“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.”-Oscar Wilde
I said goodbye to my best friend, watched her board the plane at five twenty in the morning, and though Nolan was still here, I felt more alone than ever. It was the loneliness that made me dial James’ number. It was the loneliness turning my mind, and making me think it wouldn’t be so bad to give James one more chance. He was the father of my child, I couldn’t change that, not as long as I was thinking of keeping it.
Beatrice didn’t care what my decision was in regards to the baby, she only cared about my decision with James. She listed all the reasons why it wouldn’t work, and how damaging it would be for the baby to grow up watching a tumultuous marriage. Thinking of my own parents, and how terrible they were to each other until they split when I was three years old I couldn’t argue. She was right about all of it except one thing, I still love him. It seems a simple situation to figure out when you’re looking in from the outside, without your heart involved, but when it is and it’s you the situation gets muddled in a cosmic way.
Beatrice would go batty knowing where I am now, sitting across from James at The Early Worm Cafe. I still don’t know what I should do with our relationship, but I think he deserves to hear about the pregnancy at the very least. I know he’ll use it as a catalyst to get back together and maybe some small part of me was hoping he would for me to justify taking him back.
“I was beginning to wonder if you’d ever call me back.” He says, he’s wearing soft red cardigan over a white collared shirt, and grey suit pants. This was his casual.
“Thought we could talk about a few things.” I say moving my eggs around my plate with my fork. I can’t seem to hold any food down. It all comes up unless I’m eating like bird.
James washes a swallow of his fried chicken down with orange juice. “I feel the same. I wanted to explain, you know about what you saw that night.”
“I really don’t need an explanation, If you begin to lie to me and say she is some cousin twice removed, I will get up from this table and you will never hear from me again.”
“Freja, relax I’m not lying to you. I messed things up, it was exactly what you thought. I just wanted you to know I ended it.” He drew his hand along his face. “It was a desperate reach for one last night of my youth before our wedding, before I was to only be with one woman forever and ever. I just panicked.”
James pushed his hand through his hair, and sighed. Some of what he said almost had me sliding back my chair, but I see the fear of leaving his bachelor lifestyle is real. I admit I’ve wanted to feel free from our relationship, not necessarily to date anyone else, but to feel the possibilities of a single woman. It doesn’t get him pass. The truth is he stopped being a bachelor since we’ve been dating. Nothing changes with saying words like ‘I do’, or ‘husband and wife’, except some tax returns.
“Please say something.” James says, searching my face.
“I just don’t know what to say. There isn’t any explanation that erases the crime, this isn’t court.”
“I’m not treating you like a jury Frey, I’m simply pleading guilty and telling you I’ll do anything you want me to, anything at all, you name it, all I want is you back in life. I can’t lose you for life over some one night stand, some weakness of mine.”
He moved his chair until it was closer to me. He takes my hand, and it’s hard for me not to cherish these words as he melts me with his eyes. They always did the most convincing in our relationship. His eyes could speak to me and tell me to kiss him, make love to him, to quit pressing his buttons, or even tell me he needed alone time. Everything he wanted to say could be said in a look. Right now his eyes told me he loved me, he needed me, and would indeed do whatever punishment I deemed appropriate.
“Tell me anything. I’ll grovel, I’ll promise to come home early every night and woo you off your feet again. I’ll even consent to marriage counseling if it has to be.”
“James.” I stop him with my fingers lightly pressed to his mouth.
“I think maybe I want us to-”
His phone buzzed and though I didn’t see the text or the name, I glimpsed the corner of the picture that popped up on his screen before he was able to grab his phone from the table. It was a picture of long beautiful blonde locks of hair. I try not to jump to conclusions, and think of the blonde girl I caught him with outside the pub. I tell myself it could be any other blonde in his life, and be completely innocent. Yet, even as he puts his phone in his pocket, and smiles up at me, I feel my breath shorten, my anxiety rising, as I try hard to trust his word that he ended things with the ‘other’ women. I needed air.
“Can you excuse me, I wasn’t expecting this to take a long time. I just need to call my boss.” I say and start to excuse myself.
“Of course. I wasn’t expecting this to go so well myself, I should call my office while you’re out, maybe get an extra hour off.” He says, and I know he is lying as he takes out his phone to call her back.
“Sounds good.” Is all I manage before heading out the door. I even take out my phone and my best fake call act while I know he is watching me out the window from inside. When he is good and distracted by his mistress, or maybe he was really calling his boss, I head to my car.
I almost gave in. I almost let him talk me into taking him back. I hate me, for being so gullible and for wanting to be. Forget if the picture I saw was really the ‘other’ woman or not, I realized in that moment of doubt that I would be doubting all my life if I took him back. I would second guess every minute he was late home from work, every strange phone call, every business trip he took, and he would have to take business trips, it was part of the job he chose, so was lying I suppose. I think about the hundreds of Lawyer jokes my father ever blurted, almost always about lying.
I let my head fall back against the headrest of my seat and close my eyes. The tears bead out the sides and roll down my temples and into my hair. I think I finally made my decision and now that I have, it started to sink in just how alone I really am. How alone, and pregnant I am. I didn’t even get to tell him about the baby, and I’m glad I didn’t because now it makes my decision in keeping it that much harder, because if I kept it, I would be a single mother. Could I be mother, let alone a single mom? I thought of my mom raising Julie and me by herself.
I think about it on my way home. My phone is already on silent for the incoming calls from James. I needed more distance from him than ever. It was far too easy for him to talk his way back under my skin.
I had barely hung my jacket up, when the faint alarm of an incoming skype call from my computer echoed through the house. I pick up my pace knowing it’s either Dad, Beatrice, or my sister who are the only ones to ever use my skype. I see it’s my sister and take the call. A blurry picture comes on my screen and as it gradually clears I see my sister waving at me. The green eyes she got from our mother stare at my picture on her screen with a sad smile.
“Freja? You there.”
“Yeah, I’m here.” I say and plop down in my chair.
“Is everything alright? You’re not back with him are you?” She says, bending closer to the screen. “You’ve been crying, your eyes are red.”
That’s my sister for you, queen of the obvious I’d call her when we were younger. Julie looks so different from the wild child I once knew, the girl who dyed her hair a different color every week, who wore tank tops with weed leaves on them and said something rebellious on them. This girl on the screen hadn’t an ounce of make-up, her honey hair clipped up in the back of her head, and a pink polo shirt on to top off her suburban housewife style. I knew she’s a far cry from suburban life. Julie lived in the countryside in Germany with her husband, but she’d matured over the years that was for damn sure.
“I’m not with James.” I say, since it’s really the only answer she wants to hear. I haven’t told her or Dad about the baby, I simply wasn’t ready for their input. I made Beatrice swear not to say anything while she was staying with Julie, her first stop on her world tour.
“And you’d be wise to keep it that way Frey. Men don’t change. They say they will, and they will for a time, but it’s never long before history repeats itself.”
“Did Beatrice get there already.” I change the subject. I’ve heard the same lines the first time we talked about James cheating.
“I’m about to leave for Berlin to get her. I love my husband dearly, but the country can get lonely. Beatrice will be a breath of fresh air, I’m halfway considering her proposal to join her when she leaves here for France!”
“She’s learned french for this trip you know? For the last few months here she wouldn’t even talk to me if I didn’t speak to her in French. Said she wanted a merging language experience.” I laughed thinking about it. “I told her no matter how fluent I was, the French still hear an accent, and I’ve been speaking french four years longer than she has.”
“She’ll do wonderful, I’m sure. It’s you I’m worried about, Freja.”
“How many times do I have to tell you, I’m never going back to James.” I say starting to get annoyed. I hear the front door open. Nolan’s home.
“It’s not just about James. It’s how you’ve dried up ever since being with him. Hell, ever since the other asshole too. You used to have this life about you. This joy beaming out of you like you were soaked to the brim of adventure, and over the years I’ve watched you grow too serious, too tired, with these lifeless eyes. You look damned dead, Freja” She winces, and shakes her head at me through the screen. Nolan saves me from throwing some dirt back into my sister’s eye.
“Whose dead?” He says as he walks up behind me, bending over for Julie to see him waving at her.
“Hi, Nolan how’s it going?”
“Going fabulous, but if you think Freja needs a make-over your worries are over, I’m taking care of that today.” He says grinning from ear to ear.
“What are you talking about?” I say, twisting my head up to see if he was serious. He was.
“Hunny, I already booked the spa, and an appointment at The Bluebird Salon, and you simply do not cancel a Bluebird haircut. Trust me when I say you need it.” He says, flipping my messy bun with a finger. It makes Julie laugh. Julie once told me she could listen to Nolan talk for hours, because everything he said was funny or sounded funny because of the feminine drawl he talked with. I hardly notice any more, but it did make you have this feeling of fun whenever you were around him, at least when he was happy and not moping about Peter anyway.
“I have to get going, Freja, but the spa and a new haircut is good start, you should go.”
I say bye to Julie and end the call. Nolan is behind me tapping his foot impatiently for me. I turn sideways in my chair regarding him.
“I’ll go.” I say. “What time?”
“I’m waiting for you to say it?” He says still tapping his foot impatiently, his nose lifted up to the ceiling in mock snub of me. I haven’t a clue to what he is referring to.
“Say the words, Freja. It’s time, and I won’t leave here until you say them. You made me do it.” He says, and I know what he wants from me. I wince a little, not wanting to. If I say the words I have to move on and stop feeling sorry for myself. Although, I may have already started to move on, or at least made the decision to, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to stop feeling sorry for myself. There was plenty of sorry to last me at least another nine months.
Nolan gives up acting standoffish and comes over to me. He grabs my hands, pulls me up on my feet, and tips my chin up until I’m looking him in the eyes.
“You are strong, and one of the most gorgeous women I have privilege to call my best friend. Well, when your eyes aren’t swollen and redder than a reefer.”
He makes me smile so easily.
“Say the words, and let’s go get fabulous.” He tells me.
I say the words, and he hugs me. He starts dancing out my door telling me to be ready to leave in twenty minutes. I recede back into my chair, and stare at the blank computer screen. I can’t help, but think about what Julie said about me being dead inside, or how I was all dried up.
It bothered me, because what she says is true, my personality has faded somewhere down the road I took to get here. To get to a place where eat, sleep, work, and repeat is my everyday. I know my whole day before it begins, and I know the day after will be the same when I lay my head down on my pillow at night. My greatest adventures nowadays are choosing somewhere new to eat out, or trying a different wine I haven’t tried yet. I was boring, the absolute opposite of whoever Freja was before becoming boring Freja.
I can’t stand to look at me through the black empty screen any longer. I move the mouse to turn on the monitor. I see my background picture of me squished between Beatrice and Nolan on our first day of college. I’m wearing my old ripped up skinny jeans, and had on a black and white t-shirt of my favorite rock band. I had my tongue out like Gene Simmons, and Beatrice held out the peace sign as she pecked my cheek. Nolan was squeezing us together with his monkey arms. My sister was right, life radiated from me, and I can’t really think of when I felt that alive, even on the best of days with James.
Something inside me snapped. I needed to do whatever it was to not be boring Freja. I desperately wanted the feeling I see in this old photo. I need it to be fresh, new, and everyday. What would old Freja do? Obviously something drastic and irresponsible. I let the old spontaneous Freja possess me and move my fingers on the keyboard.
I buy a ticket to Germany, and my flight leaves tomorrow night.