What it all comes down to

“We need to talk,” I said, wishing I’d have come up with a more original line. But what did it really matter in the end when hearts got broken and dreams got crushed?
“You don’t have to move in next week, darling.” She sipped from a bottle of beer, almost swallowing the top end between her over-sized lips. I’d let her finish her curry first, figuring she wouldn’t be able to eat any more after I’d dropped my bombshell. “It’s just something to think about.”
“It’s not about that.” I played with my bottle, peeling off the label. I wondered what hurt the most, being dumped myself or this nerve-wracking waiting-game for the best moment, for the right words to find their way out of my mouth.
“I know,” she said and her words surprised me so much that my heart started thundering beneath my ribcage. “You’ve been different since you saw Claire at that party. Did something happen?”
“No.” I shook my head. “Not what you think anyway.”
“What then?” she urged, her eyes already getting moist, anticipating the worst.
“I just don’t think this is working out. Us. It’s not, erm, enough, I suppose.”
“Tell me the truth, Lee. Did you fuck her?”
I realised then that if I’d said yes she would have forgiven me. “No. It has nothing to do with Claire. It’s me. You deserve better than me.”
“That’s bullshit.” She remained so calm, so willing to work it out. As if she believed that if she let her emotions come through too much, everything would be instantly lost, as if clinging on to sanity and logic could save her. “Don’t pin this on me. You know how I feel about you.” She looked away for a split second. “Is there someone else?”
“No, it’s not like that.” How did you tell someone that you didn’t love them enough without breaking their spirit for life?
“Then we can work it out. I know we can.” Lucy the negotiator was getting the upper-hand. “I know you love me.”
“I do, but just—” I hesitated for a moment, then stopped thinking and landed the final blow. “—not enough to see this through. Not like I loved Claire, or Lou. It doesn’t feel right anymore.” I might as well have punched her in the face.
“Oh, so you prefer being cheated on, do you? You like to be treated with no respect. Well good luck to you. Darling.” She took a few shallow breaths. “Unbelievable.”
“You’ve given me so much, but it’s time to move on. It doesn’t feel right anymore. I feel as if I’m leading you on.”
“Give me a minute,” she said and got up. “I’ll be right back. Stay. Please.” She took her beer and walked to the kitchen. I heard the sound of glass shattering against the floor, but I didn’t get up. I un-muted the television and watched Eastenders until Lucy came back into the sitting room. She leaned against the couch, the furthest away from me as possible. “I think you should go to Hong Kong.”
“What?”
“I can’t fire you because you don’t love me enough. I want to, but it wouldn’t be fair.” As if I wasn’t feeling bad enough about beating Lucy’s big heart to a pulp. I wanted her to sack me. I needed to be punished. “But I can’t have you in the office with me every day, and I can’t have you living at auntie Eleanor’s anymore.”
“But—”
“And I wouldn’t have to see you with anyone else,” she continued, as if sending me away, to the other side of the planet no less, would dissolve all her grief. “With Claire or Lou or anyone else you could love enough.” She looked at me with eyes begging for relief. “It’s your choice, Lee. Think about it.”

To be continued…

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