Chapter nineteen – Back To The Beginning
Rain drops were embracing her face, slowly sliding along her cheeks before coming to disappear in the depth of her neck. She had got used to it, even to the point of missing the sensation when the clouds didn't make it to the sky properly. Besides, it matched the melancholy that hadn't left her since the very beginning. An odd companion of misfortune that she dragged around in silence.
She had tried to forget, to turn the page and start it all over again but her thoughts always came back to New York at the end. In spite of the distance, and the months. It didn't have to do with determination or strength. It went beyond, like her loneliness and the constant pain on her chest she hid behind a wave of timid smiles whenever she crossed someone. Though it was all vain, she knew it.
She passed the doors of the pub and let the heat of the place wrap her up. The fireplace was on, lighting up the old leather armchairs that had been abandoned by the flames. She had spent more evenings there than she could remember, alone in a corner looking by the window at the dark sky of Edinburgh. Until she had become one of them, the few regulars whose life had been reduced once to the bar. If she had observed them in the distance for a long time, taking pity on their poor routine, she had finally realized that they were all alike. Just like the members of an odd family.
"How is my little K. doing?"
She might have been feeling immensely lonely, her pain seemed to heal for a while as soon as she went to the pub and spent time with these strangers she now considered as her friends. They never met at any other place, never made an allusion to their existence outside of the pub. As if they didn't need to.
"Hi, Jo... How are you?"
"Someone is looking for you. She is there, just behind."
Her genuine smile vanished in a mock of perplexity before the pub owner's words. Following Jo's hand, she turned her head around and remained bare. Astonished. At one of the empty tables by the television set was sat Grace, playing nervously with her pint. She hadn't changed except for the light in her eyes, a tiny flame was burning there now.
Trying to ignore how her past was catching her back at a place she wanted to keep neutral and deprived of any harsh memory, Karen made a few steps to the table then grabbed a stool to settle there. It hurt to see Grace. It burnt deep inside.
"It has been a year..."
"You asked me to leave. I did. I even moved to another continent. What are you doing here?"
It wasn't that she wanted to be harsh but the words came out that way around, naturally. Grace smiled a bit timidly but it didn't change the slightest thing. Behind the pain was boiling an old anger she had not found a way to get rid of properly.
"I know and I should have never done such a thing. I am deeply sorry, Karen. I really am. I... I was not allowed to do that to you, to Will. It wasn't fair at all."
"He didn't try to reach me either so perhaps you weren't very wrong when telling me how I didn't count that much for him."
"I told him that you had left with someone else."
An invisible strength began to press on her heart and she swallowed back a wave of tears. For months she had hoped that he would come to Scotland, guess where she was and that just like in the movies, he would plead her to spend the rest of her life with him. But nobody had knocked on the door of her flat. Nobody had shouted her name in the middle of the street. Nobody.
"I am getting married. Here, in Edinburgh. Leo... It is his name, has a large part of his family living in Scotland that's why we settled the wedding here. I know it might look terribly selfish but now I am not alone anymore, now that I have found the right person... I should have never asked you to leave. Will... He has been feeling miserable since then and as much as the idea of the two of you together seems odd to me, I am not allowed to ruin it. I met Stanley by accident a few weeks ago. He told me that you were here. I didn't know that you had kept in touch with him. But my wedding in Edinburgh and you being here... It was supposed to be."
"Where is he? Where is Will?"
Words were bumping onto each other in her head, melting into a confusion of senses. Something was happening and she couldn't understand properly. She had lost Will, accepted so and buried her dreams to ever build a home with him. For Grace, for Jack. For a friendship that even if not mutual anymore still had a lot of importance in her heart. Too much to ever destroy it entirely. That was why she had left one morning.
"There... On the other side of the room."
At the table he had found her a year and a half earlier when she had drowned her despair in beers and a couple of silent sobs. He had appeared from nowhere only to mean everything again. And the story was getting repeated, unexpectedly.
The world stopped turning or at least it did, in her head, as she went for him. Her heart was beating too loud against her chest and it made her feel dizzy. But she couldn't care less, suddenly. A year she had tried to forget him, the softness of his hands and the delicacy of his features. But nothing had vanished, on the contrary. Vivid images had torn out her nights and burnt down her days.
"I can't have children anymore... I lost our baby. The abortion... I missed out our single opportunity."
In a perfect world, she would have chosen other words but nothing else slid on her lips as she made it to the table and locked her eyes with his. She sat down by his side, waited for a reaction. She had really missed him. Desperately missed him.
Will never replied but bent over instead to capture her lips in a long awaited kiss. Just as she was dying for when he had passed the doors of the pub a year and a half before. It had always been him. Since the very beginning.