Here is another work-in-progress snip-it from my next novel, Courage, for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!
It was cold, as most winter nights in northern New Jersey are, when Jamie pulled into the half deserted parking lot of the local community college. Instantly the car filled with frosted air as she switched off the ignition. Sitting in silence, she breathed the winter air; it stung her lungs and her breath appeared before her. As she stepped out of the car, the frigid embrace of winter held her firmly. Jamie’s face grew tight and she adjusted the scarf around her neck, walking at a fast pace to the main academic building. As she approached the door, a warm, soft glow permeated through the glass. Jamie swung the door open and the warmth hugged and invited her inside. Gradually, her body relaxed as her brisk pace slowed through the hallways and into the large, open cafeteria. The website had said the meeting would be held here. An empty table with one chair stood alone.
Jamie placed her belongings on the chair, slid off her coat, and sat at the table for one. She was much better at being alone than in anyone’s company. She had decided so after breaking off her three year relationship with Adam, her New York City actor boyfriend. There was no love left between them. After spending three years together, they were only coming to this conclusion now? Jamie felt foolish for letting it continue on for so long, for letting it get this far, for letting it end in emptiness. She had remained silent for the past year, hoping that time would cure doubts, but the universe has a way of interceding. As she sat alone, her thoughts drifted to the night, one week ago, when she had asked the burning question of Adam.
“Do you see a future with me? Do you see us getting married?” Jamie had asked.
“Yes,” Adam had answered, “Yes, I can see a future with you. I can see us getting married.”
But there was a shaking in his voice and she swallowed hard before asking the next, most dreaded question.
“But…do you want those things? Do you want a future with me? Do you want to marry me one day?”
If there was ever a time to lie, now was not it. Adam saw this and he searched her face. She stared at him, her eyes dark and probing, relentless and unblinking. He couldn’t look at her and his eye contact faded as he looked at her hands that were folded properly in her lap.
“No. No, I don’t.” As the words escaped his lips, he squeezed his eyes closed, ashamed and unwilling to meet her glance.
Jamie remained seated silently next to him, and felt her lips purse. She stared around their bedroom walls at the photos of the two of them smiling, framed, captured in moments of bliss, their arms wrapped around one another, eyes gazing longingly at each other. She couldn’t remember the last time Adam had looked at her like that, like he loved her.
Sensing that her gaze was no longer on him, he looked up to stare.
“What about you?” He had asked breaking the silence.
“What about me?” Jamie asked noticing a picture that stood erect on Adam’s dresser, the two of them kissing at an outdoor concert right after they first started dating. She wanted to push it off, knock it to the floor, “it doesn’t seem like my answer matters much.”
“Don’t be like that Jamie; be honest,” he probed.
“Then, no,” she said simply returning to look at him.
“No, what?” he asked curious.
“No I can’t see a future with you. No, I can’t see us getting married. Lately, I can’t even see a present with you.”
Adam sat in silence, but Jamie continued.
“The difference is I wanted to. I wanted a future with you. I wanted to see us get married.”
Adam looked at her and made eye contact. She felt her eyes sadden. Adam saw this; Jamie’s facial expressions always gave her emotions away. He had known the moment she fell in love with him before she had even said the words. And now he had caused her pain, yet there were no tears. Her eyes were dry, only seeking truth. They didn’t want to make him feel bad or guilty, they only wanted truth.
“So what now?” he asked me.
“It’s over. That’s it,” she said simply.
Adam and Jamie sat next to one another, poised and silent for about forty five minutes, never once reaching for each other. They didn’t speak; they didn’t look; they didn’t touch. They only sat, soaking in the reality of their situation and wondering if there had been a moment along their three year path that they could have jumped into and altered somehow to save them from the present, uncomfortable situation. But the answer was no. There was no moment. As Jamie continued to sit, Adam removed himself from the bed.
“I’ll pack my stuff,” he said simply.
“No need,” she said removing herself from the bed, “I’ll pack mine. I think it’s best if I move back to New Jersey for a little while.”
“You’re going back home?” he asked looking inquisitive.
“Yes, I think it’s for the best right now. I can’t stay here.”
Adam didn’t respond. He didn’t encourage her to stay in the city she so loved or insist that he be the one to find a new place, instead he watched her gather some of her things and stuff them into three large duffel bags and a small rolling suitcase. When she had zipped her life into the bags, she placed them by the door and reached for her coat and purse.
“You’re leaving now?” he asked, “Don’t you think you should wait until the morning.”
“No, I can’t be here. I’m leaving now. There won’t be any traffic. I’ll be back sometime this week with my brother’s pickup truck to get the rest of my things. I’ll leave my key then.”
Adam nodded. Jamie put her coat on and flung her purse over her shoulder, awkwardly grabbing her suitcase and duffels, and opening the door. Adam didn’t offer to help and Jamie didn’t ask. She turned to face him one last time.
As Jamie turned to exit, she paused for a brief moment, staring out into the hallway. With a small sideways glance back to Adam, she left him with final words.
“I wish you had fought for me.”