The plan was to leave this as a oneshot, but as soon as I published it, I was already thinking about updating it. So I'm going with it. The other oneshot ideas I have may still be written, but they'll be another story. I can't promise that there will be another after this, but I also can't say there won't be. It's just a case of, if it happens, it happens.
I do still have reservations about really continuing it as a full story, because I don't really know where I plan on going with it and I kind of like to know the end at the start, but I'm going to see where it takes me.
Sat on a rainy day
Recalling a conversation
Didn't I hear you say
Nothing could keep us apart.
Nothing could stop us now.
Jamie frowned, slumped over his coffee cup at the kitchen counter of an apartment that was not his own. He'd only spent a couple of weeks with Elise after leaving his wife, and it had been all he'd needed to tell him that he'd chosen wrong. He'd left, and had been staying with Michael ever since, promising him that he wouldn't let the arrangement damage the friendship his friend had with Cathy. So he hadn't mentioned it when he'd gone to collect a key from him and seen her, and tried so hard not to let her see the regret in his eyes. Tried to block out the pain in her own.
Elise had become difficult to work with after he'd changed his mind, and the final straw had come when she had turned on him in a book store one day. They'd been there on business, discussing the details of his latest marketing campaign, and her temper had flared up out of no where, surprising him – he hadn't known she had such a temper before. He'd requested a change after that, claiming he wanted to take his career in a new direction. She'd been hostile towards him ever since.
He sighed, picking up the mug and pouring the last of the warm liquid down the sink before returning to the counter and returning to his prior position, meeting the eyes of his friend, who was attempting to make him feel better, but falling short. Both due to his inability to reject the funny side of the situation, and the huge issue he had of not being her.
"What did you expect?" Michael was somewhat amused by his friend's predicament. "That she'd just fall back into your arms?"
"I had hoped." Jamie sighed, dropping his head into his hands. "She promised forever, you know. She always used to say that nothing would separate us."
"You promised that too." Michael shrugged. "You still went back on it."
"She was always..."
"Way more into your relationship than you were? Yeah, she was."
"I was going to say more persistent. More devoted."
"And now she's an actual human being with actual emotions that doesn't trust you. You took yourself out of her life. Six months is a long time." He shrugged. "Probably doesn't help that it took you so long to sort your shit out and go back..."
"It didn't." Jamie interrupted. "I called her, I tried to go and see her, she wouldn't talk to me. I had to file for divorce to see my own damn wife."
"That probably didn't help." Michael couldn't help but laugh. "Who the hell tries to fix their marriage by filing for divorce?"
"I had to see her, that was the only option I had."
"You could have asked me to talk to her. Or sent her an email. Or left a message when she didn't take your calls. You fucked yourself over with the divorce thing."
"It made sense at the time." He excused. "Like leaving did."
"Then what changed?"
"She was gone." The statement carried enough weight, he decided, but he continued anyway. "I thought it was the best thing for both of us, that my leaving her would save her, but not having her, it, it feels like I can't breathe. I didn't realise how much I need her."
"That's selfish, man. You can't just change your mind because you decided that the separation isn't working for you. You can say you left for her all you like, but if you tell her that, you're telling her you're coming back for you. Think about her in this. What's in it for her?"
"I want to be able to take care of her again. I don't want her to ever feel alone or unloved. I want to make her happy."
"Then that's what you need to tell her. She needs to feel safe. Telling her you love her isn't enough right now."
Jamie considered commenting on his friend's unusual understanding of women, but instead decided to admit what he figured he would probably be lectured for. "I haven't told her I love her yet."
Michael stared at him for a moment, almost puzzled. "If you can't even tell her that, I'm not surprised she hasn't given you much of a chance."
"She's upset, I don't want to scare her off."
"Are we talking about the same Cathy? She's never been afraid of being loved."
"Things are different now. She's barely talking to me as it is, I don't want to confuse the situation..."
"For yourself?" Michael queried. "Because you not telling her you love her but being the way you are with her right now has probably already got her confused. No wonder she's pushing you away."
"She says she needs some space to be herself."
"Maybe she does." It was reasonable. "She's changed. For the better. And you're not going to convince her that you can be a part of her life by making assumptions about how she'll feel about things. Keeping her in limbo like this is just going to make things worse for you, man."
"I'm not sure it would even make a difference. She seemed pretty certain that she can't give us another chance."
"Didn't she say yet?" Michael brought up. "And if she's certain, why is she still bothering with the counselling? You said she had agreed to keep it up."
"I told her I had already paid for multiple sessions and it was non-refundable."
"So you lied to her?"
"I didn't know what else to do. I was losing her!"
"You already lost her."
Why do you put on me?
Seems your good intentions
Are blowing in the breeze.
Each time we're close to the top
We hit rock.
The room was silent, and he hated it. He hated being in a room with her but not being able to be her husband. He hated that despite his best efforts, she hadn't been as responsive to the counselling as he had hoped she would be. She was there, but it was almost like she wasn't. This wasn't the first time they had spoken to someone about their issues, before everything happened, a friend of theirs had given them a taste of marriage counselling for free. It was the first time he had been the one pushing for it, though, and now he understood how she had felt when he had acted like the help their friend had offered them had been a chore.
He watched her as she sat as far from him as she could, gazing out of the window. She hadn't said a word to him since she'd arrived. No verbal acknowledgement, not even a smile or a nod. He was hoping that her continually showing up as she had promised she would was a good sign, but he was trying not to read into it, just in case it was just about the money she thought he had already spent. He didn't want to assume that she had deeper reasoning for continuing. Michael was right, he shouldn't assume he knows what's going on in her head. He was about to risk reaching for her hand when the door opened, and the familiar figure breezed in.
"Sorry I'm a little late. Paperwork problem." She sat across from them, looking between them as she spoke. "How have things been between you over the past week?"
It was Cathy that had spoken, and he'd turned to her to see her gaze was now fixed on the wall behind the counsellors head.
He turned back. "Actually, we haven't seen much of each other." He felt her shift uncomfortably. "Her show has really taken off, I've been out promoting the book..."
"Something we need to work on then." The older woman smiled. "Communication is key. Your marriage comes before your jobs."
"We were texting."
"You were texting."
He sighed at Cathy's mumbled comment. He had decided to leave out the small fact that she hadn't exactly been responding to his messages. He didn't want her to feel guilty for shutting him out.
"So his texts gained a lack of response from you?"
Cathy shrugged. "I was busy."
"I'd like to take you back to what we discussed when I first saw you." Within moments two sheets of paper were placed on the table in front of them. During their first meeting they had been asked to write down everything they considered an issue. Seeing them in black and white apparently made them easier to address. "Number 23. Being too busy to text or call back."
"That was about him, not me."
"It's best that we don't apply issues to you individually when solving them is a collective effort. We need our focus to be on improving communication and not assigning blame. Blame is worthless. It's an excuse we use to avoid conflict resolution."
"What if there's too much conflict to resolve?"
"Do you feel that there is?"
"Maybe." Cathy shrugged. "I'm clearly not enough for him."
"That's not true." Jamie interrupted. She didn't turn to him, but he had silenced her. "I made a mistake. People make mistakes. It wasn't you that was the problem."
"Do you think the affairs are something it's going to take you a while to overcome?"
"If ever." Cathy admitted. "How can I move on from something that is always going to be right there?"
"He works with the woman he left me for. I thought she was my friend."
"I don't work with her any more." He sighed, realising he should have filled her in on that much sooner. "I mean, I do, but I won't after this book."
She finally turned to him, but he couldn't read her expression. "When did that happen?"
"A couple of months ago."
She turned away again. "It doesn't matter. Her absence doesn't automatically fix everything."
"Which is why we're here." The counsellor interrupted. "To find ways to address our issues and repair the fractures."
"I don't even know why we're bothering."
"A marriage can only be saved if both parties are willing to put in the time and the effort."
"We are." Jamie insisted, suddenly even more aware of the distance between them. "We are."
"I'm only here for him." Cathy admitted. "Because it's what he wants and... I want him to be happy."
"Do you not want to be happy yourself?"
"I am happy." The response was sharp. "Happier than I've been in years"
He had to admit, that stung. "There was a time when you were happy with me."
"I'm not sure we can get back there." She sighed. "And I don't want to go backwards."
"You don't want to be here?" He frowned. "You don't think we can work through this?"
"I don't know. I'm here for you, because it's what you want, but I don't know if I can do this. I want you to be happy, but I don't want to make you happy if it means I can't be, and we don't make each other happy any more."
"So you're torn." The counsellor put in. "You want a situation where both of you are happy, but you're not sure that that can be a reality if you stay together?"
Cathy shrugged. "Kinda. It's hard to be positive when you know what could go wrong."
"Then maybe it's time to put some focus into what could go right." She gave them both a warm smile, but Jamie stayed silent as she once again focused on his wife. "You say you agreed to this because you want your husband to be happy. Does your concern for his happiness not tell you that there's something worth saving here?"
"I don't know..."
"You care for him. Despite the issues between you, you're fighting for his happiness just by being here. You've acknowledged that you make him happy."
"That's what he says."
"You do. I lost sight of that." He smiled softly when she let herself look at him.
"I haven't made you happy in a long time."
"You weren't the reason I was unhappy, that was me. I was making bad choices. I left when I realised how badly they were affecting you. I thought it was the right thing to do." He paused, questioning whether or not this is something they should even be talking about here – they hadn't been directed to talk about this, but he decided this could be considered a trigger subject, something that was likely to result in a fight, and they had been asked to avoid those subjects outside of that room for the time being. "I guess I realised a little too late that the right thing to do was to stop making bad decisions."
"It was the right thing to do." She sighed. "I needed to change. Not for you, for me."
"You have both just taken a very important step." They both turned simultaneously. "Acknowledging how your personal flaws affect your marriage is a positive sign. If you focus on what you can do differently in a given situation, conflict can be limited. So, the next time the two of you feel that you are about to have a disagreement, I want you to, instead of getting caught up in the anger, think 'What could I do differently?'"
He nodded, glancing warily at his wife. She had turned away from him. She was still reluctant, and he now knew it was good intentions that were leading to her presence every week. He could take her being unsure for now. Sure, it hurt him to know she wasn't as invested as he was, that she was there more out a sense of obligation than a desire to fix their relationship, but he'd take it. He'd let her good intentions hurt him in the hope that she would eventually allow him back in. He could deal with the pain, it was the least he deserved.
No place you'd rather be
Is all you can say as you
Open the door to leave.
Me one more time wondering why
On one more lonely night.
They had made progress. He could feel it. He still wasn't sure what was going on in her head, but she hadn't rushed off as soon as their appointment had concluded like she had every one previous. She had walked out with him, allowed him to make small talk. Although he wasn't sure if she was finally joining him in the fight for their marriage or if she was continuing to be a spectator watching as it crumbled, he felt that the slight progress was worth the uncertainty. It was a good sign. A sign that slowly, this was working.
He'd offered to walk her home, but she was heading straight to the theatre, and she'd reasoned that it made no sense for him to walk her there if he wasn't heading that way. She'd manage, and she'd let him know when she got there. He knew she didn't have to, but it was nice to know that she would. Things were different now. They'd communicate. They'd get it right this time.
He was brought out of his thoughts by the sound of his phone, and he glanced at the number before answering. "Carol Ann?"
"Are you for real? You left because it was the best thing for her?"
"I thought it was."
"You don't decide what's best for her. And you definitely don't make that decision by leaving her some shitty note."
"I couldn't face her."
"I would never have been able to leave if she was there, and I felt like I needed to." He tried. "There is no where else I wanted to be, even then, but I thought it was better for both of us that I was gone, and if I had been able to see her, I wouldn't have been able to go."
"You think that makes it about her, but all I'm hearing is that you decided it was too hard for you to do the right thing in a decent manner."
"How are we having this conversation?" A sigh. "How do you always know everything?"
"I'm her best friend, she tells me everything."
"Against my better judgement, she seems to be softening towards you. She doesn't know that herself yet, though, she thinks she's still just humouring you, so don't get too cocky."
"If you break her again, she won't be the only one broken."
"Did you just threaten me?"
"You can see it as whatever you want to see it as."
"I think I would benefit from seeing it as a threat?"
"I see it as a promise." She mused. "And if you try and talk her round with 'I didn't want to leave, I wanted to stay but I couldn't' it may become a reality."
"That's the truth."
"If you had really wanted to stay, you would have." Carol Ann insisted. "And she wouldn't have spent weeks questioning and second guessing everything she did, wondering if that was what made you leave."
Maybe I put on you
Seems my good intentions
I just can't see them through
Each time we climb to the top
Then we drop
The phone call had come late, and the instruction had been unclear, but after everything Michael had done for him recently, Jamie felt that he owed it to him to act on his request. So he was walking down the darkened street slowly, the light streaming out from the still open businesses and the occasional street light. It was relatively busy, but he was managing to keep to himself pretty easily as he made his way towards the location his friend had called him to.
The bar was half way down the street. A regular hang out of Michael's, but not somewhere that he himself had been to all that often. His pace quickened as he approached, and eventually he spotted Michael standing just outside the doorway. He paused mid-wave as he saw the woman tucked under his friend's arm.
"Jamie!" She called excitedly when she saw him, trying to take a step towards him but stumbling at the loss of Michael's support. She turned to him. "Jamie's here!"
Michael nodded to her. "You're okay with Jamie being here?"
Both men watched as her brow furrowed, before she nodded 'yes' as she verbalised "No."
"Okay." Michael chuckled, looking over at Jamie. "She's okay with it."
"Why did you call me?" He questioned his friend as he reached them, surveying the woman next to him carefully. "How much has she had to drink?"
"Too much." Michael smirked. "You told me you wanted to be able to take care of her. Go ahead."
Jamie quickly held out his arms as Michael gently pushed Cathy to him. Her hands immediately flew to his chest, attempting sloppily to push him away from her, turning back to their friend. "I want more drink."
"I think you've had enough." Michael smiled. "It's time for you to go home."
"Okay." They were both surprised by how quickly she agreed, but frowned when she reached into her bag before staring up at Michael in confusion. "I can't find my car keys."
"You don't have a car."
It took her a moment, but she eventually nodded. "Okay, you can drive."
He laughed slightly. "My date is still inside, babe. Jamie's going to take you home."
She scowled, shaking her head. "Not going with him."
Jamie sighed, pulling her closer to him with ease, knowing she wasn't really sober enough to object – another reason he wouldn't leave her there even if she did want him to, anything could happen to her. Her head fell onto his shoulder and he kissed her forehead lightly. Not missing the muffled "Don't do that." she mumbled against him.
"She was here when I got here, on her own, pretty much already in this state."
"Jack hadda go home."
"Yeah, apparently there was some guy called Jack?"
"Someone she works with." He glanced down her her. "Why did Jack have to go home?" He knew he had to be careful. Her mood changed quickly when she was drunk, she could go to talking to him like this to yelling at him in seconds.
"His wife got hurt." Wife? He felt himself release a breath he hadn't even known he had been holding. "I like her."
"So you've met Jack's wife?"
She nodded against his shoulder. "Perfect wife and perfect house and perfect life. I hate him."
"No you don't." He felt himself frown at the possibility that she had done this to herself after being confronted with what she seemed to believe was the perfect marriage, and nodded to their friend. "Go back to your date, I got her."
"No you left."
"I'm here now." He nodded to Michael in reassurance. "She'll be fine."
Turning, he began to walk back up the street, the added weight in his arms slowing him down slightly, but in a way that comforted him. He just wished she hadn't had to be so drunk to allow him in.
It hadn't taken him long to find her key in her bag, and within minutes of arriving at their apartment (which he had yet to admit to himself was no longer his home) he had put her in bed, and had found himself standing awkwardly across the room, watching her sleep. He knew she'd regret drinking in the morning, and he was reluctant to leave her considering. He just hoped she wouldn't be too angered by his presence if she woke up and found him watching her.
It wasn't as if he was crossing too many boundaries. He was keeping his distance. Giving her space without leaving her to the suffering she would wake up to. He understood the opportunity that Michael had given him, and although he doubted she'd be responsive to his care when she was sober, he had decided not to pass it up.
She began to stir some time later, and he hesitated in moving towards her, unsure how to respond, but he followed her as she darted out of bed, held her hair back as she threw up, and was there to take her back to bed when she had cleaned herself up, still not fully aware of her own surroundings as she was once again curled up under the covers.
"Jamie?" He'd made a move to leave the room when she addressed him, having decided to spend what was left of the night waiting anxiously on the couch. He turned back, smiling softly as he met her tired gaze. "Are you going to leave me again?"
"No." He took a step back towards her. "I promise, okay. Never again."
"You know I love you, right?"
He moved to the bed, sitting by her feet. "I'll stay right here, okay?"
He knew she most likely wouldn't remember this in the morning, and that his presence there when she woke up would likely not be rewarded, but he'd found himself not caring. She had agreed to his staying with her, and he could only hope that the agreement she had given while intoxicated was a sign of what she really wanted.
He'd left in the early hours, placing a glass of water and some aspirin by the bed before he left, a note on the other pillow. His pillow. She hadn't woken, but the silence and the familiar surroundings had given him time to think, and after his own insecurities had made him doubt his presence, he'd realised that being there without really having her consent risked making things worse between them. Now he wasn't so sure.
It was noon, and in his note he'd asked that she let him know when she woke up, but he was yet to receive any messages from her. At first he'd told himself that she'd slept in, but as time dragged on, that possibility got less and less likely. Either she hadn't got his message, or she was intentionally ignoring it.
He moved back to the kitchen island that he was currently using as a makeshift desk, looking over the notes he had made for his next book. He still loved the concept, but he knew he wasn't in the right head space to write it yet. He was tense and exhausted, and he just wanted normal back.
He almost jumped when the door opened, and he looked up to meet Michael's darkened eyes.
"A note?!" The man scoffed. "You left her a note?"
"I didn't think she'd want me to be there when she woke up." Jamie was confused. He'd hated leaving her, but it had been the best thing to do in the circumstances.
"The last time you left her a note you didn't go back." Michael reminded him. "I had to go and calm her down."
"I didn't think." He sighed. "She took it badly?"
"It upset her, but she was more angry than anything. She said you're an insensitive bastard. I know there was no way of knowing, but you need to be more careful, man. Reminding her of that day is not going to help your case." His friend sat down opposite him. "Why didn't you stay with her?"
"I didn't think she'd want me to." Jamie repeated. "Things aren't exactly great between us, I didn't want her to feel like I'm pushing her, so I waited until I was sure she was fine, made sure she had everything she needed and left her a note."
"Notes, man." Michael laughed. "Never been good for your relationship before, not good for it now."
And we're in a crazy situation
Caught up in a habit we just got to let go
No more going back
Back down to zero.
Things were strained again, but she'd accepted his apology, and even admitted that she had overreacted. The counsellor had suggested that maybe she was looking for reasons to shut him out, to give up on their marriage, and it had further highlighted her reluctance. Still, she had dutifully agreed to attend yet another promotion event for his latest book, and he found himself constantly glancing towards her as she found herself in uncomfortable conversation with his parents, who had also decided to make an appearance for the occasion.
He'd only just managed to warn Cathy of their presence, to let her know that he had failed to mention their separation to his parents, at first to avoid the smug satisfaction he knew they would respond with, and then due to their decision to try and overcome their issues. He had hope that if he continued to call it their decision, that she may eventually believe it.
She'd been mentioned by a couple of the reporters he had been interviewed by. The general questions about her had been easy, but he'd been momentarily thrown when one publication had directly referenced their recent issues during one of the longer interviews. He knew they must have been tipped off considering the details they seemed to know, but he couldn't ask for the name of their source without confirming that the information was accurate, and doing that didn't really seem like an appealing option. He'd instead pointed her out to the interviewer, hoping that her presence would put a stop to any speculation.
Most of his evening had been spent talking to people he didn't know. Trying to promote the book, himself, anything that may interest his target demographic. He hated that although he was always being told how important it was for his family to be there, he never really got to spend as much time with them as he would prefer. He had a habit of falling into the interviewer/interviewee dynamic so hard that he had often became oblivious to everyone else, eventually barely even acknowledging the family that were there to support him. He hadn't known it bothered her until she had one day refused to go, and now she was giving him this chance, attending these events again, he was determined to break the habit, even if it was just by catching her eye whenever he could.
Mid-way through his penultimate interview, he looked up at her, frowning when he was met with the sight of only his parents, and giving a quick glance around the room. He stood when he saw her, quickly making his excuses before moving to follow her, catching her moments after she had exited the building.
"Where are you going?" His hand on her arm had stopped her movement, but she hadn't turned to him. "Cathy?"
"I shouldn't be here." She murmured, so quietly that he almost didn't hear her. "Coming here was a mistake."
"I want you here."
"Could have fooled me."
"Cathy," He sighed, reaching out with his free hand to turn her, almost flinching when he saw her expression, saw the tears she was trying to hold in. "What happened?"
"You said things would be different." She stated. "You said you had changed but all of this..." She gestured towards the building. "All of this is exactly the same!"
"I'm trying." He insisted. "Getting over to you is difficult in that crowd."
"I have been stuck there with your parents for two hours!" She pointed out. "Two hours, Jamie. Two hours of listening to your mother go on and on about how much she loves Elise and how it's a shame that you won't be working with her after this book."
A sigh. "I'm sorry. I know she can be difficult..."
"Difficult? She hates me."
"She doesn't hate you." He tried. "And even if she did, it wouldn't matter."
"Of course it matters!"
"I don't care what she thinks." He tried. "I don't care what anyone in there thinks."
"But you should." She demanded. "All of this..." she gestured between them. "All of this is unhealthy. Every time I am with you I feel like the person I used to be, and I meant what I said, Jamie, I can't be that person any more. That's not who I am."
"I don't expect you to be." He sighed. "Look, if you want to leave, we'll leave."
"You're not finished."
"I don't care."
"I can reschedule." He paused. "I asked you to come because I wanted to spend time with you, and you're right, this isn't that. This is an old habit that I need to break." He ran his hand down her arm, interlocking their fingers and taking a step away from the building. He grinned, despite the reluctance in her eyes. "Let's go somewhere. Anywhere."