I resisted checking my watch again as the street lights came on. I had a long wait ahead of me since I had left home as if Tyler were picking me up. Paul and the boys hadn’t been home yet but I didn’t want to chance another confrontation. If I had been thinking more clearly I would have left a little sooner and caught the earlier bus. It would have gotten me to work over an hour early but at least I would have been able to sit in the staff room and relax. Instead I was sitting, watching the traffic, surprisingly heavy for a Sunday night.
At first I had looked towards every door closing, every engine starting, every echo of footsteps. Then I’d gotten lost in my memories of the night before and thoughts of the future. Now I tried to think of nothing, tried not to worry about … anything. Tried not to think about not seeing Tyler anymore. I counted cars as they went by, footsteps tapping on the sidewalk behind me, I looked up and counted the stars. They were always there, sort of like my Tyler, always on my mind.
“I hoped I’d find you here.”
I jumped and my eyes darted from the sky to the man standing before me. How had I not heard the car that was parked at the curb, or heard his footsteps?
“You startled me,” I said with a weak smile. How could I never see this man again?
“Come on.” He jerked his head towards his car, his shoulders tense his mouth a grim line. He didn’t wait for me to respond, just strode over and opened the door then looked at me expectantly.
It was obvious he was angry and that made me nervous, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get in the car with him. I didn’t think he would do anything to hurt me, I just didn’t deal well with anger.
I shook my head. “It’s okay. You seem upset, I’ll just wait for the bus.”
He muttered something I couldn’t hear and lifted a hand to cover his face. His shoulders moved up and down a few times then his hands dropped to his sides and he took a step towards me.
“I’m not upset,” he said and he seemed calmer. “It’s been a long day, I’m tired.” His mouth kicked up into a lopsided grin. “Nothing a coffee wont cure. Please Lily.”
I was torn between wanting this time with him and knowing I should be pulling away. One last time, a little voice in my head whispered and I stood up. We made the trip to Tyler’s house in silence where I sat in my usual spot while he made coffee. He set a plate of cookies on the bench beside my cup then leaned back against the counter opposite me, lifting his cup to sip, before he set it down to cross his arms over his chest.
“How’s your headache?”
“All gone, thanks for asking.” I picked up a cookie, took a small bite.
“Ah, good to know.” He nodded his head slowly.
His eyes were intent on me, I felt nervous under his stare. I cleared my throat and asked, “How was dinner?”
“Fine,” he said shortly and picked up his coffee cup again. “Is your cell phone working?” He watched me over his cup as he drank.
“I think so.” I frowned and reached for my bag to look for it. “Why?”
“Yeah mine’s working fine too.” Before I could comment or do more than wonder why we were talking about our phones, he went on. “Do you want to know how I know it’s working fine Lily?”
He was angry again. His jaw was clenched, his eyes narrowed as he waited for my response. He couldn’t know that he was pushing all of my buttons with his unspoken anger, his expectation that I knew why he was angry when I didn’t, the guessing game where no matter what I said I’d be wrong. Well screw this, I wasn’t playing his game.
I had to set down my coffee, my hands were shaking so much, and my mouth felt like the Sahara Desert. My pulse was racing, I was in fight or flight mode and I was choosing flight!
“If you have something to say just say it Tyler.” I snapped, relieved my voice didn’t quiver.
His mouth dropped open in surprise for a moment then closed with an audible snap of his teeth. “Okay, I’ll say it,” he said softly and pushed away from the counter he was leaning on. He took the couple of steps needed to place his coffee close to mine and braced his hands on the bench. “My cell?” he pulled it from his pocket and placed it beside the coffee cups. “I spent most of the day staring at it.”
He raised an eyebrow at me but I didn’t know how to respond so I just shrugged. It must have been enough as he went on.
“I was expecting a message. I had the obviously incorrect idea that you were going to let me know when you were feeling better.”
Oh crap. I had been so caught up in my own worry and grief at ending things with Tyler that I had forgotten him asking me to do that the night before. I opened my mouth to apologise but he wasn’t done.
“I also had this obviously crazy idea that once you were feeling better, we could spend some of the day together. I was going to suggest you come and watch the boys play soccer, then maybe some lunch. I guessed you would need to sleep at some time but we could have worked it out.”
It was my turn to be surprised, that he would want to do that for me. I wanted to apologise for not sending a message and thank him for thinking of me, but he still wasn’t done.
“Then, I could have explained that while I would have loved to have taken you to dinner with my family, I didn’t want to scare you, and that I would possibly get away early enough to pick you up since I’d talked my family into an early than usual time.”
I shook my head, bewildered. “Why-”
“Not done,” he interrupted me with a gentle smile. “I didn’t message you, because I didn’t want to risk waking you, plus I kept thinking, any time now, Lily will let me know she’s okay.”
“I forgot,” I whispered weakly.
“Obviously,” he sighed and his smile faded. “I don’t get it Lily. I thought we were on the same page, wanted the same things. Then last night, it wasn’t just the headache.” He shook his head. “You weren’t the Lily I spent the last few nights drinking coffee with.”
He was right and I guessed I owed him some explanation. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I had a … tough discussion with Paul yesterday.” I took a deep breath trying to decide what to say but Tyler surprised me yet again. I guess it was the day for it.
“I guessed as much. I met your husband at soccer today.”
Cancel surprise, I was mortified. I wanted to apologise and hide all at once but I couldn’t so I closed my eyes and covered my face with my hands instead. “I’m so sorry.” I said as I shook my head.
“Hey.” His voice cajoling. he reached over and gripped my wrists, tugging gently. “You have nothing to apologise for,” he said when I looked at him.
“He’s manipulative and controlling and-”
“Nothing,” he interrupted, his voice stern. “It was actually … good. I realised why you were all in your head last night and not with me.”
I cringed now, at the reminder of what terrible company I had been and at the thought of what Paul might have said. “Do I want to know what he said?”
“I’ll skip all the ‘I’m Lillian’s husband’ BS and give you a summary.”
He paused so I nodded, tugged my hands free and took a fortifying drink of coffee. “Go ahead.”
“Before I do, I want you to know that my response was genuine, I am open to discussing all of this with you whenever you want to.”
I let my eyes close again for a moment in embarrassment, having some idea of what Paul would have said.
“Your … he seems to think we’ll be moving in together soon and is looking forward to seeing us all at soccer. He also felt it was important that he get to know the man his sons would be spending their weekends with. I agreed happily with everything.”
Yes, that was pretty much what I’d expected. “I’m so sorry, no wonder you were angry.” I held his gaze, wanting him to see how truly sorry I was.
“No Lily.” Tyler shook his head, his voice patient. “I wasn’t angry at that. If you need a place to stay, I have plenty of room. If you need help getting to soccer or anywhere else, you only need to ask.” A smile spread over his face and he laughed. “Look at you, so surprised to hear that.” He shook his head. “This is why I was angry. That you thought you had to do it all alone. That you didn’t trust me enough to discuss any of it with me.”
It was too much for me to process. That Paul had approached Tyler. That Tyler was willing to help. I had been so focused on what I would have to do alone, I had no idea how to respond to an offer to help.
“I’m sorry, I just…” I trailed off. “I’m so used to being alone,” I said, hoping he would understand.
“You don’t have to be Lily, not if you don’t want to be,” he said with a smile. Though my mind was in turmoil I managed to smile back, give him a weak nod. “Well, look at the time. You better finish your coffee so I can get you to work. We can talk about this later, whenever you’re ready. ”
How much time did I have though? I knew the reality of my situation, had spent most of the night and day thinking about it. Paul wanted me out and I didn’t have the money to move into a place where I would be happy having my boys. Tyler’s house was incredible, I’d had the full tour over the last week. I knew there were six bedrooms, two were set up for his nieces and nephews, the others were just spare. He had a trampoline and an adventure playground in his backyard, his home theatre was amazing, the neighbourhood safe and secure. But did I want to go from living under one man’s roof to another? What would that even look like and what would it mean to our fledgling relationship?