Hey everyone, here's a short, the first of a trilogy.
The ticking of the clock in Catherine's kitchen seems loud, too loud even, like a hammer that was repeatedly smashed onto concrete; or maybe my blood is just beating so loudly in my ears that it echoes the ticking of the clock.
I sigh, weary; weary of waiting, weary of pretending. I don't know why I thought that tonight would be any different; maybe I had convinced myself that if tonight was different, then it would mean that there is still hope after all. I drop my fork, and stop pushing my food in my plate by the same occasion. I grab the towel on my laps and bring it to my lips to erase the traces left by the little food I forced down my throat.
I resign myself to the fact that my evening has already come to an end, ruined like all the others that came before during those past months. I decide to get myself busy; I do the dishes, clean the table, clean every single spot from the kitchen for the third time today. The least we can say is that the house is shinning clean in permanence, maybe the only positive point of in this story. The only healthy distraction I've found for myself was to take care of the house, fix everything that needs to be fixed; then I like checking up on my car or taking apart my motorcycle to clean each piece of it before putting it all together again; just anything as long as I don't let my mind wander about in the maze of this ado which has been eating at me from inside for months.
Only the thing is that I think I've reached my limits tonight; I'm tired and I hate what I'm becoming; this… doormat that lets people walking over her, taking everything in without ever protesting; I'm ridiculous, pathetic even. I've never been one to let people push me around, but for some reasons I can't figure out, it's been several months that I've let this going on, that I've accepted to be the idiot of the village.
No, actually I know why I let things be what they are, I'm weak, my heart made me weak.
But tonight it's the drop that make the vase overflowed; I go to the bedroom and put my things in order, I don't know if I should take the fact that I don't have that many things here as one of the signs that things haven't been at their best for a long time anyway.
I leave the bedroom and go to charge my car with my belongings before returning in the kitchen and sitting on a chair, staring at nothing in particular; and like every time I allowed myself to think about it all, I wonder where things took a wrong turn. I know that I had my part in this story, other than the element of décor I mean. I have my part of responsibility in what is happening and maybe I haven't fought enough to avoid this situation. It'd be so easy to let things be and say that it's not my fault, after all what's one more lie? But no, I know it's also my fault, and besides, telling myself that I have a part of responsibilities in all this gives me the hope that maybe we can change things, fix them.
I finally hear Cath's car rolling slowly on the gravel of the driveway; like every time for the past months there's a minute of silence before she exits the car. I don't need to watch her anymore to know that she's checking herself in the rear-view mirror one more time, closes one or two buttons of her shirt up and that she's mentally reciting what she will say when she comes in.
Then she exits the vehicle, gets her stuffs, closes and locks the car; her heels make a sharp sound when they hit the concrete, twelve steps in all; then there's the metallic sound of her key working the locks of the front door. She opens the door slowly then closes it behind her. I watch her from the kitchen and I can pinpoint the exact moment she puts on her mask of normal days, the sigh she lets out in spite of herself as if to prepare to do some hard chore; like someone who was put back in their cell after a few hours of liberty.
When you think about it, that's what this house has become. A cage, and from time to time she consents to share it with me.
When she finally turns to me, she sports a fake expression of joy, she wants to appear relieved as if she had waited all day to be here with me; except that it's not the case. It hasn't been the case for a long time.
Like usual, me too, I play along and pretend not to notice those small details, I force a smile on my lips when her eyes rest on me.
"Hey you," she says on a tone she wants light and natural. She comes closer to me and kisses my crown before moving on to something else. I don't even bother to hold her back or beg for a kiss anymore; I know that if she does kiss me she'll do it reluctantly; at first I told myself that it was out of guilt, but I had to admit the truth, and the truth is that if she doesn't kiss me it's to enjoy the lasting taste of liberty still imprinted on her lips.
"How are you?" she asks me, pouring herself a glass of water, before returning in front of me to lean onto to the countertop.
"I'm good, thanks, what about you?"
"Tired," she shrugs. "Linds isn't there?" she asks with a frown; normally at this time Linds would be watching a documentary.
"No, she sleeps at your sister's today."
"Oh, she didn't tell me," she pouts a little bit. "Or maybe I forgot, me and my goldfish memory," she rolls her eyes with a light laugh.
"Long day?" I query, even though I already know that if she has left the lab after me it's not because of a meeting. How? Because I came across Grissom on my way out who was cursing about the fact that he had cancelled a date for a meeting which won't be held in the end.
"Tell me about it," she sighs. "One thing's for sure, now I understand why Grissom was complaining all the time when he became the supervisor; all those boring meetings… it's tiring," she chuckles softly. I wonder if her lie rings as wrong in her ears as it rings in mines. "Speaking of Griss, he wants me to make some conferences, frankly I don't feel like it, I hate speaking in public," she sighs again. "But, I don't think I'll have the choice so I might not be there for four or five days next month."
A conference… of course, one more.
"You love her?" I suddenly ask.
She chortles. "I love Griss, but not when he has this kind of whims."
I snort with a bitter smirk. "No, I said 'her', as in the beautiful brunette you've been cheating on me with for the past seven month," I elaborate without any animosity. I dealt with my anger and all the myriad of bad emotions that came after that a long time ago.
She stills her movement, her glass close to her lips, petrified like a statue. Emotions cross her eyes, panic, guilt, anger, fear; maybe she hesitates between denying everything and keeping on treating me like an idiot; or protesting with anger at the fact that I might have spied on her – which is not the case. I suppose that there are too many things going through her head right now for her to react so she just stand there, not saying a word, hoping against all odds that this is just a bad dream.
I keep scrutinizing her in silence, then continue calmly. "Just because I don't say anything doesn't mean that I don't see anything," I specify. "Besides, I like to think that I didn't make it that far as a CSI only thanks to my smile."
She forces herself to look at me, pathetic, with an irregular breathing. She pulls her chin up, as if to forbid herself to look down in shame. It's one thing I've always admired about her, her aplomb; no matter what situation she's in, she always faces and assumes the consequences of her actions. She takes a sip of her water then puts her glass down, her arms now idly dangling at her sides; in spite of all her efforts she can't hide the fact that her hands are shaking.
"At first I told myself that I was imagining things; but it's silly how it's the little details that say the most. She wears a perfume which doesn't suit you; too sweet; personally I find it nauseating but that's just me," I snort with a shrug. "It's her smell that disturbed me at first, but it was subtle, enough for me to think that I was making things up. However, the first time you came back from work with that smell, I told myself that my senses hadn't betrayed me. You said it yourself, you never wear perfume at work because it could hinder your senses on the field."
Her gaze is shifty and her jaw is contracted, she's struggling to hold back her tears; evidently if someone should cry here that's not her.
"It's not all though…" I continue. "There's also the way you put a lot of effort into your appearance, more than you used to; your ever growing need to spend time out of the house, to run errands of all kind; the way you close your eyes when I touched you, not because you enjoyed it but rather like you were imagining her hands instead of mine; and there's also the physical distance that settled between us, slowly but surely."
I take a sip of the bottle of water I've been crushing in my hand; my throat is suddenly dry. She can't sustain my stare, maybe she's mentally reviewing all those details she has let slip.
"I came back one day earlier from California, the other time," her eyes snap in my direction immediately, surprise blatant in her gaze; she closes her eyes briefly before looking at me again. "Needless to say that I didn't expect to see you struggle that much to open the door… mind you considering the ardour with which she was devouring your lips then, I can understand your lack of coordination."
She takes a light breath and is about to speak but I raise a hand to stop her. "Don't… say anything, it's really not necessary."
I breathe in deeply and pass a hand over my forehead. "Every day I wonder why I impose this to myself; it's true, look at me I'm pathetic. Normally I would have jumped on the first occasion to get out of a relationship, and this time I have a golden reason for it. Then I remember why. I love you; it's as simple as that."
I pause, just to make sure that my words are sinking in. "I love you Cath. I love you more than anything. So I've pretended not to see anything, I've accepted all your lies, your fake meetings, your nights out with your old friends…"
Tears are running down her cheek, and her bottom lip is quivering as she's trying to smother her sobs.
"I know that when it comes to feelings I'm damaged goods. I have trust issues; I have to constantly face my past and my demons… I always hide in my shell… but I made efforts, on all those things you've always reproached me with. I learnt patience, I opened up… I've been more spontaneous… I really made efforts… not that you noticed any of it, but I suppose you were distracted."
I shake my head. "To say that our relationship is on shaky ground would be an understatement. But I'm ready to make even more efforts, I'm ready to do what has to be done to fix what's been broken and to make things work between us," I firmly say.
I don't give a damn it looks like I was letting myself being pushed around and if I appear weak. I love her, to the point where I can't envision my life without her; I don't intend to give up; I'm going to fight until the end, until she tells me that it's useless and that there's nothing left to save.
"All I need is a sign, to know that you still love me… or that you just love me period and if that's the case then I'll fight for it."
She opens her mouth but I don't give her the chance to say anything. "Don't answer just yet, not now, think about it at least," I demand. "And if it turns out that she's the one you love, then I'll accept it and I won't stand in your way. But I need you to choose because I'm not keen on sharing you."
I look away, feeling suddenly nauseated. I stand up. "I took a leave of absence at work; I won't be around for a little while; when I come back we can talk… if there's still anything left to say between us, of course."
On those words I start to leave but then I remember a last detail. I turn around and open one of the cupboards; I retrieve a package I had hidden there earlier in the evening, then I put it on the table.
"Three years together, got to celebrate no?" I smile sadly. "Happy anniversary, sweetie," the words are bitter and they are scorching hot in my throat; they are void of the peculiar sweetness that should be surrounding this event. Her expression of surprise confirms what I already knew, I snort gritting my teeth.
She closes her eyes, losing the battle against her emotions, her tears falling harder along her cheeks, but she still doesn't say anything. I suppose her lies have become too heavy to carry, at the same time I don't think I could put up with one more lame excuse passing her lips, that would only add insult to injury. I shake my head and walk her by to go to the living room.
I grab my vest, my wallet and my keys.
I exit the house with determination, unlock my car, get in and drive away.
I'm not even going to try to convince myself that when I come back things will be back to normal. But I hang on, because during those past ten minutes, when she was looking at me, with tears in her eyes, I was under the impression that she was still in love with me; and if it's that's all the love I have left, I'll learn to content myself with it; if that's all that is left from our relationship I'll learn to accept it.
Thanks for reading