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The Bittersweetness of Presence

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We’re starting over.

 

Words that had been verbalised so easily. Thoughtlessly, but honestly. The way he had always expressed himself, and the way he would continue to speak. She was used to it, appreciated it most of the time, had learned to love it, and still, no day went by without her musing about what he had said that night. How she had felt the heat of his naked body, him embracing her, arm around her waist. His breath on her neck when he had whispered those words into her ear that she had yearned for so long. But when they were finally articulated, they were a disappointment. She didn’t experience relief, and the nagging guilt within her didn’t disappear. She knew it wouldn’t, not until she was able to tell him everything. Of course she was aware how much the truth would upset him. Thus, the worry to hurt him, to endanger their healing relationship, kept her silent while she covered up the shame with feigned indifference towards the past and reappearing irritability.

 

“How dare you?”, she roared, and he knew what the argument would be about before she even entered the living room and threw her notes at him.

“How dare you?”, she repeated, too angry to continue for some seconds. “What were you looking for? What made you think it was alright to root through my work files? Talk to me!”, she demanded, glaring at him, her hands on her hips while the last sheet of paper landed on the floor.

“Diane”, he started calmly, standing up from the couch he had settled on earlier that evening, a part of her scattered notes sliding from the sofa, and approached her slowly. He stopped when she did a step back, and he ran his fingers through his hair. “I wanted to help you”, he finally said, his facial expression desperately begging her to let the topic rest.

“Help me?”, she scoffed, shaking her head. “Help me how? By searching my notes? Ignoring the little privacy I have left? How did you think that would help me?” One of her eyebrows shot up, and he could see how she drew her ruby bottom lip into her mouth to bite on it.

“I didn’t mean to interfere with your work, Diane. I respect it, and you know that. But you were restless for the past days. You did barely sleep and eat. I didn’t think it was work-related. I was just…worried”, he explained, endeavoured to hide his anger. Why did she always mistake his efforts to comfort her for contemptuousness? Why couldn’t she see that what he did was to make her life more bearable, and that he did it out of nothing but love?

The smile she shot him was cold and scornful, and his concern shifted to petulance.

“I can take good care of myself, thank you very much”, she responded sarcastically, misinterpreting his concerns once more.

“Dear god, Diane, could you just listen?”, he flared up, and the look she gave him nearly made him regret his outburst. “Could you just stop treating me like I want to do you wrong?”

“Oh yeah, right. You did that already. I nearly forgot.”, she hissed, interrupting him, the bitterness covering her words palpable.

 

He had crossed a line when he touched the folders she had brought home to take a look at during the weekend, and somehow it got to her more than she had expected. The firm had been her save haven for the past months, the only place where the people around didn’t seem to judge her for the decisions she had made. The only place she could find some peace from her always swirling thoughts, the one location regret wasn’t able to catch up with her. But once again he had been able to demolish the walls she had built to hide her fragility, and although a part of her welcomed him back by her side, the majority of her wasn’t ready to be vulnerable around him. She shunned the consequences of opening up to him again because one day he might decide to betray her trust again. Her only defence was to scare him away from those walls long enough to heal. Maybe one day she’d feel able to share her deepest fears with him like she used to, but at that very moment, it felt farer away than ever.

 

“I’m sick of you questioning my motives. You know my work is a part of me. Maybe one day it will be my legacy. I will not give that up just because you think I don’t value you enough, although you know how much I love you. It’s really no secret.” Her words were drained of emotion, countering her statement although she meant every word.

„Yeah, you tell me you love me. But is it the truth?“, he spat out, staring at her, the last sign of patience gone. „Do you really love me? I can see you dedicating your life to work like you always did, you standing up for things you think are right, but do you feel the same passion and love towards me? “, he asked, his voice strained. Would she fight for him, no matter what it would take? He was too afraid to ask her. If his mind hadn’t been full of resentment, he would have known the answer. Still, at that very moment, he was everything but sure about how she felt about him, after everything he had put them through, and after everything she had added to the misery that had been their marriage only some weeks ago.

Diane could hear the held back tears that had settled in his throat, waiting to be released alongside his obvious anger. She took a deep breath and forced herself to look up at him. Meet his hazel eyes that were too full of fear, frustration, rage, and still all the negative emotions were drowned by the never ending sea of love he felt for her. A sigh escaped her, sounding more like a muffled sob, and she hated herself for displaying a hint of her weakness. She craved to hug him, just touch him to show how much she loved him when words weren’t enough, and that she wasn’t willing to let him go, ever. But her pride detained her, forced her to beam at him with eyes that used to be blue like the sky on a sunny winter day but had turned to sharp ice that threatened to cut one open if one dared to touch it. She couldn’t escape into his arms. She didn’t deserve any of the love, not after what she had done. Maybe he was right. Suddenly she wasn’t sure how far she would go to save their relationship, if she had really forgiven him, and if they were supposed to be together at all. Doubt overcame her, suffocated her rational thoughts, and she caught herself struggling for breath.

“I can’t do this”, she muttered, and in the next moment she rushed out of the room.

He stood there, dumbfounded, his gaze focused onto the doorway that she had passed moments ago, and it took him some more seconds to shout her name. She didn’t answer, and then he could hear the door click shut.

 

The finality of the noise startled him out of his trance. He hurried after her, almost stumbled over one of her expensive high-heels that she had discarded carelessly when she had come home. He tore open the front door, the cold hitting his unprotected skin like tiny needles. Her name fell from his lips when he came to a halt on the doorstep, a feeble whisper that was only heard by him, simultaneously seeming too loud in the almost silent semi-darkness of the city street, a desperate sound searching for a presence that was no longer there.

He wiped his hand across his face in dispair, searched for her figure once more to then turn around and walk slowly back into the house. He held back a curse when he closed the door, leaving it unlocked for her as he surmised that she had not taken her keys with her when she had rushed out.

 

When he crawled beneath the heavy blanket of their bed, he was sure that it was colder than usually. He wasted several minutes searching for a comfortable position to eventually lie on his back and stare at the ceiling, the crushing silence in the room making her absence painfully evident. He missed her hoarse voice wishing him a good night when she already was on the brink of sleep, ached for the calming sound of her breath.

He didn’t know how much time had passed when he grabbed his phone from the nightstand. The dazzling screen forced him to turn away his head after a second, nevertheless it was enough for him to discern that there was no message from her. No missed call.

He scolded himself for his thoughtless words, was embarrassed by the power his fury had had over him. Although he loved her with every fibre of his heart, she had an infallible talent to irritate him. They had very differing opinions and were at the same time zealous supporters of their believe, resulting in heated discussions about wrongs, rights and everything in-between at least once a week. But it had always been like that, it was part of their relationship, and there had been very rare occasions when they had had a real fight. However, when their worlds had clashed, it used to get spiteful very fast, and obviously nothing had changed. It seemed they had learned nothing from the struggles they had been through, and he cursed himself for not trying hard enough to improve their coping strategy. After all, it had been his fault that they had spent the past two years at the verge of divorce. And while his thoughts were still floating around the past, he slowly drifted off to sleep.

 

Soundlessly she opened the door to their bedroom. Her stocking-clad feet allowed her to silently slip into the bathroom, and she didn’t switch on the light before she hadn’t closed the door.

 

The click of the bathroom door was enough to wake him up. With a sigh of relief he noticed the narrow ray of light that shone through the space between the door and the wooden floor. Kurt got up, ignored the slight dizziness that reminded him of his still exhausted state. He needed to make things right. He needed her to warm her side of the bed again.

 

In the bright light of the bathroom illumination she appeared to be paler than she was. It gave her a fragile look, her figure as delicate as of a porcelain doll, the skin on her hands like parchment, too thin to hide the bones beneath it. She was staring at her mirror image when he entered, but she looked down as soon as she heard him, not sure what she was trying to hide or afraid of seeing. And if she wanted to keep it hidden from him or herself. The silence in the small room was overwhelming, until she found the courage to speak up.

“Maybe you’re right”, she mumbled barely audible. It wasn’t difficult for Kurt to tell that she had cried, and it made his heart ache once again. He had never intended to upset her.

“Right about what?”, he asked softly, closing the distance between them to curl his arms around her waist carefully, and when she didn’t shy away, he tightened his grip, holding her to him while breathing in her scent.

“Maybe I can’t give you the love you deserve. Maybe I’m not enough. I just…”, her voice cracked, and a sob escaped her before she could muffle it with her hand.

He turned her around in his arms, embraced her shaking body even tighter, entangled his fingers in the blond strands of her hair and placed a feathery kiss on the crown of her head.

“It’s alright”, he told her, and she let her head sink against his shoulder. Her tears had soon soaked his t-shirt, but he couldn’t care less. She was back home, their home. He could stop worrying that he had lost her once more to a mindless action of his.

He could feel how her body relaxed with every passing minute, and suddenly she lifted her head and looked at him. Diane didn’t know what she wanted him to say. She just craved to hear the sound of his low voice, to guarantee her that they would make it. That they can forget the hateful words, tolerate their opposing views for the faith of their marriage, to simply be happy together.

“You’ll always be enough for me”, he ensured her, his fingers traveling down her face to wipe her tears and the smudged mascara away, his thumbs slowly caressing the skin covering her cheekbones. His gaze never left hers, clouded blue warmed by loving brown, and they both knew they couldn’t live without the other. Slowly he lowered his head, and eventually he kissed her, his lips caressing hers on which the lipstick had long faded away.

“I love you”, she uttered after she had shifted away slightly. A smile formed beneath his moustache, and he pulled her back to him.

“I love you too!”