Old Friends (Silent Conversation)

 


I wasn’t sure how long I stared at my laptop, disbelieving the existence of Edward’s reply while pondering its contents. Three months ago, I gave him my soul. Today, he responded with five small words. As cryptic as it was, it didn’t take long before I was able to accept his message for exactly what it was—a declaration of undying love.

I didn’t know where to take it from here, and I was running late for work. As much as I wanted to sit and think, I needed to press on with my day. I vowed not to obsess about Edward’s email and lost myself in my students and my classes. After I finished teaching, I went home and walked around my neighborhood to clear my head and decide what my next move would be. Edward and I could never go back to the way things were, and if I were to be completely honest with myself, I didn’t want that.

An hour later, I studied my reflection in my bathroom mirror and recited my affirmations before going downstairs and getting my iPhone. I took a deep breath, counted to ten, and dialed.

He answered on the second ring.

“Hello, Bella.”

“Edward.”

Silence.

I took my phone away from ear and glanced at the display, wondering if the call dropped. It hadn’t.

“Can we talk?” I asked.

“I’m listening.”

“I mean in person.”

“Okay. There’s a diner on Route One called the Princetonian. Meet me there in an hour.”

He hung up, and I spent the next several minutes staring at my iPhone in disbelief before realizing I had roughly forty-five minutes to throw myself together and drive up to Princeton. I was still dressed for school, but he hadn’t given me enough time to change. Deciding that punctuality was more important than my appearance, I grabbed my keys and ran out the door.

A little less than an hour later, I walked inside the diner and scanned the room. In a booth toward the back, I saw a head of messy auburn hair hunched over the table. I clung to my affirmations, chanting them silently in my mind as I walked slowly towards him. He looked up when I was three booths away. Seeing him made my breath catch in my throat. Though he was still Edward, his appearance had changed dramatically. His hair was longer than I remembered, and his face had thinned out considerably. Sideburns drew attention to his angular jaw, no longer softened by residual childhood pudge. Dark circles under his eyes and stubble on his face indicated that he’d neither shaved nor slept recently.

When I was in front of the table, he stood and waited until I was settled into the booth before taking his seat.

As inappropriate as it was, I couldn’t stop staring. “You look different.”

“So do you. Your hair is short.” His voice was now a touch deeper and a bit raspier, but still beautiful.

As I touched my hair, I realized though my hair was now shoulder-length, the last time he saw me it was much longer.

“A few months ago, I had it bobbed and donated it to charity. It’s actually grown back a bit.”

“Oh.”

The waitress came and took our drink orders. For several moments, we sat in silence.

“This is awkward,” I said.

“What did you expect?” He laughed as he spoke.

If nothing else, his laugh was the same.

“Actually, I had no expectations whatsoever.”

“I find that hard to believe. I’m sure you expected that you’d receive a response to your email.”

“Not exactly. To say I expected a response seems to imply that I felt entitled to one, which I did not. Somehow, despite that, I knew I would eventually get one. Edward…”

I reached across the table and touched his hand. He pulled away from me as if I had burned him.

“Don’t. Please, just don’t.”

I moved my hands back to my lap. “I’m sorry.”

“I know.” He sighed.

The waitress brought our drinks, and Edward told her he would let her know if we needed anything else.

“You’ve now had a chance to tell me you’re sorry in person. Apology accepted. Is there anything else you want?”

“I’d like to see you.”

“You’re looking at me right now.”

I took a deep breath. “I mean, I’d like to see you again romantically. I’m asking for second chance with you.”

“I’m no longer available to you that way.”

“You have a girlfriend?”

When he didn’t answer, I assumed that he had.

“I hope you aren’t compromised by coming to see me today,” I muttered bitterly. When the tears came, I didn’t try to stop them. “I got your email and I just thought…I don’t know what I thought. I must have misinterpreted it. I thought you’d meant that you weren’t lying when you said you’d always want me. I now know you meant you weren’t lying when you said I was delusional, which clearly I am. I’m sorry; I won’t bother you again.”

I stood to leave. Without touching me, he blocked my way with his arm. I sank into the booth.

“You left me.” His voice was full of anguish. “You don’t know what that did to me. You don’t get to play the victim here.”

“Oh, I know,” I wailed through my tears. “Edward, I know. I don’t deserve to have a second chance with you. I know that. I didn’t expect that you would wait for me. I know it was selfish of me to attempt to resume contact with you. I never doubted your love for me, even though at the time I was incapable of returning it. I know I hurt you and I know I no longer have any claim to you. I know I’m irrational, but I also know I love you and despite distance, time, and the fact you appear to be currently involved with someone else, it still feels like you belong to me.”

“Don’t you see?” His voice was quiet and plaintive. “That’s the problem. I’ve always belonged to you. You’ve always belonged to you. No one has ever belonged to me.”

I wanted to tell him that I was ready to belong to him, that I have in his absence, and that if he would only give me another chance he would know that, but I couldn’t. My words would mean nothing to him.

I closed my eyes and tried to calm down. He was angry with me for things that I’d done. He wasn’t rejecting me. He didn’t even really know me anymore, and I didn’t know him. Though I’d come here with the intention of asking him to take me back, I now understood we could never pick up where we left off.

“I know. I’m sorry, Edward. God, how I’m sorry.” I wiped my eyes, determined to keep some of my dignity intact. “I won’t keep you any longer. Thank you for listening to me, for letting me apologize. I should let you go before your girlfriend realizes you’re out with your ex.”

“I didn’t say I had a girlfriend. I said I was no longer available to you.”

“You aren’t seeing anyone?”

“It’s complicated. You?”

I shrugged. I’d tell him about my self-imposed celibacy if we became intimate again. As merely a friend, my sexual activity or lack thereof was not his concern. Meanwhile, he’d implied he was in a physical relationship with no expectation of exclusivity. This was so not the Edward I knew.

“Does this person with whom you have a complicated relationship know you are out with your ex-girlfriend right now?”

“Yes. She knows all about you. She also knows that I’d like to reopen communication with you, that I can’t stand the thought of letting another year pass without hearing your voice or knowing how you’re doing. She understands that I need you in my life…”

“And she didn’t cut her losses and cross her legs?”

“I told you, it’s not like that.”

“So you’ve said. Tell me, Edward, does she also know you’re still in love with me?”

“Yes.”

“And she still tolerates this? Is she thinking she’s going to fuck her way into your heart? For someone who seems to be so sexually liberated, she is certainly na√Øve. Either that, or she’s not that bright. What, did her father donate a building to get her into Princeton?”

“Enough. I won’t let you bad-mouth someone you’ve never met, nor will I permit you to speak disparagingly of a relationship you are unable to understand.”

“Fine. But if we’re going to be friends, I should know your fuck buddy. What’s her name?”

“Kate, and she’s not a fuck buddy.”

“Semantics.” I waved my hand dismissively. “And how do you know Kate?”

“Stop it; she has nothing to do with us.”

“Fine, we’ll leave her out of this. You don’t find that at all morally compromising? Being involved in a complicated relationship with one woman while being in love with another? I would have never thought you were capable of using someone for sex.”

“Aren’t we the little hypocrite?” He glared at me from across the table. “This is coming from the woman to whom I willingly gave every bit of myself, only to be told I was nothing more than a good lay. Tell me, Bella, were you even faithful to me?”

“I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.”

“You may not have cheated, but you were certainly deceptive enough. Our entire relationship, you knew I felt objectified. There were many ways you could have broken things off with me, but you chose the one you knew would cause the most damage. Meanwhile, you now have the audacity to give me a guilt trip for pursuing other interests after you callously discarded me, though while we were dating you expressed genuine regret that if we stayed together, I would only ever experience intimacy with you. Now that I have dated other people”which you always said was a necessary part of the growing up”you have the balls to make me feel as if I somehow misled the girls who graciously offered me solace in your absence. I haven’t changed that much, Bella. I’ve never lied to any of them, nor have I ever lied to you.”

I hoped my voice didn’t betray my optimism.

“You still want me.”

“Yes.”

“And you still love me.”

“Yes.”

“You want me in your life–”

“I need you in my life.”

“But you have no interest in a reconciliation with me.”

“That’s correct.”

“That makes no sense.”

I must have antagonized him too much. He gestured for the check. When the waitress brought it over, he plunked down a platinum Amex. He was eighteen; of course he’d have a credit card. It sat on the table, a sparkling reminder of the ten months of his life that I’d missed.

“Have you decided this conversation is over?” I asked.

“Not unless you want it to be. I’d just like to get some air.” He stood and gestured to the exit. “Shall we?”

I numbly followed him to the door. As he held it open for me, his eyes lingered on my body longer than I thought necessary.

“Did you dress up to come see me?” he asked as we walked through the parking lot.

I looked down at my long-sleeved wrap dress and heels. “No. I wore this to work today. Why?”

He shrugged. “Nothing. It’s just different from what I’m used to seeing you wear to school.” He stopped in front of my car. “I can’t believe that thing is still running.”

“Why wouldn’t it be? I take excellent care of it.”

“That you do. If only…never mind.”

The sun was setting behind him, and I had to cock my head to the side and squint in order to see him, like if I focused on him fully I’d go blind.

He tucked a piece of my hair behind my ear. The brief feeling of his skin against mine awakened a long-dormant flutter in my pelvis.

“What now?” I asked. “I feel like we’re at an impasse.”

“Are you saying that unless I take you back romantically, you want nothing to do with me?”

“I’m saying that I won’t be one of your fuck buddies.”

He took a small step away from me and shook his head. “I would never think of you, or any woman, that way.” He threw arms down in frustration. “You’re just as exasperating as ever. You didn’t let me explain, and now you think I’m a manwhore.”

“Actually, I just think you’re a man.”

“As opposed to a child?”

“I know I didn’t always treat you with the respect you deserved while we were dating, and I’m sorry for that. I don’t expect you to believe me, but it had more to do with my opinion of myself than my opinion of you.”

I sighed as I opened my car door. “It’s getting late, and it’s a school night.”

“I don’t have any classes tomorrow.”

I sat in the driver’s seat and cranked down the window. “Yes, but I do.”

“So what now?”

“May I call you?”

“Maybe.”

“Maybe isn’t no.” I used his own words from what seemed like another lifetime.

I double-pumped the clutch and fired up my car. I didn’t look at him as I sped out of the parking lot. I drove home with the windows down and the music up, concentrating on the warm air and the simple fact that although I had no idea in what capacity, Edward was back in my life. It was enough for now.





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  1. on 01 Oct 2010 at 2:34 pmlisa89

    You are legit breaking my heart.

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  2. on 12 Nov 2010 at 11:11 pmkng1986

    “Maybe isn’t no.” It’s a start.

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  3. on 25 Nov 2010 at 5:16 pmBooksgalore/Bookishqua

    Good for Edward for standing up for himself.

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  4. on 29 Nov 2010 at 10:02 amMDtwiwriter

    I am re-reading this story, which is one of my favorites. When you were writing it, I re-read many chapters. The breakup was always the hardest for me to get through because I loved Edward and seeing Bella self-destruct their relationship and nearly break him was….difficult to read. However, now I realize that it was necessary for them both to grow and I am re-reading with a different eye to the changes in each of them and their relationship. I just wanted to say that I love this story and I am a loyal fan of your writing and always look forward to more of your stories.

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    Colleen reply:

    thank you so much

    [Reply]


  5. on 09 Dec 2010 at 10:09 pmNKubie

    I’m so glad this didn’t end up NM revisited in that most of the rest of the story they were apart. This I can handle and in fact I think the time apart was good. Especially for Bella. She really needed that therapy. Still does but it’s working.

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  6. on 30 Dec 2010 at 12:31 pmFancastride

    I have to say Edward is staning his ground on what he wants, I’m just not sure what it is. Going back to counterpoint and trying to catch up. I love how they match each other.

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  7. on 06 Jan 2011 at 12:38 amSea4Me

    Holy hell that was awful. It’s so hard to imagine he’s had sex with others. Did I read that right? At first I guessed that Kate was his therapist. I guess just a different sort of therapy. It’s hard to believe she drove off. This is a good time to just get that extra cup of morning Joe. Speaking of…

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  8. on 29 Jan 2011 at 9:53 pmJanice

    Wow, I don’t know what to think of that!!!!

    [Reply]