DESPITE DARKNESS, ALLISON went outside in haste by the back door. Ed followed after her, and soon, caught her by the shoulder in the middle of a rainstorm.
“What the hell is going on?!”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what’s wrong with me okay?”
“You’ve been giving me the cold shoulder and now this… what do you want from me!?”
“I… I ... just leave me alone will you?”
As she continued clomping across the wet lawn towards nothingness, in a blurt of desperation he yelled out, “YOU CAN’T KEEP DOING THIS TO ME!!”
She heard him and stopped in place.
All hyped up on adrenaline, with a deep breath, he inhaled his pride and came up to face her, going out on a limb in suggesting, “Do you want us?”
“I said — do you want us?!”
“There can’t be an ‘us!’”
“Why not?! Because I’m married to Dan and I love him. I love him!”
“I can’t do this anymore… What about me huh? What about me!”
“We can’t be together. Don’t you get it?”
“Then why are you here tonight? Why do you act all jealous and why do you care if I’m in love with Kate?”
“I… I was drinking earlier —”
“You are not that drunk. I deserve an answer. Explain to me. Pleeease.”
“I… I just… I just hate to see you with anyone. I know I’m only thinking about myself, and in a way, I’m obviously exploiting you in doing so but… but I can’t help how I feel.”
“Do you mean that?”
“Every word. I feel awful. And I can’t help needing you when I feel awful.”
His glum face relaxed.
“I don’t know what else to say.”
“Then, don’t — don’t speak. You don’t have to say anything more.” Closing the gap between them, he reached out to hold her chin steady and sealed her worries with an oh-so desirous kiss. Unlike what happened before, this time she neither shoved nor yelled but stayed perfectly content, taking it all in. When he drew back, he declared upon her translucent green eyes reopening to see him. Even with minimal light gleaming from the street lamp, they ensnared him with their shine. “If only you knew the power you have over me just by looking at me like this.”
“I’m sorry, Teddy. I really am. I just don’t want to lose you —”
“Who said you were going to?”
“You know… Me.”
“You are my girl. You will always be my girl no matter what.”
His avowal put her at ease but not for long. As the whipping wind and rain hit her in constant torrents, any moment, she might topple over from exertion to maintain herself. He noticed her struggle and so wrapped his jacket around her to keep her warm, then like there was nothing to it, picked her up off her feet and carried her back inside. Away from the party scene, he headed upstairs into Sara’s bedroom to lay her down. The second he switched on the bedside lamp, he looked down at her lying there with tears coming down her cheeks, feeling genuinely concerned.
“Tell me,” he said.
Stammering her words, she confided in him in a burst of sheer hatred, “He hit… hit me, Teddy. He s-slapped me for that… that whore.”
He knew right away it was Daniel she meant. “When did it happen?”
“This afternoon. We were having a big fight —”
“That son of a bitch! He will pay for what he did!”
Sensing his rage, she grabbed his hand and told him, “Don’t. Hurting him won’t solve anything.”
“How can you still be so protective of him?!”
She did not respond, her shoulders still shaking from shedding tears.
Holding onto her hand endearingly, he got down on bended knee and begged in his sternest voice, “Divorce him. Please. I swear I would never treat you the way he did. I would do everything I could to take care of you and make you happy. I would be the best that I could be, a good husband to you.”
“I love you… I always have and I always will. My feelings for you have never changed, and I’ve hoped and dreamt every day that I’d be so lucky to have you back with me. I’m asking you to please, leave him and marry me instead.”
A smile broke through her clouded eyes. “You are too good to me you know that? But, it’s not going to work.”
“It will! I promise it will! I promise I would do whatever it takes to make our relationship work. I would let you win all the fights, and be the most understanding.”
“I have no doubt you would do all that for me, but there’s just one problem.”
“What is it?”
“We are two fools in love with the wrong person.”
“Don’t say that —”
“Well it’s true. I appreciate everything that you are offering me, but —”
“But you just don’t love me anymore,” he finished her sentence, his face elongated with controlled sorrow.
“It’s not like that.”
“Then what is it like?”
“I had loved you, and in fact I still do, but just not in the same way. Friends are all that we are now. It’s like I’ve told you, if I weren’t with Dan, things could certainly be different, but I am — and I’m never going to leave him.”
Allison might not realize it, but her honesty rocked him a great deal. He stood up and turned away for a moment, rubbing his face to sort of calm down his indignation. “You don’t mean that,” he insisted.
“But I do.” She sat up in bed. “Please, Teddy, please don’t be like this.”
“Then you’ve got to explain it to me. Because I just don’t see it.”
“Don’t see what?”
“What’s so special about him. Because from what’ve you told me, the guy’s a total prick.”
“Then tell me. Am I not noble enough for you? Not high and mighty enough?! I’ve skipped work to be at your beck and call. I requested a transfer to Arbington and moved here just to be near you —”
“What did you —”
“What’s he done for you huh?! Nothing!! That fucker.”
“I said stop this!!”
“I will not!! He’s never been that nice to you. He’s cheated on you who knows how many times and now he’s hit you —”
“Is that why you made up that lie?” she snapped, incidentally getting him cautious.
“You know what lie. Even if my marriage were to fail, I would still just want it to be between Dan and me. I could really do without my friends secretly sabotaging it.”
Speechless, Ed gave in. He looked out into the street to try to cool off before he could begin to speak to her again. “How can you do it? How can you still love him after all he’s put you through?!”
“Of all people, I thought you would understand.”
“How could I?”
“Don’t they say love is blind? I never really believed it until Dan cheated on me, until I came to a crossroads one day having to choose between staying and leaving. Considering how you and I ended, you still love me for me to this day —”
“I regret… I regret ever letting you slip away.”
“It’s not your fault. It was never your fault.”
Getting choked up at the thought of their emotional breakup, he swallowed hard, tried moving on but his heart would not let him. As his mood deepened in blues, Allison came to fold her arms around him. Despite the hurt that tormented him on the inside, he accepted her into his.
“You must grant me this favor, Teddy. Please, cherish what we still have with each other and be satisfied.”
“Yes. You must.”
All the while spaced out in deep thought, he squeezed her in tightly, rubbing his cheek across the crown of her head as if she was his most prized possession that he was not about to just give away.
“Do you truly believe he loves you?”
“If I don’t believe it myself, what can I believe in?”
“And, you are happy with him?”
She hesitated for a second. “Yes. Yes I am.”
At her response, he nodded and released her.
“I’ll be satisfied.”
“Really?” she queried, slightly in disbelief.
“Yes, really. But you ought to get some rest now. Look at you. You can barely stand on your own. Come on.”
He held her hand and brought her back to bed.
“Stay with me, will you?” she asked in her selfish little way and like always, he did as she wished, promising her devotedly, “I will be here. I won’t go anywhere.” Upon his commitment, her anxious mind grew hazy and eyelids leaden, until she let out a long, weary sigh and closed them. While she slowly drifted off, he pulled up a chair next to her and sat down.
His heart, still heavy with the fresh trauma of her revelation, found itself brutally played. Even so, he was in too deep to quit her, to dash his hope of ever having a future with his angel. During the next many hours, he thought hard between love and hate, his doomed fate and free will. Like Allison, Ed too had come to a crossroads, a time to decide what to do with that torn-up feeling inside him at long last or risk living it indefinitely.
In the very end, he made a rash decision.