The conversation was easy, the company comfortable and the night absolutely perfect. By the time dessert was served, she felt much calmer about the date that she had been since he had asked her out. She felt like this might actually work out.
Suddenly, she heard a voice right behind her, ‘Hi Emma’.
For the next ten seconds, Emma’s world froze. That voice behind her calling out her name, that voice made her blood curdle.
It had been over two years since things had escalated between her and Ben. It had taken all of her strength and to get to where she was today. For months, she had truly believed that she would never be able to move on in life. She had truly believed that her life was over. It had only been Ryan and Henry’s constant presence and attempts that had allowed her to get where she was today.
She still remembered the initial few months when life had seemed bleak with nowhere for her to go and what had seemed like no chance of any happiness for her. That had been how much she had loved and trusted Ben. He had been her everything. She had thought of him as her best friend, her confidante and in her heart, the guy she would grow old with. It had taken him less than a minute to break all that, to break her.
As she froze, staring at Henry, knowing full well that Ben stood behind her, she realized yet another thing. In the 18 months, she had known Henry, he had become one of her best friends. In fact, she considered him as close to her as she had always thought of Ryan. She had told him everything about her, everything but one. She had told him everything but about Ben.
She knew Henry had already noticed her expression, but she plastered a smile on her face and turned around to face the foe behind her.
Ben looked exactly as she remembered him. He was his usual stunningly gorgeous self. He had changed his hairstyle a bit, but it as still his usual frazzled, just got out of bed look that made him look even younger than he was. He was smiling at her, but she knew him well enough to know that he was trying to figure out what was going on between her and Henry. It was that slight way in his eyes kept flitting back between Henry and her face.
“It’s nice to see you, Emma”, his voice deeper than she remembered.
“Umm…I’m in a bit of a hurry,” he said gesturing to the girl clinging to his arms. “We should, umm…. catch up. I’ll give you a call.” He said, smiled at her, leaned over and lightly kissed her cheek and walked away calmly.
Her hand felt the place he had kissed her of their own accord. It had been so long. For a long time, she had dreamt of this day finally happening. And now that it had finally happened, she was conflicted. She hated him for having so much power over her. And yet, she knew there was still a part of her that was very much in love with him. Even the girl stuck to his arm, clearly his date, had barely registered in her mind. He had been everything she had noticed. And she had noticed everything about him. The way his hair had fallen on his forehead, the light stubble, the lipstick on his lips from probably kissing the girl, his half-tucked shirt and his favorite shoes and much more.
“Em….Em….” Henry’s voice finally cut through her thoughts.
She gathered herself and turned to face him again, realizing that she had been staring after Ben for a good half minute. She plastered the smile back on her face continued talking to him. She knew that he noticed how distracted she was, but she wasn’t ready to talk about Ben yet, not even to Henry.
Whether it was because he noticed and just simply, their date seemed to end soon after. Henry was his usual courteous self and dropped her back home.
At home, she unlocked the door and turned to let him in, but he stayed outside. “I….I’m going to take off. Is that alright?” he asked her, still giving her her space. She leaned in to give him a tight hug and whispered, “Thank you”.
He hugged her back for a minute and turned to leave. He took a few steps before turning back to her, “Hey, you know you can talk to me about anything, right?” he asked with a small smile.
All she could do was nod back smiling. He seemed to understand and simply smiled at her and walked away.
She closed her door and sat down right there, leaning against the door.
She hadn’t expected to see Ben. And when she had, she had gone right back to the introverted freshman in college she had been when she had first met him. The years of misogyny, the abuse and all the pain she had been through had seemed to disappear from her mind. She hated that after all these years, he still had that power of her.
She hated that after everything, she was still in love with him…