“Leaving?” she responded breathlessly to the curve ball fate had just pitched directly to her. “No, I’m not leaving. I’ll be back in a few moments.”
“Oh, good!” he said genially. “I was hoping we could catch up a bit.”
She studied his eyes, remembering all the times that, as a young woman, she had looked expectantly — hopefully — into them. He looked exactly the same save for the small but distinct lines at the corners of his eyes that had grown more pronounced when he smiled and a few gray highlights in his hair. He was as impossibly attractive as ever.
But on this night, the lovesick young woman lacking confidence that she used to be was not in attendance at the reunion. Rather, she thought to herself, “I must be unrecognizable to him,” as she threw her shoulders back and spoke in a calm but measured tone, determined to take full advantage of what she knew instinctively was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Catch up,” she repeated thoughtfully. “Yes, I think we should ‘catch up.’ I think that would be lovely. In fact, I was hoping you would be here, because I have some questions for you and I would really like to ‘catch up’ by getting a few answers. After all, it’s been a few years, hasn’t it?”
“Yes, it sure has,” he said, puzzled by her demeanor.
“I would love to hear what you have been up to,” she continued, “since you left my apartment so abruptly that New Year’s Day.”
“Well . . . ” he began haltingly, his eyes darting to the doorway behind her in which several of their classmates had paused to chat after recognizing each other.
“Do you have any idea how much I loved you? Any clue at all about how much you meant to me?” She spoke slowly in a declarative, nonaccusatory tone. “You never had any idea, even after that New Year’s Eve, of the impact you had on me . . . on my life. Did you?”
“Look, . . . ” he said, fumbling for a way to extricate himself from the conversation.
“No. You look,” she said in a voice barely above a whisper as tears began welling up in her eyes, her own anger catching her completely off-guard. “You think you can just waltz in here and yammer on casually about how we should ‘catch up’ after what you did to me . . . to us? Is that what you think? Maybe it’s time you heard about your . . .”
She managed to stop herself before she said the next word as jumbled images of Dennis, her son, their home, and the life they had made together invaded her consciousness.
“I said, ‘I hope you’re not leaving already,'” he repeated.
She realized that she had been staring at him while the scene she had rehearsed, hoped for, and dreamed about for so many years played out, as on all prior occasions, only in her imagination.
“No, no,” she mumbled, “I was just on my way to the ladies’ room.”
“Oh, good,” he smiled. “It’s great to see you! Tell you what: I’ll go over to the bar, get us a couple of drinks, and meet you back here. Then we can catch up.”
“Sure. Great,” she nodded. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
She turned, exited hurriedly through the double doors, and practically sprinted down the hallway to the ladies’ room. A handful of her classmates were chatting animatedly as they washed their hands, applied more lipstick, and checked their reflections in the full-length mirrors. Ignoring all of them, she rushed into the first stall, locked the door, and leaned against it, eyes shut and breathing heavily. As several long minutes passed, she worked to compose herself, thankful that groups of chattering women came and went without sensing her presence.
Realizing that he would be wondering about her, she knew that she could not remain in the restroom much longer.
Resolved, she waited until the room became completely quiet. Then she unlocked the metal door and opened it to find that she was indeed alone. Breathing normally again, she walked over to the sink and studied her reflection in the mirror above it. The water rushing out of the tap was ice cold and felt refreshing as she dabbed it on her face and neck. She quickly re-applied a light coat of foundation and some lip gloss just in case she could not avoid being drawn into conversation with more of her classmates in the hallway.
Then she walked out of the ladies’ room and down the hallway to the bank of elevators. Luckily, the doors to one of the elevators opened immediately when she pushed the call button.
Less than an hour later, she generously tipped the hotel desk clerk after he assured her that the note of apology she had hastily scribbled would be delivered to her best friend shortly. Then she walked out the front door of the hotel and into a taxi cab, en route to the airport to catch the earliest flight available back home to Dennis and their son.
Click here to read Chapter Twenty-Seven.