I sit at a small round table in a café across from my apartment, the half-burnt incandescence of a dimming yellow light cramped in the corner. I’m reading a book that someone recommended to me—I am yet to understand it. My waiter comes over to the table and sets down a cup of herbal tea. I put some milk and sugar in it and watch them coalesce as I circle the spoon in the cup. I take a sip and continue.
As I’m flipping to the next page, a tall shadowy figure standing outside in the fog and rain across from the café catches my attention. However, I can’t make out much through the window as the glass is fogged and blurry from the dampness of the rain. With a shrug, I take another sip of my tea and return to my book.
After reading a few more pages, I glance out the window again, strangeness still lurking.
I dunk the tip of my pinkie into my tea. The remaining liquid is no longer hot enough to scald my tongue, so I bang it back. I leave money on the table and grab my things. Popping my umbrella open, I run across the street back to my apartment.
I strip my wet clothes and take a hot shower. When I’m finished, I slide into some cozy pyjamas and curl up at the bay window with a blanket and my book. Just as I’m about to start reading, I hear noise, like a box falling over, come from my bedroom. I get up and walk slowly towards it, my whole body trembling. A floorboard creaks beneath me, and a whispered curse word escapes my lips. There’s a baseball bat leaning up in a corner. Wrapping a quivering hand around it, I get ready to swing. I turn the corner, but nothing is there. My shoulders sag in relief.
A hand comes down on my shoulder. Screaming, I go back to the swinging position. I’m about to bat aimlessly, until a voice comes alive from behind the door.
“Ava, wait, it’s just me.”
He smiles and goes to hug me but I push him away.
“What the hell are you doing here? You scared the shit out of me.”
He takes the baseball bat from me and sets it down. He grabs my hand and walks me to the kitchen.
“I wanted to come see you.”
“You could’ve at least called first.”
I sit down at the table, shaking. Will sits down across from me and puts his hands over top of mine. I pull away, and drop them onto my lap.
“How did you even get in here?”
“Spare key. I remembered where you hid it.”
“That wasn’t yours to take.”
I go over to the couch and Will follows. He sits on the coffee table in front of me.
“I know you’re upset with me, but I just want to talk.”
I laugh. Will looks at me, sadness creasing his mouth. Something I’ve never seen before.
“I’m serious, Ava. I want you back.”
“Do you even know why?”
“Well, kind of.”
“You left in the middle of the night, and thought it was okay.”
“I thought I was doing the right thing.”
“Really, by leaving me? You were supposed to have loved me.”
“That’s why I did it, Ava.”
I shake my head. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Will leans forward a little. His face is so close I can feel his warm breath on mine.
“Ava, I was so in love with you, and that scared me.”
“I wasn’t sure if you loved me back.”
“Of course I did. You were the love of my life. You still are.” I bite my bottom lip. “But you need to leave. You can’t be here. We can’t be together.”
“I don’t understand. I’m sitting here telling you that I love you and want you back in my life. And you just said that you do, too, so what’s going on?”
I stand up and go over to the door. He follows. I open it, but he just crosses his arms.
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me.”
“You left, and I had to move on. I couldn’t sit around moping. It’s been eight years since you left.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m married, okay?”
“Oh, I see.” He grabs his coat. “I’ll leave, then.” He starts walking out the door, but then turns back. “Here.” He hands me the key and then leaves. I close the door behind him and go back to my book. I clutch my chest; my breathing becomes difficult, like hot knives being shoved down my throat.
The next day, I go to the café, sit by the window, and order my usual. Instead of reading while I wait for my drink, I stare at my ring, twisting it around my finger.
After the waiter sets my tea down, Carter, my husband, walks in. He comes over, kisses me, and sits down. All I can think about is Will: his eyes, the colour of the bluest ocean; his hair, short, brown, and scruffy; his cute nose; his everything.
“Hey honey, how’s your vacation going?
I stare into my tea and fixate on the leaves swirling to the bottom.
"Sweetheart, are you okay?”
“Hmm.” I look up at him. “Yes, I’m fine. Why?”
“You look distracted. Are you sure everything is all right?”
“I’m fine, don’t worry.”
I pick up my cup and take a sip. I look out the window and see someone staring at me from across the street.
“What are you staring at?” Carter asks.
“Did you see that?”
“That man, out there.”
I point across the street. Carter leans over the table to look out the window.
“Darling, I don’t see anything. Maybe you should go get some rest.”
“Yeah, maybe that’s not such a bad idea.”
“I’ve got to get to work.” He gathers his things and kisses me on the cheek. “I’ll call you later, okay?”
“Okay, honey, have a good day.”
He kisses me one more time and then leaves.
After a minute, the bell above the door rings. I look up, only to find that my eyes meet Will’s. He comes over and sits down.
“What are you doing here? I thought you were gone.”
“Listen. I left because I wasn’t in the right mindset to be in a relationship. I got fired and I didn’t want you to live with someone who couldn’t keep a job. I thought you were better off without me. I thought I would be able to get over you, but I can’t.”
I gather my things and walk out of the café, and he follows me. I jog across the street back to my apartment.
“Stop following me, Will.”
“Please, I really need to talk to you.”
“We talked yesterday.”
“I want to keep talking.”
I stop and turn to him. “I have nothing more to say to you.”
“Well, what about tomorrow?”
I roll my eyes.
“How about the day after tomorrow?” he yells.
“Okay, I’ll come by. See you then.”
I stop again and turn around, but when I do, he’s not there.
Today, I expect Will to show up at my door unannounced again, but he doesn’t. I sit at the bay window wrapped in a blanket all day, with my book in my lap. I never actually open it.
I get up to make dinner when there’s a knock at the door. I run over to it and swing it open, hoping it would be Will, but instead, Carter walks in with bags filled with groceries.
“Hey honey, I forgot my key. Thanks for letting me in.”
He sets the bags down on the table and I start picking through them.
“What’s all this?”
“Well, since you seemed a little down yesterday, I thought we could do stuff together tonight. We can make dinner, drink wine, anything you want.”
“That sounds great.”
I kiss Carter and go to my room to change into something more comfortable. When I walk back out to the kitchen, I see something that I don’t want to. Will has entered my home again, and he and Carter are talking up a storm.
“Ava, honey, come over here.” Carter waves at me. “This is Will, he just moved in downstairs.”
“Hi, Will. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Likewise.” He sticks his hand out and I shake it.
I stand close to Will so I can whisper to him. “What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be here.”
“I needed to make sure your husband is good enough for you.”
“Oh, he is, don’t worry about that. You need to leave. Tell him you have something else to do.”
He rolls his eyes, but tells Carter that he has other plans and leaves.
After he leaves, everything goes perfectly. The food is delicious, the drinks are divine, and Carter is wonderful, but something bothers me all night.
It’s been four days since I saw Will. As I’m reading my book, I occasionally look out the window to see if he’s coming, but he doesn’t. Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door.
“Will, how are you doing?”
“I just came by to tell you that I’m leaving.”
“You clearly don’t want me here. It’s for the best I guess. Have a good life, Ava. You deserve it.”
“So do you.”
He nods and leaves. I run over to the window. He’s walking across the street, when a car driving by doesn’t slow down. Will isn’t walking quickly enough, and the car just keeps on going. His body disappears under the car, and blood smears across the pavement. I stand at the window with my hands pressed up against it as a waiter from the café rushes out to his aid.
I sprint down the four flights of stairs and run across the street. I push the waiter out of the way and kneel down beside Will. I touch his cheek, and his shaky hand reaches up to my face.
“I love you, Ava.”
The sudden realization punches me in the chest. I can’t keep my feelings down.
“Oh, Will, I love you.”
He smiles weakly. His hand drops from my face onto his stomach, becoming still.
“No, no you don’t. Don’t go, stay with me. I love you, please don’t leave. I love you.”
Tears start running down my face, dripping onto his. I let my body fall on him, resting my head on his chest. There’s no heartbeat. The tears continue to pour down my cheeks. I feel like my soul has been ripped out, like someone is digging their fingers into my neck to strangle me.
It’s been a couple of weeks now since I moved into my new apartment. I’m unpacking boxes and come across the book that I never got to finish. I flip through, and a note falls out onto the ground. I pick it up and read it.
I don’t want you to think that I ever left you because I didn’t love you. I realize now that it was the worst mistake I ever made. You were the best thing to ever happen to me. I blew it though. I want you to be happy. If I can’t have you, then I hope you’ll let someone else love you. You deserve everything.
My tears smear his words on the page.
I never finished that book.
Tiffany Cuddy is a second year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College. Writing realistic creative fiction stories is her passion whether it’s short stories or someday a novel. She loves watching TV and movies whenever she gets the chance. She doesn’t like watching documentaries; she finds them boring to watch and will fall asleep (also loves sleeping).