Too Late

And so she stands there in tears; the droplets of water from her eyes glistening against her cheek from the moonlight above. Shaking from head to toe but not from the bitter cold of the Winter air but from fear, from absolute terror of being alone.

For nearly twenty years I have loved her. When we first met I was 12 years old, but a mere child that didn’t even know what love was. I didn’t know how to control these feelings I had for her because you cannot control what you don’t understand.

I used to watch her from afar in class and day dream what it would be like for us to be together, seeing her talking to all of the other boys, boys that were “better” than me; “prettier” than me. But I was shy, definitely far too shy to talk to her and yet she spoke to me anyway. That first time in the playground, I was sat alone on that bench; being the new kid at school wasn’t easy especially this school.

You see rough schools glorified on TV and you say to yourself that you’re glad you didn’t end up there. For most of these kids it’s not a choice, for me it was.

I had so much promise at a young age, most people aspired to work with the police or be an astronaut but not me, I had a clear path; I wanted to go to a good school, go to a good University, earn a degree in web design. I wanted to make my father proud.

But what you want isn’t always what happens, expelled for violence. Not always violence I caused but violence I was involved with none-the-less. I wasn’t there long before I was thrown out and the worst school in my town was the only one that would take me.

It felt more like a prison sentence than an opportunity. Through the tough exterior I portrayed all I had inside of me was fear, anxiety, I never found it easy to mix well with others. I made one friend quickly who protected me from the others, he had my back; a feeling I had never felt before but just like everyone else I cared about in life he left.

His parents decided it’d be a good time to move away and when he was gone I was alone, on that bench in that playground.

Then she spoke to me and asked me to join her and her friends to lunch, I don’t know why she chose to speak to me; she was the most beautiful girl in our year, perhaps the most beautiful I had ever seen. I was just some lone kid who was slightly overweight, no way was I worthy to be in her company. I always thought it was out of pity.

She didn’t care about being popular, not like the other girls that looked like her. She made you feel like you were worth something. That was just her way.

From that moment it no longer felt like a prison sentence, I felt like a normal child.

But of course she just saw me as a friend, our feelings weren’t mutual. That’s all I ever am to people, just a friend. The guy people turn to when things in their life aren’t going how they want them to. For so long I have put my own happiness at the expense of others.

When we left school we all pretty much went our separate ways. My anger issues were unresolved; my one true battle in life, she went off and got married; eventually having children.

We hadn’t spoken in years; our life choices were so different; two paths that ran parallel never to meet.

And then one day she walks into my office at work; she had just gotten a job at my place. My eyes instantly drawn to her, she was as beautiful as the first time I laid eyes on her and for that one moment in time everything stopped, nothing else mattered.

Suddenly it was quite evident that our roles had reversed, I had grown to be confident in my abilities; no longer was she confident in hers. She had been out of work for so long that coming into this place was scary for her, but she saw a friendly face in me and I made it my business to be available to her.

My dreams had been answered and she had been returned to me.

I won’t lie by saying I wasn’t happy at the news she was having troubles with her marriage, not because she was sad, that was heart-breaking and it killed me to see her upset but because I knew the person she was married to wasn’t good enough for her; eventually it deteriorated into the two splitting and she leaned on me for support.

I was prepared to be at her beck and call not because I wanted to be with her but because I got to know her again and who she was; she didn’t deserve the suffering and pain she was enduring. How could someone do that to someone so perfect? So innocent and loving, someone who absolutely loved her children absolutely?

Afraid to be alone she chose to spend more time with me, but I knew deep down she still loved him. Of course she did, even when her heart was torn in half, when everything that made her who she is was stripped away, she still loved him because that’s the kind of person she is.

But above all that the one thing she feared the most was being alone; “who would want someone at her age with two children?” she would ask me; of course I told her not to worry about that right now, she had to worry about getting herself back together, and of course once they got to know her who wouldn’t want to be with her? Someone that’s loyal, beautiful, funny with amazing kids; children aren’t a burden they’re a privilege. She would be fine and I was prepared to stand by and watch it happen.

Then that fateful day, he came round. No longer the man she loved but a heartless, ruthless individual that didn’t deserve the life he’s had. I received a phone call from her screaming at me to come and help her as she was being attacked and had to lock herself in the bedroom.

I of course rushed to my car and headed to her house. I remember so vividly on the drive over that I was shaking, shaking from fear; but this wasn’t the fear I felt when I was in school, this was a different fear, a fear of not knowing what I was going to do when I got there. I knew what I wanted to do but would that hurt her even more than what he has?

I arrived after what seemed like hours; front door open, screams coming from inside. Pedestrians stood on the pavement looking in with worry on their faces. I rushed into the house and I saw him holding her by her throat, yelling at her beaten face, he was so big. Much bigger than myself but in that moment all the pent up aggression and rage of putting other people’s happiness before my own that had built and had been bottled up over years had been released.

For this one moment I was going to be selfish, I was putting my own happiness before anyone else’s. I wanted to hurt this man, I wanted to make sure he never had an impact on anyone’s life ever again.

Before I knew it I had grabbed him by the back of his neck and slammed him face first into the wall at the side of her, I felt his nose break against the wall; a normal man would cringe but I smiled sadistically; I let go and he fell to the floor in a heap.

I tried to walk away, I tried. But that face of his, it just made me angrier, so I mounted him and laid into him, feeling his eye socket crunch from the weight of my fist. He powered me off of him, grabbed the beer bottle he was drinking from 30 minutes before and slammed it into the left side of my face. I felt it shatter and the shards of glass cutting my cheek to ribbons, I still remember the blood covering my white shirt.

As I staggered back he went to attack again but I let out a fierce scream of anger; a roar that would quieten the toughest Lion; he hesitated, took a step back and I took the opportunity to shoulder tackle him out of the front of the house into the street.

I took the half broken beer bottle from his hand and aimed it for his face, he had only just managed to move out of the way at the last possible moment, I wasn’t trying to hurt this man any longer, I was trying to kill him, the exact thing I feared on my drive there but it didn’t matter; nothing mattered. As he tried to scurry away I took the opportunity to slam the half broken bottle into the back on his knee; he cried out in pain as another sick smile took over my face. Sitting on his back I grabbed his head and slammed it into the pavement repeatedly until he was barely recognizable. As his whole body went limp I collapsed to the floor out of exhaustion.

Breathing hard looking to the sky I could hear police sirens, children crying, some of the neighbours making comments like “It was about time”.

While I was released from custody shortly after, he was confined to a hospital bed; comatose. I try to forget about that night but every time I look in a mirror the scars across my face remind me.

That is what brought us to this moment now, declaring her love for me; telling me things I had wanted to hear for nearly two decades but in some way I knew they were empty gestures. She still loved him, it didn’t matter what he’d have done, she’d have gone back if he wanted it so but he was gone, at least for now and she was alone.

“I’m sorry.” I whisper to her as she collapses to her knees.

“I love you, I really do. You’ve always been there for me when I’ve needed you and have asked nothing in return, who wouldn’t want you in their life? I need you!” She cries.

I looked down at her, extended my hand and helped her back to her feet.

“Do you know how long I’ve waited to hear those words come out of your mouth? 18 years I have been in love with you. I always believed that we were soul mates and no matter what happened we’d be destined to end up together. You say you love me and I believe you, but you’re not in love with me. Not like I am with you.

From the moment I first laid eyes on you to this moment right now, but you see I have a problem. It’s not the anger or attitude I have been plagued with; it’s the fact that I fall in love so easily, it’s my biggest flaw. And just like you I have felt my heart break and though this is the first time you are truly feeling it; I feel this way every time.

Every time they find someone better or pick someone else. I put on this façade of being the big man; tough guy, ‘I’ll knock you the fuck out’ type of guy but no one knows how close I’ve been to just ending it. Whether it be hanging from a beam on a ceiling or driving into a brick wall; something to just make the pain stop. That’s why I am alone now, because I’m too afraid to be anything else; the opposite of what you’re feeling right now. So imagine that heart break and then imagine it coming from you. Well I think that might just be what finishes me off.” I explain, her eyes barely visible due to the wall of tears that barricaded them.

“I would never hurt you, I wouldn’t I promise.” She pleads, “It should have always been you, I realise that now.”

I sigh and look at the freezing damp grass. “You can’t say you wouldn’t hurt me, maybe not on purpose of course not; that’s not who you are. But even after everything, you still love him. Some part of you always will, he was your ‘one true love’.

Despite everything he has done to you, nothing will change that. You were willing to take him back once; you may choose to again; if he ever wakes up that is. You still visit him in hospital. I don’t know what men like that do to deserve people like you while people like me watch on from the side-lines but it’s too late now.

There would always be that in the back of my mind knowing he’s in the back of yours and I can’t put myself through that. You will find someone that deserves you and will treat you how you deserve to be treated I promise you, but I can’t be that man, not now, not after everything. For once in my life I need to put myself before others and that is this moment right now.

I love you, I always will and I will always be there for you.”

Before anything more could be said, she grabs my shirt and pulls me close to her, she kisses me passionately and just like the first time we met, time seemed to have stood still once more. Eternity it seems however is never enough and we eventually separate. I wipe the tears from her eyes with my sleeve.

Taking a deep breath, she turns away from me and heads back inside her house, never before had I been so conflicted. Was I being an idiot? It sure seemed that way and will probably seem that way a lot more later.

As she gets to the doorway she turns back to me, “See you at work tomorrow?”

Smiling I nod my head, she smiles and nods back and closes the door.

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