I haven't written enough nice Tom/Daria...and I won't start now. Considering I actually like them it's a little ironic. This piece is loosely based off of (500) Days of Summer.
The loft apartment was nicely furnished, almost like a photo from a home decorating magazine. There was a white sectional sofa in the middle of the room surrounding a glass coffee table and two potted plants. A large abstract painting hung on the far left wall; a splash of color in the otherwise monochromatic living space. The picture windows on the far right were connected to a sliding glass door that led out to the balcony. Most of the guests were mingling inside but there were a few people standing out there. She was out there.
There was an aura about her, a radiant glow that seemed to surround her. She was smiling, her dark brown eyes shining happily. Her auburn hair was curled into waves that fell over her pale shoulders. She was wearing a sleeveless black dress that conformed perfectly to fit her slender frame. I'd never seen her dress up before. I tried not to let my eyes linger but it hurt to turn away. After all these years, a lump still formed in my throat when I saw her. The girl standing outside holding a wine glass wasn't the same girl I'd met in high school. She was weightless, carefree...content. She no longer wore the emotionless mask she so often hid behind. She wasn't afraid to show her emotions. She wasn't afraid of getting close to people. Too bad I wasn't around to watch the transformation.
I took a sip of my red wine and adjusted my black satin tie. I felt utterly ridiculous. I'd actually attended with the hope that we could reconnect. I gripped the steering wheel in my BMW so tight that my knuckles turned white as I drove. This was my chance. All I needed was a moment alone with her and everything would fall into place. A nagging voice in the back of my head told me that I was being impulsive. It had been a few months since I'd seen her. Before that, four years. Why did I think tonight could make up for that? Because she had extended the invitation.
Luck was the reason I ended up at that coffee shop in Boston. Sheer dumb luck. I had just left an interview which I was sure that I bombed. I had been too eager and my flattery probably came off as cheap. The coffee shop happened to be right across the street from the office building so I figured I'd get a drink. I never thought I'd run into her there. She was standing right in front of me in line. I didn't recognize her from behind but as soon as she turned around, my heart stopped. She'd matured, a lot. Her face was more angular, her glasses were gone, she was even wearing make-up. It was a lot to take in all at once. We only talked for ten minutes, she had to get back to work. But in those few short minutes she said we should catch up. She invited me to a party she was having and she even gave me her phone number. That little piece of paper gave me a new sense of confidence. Maybe I could finally win back what I'd lost so long ago.
"Young Thomas, it's been awhile."
I blinked, coming out of my reverie. Jane Lane was standing next to me, holding her own glass of wine. Her hair was longer and streaked with blonde. She was dressed in a pale blue cocktail dress that matched the color of her eyes perfectly. I knew she would be around. I couldn't imagine Daria without her or vice versa.
"Jane, you look great."
"You don't look so bad yourself. How have you been?"
"Alright" I shrugged, "I've been working at Grace, Sloane, and Page. It would be okay if my dad wasn't always breathing down my neck. You?"
"Interning at this art gallery downtown. There's a show in two weeks and I'll be selling some paintings."
I pointed towards the wall, "I take it you made that?"
She smiled, "Excellent eye, Sloane. I did. That was my house warming gift to Daria." She turned towards the other side of the room, "Speak of the devil."
Sure enough, Daria was making her way over to us. I could feel my shoulders tense. She stopped in front of us and glanced at Jane.
"That's Satan to you. How's it going?"
"Oh, just talking about our mediocre existence. Our lives don't hold a candle to yours, I'm afraid."
Daria rolled her eyes, "Please, I edit terrible articles for an even worse newspaper. I haven't eaten submitted any of my own material. "
I swallowed, "Uh, what paper?"
"Boston Times. Trust me, you don't want to read it."
Jane draped an arm over her shoulder, "I'm not talking about the paper, amiga. I mean, seriously, look at this ring!"
And that's when my stomach dropped to the floor. Daria flushed a bright shade of pink while Jane examined her left hand. On her ring finger there was an impressive diamond ring. An engagement ring. She was engaged. I felt sick.
"Oh, stop it. Sometimes I think you're more excited than I am."
"Where is Eric anyway?"
Daria briefly glanced around, "I don't know. Probably still serving drinks."
"Well, I am going to get him."
"Don't sneak up on him this time. I don't need to lose another wine glass."
Jane grinned, "I'll try."
Jane made her way to the kitchen leaving us alone. My mouth felt like it was full of cotton. How could this be happening? She was getting married? All my grandiose ideas were now useless. We wouldn't spend the whole night reminiscing. We wouldn't sit outside and share stories about college. There would be no whispered confessions, no admission of feelings. No long anticipated kiss. I would get nothing because she was gone. Forever.
"...Are you okay?" She was watching me closely, her forehead creased with worry.
I was sure I looked as terrible as I felt, "...No, uh, I'm fine. It's just...wow...you're, you know..."
She watched me for a moment longer before setting her glass down on the coffee table, "Here, sit down."
I forced myself to relax as I sat down on the sofa. She took a seat next to me and took a deep breath before she turned to face me.
"...Tom, tell me what's wrong."
I ran a hand over the back of my neck, "Nothing. Everything's fine."
She sighed, "Just tell me."
"...It's stupid. I guess...I just..." I exhaled sharply, "I thought something different would happen tonight, that's all."
I didn't want to tell her the truth because it was embarrassing. I'd clung onto this hope for so long while she'd just moved on with her life. I looked into her eyes and I found all the things that I would never have. It was useless not to tell her. What did I have to lose?
"I wanted to start over. I wanted us to start over. Daria, I've never stopped thinking about you. Nobody has even come close to measuring up to you and...I thought I could make it work."
It felt like time stopped completely. She was still staring at me but her expression was indecipherable. I wasn't sure if I should've said anything at all. She moved closer to me and placed a tentative hand on my knee. My breath caught in my throat.
"So, why didn't you do anything?"
I paused, "...I don't know."
She shook her head, "That's the thing with you, Tom. You never break out of your comfort zone. You never have the courage to go after what you want."
I opened my mouth to protest but she wasn't finished.
"...I did wait for you. For awhile, I thought I made a mistake. I wasted so much time thinking about you and what I did wrong. I was sure I'd end up alone. But, then I met Eric and it all made sense. Everything was different. I knew that I didn't make the wrong decision. I knew that he was the right one."
It hurt to be told I was wrong when I was so sure we were right. She was correct about me and that was just another blow to the chest. I was a coward. I was too afraid of rejection to reach out to her. She was everything that I wasn't and it intimidated me. I thought she was right about the distance but really, she knew all along. She knew that I would never be able to commit.
"I care about you. I always will. You were an important part of my life. But we were never supposed to last. I still debate about whether we were even supposed to happen. You'll meet someone, someone perfect. It's just not me."
There was so much I wanted to say but the words were stuck in my throat. I wanted to tell her she had no idea what she was talking about. That she was the one that was confused. But I couldn't. She gently brushed my cheek before leaning in towards me. I was shocked when I felt her lips brush against my own. She kissed me softly and I breathed in the scent of her lavender perfume. It only lasted a few seconds but I could barely breathe when she pulled away.
"I'm sorry...I understand if you don't want to stay."
I wanted to leave, to drive back home. But I thought about what she said. I wouldn't run away. No matter how much it stung.
"No, I think I'll stay."
She stood up and extended her hand, "Come on. I'll introduce you to Eric."
I took a deep breath and grabbed her hand, trying not to focus on the softness of her skin. I had to do this. For her.