“And the last court meeting was today. I’d actually just left it when we bumped into each other at the cafe,” I finished. I toyed with the toothpick that had held my sandwich together. It was extra long and had a green flag. It looked like it might be the national flag, but it was too small to really tell.
“Yeesh,” Darleen commented, scowling. “Dealing with the court, then running into an ex! What a day!”
“Yeah, well, thanks for listening,” I replied, standing and reaching for my wallet.
Darleen shook her head. “I’ve got it.”
“No, it’s ok—”
“I said I’ve got it!”
While we’d been in the diner, the rain had finally let up. We just started walking along together in companionable silence. It felt really nice! We made it to Central Park before either of us spoke.
“So,” Darleen began. “You work in music? Thinking about making it a full career?”
I shrugged. “I’m not sure. It was just a thing I could do to bring in some money. But my boss says that now that I’ve mastered the guitar I should start looking at my options.”
“I’ve gotten more into writing music than playing it. Don’t get me wrong! Playing the guitar is amazing! But, you know, long car rides aren’t exactly the place to play an instrument.”
Darleen nodded and we kept walking.
“How about you? You’re in law enforcement. How’s that going?”
She grinned. “Really good! I’m hoping to get to the top.” And she wouldn’t say anything else on the matter.
Before too long we were back in front of the theatre. The clock over the school started chiming, announcing midnight and the start of a new day.
Now or never… I cleared my throat and turned to face all of my hopes and dreams.
“Darleen. You meant a lot to me four years ago. And I’m not lying when a say I thought about you a lot while I was gone!” Oh, god, she’s staring at me with that look! I pressed on. “Whenever I thought about home, yours was always the first face that came to my mind and always the last to leave. When everything started heading south, something you’d said would pop into my head and make things a bit brighter. Your smile and laugh kept me going when I was ready to throw in the towel. But there was a lot of stuff going on and I didn’t want to draw you into that. I still don’t!”
I took a deep breath and stared at my feet. I wouldn’t have been able to look up, even if I’d wanted to. “I guess, what I’m fucking up saying is, I want a second chance, so bad! But if you’re happy where you are, I’ll leave you to it.”
“You big doofus!”
Darleen grabbed my chin and yanked up, forcing us to see eye-to-eye.
“You meant a hellava lot to me back then too! That’s why I was so fucking pissed when you left me with a fucking email! Why I’m still fucking pissed! All those things you used to say, all those plans we were making. How you used to sing to me. How you’d whisper that you loved me. You! Just being there! It was all gone!” With each word, her voice got higher. She took a shuddering breath. Oh, god, is she crying?!
She yanked me closer and just held on. “For fuck’s sake, I loved you!”
“I love you.”