“Maya. Baby, I’m asking for your heart, and the promise that I’ll always have it. After all we’ve been through, that doesn’t seem like too much. You said you loved me, that you wanted to be with me. Prove it. Let’s make this real.”
She didn’t need to say anything, because I could sense the answer. Her gaze lowered to the box that I still held firmly. Would it matter if I opened it, or would that simply deepen the old wound of her refusal? I shoved the box back in my pocket. The motion felt like I was putting my heart back into my body after I’d held it out in the cold for her to take, to keep.
“I’m sorry. Cameron, Dermott fired me today. Between that and your parents, and now this…” She stared down at the ground between us, her shoulders bowed. “I love you and I’m not saying no, but I need time to sort through my life. Everything is off kilter. I’m literally reeling, and I can’t tell up from down, let alone make a lifelong commitment. I’m begging you to give me time to make sense of all of this.”
My throat tightened. I was in disbelief that we could be in this place again. I tried not to think about the last time we’d been here. Everything played out in slow motion and I analyzed each step, each word, scared to death it would lead us out of each other’s lives again.
She sighed heavily. Her dark eyes were a billboard for how emotionally destroyed she must have felt in that moment, and I was right there with her.
That was it. I could give her that, right? As much as I wanted an answer, yearned for the simple affirmation and to know deep down that she meant it, I convinced myself that I could wait a little longer for it.
She hadn’t said no. She hadn’t rebuffed the admittedly half-baked proposal. I hadn’t even shown her the g*****n ring. Not that it would have mattered, but I wasn’t exactly doing this by the book. Again.
“Okay,” I finally said.
She looked up, worry written all over her face.
“I’ll wait. Take the time you need. I’m not going anywhere, okay?”
Unmistakable relief glimmered in her eyes. I pulled her close, warming us, making myself believe that she’d come back to me if I let her go this time.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
MAYA. I woke early and with purpose. The dawning morning was a dim mixture of pink and gray. Untouched white snow blanketed the trees. I took a snapshot in my mind, knowing the quiet beauty wouldn’t last.
I shuffled around the apartment, making coffee and toast for breakfast. My body had become used to rising early, and thanks to some miracle of willpower, I had no hangover to sleep off. Now that my world was effectively turned upside down, I was fiercely determined not to muddle it further.
Finally I sat down at the coffee table. The two notebooks lay open in front of me—Cameron’s gift and my own, the one he’d read. I still wondered how much he’d read, but I pushed the thought away. It didn’t matter. Today had nothing to do with guilt or arguing with the past or lamenting circumstances that were well beyond my control. I was determined to start the slow and overwhelming process of rebuilding my life. That meant facing my past in a way I never fully had before.
With all the idealism of an optimist writing out his new year’s resolutions, I resolved that today would be the beginning of a new me. And I had the good sense to know I wasn’t the new me yet, and that I was going to have to work to find that person. I was grateful and utterly relieved that Cameron had accepted my indecision last night. I genuinely needed time, and time was the only thing that would put me in the right place to give him the answer he needed, the answer I so badly wanted to give him. I had no idea when that might be. I only hoped he could wait for me to get there.
Over the course of the morning, I filled the new notebook with final copies of the scribblings that had cluttered my original spiral bound. The thoughts were clean. Instead of shaming the words—whether or not Cameron’s eyes had grazed them—I’d given them a place to live, and hopefully, to rest.
The book had represented years of fleeting moments, the deep toil of emotions around Cameron, my mother, work, and the unknown future. Until recently, I’d barreled ahead through so much of that pain with little to no regard for my health or any adult kind of respect for my life and the people in it. I refused to accept that as my reality any more.
I finished, tossed the old notebook in the trash, and placed the new leather bound copy on the shelf next to my favorite books and photos. I’d spent the morning reliving every emotion in every word. Now, I was ready to start living my future.