“Now what?” I said, complaining
I was already late for work. I’m shuffling through my bags trying to sort out the one I was going to carry with me. It rang again.
“In a minute!” I called over my shoulder.
Shuffling again. There. All set. Doorbell ringing once more, this time two in a row.
“Coming!” I shouted, grabbing my bag, keys and gear. Took a second look at my bed, thinking, hopefully I got everything with me. I rushed to the door. Not bothering to look at the peephole, I stepped out, ready to go straight to my car after I deal with the deliveryman.
“Oh! Hi! …ahh G-g-good morning.” I replied stuttering.
“Didn’t mean to startle you.” He said smiling
“Uhm, I thought it was some delivery guy. What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Should I go?” he asked, his smile gone.
“No!” My pitch a little high.
“No.” I said again, trying to get myself together.
“It’s just that I’m on my way to work now.” I explained.
“I know. Let me drive you to work.”
“Belle.” He said, cutting me off. “You’ve been back in town for almost a week and I haven’t seen you at all. You’ve been busy.” “I’m here. You don’t have to take time off. Let me just drive you to work.”
“I can’t leave my car here. I’ve got meetings to go to later today.”
“I figured. So, I thought… How about I drive you to work in your car? And I take a cab from there to pick up mine here. It’s not gonna be a bother, I promise. I’m on evening shift anyway.” He was smiling. He obviously thought about the whole thing already.
“So? Is it a yes?” he asked.
I turned around, locked my door.
“Let’s go.” I said, handing him my car keys.
“Okay.” Taking my gear together with the keys from me.
We walked to the car in silence. He ushered me to the passenger seat.
“Give me one minute. I need to grab something from my car.” He said
As I watch him walk over to his car, I thought, I haven’t been busy. I’ve been avoiding you. He hopped on the driver’s seat handing me a paper bag and a cup of coffee.
“Bagels and black coffee. The way you like it.”
“Thank you. You shouldn’t have.”
“I wanted to.” He answered.
The drive to the studio was smooth. Traffic was light as expected. It was a little slow considering that he did want to spend time together. I couldn’t tell him that I was already late since he went out of his way for me.
“I miss you, Belle.”
“How about lunch today? Or dinner? How about tomorrow?” He asked, eyes still on the road.
“Today is really not possible.” I answered
“Let me look into my schedule. I’ll call you later?”
“You’ll forget to call.”
“I promise, I won’t.”
“I miss our long talks. I miss hearing about how your day was. I miss you.” He said now looking at me.
“I’m really swamped. You know how my schedule is, specially now that it’s almost Christmas.”
“I know.” He said, with a tinge of sadness.
Instinctively I touched his face.
“It’s alright.” He said glancing at me.
“Well, here we are, La Belle.” he said, sighing.
He walked me up till the front door of the studio.
“Thank you for the drive and for the breakfast.”
“For you.” He smiled. “I’ll wait for your call. Lunch or dinner, I’ll make time.”
“I know.” I answered. “Thank you, again.”
He leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Then walked away. JUST GREAT! This early and I’m at war with myself already.
“XAVI!” I called out, running to him.
He turned around just in time as I rushed in for a hug. I held onto him tightly. We stood like that for a while. It felt good having him this close.
Sigh. “I missed you too, Xavi.” I whispered.
He hugged me tighter. I stepped back after a few seconds. Looked at his face and saw his smile, that gentle smile that I have grown fond of.
“I’ll call you tonight.” I said
“You do that.” He said, now with that air of boldness that fascinates me. Kissed him on the cheek before I turned around and walked back to the studio, thinking, “There goes my resolve!”
“Oli, has he called?” I asked for the 10th time.
“Nah.” He shrugged.
He’s late. He hasn’t been answering my calls. I’m still on invisible mode to him. Picked up my phone and dialed again.
“C’mon Matt! Pick up!” I muttered. A few rings then I was transferred to his voicemail. “Where the heck is he? The client asked for him specifically!” I said out loud, talking to myself.
“Try his home number, mate!” Oli suggested.
“Tell the client he’s sick in bed! Bob’s your uncle – you can take care of the shoot.” he snickered.
Tried his phone again. Voicemail. In less than half an hour the client would be here and I guess Oli is right. I just need to lie my way through it. Called again. Nothing. Well, here’s to nothing, I thought. Started rolling out orders as to the setup and started prepping my gear.
“Uh oh! You’re in for a storm, mate!” I heard Oli saying.
“Bugger off, Oliver.” It was Matt.
I stepped out of the office to face him. “You’re here. I called..”
“I am.” He said, cutting me off. “Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to prep for the shoot.” He said turning away from me.
I wonder how much more of this I can take. My heart was in such turmoil that I was frozen in place.
“Hey, Belle! You good?” It was Oli
“You’ve been standing there for ten minutes, mate.”
“Oh, I… I was just trying to remember something.” I answered
“Yeah, right. You sure were.” Oli said raising his eyebrows.
“Oh, mind your own business, Oli!” I said walking straight towards the door. I needed air. I could hear Oli chuckling until the door was closed. We can’t continue like this. I need Matt to talk to me again. We’re so out of sync that it’ll affect the business sooner or later if we don’t pull the plug on this silent war.
“Matt” I said
“I’ll take care of the stills. The wedding photos are in printing. I’ll have them ready at your desk tomorrow.” He answered not looking at me.
The shoot was over. It was quarter to ten in the evening.
“Matt. I didn’t ask about those.”
He stopped doing what he was doing and looked straight at me. Silence.
“What?” he asked after a while
I couldn’t answer.
“Nothing right? So drop it, Belle. I’ll make sure these are ready for review in 2 days.”
“We can’t go on like this, Matt.”
He wouldn’t budge. He continued on with his work like he couldn’t hear me.
“Let’s talk, please.”
“Nothing to talk about.” He sighed.
He looked around. The studio was almost empty. The last of the staff were shuffling out the door. Sakshi with 2 black trash bags in one hand waved at us.
“Good night, Mr. and Mrs.” He called out.
“Good night, Sakshi.” We both said.
Sakshi coined us those names when Matt and I were still together and even when I had explained that the names were not appropriate anymore he still stuck with it. Now, the studio was empty except for us.
“Belle, It’s okay, I get it. We don’t need to talk.”
“No, you don’t.” I said irritated
“Okay.” He said pulling up a chair to sit on. “You want to talk. Talk.”
“Matt, what?” He was getting mad. “You don’t even know what to tell me. I’m listening, Belle.”
I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say.
“I don’t want this to get in the way of work.” It was all I could say.
“Fuck! Is that what you wanted to say. Work?! Oh! It’s this kind of talk. Is it because I was late? I thought we were talking about something else. Like US.” he said, storming off into his cabin.
“Damn it, Belle!” I thought. Why can’t you just tell him the truth.
Half an hour has passed. We were at a stand still.
“Matt?” I called out softly. Standing at his door.
His feet was propped up on the desk. His chair slanted and his eyes were closed.
“Matt, I’m sorry.”
“Matt… please talk to me. I’m scared of what happens next if..” I said, letting my voice trail off.
“I don’t want to hurt you. I didn’t say anything back then coz I am scared of losing you.” I continued.
He opened his eyes, looked at me. Expressionless.
“I knew my answer back then but I wasn’t ready to admit it.” I said walking over to him, taking the visitor chair in front of his desk.
“I love you, Matt. I hope it ends there but it doesn’t. It’s not that simple.”
He stood up and moved to the chair right across mine.
“Explain it to me then. Make me understand.” He said, leaning forward towards me.
He was so close. His perfume hanging in the air. His smell was intoxicating, the smell of amber with a tinge of lavender, reminds me of the smell of air in the woods after raining.
“I love you, Matt.” I sighed. “I always will.”
He didn’t move or cut me off. He sat there waiting for me to finish.
“But I think I love Xavi, too.” I continued. “It sounds ridiulous, I know. I want to chose you. I tried avoiding him ever since we got back, NO, I have been avoiding him.” I said, pouring my hear out.
“I want to forget him so bad. God knows I’m trying but it’s not easy.” I said, looking into his eyes trying to read his mind.
“I want us too, Matt.” I whispered almost pleading. “But not until I can say that it’s just you. And right now, It’s not.”
He was silent.
“I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t want to lose you. But Xavi… he stirs feelings in me that I can’t seem to control.” I said, looking down at the floor. I couldn’t look into his eyes. I knew I was hurting him with my words.
We sat quietly for a while.
“I love you, Belle. But I can’t share you.”
I looked at him; His eyes misty but he kept a straight face.
“I know that. I’m sorry, Matt.”
“Don’t be. At least I know where we stand.” He said “Look, when you’re ready to give him up, tell me. I won’t promise to wait. But who knows… I’ve loved you this long, maybe I’ll still be in love with you when that time comes that you’re ready.” He said with a smile but his eyes betraying him.
I reached over, pulled him close and hugged him. He didn’t flinch but he didn’t let me hug him that long either.
“We should go. It’s late.” He said standing up.
It was raining when we finally stepped out of the studio. He took off his coat, placed it over our heads and tucked me under his arm.
“Let’s go.” He said.
We jogged to my car. Crammed my stuff at the back, said our goodbyes then he took off to his car. I sat there for a while. I wanted to cry but there were no tears. Ten minutes later I started moving. I noticed Matt’s car was still at the parking lot. Drove closer but it was empty. I wonder where he went. I drove by the studio and the lights were closed just as we left it. I started to worry but stopped myself, Matt can take care of himself. Drove on, decided to head home.
Not a long way off, I noticed a man hunched over next to store window with a coat over his head. It was Matt.
“Come on. Hop in.” I called out over the winds and rain.
He was soaking wet.
“What happened?” I asked putting the heater of the car on high.
“Tank’s empty.” He muttered. “Drop me off the next petrol station. I’ll take a cab from there.”
“I’ll drive you home.” I answered.
“No, my place is a long way off from you.”
“It’s alright.” I said
“Just at the petrol station.” He insisted. He was being stubborn as usual.
“Okay. But how about we go to my place first, get you into some dry clothes.”
He just looked at me.
“Just a change of clothes, Matt. You’re soaking wet and your place is a good forty to fifty minutes away.” I stated, as steady as I could.
“Okay.” He answered looking ahead on the road.
“Here you go. I think these will fit.” Handing him some of dad’s clothes and a towel. “Bathroom, down the hall to your right.”
“Thank you.” He answered, taking the stuff from me.
I prepped some food while he took a bath since we both haven’t eaten anything at all since lunch. Put some hot water on for tea as well.
“Can I borrow a bag to wrap my clothes in?” he asked walking in the kitchen.
“Leave it. I’ll throw it in the machine and will just bring it in a day from tomorrow.” I answered.
His hair was all ruffled and I was trying hard not to notice how form fitting dad’s shirt was on him. A size smaller, I thought.
“Sit down. Have dinner. Then I’ll drop you wherever you want. If you still want to.” I said.
Dinner was quiet. We barely talked. I think we’ve said everything we could say to each other right now. We cleaned the table and walked back to the living room. I grabbed my car keys and headed for the door. He followed suit grabbing his wallet from the table.
“Sure you don’t want to spend the night here? You can use the guest room.” I asked stopping at the door.
“I can’t, luv.” He whispered so low, I barely heard him.
He was standing so close to me by the door that I could smell my shampoo on his hair.
He wasn’t moving. Neither was I….
Previously: III. Silence
Up Next: V. Black & White
5 November 2015