Thunder crashes overhead and the soaking rain drenches me to the core. My teeth chatter, my bottom lip quivering uncontrollably. Tears and rain wash together and my mascara runs in black smudges down my cheeks.
I saw him. I saw him with her. And in that moment, he turned and looked. I jogged away from the window front before she turned to look at me. I didn’t need that right now. I didn’t need her to see me resembling a lost wet puppy searching for her master.
I got a block and a half away when he screamed my name into the street. The rain was beating down on me so hard I could barely hear him above the cacophony. I turned and threw my hands up. I was wondering what exactly he expected of me, what he thought he was going to accomplish by not letting me leave.
"Bette, please just stop. It’s pouring. Let’s catch a cab and go home to talk this out."
He was out of breath, panting almost. He must have run to catch up with me, to speak his piece.
"Is there anything to talk about? I think I saw all I needed to see Abbot. Go back to your date."
I raise my arm and a yellow taxi splashes to the curb. I reach for the handle but Abbot pulls the door open for me, sliding in beside me. His thigh presses against mine and I stare straight ahead, pretending to be oblivious to his presence. My heart is racing and I am not really sure if it is the run or him.
I disobeyed him. For the first time ever in our relationship, I disobeyed him. And it was invigorating.
He turns to look at me and dark brown eyes stare into my face.
"Would you care to explain the scene before I jump to conclusions?"
Suddenly I don’t care. I am unabashedly blunt because I have nothing to lose, he is something I want to cage and keep. But he isn’t that type of animal and I had to accept that about him and about us.
"I followed you to see the type of women you frequent outside your bedroom."
I pull my gaze from his, staring ahead. The cabbie asks where we are going and we both respond at the same time.
"Brooklyn." I say.
"Upper East Side.” He says.
The frustration of the cab driver is evident when he turns to look at us. I laugh, imagining what we must look like. We are two people obviously in love, swimming in puddles of rainwater and memories.
Abbot turns to look at me. Worry etches his eyes as he reaches his hand to rest it on my wet thigh. I sink deeper into the seat trying to slide away but his grip is firm and he squeezes my leg roughly.
"Brooklyn." He says.
I give the cabbie my address, happy to have won even that small battle tonight. I know his hand is on my leg is as much to keep me in line as it is to soothe his nerves. He needs control. Seeing me there throws his worlds off balance bringing both sides painfully close to a collision.
The Brooklyn Bridge comes into view as the rain pelts the windows. The rhythm is almost hypnotic and I close my eyes, tears run down my face and I drift off to sleep.
I wake to his hand on my face, coaxing me awake. His jacket is resting on my legs and I am curled on his lap. I sit up as he pays the fare and I wait for him to come around and open my door. I guess old habits die hard. When he opens my door, I raise my eyes to his and meet his gentle smile. My breath catches in my throat and I remember meeting him, getting to know him and falling in love with him all in that gaze.
All for that smile.
And suddenly I am not sure I can be angry anymore.
He comes up to my small apartment and fills the space almost immediately. He has been here only once since our relationship began. We spent most of our time in his spacious loft on the Upper East Side. I immediately begin to strip off my wet clothes because the more I move in them the colder they seem to make me.
I also understand this was probably the only way I would get the truth. This is what Abbot responds to and his connection to me is based mostly in our physical relationship even if I believe we can be so much more. He follows a few steps behind me, he is still fully dressed and he drips across my wooden floors. He removes only his watch as we pass my bureau.
I slide into the bathroom and lean to turn on the hot water, as steam fills the room I set out two towels. Purposely so he understands he has permission to enter.
To make it better.
When I step into the stream the day edges its way off of my skin. I feel relaxed and ready to understand where and if I belong in his life. I need more than this. I was clearheaded and determined because I need what that random blonde had with him tonight.
He follows in shortly after me, his eyes take in my body and I wonder if I could ever recover if we didn’t make it. Abbot is here but I already miss him. I was already preparing to let him go.
His mouth crashes into mine and we devour each other. The hunger I have for him in this moment is something I hadn’t ever felt before. It was primal, frenzied, almost scary. His hands tangle in my hair, gripping me to him. I lift myself on his hips and wrap my legs around his waist. I lean into him, needing him more than I ever had.
He leans his head into my neck and drags my skin between his teeth. Into my ear he almost sings my name….
We spend two hours in the shower, into the stage where the water is turning cold. We lay down on my bed, wrapped in towels and each other. I want to stay like this forever. I want to forget my plan and forget to confront him. His breathing slows.
I raise my head and look at his perfect face, the man I had fallen in love with. This was the same man who made me promise that this was just sex, just exploration, just lust. But even if it is just those things, those things come with jealousy. Unfortunately I can’t separate my feelings and that is something Abbot doesn’t seem to understand.
In my defense I was honest with him when I felt it happening. I came clean and he assured me it would be ok. He told me it wasn’t only me and that I wasn’t imagining that there was an attachment between us. Something we couldn’t explain.
But he needed to explain what happened tonight.
"Who is she?"
"I don’t have to answer that."
"I know you don’t but you will because I am asking you to. I need to know. "
"Your ex what?"
I needed to know if this was a relationship or an arrangement. Right now, Abbot and I were on the very slippery precipice between the two. It is something very different to both parties involved.
"Can I ask why?"
"Well I am. So please. Why?"
"It doesn’t matter. I’m here now. Your little show out in the rain won you the big prize of the night. I was ending things with her for good if you must know and then we got a drink and… I’m sorry."
He was sorry but for some reason it wasn’t enough.
"You’re sorry you did it or sorry you got caught?"
Abbot looked at me, “Both.”
His honesty rings through, his face is shrouded in confusion. I love him through it all. But he doesn’t understand, not everything is a game and I am not a game. This is not a game.
"Abbot, I am going to be honest. I followed you because I needed to see with my own eyes that I was your dirty little secret. I want you to know that I know you took advantage of where I was in our relationship to dismiss me as anything worth showing off or being with. Instead, you fell into the arms of another woman that you left because she wasn’t enough for you. Yet here I am but I am also not enough for you."
He shifts from under me and gathers his clothes, getting dressed in a rather annoyed manner. He reminds me of a woman about to do the walk of shame and in my anger I raise my voice to his back.
"You are a funny man. I loved you. I love you. And I know you know that. But you are so fucked up you have no notion of that even being possible do you? You have deemed yourself unworthy."
"Stop analyzing me Bette. You wanted to catch me, you did. Now you can punish me the way you feel I punish you. Make me pay. But make it swift. My patience wears thin quickly."
"I have been very patient with you though so I think you owe me the same courtesy."
Abbot turns to me and smiles, he is angry and I could tell I am annoying him. But most of all, I can tell that he is listening to me.
"I don’t like to look at this like who owes who what. I give you what you deserve, I always have. I have never asked you for anything in return but you have given me more than I could ever truly thank you for. I apologized because I am sorry. But I can’t tell you anymore because there is nothing more to say."
I get up from the bed and slide the jacket from his shoulders that he just shrugged into.
"You aren’t leaving. I want you to stay."
He sits down immediately, as if that is all I need to say to make him forget about anything outside my bedroom. Now is the time, I have nothing left to offer him but my time, my love, my body.
"Abbot, I love you. Please tell me how you feel."
"Bette. I should leave."
"I think you should stay. I think you should stay and prove to me that you don’t love me the way I think you do. I think you should stay and show me just how much you have to prove. I think you should stay because I don’t think I could take it if you left."
"You don’t have a choice. I make the choices. I make the rules."
Abbot puts his jacket on and turns to me.
"Love doesn’t happen because you force it to. Don’t force it and it will show up tenfold. I am leaving because I am not what love is, I am not what it means. I am not worthy of it, of you and I am sorry that you felt like what we have is. I hope to see you again, when things are clear for you and you are less hurt. Right now, this isn’t working for me. It has become complicated and needy and I thought you were different and that I could be different but tonight proved that I am just not capable of it. I knew you loved me, that you were here for me. I just didn’t care until I saw your face, then when I did - I felt bad but not bad enough to change the person I am for you."
Tears roll down my face and I launch myself at him, holding onto his neck, my tears staining the expensive fabric of his jacket. He pries me off of him and leaves me crying in a heap of blankets and memories. The door clicks to lock and the goodbye was sudden and overwhelming. I drift into a fitful sleep and wake to the next evening. I thought I imagined what happened between Abbot and I but it was true. It was over and I would probably never hear from him again unless I decide not to let him go.
I don’t even shower when I get dressed to go to him. I am a glutton for punishment and I know there is nothing I can do to change the way he feels. But something in me tells me I have to try, when I wrench my door open I am looking into his eyes, his hand is raised to knock and it seems as if I had interrupted him.
I look up at him, feeling my stomach in my throat, my heart pounds with both excitement and fear.
“Hi. I took the liberty of bringing coffee since I am sure neither one of us slept well. I wanted to be sure you were ok.”
He shifts uncomfortably, looking down, he never meets my eyes.
“I need coffee. I was just going to go catch a cab, try to get to the Upper East Side.”
“Where are you going?”
“To you. I am always going to you.”
“Not always because I am here, I came to you. That has got to mean something doesn’t it? Isn’t this a point for me since I beat you?”
“It’s not a game you know? This is my life, this is our life.”
He runs his hand through his hair, flustered and aggravated at my inability to take this lightly.
“You really want this don’t you?”
“Yes, I do. But you do too. I don’t know very many things but the way you look at me makes me believe you want this. The way you love me makes me feel like this is the only thing that makes sense. You are the only thing that makes sense anymore.”
He walks in and hands me my coffee, I sip it and close the door behind him allowing him to walk back into my life.