"Marco, I have something to tell you."
Not discuss, nor talk about - tell you, as if it was an order. It was certain, well thought over in a considerate manner that had allowed her to reach a logical conclusion. Logic, logic. Wasn't it always about cold harsh logic? That was, unless she was angry. It seemed she barely registered passion apart from her devout protectiveness over her child or anger at injustice – then she would be inflamed, ready to do nearly anything. But where was that when it came to love for anyone else? He'd thought he'd wormed his way into her life and into her heart, but in reality, he was on the outside, facing the battlements with no way in.
"I'm sorry. I am, but there's really no other way to say this...I don't think we should see each other anymore."
He gripped the counter edge so hard he hurt his palm, but he embraced the pain almost as a punishment because he should have seen this coming. Deep down, he'd known this would probably happen, and he'd hoped - over optimistically - that he could prevent it by being the best person he could be for her. He'd calculated the risks, taking into account what he knew of her past and her personality. It had seemed easy to work out what her issues were and what he could do to overcome the troubling situations that might arise between them because of all of that. Yet he was still here, exactly where he'd feared he'd end up when he had started this thing with Diana.
But with all the signs he'd noticed lately, it shouldn't have been hard to predict this conversation. His problem was he'd ignored her behaviour, her slights and the lack of progress with their relationship, her lack of affection to him. She'd obviously been thinking about it for a while, judging by how she approached the subject. She was trying to make it as painless as possible, but he didn't need the mixed signals indicating she actually cared about him when she'd basically been walking all over his heart for months. A quick, clean break would have felt far less painful than an after dinner "chat" about how things were going. It had given a false illusion that everything was okay with them, contrary what had to have been her intention from the very beginning. Even then, as she had ushered him through her door for dinner alone - as if to invite him into a special scene set up purely for their enjoyment, with no distractions - she had surely been distracted by her plan to do this. The evening together had done the opposite of what she claimed to want to do - he couldn't think of many more hurtful ways to attempt to temper the revelation than to present a happy front before pulling that announcement out of the hat, but then, if she'd been putting it off, it almost made sense she had done it like that.
When she reached out to touch his shoulder, to reassure him, it was the last straw, and he jerked away from her touch, wanting to detach himself from her and avoid prolonging the suffering he felt. He needed to get away from her, to just excuse himself and get out of there. He would walk away as calmly as he could manage and deal with his emotional state by himself, back at his place, where he could feel safe. It was ironic that he had grown to consider her apartment more like home than his own house, but now it was the last place he would think of staying.
Having moved around to the other side of the counter, closer to the door, he glanced at her to find she looked hurt by his actions. A large part of him felt remorse at her pain, before the rest of his mind reacted angrily to this, realizing how ridiculous it was for her to make him feel ashamed for his actions. With how she had treated him - probably having known she wanted to break up with him for a few weeks, judging her previous behaviour, but constantly putting off the inevitable – he wasn't the one who needed to apologise for anything, apart for being too blind to see the obvious. That and his own stupid quest to make their relationship work, knowing she wasn't doing anything on her side of the deal. Only Tom had known they were going out, but it had been clear she hadn't wanted her work partner to know about their involvement. The secrecy had continued for so long as to be not only ridiculous - because most people had probably guessed the truth - but suspicious that Diana cared so much about people knowing.
He'd known it wasn't going to work, and he'd carried on, wanting to believe it would miraculously fall in place just because they went well together. They both understood each other perfectly – the relationship made sense. He'd adored Maia and looked out for her as much as he did for Diana. He'd do anything for either of them, because he loved Diana and wanted to be part of her family, and that included Maia. The only thing that had stood in the way of that happiness was whatever had inspired the woman he loved to cut her ties with him. It could have been her fear of opening up, not wanting to commit to him, or maybe trying to distance herself from future hurt. Whichever it was, he couldn't tell from her feeble excuses for why she wanted space, but the message was clear – he couldn't be in her life anymore. Maybe that wouldn't be true forever. Maybe she'd have a change of heart, even miss him, but he couldn't be sure she wouldn't do it all over again. He intended to leave, take his time to guard himself against his feelings and to protect himself. Maybe then he could return to being "just a friend."
Yet the his love for her wasn't going to fade away in the face of his heartbreak, and despite all the mean retorts running through his brain, he wanted to make this as easy as possible for her.
"I think it'd be better if I make my exit about now, don't you think?"
A grim smile and a nod of agreement, followed by a melancholy, "Of course," was all she seemed to be able to manage in return. He studied her face for a few seconds, wondering when he'd next see her, if this was really it – the end of the relationship he'd tried so hard to forge. Half of him hated that he cared enough to take one final long look at her while he still could, and the other half recognised the fact it would be so much better for him to never see her again, even as he mourned the prospect of that. But he knew he'd see her again, at work at least, but he'd be limited to a professional demeanour. He wouldn't be in the mood for light-hearted jokes in the foreseeable future, nor the teasing they'd had when he'd first known her – they couldn't go back to how things had been, no matter how much he wished they could slip into that routine and pretend there was that never-ending carrot on a stick possibility of something more.
"Maia'll be disappointed about the trip to the park, presuming it's off."
"That's a pretty good assumption," he said, letting a little spite emerge as he did. He squashed the regret of having said it, figuring it wasn't the worst he could have come up with, and he was entitled to show some emotional response to this. It wasn't like being stoic would help much, and neither would his comment lashing out at her – the accusation was barely there. Besides which, he felt like she ought to be confronted by what she'd done in some small way, and that one sentence had satisfied that dark desire. A desperate part of him wanted her to know how much it hurt, how much hurt she had caused him, but that he wouldn't give in to, however much it tempted his fraught psyche. Instead, he tried to smooth over the issue with a polite reply, but somehow even that didn't come out quite right.
"Anyway, I'm sure she'll get over it. You don't need me to visit the park."
And as he said it, he couldn't help but add mentally,"You don't need me at all...or so you say."She couldn't possibly catch that implication from the placid way he'd spoken, but something about her expression made him wonder if she could anyway. He shook the concern off and turned around, hands in his pockets resigned as he went to let himself out, pausing as he realised he had one last tie to cut.. He dug further here into his pocket, extracting his keyring and detaching his copy of the key to her apartment. As he placed it on the coffee table, not to far from his intended target of the door, he caught a quiet sound, as if she was intending to say something, but she closed her mouth as he stood up fully and faced her. Her automatic instinct was to smile at him, but then she faltered as she remembered the mistake in that. It caused a pang in his chest because he'd probably never have her smile at him like that again.
And, with the finality of that thought, he met his resolve to escape this torturous evening. He retreated into the night alone, feeling broken inside. His exit of the building merged into a blur when he tried to recall how he'd ended up outside. The doorman had said something, asked a question possibly, but he couldn't recall what.
As he stood there, in a daze, he was vaguely aware of movement out of the corner of his right eye. He focused on the area, ten meters or so away, curiously finding himself staring at a young couple. Maggie from 10B downstairs and her new boyfriend, both were just fifteen. The gossip had inspired a conversation just a few days ago about how exactly Diana was planning on dealing with when Maia started paying attention to boys and her strategy was to ignore the possibility until it became a problem and now it felt like that was the only thing she was capable of, postponing the inevitable until her hand was forced and she had to make a decision. But that realisation had dawned on him far too late.
Logically they'd made such a good couple and they'd both wanted to believe that, had let themselves. Breaking the comparative silence on the issue meant her rejection had sounded deafening on his ears, and it seemed like it impacted him with more force. She at least knew it was coming, probably known all along and been hoping against this.
For a second or two, disbelief had been all that he could feel and now as he sat himself down on a bench a little way along the street – he hadn't even realised he'd been walking – he tried to make sense of it properly, but only now protected from her gaze could he hope to. Attempting to ground himself in the touch of the dry wood and cold metal he found no comfort at the contrast of where he'd expected to be – upstairs, sat up close by Diana's side, warm and sharing the days events.
Blaring traffic passing caught his attention – an overload to his ears - bringing him back to reality. He gradually became aware of the biting cold of the night air and the wind but it didn't quite overcome the nearly paralysing fear that made him want to resist moving away. It was then that the reality suddenly hit him. If he went to his apartment this would be over, a large chapter of his life closed, probably forever, because really it had to be after this.
The agony that inspired in his chest didn't stop him from going home, and he was going to have to get used to calling it that mentally from now on.
For over 2 years he'd been chasing Diana Skouris - flirting, courting, and furthermore caring about her and her daughter because of who they were, good people; not just because of his feelings. But he knew he'd done everything right and had failed. It didn't help much but it took off the bitter edge a little.
As he pulled up to his place, the sky brought down a blanket of darkness as the sun was set, marking a strangely natural end to it all. He stumbled tiredly though his front door, not bothering to turn on the lights. He flopped down on his infrequently used new couch and numbness settled over him as sleep claimed him, sparing him all the hurt of the day for at least a few hours.