Choices Made – A Short Story

She wonders if she looks as stupid as she feels. Looking down at her outfit she knows the answer to that. Running out of her apartment in the middle of the night wearing a barely there nightgown and a pair of black stilettos probably wasn't the best idea. At least she had enough sense to grab a coat on the way out, otherwise, she knows she would be getting even more stares than she already is.

She normally hates the subway at night. It's why she insisted to Jesse that they purchase a car and spend a ridiculous amount of money each month for a parking spot. All of that seems pretty trivial to her right now. She left the car in that spot and opted for the subway. She deems it appropriate for how she feels.

She's not really sure when it all changed. When she stopped caring and stopped trying. When she fell out of love with him. Maybe around the time he started spending more time with his friends and less time with her. Or when he started stumbling home at three in the morning smelling of booze and cheap perfume. No, it was before then. By that time, she already didn't care. She thinks she always cared more about that parking spot.

Someone told her once. Told her he was cheating. A stranger on the other end of the line who told her Jesse was fucking one of his castmates at that very moment. They hung up. She went back to sleep. She didn't care.

She told Noah the next day. He cursed and told her she better leave him this time. If she didn't, he wouldn't speak to her again. He couldn't handle watching it anymore. She didn't leave. He didn't stop speaking to her. She's wondered why but she's always known the answer to that. She's just grateful he stayed. He's the only friend she has anymore. She knows that is her own fault.

She thought she had everything she ever wanted. New York. Broadway. Jesse. She never thought having it all would still leave her so incredibly empty. But it has. And it does. And she just wants it to end. She's determined to feel it again. It.

Her eyes fly open as she hears the conductor announce the stop and she avoids the glares as she pushes her way past people and out the door. She runs up the stairs, her stilettos echoing through the station as they hit each step. It matches the sound of her heartbeat.

Before she knows it she is at his door, pounding wildly. When he doesn't answer she starts to panic slightly. She hadn't really thought about anything before she left. She hadn't considered that he might not be home. Or might not be alone. That he might not want to see her at this time of the night. She pushes those thoughts from her mind.

She takes a step back, ready to leave, when he swings the door open. "Rachel," he says, his eyes wide with surprise, "what the hell are you doing here." She starts to say she is sorry but he cuts her off when he grabs her arm and pulls her into his apartment.

She finds herself glancing around, looking for someone else. He notices. "There's no one here, Rach." She smiles uncomfortably as she looks at him. She ignores the fact that all he has on is a pair of basketball shorts. "I'm sorry, Noah," she says softly, "I just needed . . . ." As her voice falters, her eyes fall to the ground. She takes a deep breath and forces herself to stand up straight and look at him. "I'm not real sure what I needed."

He just nods and stretches his arm out toward the couch. She sits and starts pulling her coat to cover the skimpy nightgown now peeking out. Suddenly she is much more embarrassed about this outfit than she was on the subway. "By the looks of it, Rach, you came here to seduce me." Her eyes fly to his. "Not like I haven't had that dream a time or two before." He winks and she laughs. He is doing what Noah does best. Putting her at ease. She never thought his inappropriate behavior would ever put her at ease but it does.

He sits on the arm of the chair opposite her and folds his arms together. He doesn't ask her again why she is here. He just watches her.

Her eyes fall from his as she bites at her bottom lip. She places her hands on her legs. "I have decided, after quite a length of time, to leave Jesse. I know," she nods, still not bringing herself to look at him and gauge his reaction, "that this is something that should have been done long ago. But I told him tonight." She doesn't tell him Jesse's response. That he simply told her to go run to her boy.

He stares at her for a few moments without saying a word and she starts to become uncomfortable. "I apologize again," she says as she quickly stands up. She hates the fact that she is already second guessing herself. "While we may be friends, it is very inappropriate of me to show up at your apartment and expect you to . . ."

"Listen to you ramble," he interrupts quickly, "Rachel, sit down." Her eyes catch his again and he nods toward the couch. She obliges though part of her still feels she needs to run. She can't.

"Do you want a beer?" He laughs. She knows that he knows that answer already. "Don't worry, I think I still have a bottle of wine leftover from my last party." The one she insisted he buy wine for or she wouldn't come. Jesse never bothered to show up that night but she barely noticed. He texted her at 1 a.m. and told her he was out with the guys and Noah muttered something about him being an ass. That was the first time she had thought about him that night. She didn't think of him anymore.

"Seriously, I don't know how you drink this stuff." She wakes from her daze as he hands her a glass. "It's kinda anti-American to not like beer." She ignores the ridiculous comment. She's heard it several times before. But she doesn't ignore the nervous hint to his voice.

Taking a sip, she notes it is a Shiraz. A nice one. Of course, her taste for wine is impeccable and she helped him pick it out. She remembers how he didn't even argue with her as she drug him to a wine and cheese shop in Little Italy and then couldn't decide which bottles were best. He bought all of the ones she liked.

"He never bought me my favorite wine," she says suddenly. It's not the opening she had planned on. Actually, she really doesn't think she even had an opening planned.

He doesn't understand but she keeps going. "I don't blame him. I can't blame him really. I provided him with the perfect reason to cheat on me when I stopped loving him." She leaves out that she isn't sure she ever loved him. She believes Noah already knows.

And then she says it. The words she believes she has wanted to say for the past five years. The words that brought her here . . . to him, even if she didn't know it when she got on that subway.

"I wanted you to stop me."

She can tell by the look in his eyes that he knows what she is talking about. His eyes are a mirror of those from five years ago. She remembers it all so well. The look when she told him that Jesse asked her to marry him. And she remembers the way he responded to her when she kissed him. The way his arms felt around her when he carried her to his bed. The way he touched her like she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. The way her heart broke when he told her it was a mistake and that she needed to marry Jesse.

She knows he is reliving every moment of that night too. She watches every moment of it through the emotions on his face. But he clenches his jaw and doesn't speak. And it hurts. But she knows.

He came to New York for her. He has never told her that but she knows. And even after she married Jesse, he stayed in New York for her. He's never told her that either. But she's always known. She has seen it in his eyes every time he has seen her with Jesse. She has seen it every time she has cried on his shoulder.

It wasn't a mistake. It's the entire reason she couldn't love Jesse the way she was supposed to. She knows though, that it took her far too long to realize that.

He still holds the beer in his hand but he's made no effort to drink it. She glances down at the wine glass in her hand. "I've kinda been waiting on this, Rach. And now I don't know what the hell to do. Just like I didn't know what the hell to do back then."

"You don't have to explain," she says softly. And he doesn't. She knows why he did it. Because underneath the tough guy exterior, he has always thought he was the Lima loser. Even if she never thought it. And being that loser meant not being good enough for her.

He's always been wrong.

He clears his throat and she feels a surge of emotion go through her body. He places his beer on the table and then slowly reaches over and lifts her wine glass from her hand, placing it beside his own drink. He doesn't bring his gaze to her but he does slip his hand softly into hers. "I bought your favorite wine because, well, it's your favorite wine. I would buy it every day if you asked me to. And I fucked up royally when I told you to marry Jesse. I've fucked up a lot in my life, Rachel, but that was the worst fuck up of all. 'Cause the last thing I wanted you to do was marry him. And then, being the glutton for punishment that I am, I stayed around cause I thought I would feel better seeing you happy." His eyes lock on hers for the first time in what has seemed to her like forever. "And I stuck around even longer when I realized you weren't happy in the off chance I'd be able to fix that mistake I made five years ago."

A tear trickles down her face and he walks to her, reaching up to wipe it quickly. Leaving his palm cupping her cheek, he kneels in front of her. She knows that everything he has done to change his life over the past few years have been for her. For this moment. When the Lima loser wins one for a change.

She places her hand on his and smiles weakly. "I love you, Noah. I love you so very much and I'm sorry it took me so long to admit it."

He chuckles slightly, lowering his head as tears start to brim his eyes. "You don't know how long I've waited on you to say that," he whispers before bringing his gaze back to her, "I love you too, Rach. Always have." His lips find hers as soon as the words are said and he slips his arm around her waist, lifting her slightly to pull her against his chest. She wraps her legs around his torso when he lifts her up and carries her to his bed, never stopping for a second to remove her lips from his.

He brings her back to life that night. Every touch, kiss, whisper, bringing back the passion and fire that she had barely noticed was missing before.

As the morning sun rises and beams through his window, she trails the pads of her fingers along his face, studying every inch of the man she has always been in love with, even though mostly silently. She knows that the next few months will not be easy as she leaves one life for another but looking down at Noah sleeping peacefully beside her, she knows it will be worth it.

He will always be worth it. They will always be.