Page 24

 Penelope Ward

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God, I had missed her.
I leaned in to kiss her but my heart sank when she abruptly pushed me back.
“Were you just coming to visit your mother?”
I realized how crappy it looked that I supposedly didn’t have time to see her this week with my workload, yet the first person I came to visit when I got back was my mother whom she knew rarely saw me anyway. I felt like an asshole.
I was an asshole.
“Yeah, I just hadn’t heard from her in a while and wanted to check in,” I said.
There was a bit of an awkward silence and Allison searched my eyes. The look on her face proved she knew something was off with me.
“I see,” she said coldly.
Feeling like my world was crumbling around me, I grabbed her hand.
“Allison…what’s wrong…talk to me,” I whispered, my voice breaking up.
“Nothing, Cedric. I am just surprised to see you, is all. You said you still felt a little under the weather when we spoke this morning when you were in New York and you texted me that you’d be working late into the night after you got back. Then, you show up here, certainly not working and you seem absolutely fine. I wonder if there is something you are not telling me?”
I seriously wanted to shit my pants.
Sounding like an idiot, I tried to buy more time before responding. “What do you mean?”
Allison’s face suddenly turned a shade of red I had never seen before and her breathing was so rapid, her chest rose up and down visibly. I knew she caught me in my lie and I began to imagine that this horrid look she was giving me now would be only a fraction of the pain she would feel when I told her the whole truth.
I needed to go.
I couldn’t do this anymore.
I loved her too much to go any deeper into this relationship.
I can’t lie to her anymore.
Then she floored me with her next question, as her eyes began to water.
“Is there someone else, Cedric?”
I stared at her in silence. My heart was exploding out of my chest and I felt my eyes begin to well up. The love I felt for this woman was indescribable and yet, I looked her dead straight in the eyes and lied through my teeth one last time as my breath hitched and my voice shook.
“Yes…yes, there is.”
Allison stared at me frozen in shock as tears fell down her cheeks. My hand trembled as I struggled to hold it in place to stop it from rising to wipe her tears away, something I desperately wanted to do, but couldn’t allow myself to. I had no idea what to do or say and just stayed there watching her cry as my own tears began to fall visibly.
Just then, the front door opened and my mother walked in. She looked puzzled as she took in the sight of Allison and me staring at each other in her hallway.
“Cedric…what are you doing here? What is going on?” she asked.
I looked over at my mother wishing again that I could disappear into thin air.
“Mom,” I said, my voice shaking.
My mother walked over to me, giving me a hug, then seemed to notice that my eyes were watery, which prompted her to jolt back.
She then immediately looked over at Allison’s sullen face, and then looked back at me. Her grim expression showed that she understood something was very wrong between us.
Allison then silently turned around and walked back into Callie’s room, closing the door and disappearing from sight.
It took all of my willpower not to go after her, but I knew I had f**ked up for the last time. I had no right to touch her ever again.
“Do you mind telling me what is going on?” Mom whispered, looking concerned and a little frightened.
I stood frozen, my eyes staring at the closed door to Callie’s room.
“Ma…I really screwed things up…I…I need to leave. I am so sorry.”
You and your lover may not be on the same page, Gemini. This is a just passing phase, so don't be too upset or put too much emphasis on the turmoil that arrives. Mercury will be going in direct motion soon, soothing miscommunications.
It has been nearly a month since that moment at Bettina’s house, the last time I saw Cedric.
I had told his mother that night, after he left, that I couldn’t talk about what happened and asked her to kindly not mention it again. I assured her, though, that I would not be leaving my job with Callie and while still confused, she seemed relieved to hear that.
I heard from him only one time after that night, in a text I received a few days later, as I sat in my bathtub soaking away the pain of losing him, a pain like none I had ever felt, aside from losing my mother.
The Monday night of the text, I had run a bath after returning from my shift with Lucas. As I sat in the water, my body ached for Cedric’s touch as much as my heart ached. This feeling is what I imagined withdrawal from heroin might be like. My phone chimed and I lifted out of the water to check it when I saw that the text was from Cedric.
Allison…please forgive me. All of this…it’s not what you think. I will explain it to you someday. Please just know, that you mean so much to me.
Fuck you, Cedric.
Fuck you for hurting me so much.
I didn’t return the text. Instead, the glass on my iPhone shattered after I threw it across the bathroom and it landed on the tile floor.
A flood of tears poured out of my eyes and my body shook uncontrollably.
How I wanted to go back a few weeks in time and stay there forever. I had so much hope for the future then, so much love in my heart for that man. So much love…after such a short time. I had been sure it was love, not lust, and now I wasn’t sure I could ever trust my own judgment ever again.
I felt faint as I sat in the hot bathwater, but had no strength to get up. I had eaten barely a morsel since that day and would have to face Cedric’s mother tomorrow to work with Callie for the first time since the last encounter. I had considered giving my notice then, but decided that I would not let Cedric take away the one good thing I had left, so I was determined to find a way to compartmentalize the two things. Callie shouldn’t have to pay for her as**ole brother’s mistake.
I had no idea what was really going on with him and what his mother now knew, though. Here’s what I knew: her son abandoned me and there was, as he admitted, ‘someone else.’
The text confused me, though, because he claimed ‘it wasn’t what I thought’. What the hell was it, then? I think admitting that there was someone else, makes it pretty damn clear what is going on.
Whatever the exact reason, he had hurt me so deeply that it was beyond repair. I was at least glad he didn’t prolong our relationship even further. God knows where I’d be then.
Now, a month later, after weeks of not eating and sleeping, the wrath of Cedric was just starting to really take its toll.
“Al…Al…wake up…you’re going to be late for work.” I heard Sonia shouting as I lay in bed, having slept through my alarm, yet again. I had been awake so much in the middle of the night lately that I would finally fall back asleep about four in the morning, only to have to wake up an hour later for the diner job.
Sonia hugged me as finally sat up. “Al, you know you are going to have to talk to me about it some point, don’t you?
“Sonia, like I told you…talking about it isn’t going to change anything. There is nothing to say. Cedric left me for someone else…if we were even ever together at all. My life is back to being shit and I am alone again…end of story,” I said hoarsely.
“You’re not alone…you have me, Bitch. But that Bastard…you were so happy for the first time since I have known you and he seemed to think you were the bees knees…he wrote a f**king rap song for you, for Christ’s sake. I just don’t get it. I mean…I could see in his eyes how into you he was. I just don’t know what to believe in, anymore. I’d like to cut his balls off and—” Sonia stopped talking, shook her head and grabbed a brush and started brushing my hair.
“You know I brush my own hair, right?” I said.
Sonia ignored me and kept brushing. “Sure, darling, I do. Just let me.”
Tears quietly fell down my cheek as Sonia continued to brush my hair as I wondered what my life had come to.
When I got up from the bed, Sonia gasped.
She didn’t have to say anything, I knew what she was thinking as she covered her mouth with her hand.
I looked over at my reflection at the mirror on my closet door. I could see my ribs. As the loss of Cedric ate away at me, I wasn’t eating and had dropped ten pounds. Thinner than I could ever remember being, I was starting to look like Olive Oil. My roommate’s frightened face was the wakeup call I needed.
By the second month A.C. (“After Cedric”), I had gained about five of the pounds back and was getting back into life a bit.
Bright Horizons had given me another autistic client, a child this time, a ten-year-old boy whom I worked with on Saturday mornings.
Gabriel was a sweetheart and I mostly took him out shopping and accompanied his family on other outings. I didn’t have to dress in costume for this one, nor was I dating his brother, so it was a fairly low-key, stress-free assignment. Gabriel liked to snuggle and sniff my hair and would occasionally pull a chunk of it out abruptly and stare at it proudly in his hands. I let him do it, because he was a good boy and a great distraction on otherwise lazy Saturday mornings when I had too much time to think about Cedric or rather the fact that Cedric had disappeared off the face of the Earth.
And I was still working with Callie, whose beautiful face continued to be a stark reminder of what I lost.
One Tuesday afternoon at Bettina’s house, we were sitting down to dinner. I was holding the fork in Callie’s hand as she attempted to eat homemade macaroni and cheese. She knew how to use a fork, but liked to eat the pinwheel pasta with her hands, so my job was to deter her from doing that.
Bettina was watching me intently as I picked Callie’s pasta up one by one as the pieces fell off the fork and placed each piece back in the bowl, prompting her to use the fork.
Bettina then startled me with a question.
“Allison…my son won’t tell me…will you?” she asked.
My heart ached at the mere mention of Cedric. It was as if he were dead until his mother mentioned him, reminding me that he was out there somewhere. He was very much alive and not telling her anything either, apparently. I was surprised it took her so long to bring up the subject again, but was glad she hadn’t…until now.
I looked at her silently, and then cleared my throat.
“Bettina…I don’t know what happened and that’s the truth. Cedric and I…we dated for a short time, but I was really falling hard for your son. That’s all I can say. He ended it that night you walked in on us and I really don’t know why, but I am glad he did it when he did and didn’t let it drag on even further.” I was proud of my response.
Bettina shook her head and sighed. “Thank you for your answer. I know it’s none of my business. I’ve called him and asked him to tell me what happened a few times and he won’t tell me anything. He just shuts down and changes the subject. I am afraid I haven’t even seen him since that day either.”
The fact that Cedric hadn’t seen his mother in two months shocked me.
“He hasn’t come at all to see you…or Callie?” I asked.
“No, honey, I am afraid he hasn’t. Cedric has always been the closed off one. Caleb is an open book…but my Cedric is different. We keep in contact over the phone, so I know he is okay. But one thing I know for sure…whatever is going on with my son…it hasn’t been easy. Allison, aside from his father dying, I haven’t seen him that emotional in years, since he was a child, maybe. He had tears in his eyes that night, with you. That tells me that whatever happened between you two, it was hard for him and his feelings for you had to have been real.”
Nausea crept up on me at that statement; I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Cedric did have tears in his eyes when he told me he was seeing someone else. The thought of him with anyone else, doing the things he did with me, makes me sick and I honestly have to block it out almost immediately. It’s been the only way I have been able to function…as long as I don’t focus on that. I’d rather just think of him, as gone…dead.
I could feel the tears forming in my eyes now.
“Bettina, I really don’t want to talk about this anymore, okay? I said.
Bettina reached across the table and placed her hands on mine. “Okay, honey. I am sorry. We don’t have to talk about it.”
A teardrop fell down my cheek and I knew Bettina saw it. I immediately gathered Callie’s dish and we walked over to the sink to wash our hands.
“Allison,” Bettina called from across the kitchen.
“Yes?” I asked.
“Thank you,” she said.
She didn’t have to explain why.
I knew she was thanking me for staying.
A few weeks had passed and Bettina never mentioned Cedric to me again.
He hadn’t sent any more texts either.
With each passing day, I was slowly beginning to accept the fact that whatever we had was over and that I needed to forget him. How that was going to happen exactly was still a mystery since Cedric still occupied most of my thoughts, but at least time had made it clearer what I needed to do…I needed to move on.
Spring was in the air in Boston now and the sun was streaming through the basement windows of Bettina’s house. It was a Tuesday afternoon and it surprised me how light it still was outside at 6:00 in the evening. Bettina was usually home at this time, but would not be arriving back from a church bazaar committee meeting until the end of my shift at 7:30. She has given me instructions to heat up some pizza she made this afternoon for Callie and me.