Neither her mother nor her father questioned her abrupt decision to head back to D.C. with Noah. Neither she nor her now ex boyfriend and ex-fiancé mentioned anything about calling off the wedding. However, her mother’s knowing gleam when she hugged her daughter goodbye told Olivia that sixth sense of hers had kicked in again and she knew something was up. Her dad, god bless him, only regretted she had remembered she had to work on some school stuff to send to her temporary replacement.
Two hours and a half later, thankfully it was a Friday so no one had to head back to work until Sunday, Noah was helping her with her suitcase and looking not sad but confused. They’d never broken up before, Olivia owed to Noah and to herself to be honest about one last thing.
Just as Noah was carrying her bag to her front door, Olivia touched his arm and waited for him to focus on her.
“There’s something else I have to say.”
“Okay.” Noah said carefully, tucking both hands on his back pockets.
“I did something horrible while you were away.”
“Horrible? Did you get drunk at Tracy’s wedding and get yet another tattoo?”
Olivia blinked back the momentary confusion before she said in a voice that shook with shame.
“I kissed someone else, and I slept with him.”
If her heart constricted was because of the confusion that clouded Noah’s face, then the disbelief, until finally he seemed to shut off any emotions that might show on his face. He remained quiet for a while, as the sun went down and the cold December air toyed with her loose hair.
“Noah, I’m so sorry. I just…..”
“Olivia, please don’t. I’m not gonna say it doesn’t hurt despite our earlier conversation.”
“I know. It hurts me, too. You don’t deserve this.”
He gave her a bitter smile and said.
“I don’t. And I think it will take longer for us to be friends yet I am aware I deserve better and when I find a woman again, if she truly loves me, then she will never do what you did. Which I guess means you didn’t just kiss some stranger because you got drunk.”
She lowered her head before she was able to look him int he eye again and say.
“I fell in love.”
Noah nodded, leaned forward to kiss the top of her head and then he walked away.
She thought he would go without saying another word, but right before he got into his car he leaned on the open car door and said.
She too nodded and whispered as he got into his car and drove away.
Olivia hadn’t asked her mom if she and Charles had been able to be friends afterwards.
The house felt so empty. There was an ache around her heart when she glanced at the piece of furniture Emilia used to sit on whenever she was at the living room. She hadn’t been here after the accident long enough to really feel her absence. Snatches of memories from her time with Emilia came up as she paced every room where she and the ghost had hung out during Emilia’s somewhat unusual after-life visit.
But it also helped thinking about her friend. It made her even more jittery inside but sure at the same time of what she was about to do. Olivia could even imagine Emilia jumping up and down urging her to get her butt out of the house and just do it.
It was while hunting for her car keys that she came up with a huge complication inside the plan, she’d only thought off on the ride back home. She couldn’t possibly drive in her condition. She still had the cast and she was pretty sure she would be in violation of some road safety rules by driving with one hand.
Still, she prayed all patrol cars where laying low because of the day. Olivia grabbed her jacket, purse and left her house.
Thankfully, Michael’s house was close by and it meant not going into any busy highway or street. For the sake of being careful, she kept her speed way under the speed limit. It felt like forever before she was pulling in front of Michael’s house.
Olivia couldn’t contain the wave of disappointment as she noticed the only car parked outside the open garage was Jerry’s Volvo. The car’s trunk was open. Just at that moment, Jerry came from inside the garage and stopped as he saw Olivia getting down from her car.
His expression told Olivia she was probably the last person he’d expected to drop by today or any other day, for that matter. Since she was already halfway to where he was standing, his hands tucked inside his jeans pockets, Olivia squared her shoulders counted to ten urging her nerves to settle and put on a bright smile as she eliminated the distance between her and Camie’s dad.
“Olivia. This is a surprise. Happy New Year.”
“You, too. How were your holidays?”
“Oh, fine. First one after the divorce so it got a little bit rough at times, but I survived it. I see you are doing well. How’s your arm”? He inclined his head toward the arm she cradled close to her stomach.
“Okay. It’s getting itchy, though. You think I would take it with more maturity but I am just like my students when faced with the same situation. Can’t wait for it to come off.”
Jerry looked back to her car and gave her the classic parent-disapproving stare.
“You drove here?”
“Yes. I know, not what you expect from the woman who’s your daughter’s teacher but I just had to come here.”
“Oh….” Jerry wasn’t mad at Olivia for how things had turned out with his brother. However, if this was just some sort of guilty-driven visit to Michael, it was best if Olivia just turned back to her car and drove away.
Missing her other arm so she could wring her hands together as an outlet for the nerves short-circuiting inside her, she hoped Jerry wasn’t holding a grudge because of how things had ended with Michael.
“So you know if Michael’s around? I really need to talk to him.”
“No, I don’t.”
He added when Olivia’s face fell down and the smile was wiped off from her lips.
“I’m sorry, that came out wrong. What I mean is I have no idea where by brother is. I stayed with my parents during the New Years. Camie went up to Boston with her mom and Michael said something about some friends inviting him over for the holiday, so he stayed behind. I just got here and noticed his car was gone. I was in the process of unloading the car. I could go inside and see if he left a note or something.”
“Oh, no.” Olivia shook her head. Her loose brown chestnut hair dancing as a slight breeze passed over them.
“I guess I could come back later or another day.”
“You could call him. I am sure he is carrying his cell phone.”
“No, it’s okay. This isn’t a cellphone type of conversation. I’ll juts drop by some other time then.” Jerry stood there as she said goodbye and headed with a slumped pace back to her car. Maybe it was a woman thing, but Olivia looked exactly as his daughter Camie when she was discouraged about something.
Olivia was pulling open her car’s door when Camie came storming out from the open garage door and ran toward her.
“Ms. B, wait!”
She hugged her teacher effusively and after exchanging what Jerry guessed was girl talk, Camie leaned over and whispered something into Olivia’s ear. The teacher’s grin spread wide across her face and she kissed Camie with a loud smack on the cheek before disappearing inside her car and driving away.
Camie trotted back to her dad’s side and circled one arm around Jerry’s waist.
“Hey, dad. I thought I heard the garage door open. How was all with grandma and grandpa?”
“Fine. Camie, what just happened?”
“Nothing. I just told Ms. B where uncle Michael was. He was here when I got home like half an hour ago. I said I needed to run some errands but he offered to go. He had just left when I heard the garage door opening.”
“Camila, I don’t think Michael will be thrilled you told Olivia where to find him.”
Camie angled her head to stare at her dad.
“Why? She obviously came here to tell him how she feels about him. About time, right?”
“Camie, Camie. How could you even know that?”
“Because she wasn’t wearing her engagement ring.”
“So she took it off, or forgot to put it on. Camie….”
The teenage girl rolled her eyes at her dad but stood on tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek.
“Dad when you and mom were engaged, did she ever take her ring off?”
“No….but I don’t see what does that have to do with….”
“A woman never takes off her engagement ring unless she lost it or because she isn’t going to get married anymore. Ms. B is pretty organized, she wouldn’t lose it.”
“How……” Jerry had a hard time coming to terms that his little girl was no longer little and it would be a matter of time before all these matters of the heart took a more important role in her life. He shuddered but messed with her hair as he said.
“Well, we might as well wait for them inside don’t you think? And help me haul all the presents my mother conveniently forgot to give you for Christmas.”
Sweet, Camie exclaimed inside her head.