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On The Stand

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“Isn’t it true, Mr. McVeigh, that you had an affair with Holly Westfall, and isn’t that the reason that you’ve changed your testimony?”
Before Lucca finishes her question, from his seat at the stand, he sees Diane avoid his eyes, look down, tightly press her lips and then adjust herself before standing right up. Her movement is intentionally swift, which shouldn’t be particularly noticed if it is any other day, but right now the judge, the attorneys on both sides and the whole audience are following her striding figure. It is death silence, except her heels hitting the marble of the courtroom resoundingly, and then a bang of the heavy gate closing.

He rushes out of the courtroom, the moment he is excused from the stand. Agitatedly he fumbles with his phone. With only two beeps, he is directed to the voicemail.
He hangs up and re-dials over and over, until for the tenth time he’s cued for voicemail, again.
“Diane, please answer the phone. We need to talk. I, uh, I can explain.”
For a moment, a horrified thought hits him, what if she does pick up the phone, what will he say to her, after the humiliation he has just caused her. Then he picks up his phone again and starts typing.
“I’m so sorry, Diane. You need space, I understand. Please let me know when you are ready to sit down and talk. I love you, and please, please do not hurt yourself.”
He sends the text. He knows well that even he cannot reach her through the phone, he shouldn’t corner her physically by visiting her office or her apartment. It’s not fair for her, and she surely deserves more space to rethink and to get through this. In the following weeks, he still hears nothing. The last image he has of her is the live airing of the resigning press conference given by Peter Florrick, who thanked the support of his chief of staff Eli Gold and his lawyer Diane Lockhart. The camera gave a quick shot of them both. He could not trace any emotions in her eyes or her expression. He has never seen her look so stern yet so careless. It’s like she was there merely for showing up, nothing else.

He pulls over on her driveway. Stepping out of the truck, he is welcomed by a warm summer breeze. It’s a quiet and cozy neighborhood. He thought so the first time he drove her home from a date long before they got married. He remembers how delightful and excited he was every time he turned the truck to this road and drove through the ginkgo trees on the sidewalks which finally led to her apartment to pick her up on an outdoor date. He remembers how she greeted him with a big grin at the doorway attiring her least formal yet still fashionable clothes and dark glasses, which always made her maroon lips more radiant. He never told her but it was like he was dating a movie star. He remembers those times he surprised her with an early flight and secretly prepared a candlelight dinner before she came home from a long, dreadful day of work. Before meeting her, he would not care less about romantic tricks, but being with her made him relish the mounted-up expectation of her rejoice.

A few days earlier, three boxes of his belongings were mailed to his farm, followed by a text later that day.
“You said you wanted to talk, then, let’s talk.”
Now standing at her doorway, how he misses those good memories, which he threw away with his own effort. Subconsciously, he reaches his pocket for keys, then suddenly freezes there. Realizing it is not his position any more to just walk in and out this apartment, he retrieves his right hand from the pocket and very mechanically he is about to press the door bell. Then abruptly, the door is opened from inside. A man in suit almost runs into him before he cries, “Jesus, you scared the shit out of me!”
“Sorry, I was gonna ring the bell, but…” Kurt takes a clearer look at the old man. He knows him.
“Oh, the husband is here, for now at least. She’s expecting you. And thanks for squashing her romantic soul. I never get that. I will contact you later.” Dropping his remarks with a sarcastic tone, David Lee squeezes his way out of the door.

The divorce lawyer is here. Watching him leave with a briefcase, he feels like he has already been sentenced before trial. The truth is he IS guilty and he shouldn’t hold high hopes for lighter sentence. A bitterness creeps on his lips. His hands are damp with sweat. Even having expected the worst, part of him still craves for a slim hope that they may work this out. Closing the door behind him, he passes the hallway and then turns to the den, where Diane is leaning to the end of the couch with legs tucked under. She is facing the other way of the room, and all he could observe is the slim frame of her back, which looks even more delicate clad in a tight black sweater, and the red wine glass held between her fingers, which seems to need a refill. Six weeks ago, what she left him was the view of her back that he couldn’t chase. Now, after what has been exposed, after more than a-month silence on the issue, he finally sees her. He wants to see her, of course, however right now standing behind her, he fears more how this meeting will turn out. He is so afraid this start will be the end. Unwilling to admit, it is the most probable trajectory it will be. With mixed feelings of guilt, fear and the simple desire to just see her face again, he feels a knot in his throat, but he steps forward anyway.

“Hi.”
Being waken from her thought, her body flinches, before recognizing the sound from the behind. Without standing up, she turns her head and meets his gaze. Those blue eyes he’s been dreaming of seeing, are glistening from the daylight shooting through the window.
“Sorry, I didn’t hear you.” In a very low pitch she says then moistures her lips by nipping them.
“I didn’t mean to startle you. Your…colleague left the door for me.” He proceeds and stands closer, with hands tucked in the pockets of his jeans.
Diane gestures to the couch across from her. He takes the hint and sits down.
Putting her glass on the coffee table, she reaches for another empty one.
“Wine?”
“Yes, please.” He answers instantly, examining every move of her.
Diane picks up the bottle that previously lurches at the foot of the couch and pours the glass exactly half-filled. Landing the glass near him on the coffee table, she then refills her own.
They both take a sip, then holding the glass in hands. The air around them seems frozen in time. Diane lets her middle finger circle around the rim of her glass, with eyes following the movement. Kurt studies her quietly. She lets her hair grow a little longer since the last time he saw her. The golden bang pours down her forehead, covering the tip of her right brow. She does not wear make-up or any jewelry. Her lips are peachy dyed from the wine. He can imagine how pale they look originally. Her collar bones are more showy under the v-neck sweater, the part of her body that he loved pressing kisses when he held her from behind and rested his chin where her neck and shoulder jointed. Her legs curl under a garnet wrap skirt, the hemline of which ends around her knees. Her occasional choice of simplicity in wardrobe just makes her more elegant. Shaking her wine, she takes a bigger sip.

“How are you?” He shoots the question.
She lifts her head and looks at him.
“When asking the question, one usually expects the answer ‘Fine’. In my case, I don’t think you will like my answer.” she smirks but her flat tone hasn’t changed, still huskily in a low pitch. She sounds powerless or maybe just does not care to spare more strength to this meeting, or to him.
“Do you wanna say something?” Kurt offers.
“I believe it was YOU who wanted to talk. Frankly, I have very little to contribute to your…issue.” There is a twist in her voice at the last word. She cannot even bear saying “affair”.
Kurt senses that she will keep her seemingly civil manners by playing indifferent. He places the glass on the table, elbows braced against his laps, hands entwined, and he takes a deep breath.

“I meant to tell you right after that, but I was so afraid to…” His eyes drift from her gaze to his entwined fingers when he tries to squeeze the two words, “…lose you.”
“I fucked up.” Looking down, his right hand runs through his hair and then falls with the other again. His head lifts, meeting her eyes with his, in guilt, regret and affection.
“I thought if everything went well with the retirement, we would be living together. I would make you happy every single day in the rest of our life. I know I was selfish to think I could get by just like that, and you are entitled to feel or do whatever you want. But, Diane.” He pauses, looking into her eyes affectionally, “I love you, that never changes and never will. Please, let me fix this. If you need a separation, I respect that, you take the time you need, but please don’t shut me out. I don’t think I could live without you.” The rims of his eyes redden.

He waits for her response, interrogation or whatever she’s prepared to reproach him. There is no notable change of her calm expression but he could see her chest heaving faster while hearing his words.
She untucks her legs, letting them drift down, and then puts her almost empty glass on the table. Adjusting her position in the couch, she puts a stray of hair behind the ear and then leans her back on the couch, arms crossed before her chest.
She clears her throat lightly before saying “Are you done?”
His brows furrow in confusion, “What?”.
“If you have let out what you need to say, I think we can call it a day.” Her voice sounds tired.
“But, Diane…”
“Kurt, please.” She interrupts. Her right hand rises and covers her forehead, with her digits slightly rubbing her temples. “Don’t expect me to question you for details or give you any possible chance to justify your own mistake by blaming poor judgment under alcohol or whatever in your case. Believe me, I have no interest in hearing it.” She narrates slowly in a calm tone.
“Diane, that’s not why I’m here. I wanted to see you, but I would be an idiot to expect your forgiveness right after this conversation. All I hoped is that both of us could agree to give it some time and allow me to make up to you.” He pauses, “I hurt you. I deserve whatever comes after me, and you KNOW I would not try to lessen my guilt by blaming anyone or anything else.”
“I’m not sure I know anything anymore.” She shoots plainly.
“And stop doing this.” His voice suddenly rises with a hint of anger.
“Excuse me?”
“Withholding your feelings, Diane. I cheated on you for god’s sake, and you don’t even care to ask what happened and you don’t even yell at me. You’re torturing both of us by suppressing your feelings.” He exclaims with his hands waving.
“I am torturing both of us?” She raises her voice with an unbelievable arching of her left brow, then she blinks and smiles off it. “Then, I should apologize for that.” By saying that, she is piercing herself and stabbing him in the heart. If anything, she IS torturing both of them for the time being.
“Diane, I didn’t mean…” He regrets the second he finishes the accusation thrown at her.
“Kurt,” she holds her right hand in the air, trying to beg him not to continue. Diane closes her eyes momentarily, tightly pressing her lips together. Taking a nasal breath, she opened her eyes.

“If you really want to know how I feel, then here it is.” now he calms down but he is not sure whether he’s prepared for what she is about to say.
“Before we got married, I asked you whether you ever had…” she skips the part that they both remember in that conversation they had right after meeting his blond, twenty-something friends.
“You said no. I believed you, actually I still believe you.” She wells a little and quickly blinks the tears away.
“I know we don’t agree politically, but I always held high regards to your standards in professionalism and ethics as an individual. My political bias never made me doubt your integrity as a man.” She pauses,
“I did a lot of thinking for the past few weeks, and the only explanation could be that our marriage might have decayed you, that a marriage with me might have made your fox blonds more appealing than ever, and that you might have been so worn out by me to find fooling around with your students not being an issue any more.” Her voice is shaking and hot tears pour out and fall down the curve of her cheekbone, meeting the winkles produced by the smile she is still trying to force, like she enjoys her discovery. She wipes the tear trails with the hand still wearing her wedding ring.

His sight of her blurs. He feels his head is pounding. He can see no more. He can hear no more. The least he expects her to feel about him, to make such cheap conclusion of their marriage, to censure him by aiming herself as a target. She is so hurt.
“Don’t say that, Diane. You know it’s not true.” He is practically shivering himself and trying so hard to speak through his stressed throat. Veins are visibly bulging on his neck and forehead. He feels his head is about to explode. Striking the tears away, he tries to catch her figure again.
“Let me finish.” She swallows.
“I was so happy when you proposed to retire with the pure hope to live together full-time, but I was still sober enough to figure there might be something I didn’t know. It did cross my mind when she waltzed in my conference room and showed off your fondness of her, but then I thought it would be too bluntly humiliating to make your wife confront her if there was really something between you two,” she has a hard time to breathe evenly, which makes it more difficult for her to continue, “but it turned out you were crueler than I thought.” She wells up and covers her wrenched face with her left hand. After a short while, she gathers herself again and continues.
“Now it explains everything. The huge ‘discount’ you gave her on the price of your firm, just to cover up or make up whatever was between you.” She pauses, taking a deep breath and resting her eyes on her empty glass. Another hot tear rolls down her cheek.

He has nothing to defend himself. She was just stating the facts, and that was exactly what he has done to her, not a bit exaggerated at all. He can’t believe it is this hurtful just listening to her reviewing how it happened. He can’t imagine what she has been through when going over this all by herself. It kills him to just think what pain he has caused her by making her feel so less respected and cared by him. In retrospect, the way how he handled the aftermath of the affair and how he tried to “protect” her by covering up turns out to be a bad play, and from the perspective of what it has led to, even beats the humiliation of the affair, if it is worth a comparison. His face is buried in his palms, he is too ashamed to look at her. After a while of silence, he rubs his tears off his hands and jerks his head up. Her reddened orbs are fixating on his firmly, not avoiding direct eye contact. She leans forward to refill her glass and takes a huge gulp to wash her burning throat.
“You know, I used to be jealous and insecure, every time I saw you in company with your blond and well-curved students. But the way you approached them seemed so casual and innocent, and I would usually end up accusing myself of being paranoid. With this Holly, actually, you never lied about her. You just chose not to mention.”
“Diane, she’s just…”
“Don’t.” He attempts to explain but Diane cuts him off.
“When it came out, I was furious, but to tell the truth I didn’t feel jealous of her. I don’t know why I wasn’t. It’s ironic how much jealousy I’ve wasted on nothing. Maybe, I was filled with disappointment and embarrassment and busy laughing at the stupidity that I had thought too highly of you and myself. So, don’t bother telling me more. I’m not that woman who cares for questioning the husband about when, where and how many times. It means no difference to me.”
She takes another sip of the wine.
“And that’s how I feel. Happy?” Her eyes swell, however she looks relieved with a feigned smirk, although tear trails are still visible on her face.

Kurt signs. He knows there is nothing he could say right now to make her feel better or to make the situation any different. Both of them remain silent for a long while, until he asks,
“What did you do for the past few weeks?”
“Why?” A little surprised by his question.
“I just want to know.”
She casts her sight to somewhere behind him, eyes thinned, contemplating.
“You remember the time when I found out about my father’s involvement in McCarthyism and I went mentally frustrated and questioned about myself? I drank and fucked you, then I got back to the game. This time, I guess there is only one thing left I could pick up.” By her answer, he is reminded again how traumatized he has made her. He remembers how vulnerable and uncertain she was back then, struck by her father’s moral failing. He remembers how they were hanging out on the couch in the hotel room, how he gently touched her knee to soothe her. “People are always more than one thing, Diane.” As it has turned out, he is just one of those people, too.

“So, drinking helps?”
“I thought so till seeing you. Now I know better.” She gazes at him again but eyes narrowed.
“About us, what are you gonna do?”
She shifts her position on the couch, bracing her elbow on the armrest and resting her chin in her right palm, then shots Kurt a confusing and sleepy look. “I don’t know.” She almost answers in a whisper, brows furrowing.
“Since your colleague was here, I suppose you were filing a divorce?” He is risking his concern.
“He highly recommended it.”
“And?”
Her eyelids slowly shut. She looks dizzy and tired.
“Two years ago, he also advised me not to make important decisions under emotional drive. Considering my current state of mind, I’ll think about that later.” She murmurs.
If it’s not for her moving lips, she looks like taking a nap. Letting the answer floating there, he waits a few seconds for her to continue, but she doesn’t.
“Diane, are you okay?” He stands up and kneels down before her concernedly. Her eyes now tightly shut. It must have taken too much of her strength to let out all at once, or maybe the drinking catalyzes it too. He looks at the wine bottle on the table. The remainder almost hits the bottom.
“Diane?” He calls her softly. Not intent on touching her, he just holds onto the armrest, checking on her. Breathing evenly and peacefully, she dozes off.

Removing the glass from her hand, he places it on the table next to his. Lightly putting his right arm under her knees and holding onto her shoulder with the other hand, he tenderly lifts her and moves her body to the middle of the couch. He extends her legs to the other end and tries to fetch the pillow. For a moment, her head leans onto his shoulder. Their faces are so close that he can breathe in the scent of her shampoo. She looks so comfortable in his half embrace. If only he could just hold her this way forever. Setting the pillow, he gently lands her head on it and retrieves his arm away, trying not to disturb her. The moment her whole body touches the couch, she automatically curves on it, finding a comfy position, leaving her hands folded at the edge of the couch and letting out a light moan.

He should have figured out the moment he landed eyes on her today. She was really tired and a little intoxicated. He should have known, however what he did was push on her. She was not ready. How could she ever be ready to reveal the raw wound and look right into the fresh tissue? He takes the blanket hanging on the back of the couch, covers her from the feet and tenderly tucks the end under her hands, when his left hand unconsciously brushes hers. She slightly lifts her left hand just high enough to grab his, and holds it tightly in her palms then pulls it closer to her chest. He is startled at first, but then he finds she’s still in a sound sleep. His fingers can feel her cool skin and the slow pace of her breath. He kneels down, stares at her face and tucks a loose stray of hair behind her ear.

She loved holding his hand in sleep. After they kissed goodnight, she would lie on her side, with his arm clinging around her waist, hand dropping on her abdomen and his body molding her back. In the middle of the night, she would take his hand and drag it up to join with her other, which somehow made her feel more secure. He would wake up in the morning and find his arm rest under her soft breast, then welcome the new day by leaning closer and pressing a smirky kiss on her nape, which would normally wake her up. She would return the favor by dragging his hand all the way to her lips and turning over to meet his full embrace, greeting him with “Hey you” in between their peck kisses.

Kurt wakes from his thought. He gingerly adjusts his position and lets himself sit on the carpet, keeping his arm unmoved. Leaning on the couch by his left side, he takes in the view of her sleeping figure, cherishing the closeness they can only share now when she’s not conscious. He doesn’t know when she will wake up; he doesn’t know how she will apologize for dozing off in the middle of their conversation, which she will surely find inappropriate even in the unpleasant state of their marriage; he doesn’t know when it will be the next time he is allowed to hold her like this. But he is certain that he will do anything to heal the wound he caused her and win her back, no matter how long it will take, no matter what he has to give. Holding that determination, he feels the grip on his hand tightening. Moving his eyes from his hand to her face, he finds the corners of her mouth lift up.