It was hard to choose the next story that I would post on my blog. Since it looks that my dreams of becoming a writer are as uncertain as my dreams of motherhood, of the two I can do something about one of them. So here we start with a story I titled “Hadn’t Met You Yet” and which I wrote during a time similar to one of the main characters, Emilia. A time when my love life was in much the very same state as hers. However, mine turned out fine, as you’ll see hers didn’t in this story.
I do hope you enjoy it.
“Young lady, watch where you’re going.”
Emilia Barton glanced briefly at the old lady she had accidentally slammed into, as she hurried out from the Smithsonian metro exit, at the National Mall in D.C. Her teary vision blurred even more with the cold November air, as her eyes found the Washington Monument, the white obelisk that stood opposite the Capitol, the latter shinning bright as its lights cut through the evening dusk.
She couldn’t believe she’d been living in D.C. for three years already, and still hadn’t gone to either the Capitol or the Washington Monument. The only time she’d tried to go all the way up the Washington Monument had been last year when her parents had come to visit. But due to the strong winds, the visits had to be cancelled.
Emilia started walking along the park or what she’d read somewhere was called America’s Front Yard. She hadn’t been as unpatriotic as to not come here from time to time. Or visit the other museums that lined the streets on each side of this strip of grass and gravel. Okay, so maybe she’d come to just one, but still it was more than she could say for others, such as her incompetent boss Amanda. Emilia could bet the woman thought the Washington Monument was a real statue of George Washington or something.
Thinking about her nemesis though, could not distract her mind which was plagued by the horrible scene that had taken place a few hours ago with Sam. If today had been any other day, not the day she’d had her heart broken into a million pieces, she would already be home, in front of her living room’s T.V., ready to watch her daily evening dosage of shows. The idea of heading back home, alone, sad, angry and with a very plausible love triangle plot in one of tonight’s shows was more than she could bear right now. That’s why she’d made the decision of taking the orange line to New Carrolton, instead of getting down at her usual stop at Ballston-MU, and getting off at the Smithsonian stop.
Emilia wasn’t one for drama. Not always anyway. However, she had had to get out from that restaurant. Never mind her boyfriend’s baffled expression for the things she yelled at him, or the astonished faces from the rest of the people sitting around them. Samuel Clark, her boyfriend since high school, had just sat there, incredulity marring his face, as Emilia had cried out that she was sick of waiting for him.
Her sudden furious outbreak had been so unexpected, Sam hadn’t even tried to stop her. He had probably seen the wildness making her blue eyes spark dangerously, that he thought it better not to go after her. Of course, all Emilia had expected had been exactly that. Which was why she had looked absolutely ridiculous standing outside the restaurant, pacing impatiently outside the main entrance, getting ready to walk away from him the minute he stepped outside.
Rubbing her eyes with the backs of her hand and keeping her head bowed down, she decided to go the one place where she knew she would find peace, quiet and time to calm down, the National Art Gallery. The only museum she’d visited during her entire time living here, after she’d foolishly followed Sam after he’d been offered a job, fresh from college. For all she knew, Emilia could have stayed back home in Baltimore, gotten a better job and not have homicidal thoughts of throwing her boss, Amanda, against a moving car.
It was her own fault really. That she was a walking mess, puffy eyes and runny nose. When Sam had called her earlier today to invite her to an early dinner to share life changing news – those where the words he had used – Emilia had immediately imagined this would be the day. The day when he would finally propose. It was true he had told her many times before that marriage right now was not appropriate. But she still had left room for hope.
Whenever the topic came up, Sam assured her love was not the problem. Even though he had a good and steady position at work, money, according to Sam, ‘is tight and we should wait until we have more breathing space.’ As he had so succinctly stated one time when Emilia had broached the subject yet again, ‘you might want to take a look at my bank account and after paying rent, bills, everyday needs, we wouldn’t have enough money to pay for cable. Not to mention that your boss hates you and you could get fired any time now. Then what would we do? Be reasonable Emilia, we can’t live out of love.’
Because it is my fault my stupid boss hates me. Emilia had wanted to reply back then, bit hat kept her mouth shut.
However, as with every time they had the same argument, she ended up scolding herself for her romantic, immature fantasies about marriage and would just nod and say.
“You’re right Sam, I just feel like we’re ready for that step, that’s all.”
To which he always replied.
“I know honey, but this is a decision that we must not take on lightly.”
Only that Emilia’s overactive imagination had harbored the hope that maybe he would just forget all about his carefully constructed reasons not to, and ask her to marry him, like Dr. MacDreamy had with Meredith in Grey’s Anatomy. Or Dr. Green to Dr. Corday, on Er.
How could I’ve been so stupid?
Hell, she had even left her office an hour early to go by her apartment and change into something more proposal-fitting. The soles of her feet ached as the flats she had chosen for the evening crunched on the uneven ground beneath her. Not to mention she’d already lost the sensation on her toes. But as her semi-organized mind had planned ahead, the only distance she would’ve had to walk would have been from the restaurant to the subway, then to her or Sam’s place, and then it would’ve been goodbye shoes and the rest of her clothes, for some after-wedding-proposal celebratory sex.
The wind was ice cold, and she could feel it slice her skin like a thin blade. She pulled her head up just to check if she was going in the right direction. Her gaze landed upon a couple with arms linked, walking cozily next to each other. They mockingly reminded her of what she didn’t have anymore. All she felt like doing was to yell.
“Yeah, it’s all kisses and sighs at first, just wait when you mention the M word, he’ll bolt out before you can say prenup.”
Because she had embarrassed herself enough for one day, all she did was swallow the bitter taste of tears and continue to her final destination.
God, how dim, let alone naive, could a person be? Tonight’s dinner had turned out to be anything but a romantic proposal. Emilia let out an audible groan as she replayed the events from before inside her head.
Her heart had felt like it would jump out of her chest the minute she spotted him sitting down at one of the corner tables. Like always, a gesture she cherished and loved about him, he got up and helped her get into the chair before sitting down. They exchanged small talk about her day, his numerous phone calls and the hundred emails he had had to read before nine a.m., before ordering their meals.
Since Sam liked the way her hair looked when she wore it down, she had only picked up a black-satin covered head band with a small flower to the side, while her long brown hair fell in a cascade of waves past her shoulders. Her eyes, a calm, light blue, scanned the table for any sign of the little blue Tiffany’s box or maybe a group of violin players hidden and ready to come out the minute he got down on one knee. Okay, maybe that was cheesy and a really overused cliché but when it came to this particular event in her life, Emilia openly embraced both the cheesy and the honey-dripping romance.
As the main courses were being taken away, Sam took her hand over the table and looked at her much in the same way he had that first day of high school when she fell totally and irrevocably in love with him. Those dark brown eyes with just a hint of gold around the edges that complimented his long chocolate brown hair and light tanned skin tone had always mesmerized her. They would shoot off sparks whenever he laughed and narrow whenever he was trying to solve a problem. They would always stay on hers whenever they made love.
Theirs had been a mismatch made in heaven. While Emilia had liked to hang out with the less popular crowd, had suffered miserably through gym class and was seriously addicted to T.V., Sam had been their high school’s jock, popular and definitely one of the most gorgeous guys back in school. He became their school’s soccer team captain and had gone to college thanks to a sports scholarship. His real-life passion was European soccer and he paid extra on his cable bill every month to get all the sports’ channels that broadcasted all the European tournaments. It was a passion Emilia had never really understood entirely.
She, on the other hand, couldn’t even run without looking spastic. The only time she played sports was when she skied in the winter, astonishingly the only sport that she wasn’t a total failure at. Probably because she just loved falling on the snow and never really ventured to the pro-slopes, just stayed right next to the kid’s mini slope.
Still, they had made it work, not without a few bumps along the way. When they had gone each their separate ways for college, she to Columbia and he to Georgetown, she had been sure they would not survive past their first semester. Fortunately, thanks to the money they both saved as they took on extra jobs, they were able to see each other at least once a month.
The truth was she’d never known or dated any other man that wasn’t Sam. For some, it took many bumps along the road to find “the one.” Emilia was sure she had found him ten years ago. So, the idea of getting married was the most logical step.
“So, the reason I asked you so impulsively to dinner tonight is because I have something I want to tell you.”
Tell me? Shouldn’t he say ask me?
“Okay.” She gulped, and let out a shaky breath.
Oh my God, this is it. I know it, Oh Sam I love you so much.
“Today, I was summoned into my boss’s office. You know how I have been telling you about these rumors that Josh, the guy heading the European purchasing branch was going to be moved to a higher management position?”
“Yes, I remember.”
“Well, honey, today they made the official announcement. And guess whose going to be taking Josh’s place?”
Ignoring the way her heart’s rate slowed down as it had braced itself for another type of announcement, Emilia squeezed the hand holding hers and told him something she could never fake.
“Sam! I’m so proud of you.” She really was. He had been working his ass off since January and it was time they acknowledged all the extra hours he was giving the company.
“They want me to take his place. I’m being promoted, Emilia. Finally, after all these months of getting up at the crack of dawn and coming home late at night, it has finally paid off.”
“Oh my God, Sam. That’s amazing. You totally deserve it.”
“Thanks. And well, you know how you’ve been nagging me about this whole getting married business?”
Nagging? Okay, I’ll just strike that word out when I retell my family and friends about the day Sam proposed. I could make-up something like: you know how I’ve been stupid enough to not want to get married? Well, now I know I can’t wait any longer.” Okay that doesn’t sound like something he would say but I’ll work on it…
“The thing is, this new position means more hard work and of course an increase in my paycheck. So, I was thinking that maybe after I come back from Germany, after the two years I’m supposed to spend over there, we can really sit down and talk about getting married. What do you say?”
Emilia had to stop herself from making a fool of herself and start screaming, I do, I do.
Germany? Not even in her least romantic proposal scenarios, did the words Germany and after two years, ever make an appearance.
She could feel her eyes widening in shock. Her voice came out in a pathetic little squeak.
“Yes. As part of my new job I have to go to Europe for two years. Just think about all the soccer games I’ll be able to attend. And since all of my living expenses will be covered by the company, then I can really start saving up for the future.”
As opposed to me whose been putting away every damn penny I can to make this happen? It didn’t escape her attention the way he said the future as opposed to our future. This was quickly turning into a complete nightmare.
“I….” But her brain had stopped functioning. In a flashing second, her vision turned red with anger and frustration. Apparently, Sam thought she was just overfilled with joy due to his latest piece of news and that was why she hadn’t uttered a single complete sentence yet. That and the fact her expression was as flabbergasted as if she had just seen a really good looking actor like Stephen Moyer or Eric Dane walk by their table.
“I know, it’s amazing, right? This is a good thing for us. Maybe by the end of these two years they’ll ask me to stay and who knows? We could end up living together in a European country. I know you’ll miss your T.V. shows but I am sure there are some American channels over there so you’ll be able to catch up on your shows.”
Living together? American channels?
“This is your life changing news?” Emilia’s hair moved with her head as she tried to organize her thoughts.
“That you’re going to leave me for two years to go and live God knows where? Oh, and let’s not forget all the soccer games you’ll see.”
“Germany.” Sam replied, with just a hint of impatience in his voice. “You know it has always been my dream to go to all those games I see on television. And yes, this is life-changing news. For me, and eventually for us if things work out well.”
Jeez and my dream has been to spend the rest of my life with you.
Sam regarded her with a mixture of brewing annoyance and utter confusion. Unable to contain herself any longer, she blurted out what she’d been daydreaming about ever since his call at lunch.
“I thought you were going to propose!”
“Propose?” He let out a snort. “Why the hell would you even think that? We’ve talked about this a thousand times already, Emilia, We can’t possibly think about that right now. It’s just not a good time.”
“Then when? When we’re on the verge of celebrating out twenty-fifth anniversary without actually being married?”
“You’re being unreasonable and loud. Everyone is staring at us.”
“I don’t care! And I’m not being unreasonable, I’m being me. The woman who loves you enough to know that if we wait much longer we’ll lose our moment. The woman who loved you enough to leave her life behind and follow you here and end up in a job she utterly hates. The woman who fears this sudden move to another country will be the end of us. I’m starting to think this new living address came to you as an answer to your prayers and as a way to stall this wedding talk even longer.”
“Stall? I’m not stalling. Apparently, I’m the only one with enough sense to know a commitment like that would be suicidal right now. And please, Emilia, don’t blame me for your situation at work. You could’ve moved to another place by now. I didn’t force you to come. For God’s sake, you used to live in Baltimore, its not like I moved to China!”
“Okay, see that’s my first problem with you. Suicidal? The first word that comes to mind when thinking about marriage is something as dark as suicide? Or is it just thinking about marriage to me? And if I remember correctly, you never asked me to come. You just tossed your brand new job offer at me. If I haven’t changed jobs is because, silly me, I thought it would be worth putting up with it so we could have a future. Besides, I barely have time to do all the insane things Amanda asks me to do, let alone look for another job.”
“For Christ’s sake Emilia, you always like to over-dramatize everything around you.”
“I certainly don’t do that!”
Sam looked like he wanted to bang his head on the table. Nevertheless he said.
“What I meant before was that we would have to suffer considerably to make ends meet.”
“Suffer? I don’t know how that explanation makes it better.”
It was evident that everyone else’s conversations had been dull right before Emilia’s outbreak of fury. The entire restaurant was quiet as their raised voices echoed around the amber lit room.
She was sulking like a three year old but couldn’t have cared less. Emilia didn’t care if Sam and the entire goddamned population in Washington D.C. saw her sulking.
“This was supposed make you happy. God, I haven’t even called my mother to tell her so that you could be the first one to know!”
“Oh well, then I guess that makes me special.”
Emilia could no longer hold the torrent of tears she had neglected to cry during their past discussions when his answer had been similar to the one he gave her just now.
Suddenly, looking a bit chagrined about the scene they were making, Sam reached for her hand and said in that sweet voice he used with her whenever she wasn’t making any sense.
“Honey, I’m not saying I don’t want to marry you. I’m just saying that we can start talking about it when I come back. You know I love you. If I didn’t love you then we wouldn’t have lasted this long right?” Sam said, condescendingly.
Normally in the past, she would have answered ‘yes, I love you, too’ and just moved on. However, another voice louder than her sensible one was nagging at her to ask.
“Do you….really love me?”
It scared her even more when the same voice turned the question at her.
Do you, really love him?
Sam’s understanding and kind eyes blinked twice.
“What kind of question is that. Of course I do.”
Using her cloth napkin to wipe away the tears and mascara running down her cheeks, Emilia closed her eyes and said something that had been rolling inside her head for some time now. Something so awful she had dismissed it, like Sam had just said, as just over-dramatizing the situation.
“Maybe you think you do. Neither of us has dated anyone else for these past ten years. How come you just haven’t settled? And deep down you know it and that’s why whenever I say let’s get married, you come up with these really well thought out reasons why we shouldn’t.”
“That’s nonsense and ridiculous. You think I’m just making up excuses?”
“If it makes you feel better, there were plenty of girls who wanted to go out with me during college but I never considered going out with any one of them.”
And that’s supposed to make me feel better because……?
Then, like a roller coaster coming down real fast, her words came out in an excited yet in a terrified rush.
“Let’s just get married then, before you go. We can start our life together in Germany. It will be an adventure. You’ve already said you won’t have to worry about money and paying rent and all those things. And I could find another job over there. I bet anything is better than Amanda, even if German people talk like they’re always mad at you.”
“You speak German?”
“No, but I’m sure they’re looking for people who speak English. Or I’ll take classes and learn freaking German, who cares? All I know is we can make it work.”
She ignored his frown and took his hand in hers, waiting for his reply. Her fingers dug into his palm, as if she could already feel him slipping away from her.
Emilia let out a hurt gasp.
“No. I don’t like ultimatums.”
“This isn’t that Sam. This is me asking you to take the plunge with me.”
“It sounds to me like you’re pressuring me and forcing me to make a decision. I already said we could discuss this matter after I returned.”
“Pressuring you? All I’m doing is working out a way for us not to be apart for two whole years. Although, I’m starting to think me being there was really not what you had in mind, was it?”
“Emilia, there are some things I still have to experience on my own and this time alone in another country is the perfect opportunity for me to do so.”
“Like what? Going to a stadium to watch some stupid soccer match? That’s the experience you’re most eager to live?”
Sam regarded her with caution. He remained quiet, his entire body aware of the stares thrown their way by the people around them. Emilia carried on.
“And what I’m supposed to do? Wait here for two years and what? Hope you won’t change your mind?”
“Well, you have your job here and your family.”
“Right. Because let’s not forget I love my job. And my family,” she took a sip of the wine in front of her, though it made her throat tighten even more. “They want me to be happy, Sam. I’d miss them but they would understand.”
“I thought you would appreciate me thinking about letting you stay here so you wouldn’t have to give them up for me.”
Emilia squeezed her eyes shut, trying to shut out the pain ripping her heart in two. Finally, she said with a shaky voice.
“Oh, Sam. You were supposed to be my life. I would’ve followed you anywhere.”
“Would’ve? What the hell are you saying Emilia?”
In all their years as a couple, both had issued at some point the I don’t want to see you ever again threat in the heat of an argument. Most of the times after one of them had calmed down, reason would kick back in and they would talk things over calmly. Still, as Emilia tried to find that soothing sensation again, all she found was an unwavering reassurance that this was not something she was planning in backing out from. Not this time.
As put together as she could manage, Emilia pushed her chair back and got up. Making a huge effort not to burst in tears again in front of their too-captivated-by-their-drama audience, she tried to ignore her heart breaking into sharp piercing pieces as she said what she should’ve said many months before. Maybe even longer than that. Something Sam, by the way he looked at her, never thought would actually happen.
“I’m saying that I can’t wait for you any longer, Sam. I’ve tried racking my brains for a way to make this work, but clearly you’ve been digging up more excuses not to do this. I love you but I deserve more than begging you to consider marrying me. As well as all those reasonable arguments you always have in handy, a decision like this one should also be made with the heart. And clearly yours isn’t involved here.
“I hope with all my heart, Germany is all you’re expecting it to be. You’re an amazing person but this is the first time I can’t be with you anymore. Your hesitation has hurt me more than if you had been honest from the very beginning and just said no, without all the excuses.”
“Emilia, you can’t be serious. You’re willing to throw down the drain what we have just because I think it’s best we wait?”
“No. I’m ending what has been the most beautiful chapter in my life because I refuse to throw my own life down the drain waiting for you.”
“Don’t…..We’re done Sam.”
Grabbing her purse and coat from a dumbfounded maître’d, she stepped out into the cold November evening and headed for the Clarendon metro station.
The buzz of Thanksgiving just a few days away was palpable in the air around her. The everyday evening runners, a usual sight in this part of the National Mall, breezed by past her, their panting leaving behind a trail of white smoke. Her cheeks felt frozen as the wind had dried her tears away on her absentminded walk from the metro exit to here. The laughter and the merry conversations from the people around her mocked her current state of heartbreak and misery. Wanting to get away from it all, Emilia set out at a fast run as she saw the stair entrance for the National Art Gallery.
Emilia was so focused in reaching the warm heaven of the building’s interior, her stare was glued on the door at the top of the stairs. She never saw the car coming at her on the street. The last thing she heard was the loud hunk and tires screeching on the black pavement before she felt her body being thrown off into the air. Then, everything went pitch black.