Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Some Things Never Change Chapter XIV

 It’s late when I take Erick home. We share a cab because Sean still has the car. We have spent most of the night in silence, avoiding all the difficult subjects. I’m far from feeling comfortable with him again, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t find his presence comforting somehow. We park in front of the building, and I can't shake the thought that he’s coming home to Jules while I’m driving away to a lonely apartment. Will he kiss her hello?

Not wanting to look at him any further, I get out of the car and retrieve his wheelchair. I open the door for him and push the chair forward. 

“Erick,” I turn to him once he’s transferred into the chair. “If… when…,” I struggle to find the words. “If you’re with her, tell me about it. Don’t let me get blindsided again, will you?” The words come out sharper than I intended. 

He gasps and opens his mouth like he’s about to say something, but then he stays quiet and just nods. I get a bad feeling at the pit of my stomach. I make a conscious effort to push the thought of them together to the back of my mind as I watch the guilt in Erick’s blue eyes. 

“I’ll pick you up tomorrow,” I say despite myself. I could just let him wheel to work from now on, but somehow, I feel like that would be the equivalent of backing out and letting him be with Jules. I’m not ready to do that. 

“See you tomorrow,” he bids me goodbye and wheels to the door. I don’t wait for him to go inside. I get in the cab and drive away. 

I spend another restless night. At least I don’t have a fever anymore. The next morning, I feel drained. I get up anyway and do all the things I usually do in the mornings, seeking some sort of normalcy. Since it’s still early, I decide to walk to Erick and Jules’s place. I sneeze again when the cold wind hits my face, but I ignore it. When I get there, I stand staring at the door for a while before I can bring myself to ring the doorbell. I wait at the street, not wanting to get inside the building. I guess I should return my key, since I have no desire of ever using it again. 

After a few minutes, Erick wheels out. Sean’s with him, dressed up in jeans and a dress shirt. He’s coming to the company with me, like he said he would. I smile, feeling slightly better. He hands me the car keys, but I don’t take them.

“You drive,” I say. 

I get in the back of the car and let Sean take Erick’s chair and store it in the trunk. I also let him get it when we get to the company. I stand back while my son helps Erick out of the car and shuts the door behind him. We walk inside the building and Betty greets Sean with a big smile. We ride the elevator together and then, Erick wheels away to his office and Sean follows me to mine. 

We spend the day together like I’ve only dreamt about. Sean is in a good mood. He actually listens to everything I say, and he also responds with other than monosyllables when I talk to him. 

“How did it go with Ana?” I ask him tentatively at lunch hour. 

“Pretty good,” he actually answers, looking me straight in the eye instead of averting my questions as usual. 

I grin. “Is she your girlfriend now?”

His mouth curls up to hint a smile as he nods. “Yeah, I guess she is.” 

“Do I get to meet her sometime?”

“Sometime,” he smirks. 

“Let’s go get something to eat,” I stand up and walk out of the office. He follows.

“Do I get uncle Erick?” He stops at the hallway. 

“Sure,” I agree. I would rather just have lunch with him, but I don’t want to risk him getting angry at me again. 

“Do you mind going with me somewhere?” I ask Sean when it’s time to leave the office. I want to show him the new café. I was going to last Friday before everything happened. I try my best not to think about that night again. “I want to show you something.”

“Sure,” he stands up and puts his coat on. 

Erick is waiting for the elevator when we walk out. 

“Are you leaving?” Sean walks to him. 

“We’ll drive you,” I say before he can answer. 

“Thanks, but I’m not going home yet,” he refuses. Then he hesitates before elaborating. “I’m meeting Joshua,” he explains. 

“Oh,” I say and feel a sting in my chest for some reason. So he’s getting a car after all. Did he decide to get his own car foreseeing he would be at odds with me once he made a move on Jules? I glare at him, unable to restrain myself. 

“Who’s Joshua?” Sean asks without looking at me luckily. 

“Uh,” Erick hesitates again. “A friend who’s teaching me to drive with hand controls.”

“Cool,” Sean says. 

I look away from them and press the button for the elevator although I know Erick already did. 

We walk out of the building together. Sure enough, Joshua is waiting for Erick outside. He’s sitting on a wheelchair of his own. Joshua is also paralyzed, although he has a lower injury than Erick. 

“Hey,” he raises a hand when he sees us. He’s wearing leather fingerless gloves. His hands work fine, unlike Erick’s.

“Hi,” Erick wheels to him. “Remember Tony?”

“Sure,” he holds a hand out to me. “Hey man, are you coming with us?”

I shake his hand. 

“No,” I say coldly. 

“This is Sean,” Erick signals to my son. “Sean, this is my friend Joshua.”

“Hi,” Sean shakes his hand too. 

“Oh hi,” Joshua smiles at him. “I think I’ve met you before, but you were a kid back then. How’s your mom?”

“Fine, thanks.”

“A great woman, your mom. Tell her I said hi,” he turns his chair around. “My car is around the corner.”

“Do you need help with the chair, uncle Erick?” 

“Uh…, I hope not,” Erick looks up at him with a strained smile.

“I’ve got it,” Joshua jumps in. 

Still my kid hovers over Erick. 

“They’ve got it,” I say to get Sean to back off. “They’ve done this before.”

Joshua looks up at me and then at Erick, a strange look on his face. Erick looks down.  

I start walking away. “See you,” I add.

“See you,” Erick says, looking away.

“Ok,” Sean turns around. “See you later uncle Erick.” He walks behind me. 

We drive silently to the café. 

“Where are we?” Sean asks when I park in front of it. 

“I’ll show you,” I smile and get out of the car. 

I unlock the door and flip the lights switch. I turn to look at Sean and wait for his reaction. 

“So?” I press impatiently. He’s turning around his own axis, taking the place in.

“Is this a coffee shop for mom?” He asks, still looking around. 

I nod. His eyes rest on my tool box which is lying next to the kitchen counter. 

“Did you fix it up for her?”

I nod again. “It’s almost done. I replaced the floors, changed the counter. I finished painting the walls last night. All that’s left is installing the lamps and the sign. They deliver it tomorrow.”

Sean runs a hand along the new counter. 

“What do you think?” I press once more because he’s quiet.

“It’s…” he looks up at me. “It’s great dad. She’ll love it.” He says grimly. 

I frown. 

“Are you trying to get back together with her?” He asks.

I sigh. Might as well tell the truth. “I was, when I started doing this. I don’t know now,” I try to keep my tone neutral but I don’t quite manage to.

My kid stares at me.

“Look,” I start. “I know you want her to be with Erick.” It hurts to say the phrase out loud. “I won’t interfere if that’s what she decides.” It hurts even more to say that. “But I had already done this when…” I shake my head. “I want her to have it either way.”

“You really love her, don’t you?”

“I do, son, very much,” I stress the words. How can he not know this?

He nods, an unreadable expression clouding his face. 

“Help me with the lamps?” I say because I can’t take his silence any longer. 

“Sure,” he agrees, and we get to work. 

It doesn’t take us long to install three lamps on the ceiling. I could’ve finished this place in half the time if I had had Sean’s help before. I watch him as he tightens the last screw. He’s up on the ladder, his feet set firmly over the metal steps, while I hold it in place. He’s got an expression of concentration that makes me think he might be starting to enjoy physical labor, like I do. 

“Dad?” He says when we finish. 


He looks at me sympathetically. “Nothing,” he squats and puts the tools away. 

I hang the keys in place and close the door of my apartment. I take off my favorite coat and hang it on the rack by the entrance. Then, I walk to the piano and pour myself a scotch.

“It looks like Sean might forgive me after all,” I speak to my father’s picture. “I’m happy about that, dad, but he still wants Jules to be with Erick.” I sip a large gulp and let it rasp my throat. “What do I say to that, dad?”

I finish my drink in one big gulp and head to bed utterly exhausted.

The next morning I drive down to pick Erick up fighting the urge to turn back around at every corner. I finally make it, and step out of the car reluctantly. As I approach the building, I see Jules come out. She’s wearing a pencil skirt and tall boots. The dark brown of both garments contrasts with the soft beige of her sweater. Her hair is up on a bon leaving a fraction of her pink skin uncovered by the tall neck sweater. I stare at her unable to look away. 

“Morning,” she says stiffly. 

“Morning,” I mutter and try to command my eyes to shift, but they’re magnetized to her figure. “You look…”  I stop myself.

“I’ve a job interview,” she looks down at herself and blushes.

The color on her cheeks is so endearing. I want to grab her waist and pull her to me, entangle her in a long kiss that I know, were she to reciprocate, would heal all my wounds at once like a magic potion. It takes a few seconds for her words to register in my brain. 

“You’re looking for a job?” I ask stupidly.

She tilts her head to one side and looks up at me like the answer is obvious. It is, I suppose. It’s not like I’m supporting her. 

“You don’t have to do that,” I rush the words out.

“I do. Trust me, I do,” she looks down again. 

I want her to set her gaze back on me. I miss her big brown eyes which used to look at me like I was the only person she could see, like the whole world disappeared when we faced each other, like I was the only one. I fight away the shiver my thoughts have just unleashed by taking a step forward towards her. I use a finger to lift her chin. Will she never look at me that way again? 

Her face rises but her eyes stay down. 

“Jules,” I call her like she’s not in front of me, but just a distant memory that has come to me in a dream. 

She looks up then, and there it is, that wondrous glimmer in her sight that dims the background into a blur as I lose myself inside her gaze. My lips part and I gasp involuntarily. 

I let go of her face abruptly, because I know that if I don’t, I will kiss her now and carry her away if I must, never to let her escape me again. I put my hands inside my pockets to stop her from seeing them trembling. 

She takes a step back away from me and starts to turn around. “Jules,” I call again to stop her, unable to keep the urge from my voice. 

She turns to face me again, the look in her eyes gone, replaced by a sour reproach that burns me. 

“Don’t accept any offers today, will you?” I try to control my tone. She lifts her eyebrows and opens her mouth to speak but I don’t let her. “Please meet me tonight. Please,” I almost beg. “I need to show you something.”

“Tony, I…”

“Please,” I say again. 

“Ok,” she yields. 

I let out a breath, relieved. 

“Thank you,” I say earnestly. “I’ll pick you up at eight,” I grin tentatively. 

It takes her a second, but she returns my grin with only a slight waver.

I let go of her then and step back to break the gravitational field she seems to cast around.

I wait until she’s walked away to ring the doorbell. 

A few minutes later, Erick wheels out. He’s alone this time. “Good morning,” he says formally, in a strained tone, like it’s not the most natural thing in the world for us to drive to work together. 

“Morning,” I say back in that same tone. 

He wheels ahead of me towards the car. I follow a step behind. He reaches the car and opens the door himself. I always do that for him. He hooks his whole hand under the handle and uses the other hand to push away from the car in order to get the door to swing open at the same time his chair rolls backward. He gets it on the first try. I stare at him. Joshua must have taught him that. 

I walk into Erick’s room in the evening and he meets me with a broad smile. 

“Did you win the lottery or something?” I chuckle. His smile is infectious. Jules is behind his chair, grinning too.

“Better,” he says. 

“Oh yeah?” I wait for them to tell me what’s got them so happy. “Are you gonna tell me what’s going on?”

“No,” he smirks. “I’m going to show you.”

I stand there in expectation. Erick picks his legs up, one at a time, and sets his feet on the floor. Jules hands him a sliding board. He takes it awkwardly with his fisted hands and lets his body fall to one side so he can slide the board under him. He sets the other end of the board on the bed. He then leans forward on the chair and places a fist over the mattress. He starts scooting over, moving forward towards the edge of the chair with short jerks of his shoulders which drag his hips over the board. It takes him a while, and it’s anything but smooth, but when he’s done, he’s on the bed. He drops his body on one elbow again and takes the board out from under him. He tosses it to the chair and lifts up both arms in the air as far as they will go, which is not all the way. He balances precariously for a short second and then drops them on his knees to catch himself. He throws his head back laughing. 

I join him in his laughter. It’s been almost three years since his accident, and it’s the first time I’ve seen him transfer on his own. 

I walk to him and set a hand on his shoulder. I nod silently feeling suddenly overwhelmed by this accomplishment. He looks up to meet my eyes, his smile still broad. 

“We should celebrate,” I say, making an effort to keep my voice steady. 

“Hell yeah!” He agrees.

He transfers back into the chair the same way, and we go out for a drink that night, the three of us in such a good mood that it feels like old times. 

Before leaving the bar, Erick lifts his beer up for a final toast. The three of us drink our beers empty at the same time. 

“This was fun,” Jules says as she grabs her purse. 

“Yeah,” I agree. “I can’t remember the last time I went out.”

“Well you can go out all the time now,” Erick pushes away from the table. “You won’t have to come over every night,” he says, still smiling. “I can take care of myself now. Well, almost,” he shrugs. 

And although all our mouths are grinning, I feel a sudden sting of sadness on my chest. I won’t go to his house every night now that he can transfer on his own. He doesn’t need me to carry him to bed anymore. When will I see Jules then? Only on weekends when I show up to pick Sean up and take him out? Will I only have minutes with her while Sean grabs his things and meets me outside? Will I run into her at Sean’s games or PTA’s meetings and think oh how she’s changed? 

I feel the same sting now. Erick’s getting a car. As reluctant as I was this morning to drive here and pick him up, I find myself fearing the day when that won’t be the case. Back then, I asked myself what I would do without Jules. Now, for the first time, I cringe at the thought of losing my best friend.

Erick transfers to the car and looks up at me. On a normal day, I would be taking the chair away to stock it in the back. But I can’t bring myself to move now. The worst part is that he started planning on this before I saw them kiss, like he was already prepared to lose me. 

He stares at me for yet another minute, and since I don’t move, he leans towards the chair and pops a wheel out. He wraps his arm around the steering wheel and pulls up from it to lift the chair’s wheel and throw it in the back. By himself. I feel a sudden urge to sit down, like all the tiredness of the last days has finally caught up with me at this very instant, draining me of all my remaining energy. I’m overreacting, I know. I force myself to get a grip. 

He tries to grab the chair and pull it around to get the other wheel, but the frame falls down. He can’t reach down far enough to grab it. I lean in and push it towards him, just enough so he can reach it and do the rest. He looks up at me and thanks me with a nod. Not without difficulty, he pulls out the other wheel and throws it to the back. Then, he attempts to lift the frame of the chair but it’s too heavy for him. He gives it a few tries but he only manages to lift it halfway and then drops it again.

“Do I help?” I ask, remembering the time when he was first learning to do things on his own. He didn’t like me to help him back then. 

“Yes, please,” he shrugs. “I don’t quite have it yet,” he says. “It will take more practice, and maybe some weight lifting,” he smiles barely, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. 

I lift the chair and put it in the back seat. 

“I guess you really don’t want to ride with me anymore,” I say, unable to keep the resentment out of my voice. 

“It’s not that, Tony,” he says looking up at me from the car. “I told you before,” he sighs, “I could pick you up instead. But if you don’t want to be around me…” he hesitates. “I don’t want you to feel obliged.”

“I don’t,” I reply immediately, realizing the honesty behind my words as I speak them. “I like riding with you.”

“Me too,” he says and I instantly feel better. 

“All this…,” I sigh too. “We are still friends.”

The smile he gives me then could light up a dark alley. I chuckle to myself. We stare at each other for another moment before I walk around the car and get into the driver’s seat. We drive to work in silence, but this time, I feel at ease next to him. 

When we get to the office, I ask him if he wants to pull the chair out himself. He asks me to get the frame out and then puts the wheels back on it, and transfers. He also closes the door behind him. I allow myself to feel happy for him now. Although it’s been a while, I know, that every bit of independence he gains back is huge for him. And I regret not having helped him learn to do this before. 

“Thank you,” he says to me then, but I’m not sure what he’s thanking me for. It’s been a few minutes since I handed him the frame of the chair. “For everything,” he adds and I don’t ask him to elaborate. 

At lunchtime, I go to his office and ask him to hold down the fort since I’m going out. I’m going to receive the sign for the new Valhalla, but I don’t tell him about it. Perhaps I should though. 

I drive a company truck with the things we store to the new café. I unload everything on my own, which takes a while. Then, I oversee them installing that big sign with the ridiculous name. I smile to myself nostalgically as I gaze at the place. It’s done. My stomach churns slightly as I think about tonight. I try to keep my expectations down. I’m not doing this to get Jules back anymore, I remind myself. Whatever happens between us, her decision will not depend on this. I will apologize for everything though. I owe her that much, and it’s long overdue. 

Erick and I get in the car after work and I turn to him. 

“I’m going out with Jules tonight,” I decide to extend him the same courtesy I asked for. “The Valhalla is ready,” I announce. 

He nods at me. “Thank you for telling me.”

I drop him off and drive away. I will pick Jules up an hour from now. I head home and take a shower, I’m still sweaty from carrying things in the afternoon. Then while I get dressed, I find myself feeling jittery like I’m going on my first date with her. It’s not even a date, I scold myself, but the feeling remains. 

I drive to her apartment and ring the doorbell. It feels strange to pick her up like this. After what seems to me like a long time, she walks out. She’s not wearing the same outfit that she had on this morning, but she’s still dressed up. She kept the boots but she has changed into dark blue jeans that are tight around her hips. A long brown coat hugs around her torso, and she has a purple scarf wrapped around her neck. Her hair is down now, which I prefer. She’s wearing makeup like she was this morning, but I can see she touched it up later today.

I gasp at the sight of her because she’s just so beautiful. I’ve been with other women throughout the years. More than I care to admit. But not a single one has been able to take my breath away the way Jules does. I have never felt this warmth cast across my body with anyone else. It heats up my chest now, taking over me completely. 

I step closer to her and gingerly press my lips to her cheek. 

“You are beautiful,” I can’t restrain myself from saying.

She takes a step back. I expected as much so I’m not surprised. It still stings a little though. 

I open the door for her and she gets inside the car. I walk around it and take my place. I look at her again before starting the engine. She looks nervous. I turn the stereo on, hoping it will help her relax. 

“Don’t sing,” she says before I can open my mouth. I squint at her. “Please,” she adds soothing her tone.

“Ok,” I mumble.

It’s a short drive to the new café and we stay quiet all the way. I stop the car a block before arriving. She looks around as I pull over, trying to guess where we’re going. 

“We’re not there yet,” I start. “But…” I take a deep breath before continuing. “I know we are not on the best of terms right now, but I have a surprise for you, and I want you to… can you close your eyes?” I ask tentatively. “Please,” I add as she did before. 

“Tony, I…”

“Just humor me,” I interrupt her. “I promise I won’t try anything sneaky. I just don’t want you to see until we’re there.”

She rolls her eyes at me beautifully. Then she rests her head on the seat and obliges. She batters her lashes and her eyelids flutter shut. 

I take a moment to watch her shamelessly now that her eyes are closed. 

“Thanks,” I say and restart the car. “Don’t open them, ok?”

“Ok,” she agrees. 

I turn the corner and drive the remaining block. I park in front of the café. 

“Not yet,” I warn. 

I get out of the car and circle around her. I open her door and take her hand in mine. “Keep them closed,” I help her out of the car and guide her slowly to stand right in front of the big sign. I arrange her position with both hands over her shoulders and take a step back to be able to grasp her entire image. I use my finger to lift her chin so she’s facing up, directly into the sign.

“Ok,” I say, a childish excitement reverberating inside of me. “Open them.”

She does. It takes her a second and then, her face lights up. Her lips part in amazement. She turns to me quickly and then back at the sign. 


I’m smiling from ear to ear as I hear her speak my name like that. 

“Come on,” I urge her. 

I’m already holding the keys in my hand. I unlock the door and look back at her to make sure she follows me. I walk in in front of her and turn the lights on. Her old furniture is set in place, the tablecloths laid down over every table, a sugar bowl laying on the center of each one. I watch as her eyes take in the whole image and then follow her gaze to the kitchen at the back. She walks to it. Her coffee machine is on one corner. All the supplies are carefully arranged over a long shelf that goes from wall to wall. I’ve installed the oven too. She runs a shaking hand over the new counter. Her eyes are glassy when she looks up at me. 

I speak before she can. “Jules, my lovely Jules!” It’s hard to keep the emotion from my voice. “Eight years ago I took everything away from you,” I swallow hard and watch as she does the same. “I know how terribly I treated you, and how much I hurt you.” I continue. Her eyes are glued to mine, two lines of tears escape them. “I know I don't deserve to be forgiven for all the harm I did you, that’s why I’ve never asked before. But I will ask now anyway, honey,” there is no trace of humor as I speak the word, “I’m so, so sorry. I was beyond stupid. I was… There’s nothing I can say that would justify the way I acted. I was so angry, furious... and in so much pain…” It hurts to admit it almost as bad as it hurt to go through it all. “And I blamed you for things that were clearly not your fault. I blamed you for being kind and trusting, the very same things that made me fall in love with you in the first place. I… Jesus, Jules, I can’t believe how awful I was to you. Please, please forgive me.”

She’s sobbing now, and I feel helpless because I know that I can’t ease her pain. I encompass her face inside my hands. They feel big and rough over her delicate features. I wipe her tears away as softly as I can master. “I know this,” I take one hand away from her soft skin to signal to the café, “will not compensate for anything. But you deserve at least this much. It’s the only thing I can give to you, and I’d wish I could give you so much more.”

She sucks in a breath. “You… did this for me?” Fresh tears wet her face again. “When?” Her voice is shaky.

“Uh… it’s taken me a while. I started right after you had to leave the other café,” I answer not sure how that’s relevant. “The place needed some fixing up. I worked it out with the owner. She’s a nice old lady. You’ll like her. She’s frozen the rent for two years…”

“You fixed it up?” She interrupts me.

I nod. “The floors had to be replaced, and the counter…”

“By yourself?”

Sean helped me with the lamps. I look away from her face only for a second to point at them with my chin, but I quickly return my eyes to hers. 

“Erick lent me the money,” I admit because it feels dishonest not to give him credit. “I’ll pay him back.”

“Oh Tony,” she throws her arms around me and presses her face to my chest. I hold her tight. 

We stay that way for a while. All these years, my chest has been aching for her. This is her rightful place. She belongs inside my arms. I’ve felt empty every day I couldn’t hold her like this. I feel the moisture of her tears wet my dress shirt. I caress her hair trying to soothe her. It’s silky under my fingers. “Jules,” I whisper her name. “My sweet Jules. I’m so sorry I ever hurt you.” The words are insufficient. I could never apologize enough. 

“I’m sorry too,” she pulls away from me. My arms hold on to her, reluctant to let her part. But she’s still got her hands over my waist and I relax a little. I tilt my face down to look at her and shake my head. 

“Don’t you ever say that to me again.”

“But I am, Tony. I am. You had every right to be angry at me. You warned me, and I didn’t listen.”

“Please don’t,” I stop her. “Please,” I beg. “You don’t ever have to apologize to me. I know I made you feel guilty, but I was wrong. Jules, I was so blinded by rage. I’m so sorry, Jules, I’ve been sorry every second since I lost you. And I’m even more sorry that it took me this long to say it.”

I’m breathing heavily now. I wish I could convey to her how badly I wish I could erase the past eight years, how incredibly sorry I am for everything I did to her. I lean in and kiss her forehead. I take in her scent. She smells like lavender. Her skin is warm under my lips. I press her to my body again. I feel her arms wrap around me and her small hands travel across my back, up and down, washing my pain away. 

I feel her sob inside my arms for a few more minutes. Her body trembles softly against mine. 

“Shh,” I whisper with my cheek over her head. “Please don’t cry. I can’t bear to see you cry.” I shudder at the memory of all the tears she’s shed on my account. I was so cruel to her. “I know I don’t deserve it, but I wish you could forgive me. Even if you can’t, I needed you to know how sorry I am.”

She abruptly steps back. She sniffs. She’s looking up at me, her hands are still holding my back. She moves them to my chest and presses them to my heart. “I forgive you.”

I gasp. The lump in my throat makes it hard for me to speak again. 

“You do?” I ask surprised. I didn’t expect her to, not so fast. 

“Yes, Tony, of course, I do.”

I feel tears of my own pricking my eyes. I blink them back. She moves her right hand up and sets it on my cheek. I lean against it and cover her hand with mine. I’m lost in her big brown eyes. They’re staring at me kindly, lovingly, I dare to hope. I want to kiss her. The urge is so strong I fear I won’t be able to resist it. But I know I shouldn’t kiss her now. My heart is thudding so strongly I think it might burst out. I summon all my strength, fueled by the intense love I feel for her, and stand as still as a statue. I can’t risk moving an inch or I will fall into her mouth. My lips thirst for her. It’s like I’ve been lost in the desert for days and she’s the fountain that will keep me alive. I close my eyes, hoping that will help.

I feel her stand back, and open my eyes back up in fear. 

“Jules,” I catch her hands in mine to keep her from leaving me. 

She looks up at me in expectation, and I wonder if perhaps she wants me to kiss her after all. But I don’t want to take advantage of the moment. I want to give her time to think things through. The first time I kissed her, when we were barely seventeen, I did so with the intent that she would be the last woman I ever kissed. The only reason I’ve managed not to touch her for eight years, even when I was trembling with desire, is because it didn’t seem fair to taint what we had if that was no longer the case. But that reason is gone now, settled. If she’s forgiven me, then I know without a doubt that she’s the only woman I ever want to touch for the rest of my life. However, I still don’t know if that is what she wants. And I won’t risk it. I won’t take her again unless I know it is forever. 

“Thank you,” she says when I’d given up hope that she would speak to me again. “For this,” she looks away from me and towards the new café. “It’s… It’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me.”

“I want you to be happy,” I reply but I’m not really referring to the new café. “You deserve to be.”

She smiles at me sweetly, but she takes another step back. She untangles her hands from my grasp and I let go of her reluctantly, feeling a shiver of fear cross through me as she parts. She walks around the place, touching things with her delicate hands. She stops by the small speakers I brought from her old things, and she looks up at me then. 

“Will you sing for me now?” She asks tenderly. 

I smile, a turmoil of mixed emotions still reverberating on my throat. 

We play music then, and sit down at one of the tables. I want to hear her speak to me casually, tell me about her day, listen to the sound of her melodious voice which is like wind chimes. 

“How did the job interview go?” I ask to get her talking. 

She tells me all about it, laughing off the fact that she didn’t get the job. Then, I tell her about my day with Sean, and how it seems he might be willing to let me try to fix our relationship. I talk about my father too. I don’t usually bring him up in front of Jules, because the mere mention of him triggers some pretty bad memories. But once I get started, I realize how much I wanted to talk about him with her, to be able to remember him without sadness, with someone who remembers him too, who loved him as I did. I also want her to know I don’t blame her for his death anymore. I don’t say so in so many words, but the fact that I speak about him freely with her is enough to let her know. 

As we talk, I slowly gain back some of my old self, the parts I’d lost when I became a monster consumed by anger and pain. I touch her hand several times throughout the night, but I’m careful never to step close enough to her that the urge to take her overpowers me. I want to take it slow, give her time to choose, even if the thought of her choosing Erick shatters me. 

At midnight, I drive her home. I don’t want her to leave. I want to sleep next to her tonight and every night that comes. But I force myself to let her go. I walk her to the door. 

“Good night,” she whispers when we reach it, like she doesn’t really mean the words, like she too wants me to stay.

“Night,” I say and kiss her cheek. I linger there, my lips against her warm skin, closing my eyes as I take in her scent. 


  1. Oh, what a lovely surprise! Thank you for the new and beautiful chapter!
    Reading about making up does good to one's heart and you described it exceptionally sweetly! Also, thank you for letting Tony feel comfortable with Erick again - I couldn't imagine how much it hurt to see the two of them in a row...
    As for who Jules should choose, I think this is your - as an author's -privilege to make that call. Although I'm strongly rooting for Erick, Tony has also rehabalitated himself in my eyes.
    Your wonderful writing has made all characters dear to me and my consolation (if you choose my second-favourite pairing :) ) will lie in their friendship - you've made it clear that it'll survive every hardship.
    Thank you for all the lovely moments I've spent with this story!

    1. I am fulfilled to hear you write such a beautiful comment. Their friendship is my favorite part of this story. Thank you

  2. What a surprise.
    I was checking but never expecting to find anything really. Then we get this incredible chapter.
    You have such way with words. Your language is simple yet so full of emotions.
    How you can tell a great love story with a love triangle without anybody hating anyone.
    The power of friendship. You make it so believable to read about.
    As if you dig in the depths of their souls to get out real characters that we love.
    I hope she will be with Erick but then again Tony did a great job today with his genuine feelings.
    I dont think I have ever been as invested in a board story as much as yours.
    Beautiful..although I have tears in my eyes.
    Thank you.

  3. Thank you so much for the wonderful chapter. I love all the characters, but to be honest I am still rooting for Erick, he really deserves a chance on happiness and his relationship with Jules is really special .

    1. Thank you for following the story and for liking the characters as much as I do.

  4. Great chapter, and now the choice is even more difficult than before! I am rooting for Erik, but I am curious to see who you will choose.

    1. The choice is made. I hope you comment on the latest chapter.

  5. I love this story so much. It has made me cry, laugh, it's so deep and so rich, makes us feel so many emotions. Very well written as well. I just love it.

    1. Oh thank you so much for accompanying me along it.

  6. Oh My God!!! It was so beautiful, I don't wanna be in your shoes, i't can't be easy to choose who's gonna "get the girl" both Erick and Tony are wonderful, ando both love Jules so much... I'm looking forward for the next chapter... (Sorry for my English, greetings from México!!)

    1. Mi compatriota. Me encanta saber que me lee alguien de mi país.