“Do you remember how we met?”
He leaned down, brushing a lock of hair from my eyes. I could see the almost strained expression in his own as he met my weary gaze.
“How we met. Do you remember?”
My throat felt clogged as I stared into his deep stare, but, I nodded a little in response.
I remembered very well how we had met. It had been in some bar in upper city Brisbane. I’d been very tipsy, which was highly unusual for me. My friend, Carly, had tried to get me to loosen up a bit after we’d seen his band in concert. And, Pierre had walked into the same bar. Somehow or other, I’d collided into him. I think he’d been standing at the bar, ordering himself a drink and I’d literally collapsed on a stool next to him.
I didn’t really think I looked like an interesting prospect at the time. I was definitely not anyone’s idea of a good time; or at least that was my belief.
I peeked up at him, and whispered, “You were such a gentleman. I made such a fool of myself, though. Even though, I promised I wouldn’t act like a creepy teenie…”
He chuckled low, that deep rumble that always sent tingles all through my body. I lowered my gaze to the hand that was resting lightly against my stomach. He was moving it in slow, gentle circles, his touch making me crave him all over again.
Biting my lip, I sighed, looking up at him once more. He tilted his head to the side a serious expression in his eyes.
“You know I love you, right?”
I trembled, nodding my head more. “I know, but…”
His jaw tightened a pained cast to his features. He blinked several times, smearing his free hand over his face.
“I hate ‘buts’.” His voice was hoarse, tensed.
“I’m sorry, Pierre. I really am.” Placing both my hands over his, I stilled his motions. He grimaced, but didn’t interrupt me. “It’s just that, I need to get on with my life. I…I’ve realised that I practically put all my plans on hold when I met you.” I paused, peering up into his face; it was shuttered, impassive, giving nothing away.
I went on. “I mean, sure…I finished my science degree and, it’s been amazing…being with you…just…beautiful.” Squeezing at his hand, I took a deep breath. “I…I can’t ignore what I want to do with my life, though…”
Pierre’s head lowered; his face had darkened a considerable amount. I knew he wasn’t happy with what I was telling him. But, I was hoping he wouldn’t take it too hard. He made no move to say anything, giving me space to go on. I stared up at him, blinking, waiting for a heartbeat before continuing.
“Three years is a long time, for me at least. And, I know I’m only twenty-three. But, uh…” Halting, my voice shaking a little, I dropped my eyes, unable to finish the sentence.
Pierre sighed. “But, you have hopes and dreams too, eh?”
I was glad he knew me so well. It made this just a little easier to do. Lifting my head, I smiled at him, a mere twist of the lips.
“Exactly, and I’ve put them on hold long enough.”
His brow furrowed in thought, his mouth flattening in a hard line.
Stroking my hand along his arm, I waited for him to let me know how he felt about this. While I did, I looked around the room we were sitting in. It was a large, yet simple living space. The only grand, expensive, pieces in the room were an ornate black chandelier and a large grand piano. Everything else was basic, yet homey. Furniture and decor that wouldn’t have looked out of place in any home. Pierre wouldn’t have it any other way; he was all about making a home out of a house.
Pierre cleared his throat, drawing my attention from the room. I glanced at him.
“So.” He hesitated; his voice was all gravel. “We’re over. Is that what you’re telling me?”
I stared down at my hands. “You make it sound like a bad thing.”
Pierre snorted. “Think about it, Marlz. We’ve been together three years, and you’ve never, never hinted that you were thinking this way.” The tone of his voice was confused, as if he didn’t quite understand my reasoning. I wondered why he thought that, though. I was sure I had at least mentioned wanting to go back to university at least once before.
Shaking my head, I said, “I’m sure I have. But, I guess maybe I was too subtle about it.”
Pierre frowned, eyes narrowing on my face. He wasn’t pleased by my statement.
“I’m a guy. You need to be more explicit.”
I laughed, rolling my eyes. “Don’t be so insulting. You’re smarter than that, Pierre.”
He took hold of my chin, turning it up so he could look in my eyes.
“It’s true though.”
“No, it’s not.” I pulled my face back. “I hate those stereotypes, for real.” Slapping his arm, I shook my head at him again. Pierre groaned, though I had hardly even tapped his arm. He pretended that I’d really wounded him, clutching at his forearm.
“That hurt, babe…”
I sat up, pushing his arm away from my body. “Don’t be such a wuss.”
He pouted at me, bottom lip sticking out.
“No,” I said, covering my eyes. “Please don’t do that. It doesn’t make this any easier.” He knew I couldn’t ignore the pout. I heard him sigh heavily.
“Fuck, Marly. You’re gonna leave me. You’d think you’d at least try to lessen the blow.”
The tone in his voice made me feel like the worst person in the world. I looked down at the floor, feeling the weight of his pain, as well as my own, bearing down between us. I had known this wasn’t going to be easy. But, I obviously hadn’t figured out how much it would hurt. I guess I’d just been too naive.
Hunching my shoulders, I spoke in earnest to my lap. “I won’t ever forget you. But…uh…I need to do this.”
Pierre asked, in a gruff voice, “What about me? What about what I need?” There was frustration there. I lifted my eyes. He glared at me. “What if I need you here, right now?”
I shook my head. Pierre had never needed me. I didn’t think falling in love with someone fulfilled a need. A want perhaps, but never a need.
“You have your friends. The band. You’ll be heading off on tour soon, for God alone knows how long…”
The band had toured on and off for the past year since their self-titled album was released in February. However, there had been large stints of time where they hadn’t, giving me time to finish my Science course, between legs. It was going to become more full-on, though, and I thought it would be best to leave before they did. Before they embarked on their massive world tour.
Pierre wrapped an arm around my waist, tensing it a little. “That doesn’t mean you have to leave. Can’t you study via correspondence?” He was grasping at straws now, a hopeless note giving him an edge. “’Cause that’s what you want to do, right? Study?”
I shook my head again; it felt as if that was all I’d been doing for the past hour.
“Pierre, I want to be a teacher. I can’t do that off campus. Not if I’m jetsetting with you.”
He closed his eyes, pinching at the bridge of his nose; his breaths were ragged as he was evidently attempting to come to terms with everything. I stayed quiet, observing the many emotions that passed across his face. Pain, confusion, sorrow and anger warred over his features, making his brow crease and his lips tighten in a slash.
After what felt like forever, he opened his eyes. Glowering at me, he asked, “Why can’t you go to school here? There are plenty of places you could study to be a teacher at.”
He was right, there was, but I needed to be with my family if I was studying. They could support me financially. I told Pierre as much; his face hardened.
“What are you saying? That I can’t do that for you?”
“Pierre, no. I can’t expect you to do that. It wouldn’t be fair on you.” He opened his mouth to protest, but I stopped him. Pressing fingertips to his lips, I shook my head even more. “Don’t argue. I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to move back in with my parents. They’ll be able to help me out while I do my course.”
Pierre gave a slow nod. “Where did you say they lived?”
“Perth now. They moved two years ago, remember?”
He smirked, nuzzling into my hair. “Didn’t we cancel a gig there?”
I rolled my eyes, even though he couldn’t see. “Yeah, in October, and my younger brother was totally pissed off.”
Pierre grunted into my hair. “What was his name again?”
“Oh. Yeah, he has the same name as…David.”
Giggling, I leaned into him more. “Funny that.”
He smiled, but I noticed that it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Sighing, I rested my cheek against his chest, just wanting to hear his heartbeat, wanting to be as close as I possibly could. I was trying to be strong, and having him close helped; but, I knew if I fell apart, Pierre would probably be able to use it as leverage and convince me to stay. And I knew I would not be able to resist him.
Pierre stroked my hair, playing with the ends while resting his chin on the top of my head. Enveloping me in his arms, he held me close. We remained like that for awhile, until he broke the silence again, murmuring a hesitant question.
“So, when are you leaving?”
I swallowed hard. This was going to be difficult; I was already choking up and I knew I was dangerously close to tears. But, I couldn’t not answer him. Wiping the back of my hand over my face, I took several moments to compose myself. Pierre waited, more patient than I’d ever given him credit for.
Finally, I dredged up the courage to answer. “I…asked Pat to come in a couple of hours. My flight’s booked for tonight.”
I peeked up at Pierre, and my heart ached as I saw the colour literally bleed out of his face. His eyes darkened so they appeared to be black, bottomless pits. Hurt radiated from their depths, practically blasting out at me in a rush of heat. I turned my head away, unable to bear the pain in his eyes.
“Dammit, two fucking hours?” Pierre snapped. He shifted me abruptly off his lap; I landed on the sofa with a slight bounce, blinking hard at him. He stood and began to pace in front of me.
He was mad. I could tell by the set of his shoulders and the way his brows drew tight over his eyes. He glared at the floor, standing with his back to me. The muscles in the broad expanse were taut. Normally, I would have considered going over and offering him a back massage, but right now, I didn’t think anything would help.
When he was like this, brooding, angry, it scared me a little. It wasn’t that he’d ever done anything in anger to be ashamed of, except jump to the wrong conclusion a few times. But, we’d both gotten upset and had stewed for days. They’d been easily sorted in the end, though. This time was different. I was leaving him and it was going to hurt like a bitch. I needed to find some way to ease his pain.
He looked over his shoulder at me. “Yeah?” His expression was guarded, revealing nothing.
I rubbed my hands against my jeans before saying, “I’m sorry. I had to book it as soon as possible, because I had a feeling you wouldn’t take this well.”
Pierre growled, “What do you mean? I’m doing fine.”
I scoffed, “Yeah, right.”
His eyes took on a steely glint, and he squared his shoulders, jaw jutting out at me. “I am. It wouldn’t worry me if you walked out the door right this very second.” He stared hard at me, gaze not wavering an inch. I knew that he was lying, though. It was killing him; I could see that right deep in his eyes. But, I said nothing to disabuse him of the notion.
He cleared his throat, roughly. “I s’pose you’re all packed?”
“Yes. Just a couple of bags. All the big stuff, I already sent ahead of time.” Yes, I’d known for awhile I was going to return to Australia. I just hadn’t been game to tell Pierre.
He nodded, averting his gaze to the floor again. Sitting, I observed him quietly, taking in his appearance, stamping his image onto my mind. I was afraid that I would slowly forget what he looked like. Granted when the band started touring again there would be plenty of pictures turning up on the main fan sites online, but it wouldn’t be the same. Having him in the same room as me was much more personal, and worth remembering.
Pierre had grown his hair out, the deep brown waves not quite framing his face. It made him look younger, softer. He was wearing a long-sleeved black tee-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. The ink on his left arm was on display and I gazed at it for a long moment. The image began to blur, and I realised tears were prickling at the corners of my eyes. Bending my head down, I wiped at them, trying to brush them away.
I heard feet shuffling toward me, and then felt his large, warm hands, gripping my knees in a firm yet gentle hold.
I peeked at him; Pierre looked back at me. Sniffling, I just stared at him for a second; then I threw my arms around his neck, burying my face in his hair. The tears that had been threatening began pouring from my eyes, down my face. He pulled me into his arms, the two of us ending on the floor. I cuddled into his body as close as I could, strangled sobs rising from my throat.
He rubbed his palm in slow, sweeping motions at the small of my back, while murmuring sweet nothings in my ear.
“I’m sorry,” I repeated, over and over. I wished I could be stronger over my decision, but I still loved him so much that what I was doing caused an ache so profound that I felt my heart may spontaneously combust. But, I had to do this…
Pierre rocked me as I cried into his chest, still whispering, his own voice grating, filled with pain. After my sobs began to subside, I sat back and just looked at him. He sighed, meeting my eyes.
“Well…” We spoke at the same time.
Pierre gave a sour laugh. “You first.”
I placed my right hand against his cheek; he ended up leaning into my touch. Stroking my fingers against the stubble, I said, “I’m going to miss you…”
Pierre blinked rapidly. “You could call me, sometime.”
“No.” I had to veto that. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. I…need this to be a clean break.” That might not seem to make much sense. After all, I could imagine the objections one could make to that. Why did I need to even break up with him, right? We could do the whole long distance thing. But, I just felt it would be easier this way.
His jaw clenched, but he just nodded, even though I saw irritation flash in his eyes. “Fine.” He rocked back on his heels then stood, looking down on me. “When’s Pat getting here?”
I cast my eyes to the clock above the piano. “An hour.”
Pierre shoved his hands into his pockets, shifting on his feet. “Right.”
An awkward silence filled the room. Like the proverbial pink elephant. I could tell he had nothing more to say; or that he had no idea what else to say. His eyes were darting around the room, obviously avoiding meeting mine. I closed my eyes, breathing hard.
Pierre spoke, then, without looking at me. “I’m gonna go for a drive.”
I looked at him. He made a face. “I won’t be back before you go. So…um, have a safe trip.” He paused as if he was trying to think of more words, but then he shook himself, turned on his heel and walked out.
I sat frozen for a moment, hearing his footsteps going toward the front door. Pushing to my feet, I rushed out after him.
He was at the key rack, grabbing the ones for his car. He swivelled his gaze back toward me.
Biting at my bottom lip, and rubbing my arms in a nervous gesture, I blurted out, “Won’t you stay and wait with me?”
Pierre exhaled in a harsh breath. “I can’t. I can’t be with you, right now. Just…uh…stay safe.”
He gave me a brief look, then, after tucking his keys in his pocket, walked out the door. Out of my life. But how fitting was that? Because that was exactly what I was doing to him.