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. 

Time

Time ~ A Poem

Ticking clocks and Westminster chimes
The infernal tolling of bells
Time, time taking its toll
Leaving behind desiccated remains
Holes carved in weary hearts
Two halves cleaved from the whole
All you ever wanted was someone like me
All I ever wanted was to be somebody else
If you could just heal the divide in me
Maybe I could breathe life back into you
Restore in me the will to live
Restore in us both the hope to love
Silence the clocks and stop time

[Illustration my own.]

Small Cuts (10) Elaine

To find links to all parts of this story, please visit the Small Cuts Page. Here is more from Elaine:

I stared at my naked reflection in the full-length mirror —first sideways, then face forward. Did James really think I was fat? Granted, I had baited him with my remark about feeling fat after last night’s dinner, but he didn’t deny it. My eyes burned and I pushed my fists against them to stop the tears. I was being paranoid. I read something into every little thing James said or did. After shaking my head to clear it, I looked at myself again. Yeah, I could stand to lose a few pounds and brunch wasn’t going to help. Although, I was so nervous about meeting with Oliver, I didn’t think I’d have much of an appetite.

All night long I had wrestled with the idea of calling it off. My better angels were screaming in my ear that this was a huge mistake. Then I would rationalize —Ollie and I were friends, why shouldn’t we have brunch together? Because he told you he needed to talk to you today. Right, but that could be about anything. It didn’t have to be about what was going on between us. And just what exactly was going on between us? Nothing. Yet…. And so it went.

Despite the warm day and the humidity from last night’s storm, my self consciousness led me to dress in dark colors so as to flatter my figure. A black knit top with a deep scoop neck paired with slim fitting capris, black ballet flats and with my hair piled in a messy bun, silver hoop earrings to finish the ensemble.

Traffic was light on the way downtown and The Park Hotel had its own garage so I arrived with a little time to spare. Even so, Ollie was waiting for me in the lobby as I exited the elevator. He was standing near the entrance with his back to me. I hesitated, studying him for a minute. He wasn’t as tall as James or as handsome but Ollie had his own appeal —boyish good looks, unruly hair and a crooked smile. No wonder he was a successful salesman. Who could resist that charm?

My heart was racing and my hands were clammy as I slowly approached. I cleared my throat and said, “Hey.” He turned and smiled widely, his eyes lighting up the way they always did when he looked at me. He made a move to close the distance between us, his arms open for a hug.

This was wrong. So wrong. But how could I back out of this now? Without thinking, I did just that —I took a step back.

Header Image: Photograph by Francesca Woodman