A few blocks away, Laura was sitting at the table with a glass in her hand.
Laura turned around to look at her roommate Eva who’d just walked into the kitchen.
What does she want? Laura thought, annoyed at being disturbed from her reverie.
Laura had been stressed since the day she moved back to live with her roommates.
She’d locked herself in her bedroom the first day, ignoring her girlfriends’ questions. The next three days, she’d stayed in bed all day long, without eating or drinking anything.
Finally, she had stepped out of her room the fourth day, only to walk up to the kitchen cabinet and pull out a bottle of vodka. Ever since then, all she did was drink- morning, afternoon or evening- it did not matter.
She had also been having trouble falling asleep because she couldn’t get Charles off her mind. Her thoughts kept going back to him no matter how hard she tried distracting herself. Sometimes she wanted to go running back to him; sometimes she blamed him for ruining their relationship, while some other times she blamed herself. Three weeks of sleepless nights had made her restless and irritable. Furthermore, she’d been constantly feeling hopeless and the only solution she could think of was alcohol.
“This is orange juice,” she replied curtly.
Eva asked, joining her at the table.
How do I tell her? Laura thought, trying not to look her in the eye. Even if I do, she’ll blame me. Like it’s all my fault! Clearly I’ve done nothing wrong. I couldn’t go on doing something just because he wanted me to. What about my priorities?
When Laura did not respond, Eva spoke up again, “I’m worried about ya, we all are. It’s been three weeks since you left Charles’ home ya haven’t spoken a word to us! Ya haven’t stepped outta the house, once in three weeks and that ain’t normal. You’ve stopped eating, ya barely eva’ sleep, you’ve missed work thrice this week and twice the last one. Have ya checked your emails? Ya even have a dozen letters all piled up on the coffee table that ya need to go through; I’m afraid one o’them could be a termination notice. Wake up, honey, ya cain’t live like this fo’eva! And have ya been takin’ your meds? I’m worried you’re goin’ back to being-”
“I am” Laura interrupted her “and you don’t have to worry about me or my medicines. I’m a big girl now and I can take care of myself.”
Laura nodded in agreement and went back to sipping her orange juice.
“So,” Eva said, “did you and Charles fight again? Ya need’a open up. It’s not good fo’ you to keep all your emotions locked up like this. What’s wrong? Look at you… look at ya face. Ya got all dark circles under ya eyes.”
Laura sighed and decided the only way to stop Eva from jabbering or asking any further questions was to tell her the truth. Laura narrated everything to Eva and when she was done, her roommate burst out laughing.
Laura frowned and asked angrily, “What’s so funny?”
… Why on earth would ya propose if ya know ya ain’t the marryin’ type?”
Laura yelled in defense, “Because he made me do that! He started this whole pretend game; pretending to like parties just to impress me and then he yelled at me saying I wasn’t acknowledging his efforts, like I was supposed to give him an award or something!”
A smile spread across Eva’s face, “So all y’all have been doin’ for these months is play games? Who’s the winner then?” she asked with a smirk.
Laura shrugged, rolling her eyes, “I don’t know and I don’t really care.”
“What do you mean?” asked Laura, narrowing her eyes.
“Well it’s obvious you care about him! Isn’t that why you’ve been havin’ sleepless nights since Christmas Eve? Because you’re worried he might just move on now that you’ve walked outta his life. You’re worried he might never look back atcha, because he thinks you don’t give a shit about him, when clearly, you do!”
Maybe she is right, Laura thought. “So what do you think I should do? Run back into his arms and pretend like nothing’s happened? Pretend like I’m happy with him, with his decision of living in Willow Creek, with marrying and having babies and being cooped up in the house all day? Pretend to be someone I’m not, just to bring a smile on his face?”
“Well first off, you needa’ stop the pretend game and start being yourself. I’m sure he fell for Laura Croft, the tough cookie that ya are! Did he eva’ tell ya not to be yourself?”
Laura shook her head, “No he never said anything to me, but I thought… well guess I just jumped to conclusions. I… don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I was… being really impulsive and-”
“Had ya stopped takin’ ya meds?” Eva asked with a concerned look on her face.
Eva looked at Laura, her eyebrows furrowed in anger.
“I become impulsive, irrational, abnormal, insane… I become mad… Maybe I’m becoming mad again. Look, what’s the point? I’m never gonna get any better.”
“But ya feel better when ya take ‘em regularly, don’t cha?”
Laura looked away, then replied “I’m never going to be normal Eva. You know I feel like… like I should’ve never fallen in love with him. This was all a mistake! I’m ruining both of our lives! I mean, I can’t even tell him about this; because if I do… he’ll leave me. And I can’t be abandoned again… There are just so many things I’m hiding from him. I hate doing this!”
Eva placed her hand over Laura’s, “You’re just over thinkin’ like ya always do! Honey ya need’a calm ya nerves. Breathe a little.”
Laura followed her friend’s advice and took a few deep breaths.
After a moment of silence, Eva said, “Ya know, ya keep tellin’ me how ya pretended to be happy fo’ him, pretended to be happy with his decisions….
The question made Laura squirm uncomfortably. She’d dreaded asking herself the same question because she didn’t know herself. She didn’t know what true love felt like; after all she had never been truly loved by anyone before.
“Of course I do,” she replied immediately.
“Don’t be impulsive, Laura. Think fo’ a while”, replied Eva.
After thinking hard, Laura finally spoke solemnly,
She stood up and walked closer to the window, staring out into the distance, “I know I felt loved when Charles smiled at me the first time we talked at the cafe. I felt loved when I realized he’d been pretending to love parties just for me. I felt loved when he crafted a wooden dragon for me, because he said I’m fierce like a dragon. I felt loved when he took me out to the nightclub after a tiring week. I felt loved when he tried hard convincing me to not leave him.”
She turned around to look at her friend, with tears welling up,
Laura took a deep breath, “Maybe I know what being loved feels like, but I’m not sure what it feels like to love someone… All I can say is that I really care for him. Sometimes I worry for him, like when he keeps working on the woodworking table for hours and forgets to eat. Sometimes I get annoyed at little things he does, like forgetting to make his bed every morning.
But despite his flaws, I love him for who he is- an adorable, gentleman who could do anything to make me happy. And I’d do the same for him. I’d go out of my way and do anything to bring a smile on his face. And when I do, I feel like I’ve done something really good; I feel so warm… so blissful.” Laura smiled and asked softly,
Eva smiled and nodded, “Yes ya do, honey. You’re madly in love with him.” Then her eyes sparkled suddenly and she exclaimed,
… You needa go to him and tell him that he’s made a huge mistake by playing this pretend game. And that he’s the one who’s ruined your relationship. And you needa’ tell him, that you like him the way he is and that he better like the badass you are.”
Laura couldn’t believe how complicated their relationship had turned out to be! It was all Charles’ fault; and hers’ too. She’d felt really lost, at first; not knowing how to right the wrong. Nothing made sense until now. She finally realized what she had to do and she only had Eva to thank.
“You know Eva, you’re a genius!” she exclaimed, moving closer to her friend. “Thanks for everything.”
Laura chuckled and hugged her friend after which the two girls parted their ways.
Laura’s mood elevated so drastically and she went from being a mess to being in abnormally high spirits. She was overjoyed at the thought of finally speaking her heart out to Charles; something she had been avoiding for all these months. She had never felt so euphoric before. She was certain that Charles was waiting for her, arms spread out for her to embrace him.
She stumbled on her way to the front door, unable to hold back her excitement. She pulled on some warm clothes and as she was about to open the door, somebody knocked from the other side….