Friday, December 31, 2010

A Broken Heart Mended

          I saw Kevin again at a New Year's Eve house party.
The man who'd broken my heart.
Out of the corner of my eye, while I was laughing and talking with a group of friends, I spotted him. I didn't think he saw me.
A chill sweeping through me, I excused myself and strolled away from my friends.
I slid the glass door to the balcony open and stepped into the cold winter night. The shrill party noise followed me until I eased the door closed.
I hugged myself, and peered at a sky filled with bright stars and a giant moon. What to do? Face him? Ignore him? I couldn't stay out here in the cold and snow forever.
I needed a second to think.
When we broke up, I thought I'd never love anyone else. To love once, so intensely, I told myself, was to love always. I would never feel like this about anyone else. I wouldn't even try.
I started to shiver.
I decided to face him—I needed closure. But before I could reach for the door, it slid open. Tall and broad-shouldered, Kevin faced me, the party clamor behind him spilling into the night. He pushed the door closed. "Hi," he said, smiling easily. "I saw you escaping a minute ago. I thought I'd join you."
"I needed a break form the music and laughter," I said, totally surprising myself.  I mean, I felt calm. In control.  My heart steady.
"Your boyfriend's probably wondering what happened to you."
"I think Mark's in the rec room playing pool."
For months I tried to tear Kevin from my memory, but despite my efforts, I awoke every morning thinking of him. I saw him on the street and in crowds everywhere—the illusion of him. And for a long while I dreamed of him.  Nightly.
"How have you been?" he asked.
His eyes crisscrossed me. "Look, Casey—I want to apologize..."
I waved a hand. "I shouldn't have been fooled so easily. "
"It's cold out here." He rubbed his hands together. Blew into them. "Let's go inside and find a warm corner where we can talk."
"What will Lisa think, her seeing you with me?"
He shrugged a little. "I'm alone tonight. She called at the last minute...the flu, she thinks. And you're going to catch your death out here." He smiled at me and inched forward, as if to circle a warm, protective arm around my shoulder.
I stepped aside. "The very first clue," I said, "should've alerted me: You stopped answering your cell when I called, and you stopped texting me altogether."
"Casey, please..."
"But it wasn't until you suddenly couldn't find time for us that I really became suspicious." I bit my bottom lip. "And when you said we needed to 'take a break,' the truth finally hit me. You'd found someone else. Lisa."
"I know I was acting like a jerk—I just didn't know how to tell you about her."
Letting out a frosty breath, I sidled past him.
I'd lived through this moment—talking to him—a thousand times in my dreams, but none of the horrible emotions I expected to feel surfaced. Not anger—not electric shock—only a tiny bit of sadness.
I reached for the sliding glass door. Before I could pull the handle, the door swished open. Mark stood in front us, smiling. "What are you guys doing out there, it's freezing. Close to zero."
I stepped inside, the party clamor and warmth from the room immediately engulfing me. Kevin followed, closing the door, and the three of us faced each other.
"Mark," I said, "this is Kevin O'Neil. We worked together at Fisher and Atwater for a time before I left the firm." Before the two men reached to shake hands, I added, "Kevin, this is Mark, my fiancé."
Kevin's hand stopped in midair, but Mark grabbed it and gave it a hardy shake.  The two men said, "Glad to meet you." Then Kevin, darting a glance at my engagement ring, gave a sheepish nod and said, "I should call Lisa. See how she's doing."
"She'd like that," I said.
Kevin disappeared.  "That's him?" Mark asked "The guy who broke your heart?"
"I thought it broken beyond repair at the time."
"You look cold," Mark said, and wrapped me in a warm embrace.
"I spotted him. I tried to avoid him. I ducked outside, but he followed."
Among the throng of partygoers milling about, still snuggled in Mark's strong arms, I gazed into his eyes.
I remembered a time when I thought only Kevin's dark eyes could excite me, but blue eyes, I decided, were far more exciting—and tender and loving and caring.
Mark kissed me, and suddenly I felt his warmth and love sweeping through me. "You're not still hurting, are you?" he asked.
"It's a new year," I said, "and I've mended perfectly."

The End
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