What You Can’t Get Back: Chapter Fifteen

It was everything and nothing all at once. The uncertainty of possibility was overwhelming, to say the least. I wanted nothing more than to run to him, to let him take me in his arms and fill my nose with his scent. Though, at the same time, the anger and hurt were rushing through my veins with such a disdain that I could barely breathe.  Little sparks of hope that it had all been a nightmare flickered through my brain while the rational bits tried to pull me from the surface. With the passing of my name across his lips I tense and yet each muscle relaxes. It is such a contradiction that I cannot speak as I feel the boxes in my arms begin to shift.  I can’t take my eyes off of him though, and as the top box begins to fall I realize he’s closer now having covered the distance between us fairly quickly. As he catches the box his hand brushes my arm and lightning shoots through my body. It has been so long since I’ve felt his skin or even been this close to him and it forces me to look away.

I find a spot on the floor and try to focus all of my attention there. Just in the corner of my view of the hardwood, I see his shoes come into focus as he removes them from the footrest. My curiosity gets the better of me and as I slowly give in to it I can’t control the boxes, the need for a reaction is greater.  First I notice the small tremble as the sound of his brakes threatens to distract me, then it’s the way his breathing changes, more determined than before.  I see the movement and I hear the low grunt and when I glance up he is there. At his full height as the boxes crash to the floor, I can barely believe my eyes.  I’m looking up at him, looking up at him, and it’s incredible and terrifying at the same time. My hand flys to cover the choking sound that is sitting at the back of my throat and I stare at him.

“Luce…” he says, almost unsure.

I could easily reach out he’s only an arm’s length away. Standing. Waiting. Watching me as I watch him until I can no longer take it. My feet begin to move as my head does the universal sign for no repeatedly as I run from the rotunda. Where I’m headed I have no idea but I need space, I need air. I can hear Lacey somewhere close and I know what her reaction to my quickly unraveling mind would be so I continue on through a long hall and finally, I see the door to freedom. Pushing it hard it slams against the wall behind it and I break out into another jog, circling around to the side of the large club.  So many questions are bubbling up as I try and catch my breath. I don’t know if it’s the way I ran from the room or if it is a panic attack starting.

I’m hiding around the side of the building when the phone in my pocket goes off but not even the Barbie girl ringtone can cause me to relax. Lacey is beckoning me and I just can’t. I need more time. My mind has to settle some before I can face him again. How was he standing? When did that happen? Can he walk? He looked so unsteady. These thoughts are crashing around like bumper cars in my brain and I can’t seem to find the ride shut off when I feel the hand on my shoulder and nearly jump out of my skin.

“Ahhh!” I yell.

“He showed you…” JJ says softly with a smile.

I can’t respond for fear of what might make its way out of my mouth so I just nod.

“He’s been working really hard. He went to some program a few months ago and it’s only gotten better,” he says excitedly.

I know I’m just staring up at him, probably with some crazed look on my face but I don’t care. I can’t seem to verbalize anything.

“He was going to do it tomorrow. The big reveal. I guess he couldn’t wait, huh?” he continues.

“Lucy are you okay?” he finally asks after a few seconds.

“Yeah, yeah JJ I’m fine,” I say, completely dismissing him as I let myself walk back towards the rotunda.

When I cross the threshold he’s back in his chair, his back to me and I see his shoulders tense when he hears my shoes. He’s stacking the boxes I dropped and he stills as I get closer, tears falling freely at this point as my mind is finally able to process what he did. He leaves the last box where it is and turns around but I don’t think I was ready for what is written so plainly across his handsome face. Regret stares at me as he does meet my gaze briefly before looking away. We stay this way for a good long while before he finally moves past me slowly. No matter what I want something inside me is frozen there in that spot until I’m staring blankly out at the lake. His departure is quiet and I don’t know if he’s gone or not when I finally manage to get out, “do it again.”

I want to see it again. I want to see him. I want him but I don’t know what this means, these new developments. Does it mean he’s back to himself or is this still some stranger sitting there who can put on a good show.  My trust has been broken and I don’t know if that can be restored. I don’t know if I can put myself through that again. Before I can turn to see if he’s there he comes to a stop in front of me and my breath hitches again at the closeness of him.

“I… I can only hold it a little while like this, Luce,” he says quietly.

I watch him, and I realize that while it’s the same as the last time I saw him two years ago it’s different. He is different, his body is different, bulkier and filled out more than I’ve ever seen it. His arms lift each leg but it’s different than before there’s movement to them now, small movement but it’s there. Evident when he brings himself forward and moves his feet out from the rest some without using his hands. He stills for a moment and I see the determination flash across his face, and before I know it there he is in front of me, unbalanced and tall. He’s wavering some to the right but he quickly throws his left arm out to gain some balance and steadies some. The small tremors from before are more pronounced now and a few beads of sweat have appeared on his forehead.

I close the two-foot gap between us and I stare up at him. I’ve missed this. I’ve missed him and everything that came with him more than I knew in these moments. Teetering more after a few minutes he reaches out to place his hands on my shoulders and I let him. That electricity is back as his hands gently rest there on my bare skin. I tense before I can tell myself not too and he feels it because his expression goes dark in that instant. Stormy eyes stare into mine before I look away, I don’t want to make this worse, he is proud to have accomplished this but I can’t help my body’s reaction. Before another second passes his lips are on mine and I’m lost in him. Lost in all the ways I wish things were different and yet the same.

Nothing really changed because he has improved my mind shoots out at me. He still cheated. He still broke our vows. He did this, my mind is screaming through the bliss of our lip lock. Finally, I muster up the strength to pull away from him but he’s still holding me, tighter now than before and I remember what he said so I don’t back out of his reach completely. It takes him a minute to recover from the kiss and I watch as his features go from relaxed to joy to the realization of what he just did and before I know it I’m watching him adjust his body back in his chair.

As long as that kiss was, the moment is gone now, its past like everything else we shared. We can’t even look at each other at this point and I turn to go, I don’t know how Lacey isn’t losing her mind, having to wait for us.

“I’m sorry Luce, I am so, so sorry. For everything I did but more for the things I didn’t do. For not calling you to come get us that night, for not believing you when you told me you were just glad I was still here. For not believing in you, that you could get us through this. For not being there for you when you needed me the most, for not loving you like I promised I would, God, I’m so sorry I couldn’t be the person you still saw I was…” he pauses and I’m afraid of what’s coming next, “I’m sorry for ever letting you believe that you weren’t enough because really I wasn’t enough of a man for you. I’m sorry that I ever dragged us through this, for letting you believe that I had cheated on you…”

With that last confession my eyes dart up to meet his and the pain and loss and regret tear me apart but I can’t get past the last thing he said. What does he mean let me believe he cheated? I think about that for a minute before it dons on me that he basically just told me it was a lie. He lied about cheating or rather didn’t say no when I asked him but he never said yes either.

“Did you sleep with her?” I scream.

“Believe what you want to Luce,” he says flippantly.

“How could you do that to me? How could you throw away our life for some Barbie wanna be? You won’t even let me touch you at all and she was fine to have her hands all over you? How?” I continue screaming and he sits there staring at the floor.

I realize in that memory he never denies it but he never confirmed it either. And I watch as he watches me figuring it out, an expectant look on his face.

“This changes nothing.”

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