A few of you mentioned wanting to see some scenes of Tony and Angela during their breakup period, so here you are! This is a companion piece to my story Days of Iowa. Reading that one isn't necessary for this installment, however, there will be a couple of references that might not make sense otherwise. As always, thank you for reading, and thank you for the encouragement!
Angela knew things were bad as soon as she walked through the door and was greeted with hugs from Mona and Jonathan – no questions asked. Not that they needed to ask questions. They were well aware of her and Tony's parting. Sam and Hank were still in Iowa, undoubtedly playing the role that they were for her. Already it was beginning. Their relationship was over, and so was their family.
Of course, she would always consider Samantha to be like a daughter. She wasn't about to throw her and Hank out on the street because she couldn't make things work with her father. But in essence? Things would never be the same as they used to be. Tony wasn't coming home, and as long as Sam was around, she'd have a constant reminder of Tony and how things used to be.
And what they should have been.
Had she made a mistake? Did she not give life in Iowa a good enough chance? It was never supposed to be easy. Perhaps she should have weaned off work instead of quitting cold turkey. She could have consulted the office by phone, coming back to New York in the case of an emergency or even to meet with any notable clients. That was different than commuting every weekend. It would have spared her so much grief.
But working part-time and remotely didn't solve the other problems. Loneliness and isolation would still have been prevalent. She could pretend all she wanted, but she was never going to fit in. Not being true to herself was the biggest mistake she'd made through it all. A temporary fix for a long-term situation. She lived every day in a haze, waiting and waiting for time to pass. She was tired of not recognizing herself when she stood in front of the mirror. As much as she adored Tony, her relationship with him couldn't come at the cost of her life nor his. When the cycle of thoughts came around to this point, she was reminded that there was no alternative. This was the way it had to be.
"You doing all right, dear?" Mona asked later that night, taking a teacup down from the cabinet to join Angela at the table.
"I'll be fine."
Pouring water from the kettle, Mona replied, "Not so well, then?"
Clutching her own cup, Angela said, "I don't want to talk about it."
"I'm not letting you bottle this up indefinitely."
When Mona sat next to her, she said, "It's been a long day. A long week. Hell, it's been months of struggling. I just don't want to talk about it tonight. I appreciated that you weren't on me about it as soon as I got home."
"And you've been moping since then."
"Do you blame me?" She bit her lip. "I don't have to tell you how much Tony means… meant… to me. This isn't something I can brush off. I need time to readjust to life here. More importantly, life without Tony."
Mona shook her head. "I don't understand why you decided to break it off completely."
"Long-distance didn't work. Three years is a long time for both of us. We both have time-consuming jobs. Something had to give."
"Are you sure you made the right choice?"
Losing grip on her emotions, her earlier questioning echoing in her ears, Angela's voice quivered. "You were the one who tricked me into thinking there was an emergency at the office to get me to come home. Why are you so surprised?"
"Because I didn't expect you to dump him. Tony means a lot to me, too. I want you both to be happy. The Angela I saw when I walked into that apartment was not my daughter."
"That's exactly why I left. I'd known it for some time but convinced myself no one noticed."
"Even so, I still say it was a rash decision."
"Then what did you expect when you made up that story?" Angela challenged.
"To work out a compromise," Mona answered. "Neither one of you should have to give up your career for the other, but you shouldn't have to give up each other, either."
"What would you have suggested?"
"First, a breather for you. Get you back to work and feeling like yourself again. Then with a clear head, go see Tony again and figure out where you go from there."
"Then what? Play the long-distance charade again? We'd only come to this conclusion in the end. Better to spare us both the stress. Tony is the happiest he's ever been. You saw him. How could I stand in the way of that?"
Covering Angela's hand with her own, Mona said, "Because your happiness matters, too. And you're the happiest when you're together."
As usual when her mother displayed her nurturing side, Angela dissolved into tears. "But I wasn't happy with him. Not there. I enjoyed being with him, yes, but when he wasn't around, I was miserable. I only made it as long as I did knowing it was temporary. They love Tony at the college so much, I'm sure these next three years will turn into at least ten."
"But are you really prepared never to see him again?" Mona asked.
"I'm sure we'll see each other again sometime. We talked about it. We agreed that our relationship shouldn't interfere with Samantha and Jonathan. I need space from all of it right now. That's all."
"You should at least keep in touch with him. He's been your best friend for years and you need a friend now."
Angela reached for a napkin and dabbed her eyes. "It's too soon. Our friendship has changed with our relationship." With a sniff, she finished, "I always thought our friendship could survive any of the drama that comes with a romantic relationship. But I never anticipated this. Living there… sometimes I felt more miserable than when Michael took off just before Jonathan was born. Even then I had work to get me through as well as the excitement of meeting my child. I had nothing but mindless crafts and bowling in Iowa."
"That misery was evident," Mona said, "I just hope you won't regret leaving Tony behind."
Angela cast her eyes down, knowing if she tried to reply she'd only cry again. What was there to say, anyhow? Clearly, her reasons for leaving and breaking up with Tony weren't going to be understood. The consequences were too much to think about at the moment. Her head still felt as though it were underwater. After months of trying to become someone she wasn't, she needed to take back her old life. Unfortunately, that involved backpedaling farther than a year. She had to go back to who she was before Tony came into her life. He'd changed everything for the better and it pained her to feel like she needed to forget about the years they'd spent together as friends and partners.
Mona lectured her some more, but her words became background noise. She was emotionally spent and couldn't have paid attention if she wanted to. She couldn't bear it. Her energy had to go into her recovery now. She had to learn how to be independent again. She had to throw herself into her work and make up for all the time lost. She had to get used to sleeping alone again, not having someone greeting each morning with a kiss. She'd done it all before with Michael and she would do it again with Tony. It would be tough, no doubt, but despite her mother's disagreement and her own questioning, she knew she'd made the best decision for the both of them.