I Did the Right Thing
Jamie Wellerstein is a coffee junkie. Ever since his unfortunate divorce three years ago, he had relocated to Upper West Side. He hunted for the most inconspicuous coffee shop a few blocks from his apartment. Partly because hoping that there wouldn't be a small chance to run into his former wife. It's not like he hates her. No. It's very far from it. He just simply wants to put his failed relationship behind him and start fresh. He admits that one of the reasons why he was so keen on moving out was because he was a bit ashamed that it wasn't even a month before he started seeing his editor, Elise. That relationship ended tragically. He just wasn't used to a woman being more in control than him. In the end, Elise made a comment on how he's mentally comparing her to Cathy. She's still his editor though a bit more hostile and cold than before.
Sofia's Café is a charming small coffee shop that serves the best eggnog during Christmas. It is located ten blocks from his apartment and he made it a habit to grab a buttermilk muffin and a cup of coffee to go every morning for breakfast. So far, no sign of Cathy. It's like she disappeared from his life completely. The last conversation they had was when he called her to finalize the divorce papers. Of course, Cathy being Cathy, she didn't want to accept his offer of splitting his money. She won that small argument and quickly signed the papers. A few months later, it was finalized. He admits that he was a bit hurt that she didn't put up more of a fight to work things out.
Imagine his surprise when, one morning of December, he found her sitting quietly in a corner engrossed in reading a magazine. He took his place in line but continued watching her. She dyed her hair a reddish brown. She didn't cut it this time and let her small ringlets fall past her shoulders. She looks beautiful, he thought. But then again, since when was Cathy not beautiful? He wonders if she changed her name back to Hiatt.
"Oh Sweetie! Come get your eggnog!" Sofia Wickham waved at him to get his attention. She was the owner of the café and was glad that he found her coffees and pastries delightful. Jamie was even invited for a Christmas Dinner at their home and was a good friend of Sofia's husband, Daniel.
Jamie obliged. Normally he would wave her off because it was too rude to the customers who waited in line but right now he had a small task to do. "Can you please add a blueberry muffin to my usual?" Cathy still liked blueberries, right?
"Of course!" Sofia smiled her warm old people smile at him before getting his order. He had inquired why she spends her day serving people when she could hire some student to work part time. She grinned at him and said that it made her feel very young.
He promised Sofia that he would drop by later at night before he happily took the paper bag from her.
Cathy still has not recognized him so when a blueberry muffin appeared in her line of sight, her right hand immediately went to her chest as she yelped. When she studied his familiar face, a look of complete surprise took over her surprised face. "Jamie!"
"A blueberry muffin for Ms. Cathy Hiatt—or is it still Wellerstein?"
"Hiatt," She corrected before bashfully staring at the piece of bread. How could Jamie be so carefree joking about their ruined marriage? "You didn't have to buy me this. I won't take it."
Jamie can remember a time when he would come home any time of the day and present her with a blueberry muffin. It stings that she couldn't accept even a small reminder of their affair. "You have to because I won't eat it."
"Fine," She rolled her eyes. Then, as if she just realized that she was having a conversation with him, she gestured towards the empty chair beside her. "Would you like to sit?"
"Okay sure!" He still has a bit of time before he has to prepare for his book signing in the afternoon. "You look good, Cathy."
She tucked a colored piece of hair in her ear. "Thank you, you too."
For several seconds, they just stared at each other. They haven't seen each other for three years.
Cathy expected that it would be awkward and that she would run away before anything they say would get too heated. Why does it feel so familiar and comfortable? Other than sporting a short beard, Jamie is still the same Jamie—the one who left her. She always teased him that he's too attractive to be too smart. Ugh. Why does he have to have such a gorgeous smile? She spent the last three years moving on. She sold their apartment—using the commission to buy herself a cheaper one and saved the rest. True to her conscience, she never went back to Ohio—partly because she blamed the horrid place for ruining her marriage. After a few months of feeling sorry for herself, she finally decided to grow her balls back. She was Cathy Hiatt. There were worse things she had to go through. A ruined marriage wouldn't stop her from chasing her goals. Suddenly, she felt sad. Jamie always told her that one of the huge reasons why he loved her is because of her being an ambitious freak.
She just got back from a trip from Europe and the last thing she expected was for her ex-husband to buy her a blueberry muffin.
"How have you been, Cathy?" He took out a buttermilk muffin from his paper bag, took a large bite, and then sipped his drink.
For a moment, Cathy was transfixed with his calm demeanor that she stared at him for a few seconds. "Oh—uhm, I just got back from Europe, actually."
"Europe? Wow! That's amazing!" Jamie always knew that Cathy wanted to travel. He's glad that she's finally crossed something off the things she's always wanted to accomplish. He always thought that he would be beside her to cross those off, but at least she's crossing them on her own right?
"It is!" Cathy beamed, earning a small laugh from him because of her enthusiasm. "I was there to take some classes. I attended all these fashion shows and I even sold some of my dresses,"
This is new information. "You're a fashion designer now?"
Her mouth was full of muffin when she answered. "Kind of. Those auditions I had back then were helpful. I'm working as a backstage assistant costume designer right now—I just got a call from my former agent about a job opening and they immediately hired me."
Jamie didn't know what possessed him. He grabbed hold of Cathy's resting hand on the table and gave it a small squeeze. "I'm so proud of you, Cathy." There is a nagging feeling in his brain that said Cathy could have never achieved all of this under his shadow. They both know that her insecurity came in the way of their relationship. She wasn't getting any closer to her dreams when he was currently living his.
For a moment, Cathy turned her palms upside and squeezed his hand back. "It's kind of unexpected, Jamie. But I'm quite happy."
They both retreated their hands when they realized that they have been holding on for too long. For a short while, they were still married. Jamie is a humble lucky son of a bitch and Cathy is a happy go lucky overachiever who gladly auditions for parts in Broadway. Reality set in and they're divorced and are accidentally catching up.
"Congratulations on your National Critics—something—award," She supplied their conversation by giving him a compliment.
The aura of the conversation returned to normal when Jaime smiled widely. "You mean the National Book Critics Circle Award?" She nodded. "Thank you! I actually still can't believe that many critics have read my book and agreed to give me an award for its cheesiness," He joked, earning a laugh from her. There was a time when all he wanted to do was see her laugh.
"Well you deserve it, you're incredibly talented." If they were still together, would she have been proud of him instead of becoming threatened? "I have to ask this," Cathy bit her lip, unsure of what his reaction would be.
"You can ask me anything, Cathy."
"How are things going with Elise?"
His smile dropped and so did a fifteen pound weight on Cathy's stomach. "That relationship kinda got old pretty fast. She's just a bitter editor now,"
She giggled at his statement and he joined in a few seconds after realizing what he said. "So are you seeing anyone?"
"Kinda?" She raised an eyebrow at his unsure answer. "We've only been on a first date and I don't know where it's going to go."
"You've always been kind of a romantic, Jamie. I thought you wrote her a sonnet by now." Her blueberry muffin is halfway finished. Pretty soon they're going to end their short meeting. Jamie wonders what would happen if he took really small ant bites off his buttermilk muffin.
He placed his hands up in a surrender motion. It was a bit comical with the way he's holding a cup of coffee and a muffin on either side. "I admit: I was thinking about it,"
Cathy rolled her eyes, "You haven't changed at all, Jamie."
"What do you mean?"
"You're kinda—," Should he risk it? Aw what the hell. A writer has to have guts. "—sexier now."
A small gasp escaped from her mouth. "Are you hitting on your ex-wife Mr. Wellerstein?"
"What if I am?" He teased.
Cathy shook her head. No matter how great this little conversation may seem, they both knew it was just heading down the same path. "Jamie,"
"I'm just kidding, Cathy. Humor me." He admonished, "So what are you doing on the upper west side anyway?" They haven't addressed the elephant in the room yet.
"I'm actually waiting for someone," She accepted his offer of a small sip from his drink since she's a bit parched. "Really Jamie? Eggnog so early in the morning?"
"Hey don't judge me!" He poked her on the side and grabbed his drink back. "So are you waiting for someone I know?"
"Hello darling, sorry I'm late." This has got to be the most coincidental and dramatic moment of Jamie's life. He watched as Cathy rose to give the British guy a short hug. Her eyes light up as soon as the man gave her a kiss on the forehead. They exchanged a small conversation before the man's eyes finally found him sitting. "Who's your friend?" There was absolutely no threat to his tone. He was just genuinely curious on who Cathy was spending her time with. If Jamie was still married to Cathy, he would be really annoyed if he saw her laughing delightedly with some guy he didn't know.
"Henry, I would like you to meet Jamie."
Jamie stood up, feeling a bit embarrassed that he was the only one sitting. He shook Henry's outstretched hand firmly. The British was a bit tall, a mop of long curly hair topped his head. Jamie could never grow his hair like that. He'd probably look like Jimmy Neutron.
"Nice to meet you, mate." Henry smiled at him and Jamie wondered if the guy was stolen from a Hugo Boss infomercial. A couple of females already turned their heads towards the guy despite the obviousness of his and Cathy's relationship. So this must be why Cathy is wearing 5-inch boots. Even though her heels gave her more height, Henry still towered over her.
"You too," Jamie tried her best not to sound wary.
"I'm so sorry if this is a bit rude but Cathy has never mentioned you to me," How can anything sound rude with that kind of accent? Posh? Yes. Rude? Meh. "How did the two of you meet?"
Jamie looked at Cathy, unsure of what to say. She gave him a small smile and patted Henry in the chest. "I've mentioned him a few times, honey." No way. She actually told him that she was married before?
A strange look of recognition crossed Henry's face. "Oh gosh, what a small world it is." How the fuck can 'gosh' sound so manly? How can he just stand there so cool and collected even though it was just said that he was Cathy's ex cheating husband. Jamie imagined that, if this circumstance ever came, he would be sporting a nice black eye for several days.
Cathy, sensing the impending awkward silence, started talking. "Henry is actually a professor of literature in NYU."
For a woman who proclaimed that she would never date another writer because Jamie writes too many stories, Cathy sure has a type. "Wow! That's intense,"
Henry shrugged as if grading essays wasn't a pain in the ass. "It has its ups and downs. I've actually read your book. One word: brilliant! Congratulations on your National Book Critics Circle Award." Now Jamie understands how Cathy knew about his award. It's a bit depressing that the information came from her new beau instead of her trying to keep in touch with him. He speculates whether Henry will get mad if he found out that the book was actually about his and Cathy's relationship. At least in written world they get a happy ending. "You're a very gifted writer."
"Thank you very much!" How can he ever dislike a man who, with no hesitation, praises him like he discovered coffee (or tea for British people)?
"Would you like to join us for a bite for a dinner tonight? There is a a new Italian restaurant that a colleague of mine recommended. I was thinking of asking Cathy to join me later—would you like to join us?" Is this guy a saint? How can he just stand there wearing his Adonis smile and inviting his girlfriend's ex-husband to dinner? "I know it's a bit awkward but let's just let bygones be bygones—what do you say?"
Cathy and Jamie stared at each other for thirty seconds before answering at the same time.
"That would be kind of nice—,"
"Actually I have plans—,"
Well they can never read each other's thoughts that well anyway.
"Come on Jamie! It will give us time to catch up. Besides, you can even bring your girl." Was Cathy seriously suggesting this? This could potentially ruin his relationship with Brooke—his first date 'girlfriend'. What if it is implied what he was the one who ruined the relationship by sleeping with other women?
The again, why wouldn't he want to spend some time with Cathy before they see each other again three years later? "I won't bring my girl but can I invite another couple?"
Cathy and Henry exchanged a small glance before both grinning at him and saying, "Why not?" It saddened him that he and Cathy never reached the point in their relationship where they can communicate without words.
Jamie ran towards the counter as fast as he could and leaned half of his body so that Sofia can notice him. "Hey Sofia, baby, want to go to dinner with me tonight?"
The old woman laughed at his antics, "I'm too old for you, Mr. Jamie."
He grinned. At least if he's with the old couple, he won't feel as lonely. They never let him out of a conversation. "Well you, me, Daniel, my ex-wife, and her new boyfriend. What do you say?"
"Sounds like a dramatic night! Count me in!" Daniel, Sofia's husband, overheard their conversation when he emerged from the backdoor kitchen.
The three of them laughed over the old man's need for something amusing. In the end, they both agreed and Jamie told them that he would text them the time and place. When he returned, he exchanged phone numbers with Henry with the British man promising him that he would call him regarding the plans.
"Well, Ms. Wellerstein, would you like to take a walk?" Henry charmingly offered his hand to Cathy. Jamie noticed Cathy bite her lip and steal a short glance at him. He smiled sadly at her. She never changed her name. A small part of him is glad that she decided to keep his name. At least she has something to remember him by.
"Bye Jamie," Cathy waved before she and Henry walked the exit.
Jamie watched as Henry and Cathy walked hand in hand outside the cold New York Streets. They looked good together, as much as he hate to admit. Cathy looks very happy—just like she said. If he hadn't let her go, would she be as happy as she was right now? Probably not. Yes. Jamie did the right thing of letting her go.
I did the right thing.
He rescued her by letting her go.
There has got to be more 'The Last Five Years' fics in this world! It is such an amazing and enlightening play and I seriously cannot get over the songs. Very heartfelt, sexy, and romantic. I think them getting back together would ruin the charm of the play. It is an honest rendition of what a relationship in these times is like.
I considered writing Henry as Cathy's fiancé but I figured that she still wouldn't be ready for another married just a few years after her divorce. Cathy found herself forgiving Jamie and focused more on herself despite her rage and Jamie is casually dating women, hoping that he wouldn't rush into things like he did with Cathy. They're very satisfied with their lives—which is what I would like to imagine beyond the play. Even though they're not together, they both still hold a heavy influence on one another. Five years of combining their lives doesn't easily fade within time.