Small Cuts (14) Elaine

To find links to all parts of this story, please visit the Small Cuts Page. Now here is Elaine again:

When Oliver pulled me against him I completely lost my composure. Part of it was nerves, part of it was my loneliness, but the rest of it was Oliver’s warmth, his strength and his transparent feelings for me. I found myself relishing the feel of his arms around me, his gentleness and the sweet words of comfort he murmured in my ear. “It’s ok, sweetheart. I’m right here. Everything’s going to be alright.” In that moment, I desperately wanted to believe him.

With a deep shuddering breath, I pulled away. “I’m sorry, Oliver. I can’t. This is all just so…” I didn’t finish, unable to find the right words. What was it, exactly? Scary? Wrong? Overwhelming? Any one of those words fit, but didn’t cover the whole of it. Beneath each of those feelings lay the undeniable truth. I was here because Oliver wanted me. I needed someone to want me, to love me the way I always hoped James would.

“All so…?” Oliver prodded. I averted my eyes but he stepped forward and held me by the shoulders. “Talk to me, Lainey.” He paused, lowering his head. “Or maybe don’t say anything at all.”

He moved in to kiss me but I braced my hands against his chest, keeping him at a distance. The pain and disappointment showed in his eyes. I shook my head to clear it. “Don’t. Don’t do this, Oliver.”

He nodded, shoved his hands in his pockets and stared at the ground. “I think I fell for you the moment I laid eyes on you,” he said softly. “All this time waiting. Wanting you. Falling in love with you. It’s been torture.”

“But … but James,” I stammered and Oliver stiffened.

“James is a fool,” he said sharply. “He doesn’t deserve you, Elaine. He doesn’t make you happy.”

He was right. James didn’t make me happy, but I still wanted him to. I wanted my husband to love me the way he did when we first met. What had gone wrong? I felt the sting of tears again and looked toward the ceiling to keep them from spilling over. “And Genevieve? What about Gen, Oliver?”

He sighed heavily and lifted a hand, let it drop. “Oh, Elaine… if only we’d met each other first.” His voice gruff and full of emotion, he said, “I love you, Elaine.” He paused, swallowing. “I’m laying it all on the line, right now. I love you and I want to be with you. I haven’t figured out what the hell to do about it, but there it is.”

My stomach knotted and my already racing heart squeezed in my chest. A thousand thoughts ran through my head in quick succession. Life with Oliver. For a moment I allowed myself the fantasy —imagining the way he would love me, cherish me. I pushed a fist against my sternum to steady my breathing. I thought of James’ reaction. Would he be stoic, logical, always the lawyer, thinking out the details of a separation? Or would he fight for me, beg me to stay, profess his undying love for me? Perhaps that was more the fantasy. Nevertheless…

“Elaine.” Oliver gripped me by the shoulders. “We don’t have to decide anything right now. I just want you to tell me… Do you feel the same way? Or have I just made a huge mistake?”

Nevertheless, I thought. It was the fantasy I chose to believe. I have to tell Oliver… He’s my friend and I owe him the truth.

“Lainey?” Oliver said, breaking my reverie. “Say something.”

I nodded and started to speak, when at the same time, both our phones began to ring.

Small Cuts (13) James

To find links to all parts of this story, please visit the Small Cuts Page. Now back to James.

My gaze shifted from my reflection in the rearview mirror as the car passing my house suddenly sped up. Could my eyes have been deceiving me? That looked just like Oliver’s car. I watched the driver turn the corner, barely pausing at he stop sign at the end of the block. With a second look, I was positive it was Oliver. And that could only mean one thing —he was coming to my house, while I wasn’t home, to be with my wife.  

I hit the gas and made the turn to follow him. I expected the silver Volvo to circle the block and return to my street but it continued out to the boulevard. What was Oliver up to? Maybe he saw me. I slowed and put some distance between us but not so much that I would lose him. 

At each intersection where he could make the turn to go back to my neighborhood, he continued on. This didn’t make any sense. If Oliver was heading into Center City —the way he appeared to be— there was absolutely no reason for him to have driven past my house. In fact, it was in the opposite direction from the route he should have taken from his own home. Once we were on the expressway, I had no way to easily turn around and so I figured on seeing this through. Perhaps when I discovered exactly where Oliver was going, his detour would be explained.

My initial reaction —shock and anger— had given way to confusion and doubt. Would Elaine really do this to me? Would Oliver? My wife and my best friend. This wasn’t the kind of thing I ever expected to happen to me. This happened to other people. I blew out a breath. Ok, maybe it wasn’t really happening. Oliver must have had some other reason to be on my street. He obviously wasn’t in a hurry. He’d been staying relatively close to the speed limit the whole way. Finally, he put his turn signal on and merged into the left lane to take the Vine Street Expressway. I stayed a few car lengths back. 

He took the first exit onto Broad street, heading south. This could get tricky. Following in city traffic was much more difficult than on the highway. Nevertheless, I managed to keep up as he wound his way over to Rittenhouse Square. I slowed as the silver Volvo pulled into the parking garage of The Park Hotel. A breakfast meeting? With a client maybe? Had to be. Although it still didn’t explain what he was doing driving past my house on the way. 

I glanced at the time. Damn. I was really going to be late for the golf outing. I would definitely miss the buffet breakfast but if I hurried, I could be there for tee time. I drove around the square planning to retrace my route and found myself in the wrong lane for the expressway. I passed the on ramp and merged into the right lane so I wouldn’t miss the next one. Of course, everything goes wrong when you’re already late. I took the next on ramp and immediately realized it was the eastbound expressway which would take me back to center city. Now I’d have to circle around a second time. I hit the gas and prepared to merge with traffic. I never saw the other car change lanes. 

Philadelphia Skyline Image via Flickr

Small Cuts (11) Oliver

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.