Monday, October 19, 2015

Chapter 22: Why does it matter? She's not here.

When he caught my wrist and held it, his grip unforgiving iron, I knew I was dangerously close to pushing him over the edge. I glared at him defiantly for a moment, trying to hide that moment of panic... I remembered how he would complain about his girlfriend and how he'd threaten to punch her in the face, to shoot her, to strangle her. It was all, he'd later say, nothing. Just words, just anger. He'd never lay a hand on her. His tight grip, though, gave me a moment's pause.

It wasn't until he released my wrist that I was sure he wouldn't act on those threats with me. Not that he wasn't right at the end of his rope; I just knew that he wasn't about to wrap it around my neck.

He said he loved me. Loved me. But I knew, staring at him, seeing the rage in his face, that he didn't.  He cared, he wanted me, but he didn't love me.

"You don't love me, Liam," I choked, unable to really believe it. "You love the woman you know in the office." How could this be happening? All we'd done was start to joke and flirt a little a few months ago. "You love the sharp-tempered, no-nonsense Meredith that you work with. You love the woman you can teach about culture, about art and opera and all that culture that someone like me never got growing up." My eyes started to tear up, though nothing fell yet. "You love the idea of me..."

Here he was, telling me everything that I needed to hear and had longed to hear... and I was throwing it back at him, believe it or not I was becoming angrier. "In a few months you'll change your mind. When you get to know me, know my weaknesses and my temper..." Then you'll be as disinterested as Reed is now. He probably doesn't even know I'm gone tonight, I thought abruptly, bitterly. He certainly isn't worried about my being with another man. I stopped mid-remark and changed track. "You want what you can't have."

"No, no, Mer, that's not it at all." He was looking at me, cupping my face in his hands. His expression was both tender and concerned. "It's nothing like..." I thought he might kiss me and pulled away, backing up to put distance between us.  I remembered our happy hours, our conversations to work, everything had been so perfect.  But everything had been at work, in a fishbowl of 8-5 pm without the distraction of chores or bills.

"Liam, please! Listen to me!" I was becoming frantic now, feeling like I was talking to a deaf man. "You don't love me!  You love the woman who sits across from you and laughs at your jokes.  You love the woman who comes to work perfectly dressed and who never falters or fumbles."  His expression was unreadable.

"Yes, I could."

He closed in on me, matching me pace for pace until the I was against the wall and he was only a foot or two away. There wasn't an ounce of threat that I could sense, unless you count the threat of touching, of kissing again... of burying the topic with desire and pretending it didn't exist.

"Don't touch me," I begged when he reached out. If you do, I won't be able to think straight! I'll fall into your arms and let you make love to me and let you love me and let you be hurt in the end! "Let me think, please, Liam... I need to think first..."

"Leave him,"  he urged.  "Tell him... tell him about us.  Or don't.  Just tell him that you have outgrown him, that it's time for you to move on.  Isn't that the truth?  Leave him and be with me."

"Right.  And be what with you?  Your secret little mistress?  Stop it!  Liam, stop!  I can't think when you're near me or when you hold me. I don't want this to go unsettled. You're married for God's sake!"

He looked at me then, a funny little smile on his face.  "Why does that matter, Mer?  It's not like she's here."  And he kept talking, going on about how I didn't love him but loved who I was... he was turning everything against me.  It was my fault, all my fault... blindly, I lashed out, slapping him across the face, then running, slamming the door behind me...