Song: Like a Song By Lenka
I can't help the butterflies fluttering in the pit of my stomach or the headache forming between my eyes as I sit alone in the middle of the tiny Italian Bistro. The lights are low and the place is basically deserted, but I feel hyper aware of ever sound and every eye that spares me a passing glance. I am 27 for crying out loud, you would think I'd be a bit more secure about this, it has been three years! But seeing him after so much time has passed, makes me feel as though I am that shy, bumbling girl that fell through his office door.
As the waiter refills my water and I silently thank him, I can't help but think of what my reactions may be. Since our divorce, we haven't spoken and a mutual radio silence has persisted. I have dealt with my feelings, and have no doubt that I can stay composed and not burst into a fit of tears.
However, a small part of me is hoping that he's started to bald and has gained a few pounds.
I recheck my watch and realize he is five minutes late, this isn't like him. Even at the end of our marriage he managed to somehow stay on schedule. Have I been stood up?
"Stop it Steele, just stop it." I breathe out to myself and an older woman sitting across from me gives me a sympathetic look. I try to smile but fail miserably. I recheck my watch and see it is nearing fifteen minutes.
I have no missed calls of texts and so with a tiny sigh of relief, I gather my things and stand from the table. Maybe it was a good thing, maybe I wasn't ready. I place a twenty down even though I never ordered and turn to leave.
I collide with a solid wall of muscle and nearly fall back to the table but two strong arms steady me. Immediately I look up through my lashes, knowing who I am about to find. My skin tingles with anticipation.
"Ana." My name sounds almost breathless on his lips and he is staring at me in the most peculiar way. As if I'm something only spoken about in stories, and at the moment, I wish I was.
No one has spoken to me much today, and if they have, I haven't been listening. After the phone call I received three nights ago while putting Teddy to bed, I have been completely lost in my own thoughts. The sound of her voice, the memory of her smile, the look on her face when she had discovered my betrayal; they are memories that have ravaged my mind and made me completely useless.
The only people that know about this lunch are my mother and Taylor. Taylor, because he had to drive me; and my mother because I felt a panic attack come on when I was faced with the idea of seeing her and need her to tell me that it would be okay. Even I felt that was a step too pathetic to take, but I needed someone's reassurance.
She had made it very clear though, this talk was about our son. It was not about us. But I wanted so badly for it to be about us, I wanted more than anything for there to be an us once again.
Taylor pulled up to the Bistro she picked out fifteen minutes before it was time to meet. I thought this smart on my part. It would give me time to grab a drink, it would give me time to reconcile the fact that she would be in my life again, and it would give me a tactical advantage to not allow her too much time to fester in her thoughts. Instead of listening in on her conversations with Ted and smiling at the innocence and simplicity of them, I would be having my own with her.
But she has beaten me at a game she hadn't even realized I was playing.
I stand frozen, my view obscured by a wall and the hostess's podium. She hasn't aged a day, and yet so much has changed about her. I can't quite place it, so I just stare until I can. Her hair is the same chestnut color, and flows in soft waves down her back. Her complexion his still enviable and I can almost remember the exact feel of her skin. She is still slender, but Ted aided in the curve department and unlike some women, she retained these new additions long after she gave birth.
So what is different?
I shake my head to clear my thoughts and watch in horror as she checks her watch for a second time. She is getting restless and unless I move now, she will leave and I may never get this opportunity again.
I rub my damp palms on the back of my suit pants and ignore the salacious stares of a women more than twice my age. After that Elena shit, that is not a path I will even chance a glance at.
As she turns, the smell of her makes my heart pound faster and when she nearly falls back after bumping into me, I relish my hands being on her and I feel that electric pull that started so long ago.
She looks up at me through her lashes and those crystal blue eyes turn all my thoughts to mush. "Ana…" is all I can manage, and I am not even sure the word is audible.
She quickly gathers her thoughts and rights herself, smoothing down the figure hugging dress she is wearing that is belted with a thin gold chain.
In an instant her astonishment at my presence turns to a frown and then to something a determination. I know this moment is going to end very soon.
After what seems like an eternity, I retake my seat and he slides into the seat across from me. The corner we are in is pretty private, but there is enough foot traffic to prevent any funny business. Not that I doubt my resolve with the situation, I just can't take any chances.
"Hello Christian" I say quietly as he continues to stare. It is almost making me self-conscious. The sleeves on this dress are long and the hemline is perfectly work appropriate.
"Ana, it's good to see you." He manages to get out.
This is not the Christian I know. The Christian I know was never so unsure and even throughout our divorce was attempting to dictate everything around him. I don't think this is a pity plow but I need to stay firm, I need to accomplish my task.
The waiter swings by and offers us drinks. I order a glass of red wine and he a bourbon on the rocks, hopefully this will give us the push we both need.
"I am happy you called, I know you want to cut straight to the point…but I am happy this is happening." He says after downing half of his tumbler. I small smile comes to his face and I have to fight myself to let it stay there and not let my inner Kate take over.
"I wanted to speak to you because of Ted. I'm sure he's started to ask you too." I say before taking a sip of my wine.
Christian nods and as quickly as he lost his composure, he gains it back. Not quite boardroom Christian, but something easier to work with.
"I was hoping I had pacified that with our talk," he starts. "I know we agreed to not explain the details of our separation, but maybe it would be easier if he knew why we couldn't be together."
"No." I say curtly.
"Ana, it would be easier." Christian presses.
"What do we say to a four year old? Daddy cheated and mommy couldn't see past it?" I all but snap. "No one wins, either he blames you or he blames me. I don't want that. He looks to you like you are a superhero and I want it to stay that way."
Christian fingers work against his bottom lip and the stubble on his jaw. "I'm not saying we be so blunt. But he asking why we don't talk?, why there are no pictures?, why the holidays are split? He is getting old enough to understand Ana, and he is smart, he is such a smart boy." He sighs and his grey eyes widen with sincerity. "If we don't get ahead of this, then he will come to his own conclusions and no one will win."
His muscles press against his shirt as he straightens and the waiter attempts to sway us into entrées but I haven't the stomach for food, and I don't want to give Christian the impression that this is anything more than a simple discussion.
Christian does not take the hint however, and before I can protest two plates of chicken parmesan have been ordered. It is only after he sees my look that he apologizes and makes to call the waiter back, but I quickly tell him to not worry about it.
"I know he is smart, and I want him to flourish." I take a long swig of my wine before I continue. "That is why this has to stop. You and me not talking, it has to end."
There, it's been said. My stomach constricts at what I have just done. It was easier with him out of my life; there were no emotions to face or awkward encounters. There was him and me, never a we. But that can't happen any longer, as a mother I have to push my own desires aside and do what is best for my son. This distance, this pretending he doesn't exist, it's hurting Ted. No matter what I feel, I have to acknowledge that Ted is one half Christian (sometimes I am convinced it's much more than that), and I cannot deny one without denying a part of the other.
Christian's face breaks into a smile and it grows larger with each passing moment of thought. "Stop smiling like that." I demand, but I feel the corners of my lips turning up too.
"I'm sorry, I just…didn't think this conversation would take a turn in my favor." He chuckles.
"This is not for you." I remind from behind my glass.
"We aren't friends." I add quickly.
"And there is no way in hell that this changes anything between us." At this his smile vanishes and he leans back to assess me.
"I know." He says quietly.
There is such a sadness in his eyes, that it is almost impossible for me to keep up my no nonsense demeanor, but I do. I can't get caught up again, and can't lose sight of what this is about, Ted. Because when my tears seemed never ending…he wasn't there. I have to remember that he wasn't there, and I don't owe it to him to placate his feelings.
I don't want to be a bitch though, that isn't me. But I know Christian, he can zero in on the tiniest crack and before I know it, I am back where I began. I don't want to be that girl again. I can't be the same girl he married.
"So where do we go from here?" he asks carefully.
"You start picking Teddy up, unless your schedule doesn't permit it, no more Sawyer or Taylor. I'll call your phone when I want to speak with him, I feel bad that Grace and Mrs. Jones are always in the middle." I take a deep breath and expel it slowly before I finish out my thoughts. "And this Friday when Teddy graduates from Preschool…we are going to sit together. A united front, you know?"
Christian leans in and smiles I notice that he wears a thin silver chain now, and it oddly suits him. "I can't thank you enough Ana."
Before I find words, the waiter comes in with two obscenely large plates of food. He quickly refills our glasses and scurries away. Christian wastes no time digging in.
"Don't thank me, just don't take my trust for granted and don't push your limits." I warn before taking a bite. I would never admit it out loud, but this was a very good pick.
"I won't…" he starts, but trails off.
I place my knife and fork down and look at him. "What Christian?"
"I never apologized the way I should have. I never told you how much I cared, how much I still care."
I swallow back the lump growing in my throat.
"You were the best thing that ever happened to me, besides Ted, and I am sorry for all the hurt I caused. I know this situation is entirely my fault. And I… I want you to know that I will not fuck this up. I'll be deserving of it this time." He finishes just as his phone begins to vibrate.
He looks almost relieved as he answers and then a dark look overcomes his features. He doesn't say a word, only ends the call and throws some bills on the table.
"I'm sorry, the Germans I am dealing with just landed a mean blow and I have to move quickly if I am to ensure no jobs are lost…I'll see you on Friday though."
All I can do is nod as he stares down at me with an apologetic look and subtle longing that I have seen in his eyes before.
I breathe out as he moves past me and I am sure the relief I feel at the ending of this awkward encounter is visible. Then he does something completely unthinkable.
His hand lands lightly on my shoulder and he leans into to my face before kissing the place just below ear with the softest touch. I shiver and can't help but feel the charge that moves through my body.
As if he has forgotten himself he quickly makes his way out of the Bistro and I sag into my chair. I throw my napkin on the table and down the rest of my wine.
I look at my phone and see that I am not due back to the office of another forty-five minutes and that I have a missed call from Marcus.
I hit redial and he picks up within the first two rings.
"Are you still alive?" he asks with caution, his irish accent still thick even though he's been stateside for nearly ten years.
"Barely. But it is over and this will be good for Teddy." I say while gathering my things.
He chuckles and asks. "Did you tell him I was moving in?"
"God no, baby steps. But I will tell him soon." I don't want to, I feel he will over react and tryto have Marcus deported.
"Good, I'll see you when you get home love."
I put my phone away and stare at the barely touched food and empty glass of bourbon, I have the most terrible feeling that I have invited much more into my life than I bargained for. But I can do nothing but let this all play out and hope that I can keep the ball in my court.
"Christian Grey, please stick to your promise." I continue to mutter as I make my way through the Bistro, nod my thanks to the waiter, and make my way to my car.
I pull down my driver's side mirror and reapply my makeup, my eyes lingering on the spot he kissed. I swipe my makeup brush over the spot and hope that the pressure will erase the feeling of his lips. But it doesn't…I'm screwed.
As I leave her, the pressure of her skin against my lips lingers and the smell of her hair won't leave my nose. I slide into the back seat of the car before Taylor can make it to the door and I stare at my hands. I wanted to tell her that I still loved her, that I wanted to give us another try, but she shot me down and a creature that reminds me of a certain sister-in-law reared its head. But towards the end, I saw it, I saw glimpses of the girl I fell in love with. And it makes my chest ache.
I pull the chain from out of my shirt and stare at our wedding bands and her engagement ring.
I now know what has changed about her and it eats away at me as we drive back to GEH.
She isn't mine anymore.
But now I have a chance to earn her back, to earn my family back…and I will not let this opportunity slip through my grasps.
Friday…it all begins Friday. I say in my head as I smile and head for home.
This story is much easier to write than my other one. I hate waiting until chapter blahblah to find out what happened between them. I want everything out there right away so the story could press on from this point. Should I continue or let it die and leave it to your imagination?
Also, Negative Nancy's can exit stage left.