To find links to all parts of this story, please visit the Small Cuts Page. Here is what happens to Oliver:
What a weird morning. I rolled over to find Gen’s side of the bed empty and cold. I never heard her get up but the smell of coffee wafting from the kitchen meant she must have been up for a while. I threw off the covers and padded barefoot downstairs. The open concept layout of the house gave me a view of the kitchen from the bottom of the stairs. Gen stood at the sink, staring out the window above it, at something across the street. I walked as far the center island and stopped, waiting for her to turn around. She continued to stare straight ahead. Finally, I softly cleared my throat. “Gen,” I said. No response. Nothing.
I tried again. “Hey, Gen. What are you looking at?”
Still she didn’t answer. Well… I guess last night’s good humor was gone and she wasn’t speaking to me. Whatever. I poured a mug of coffee from the full pot —Gen hadn’t taken one yet— and brought it back upstairs with me. If she was in a mood, there was no sense in sticking around. After showering, shaving and getting dressed, I returned to the kitchen and set my empty mug in the dishwasher. Gen was still at the window.
“Gen, what the hell are you staring at?” I asked, more annoyed than curious. Without breaking her gaze, she murmured something I couldn’t make out. “What did you say?” I asked. An almost imperceptible shrug of the shoulders was her only response. I moved to stand behind her, lightly resting a hand on her arm. She flinched slightly and I let it drop. So that was how it was going to be. I followed her line of sight and saw a trio of vultures circling in the field behind the house across the street. “Afraid they’re waiting for you?” I joked. Even this didn’t elicit a response. With a heavy sigh, I turned away, grabbed my keys from the entryway table and went to my car.
It was too early to meet Elaine so I drove around for a while. Without thinking, I passed James’ and Elaine’s house just in time to see James backing out of his driveway. I sped up and turned the corner at end of the block, hoping he didn’t recognize the car. I needed to get a grip. This was a stupid and totally unnecessary risk. As I left the neighborhood, I had already started formulating excuses for why I might have been on the street. I couldn’t think of a single one that made any sense.
After leaving the car in the hotel’s parking garage, I still had time to spare so I walked around the park from which the hotel took its name. My nerves were rattled and I knew no matter what I did, they wouldn’t settle until I saw Elaine. I had rehearsed what I was going to say to her over and over again. I only hoped that first, this wouldn’t be a complete shock to her —it couldn’t be, right?— and second that she felt the same way. The question was what the hell did we do next?
I circled back to the hotel and entered through the front doors. The lobby had several seating areas with a view of the elevators. I sat on one of the sofas and tried to read the copy of today’s paper left on the cocktail table. I couldn’t concentrate and I couldn’t sit still. I slowly paced the hotel lobby, peeked in the restaurant and wound my way back to my original position. Lights and sirens drew my attention to the front window and I missed seeing Elaine get off the elevator. She cleared her throat behind me and said, “Hey.” I turned to find her standing just a few feet away. She looked gorgeous. I just wanted to take her in my arms and never let go.
“I’m so happy to see you,” I said, moving in for a hug. But before I could reach her, she stepped back, a look of panic in her eyes. My heart squeezed in my chest as I tried not to let my smile falter. I awkwardly dropped my hands to my sides. “Everything ok?” I asked, dreading the answer.
My casual retreat seemed to calm her somewhat. Nodding quickly, she managed a nervous smile. “Yes, yes. Fine. I’m fine.”
I gestured toward the restaurant entrance. “Shall we?”
She nodded again so I offered to let her lead the way. I nearly collided with her when she abruptly stopped. Turning to face me, she said, “Ollie, I’m not really hungry.”
I was so close, not touching her was impossible. I held her by the shoulders and looked deep into her eyes. “What do you want to do?”
“Oh, Oliver,” she said as a tear trailed down her cheek. And I couldn’t help myself, I led her to a quiet corner of the lobby, gathered her into my arms and held her as she quietly cried.