When I returned to California, I got myself busy at the agency a lot more than I’m used to. More importantly, more than I was even required to. If there was anything I wanted to do, it was to keep my mind of the fact that strong feelings and emotions were conjured over the weekend, and I couldn’t sufficiently contain my immense fury. It wasn’t just the fact that I was angry, it was also the fact that I’ve been severely wronged, and almost duped into believing everything was okay when it wasn’t. Betrayed and foolish; the two combinations required for a right hook.
“You need to start applying for interviews,” Will said. “Many of them start hiring now for next year’s intake. The best thing to do is to get in early. Now, I have written a recommendation later for you so that you may attach with your application. I’m also willing to call up personally whichever company or person you’d like to work for the most. I’ve been in your position so I know what it’s like to want all the help in the world to land a job I really wanted.”
“Thank you so much, Will,” I said. “This was more than I had expected.”
Will nodded courteously. “My pleasure.”
I spent the rest of the afternoon turning my focus onto a list of publishing houses, from ‘not in such a hurry to work there’ to ‘would do anything for’, hierarchy. I was feeling buzzed and excited by the list alone that I wondered I’d be able to cope at the place of my choice on a regular basis.
By the week’s end I had realised I hadn’t spoken to Daniel that much. We were speaking every day, as we normally did, but not about the important things. It words were very superficial, as if we were just tapping on the surface of glass with our knuckles ever so slightly; like we were afraid to break it. We were afraid to break. We were afraid to break each other. I could tell Daniel was very restrained, afraid to strike a chord in me. I hated that he felt compelled to filter his words and be cautious of what he said. The ease before that was what I was yearning for; I wanted him to be able to be free to do and say anything he wanted to me. We shouldn’t have to hold back.
Because we were so occupied uttering words of weightlessness, we hadn’t even thought who was going to come and visit whom over the weekend. Before our little tiff at the pizza place back in New York, I was set on returning to New York again. Now I just felt deflated of all sense of urgency. Come Thursday, we were on the phone to each other, not knowing what to do; ultimately undecided.
“Listen,” Daniel started, “I don’t think we can move on completely without talking a few important things out.”
“I absolutely agree,” I said firmly; almost feeling like one of those kinds of people that take no bullshit from other people but secretly cry later on in their night.
“You do?” Daniel asked.
I nodded. “I’m not sure how to ask this of you.”
“Just go ahead,” Daniel urged softly.
“I need you to tell Brian.”
I bit my lip as the pause reverberated across the line.
Finally, Daniel sighed. “I know I should but…I don’t know, I just value our friendship to the point where I don’t want it crumbling at this point. He’s such a great guy; he doesn’t deserve this.”
“Precisely,” I said. “He’s way too good for Samantha. Either way it’d be up to him in the end, but I just think he needs to know the facts and who he’s with.”
“This will crush him.”
I was starting to feel like this wasn’t the way. I had been going back and forth on letting Brian know; ultimately, I realised that there was no question in my mind that he’d know later anyway. Sooner was better.
“Is there anything you want from me?” I asked, not expecting much.
“Yes,” Daniel immediately said. Some life echoing in his tone as he strayed from the thoughts of temporarily collapsing another man’s world. “I want you to trust me more. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about you—and I’m going to call it trust for the time being—that just makes me feel like I’ll never satisfy you. I don’t want you to have these sudden itches or punish me for the rest of my life just because I’ve fucked up once. I deserve everything I get right now; but I’m hoping that sometime in the near future, you’ll find a way to forgive me. I see the hurt in your eyes a lot and I can’t stand it. I love you and I want to be with you, but I want you to not see me with another woman every time you look at me. Because I can see the doubt in your eyes sometimes.”
I sighed shamefully. I had hoped that he hadn’t noticed my thoughts of him; mostly about how I’d be able to carry on and would he ever do it again, etcetera.
“If I’m going to live with you and be with you,” I said, “I have to find a way to let this go. To forgive you, but not to forget.”
“That’d be fine by me.” After a while he said, “So I was thinking that this weekend I can meet your parents.”
“I’m not really feeling up for it.”
“Up for my meeting the parents or just me visiting?”
God, it would sound so weird if I stated the latter, but for some reason I just needed some time to breathe. For certain things to blow over. For the memory of me slapping Daniel to become warped and a little hazy. For my palm to go back to its regular self.
“I just need to chill for a while,” I said. Ugh! What am I, a refrigerator?
“Okay,” was all Daniel replied. We left it at that.
Friday night rolled around, and keeping myself busy at the club induced a shift in my mood. I felt slightly weighted by a heaviness, until the build-up of customers took all of my attention away. I was beat when I got home. I didn’t want to do anything but plonk on the bed. The place had seemed emptier than usual; I thought Chloe would be sleeping in her room but it barely felt like she was even here. I was only speculating though considering I didn’t get up and check.
I changed my clothes and hopped straight into bed, feeling the cool sheets slide over me. I was just about to go to sleep when I heard the faintest sound of a car door opening and then closing. Keys rattled in the door, and then someone entered. I knew Chloe was gone; she obviously just came back.
The more I thought about the person outside my room, the more I thought it didn’t sound like Chloe. I was only going off by movements and sounds, but to me, it sounded like a different kind of familiarity. The door of my room opened, and then light shown showed a silhouette of Daniel, approaching me.
Daniel got under the covers with me, reaching over his arm over my waist. He kissed my neck, and I turned with a smile, to kiss him on his lips. His soft lips that moved effortlessly with mine.
“Sorry,” Daniel whispered, “I just had to see you.”
I shook my head. “I’m not.”