Short Story 4: The Talk
(Two posts in one day – Stop press! I thought I should mention that this story was written a few months ago and very loosely inspired by Damien Rice’s song “Cold Water” which I couldn’t get out of my head for days. Everytime I thought of the lyrics, I pictured a girl standing in a bitterly cold downpour…)
Jess blinked hard as a trail of cold water ran down her forehead and onto her lashes. She didn’t wipe her face when the water dragged black muck from her heavily mascaraed lashes into her eyes, causing them to sting. She just blinked again and shook her head. The pain felt good, felt real; more real than anything else happening in her life at that moment. She stood outside in the rain, staring at the profile of the man sitting by the window in the brightly lit café. The street was bustling with night life but she didn’t notice any of it. She couldn’t take her eyes off him and yet she hated him so much that it made her feel sick. No, she didn’t hate him. She just dreaded the conversation she was going to have with him in a few minutes.
He looked up from his half filled glass as she slid into the seat opposite him. The relief on his face was overwhelming.
“I wasn’t sure you’d show up.”
“I said I would.”
“I know but…” He stopped and looked down at his glass.
“Go on, you can say it.”
“I promised I wouldn’t rub it in.”
“But you have to. Why else are we sitting here if you can’t say it?”
He finally managed to look up at her and the anxiety in his eyes was unsettling. It certainly didn’t look like he was trying to be smug about it. He noticed a waitress approaching their table but he waved her away.
When he spoke again, his voice was almost tearful. “I tried to warn you but I didn’t know how to tell you that he wasn’t the right one for you.”
“I get it, he’s been your friend longer than I’ve been yours and you couldn’t tell me the truth because it would spoil his fun and you didn’t want to spoil his fun.”
He looked hurt by her words. “That’s unfair; you know that’s not how it happened. If I’d told you the truth you wouldn’t have listened anyway, you were so convinced that he was something that he wasn’t.”
“He is engaged Ben, engaged. How difficult could it possibly have been for you to tell me that one fact? Everyone else must have known. I must have sounded like a right idiot whenever I talked about him. You and all his other friends must have had a good laugh anytime my name was mentioned.”
“It wasn’t like that,” he began to protest then reached out and grabbed her hands. “Don’t meet him. You can end it on the phone. You don’t owe him any more than that.” Even before the words left his lips, he knew they would fall on deaf ears. He knew that if she met him, his betrayal of his friend would have been in vain. Daniel was reputed for being irresistibly charming in person. He could sweet talk his way out of anything with a face like his. At least over the phone she had a chance to maintain some dignity. She wouldn’t be in any danger of melting at the very sight of him.
“I can’t. I have to see him. He has to know that what he did was wrong.”
“Call him Jess, just call him. Meeting him will make things worse.”
She didn’t bother answering this time. She didn’t look at him either. “This was a mistake,” she said as she began to rise. “I’ll always be grateful to you for being the one who told me the truth but I can’t sit here and pretend that I’m not angry with you too. I can’t sit here and listen to you give me advice on what I should or shouldn’t do. Not when it comes to him.”
“Jess.” He still held her hand but she yanked it away and headed for the door. “Jess,” he called out again but didn’t follow her. What was the point? She was too angry for any words he had to say at that moment to make an impact on her. He hoped that when she went away and thought about it, she would agree with him about not calling Daniel. He hoped that one day she would see that he had told her the truth because he had grown to appreciate her friendship even more than he did Daniel’s, despite the fact that he had known her for only six months and Daniel for eight years. He didn’t want to label whatever it was he felt for her, it was too soon and he didn’t want to think about it too much until he knew that this whole Daniel business was behind them. Until she could see him as Ben and not just Daniel’s friend.
Sighing deeply, he buried his head in his hand and resisted the urge to scream.
Jess stood outside looking at his profile again, his head hung low and engulfed by his hands, his shoulder hunched like that of a man in agony. Her heart went out to him but her anger was more powerful.
She’d liked him even before she liked Daniel even though he did not have the mesmerizing allure Daniel had. He did not have the power to confuse her just by walking into the room but strangely enough he had the power to hurt her more deeply than Daniel. She felt more betrayed by him than she did by Daniel and that was probably why she was so angry with him. She didn’t want to think about why this was. Not now, not today.
She sighed and tore her eyes away from him. He was right, she should call Daniel. Meeting him would be asking for trouble. Maybe she shouldn’t even call him at all. That might send the message through better. Sighing, she carried on walking in the rain; the cold water fell onto her face and blinded her once again. She waited for the pain to come.