When she awoke on New Year’s Day, she was confused. She was lying on her side and as soon as she opened her eyes, her temples began throbbing. She quickly squeezed her eyes shut as she rolled over onto her back.
“Oh, I drank too much wine . . . ” she groaned softly. “Why did I do that?”
As she lay there with her eyes closed, he said, “You can blame me.”
When she heard his voice, her eyes flew open again and she sat up on her elbows.
“I brought the first bottle of wine, remember?” he grinned. “But we also finished off the other bottle. And then there was champagne after that to toast the New Year . . . ” his voice trailed off.
He was standing in her bedroom doorway, fully dressed, with a cup of coffee in his hand.
“Oh, yeah . . . ” she cringed as she flopped back on the bed, scooting as far under the covers as possible before pulling them over her head. “What time is it?”
“It’s almost eleven o’clock. So if you were planning on watching the Rose Parade, you’re out of luck,” he chided.
She pushed the covers back down just under her chin and turned her gaze on him, finally realizing that, unlike her, he was dressed.
“Is that coffee?” she asked, squinting in an effort not to open her eyes fully as her headache intensified.
“Yes, I just made another pot. It will be ready in a few minutes,” he said. She waited, expecting him to move toward the bed, offer her a sip of coffee, and then take her in his arms. But he remained across the room.
Now fully awake, she was gradually recalling the details of their New Year’s Eve together.
“Did you have breakfast?” she queried tentatively, trying unsuccessfully to remember the moment at which she had fallen asleep the night before.
“No, I’ve just been reading the newspaper and drinking coffee. I thought I would wait for you to wake up to see if you would have an appetite,” he said matter-of-factly. “You drank a lot more wine than I did.”
“You got me drunk,” she said playfully, testing his mood.
“By the time you get dressed, the coffee will be ready,” he said curtly, ignoring her attempted teasing as he turned and walked back to the kitchen, leaving her feeling confused — and rejected.
“Think,” she whispered, as she laid back on the pillow, closed her eyes and tried to recall each and every aspect of what happened between them. After a few moments, it was apparent that he had no intention of returning to the bedroom — or the bed where they had spent the night together. She was growing increasingly uncomfortable there alone.
Although they had been tentative with each other and somewhat awkward at first, they had made love more than once. As she showered while he waited in the kitchen, she remembered the details. He had been sweet and gentle with her, which made his current detached and aloof demeanor all the more surprising — and devastating. She dressed slowly, dreading going into the kitchen to face him, utterly baffled by his determination to distance himself from her this morning.
As she looked in the mirror, she strained to recall anything she said or did that could have upset or offended him. But all she could think about was how natural it had felt to finally be able to express her feelings for him in a tangible, physical manner, and how they had grown more at ease in their exploration during the course of the night.
She brushed her hair and considered her reflection in the mirror. Just a few hours earlier, he had unexpectedly knocked on her apartment door and changed her life for the better. Or so she had thought when he proposed the first toast of the evening. And again, precisely at midnight, when he had reiterated the sentiment, tenderly whispering in her ear as he made love to her, “better late than never.”
Now her eyes burned as she blinked back tears and wondered why, when she had at last been able to make love to the only man she had ever wanted or desired, she was feeling so alone and cast off.
Unable to avoid the inevitable any longer, she went into the kitchen and found him putting on his jacket.
Before she could speak, he muttered, “I really need to get back to school. Classes start tomorrow and I have a lot of reading to do, so I’m going to take a rain check on breakfast, o.k.? I’ll give you a call.”
He gave her a quick peck on the cheek. Then the door slammed behind him and he was gone.
As she stood frozen, staring at the door, she heard his footsteps echoing down the hallway and the tears she had been holding in abeyance all morning could no longer be constrained. Speechless and motionless, she willed herself to control the sobs racking her whole body until she was sure that he was out of earshot. Just then, the telephone began ringing.
Click here to read Chapter Fifteen