Leila is quiet for a second as if she is trying to understand what I just said. Finally she says, “I don’t get it. If he’s single now, isn’t that what you wanted?”
She’s right. It was what I wanted, but now that it’s happened, I’m not sure it’s right. I don’t think it’s what I want now. “He’s upset. I feel like I’ve screwed up his life by coming here.”
“No,” she says. “You’re over thinking this. You always over think things. You care about him. He cares about you. Just give him some time and space. Breakups are hard.”
I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do, and I tell her this, but Leila is insistent. In the end she talks me into staying a little longer.
Maybe I can help him out somehow. Offer my support, for what it’s worth.
Over the next two days, I give Collins space, spending the bulk of my time applying for more jobs. He isn’t around much anyway, and when he is, he seems to be hard at work, so I don’t bother him. I’ve gotten to the point where I think there really is no reason for me to be here, since we never see each other anyway, when he comes in the kitchen one morning with a smile on his face. The first smile I’ve seen on him in days. I can’t help but feel encouraged and excited by the light in his eyes.
“Good news,” he says. He pulls a stack of papers out from behind his back and places them in front of me with a flourish.
“What is this, your memoirs?” I ask. The stack is thick.
He shakes his head. “It’s a power of attorney, an agreement, and supporting documents from the investigation of your termination.”
“I’m sorry, it’s what?” It’s not that I don’t understand the words he’s using, I just have no idea how they fit together to make any sense, at all. “An agreement to what?”
“I had your boss investigated. They found the proof my attorneys needed to negotiate a settlement for you. They’ll pay you one hundred thousand dollars and agreed to hire you back.”
“You had my boss investigated?” I take a sip of my morning coffee in the hopes it will help me understand everything Collins is springing on me.
“I wanted it to be a surprise, so I had them draw everything up. All they need from you is a signature on the limited power of attorney so they can finish the deal on your behalf.”
Collins looks so happy, yet my face is turning red, and tears pool in my eyes. He negotiated it so that I would get my old job back. I swallow against the huge lump forming in my throat. I want to be happy. God how I want to, because he’s doing it again. He’s saving me from my stupid employment bungle. I should be thanking him. I should take my job back. He’s gotten me a great deal.
But it’s not what I want. I don’t want to move back to Connecticut. I want to be here with him. And more important than that, I want him to want me here, too.
But I guess he doesn’t. I really am a burden to him. One he’s willing to put the time and money into sending far, far away.
I wipe shakily at a tear streaming down my face. “I’m sorry, Collins.”
He tilts my chin up and meets my eyes. “Why are you sorry?”
“I shouldn’t have come,” I murmur, wiping at another stray tear that’s escaped.
“Why not?” His tone is whisper soft, and his expression is full of concern and tenderness.
“Because,” I manage, sucking in a breath, “I charged into your perfect life and ruined everything for you and Tatianna. It’s not your job to rescue me.”
Bringing both hands to my face, his warm palms cup my cheeks and he wipes away the last of my tears. “You haven’t ruined anything. Come sit down and let me explain some things to you.”
“Okay,” I agree, my heart aching and my head spinning with unanswered questions.
I guide Mia into the adjoining family room, my fingertips at her lower back. I have no idea what caused her to break down, and I don’t handle crying females very well. I never have. Maybe it’s the result of growing up with two brothers. Maybe it’s the result of being with Tatianna, who rarely showed her emotions.
We sit down on the sofa, and she curls her legs underneath her on the cushion, bracing for whatever I’m about to tell her.
I huff out a sigh and contemplate how to begin. “You didn’t ruin anything between me and Tatianna. Things had been deteriorating for a long time.” I don’t tell her that I’d lost my ability to orgasm with her or that I hated the lack of concern and interest she showed in my life. “The breakup was overdue. You being here might have actually prolonged it.”
“What?” She blinks at me, waiting for me to continue. She assumed that her presence sped up my demise with Tatianna when in fact it was the opposite.
“When you showed up here, a thousand emotions I hadn’t felt in fifteen years raced through me. Emotions I didn’t have time for, or frankly want to feel. My life was easy. My company was my focus, and I had my brothers to lean on for support. Tatianna was…” Shit, this is going to sound harsh. “She was here for my physical pleasure.”
Mia flinches like someone backhanded her.
I reach for her hand and she lets me take it, but it’s limp and lifeless in my own.
“These last several weeks even that wasn’t working between us,” I admit.
Her eyebrows pinch together. “What do you mean?”
“I haven’t slept with Tatianna since you arrived. And even before that, I’m embarrassed to say… Well, let’s just say, my body knew something my head didn’t.”
“Okay…” She draws out the word, her eyes searching mine for understanding.
I’m not making any sense, and I know that. I take a deep breath and prepare to start over.
“Then why did you stay with her?” Mia interrupts.
“If I was single, I’d have no excuse not to pursue you. The idea of you and I both single and under one roof scared me.”
She chews on her lip, looking unsure. “So, you don’t want me here. I get it, Coll. I’ll take my old job and move on.”
Shaking my head, I tug her hand into my lap and grip my fingers between hers, like that will somehow show her how I feel. “Let me finish.”
She waits, watching me, hardly breathing while I search for the right words.
“When you showed up here and reminded me of a promise I made when I was ten years old, it scared the shit out of me. I used my relationship, as damaged as it was, as a buffer to avoid my real feelings. But I can’t do that any longer. I have no idea what the future holds, and I need to take this one day at a time, but I want more.”