Life emptied itself of all happiness pretty quickly after she left. It had only been a few hours since she slammed the door and walked out, yet it felt like time was standing still. I willed myself not to pick up the phone again. She knew I was sorry and that’s all I could really ask for.
Lying to Roe wasn’t something that happened easily. She was sharp as a tack on her worst days and she didn’t see many bad ones. She kept me on my toes and I thought about what my days would be without her.
What she didn’t understand was that I lied to protect her. Not from any evil person lurking just around the bend or anything sinister like that. I protected her from the person I really was. And it wasn’t.
The person I used to be, the boy who existed before this man.
She had the right to be upset. I had omitted key details of my life that she certainly deserved to know. But I wasn’t malicious as she suspected or wanted to believe and it hurt me that she would think I was.
When I met her that night four years ago I knew there were things she would show me that I had never seen. Her thoughts played out well across her face and the softness of her lips. She was beautiful, fierce, amazing. From the moment I saw her I loved her intensely. When she spoke her voice stirred something low inside me, making me weak instantly.
She was trouble in its best form.
When I walked over to her, her friends danced away, feigning interest in conversations elsewhere. She stood before me, her caramel skin almost g listened in the low lights of the bar and I leaned down close to her ear.
"I’d like to talk to you when you have a chance that is."
Her eyes looked at me passively. A smirk crawled from her lips to her eyes and began to settle there.
"I have a chance."
And then she gave me one.
When the night was over, I had her telephone number and a sweet chaste kiss before I put her in a taxi to Brooklyn. She lowered the window and tucked a loose curl behind her ear.
"Thank you for a great night." Her hand curled on the open window, I reached out touching her fingers before she drove away. I couldn’t wait to see her again.
But time had passed and this time was different. I probably wouldn’t see her again and the thought of that crushed me. I had ruined the best thing that happened to me in a long time and I had done it to protect her from something she deserved to know.
Things were always great between Roe and I until they weren’t. Suddenly, she became paranoid. She began obsessing over my whereabouts and prodding me for details about things that meant nothing now.
She was an open book that much was true. When she met me I was a locked vault and it was something she accepted about me. I loved her and felt like that should be enough. What we shared was different, special but she wanted to make it the same as everything else. But still, even then in my most selfish moments, I knew it was wrong, so very wrong, not to tell her who I was.
She asked me about women, she believed I had been hiding some type of infidelity. In a way I was. I had misused her trust and now all this time had gone by. I didn’t know what my life was without her anymore and I was scared to find out. The fear paralyzed me and overrode my common sense. I was too scared to lose her, too scared to tell. Now I didn’t have a choice.
She pushed about my family and the ties I had to all things in the shady grey area of legality. It was as if she was devouring every bit of information about me for another purpose.
I should have told her. When she asked, I should have offered her some semblance of truth before she slammed down article after article about my trial. My young face looking into the camera, my real first name (instead of my middle name), my real surname (instead of my mother’s maiden name) staring up at me.
"Thomas isn’t even your name" was all she managed to get out coherently before my world came crashing down around my ears.
I stood and raised my hands up.
"Where did you get those? Let me explain."
I knew by her exhalation. I knew. It was too late. She had branded me a murderer already.
"It was you wasn’t it? You ran my Mother off the road and killed them. Did you know who I was when you started dating me? Did you?"
She screamed with all the fury of a woman in agony. She screamed like a woman who had been lied to. She cried like a woman who had been made to fall in love with the man that killed her family.
“I didn’t know. I didn’t know it was you until recently. And when I did find out I wanted to tell you. I swear I wanted to tell you.”
I didn’t know who she was at the beginning. But when I did, I kept it to myself, greedily wanting to make her love me so she wouldn’t leave. I wanted to make it impossible for her to want to go, no matter what I had done. It was the must selfish thing I had ever done besides getting behind the wheel of my car that night.
She stormed around my apartment, stuffing things into a bag haphazardly, not even looking, tears streaming down her face.
“But you didn’t tell me, Thomas or should I call you, Caleb? You killed my family. And when you figured out it was me, you didn’t tell me. When you figured out all that you had taken from me, you didn’t tell me.”
I shook my head, looking at her.
“I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t lose you for an accident that happened when I was drunk and reckless and fifteen years old.”
“No, you are right. You didn’t lose me for that. You are losing me for lying about something that we could have discussed. You should have told me as soon as you found out and we could have dealt with it together. But instead you let me dig, you let me find out on my own and you let me believe you were someone that you weren’t. Someone that you aren’t.”
There was nothing I could say in that moment that would change what I had done, the trust I had destroyed. She was absolutely right, I had no right to her, I didn’t have a leg to stand on and all the love in the world couldn’t heal the rift that opened like a chasm between us.
“Roe, please listen to me. Don’t go. Let’s talk and let me explain why I didn’t tell you. Why I couldn’t tell you. Maybe there is something that you don’t know.”
Exhaustion settled on her shoulders and she sighed, tears stained her face and her eyes were rimmed with a shadow that wasn’t there before. She stopped walking to the door and turned to face me, her bag settled in her hand.
“There is nothing left to know Caleb.”
“I am Thomas.” I pleaded with her to realize that I wasn’t that boy in the court room anymore.
And just like that, my world was empty and I was left to deal whatever was left for me in this life. I picked up the articles placed in front of me, my solemn face and eyes staring into the camera.
I was sorry for what happened then and I am sorrier now than ever. Sorry that I couldn’t help her heal from it and sorry that I wasn’t man enough to face what it meant for her and I. But most of all I was sorry that I wouldn’t be able to see her again. Even if she could find it in her heart to forgive me, I knew I didn’t deserve her. I wanted her, but she was better than me. Roe was infinitely stronger and braver than I could ever be and it was crystal clear in the hours I spent bathing in her silence.
The next morning after a night of fitful sleep, I thought I was imagining noise around me in an apartment that should be empty now. I pulled myself from my bed and walked into the kitchen, where Roe sat eyes downcast. When I saw her, my heart jumped and I wanted to gather her up and carry her to bed, to show her that I loved her and that I could be truthful in at least that.
“I came to tell you that I had some time to think.”
I pulled the chair out and sat down, not wanting my voice to scare hers away.
“I don’t think I could ever forgive you for lying to me. But I can forgive you for what you were a part of. For what happened. I understand now that you were young and out of control. It was what you did when you were in control and an adult that I have a problem with.”
The brown in her eyes was set so deep I knew she hadn’t slept. She licked her lips and I just wanted to reach out to her, knowing how hard of a struggle this was for her. I admired her for even being here but I knew that it was because she loved me that she was.
“Tell me what I can do. I know I can’t make it right but I can try to make it better if you let me. I can try if you let me.”
“I can’t let you. I just can’t. But I can tell you that I loved you more than anything and I know that had you told me the truth, trusted in us that I would still be by your side. You aren’t the person I thought you were, that is clear now. And I love you that is also clear. But you broke me, more than even their death did.”
“I am so sorry Roe.”
She got up from the table and laid her hand on my face, her eyes settling into mine. She leaned down and kissed me – “I know you are. But it’s not enough.”
And as quickly as it started that night four years ago, it was over on a sunny morning four years later.
With the closing of that door, I knew my life would never go a day without missing her. I still hear her laugh or smell her scent and turn with the hopes that it is her. But it never is.