On Wednesday, as the two of relax on the couch and do nothing of any importance except spend time together, we get the long-awaited news. It's news that we both wanted to hear, that we both hoped to hear... but yet we also didn't want to hear it, either. We didn't know what this would mean for us and what other implications this may have on our relationship. We had been enjoying this limbo we were in, this ignorant bliss where knowledge couldn't hurt us. Much like Adam and Eve in Eden, I suppose. After all, if you don't know if things are going to get better or worse for you, if you're going to Heaven or Hell, sometimes you'd rather just stay in Purgatory.
When my phone rang at seven, I didn't recognize the phone number. However, ever since I got my new phone and number, I had been very selective in who I gave it out to. That meant that whoever was calling had my number for a reason, and likewise they were calling me for a reason.
"Hello?" I answer, standing up from my position on the couch next to Max. We had been eating out of each other's containers of Chinese food and watching whatever crime show that was on TV, and I didn't want to disturb him.
"Charlotte? It's Libby. I hope you don't mind that your mother gave me your number so I could call you."
I hesitate. I don't know how I feel about that; on one hand, I don't mind because Libby and I got along better than I got along with my sister. Hell, the two of us were supposed to become sisters-in-law. But on the opposite hand, I probably wasn't going to like her topic of discussion. And mother really needs to start learning to butt out of my life, because I'm a grown-ass woman.
I ignore her comment and get to the point. "Um, what's up, Libby?"
I must have gasped, because Max looks over at me. I knew we'd get this news eventually, but I wasn't expecting it yet. He looks concerned. "Are you okay, baby? What is it?"
"John's awake," I relay to him before speaking back into the phone. "How is he, Lib? I just wanna know if he's all right."
"He seems to be fine. I mean, he's a little messed up. He doesn't remember much of what happened on Saturday before the accident, and he's confused about being in a coma for a couple days, but he doesn't seem to have any other memory loss or cognitive problems."
"Yeah. He'll be laid up for a while because of his broken leg, and then he'll have to rehab. Other than that, though, I think he's going to be just fine."
"I'm really glad to hear that, Lib." I cover the mouthpiece of my cell. "Hey Max, can you call Jordan and tell him that John's gonna be just fine? He'll really want to know that. It'll put his mind at ease." Max nods and picks up his phone to dial his friend, passing along the information. "Thanks for telling me, Libby. I appreciate it."
I plan on quickly getting off the line, but she keeps talking to me. I figure that she just needs to let off some steam, because the only person she's really had to keep her company over the past few days is Mommie Dearest, and well.... I kind of pity her for that.
"I'm so relieved. I mean, I prayed and prayed that he would be okay. I don't know what I would have done if I had to lose my brother, too. I mean, first my mom, then my dad after that, and now John? There's only so much one person can take, you know?"
"Yeah. It's a relief, for sure." I try to desperately to find a way to segue out of this conversation. I feel so rude.
"These past couple days have been so hard. Not just because he's been hurt and I've been worried about if he'd pull through, but because of what you said, Charlotte. That you guys weren't together anymore and hadn't been for a while. And it's not that I necessarily didn't believe you, but I didn't want to believe that he would lie to me. I mean, he didn't really lie because he didn't do much talking about you, but he never told me the truth by saying it was over, which he should have. It's just that he's my brother. I didn't know what to believe at all, until I talked to your mother about it. Not that she was the most forthcoming person either, because she was convinced that you two were going to patch things up so she thought that that meant you were never really not together in the first place, but at least she gave me the impression that there was some sort of rift between the two of you...."
While Libby goes on and on, I grab my heavy jacket and slip it on. Max is still on the phone with Jordan, and I'm under the impression that Jordan's grilling Max for information that he doesn't have. Since he's stuck on the phone too, I decide to take this call outside. I have a feeling that it's not going to end well, so I'd rather deal with it in privacy.
I catch Max's attention and nod my head to the door to let him know that I'm stepping out for a moment, and he winks at me to let me know he understands. I jog down the stairs, knowing that if I talk in the lobby, my neighbor will just yell at me. So I head out to the street and sit on the curb of the sidewalk.
"...I just want you to know that it's hard for me to believe he was lying. And as much as I was happy to see him wake up, I yelled at him. I really let him have it. Like, the doctors almost threw me out of his room, that's how much I yelled. I told him how disappointed I was in him, and I think he's sorry, Charlotte. He says he wants to apologize, and he—and well, me too, actually—we both would like it if you came by so we can this set straight."
I'm stunned speechless. I don't know what to say. If Libby was having a hard time trying to process everything that was going on, then this is damn near impossible for me. My curiosity is certainly piqued. What exactly is he sorry for? For lying to his sister? For coming to Pittsburgh and ruining my Thanksgiving? Or for the years of misery he made me suffer through?
Hell yes, I want to know what it is he's sorry for. And I'd love to hear an apology come out of his mouth if he's being sincere.
But it hits me that his apology, sincere or not, won't mean a damn thing to me. It won't change the past, and it certainly won't change my opinion of him. Maybe that means I'm being petty, that I can't be the bigger person and forgive him if he's truly repentant, but fuck that! I don't want to have to be bigger and better! I don't want to forgive and forget; I just want to forget.
Giving him the time of day for even a simple "I'm sorry" is too much, and way more than he deserves. Again, that may make me shallow, but I don't care about that at this point. I don't care about anyone else's opinion of me on this subject. If he's sorry, then so be it and good for him for seeing the light; that doesn't mean I have to hear it. I'm past the point of wanting or needing an apology; we're too far gone for that.
Of course, that's assuming he is sorry. For all I know, this could be some scam just to lure me in to see him. He's done it before, and this could just be another instance of that. Let me think that he's sorry for something, and then somehow turn it back to me, make me feel bad about something, and make me apologize for some perceived mistake I never actually made. Fuck that!
"I'm sorry, Libby, but I won't. Whatever he's sorry for, tell him to forget it. Because I don't care. It's over and done, and we both just need to move on and forget."
"What did he to you that you would can't even let him apologize to you? Forgiving is something else, but you can't even let him get it off his chest? What happened?" I pause, not sure how to go about this. I don't think I want to go through with this at all. "Did he hit you, Charlotte?"
My eyes well up. It comes down to this every time; if he had hit me or physically hurt me, no one would ever question my reasons for leaving him. Instead, they'd praise me for getting out of such a bad relationship and berate him. Emotional abuse, however, is tricky. We all think we'd deal with it differently, that we'd be strong enough to see through a shady guy and avoid becoming "one of those girls." I used to rationalize it and say that at least he didn't hit me. I never thought that it was just as bad.
"No, he never hit me."
"Then what's the big deal?
"He messed with my head, Lib. He was manipulative and negative and controlling, and I let him take over my life and thoughts. Hell, he was my life, and he knew that and used that knowledge to his advantage. It took a lot of strength and courage to walk away from him, and quite frankly, I'd appreciate it if everyone would get off my fucking back and let me live my own goddamn life the way I want to."
"Geez, Charlotte, chill out."
"I'm not going to chill out," I hiss. I feel bad for taking this out on Libby, but I can't stop myself. "Your brother really pulled one over on me and fucked me up. It was hard to get to this place, and it took a lot of help. Max has been beyond wonderful to me, for me, and even if I wanted to see John—which I don't, mind you—I wouldn't put Max through this. Not again. I won't let John ruin the best thing I have going for me right now."
"He just wants to say sorry."
"That's how it always starts out. You know, I gave him all summer to come to his senses. I've learned a lot about real love since then."
"This doesn't have anything to do with your new boyfriend, Charlotte."
"Yes, it does! This has everything to do with him. Max has been loving, kind, generous, magnanimous, constant in his affection, unwavering... nothing short of amazing and way more than I deserve. I don't know what he sees in me, but until he wises up and leaves, I'm going to hold onto him. And I certainly won't risk it by getting all worked up over John again."
Libby is silent for a moment before she speaks. "I guess you have to do what you think is best for you," she finally says. If it hadn't been for the tone of her voice, I would have been very offended, but she didn't sound resentful; she sounded resigned, and a little choked up. "Just know that John is sorry for how he treated you. Now that he's awake and is probably stable enough to transport, we're going to see about taking him up to Toronto, so he's close to me and Ron. It'll take some time to deal with the insurance and then getting him transferred to a hospital in another country, but that's the plan."
"I still hope he makes a speedy recovery." I pause. "Take care of yourself, Libby, and best of luck to you. For, well, everything."
I don't wait for an answer. I just hang up, and I linger on the curb for a few minutes and try to discern my thoughts and feelings. I had told Libby that I didn't want to get myself worked up by going to see him and potentially falling into one of his emotional traps. But I'm still worked up. This happens every time, every fucking time... except this time.
How can I sit here and cry over that loser when I have Max, the most incredible person on this Earth, waiting for me up in my apartment? This cycle ends now.
As I push myself off the sidewalk, my phone rings again. It's Mommie Dearest. I click to ignore it, because I can't possibly deal with her right now, too. She calls again two seconds later, as I'm making my way up the stairs. I ignore it again, and this time she leaves a message. I can only imagine what she has to say now. Judging by her fervent calling, she's not as in favor of Max as I thought she was.
I push open the door of my apartment and shed my jacket. I hang it up and wipe at my face before I go into the living room to face Max.
"What the fuck was that about?" he asks me, not giving me enough time to compose myself.
"What are you talking about?" I ask back, not answering his original question. Because I don't understand his original question. I'm lost.
"I heard your conversation."
"You heard that?" I search my brain, wondering if I said something I wouldn't want him to hear. I didn't; at least, not that I can remember. "And why in the world were you listening to me?"
"Don't change the subject here. What did you mean by, 'when he wises up and leaves'?"