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If only, p.20

If Only..., page 20

 

If Only...
 


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  “But it felt like he was blaming me somehow . . . making out like I should have walked around with a sign on my head telling him he’s a dad.”

  Steph shakes her head. “He was hurting, Evie, and you were just there. You were the one delivering that shit to him. He was angry with himself, and I’m pretty sure that he blames himself and not you.”

  I take a deep breath and a huge sip of wine. “When did you start being all sensible anyway?”

  She shivers. “I don’t know, but I feel all dirty now.”

  I smile but it’s forced, and I know she knows it.

  “Talk to him,” she urges. “All of this stems from neither of you communicating properly.”

  “It stems from his lie,” I say quickly.

  She shakes her head and wags her finger at me. “If you want me to be brutally honest, you need to take some of the blame too.”

  “For what?”

  “For not telling him you were pregnant. I know for a fact you knew for a good week before you made that phone call. If you’d have told him, he wouldn’t have even been out that night in the first place.”

  I don’t think she means to do it, but her words slice through my heart like that knife is slicing through her raw steak. She’s absolutely right. And what’s worse, if I hadn’t called that night, Nico wouldn’t have been driving anywhere. They’d have stayed in the strip club until they got bored, and they’d have come home in a taxi like they’d planned. “I should have told him,” I whisper.

  Steph nods. “So go and fix it. You can’t change what happened, and neither can he,” she says. She looks at me closely then tosses her cutlery on the plate. “I can see the wheels turning in your head, and you’re wrong. You have no way of knowing that Nico wouldn’t have driven the car that night. He was drunk and high, Evie. If it hadn’t been that, it could have been something else.”

  I put my hand to my mouth. “It was my fault.”

  “No,” she says sternly. “Because I can take it further back than that. If he hadn’t broken his ankle the week before, he wouldn’t have been out in town drowning his sorrows in the first place. And don’t forget about the drugs . . .”

  “Oh, Steph,” I say.

  “Don’t do this,” she tells me. “Don’t sit here feeling sick with guilt, because you’ve done nothing to warrant that kind of guilt.”

  I’m just about to explain myself when I watch her eyes go wide. She glances at something over my shoulder and then slumps down in her chair. “Don’t look now,” she says.

  I start to turn around.

  “I said don’t look now,” she hisses.

  I stop myself but turn to glare at her. “Who is it?”

  “Cole,” she says, throwing the occasional glance at the door, “and some blonde.”

  “Oh my god,” I say. “Is it Michelle?”

  “Who’s Michelle?”

  I keep my head lowered and shove the rest of my steak into my mouth. “His ex-fiancée,” I mumble.

  “Oh, yeah, I forgot about her,” Steph whispers, smiling. She leans forward and looks over to where I’m guessing they are. “Nope, it’s not Michelle-the-best-man-shagger.”

  “Do they look like they’re together?”

  She rolls her eyes. “His hand is on her back and he’s guiding her to the table. He’s letting her sit down first. She’s leaning forward, practically shoving her tits in his face but he’s not looking at them.” She leans back in her seat but carries on spying. “She’s all over him, but he doesn’t seem that bothered. In fact, he looks hammered.”

  “Let’s go,” I say, bending down to grab my sports bag. I pull it onto my shoulder, stand up and throw a couple of twenties on the table. I can’t believe he’s here with another woman. “Just pretend like we don’t know they’re there. Don’t look at them.”

  I don’t wait to see if Steph is following me. I push my chair back and slip out of it before striding across the restaurant, keeping my eyes low to the ground.

  “Evie,” he calls when I’m halfway across the room.

  I can’t stop myself from looking up. Our eyes meet and my step falters.

  “Keep going,” hisses Steph.

  Cole pushes up from the table, knocking the cutlery everywhere, and stumbles towards us.

  “Go. Now.”

  I do as Steph says and carry on walking until I get to the main doors. I push them open and walk out into the warm evening.

  “Let’s get the tube,” she says from behind me.

  “Wait,” Cole calls. “Jesus Christ, Evie. Just wait.”

  “We may as well stop,” Steph says with a huff. “He’ll only end up chasing us down the bloody road.”

  I stop and turn around to face him. “What do you want, Cole?”

  He staggers and has to stop and lean against a lamppost to stop himself from stumbling over.

  “It’s not what you think,” he says.

  I fold my arms across my chest and notice Steph shaking her head out of the corner of my eye. “How do you know I thought anything?”

  “It’s written all over your face,” he says, slurring his words.

  “It looked like that Barbie doll was your fuck-buddy for the night,” says Steph.

  Cole smirks. “Who, her?” he asks, pointing to the restaurant. “Oh yeah, I’ll probably just fuck her, but that’s not what I’m on about.”

  Steph’s mouth drops open at the same time as mine.

  “You’ll probably just fuck her,” repeats Steph.

  “I just needed time, Evie,” he says, completely ignoring Steph. “I wasn’t ignoring you, but I just needed some space. It was a lot to deal with. It’s still a lot to deal with, but that’s why I left.”

  I glance at Steph, but she just shrugs with wide, confused eyes.

  “Can I come and see him next week?” he asks. “I’d like to get to know him.”

  “This isn’t the right time or place,” I say. I can’t stand to look at him right now. I hate that I can’t see past the other woman that he’s got waiting for him. And I especially hate how jealous I am. “Next week is too soon.”

  “You’ve had eight years,” he says. “I haven’t had a single day.”

  “Hey, Cole,” says Steph, stepping between us, “I’ve got a good idea. Why don’t you save your nice, cosy chat for a time when you aren’t smashed and have a bimbo waiting to suck you off? Why don’t you save the dad chat for when you’re being mature enough to act like one?”

  I spot a black cab driving down our street and push past Cole to wave it down. It rumbles to the side of the kerb and I quickly pull the door open. “Angel Islington, please,” I say. “How much?”

  “Call it a tenner, luv.”

  I nod and climb into the back. “Come on, Steph,” I say.

  Cole drags his hands down his face. “I wasn’t going to fuck her,” he says. “I was just winding Steph up.”

  “Why would you do that?” Steph frowns as she walks past him.

  Cole sighs. “I don’t know. Because you’re annoying. Because I’m drunk. Because I wanted to hurt her,” he says, nodding towards me.

  He wanted to hurt me?

  “Well then, who is she?” Steph pushes.

  Cole’s eyes snap to mine as I stare at him from the taxi. “Not that it’s any of your business,” he says, “but she’s my solicitor.”

  Cole

  I push out of the gate at the back of my garden and look out across the field. My heart gives a little thump-thump when I spot Evie standing underneath the tree waiting for me.

  It’s been five weeks since I last saw her, and I’ve ached for her every single minute of every day that’s passed. I hate that this is what we’ve become. We were stronger than this.

  I put my hands in my trouser pockets and start to walk over the sleet-covered grass. I falter when I see her touch our initials that are carved onto the tree. We did that a few months after we were together, around the time when I first told her that I loved her. I’ve walked by this
tree at least a hundred times since, and every time I’ve smiled because I knew our initials would be there forever, just like we’d always be together.

  I slow down as I approach her and watch as she tips her face up towards the sky. The rain is falling in fine little droplets, and now I’m close enough to tell that not all the water that’s flowing down her cheeks is from the rain. I stare at her for a while longer and feel tears falling down my own face.

  I’ve given her up. No matter why I’ve done what I’ve done, I’ve lost Evie at the expense of it. We were strong once, but I’m not sure any couple is strong enough to survive what I’ve put her through—what I’m about to put us both through.

  She must hear me because suddenly her beautiful green eyes clamp onto me. I watch them fly up and down my body, no doubt wondering where I’ve gotten such a shit suit. Then they shut down. Her mouth twitches as if she wants to say something, but she doesn’t say a word. I use this time to look at her, noticing that she doesn’t look as thin and frail as she did when she came to visit me at the hospital. If she’s putting weight back on then that can only be a good sign.

  “You came,” I say. I figured that when Evie finally answered the phone yesterday, it was just because she was fed up of me calling her. I thought she’d agreed just to shut me up.

  I watch her chest expand as she takes a deep breath and then quickly shakes her head and frowns. “Yes.”

  “I didn’t think you would,” I confess. I step a little closer to her and see how she blinks at me in confusion. I don’t know what she’s confused about, but I don’t like it. “How was the funeral?” I ask. “I wish I had been there. I wanted to be there.” I wanted to hold you, to tell you that this was all a nightmare and that you’d wake up and realise it wasn’t real and you’d love me again. I’d give anything for you to love me again.

  Her face and eyes instantly dull. “Don’t,” she says quickly. “I don’t want to talk about it with you.”

  I nod because that’s all I can do. If this is all I have with her, then I’m not going to do anything to ruin it. I want to remember this moment for the rest of my life. This is all I’ll have for the next God-knows-how-many years and I want it to be a good memory. “I’ve missed you so much,” I whisper. Without thinking, I reach out to her. “The last five weeks have felt like five years.” They’ve felt like fifty years. I’ve realised that I don’t know how to be me without you. We’re two halves of a whole, and without you, I’m broken. Completely and utterly broken.

  She frowns at my hand and takes a step back, colliding with the trunk of the tree. I’ve done this to us. She can’t stand to look at me or touch me, and it’s because of me.

  “I’m confused and I’m hurting,” she says.

  Does she know? Has she figured it out? “Confused about what, Evie?”

  “I love you,” she breathes, wiping her cheeks with the back of her hand. My stomach flips at the possibility that those words bring. “But now I hate you, and I don’t think I will ever be able to forgive you for what you’ve done.”

  Please don’t say this. Please don’t do this. I look into her eyes and see that I’ve already lost her.

  “No, Evie,” I whisper. “Please don’t say that.”

  “I’m so sorry,” she cries. “I’m sorry, Cole.”

  I shake my head furiously. She has nothing to be sorry for. Nothing. “No,” I say again, “I’m sorry. If only—”

  “That’s it,” she interrupts. “That’s what we’d be saying for the rest of our lives, and I can’t live like that. I won’t live like that.”

  “Fuck,” I breathe. Why am I still doing this? Why am I letting the best thing that ever happened to me just walk out of my life? I angrily push my fingers through my wet hair and stare at her, willing her to change her mind.

  “I don’t ever want to see you again,” she whispers.

  I hate Nico right now for what he did that night. I hate myself for deciding to go along with my lie. And I hate myself even more for believing that Evie would love me, no matter what. I’ve been fucking stupid.

  I let my hands drop as I stare down at her. “So this is it? The last three years have meant nothing to you?” I don’t know why I’m angry with her all of a sudden. She’s given up on me and quite rightly too, but it just feels too final. She hasn’t fought for us. For me.

  Surprise flickers across her face and then she says, “They’ve meant everything to me. Everything.”

  I take a deep breath and punch the tree just above her head. I’m so angry that I would punch myself if I could. “You won’t even visit?” I ask.

  She flinches. “I can’t.”

  I raise my eyebrows at her. “Can’t or won’t?”

  “It wouldn’t be good for us,” she says. “You must be able to see that.”

  No. No, I don’t see that. What I see is my last chance. I step forward and cup her cold face in my warm hands. “What I see,” I tell her, ”is a girl who is so broken she’s shattering into a thousand pieces right in front of me. She’s so fragile that I daren’t even touch her, but I have to. Because this is my last chance, isn’t it, Evie?”

  I softly caress her cheek with my thumb. This used to be our thing. I’d brush my thumb against her cheek before I’d lean in and kiss her. If this is the last time I ever get to touch her, then I’m making sure that the last thing I feel is her lips on mine, where they’ll be forever burned.

  Evie looks to the ground and her cheeks redden as if she’s just thought something that she shouldn’t have. “Yes.”

  I swallow, trying to force the lump of emotion from my throat. “You know what the worst thing about this is?” I ask.

  She looks back up to my face, blinking at me through the rain. “What?”

  “I want to kill the man that did this you,” I growl.

  “You did this,” she breathes.

  I nod. “I know.” I broke us. That’s what she’s saying.

  Evie frowns. “You’re not going to—”

  I shake my head, suddenly realising how that sounded. “No, I’m not. There are people that need to see me punished. I know that, understand it and even respect it,” I say. “They need to see justice has been done, and right now, I think you’re one of those people.”

  I see the look in her eyes and I know I’m right. “I deserve it,” I tell her. “But nothing they do will compare to how much it’s going to fucking hurt to let you go. I’m going to let you go because you deserve better than me. You deserve a life, and more than anything, you deserve to be happy.”

  I don’t mean that. Well, I do. I want her to be happy. But the thought of her being happy with another man makes me feel physically ill and I know that thought will torture me for as long as I’m inside. My stomach twists and flips in revulsion, and I realise right there and then that I can’t see her when I get out. I won’t want to know if she’s happy or how many times it took her to find someone who made her forget about me.

  I suddenly realise that I don’t want her to confirm it either. I don’t want to hear her saying ‘okay,’ so I push my fingers into her hair and seal my lips over hers.

  She’s cold, much colder than I am, even though I’m not wearing a coat. And at first, she doesn’t kiss me back. I need her to kiss me. I need to know that whatever war is going on between her heart and head, her body still wants me.

  I spread my hand against her back and slide it down until I get to the base of her spine. When I pull her close, she curls into me, fitting me perfectly as if my body was made to cocoon hers. Then she slowly parts her lips, and I don’t need much more of an invitation. I push my tongue in her mouth and let it dance and caress against hers, savouring every movement, every taste of her.

  I know that we can’t stay like this forever, but I don’t want anything else to ruin it. I don’t want any more arguing or harsh words. I don’t want any doubt in her mind that I’m leaving her, and I’m leaving my heart with her too.

  I break the kiss and crush my face a
gainst hers, pulling her into a hug. Then I start to cry. Not the silent tears that drip down my cheeks, but the shuddering sort of cry where the tears fall in a torrent and my lungs hiccup as they try to catch up.

  “I’ll always love you,” I whisper. “It’ll only ever be you, Evie. Don’t ever forget that.” And then, before she can say anything else to me or tell me she hates me again, I push away from her and walk across the grass, putting my feet over her tiny footprints as I wipe the tears from my face.

  I get to the car that’s been idling for the last ten minutes and climb straight inside where it’s warm.

  Simon turns around to me and shakes his head. “You’re a stupid shit for doing this.”

  I nod. “Maybe the judge got laid last night and he’s in a good mood.” I don’t know why I’m trying to joke. This really isn’t funny.

  Simon shakes his head. “I’m not on about that,” he says. “I mean you’re a stupid shit for letting her go.” He nods behind me, and I can’t stop myself from turning around.

  Just before the car rounds the corner, I see Evie crumple to the ground and a small part of me dies right there in the back seat of Simon’s Volvo.

  Evie

  I feel sick. The conversation with Cole replayed over and over in my head the whole of last night. I tossed and turned while thinking about what reason he would have for seeing a solicitor. Steph didn’t seem too worried, but the way he looked at me told me something was going on.

  Is he trying to take Lucca from me? Is he going to pull me through the courts to get official custody?

  “Evie, snap out of it.”

  I blink and jump out of my skin when I realise Gerard is standing right in front of me. “S-sorry,” I mumble.

  “Off with the fairies then, weren’t you?” he says, laughing.

  I straighten up in my chair and pull myself closer to my desk. “Did you ask me something?”

  “Yeah,” he says, slapping a load of printouts on my desk. “I need fifty copies of these and they need binding, please.”

  I add them to my to-do tray and grab a Post-it note. “When do you need them?”

  He glances at his watch. “In about an hour.”

 
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