She awoke happy to be free from the nightmare that had been torturing her sleep. Relief washed through her body and then she released a heavy breath. She looked over at the body laying next to her and suddenly her memory returned to her. Her nightmares had only supplemented the horrid experience she had just gone through with her wife. The only reason why she was still in the bed at all was because Miranda had shown her an act of kindness. But now as she sat awake, Andy wondered if Miranda was in actuality meting out a bit of revenge.
It was unsettling to wake up in the bed she shared with her wife, her wife asleep beside her in a house they had together made a home in such an act of normality when normal had been taken away. There would be no more normal. Andy had made sure of that when she confessed her infidelity to Miranda.
A part of Andy believed that Miranda could have forgiven her. Infidelity wasn't what had shattered their life. The shattering had come when Andy had insisted on admitting that she had been in love with someone else for the majority of their marriage, and no matter how tightly she held onto Miranda as they each cried, nothing could undo what had happened.
Years, Andy mused, it had taken years to build up her life and only a few little words to destroy it. For as many nights as she had stayed up playing out the scene of confession, Andy had never really grasped onto what guilt, anger, and shame would become the morning after the words had been uttered. Her guilt had not eased. She still hated herself and she began to hate herself just that much more because she didn't want to leave the bed she was laying on.
She did not want to leave Miranda.
Miranda had told her that once she left, there would be no coming back. There was no do-over. And what if Miranda had been right? What if Andy's love for Emily would die out when they actually put their love to the harsh test of everyday life. Maybe Andy wouldn't be able to overlook Emily's harsh edges as easily as she had forgiven Miranda's. Maybe Emily wouldn't find Andy's chaotic style of organization as endearing as Miranda had. Maybe there was a limit to love that Andy hadn't been able to conceptualize before.
Or maybe, maybe Miranda knew Andy too well and so knew exactly what to say to make her doubt everything.
But none of that really mattered now. The wall had been built. It didn't matter what Miranda said. It didn't matter what forgiveness could be offered. The wall was between them and not even a raging flood could break it. Not now, not even if Andy leaned across the bed, wrapped Miranda up in her arms, and bathed in the feeling of what love did exist between them.
"I have to leave," Andy told herself, hoping that her words would give her that extra needed push to walk away from the tattering of love she felt pulling her back in.
She threw her legs across the edge of the bed and then forced her body to disregard her emotion and listen to her will. She could not take one last look at her wife, who she was sure was now awake and waiting for some sign as to what was going to happen. She could not fall back; she could only push forward.
Although she was unsure they would, her legs did hold her when she stood up. They managed to carry her to the closet and her arms worked in pulling out clothes. She managed to get dressed and then managed to walk out of the bedroom. Unfortunately, she had not managed to completely avoid looking into Miranda's blue eyes.
Andy walked away, knowing that Miranda was watching her, and although Miranda said nothing, Andy knew that her wife was offering her one more chance to stay and to try and repair what had surely been broken. The offer was tempting, but Andy knew that she had to leave. Otherwise, she risked staying in limbo not knowing what would have ever happened if she decided to seek out a happy ending with the woman who had loved her and had let her go over and over again.
So, Andy walked out of her house and then made her way to Emily's. She didn't think of calling ahead of time and didn't let herself wonder if Emily would even be willing to see her. Her mind was already too full with what had happened between Miranda her that there was no room left for doubt in what might happen with Emily.
When she arrived at Emily's townhouse, Andy didn't know what to think when she saw Emily sitting on the patio with a mug cupped in her hands.
"It's early," she said in greeting as she slowly climbed the stairs.
"Hm," Emily agreed. "I knew that if you were coming then it'd be early."
Andy sat down next to Emily, making an effort to not sit too close. "Where's Raymond?"
"Inside." Emily took a sip from her mug.
"Does he know why you're sitting out here?" Andy asked, wishing she could do something with her hands other than stare at them dangling lifelessly off the edges of her knees.
Emily chuckled. "How could he? I don't even know why I'm sitting here." She laid down her mug on the step below her, and then turned to face Andy.
Andy looked down at Emily's hands. Without the mug to steady them, she noticed that they were shaking. "Are you cold?" She asked as she reached over.
Emily rolled her eyes. "What do you think?" She sarcastically asked. "My husband, my child, my life is waiting for me inside of this house, but for some unthinkable reason I'm sitting out here." Her hands stopped shaking. "I hate you," she whispered.
Andy grinned. "Yeah," she bowed her head and laid it onto Emily's shoulder, "I hate you, too."
"I hate you more," Emily softly replied and then placed a tender kiss atop Andy's forehead.
They both sighed and let their bodies settle against each other. This wasn't a moment of promise but rather one of comfort. Emily could, at any moment, get up and go back inside of her home to her family. Andy could stand up and try to make amends with her wife. She hadn't been gone long enough yet for Miranda to decide that their marriage was well and truly over.
They could...pretend again. They were experts at that. They could convince everyone around them that they had decided that what they had wished for wasn't what they really wanted. They could say that the idea was more fulfilling than the reality.
They could lie, and once again try to believe what they were telling everyone else. But both of them knew that if they didn't at least try to do something with what existed between them, that one day they would again be sitting somewhere leaning against one another with their worlds on the verge of implosion.
"Miranda's convinced that we won't last," Andy confessed.
"Well," Emily cleared her throat, "I'm not sure that she's wrong."
"I'm not sure either."
"Raymond and I could have a very content life together." Emily placed her ahead atop Andy's. "We could have more children, and I know he would never betray me. He would never leave. He will love me until the day he dies...completely. And I could," she tripped over her words, "I could make him h-happy." She blinked away the tears that were forming. "Even if I didn't love him enough."
"I know." Andy didn't stop the tears from falling from her own eyes. Her strength had already been drained from her the night before and she had none left to hold onto.
"Yet still," Emily closed her eyes, "here you are ready for me to turn my back on it all."
Andy nodded the best she could in her current position. "Ready but not asking." She could not ask something of Emily that Emily had never asked of her. Neither of them had ever given ultimatums. It was a courtesy that they had never discussed but had always abided.
Of course, they had pushed each other to limits. They had been petty and demanding when either one of their jealousies raged beyond their control. They had not always been understanding, but they had at least kept this one boundary sacred. Maybe, it was their convoluted attempt at offering an illusion of detachment. It was a way to pretend that there was a piece of them that didn't care and that could never care that the love of their life was sharing someone else's bed.
Perhaps, the reasons went even deeper than that, but none of that mattered now. Ultimatums weren't needed. They never had been.
"So," Emily lifted her head, "you're asking me to leave my husband, you're willing to help me with a broken-hearted little girl, you're ready to do this all?"
Andy lifted her head as well. "I'm ready to try."
Emily shook her head. "God Andrea, I hate you."
Andy leaned forward and kissed Emily softly on the cheek. "I know," she said as she pulled away. "I know."
This thing between them had never been easy. It hadn't started out right or fairly. They had gotten things wrong from the very beginning, and there was no such thing as starting over. Choices had already been made, and lives had already been slowly burned away bit by bit until only burning embers were left.
Finally Emily let her tears fall. "Don't break my heart, Andrea."
Andy wrapped her arms around Emily. "Don't break mine."
They both closed their eyes, knowing that their time alone would soon be coming to an end. Hiding out on Emily's doorstop couldn't last forever. They couldn't sit, hold each other and never let go. Life, no matter how much they wanted it to, didn't work that way.
"No matter what," Andy brushed away Emily's tears, "I'll always love you."
Emily took hold of Andy's hand. "That's always been our problem, hasn't it? We'll always love each other."
"Yeah," Andy agreed. "Always."
If it had its way, their love would always burn their lives down until it was sated. Now, all they had to do was figure out how to control it so that when they gave in, it didn't destroy them like Miranda had predicted it would. They had to make sure that everything they had done, were about to do, would be worth it because love wasn't always enough. Their marriages had taught them at least that.