SUDDENLY SLOWLY

CHAPTER EIGHT

- Present Time -

Lila, being the one to firsthand witness my breakdown after the cab ride with Gavin, urged me to completely cut him out of my life, as he had been for the past three years. She was worried about me.

Amanda, on the other hand, wanted me to confront him. Go right up to him and yell at him for being such an insensitive jerk. She didn't think I should avoid it; the only way for me to get past it was to deal with him.

I knew it would be hard to face him, it wasn't like I had a perfect track record either, but I couldn't cut him out—he had my purse that I had left in the cab.

When I woke up the next morning I was more worried about my possibly missing purse than Gavin. I tried as hard as I could to think of the cab I was in: the company or a number. But I couldn't remember anything that would be the least bit important. But I didn't have to wait long before I get an answer.

Early the next morning the phone rang and Lila, after spending the night, answered it. I watch her face instantly darken and her head shake, fervently.

"No, I'm sorry but, no." She said in a voice much more stern than her usual elementary teacher voice. She saw me watching her and turned away.

"Yeah, she's here." I moved toward her, expecting her to hand the phone to me. "But she is not talking to you. Maybe you should just drop her stuff off, Gavin." She saw me listening intently and rolled her eyes. "You're insane if you think she wants to talk to you—" She pauses, "Of course she said that."

I held my hand out for the phone. She shook her head like I'm one of her impertinent little second graders. I dropped my hand and listen to the rest of Lila's half of the conversation. And for some odd reason, I want to hear what he has to say, I want to know if he's trying to smooth things over or merely defending himself. I just want to hear him. But from Lila's reaction, I feel like it's the worst possible thing to do.

Lila hung up the phone and sat next to me. She gives nothing away.

"Well?" I ask and try to look nonchalant.

"He wanted to talk to you." She said and still sounded irritated.

"Oh."

"He wants to see you." I could tell she wanted to see some sort of reaction from me.

"Oh?"

"I told him there's no way you want to talk to him and that he should drop your purse off. So, hopefully, he'll stop by today." She shrugged; clearly the conversation wasn't a big deal to her. "Anyway, have you talked to Alex?"

I had almost forgotten about him. "He stayed at his place, he didn't get back until early this morning. He'll come here this afternoon, probably."

She nodded. "Well in that case, I'm going to head home." She put her jacket on and looked at me seriously. "You okay?"

"Yeah, fine. Really fine. Last night was just - it's out of my system."

"Okay, well, I love you Hal, you know that, right?"

I nodded and she gave me a quick hug and walked to the door. "Thanks, Lil."

I tried to go about a normal Saturday morning. I showered, ate, and eventually sat down to start writing my piece about The Days. I still felt a little nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I tried to disregard as little more than an annoyance. But I knew better, it's that awful feeling that I hadn't felt in years. It made my mind slow and my stomach sick. I was barely through my first draft when I heard a buzz at my door. I jumped at the opportunity of a distraction. I peeked out my third floor window down to the street below to see Gavin waiting outside which, logically, shouldn't be any surprise. I buzzed him in, my stomach in anxious knots.

His knock at my door inevitably follows.

I sighed and turned away from the door trying to regroup.

"Halley?" I let the moment lingering as I considered walking away from the door. But, I go against my better judgment—purely out of curiosity—and with every intention of initiating the termination of this burden, I opened the door.

He stood in my doorway with a faint smile on his face, one that hints of a small victory. Was it that he had gotten past Lila? Or that he thought he had something valuable to say? But just by looking at the rest of him, I noticed he's still in the same clothes as last night.

I cut straight to the point, "Do you have my purse?"

"No, I just—"

"Then why are you here?" I asked it more angrily than I intended. But it isn't too hard to be angry. He hasn't changed at all from the first time in met him, that looks anyway. Brown hair, brown eyes that look so guileless and disarming at a glance but just as quickly turn harshly honest and infuriating.

"It's in my car outside, Halley. I just wanted to talk to you." He sounded sincere, but I can't meet his eyes to tell if I can see it or not.

"I," I did want to hear what he had to say. I wanted to hear him talk. But I also wanted to yell at him, say that I've moved on—but maybe I hadn't completely. Yet the fact was that I wanted to, I wanted to cut him out like Lila said. I moved away from the door to let him in.

He started awkwardly. "I'm sorry about—"

"I know."

"I just—"

"Sold out?"

"No," he said seriously. He furrowed his brow. "It's a good song, a great song. And had been years after we'd been over when it was released."

"Oh please! You know just as well as I do that time doesn't make it any less personal."

"I never said it was any less personal! I still…" He stopped and shoved his hands in his pockets.

"You still what?"

He just pushed his hand through his hair.

Then it struck me—he wasn't over it—he was still hung up on what had happened. But he still was too weak to say it out loud. "Why don't you just say it, Gavin? Is it really that hard?"

"Well how can you be so unaffected? Don't you ever feel guilty?" He was almost in my face.

I put my hand to my head. "Did you honestly expect me to have a baby when I was, what, 21, 22? Did you really expect me to be okay with the fact that you'd never be there for it? Yes, I do think about it occasionally, but neither of us was ready for that!"

He shook his head and sneered a little.

"Don't you even try to make me out as the bad guy!" I cried.

In the end, everything had been so horribly complicated. I hated him so much for bringing it up again. He was out in California while I was at home when I found out I was pregnant, those years ago. At the time I wasn't even going to tell him; I wanted to get it taken care of because I knew there was no way we were ready for anything like that. But he wanted me to have it. And told him it didn't matter because it was happening to me, and my body and that he didn't have any right to tell me what to do. I tried to end it over the phone but he flew back to Chicago the next day to try to fix everything. But he didn't. And I couldn't compromise. Everything seemed broken between us. It just brought to my attention that maybe we weren't as strong as we had lead ourselves to believe. We couldn't handle a serious situation like adults. And so everything, really everything, just ended.

"Well I'm not!"

"Why couldn't you just understand? I wasn't ready then, I still don't think I'm ready now!" I've had to take the defensive on this issue with him even though I know I didn't do anything wrong, which made him seem even more wrong for attacking me.

He watched me intensely and I continue. "And you weren't ready! You were in rehab a few months ago, weren't you? And why are you bringing this up?" My head was pounding now and hated him so much for doing this.

"Well maybe if things had gone differently our lives would have turned out differently."

"Maybe. It doesn't matter now though."

"I'm sorry." He says it a second time. "We've just never had closure. And with everything so open-ended it's easy to go back to that place."

"I don't want to go back to that place. I don't know why you would."

He shook his head. "No, it's not that. It was just seeing you. Reminded me of… so much."

"At least you have fame and fortune to keep you content, right?" It's a jab and meant in the worst way but I couldn't help myself; it's not like I had time during their interview or the previous night's dinner to say what I wanted to.

"What?"

"With the constant flow of drugs, women, and money going your way, what's there to be sad about? And really, if you don't deserve it all then I don't know who does."

"Really, Halley?" He crossed his arms defensively.

"It's a little disappointing…" I paused, more for effect than anything else. "No, you're a little disappointing." It was out of my mouth before I could censor myself, but at least it was true.

"Excuse me? I'm disappointing? We've been out of contact for years, now all of the sudden I'm disappointing you? And you said I hadn't changed? Go take a look at yourself."

"I guess so. On and off drugs, and in and out of tons of different girl's beds, I don't know why you even care about me having your children when you can certainly manage that without me. I just can't believe that having succeeded and finally accomplishing just what you've always dreamed, you've messed up so badly. I mean rehab? Come on,"

His face quickly darkened and he took a few quick steps towards me. "I didn't come here to be lectured, Halley."

"Yeah, but you came here to lecture me. Look, I don't deserve this and you don't want this. So let's just–"

"What is this?" He threw his hands up.

I swallowed, and wondered if he expected the truth. "Nothing. This is absolutely nothing."

He just laughed.

"You should leave."

"And you should marry that fiancé of yours before he finds out what kind of person you are." A smirked played on his mouth while his eyes narrowed.

"It's okay; he actually loves me."

And with that last syllable out of my mouth, Alex walked in the door.