***Please note: this excerpt is subject to change and editing***
“Arrrgghh.” I scream up at the heavens.
I’m walking away from Brenda’s house in a state of despair, anger and frustration. I want to scream and shout at the universe for dishing out a pile of shit to my best friend. I hate everything and everyone right now and the anger is bubbling up inside me, like the imminent eruption of a volcano. Above all of this, I feel lost - lost without my best friend.
I behaved like a child, I know I did, but all I can do now is go home, cool down and hope that my oldest and dearest friend will forgive me in time. I would completely understand if she didn’t though. It was my fault - entirely.
At the time I just felt so angry. How could she do that to herself and her family? Not wanting to fight is hard to understand. If it was me, I’d want to survive and show people that life is worth fighting for, especially if I had a loving husband and three amazing children to think about. She has a beautiful life, one that is worth the hard work, one that is worth the pain and the struggle. I just don’t get it. Surely she must want to seek a second opinion and hope that the first opinion is wrong. She’s given up, that’s not like her at all.
Hope. It’s a word that is loaded with possibilities, it’s an optimistic word, one that can build dreams or crush them in the blink of an eye. I’d like to see Brenda with a more positive outlook, one that gives her a more forward-looking mindset. To see her resigned and in a hopeless state is frustrating when I know that she has it in her to win the battle. If anyone can do it, she can, I am absolutely certain.
My heart has been broken tonight. I never in my wildest dreams ever imagined that she’d tell us she’s dying. Come to think of it, I didn’t know what it was she was hiding. I couldn’t even guess, but to hear her say the words, ‘I have less than six months to live’, was like a knife twisting in my heart. I’d acted out my first instinct, which was to attack and refuse to admit the truth about her plight. But now, I’m feeling really guilty that I reacted that way. The sadness I feel is excruciating, and now it has reduced me to tears. The heartbreak I’m feeling is trickling down my cheeks, spilling out for the world to see. The woman is normally so fit and healthy; it was hard to comprehend that she could be suffering so severely.
All I want to do tonight is go home, see my sexy boyfriend, curl up in his arms and then deal with all the madness tomorrow. I just feel like burying my head in the sand for a while, a few hours won’t hurt.
When I walk in the front door, the house is warm and cosy, and I can smell a faint aroma of garlic and something else that I can’t quite figure out. Darryl doesn’t hear me enter the kitchen so I stand in the doorway just watching him move around my kitchen like he lives here. It’s a lovely sight and one that I’ve been dreaming of for an innumerable amount of time. He’s dressed in dark blue jeans, a lime green polo shirt and Converse pumps. For a man of forty-four it always surprises me that he dresses so young. He doesn’t look silly, his style suits him and he always looks so well groomed and smart. I like it when I see him dressed in his work suits, but I like to see him in his casual clothes too. I really like what I see. I like it even more when I see him pouring two glasses of red wine that’s been sitting on the work counter; it’s just what I need. He must know that I will be home soon. He moves to stir something that’s cooking on the stove. It’s an erotic moment as he lifts the wooden spoon to his lips to taste whatever he’s cooking. “Hey handsome, what you got cooking?” I ask, trying to sound seductive, but I know it sounds cheesy.
“Well,” he says, spinning around at the sound of my voice, he smiles, then walks towards me with a huge grin on his face. “The day I met you, you were dripping in a tomato sauce from spaghetti bolognese. So, I thought I’d make it, hoping that you spill it on your top, just so I have an excuse to stare at your nipples again.” His eyes fall to look at my chest, followed by his cheeky grin, hotly pursued by a lovely laugh. I love to see his stubble crease at the corners of his mouth when he smiles.
“I wasn’t exactly dripping in it, but it did ruin my favourite pyjamas.” The disappointment in my tone is clear. “That stain never washed out. So I threw them away,” I say sweetly, ignoring the fact that he’s staring at my nipples again, but most of all, ignoring the heat I feel between my thighs. I can’t stop a little giggle escaping.
“It’s a shame, you looked so innocent all dressed in white, with your hair tied up and enjoying a relaxing evening. You looked really cute,” he says with a wink. His recollection of how I looked that day, even down to how my hair was styled surprises me. He really did take notice of me. The thought of him remembering me and taking notice of my appearance is enough to warm me. The temperature I feel is raised when he kisses me. “How was your day?” He asks me as he pulls away and looks into my eyes. I’m certain he sees the pain I’m feeling reflecting back at him. “What’s going on?” The concern in his voice is enough to reduce my already shattered heart to a pile of rubble lying at my feet. The hurt I feel is soothed slightly as he brushes my overgrowing fringe out of my eyes. He leans in and kisses my forehead, I guess he sees the worry lines across there, but he temporarily removes the stress and worry I have for my best friend. It’s only brief, but it’s a welcome relief.
“I will tell you, but first, can we sit down and enjoy dinner?” I ask, feeling a little self conscious and unable to think of where to start to explain all that has happened. I guess I should start at the beginning.
“Of course, sit down. Let me serve you,” he says, pulling a dining room chair out for me and encouraging me to sit down as he moves in my chair. He’s such a gentleman; I’ve never been treated like this before – ever. I sit twiddling my thumbs and twisting my fingers, looking down at them as if they’re the most fascinating thing I’ve ever seen. I can hear Darryl moving around, pulling out plates and clattering a few pans gently. He’s beside me as he places the glass of red wine at my place setting. “I think you’ll enjoy this one, it’s Italian,” he says filling up my glass a little further. I lift the glass and take a tentative sip.
“It’s amazing, that must have cost a fortune,” I say, my voice is as steady as a rock.
“Let’s just say that this is our little treat for the night,” he says with a wink and a honeyed tone.
The way he’s treating me now, and how he has for the last few weeks makes me positive that I’m falling for him. I still have a few bricks and mortar guarding my heart. I’ve been in this position so many times, then bam! The rug is pulled from underneath me and I’m always the one left broken hearted and disappointed that the relationship didn’t travel as far as I wanted it to. I don’t know why, but I do have a feeling that Darryl is different, he’s far more genteel than the jerks I’ve dated before. There’s something about him that says he’s the real deal and I feel like my heart is safe in his hands. But there’s always that niggling little doubt, the side of my brain that tells me to keep the walls up.
I’m at an age now where I need more in my life. I already have more than most, but I just need that little extra to make me feel like my world is complete. I really shouldn’t be feeling like this, considering my best friend’s world has turned to shit. But, knowing what I know now, it makes me believe, more than ever, that life is way too short to not chase your dreams or pursue what means the most to you. My world has always revolved around work, my friends and my family. I often ask myself what would be the cherry on the cake? I always conclude that love and companionship are the royal icing and the cherry that would turn the cake from satisfactory to perfect. It just goes to show that all it takes is one trauma in life to give you a shove up the backside. Brenda’s world is crumbling, I need to make the most of this situation and announce my feelings for Darryl. Tonight should be the night for me to tell him how I feel, after all that has happened, I should not wait another minute.
I realise that we’ve only been dating for a few weeks, but the feelings I get when I’m around him and vibes I get from him, tell me that I’ve found ‘the one’. All I can do is hope that I’m right, and that I’ve not made another dreadful mistake and that this is as real as it gets. I hear Billy Crystal in my head ‘when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible’. I love that movie, and there are so many great quotes, all relating to relationships and how we deal with them.
Darryl serves up the simple but delicious meal. As he places the plate in front of me, he leans down and kisses my cheek. Then takes the seat to my left. Before I can pick up my cutlery, he holds my hand and stares into my eyes. I get the feeling that something is about to happen, something big. I remember him saying that he wanted to say something, so perhaps this is where he tells me he’s had enough of me. It’s happened before, so I should be prepared to have my heart trampled on for the umpteenth time.
He releases my hand, then lifts his glass and raises it towards me, I replicate him and our glasses clink together, “cheers,” we say together. The room is silent and the air is thick with tension.
“So how has your day been?” He asks me again. I don’t want to answer him, I don’t want to tell him that I’ve had the day from hell and my best friend has confessed that she’s dying. I feel the tears welling in my eyes, but I manage somehow to hold them back. I take a gulp of wine, swallowing down both the warm liquid and the anguish I feel in one gulp. It’s hard to do, but I manage – only just.
“It was okay, but what I have to say is heartbreaking. Can you give me some time? Finding the words to express how feel about it is really difficult, I hope you understand,” I say, looking into his eyes. Hoping that I see warmth there and not a cold look that tells me he’s about to kill me with his words. I don’t think I could handle two worlds falling apart in the space of a few hours. My fragile heart is not up to it.
“Of course I understand. I’m here for you to tell me anytime you’re ready,” I see that warmth there, the look I was hoping for and that gives me a new found belief that my heart is safe in his hands. I didn’t realise that I had been crossing my fingers underneath the table, it’s another sign that I want nothing more than to spend more time with him, get to know him better and then maybe, just maybe, we could get our happily ever after. The word hope springs to mind again, I can only hope that everything will turn out just fine. For my best friend who is suffering and for my love life. “Come on, tuck in before it gets cold,” he says and begins to slurp up his spaghetti. I love to watch him eat; I think it’s really satisfying to see a man enjoy a delicious meal and fantastic wine. I suppose the simple things in life please me.
“Tell me about your day,” I say only nibbling at my food. My appetite is seriously lacking, and I can only put it down to the way I’m feeling inside.
“Just the normal stuff today,” he says with a smirk. There is something he’s not telling me. He looks like he’s been up to something and doesn’t want to tell me and then on the other hand he looks really pleased with himself. The shifty expression on his face becomes clear when he says, “I had a couple of hours off today. I just felt the need to do something.” He places his cutlery on the table, but watches me as I continue to peck at my food. “I’ve lived the life of a playboy,” he says making me choke on a piece of meat coated in tomato sauce. “It was only a few years ago that I realised that I was chasing something that couldn’t be caught. I won’t lie to you; I have slept with a lot of women. All of them meaningless, then I met a lady who won my heart,” he looks down at his fingers, seemingly unsure of what to say next. I had no idea about any of this. His statement shocks me slightly, but I should have guessed that a man as sexy and handsome as Darryl would have spent many a night in a strange woman’s bed. It doesn’t bother me, but it does make me think that I could be one of those women.
“Is that what I am to you? Am I one of your conquests?” I ask shyly, not really wanting to know the answer, but to keep my heart safe, I think it’s the most logical option. It’s best that I know now to save me from further upset.
“No way!” He almost shouts, and looking distressed. “You mean the world to me,” he looks really sad, but I feel relieved, it’s evident as I sigh heavily. “I’m annoyed that you would even think that. Have I given you reason to feel that way?” He does look slightly angry and upset about my comments.
“No, but, I… I…” I don’t know what to say, I’m stumped. I suppose I should’ve given him the benefit of the doubt, he’s always seemed so genuine, but so have my past lovers. My sceptical mind and my heart that takes forever to heal have been at war ever since I met him. All that I have ever wanted is sitting beside me looking pissed off that I was even thinking those things, let alone voicing them.
“Don’t ever question me or my feelings for you. You should know that you’re the most special woman I’ve ever met. I thought I was in love, many years ago. I met Frankie and I fell in love with her, but she died and left me all alone. I never thought that I’d find someone again. I didn’t want to find someone again, and then you answered your door and I knew the moment I saw you that you are kind, sweet and would give me your heart to cherish forever.” I can’t help the gasp that escapes. There are so many things I want to question within his last few words, Frankie? Who’s Frankie? He’s never mentioned her before. He knew all those things about me when he first saw me? Did he just tell me he loves me, but in a round about way? “Talk to me!” He demands. I love this side to him. “I really hope you’ll say that you feel the same way. Don’t you think that we’re both in our midlife that it’s time we settled down, thought about our futures and got on with the rest of our lives?”
All I can do is nod my head. He’s stunned me into silence, I’m finding it really difficult to find the words to express how much he means to me. After the most uncomfortable silence, I have ever experienced, my mouth moves, “I feel the same,” I squeak, but even as I say it I think I sound unconvincing. I need to let him know that what I feel for him is real, but I don’t want to sound like a whiney, needy woman whose sole purpose in life is to get married and have children. I need to keep cool and show him that those things are not a top priority for me, but I know it’s bullshit. Even after all that he’s said to me, I still need to keep my guard up. “I’m falling for you,” I say, letting him know that I’ve not completely fallen head over heels in love with him. Perhaps I have, but he doesn’t need to know that just yet, not until I’m absolutely positive that he won’t push me away as soon as I mention the word commitment or marriage or children.
He beats me to it.
He leans back in his chair, puts his hand in his pocket, pulls it out again, gets up from his chair, moves it to the side. All these actions are as quick as lightning, causing my heart to skip a beat, goose bumps appear all over my body and all the breath leaves my lungs as he gets down on one knee…