Change of Heart
Epilogue – three months later
Jen knelt down to put the final book on the shelf with an immense sense of satisfaction. She stood back to admire her work – groaning as she rose to her feet. Her belly still gave her a shooting pain if she twisted the wrong way, even though it had been three months since she'd got out of hospital and she'd been vigilant with her therapy.
She looked around her and smiled with satisfaction. After a month of effort, her small one-bedroom apartment was almost complete. The bookshelves that covered most of the walls might have been claustrophobic to some people, but for Jen it felt like a haven. Her own little library to feel safe in. Sure, the kitchen was tiny and she had to squeeze past the bed to get into the small en suite bathroom, but it was hers and it was home. Her very first home.
She opened a bottle of wine, deciding to celebrate the unpacking of the final box of books.
Sitting back on the bright red armchair that she'd bought from a second-hand furniture store, Jen took a sip of her wine and her fingers fluttered on the scar on her neck. It had healed well, but it was still quite an ugly, jagged, red mark – a constant reminder of what might have happened that she saw whenever she looked in the mirror. She thought that if it wasn't for her work, she'd probably be a lot more upset about it than she was. But her kids didn't care, and often had far worse scars and injuries, so Jen had matter-of-factly had to deal with it and get on with her life.
She drank her wine and sighed. She knew she was doing exactly the right thing, she was exactly where she should be. But still, it was a little lonely. She couldn't help remembering those blue eyes and gentle fingers and wondered how he'd react to her scar. Would he kiss it? Ignore it? She wasn't sure, but her mind liked to imagine the various scenarios that might have played out if he'd been around.
Her cell phone rang as she sat contemplating. She smiled, figuring it would be Sarah, checking in on her – again. Sarah was pleased that Jen was striking out on her own, but worried in a mother-hen way that was equal parts adorable and annoying.
She picked up the phone and her stomach dropped when she saw the caller ID. Greg House? It was as if her imagination had conjured him into reality. Why would he be calling? Now? After three months? Before she'd even considered whether or not to answer, her fingers had pressed the little green phone on the keypad to accept the call and she held the phone to her ear.
"Hi, uh, it's Greg." He sounded a bit uncertain. Not at all like his usual confident self.
"Yeah, I know. Hi Greg." Jen tried to run through possible reasons for his call. Something to do with the hospital? Or had he changed his mind and wanted his money back?
"So, how are you?"
"Fine thanks, how are you?" Jen answered automatically, still on autopilot as her brain raced to catch up. Greg. She was talking to Greg again. Was that a good idea? Would she possibly ever stop wanting this man?
"No, I mean, how are you?"
"Oh." Jen swallowed, nervous. She remembered how anxious he could make her, the way he'd stare at her with those blue eyes and intense gaze, how her insides had melted when he smiled. And then the terrible blankness of his face in the hospital when she'd tried to explain, tried to tell him why they couldn't be together. He was the right man, but it was the wrong time. Star-crossed lovers and all that. She could see him formulating an argument and prepared herself for the onslaught, but then he'd shrugged, which was almost worse. He gave up.
Those first few weeks without him, knowing he wasn't there because she'd decided he shouldn't be, were torture. So many nights she lay awake trying to talk herself into excuses to find herself in his neighbourhood or at the hospital. But she knew, somewhere deep inside herself that this was right.
Shaking her head, she dragged herself back to the present and tried to put together a coherent answer for him.
"I'm doing...well," she said eventually. "I'm all healed and finished my therapy, which is great. It barely even hurts now. Oh, and I've moved into my own place. I could afford to, thanks to…well, you know…" Jen still felt a little embarrassed about all that money he'd put out to pay off her loans.
"Good, that's good. I'm glad."
"It's great to have my own space. It's helped me to do a lot of thinking," she said, hesitantly, not entirely sure what she should be saying.
"Yeah? Me too." He paused. "I miss you."
Jen swallowed hard. That was unexpected. In the absence of anything else to say, she joked back, "No you don't. You just miss having your dinner cooked and your laundry done."
He didn't laugh. "Jen, look at how I was living before we met. Do you really think that stuff meant anything to me? You did that for yourself, not me."
He was completely right and Jen wanted to kick herself for how long it had taken her to work that out. And to work out that he'd known it all along.
"You miss having my legs spread for your every night," she said, biting her bottom lip after she spoke, not quite sure where the words had come from.
And at that he did chuckle. "Well, yeah, I do miss that. But I also missed your insightful and learned comments on world politics, the state of the nation and whether or not Criminal Minds jumped the shark when Mandy Patinkin left."
"Well, that's an easy one." She laughed, but even she could hear that it was false.
There was a silence that stretched on, until Jen couldn't bear it any longer.
"Was there something you wanted?" she asked. She superstitiously crossed her fingers, hoping he wasn't going to ask for the money back or that he'd just called her in a drunken moment to argue. But he didn't sound drunk – just the opposite in fact.
"There's…" He cleared his throat. "There's this French restaurant someone told me about once. It's new. Well, it's been open for a few months now, but newish anyway. I, uh, wondered if you'd like to have dinner on Friday. With me."
Jen froze. Of all the things she'd thought he might say, that was probably the one thing she hadn't prepared for.
"Are you…are you asking me out on a date?" she asked, disbelieving her own ears.
"Well, you could call it that. Or you could call it two old friends catching up for a drink, if you wanted to."
A slow smiled stretched over Jen's face as she took a deep breath and sank back into the chair cushions, the phone still pressed to her ear.
Back in the hospital, when she'd tried to explain, when she'd pleaded for him to understand, she'd thought he hadn't been listening. It was beginning to dawn on her that, actually, he had.
Greg House was asking her out on a date. And Jen knew that her life was about to begin, all over again.
"Oh, a date, let's call it a date."