She was a pretty woman, with short dark hair and a smile that almost touched his heart. Almost. Dinner was over, and she seemed nervous. That wasn't a good sign. "Let's go for a walk," she suggested after he paid the bill.
It was still early so they walked along the harbor path in Battery Park. He liked it here, and he came here often when he wanted to think. The water helped to calm him. In fact, when he had a day or two off, and he felt particularly unsettled or troubled, he would drive to the ocean, sometimes in Jersey, sometimes in Connecticut or even Massachusetts. He felt in tune with the restless tide. He especially loved it when the weather made for rough seas. Stormy seas were his favorite. Stormy...like his soul. And yet, since his partner had come into his life, he hadn't needed to seek out the calm of the ocean. All he ever had to do was call her. All he needed in his life was Eames.
"Where is your mind, Bobby?"
He shrugged. "No place in particular."
She knew he was lying. He never told anyone what he was thinking. No one but her. That's what everything in his life boiled down to. Her. Annie was tired of the competition. She had come to love sweet, considerate, charming Bobby. But loving him came with a price that she was no longer willing to pay. He had not come into this relationship alone. Annie was never able to get close to him because she was always there, interfering without ever even being present. He wouldn't let anyone in, but he'd let her in. It had taken time, but she finally came to realize why he never said "I love you." He didn't love her and he never would. There was room in his heart for only one woman; that's just the kind of man he was. With great sadness she realized that she would never be that woman. Why? Because another had already laid claim to him. And she didn't even know it. At first she'd thought she could displace her. In retrospect, it had been ridiculous to even try. He was a warm and considerate lover, but even when she had his body, she still never had him. He never looked into her eyes, and she finally figured out why. That made it less personal. So she'd stopped sleeping with him, and that was the beginning of the end. They both knew it. This conversation should come as no surprise to him...but maybe what she had to say about it would. He had been walking a tightrope from the very beginning. It had been easier for him in the beginning, when their relationship was new. But it had steadily been getting harder and harder for him, and his balance was beginning to fail.
"Have you noticed anything?" she asked him, knowing he noticed everything.
He was playing games now and she fought down her irritation. "Don't mess with me, Bobby."
"I..." It was no use. Why delay the inevitable? "It's over, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is. But not for the reasons you think."
"Well, let's see...I'm too intense, too much to handle. I..."
"Bobby, shut up and listen to me." He complied, but only because he was giving up. She knew defeat when she saw it. "I want you to think about what I have to say." She knew he would; he thought about everything. "You have never looked into my eyes when we made love, not once. That made it easier for you to pretend I was someone else, and I am not going to do that to myself. That's why I stopped spending the night. I started to love you, but then I realized you would never love me. So I have to leave. There's no room for me here." She placed her hand against his chest. He looked at her, confused, and she knew he didn't even realize what he had done or why he had done it. Was it her place to point it out to him? She wasn't sure about that. Maybe a hint or two would help, although she suspected it would take more than hints for him to get it. He'd have to be hit over the head with it, but she was not going to be the one to do that. Once he came to the realization that there was no one else for him but her, his life was going to come crashing down around him. "You are a complicated man and I need someone simple. I need a man who can love me and not just be with me. Surely you can understand that." He nodded mutely. She slid her hand out of his, leaned up to lightly kiss him and said, "Good-bye, Bobby. I hope you find whatever it is you're seeking. And if you ever get over her, give me a call and maybe we can try again."
That last statement was going to hit him hard, she reflected as she headed off down the path, back the way they had come, and disappeared into the night.
If you ever get over her? What did she mean by that? Get over who? He continued walking along the path, lost in thought. Who was he supposed to get over? And did she really think he ever pretended she was someone else? He wasn't aware...It hit him so hard he had to sit down. So he sat in the grass, propping his arms on his legs and burying his face in his hands. There's no room for me here. Of course not. No woman wanted to play second fiddle to another. And he had not even realized it. He thought he'd dealt with all that months ago. How stupid could he be? That was it. He was done. He wasn't going to do this again, or put another woman through it. That night, he removed himself from the dating scene. Bobby Goren was off the market.
He pulled out his phone and dialed, waiting for the party on the other end to answer. "Deakins."
"It's Goren, Captain. I...I need to take some time off."
"Uh, nothing...I just...need some time off."
"How much time?"
He could tell Deakins didn't believe him when he said nothing was wrong. "Uh, a week. Maybe two. No more than that."
"Have you talked to Alex?"
That surprised the captain. Goren had come to depend on his partner, especially when life got overwhelming for him. "Are you going to?"
"I...uh..." What would he tell her? She would never just accept that he needed time to be alone, and what would he tell her when she pressed him for why? "Probably not."
"Is everything ok with the two of you?"
"Because you never leave her in the dark."
"Captain, I just need some time off. Ok? This has nothing to do with anything Eames has done or hasn't done."
Deakins sighed. "What do you want me to tell her?"
He could just see the captain's exasperated look. "I...I don't know. Just tell her I need some time off." He was getting really tired of saying that.
"She's not going to like this."
"I know, and I'm sorry. I'll talk to her later, maybe in a few days."
"I'll be honest with you, Bobby. I don't like this, either."
Goren closed his eyes and counted to ten. "Captain, I'm ok. I just...need time away...to think and-and get my head on straight."
"Yes. But I'll be ok, I swear."
Deakins was quiet for a minute. Finally, he quietly said, "I want to hear from you."
"All right. A week. Let me know if you need more. And I'll deal with your partner. You owe me, Goren."
"Ok. I owe you. Thanks, Captain."
He sat there for awhile longer before heading back to the car. On the way home, he stopped at a florist. First, he picked out a nice arrangement for Annie. He filled out the card. Annie, I'm sorry if I hurt you. You deserve better and I hope you find someone who will treat you right. Bobby.
The next arrangement took more time. He carefully chose her favorite flowers. In the center of it, he had them place a half dozen baby roses--two red, a yellow, a pink and two white. He thought carefully about what to put on the card. Finally he wrote, Alex, I had to get away for a few days. I'm ok, but I didn't want to be talked out of it. I'll call you soon. Love, Bobby.
He arranged for Annie's flowers to be delivered right away and for Alex's to be delivered an hour later, when he was sure he would be on his way. Then he went home, packed some clothes, locked up his apartment and left.
He knew exactly when she received the flowers because she called him. He didn't answer, but when the phone beeped, indicating she'd left a voicemail, he listened to her message. "Bobby, what the hell is going on? What do you mean, you have to get away? I don't believe for a second that you're ok. Call me. Please. Oh, and thanks for the flowers. But you're still going to be in deep shit if you don't call me."
He ended the call and turned off the phone. He'd deal with her later...when he felt better able to talk to her. He slipped the phone into the glove box and headed out of Manhattan.