Tyler took a step back to lean against the bench behind him.

“First date,” he confirmed with a nod. “The second thing you need to know about me is that I mean what I say.”

My mind supplied me with a rundown of his words since we’d arrived at his house:

“I want to know you Lily, everything about you.”

“Don’t ever think I don’t want you.”

“I’m going to give you what you need.”

“You couldn’t tell I was a moment away from taking you on the couch.”

And I’d read his email so often, fragments of that raced through my mind also:

I can’t stop thinking about you, about us

It’s not something I want to walk away from.

I didn’t have to recall my own words, I knew my rhetoric. I had no idea what he saw in me. I was nothing, had nothing. Well actually, I had one question for him I realized.

“Why are you wasting your time with me Tyler?”

“Is that what I’m doing?” He was cool and calm where I’d expected anger or at the very least annoyance.

“Look at me,” I said with a bitter laugh. “I’m a mess. I don’t even know how to have a conversation anymore. I’m a married woman who had sex with you at a shopping centre. What kind of person does that?”

My words seemed to echo in the silence that fell. Tyler’s eyes stayed steady on mine, looking for what I don’t know.  I was searching his for disgust, dismissal, didn’t recognise what I saw there.

After the longest minute of silence he shrugged. “No one’s perfect Lily.”

That was his response? There was ‘not perfect’ and there was ‘hot mess’. Guess which one I was. I shook my head at him in disbelief and he shrugged again.

His voice started out gently but by the end he was biting off words. “You weren’t alone in that cupboard Lily so I know exactly what kind of person does what we did. Yes, you’re married. Yes I hate that. You’ve told me it’s over though.”

It wasn’t a question but I nodded anyway. “It is.”

“So …” He closed his eyes for a moment, sighed heavily. “I know we can’t forget it, but I need you to believe that it’s not a barrier to us.”

“But…” It was my turn to close my eyes and gather my thoughts. “I don’t see how there can be an us, don’t you see? You’re saying this is our first date. When do you think the next one will happen?”

“Next week,” he began but I shook my head.

“You can’t skip your nephew’s soccer every week,” I interrupted. “And that’s pretty much the only time I’m alone.”

“Ah fuck,” Tyler sighed and laughed, a humourless laugh and shoved his free hand through his hair. An action I recognised as a sign of his frustration. “This is the stumbling block Lily.” He took a step closer to the counter and put his coffee cup down then folded his arms over his chest.

“it is,” I agreed readily, glad he was seeing the truth finally.

“I was going to say that I was pretty busy with work next week but we should be able to find some time over the weekend.”

He didn’t get it, didn’t get that I didn’t have the time to give. I opened my mouth to tell him but he wasn’t finished and his next words slayed me. And not in a good way.

“You’ve said that he isn’t accepting that your marriage is over but right now I’m wondering if you are. You’re letting him control you, tell you when you can go out, who you can see. The way I see it, you’re either a cheating married woman, or you’re separated on your way to being divorced and you can do and see whoever you want to. Which one is it baby?”