Chapter Nine: Unbearable
Mark's blue eyes pierce the ceiling. His arms are crossed behind his head and he shifts further underneath his sheets. Another morning where he doesn't feel like himself; where he feels like he's done something wrong. That's when the blonde rolls over and rests her head on his chest. She smiles into his skin and he can feel her bare chest against his side. But he doesn't wrap his arm around her, he doesn't look down at her, he doesn't even say anything to her. The crestfallen feeling grows inside of him like he's committed the worst deed humanely possible. He only slept with a girl. He's slept with many girls in his lifetime and he's never felt like this. Since he became a household of one again, he's had plenty of girls over. Each of them came with a special talent that would leave any guy breathless. Although, he would always wake up with this feeling in the pit of his stomach, a neutral look on his face, and a sense of carelessness on whether the sex was good or not. It's like he's sleeping around to forget, to lose something he can't seem to shake, only to wake up feeling ashamed.
The woman, whose name he cannot recall, says something. He looks down at her and she meets his gaze with her crystal blue eyes. He's seen those eyes many times before. She's from Radiology. They've exchanged multiple glances and smiles. He knows she used to be someone he once strived to have this moment with. She was the type to play hard to get but he was the type to forget someone if he had to try too hard. He liked things instantly. He doesn't feel victorious though. He still feels like he's running in a race that doesn't look like he'll win.
"Did you hear me?" Her soft voice asks.
He raises his eyebrows, needing her to repeat it.
"We have a few hours until work. We could..." Her voice trails off and one corner of her lips curves in a suggestive manner, "We could do it again."
The suggestion makes him grimace a little but she fails to notice. He sits up and breaks their eye contact.
"Actually," he begins and gets out of bed, "There are a few things I need to get done before work. Sorry."
His apology was barely half-hearted and in a low mumble while he pulls a shirt over his head. She tells him she understands in a sincere tone of voice which makes him feel even worse. He was hoping she'd be mad or offended but she sounded hopeful. Like they were going to do this again. Mark exhales and turns to see her getting dressed. The two walk to his front door without any words. This is not like him. This is not like him at all.
"But," he begins when she's about to turn the doorknob. She turns and looks at him with big blue eyes. He inhales, "I'm free tonight if you, you know, want to get dinner or something."
She grins excitedly and lets out a chipper, "Yeah!"
As he watches her walk down to the elevator, he begins to believe that he just made a huge mistake. He knows that he can't push away what he knows he wants with people who want him. But he can sure as hell try. The door across from him opens and Callie steps out, immediately eyeing the one night stand getting on the elevator. She gently rubs Sofia's back as she takes her place next to Mark.
"What are you doing?" She asks.
"What do you mean?"
"You don't think that there's anything wrong with this? Sleeping with a different girl almost every night? It's a pathetic attempt to try and forget Olivia, I'll tell you that."
"I'm over Olivia." Saying this makes him feel like a teenage boy. Lying about it makes him feel even more immature, "She didn't want to trust me and that's the end of it."
"You sure about that, Mark? Because, right now, you're the one with the trust issues."
"What are you talking about?"
"What I'm saying is that you obviously still love her but you're not doing anything about it. Replacing her won't help."
Mark looks down at her. He knows she's right. He doesn't want to admit it to her or to himself. He watches Callie lightly bounce Sofia in her arms and says, "I've got to get ready for work. I'll talk to you later."
Her name is Ally and she works in Radiology everyday from eight until five. He's seen her at the coffee cart most days and their conversation escalated over time since Olivia left. Mark remembered all of this on his way to work and it makes him feel better now that he's taking this woman to dinner in a few hours. Just like when they first met, Mark spots Ally standing at the cart, waiting for her order.
"Hey," he says. She turns around and smiles brightly, "I just wanted to apologize for how I acted earlier. It's been a rough couple of weeks but I promise I'll make it up to you tonight."
Her smile widens, "You better," she teases and pokes him, "I'm holding you to that."
"Don't worry," he replies and kisses her cheek, "We have reservations at seven and I would dress up."
"And after?" She asks suggestively, looking directly into his eyes. She bites her lip, waiting for a specific answer.
"That's the surprise." He winks at her right as she turns around to take her coffee. She smiles once more and walks on.
He orders his cup of coffee and while he waits, his phone rings. Mark brings it to his ear and before he could say anything, he hears Callie's voice on the other line.
"I have an idea. You should call Olivia."
Mark exhales and pinches the bridge of his nose, "Callie, let's just leave it alone for a while, okay?"
"But why? You two were so perfect. Besides, I heard Ally isn't the most innocent little girl, anyway."
"Fine, fine, I'll drop it. But all I'm saying is that you should just give her a call. I think you're making a mistake, Mark, I really do."
After a quick goodbye, they hang up. He isn't going to let this ruin his evening but he can't help but wonder what Olivia is doing right at this very moment - something he's been wondering for a while even when he doesn't want to. As much as Mark tries to force himself to completely forget Olivia, the occasional reminder comes up. Now that Callie has mentioned her, he can't stop thinking about her. Is she going about her day as if none of this happened or is she desperately trying to forget him too? Mark's thoughts are interrupted when his coffee is placed in front of him. Then he remembers, it was Olivia's choice to walk out. This was all her choice. He tries to focus his thoughts on his date tonight - something that he won't mess up.
"How's your baby girl? Everybody's been asking about her," Ally mentions as he pushes her chair further in once she sits down.
"Healthy, happy, everything a father could ask for." Mark takes his own seat and smiles. She looks so different from when he sees her at work or in his bed. Her golden hair is pinned up neatly in a bun and the navy blue dress compliments her nicely. Mark would be lying if he said she doesn't attract him a little bit.
"Talk about a miracle baby." She sips from her glass of water and then looks up at him, "Would you want your own child?"
Mark furrows his eyebrows, "What do you mean? She is my child."
"You know what I mean," she replies.
"You mean a child that I don't have to share?"
He thinks about it. Him having a wife and child to come home to everyday. He often imagines himself opening the door to see a tiny body running up to him and hugging his leg. Whether it was a boy or a girl, it didn't matter. He'd say hello to the small child and then look up to see his beautiful wife standing there, waiting for her turn to be greeted. No matter how long they've been married, she would look just as beautiful as the day he met her. She would have a smile that would light up a whole room, a melodious voice, sparkling brown eyes, and silky brown hair.
Mark blinks out of his daydream and his heart begins to race at the fact that he was thinking about Olivia over anybody else. Instantly, he becomes guilt ridden but quickly smiles, telling himself that it won't happen again.
"Sofia's perfect," he simply tells her and the waiter approached their table to take their order.
"May I get you started on a glass of wine?" The waiter asks and Mark looks down at the wine menu.
The first thing he spots is the same type of Pinot Noir he served Olivia the first time they had dinner together. Without hesitation, he orders a bottle. His mind wanders back to that amazing night. She told him everything that evening - where she lived, what New York was like, everything. Until it was interrupted. He was positive he was going to kiss her that night. They still never shared the dessert he had planned.
"Are you alright, Mark?" Ally says. He notices she's halfway through her glass of wine while he still hasn't touched his.
"Yeah, sorry." He finally takes a sip from his glass and tells himself to only focus on the girl across from him, to stop getting distracted and to move on.
"So tell me about this surprise." Her voice is low and seductive, much like it was earlier.
Mark forces a smile, "Well, it wouldn't be a surprise if I told you. You'll just have to wait."
"I'm not the most patient person."
"It'll be worth the wait; I promise." He winks at her and sips his wine once more. Then, he notices something over her shoulder. A couple sitting in the corner of the restaurant in a semi circle booth. They're sitting close together and the man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small black box. The man opens it and much to his girlfriend's surprise, a shiny wedding ring appears. Mark is fixated on this couple, unable to look away. The woman cups her hands over her mouth and tears collect in her eyes. She nods and the two embrace, both smiling, both happy. Mark finally brings himself to look back at Ally but with a strong sense of loneliness. He wishes that he was in that couples' place instead of fooling himself.
He told himself he will not ruin this night.
"You know what?" Mark says and drinks down the rest of his wine, "How about we just leave now?
Ally's eyes and smile brighten at the suggestion and she agrees, nearly jumping out of her seat. Mark throws some money on the table and places his hand on Ally's lower back and escorts her out of the restaurant.
He desperately tries to feel the excitement she's feeling when they enter her apartment. Mark tries to find the thrill as she runs her hands up and down his body. She's doing everything right but nothing about this feels right. Mark tries to defer the uncomfortable feelings and try to enjoy him slowly unzipping her dress but knowing that this is not Olivia makes him reluctant.
Finally, he breaks away from Ally's caress and says, "I'm sorry, Ally. I thought this was what I wanted but it's not and I can't keep doing this. I'm really sorry."
She looks at him with bewilderment and watches as he collects his things. He doesn't look back when he leaves her home even though he knows he'll have to pay for it when he goes back to work. He doesn't care about that right now. He cares more about getting home.
As soon as Mark pushes past his front door, he tosses his jacket over the back of the nearest chair and takes a seat on the couch. He selects Olivia's number on his phone and looks at it for a while, making sure that this is something he wants to do for sure. He releases the breath he has been holding for the past couple of seconds and dials the number. A combination of disappointment and relief wash through him when he hears her voicemail. Mark tells himself not to back out now and to leave a message.
After the cue, Mark begins.
"Hey Olivia, it's me..."