lobes and then my mouth again, while his hands ran up and down my body. “Stop it, stop it”, he said, more to himself than to me. He grabbed my shoulders and took one step away from me. “We can´t be doing this.”
He closes his eyes and drew in a deep breath. “We really shouldn´t be doing this, Fae.”
But as he reopened his eyes, there it was again, this connection we both felt. No words needed to say what we both felt. There was still something going on between us. Unfinished business. It has always been like that with the two of us. We couldn´t let go of one another. There was this strong connection between us. Still. After four years. Four years, which we had spent apart, each of us going on with our lives. All of a sudden, though, John´s face flickered through my mind and I withdrew from him and bumped into the wall behind me.
Ashamed, I put my hand to my lips. Then I tried to organize my clothes. I straightened my blouse, buttoned it up. Then I tried to undo the mess he turned my hair into. All the while, he was still standing two feet away from me, watching me.
“Fae, honestly. What are you doing here?”
I avoided his glance. “I brought the papers”, I said.
“What papers?” he asked in a sharp voice.
He looked at me in shock. Then he opened his mouth as if to say something, but not a word crossed his lips.
I felt ashamed of what we did and suddenly felt the need to busy my hands with something. So I went across the room to pick up my handbag. I zipped it open to take out the divorce papers.
“I need you to sign these”, I said and pushed them over to him on the dining table.
He turned around and looked at the papers, but instead of reaching for them, he pushed them away. “I´m not going to sign this crap.”
I sighed. “Henry, don´t make this complicated, alright? Just please, sign the papers.”
But he just stared at me with a big frown on his face.
“You met someone.”
“I´m not going to discuss my love life with you.”
With two long strides he was over at my side, grabbing me by the arm and pulling me close.
“You came here unannounced to demand my signature on these bloody papers. I have every right to question you on this!”
“We haven´t seen each other for years!” I yelled.
“Not my choice”, he growled.
We both stared at each other, but as he wanted to come close again to kiss me, I took a step away from him.
“Please”, I said, suddenly exhausted. “Please, don´t, Henry, please don´t make a scene.”
“Don´t make a scene?” he echoed, still angry. “You left me four years ago without a word. Without telling me where you went and why you left. I have every right to ask you questions, I have every right to demand answers.”
“Not anymore”, I yelled back, but he only tightened the grip on my arm.
“We´re still married”, he growled.
The utter truth of this statement made me go silent. There was nothing else to say. He was right. We were still married. Legally, I was his wife and he was my husband and he had the right to know where I´ve been.
So I put my hand on his hand and made him loosen his grip.
“My boyfriend asked me to marry him and I said yes”, I said, stating the situation as briefly as I could. But I could see that he was not satisfied with that answer. He was piercing me with his fixed glance, his whole body tense. I look past him to see where he had kicked the papers to, but they must have fallen off the table.
Henry, though, grabbed my chin with his free hand and forced me to look him in the eye.
“I couldn´t care less. You´re married to me. You´re my wife.” His voice was husky and deep and burdened with emotions. “I can´t let you go again”, he said, his eyes softening as the tension left his body. “I always knew that you´d come and find me one day. And all I wanted to say to you was that I wouldn´t let you go again. And I won´t, Fae. I won´t.”
“That´s not your call, Henry. I´m with someone else.”
He straightened up and let go of my chin. “No, you´re not. You love him, but you love me more. That´s why you´re here.” A sparkle glared in his eyes as he looked at me, amused.
“Can´t fool me, love. The way you kissed me…”
“I was confused and…”
“You wanted to kiss me.”
“And I wanted you to kiss me.”
That took me by surprise. “Did you?”
Amused, he looked at me. Then he reached out to caress my arm.
“After all these years, the only thing I want to do is to kiss you goodnight before you fall asleep and to wake you the next morning”, he whispered, reaching for my hand and holding it to his heart.
Emotions washed over me like a wave on the shore as I reopened my heart to him. I knew that seeing him again would be hard. But I hadn´t had the slightest idea that I would discover that I still loved him this much. However, rationality kicked in and I reminded myself of John and that I wanted to marry him, but the thought only echoed somewhere in the back of my mind.
“Henry”, I said, giving in to him.
With that crooked smile I had missed for so long, he welcomed me back.
“Are you going to stay for cake?” he asked.