I could see the pain he had tried to make blank in his eyes, hear the hurt in his voice. I remembered the first time I met Laurette. She was every man’s wet dream in the flesh and who most women aspired to be, at least I thought so. She had the perfect body and dressed in a way that subtly turned heads as if flirting with your mind. She was intelligent, ambitious, fun, easy to talk to, and a great listener.
She had the right answers to everything; I must confess, she was the woman I wanted to be, and I guess it wasn’t hard for me to fall in line when she started a conversation with me at the bar where I waited for Felix to show up. We had a small talk where I got to know what she did and where she lived, and we exchanged contacts some minutes before Felix showed up. He politely apologised for being late and acknowledged Laurette’s presence as I introduced them. Looking back, I realised he had dismissed her just as quickly.
When I thought the questions were over, he asked me softly, bringing me out of my thought, “why did you do it?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” I sniffed
“Try me,” he responded.
I sniffed again and stared at him; I couldn’t stop crying. To his question, I wish I could say that he was indifferent toward me; my feelings, but he hadn’t. I wish I could say he neglected me at some point, but he hadn’t. He wasn’t violent, and neither had he been contemptuous towards me. On the contrary, he was supportive, loving, and kind.
“It was not you, Felix.” He arched his brow.
“You are saying I had nothing to do with you cheating on me, that our relationship was perfect?” he asked, surprised.
“In a way, it was”, I replied quietly.
I didn’t expect him to understand that Laurette had stirred something within me that I felt was dead. She had made me feel alive; she made me experience the blissfulness of being free, letting go, and the desire to live, not just exist. I wasn’t sure when or how I lost that part of myself. But it felt great to have it back, the difference being it wasn’t with him, it had been with Laurette, and with that, I realised Felix had never stopped me, I had done that to myself, but he had not encouraged me as Laurette did.
“There is no way I can say this without hurting you.”
“You suddenly give a damn about my feelings.” He sneered.
“I wanted to feel something different, to experience something new.”
“You couldn’t experience that with me? I couldn’t give you that?” he asked.
I swallowed hard.
Felix bowed his head, and he was silent for a long time. I wasn’t sure if he could understand.
W-what did it mean to you, whatever new thing you wanted to feel that I couldn’t give you, that I couldn’t make you feel? H-how did that make you feel?”
I swallowed. How could I tell Felix I felt alive, seen and desired, felt important yet heavily burdened with guilt? How do I say I felt irrelevant to him at some point, like I didn’t matter? And I wanted to feel longed-for, and it took Laurette to make me realise that I had everything I wanted, that I was complete with him, and all the while, I was sinking into resentment, and self-loathing, thinking I wasn’t good enough. Each time Laurette and I were together, I felt good and guilty.
“Why now, Liv? Did you think I would find out? Did she try to blackmail you?” He watched me closely.
“I love you, Felix. I do. I know this is hard for you to believe, but I value you. I value us. I know I have wronged you but what we have, what we have is better than special. I see that now.”
He started to laugh, startling me. I wondered what he found amusing.
“You say this thing you had with her is over?”
I nodded my head, wiping my eyes. By now, I’d soaked Felix’s handkerchief. As if detecting my dismay, he handed me another hankie and continued his questions.
“Did she blackmail you?”
“How does that make you feel?”
“I ended it.”
“How did it make you feel?” he repeated.
“Good because I ended it, better because now you know,” I told him; his expression was unreadable as he stared at me. I still couldn’t bear to look him in the eyes and couldn’t tell what he was thinking. I was genuinely sorry. After a long deafening silence, he stood up and left.