I do not own the characters or the rights to this movie. Nor do I make money from this. This is all for my fun - and hopefully for someone else's.
This story came about when I heard a story about how two people who I care about very much, met each other. I took the story of OSN a little out of the original time flow but I think this is something that could have happened to these characters. I hope you can see that too. Enjoy :)
It was cold that day. The wet snow slammed against her window and the cold crept up on her, causing her to shiver in her woollen cardigan that was hidden beneath a soft blanket, wrapped around her shoulders. Her stiff fingers drummed against the tea glass in her hands, the liquid inside warming her palms. Outside it was quiet, the entire world was covered in a thick layer of snow, the sight seemed fluffy and comfortable – in reality the frozen sidewalk was nothing less than treacherous and a danger for those who never learned to watch their steps. She took a sip and swallowed her tea, her throat felt like sand paper and she lifted her hand to rub her throat, as if that would help her feel better. Her fever had increased again; she didn't even need a thermometer to check it. Her muscles were aching, her cheeks burning and her headache seemed to paralyse her, banging inside her temple in a rhythmic pattern. She reached out to place down her tea glass and rip another tissue from the box on the windowsill, causing her rocking chair to move a little and she sat back, pressing the soft paper against her eyes. She didn't even know if the tears that formed in her eyes were a result of her physical or her psychic condition. But she knew they threatened to roll down her cheeks and she rather prevented that. For three days straight now. Oh sweet Lord.
Was it worth it? To put her life on hold for a man who had never asked her to wait around for him? Was it worth it to stay the woman in the shadow, trying to get a smile on his face with all her strength so he could carry on? Was it worth to keep her thoughts and dreams to herself because he had enough troubles as it was already? She didn't know. She rubbed her temple with her fingertips, vaguely registering a faint sting in her empty stomach. When was the last time she had a good meal? This morning? Yesterday evening?
Maybe, some day she would learn to grasp why it was that she was still sitting here like a damned fool, waiting by the phone for a sign of life – when she knew all too well he wasn't going to give it to her. In some twisted way the phone was her best friend and her worst enemy at the same time. It was her connection to the outside world but also a silent sign that she was alone. And at times like this she could hear the silence in the living room, the clock ticking the minutes away ruthlessly. She should go to bed and let the phone ring if it did. Maybe she needed a little distance. Maybe she would finally understand why she could only remember the glorious sensation he brought out in her when he was with her, while the dark stings of pain took possession over her when he left. Maybe she would ever know. Probably not.
She shivered and closed the blanket around her firmer, shielding herself from the cruelty of her own body. It ached. Everything ached. Her pain. Her heart. Her sorrow. Her choice even. He had never asked her for anything but she had decided to give. Like she kept on giving in the past, she was giving in the present and if nothing would change – she would be giving until the day she would die. He was tender, he was dear, he was sweet and he was grateful. Grateful for her love, care and devotion. For her warmth, sincerity, generosity and trust. He had thanked her for being in his life. She knew that she was his. But he wasn't hers.
How in the world did she end up in a situation like this anyway? Why was it that every time she seemed to find a goal in life again, her own stupidity seemed to wreck it? Why did she ever let him in, she should have known better in the first place. She should have known she would end up in this confused emotional state, she had felt it from the first night she had laid eyes on him. Back then her body had reacted on him right away; did she really think she would be able to control her feelings when she allowed him to come closer? Of course not. She was a fool. A damned lonely fool with a heart that was big enough to help the entire world – but she couldn't help herself anymore.
She had lost weight. He didn't know that because she hadn't told him. And she never let him touch her so he wouldn't feel it. But she had, the scale in her bathroom told her every day she wasn't doing well. As if she didn't know that already. No she wasn't doing well, she should take her life back again. Being able to stand there as the strong woman she really was, to stand up for herself, to protect herself. To cry when she wanted to, and oh god she wanted to.
Every word he spilled hurt her. Every story he shared broke something inside her. Every anecdote he told seemed to falter her self esteem. And she allowed him. Because he was a stronger man when he left her house. Because she meant something to him. Because she knew that he needed her in order to survive. And that thought frightened her. She was more scared than she had ever been. And she didn't want to be scared anymore. She wanted to be able to look herself straight in the eye.
Oh there had been times in which she wanted to tell him. When he was sitting there in his favourite chair, finally asking how she was doing. The words were already forming in her mouth but she swallowed them back when she saw his sincere face looking at her. He had never promised her anything. She was his friend. Not his lover. Not his wife. His friend and confidant. And all the letters she had written to him. Pages and pages of explanation and excuses. That she couldn't see him anymore. How much she loved him. And how angry she was at life and at herself for losing control like this. One letter she had actually taken out to the mailbox – but instead of dropping it in there she'd let it fall in the trashcan next to it. She was a coward.
The doorbell startled her and she had to tear herself away from her comfortable position in her chair, stammering on her way over to the front door. The tiles felt cold under her slippers and she shivered, closing her blanket firmer around her shoulders. Her way to the front door seemed to take hours, vaguely registering a faint image of the mailman through the stained glass. She never said anything when she opened the door for him, she managed to smile politely at him before she accepted the small package and closed the outside world out again. Moving back to her chair she sat down, staring at the box in her hands. It was quite heavy really; she couldn't remember that she had ordered something.
Carefully she opened it, unfolding the piece of paper that was inside and a smile tugged on her lips when she saw what it was attached to. She placed the jar with peanut butter on her windowsill and shrugged herself in her blanket again. She smiled again. He knew.
So was it worth to wait around? No. But she knew already she would keep on doing it. Because his wife needed him. Because she could help him how to say goodbye to her. Because she had been there. He needed her and he needed her guidance. Maybe one day she would be able to tell him. And if not – she would always have that one special night in a secluded cabin. She would stay in the shadows as long as he needed her there. She could wait a little while longer. Leaning her head against the back of her chair she sighed deeply, returning her attention to the white world outside. The wet snow seemed to settle down a bit, no longer slamming against her window but knocking gently. She closed her eyes, letting the rhythm of her rocking chair calm her down. Quiet. Peaceful. Comforting. And finally she fell asleep.
Confused. That was the word, he was confused. Confused by the sensation in his stomach, by the fear in his head, by the hope in his heart and maybe mostly – the panic high in his throat. He was scared, scared to death of losing her. Of saying goodbye to what was once them, to their dreams, hopes and maybe more their reality. He wasn't sure if he could do it, wasn't sure about his own strength that he once knew he had inside him. It seemed to leave him at unexpected and unwanted moments; as if he couldn't depend on his own body and mind anymore. Like she couldn't depend on hers.
Saying goodbye. How to say goodbye to a loved one – there should be a manual for it. He didn't know how. Didn't want to know probably. Here he was, making his way over to nowhere; shielding his face against the violent flakes of snow that seemed to sting him like tiny little needles because he had felt the need to get out. God he needed air, he couldn't find it in him to sit there for hours and hours again – waiting for a change that wouldn't come, or maybe a change he didn't want to come. Would he be able to manage it alone? Would he be capable of being both a mother and a father to their daughters? And why was it that he mostly worried about being there for them; how to pull them through the dark period of mourning when he didn't even know how he was going to pull through it himself?
Oh, the times one of them had caught him when he was sitting there on the verge of breaking; almost losing control over his emotions and actions and deadly scared they would see his tears. He couldn't let them. Didn't want them to worry about their father as well. They needed all their energy to focus on their mother and he wouldn't let them shift their attention. He needed to be there for them and not the other way around. How to do that – God he had no idea. He closed his eyes when he turned around the corner, the cold wind freezing his thoughts for a split second. It was a relief.
There were times that life didn't seem that bad though. Sometimes he actually managed to forget his sorrows for a second, there were even times when he laughed out loud. Without exception, every time he had felt guilty afterwards. How could he laugh? How could he smile without his wife next to him to share it? How could he allow his grandson to talk about him alone – as if his grandma had never been there? How could he let him forget about her? Oh he knew why. Because his life wasn't ending. Because she wouldn't have wanted him to be miserable forever. God, he was thinking about her as if she had passed away already. Maybe he had already started to say goodbye. Without noticing it. Without trying to stop it. Bloody fool.
He shook his head, burying his ears deeper in the safety of his scarf. The one she had given him three years ago, the one she had found for him in Italy. Lately he found himself thinking back to the way things were. More and more he was realizing how lucky he had been for most parts of his life; with the laughter of his children, the beauty of a painting or the warm sun on his skin. He had taken it all for granted, the miracle of life around him; the rhythmic comforting sound of a heartbeat – the warmth of a body next to him in bed. He had been missing that more than anything he could think of. He missed her.
He held his pace and for the first time he lifted his head to see where he was, the falling snow hindering his sight and the wind causing him to stagger. And he stared at the house where he shouldn't be.
Yes confused. He was confused. Because with everything that happened he had never expected to see a light at the end of the tunnel. It took him completely by surprise when he wasn't looking for it and it had knocked him sideways. He had seen a light. A light with short hair and a loving smile. He searched for that light when darkness took possession over him; struggling to see it - trying desperately to find it. And every time he finally found it he wanted to close his eyes right away; because he shouldn't have searched for it in the first place. He shouldn't be there with her, shouldn't allow himself to find the company of a woman who made him feel better. But oh, she made him feel better if only for a short while. Ever since they had that night together he had troubles putting her out of his mind, as if she wandered around inside of him – whispering words in his ear that made him smile although he couldn't hear her. Every once in a while knocking him back to reality when he was falling into dark ponderings; telling him to keep control.
At first he hadn't seen it coming; he knew he was starting to care again but it had felt good; warm, soft and gentle. In some way he found something of himself in her; she had a knack of uncovering his deepest thoughts, although he never allowed her. Simply by being there she gave him a sign that it was all right; that he should talk – that he should feel. And he had talked and he was still feeling, there had been evenings in which they had a long conversation but more than that there had been meetings in which they didn't talk at all. Sitting together on the wooden bench near the lake, lost in thoughts; watching, remembering, mesmerizing. And she'd always let him go when he felt that he should. Without using words he had told her too much; he felt he was opening up to her in a way that he wasn't ready for. He shouldn't be there.
He should put a stop to it. He wasn't honest to either one of them. The last time he had seen her it had been in her house, her face was pale and her eyes weren't as warm as they used to. She was putting distance between them, or maybe she was reacting to his inner turmoil he wasn't sure. He had asked her if she was all right and she had tried to comfort him – her smile never reaching her eyes when he pushed her to be honest. And that was it. He couldn't find the strength to worry about two women, he should stop. And he had planned to do just that but he had confused her even more probably, by sending her a note and something that connected them. Peanut butter. With a note saying that she should take care of herself. And now he didn't know how to proceed next.
He was confused. Needed some time alone. To go through this. To come out stronger.
Hugging himself from the cold he sighed deeply, his breath blowing away in the frozen wind, his eyes closed. And he walked off.
8 MONTHS LATER:
She inhaled deeply, letting the sun warm her inside and she smiled by the sight of children running around; skating, playing, enjoying the weather. There was something appealing about the change in seasons, as if one appreciated it better when there was an obvious change in temperature. How much she dreaded the cold in wintertime; she was also fascinated by the colour pattern in the sky when winter slowly crept in, the colours of the leaves creating the image of a red fire and the frozen ground where, strangely enough, life never seemed to stop. Every year the green leaves would come out; popping by to say hello to make sure nobody would forget about them. It never failed to make her smile.
The lake was calm, wrinkling along with the soft breeze of the late summer wind, making the sunlight glitter at the surface. It warmed her neck and she closed her eyes to enjoy the feeling of the streams of light that seemed to massage her neck. Until she didn't feel it anymore.
"Is this seat taken?"
His dark voice came from behind her, she opened her eyes and suddenly her heart was in her throat. She had been waiting for this moment but now that it was there she wasn't prepared. In a way she was afraid to turn and meet his gaze, as if she would see something she didn't want to. So she just shook her head and waited for the inevitable.
He sighed deeply when he saw her reaction; realizing that he felt the same thing – nervousness, anxiety but also a thrill. Was she ready to deal with him again? Was he ready to deal with her? He had come here to sit and watch the lake; to say hello after all this time. And in the back of his mind he had known that he wouldn't be alone.
Moving around the back of the bench he sat down, careful not to touch her, not meeting her gaze but looking straight ahead. Not a sound came from next to him, just a reassuring breath. He leaned forward with his arms on his knees, staring over the lake. God 8 months. It had been 8 months since he saw her last. And a lot had happened in those months, he had learned that he indeed was capable of saying goodbye. That he could fulfil a role in his daughters' lives and maybe more – that he learned that he needed them just as much as the other way around. He had found it again. He knew that he was able to face the bottom but that he was on his way to climb up. And look who he ran into.
She couldn't look at him; couldn't search for his expression, couldn't let him see the truth in her eyes. Her hands felt like they were moving constantly but in reality they were frozen in her lap, her face directed at the glittering lake. She had moved on without him; after she realized he needed some time she had decided to give it to him. Not a day went by in which she didn't think of him, mostly right before she fell asleep. And now he was here. Close. She could almost touch him. Almost.
"The wind is changing," he stated, rubbing his hands together.
She had to answer. "Last day of summer," she replied, nodding a little and blinking when he sat back.
For a moment it was silent and he swallowed, finally shifting so he could meet her gaze. She had already turned to face him and their eyes locked; trying to read what went on in the other.
She hadn't changed that much, he lips were tensed but her cheeks were red, healthy red. She was wearing a new necklace; it matched her earrings and both sparkled. Just as her eyes.
He looked better than she had expected him to, his hair was a bit long in the neck and his shirt was wrinkled but his face was smooth. He looked younger in a way, his eyes were open and sincere. Until they narrowed because he smiled.
"Are you hungry?" he asked and she shook her head. No she wasn't hungry.
"I read it in the paper, about Mary Beth…" she started and he nodded, giving her a sideward glance when he moved to lean with his back against the bench again.
"Yes, it's been 7 months now," he said, smiling when he heard her inhale deeply.
Oh dear god she was so confused. And she couldn't stand it that she reacted so intensely to his presence; she was a grown woman, a doctor, an adult. Silence fell between them again and the wind blew around them, red leaves playing a game before their feet. He felt at ease. It was good. Slowly he moved his arm and placed his hand in the middle of the bench, his shoulder touching hers now. She was warm. She hesitated but not long, slowly she lifted her own hand to place it carefully in his – staring down when their fingers entwined. He rubbed her palm slowly, delicate and loving. Her stomach dropped.
Maybe it had been worth it after all.