Chapter Nineteen – Let The Countdown Begin
What kind of client asks you to meet him on December, 31st?
The kind that hurt, that crashed down a couple of unexpected hopes and let you there in the middle of a life in ruins as if nothing had happened if only for the slight bitterness that overtook you. But one more time, Will remained quiet and looked down as Grace's words resounded loud in his head. Of course it had been a pitiful excuse from him to escape Karen's departure, to not say her goodbye before looking at her limousine vanish through the traffic for the last time.
"We are running out of red wine."
Grace's urgent voice got him out of his bitter daydreams. A bit confused, he looked up at his friend and let a few seconds pass by. The music was loud and people were talking everywhere around, adding to the cacophony that made him feel dizzy. He wasn't in the mood for a party but how could he have said no at the last minute to New Year's Eve at his place? Yet he had had to lie in the morning to not see her leave.
"I can go if you want. I wouldn't say no to some fresh air, anyway. We are suffocating, here."
Grace frowned. For the very first time since the earliest hours of the morning, she looked preoccupied for him. Yet he would have preferred her to not see anything or at least pretend that there was nothing to see.
"What is wrong with you? You look... You look defeated."
The choice of adjective surprised him yet he had to admit, if only to himself, that it was the perfect one that described the way he felt. He had fallen in love with Karen. When, where, how. He couldn't even say but now it was there and she had left.
"I am fine, just a slight headache. I grab my coat and I go. Don't be worried, Gracie. And have fun."
Making his way through the crowd, Will reached the coat rack and grabbed his woolen coat. Nobody seemed to have realized that he was on the verge of leaving. Apparently, he was passing unnoticed and had turned out to be invisible which left an odd feeling on his soul. He had ceased to exist, if only in a world of implicit statements.
And then he opened the door.
Slowly and taken by surprise, obviously she hadn't thought that someone would open the door while she was about to step in, she took off her sunglasses before putting them on top of her head. She had been crying. Her eyes were red and vaguely puffed. No. Actually, as Will finally connected back with reality, he noticed that tears were still running down her cheeks. Quietly.
"Shouldn't you be in England by now?"
Nervous and obviously uncomfortable, Karen danced on her feet before shrugging. It was strange and troubling to see her so vulnerable; so fragile. It didn't match what she showed everybody. It seemed just as if the whole world had suddenly broken down into pieces.
"What is the point if you aren't there?"
One year later...
For the hundredth time, Karen observed her signature at the bottom of the page. Her shaking hand didn't reflect through her handwriting. And the dark ink contrasted sharply with the white page.
So that was it. A mere signature, just a few letters, that would change the rest of her life. For ever. Just as a few seconds had resulted enough a year earlier to make it all tip over.
The softness of his lips on her neck made her smile. Instinctively, she turned around to capture his own lips. She was addicted to his warmth, the heat of his body and the scent of his skin. Actually, Will was a vital need.
"Do you really have to kiss that often? It is becoming slightly annoying. And depressing for the single ones who are here."
Immediately, they broke apart and looked at Grace sat on the leather armchair of the living-room. She had that serene smile on her lips, the one that had taken time to settle down when she had seen them kiss on New Year's Eve the year before; right when Karen had come back unexpectedly. There hadn't been any drama but a veil of uncomfortable silence and incomprehension. A sentiment of injustice but before the obvious, she had had to abdicate. Will loved Karen. Karen loved Will.
"If you can't behave, the adoption agency might reconsider their decision. You know that, right?"
"Which is why they should have started with a dog. It would have matched the oddness of their couple. Don't you think so?"
Jack closed the fridge and went to sit on the sofa next to Karen; bottle of water in hand.
"We aren't odd."
"Yes, you are! You divorced a billionaire to marry a gay guy. Now this is what I call odd, and out of... Conventionalism."
Karen didn't like the way she was always reminded such thing. As if for once she had listened to her heart, she should have gone for Cartesian, cold and impersonal measures. She hadn't lost the slightest thing with Will, on the contrary. Her eyes stopped back on her signature at the bottom of the adoption agency contract. Nothing was odd in all of this. It was the way it had to be.
"Who cares about conventionalism?"
Her whispered words flew in the air before disappearing behind the loud silence of her feelings. The water flow had calmed down. Her life began to make sense. For the very first time. She couldn't let go of Will like that. He was her bridge. Her bridge to hopes, and dreams. And smiles.
To a brand new page waiting for her, eagerly.