Reflected in You
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He'll help you put things in perspective."
I had to swallow past the lump in my throat.
"I'm - Yeah.
"You okay?" "Ending it face-to-face has dignity, at least.
My phone was pulled from my hand.
Gideon held my gaze as he said, "Good-bye, Cary," then powered off my phone and set it on the counter.
His hair was damp and he wore black pajama bottoms that hung low on his hips.
The sight of him hit me hard, reminding me of all that I stood to lose when I lost him - the breathless anticipation and desire, the comfort and intimacy, the ephemeral sense of rightness that made everything worthwhile.
"Who's the date?" he asked.
Shawna - Mark's sister- in-law - has concert tickets for Friday."
"Have you figured out what you want to eat?" I nodded, tugging at the thigh- length hem of my shirt because I felt self-conscious.
"Get me a glass of whatever you're drinking."
He reached around me and picked up the menu I'd set out on the counter.
What do you want?" It was a relief to move over to the cabinet that held the wineglasses.
As I tugged the cork out of the bottle of merlot I had left on the counter, I heard him call the deli and speak in that firm, raspy voice of his that I loved from the moment I'd first heard it.
He ordered tomato soup and chicken noodle, which caused a painful tightness in my chest.
Without being told, he'd ordered what I wanted.
It was another of the many serendipitous things that always made me feel like we were destined to end up in the same place, together, if only we could make it that far.
I passed him the glass I'd poured for him and watched as he took a drink.
He looked tired, and I wondered if he'd stayed up all night like I had.
Lowering the glass, he licked the lingering trace of wine off his lips.
"I went to your place looking for you.
I expect Cary told you."
I rubbed at the painful ache in my chest.
"I'm sorry .
about this and - " I gestured at what I was wearing.
I didn't plan this well."
He leaned back into the counter and crossed one ankle over the other.
"I figured you'd be home.
I should've called first.
When you weren't here, I should have just waited for another time instead of making myself at home."
I rubbed at my stinging eyes.
confused about what's going on.
I'm not thinking straight."
His chest expanded on a deep breath.
"If you're waiting for me to break up with you, you can stop waiting."
I grabbed onto the kitchen island to steady myself.
That's it? That's the end? "I can't do it," he said flatly.
"I can't even say I'll let you walk, if that's why you're here."
What? I frowned in confusion.
"You left your key at my place."
"I want it back."
My eyes closed and tears tracked down my cheeks.
"You're an ass."
I walked away, moving toward my bedroom with a quick and slightly weaving stride that had nothing to do with the small amount of wine I'd sipped.
I had scarcely cleared the doorway of my room when he grabbed my elbow.
"I won't follow you inside," he said gruffly, his head bent to reach my ear.
"I promised you that.
But I'm asking you to stay and talk to me.
At least listen.
You came all this way - " "I have something for you."
It was hard for me to get the words past my tight throat.
He released me and I hurried to my purse.
When I faced him, I asked, "Were you breaking up with me when you left the key on my counter?" He filled the doorway.
His hands were extended above his shoulders, his knuckles white from the force with which he gripped the frame, as if he were physically restraining himself from following me.
The pose displayed his body beautifully, defining every muscle, allowing the drawstring waistband of his pants to cling to his hip bones.
I wanted him with every breath I took.
"I wasn't thinking that far ahead," he admitted.
"I just wanted you to feel safe."
My grip tightened around the object in my hand.
"You ripped my heart out, Gideon.
You have no idea what seeing that key lying there did to me.
How bad it hurt me.
His eyes squeezed shut and his head bowed.
"I wasn't thinking clearly.
I thought I was doing the right thing - " "Fuck that.
Fuck your damn chivalry or whatever the hell you think that was.
Don't do it again."
My voice took on an edge.
"I'm telling you right now and I mean it like I've never meant anything before - you ever give me my keys back again, we're done.
There's no coming back from that.
Do you understand?" "I do, yes.
I'm not sure you do."
My breath left me in a shaky exhalation.
I approached him.
"Give me your hand."
His left hand stayed on the doorjamb, but his right lowered and extended toward me.
"I never gave you the key to my place; you just took it."
I cupped his hand between both of mine, placing my gift in his palm.
"I'm giving it to you now."
Stepping back, I released him, watching as he looked down at the gleaming monogrammed fob with my apartment key on it.
It was the best way I could think of to show him that it belonged to him and that it was given freely.
His hand fisted, closing tightly around my gift.
After a long minute, he looked up at me and I saw the tears that wet his face.
"No," I whispered, my heart breaking further.
I cupped his face in my hands, my thumbs brushing over his cheekbones.
Gideon caught me up, his lips pressing to mine.
"I don't know how to walk away."
"I'll hurt you.
I already am.
You deserve better - " "Shut up, Gideon."
I climbed him and wrapped my legs around his waist, holding on.
"Cary told me how you looked ."
He began to shake violently.
"You don't see what I'm doing to you.
I'm breaking you, Eva - " "That's not true."
He sank to his knees on the floor, clasping me tightly.
"I've trapped you in this.
You don't see it now, but you knew from the beginning - You knew what I would do to you, but I wouldn't let you run."
"I'm not running anymore.
You've made me stronger.
You gave me a reason to try harder."
His eyes were haunted.
He sat, stretching his legs out, pulling me closer.
"We're so fucked up, and I've handled everything all wrong.
We're going to kill each other with this.
We'll tear each other apart until there's nothing left."
I don't want to hear any more of that shit.
Did you go to Dr.
Petersen?" His head fell back against the wall and his eyes closed.
"Yes, damn it."
"Did you tell him about last night?" "Yes."
His jaw clenched.
"And he said the same thing he started on last week.
That we're in too deep.
We're drowning each other.
He thinks we need to pull back, date platonically, sleep separately, spend more time together with others and less time alone."
It would be better, I thought.
Better for our sanity, better for our chances.
"I hope he's got a Plan B."
Gideon opened his eyes and looked at my scowling face.
"That's what I said.
"So we're fucked up.
Every relationship has issues."
"Seriously," I insisted.
"We are going to sleep separately.
That's something I let go too far."
"Separate beds or separate apartments?" "Beds.
That's all I can stand."
I sighed and rested my head on his shoulder, so grateful that he was in my arms again and that we were together.
"I can deal.
His throat worked on a hard swallow.
"When I came home and found you here - " His arms tightened around me.
I thought Cary was lying about you not being home, that you just didn't want to see me.
Then I thought you might be out .
"You're not that easy to get over, Gideon."
I didn't think I'd ever get over him.
He was in my blood.
I straightened so he could see my face.
He placed his hand over his heart, the hand with the key.
"Thank you for this."
"Don't let that go," I warned again.
"Don't regret giving it to me."
He pressed his forehead to mine.
I felt the warmth of his breath on my skin and thought he might have whispered something, but I didn't catch it if he did.It didn't matter.
We were together.
After the long awful day, nothing else was important.
The sound of my bedroom door opening ended my forgettable dream, but it was the mouthwatering aroma of coffee that really woke me up.
I stretched but kept my eyes closed, allowing the anticipation to build.
Gideon took a seat on the edge of the mattress, and a moment later his fingers drifted across my cheek.