As I descended from the plane my tummy tightened. His butterflies were on speed; weaving and bobbing all in my belly. Anton had asked me to send my flight schedule and even though it had been 7 years I knew him well enough to know he would want to be involved in my arrival somehow. He liked to control situations and create moments. It was one of the things I first loved and later hated about him. As I got my travel case from baggage claim, I laughed as I heard Michael’s voice teasing me for not being able to get on a plane, no matter how short the journey, without checking a bag.
Michael – I grimaced. Thinking of his easy smile and his warm hands made me feel guilty yet again. I powered on my phone and saw that I had one voicemail and one text message from him. It was strange how thin the line was between romantic and a nuisance was depending on one’s emotions and focus. I let out a sigh and tucked my phone back into my handbag. I would talk to him later. There were no messages from Ant so I decided to just head for the taxi line.
As I walked in that general direction, I scanned the people waiting in arrivals with various smiles and signs looking out for their loved ones and passengers. That was when I saw it. Floating high above the crowd was a big rose shaped balloon that said ‘For My Darling.’ I traced the string downwards and found it was connected to a driver with a bouquet of 12 red roses resting in the crook of his arm. In his other hand, in swirling cursive on his iPad was my name, “Miss December Darling.” As soon as I walked up to him, the man, clad in a tuxedo greeted me by name. Anton must have sent him a picture. He always made sure to go the extra mile as far as details were concerned.
“Good afternoon Miss Darling. I hope you had a pleasant flight. May I please take your bag?”
“Thank you,” I said as I relinquished control of my travel case.
Tuxedo handed me the bouquet of red roses and the balloon string in exchange and we made our way outside.
Tuxedo handed a tag to the valet attendant that was waiting right outside the entrance and a luxury town car soon pulled up. Tuxedo settled me in the back seat, puttiing my bag in the trunk. After handing me a steaming chai latte, he put on the radio and soon began weaving through traffic. I assumed we were headed to the hotel. I rested my head on the head rest and before I knew it we were there. I enjoyed not having to worry about the details, that was one thing Ant had always been good at – anticipating my every need.
When we arrived Tuxedo confidently strode past the hotel reception towards the elevators dragging along my travel case. We were soon upstairs and he stopped in front of room 1625. He handed me the key card and I tapped the lock. He opened the door and I stepped into the suite. It was breathtakingly gorgeous. There were fresh roses everywhere, soft music playing in the background, a beautiful balcony that overlooked the city, a giant bed with rose petals strewn across it, and a lavish marble hot tub. Anton had certainly pulled out all the stops.
“Enjoy your stay Miss Darling,” Tuxedo said. Cutting in to my private musings.
“Thank you.” I responded to his retreating back as he left, shutting the door firmly behind him.
I sat on the chaise lounge and took off my heels. Just as I was about to get changed I noticed someone on the balcony. I let out a gasp. I looked closer and realized I recognized that round smooth head and those broad shoulders – Ant was here.
Without even bothering to put my shoes back on I rushed to the balcony door and opened it. He didn’t turn around, but I could see his muscles tighten in anticipation. I quickly closed the distance between us. I wrapped my arms around his waist from behind and felt a pang of guilt, was I not in the exact position with Michael a few days ago in my kitchen?
Before I could complete the thought, Anton turned and embraced me. Wrapping his arms around my waist in turn. I soon forgot my guilt as I stared up into those familiar almond eyes and inhaled his spicy cologne. He looked better in person than he had on Instagram and in the newspapers. He lowered his arms from my waist to my hips and inhaled sharply, “You’ve gotten thick Bubbles. You’re a full grown woman now. You look amazing!”
I laughed off the compliment as I nuzzled deeper into his arms. This felt like home. We stood in that embrace for what felt like forever, only interrupted by a knock on the door. “Room Service,” a high-pitched voice called out. Ant untangled himself from my arms and went to get the door. He signed for the champagne and strawberries and came back out balancing our newly acquired goodies on a tray. I made space on the table, where his laptop and phone had been as he put the tray down.
A text message came in and the screen lit up. His background picture glared at me. It was a picture of him and his wife kissing. His slender fingers cupped her face. He stared lovingly down at her while she closed her eyes and laced her fingers around his neck. I couldn’t look away. Anton followed my gaze, flipped over his phone, sat down at the table and pulled me into his lap.
He ran those same fingers along my jaw and asked, “Tell me everything Bubbles. What have you been up to my darling?”
I sighed deeply about to launch into a story. This was the reunion I had longed for. Where we could clear the air and figure out next steps. Before I could speak he caught my sigh with his lips. His arms had circled my waist again as he pulled me closer into his lap and all of a sudden we were kissing furiously. My heart sank and raced. I had promised myself nothing would happen between us, that we were just going to talk so I could get closure once and for all. But even as I booked all those appointments I saw the untruths in my promise to myself. I tried to pull away slightly, but as Ant felt my resistance he deepened the kiss. I loosened my tense shoulders, cupped his face and continued to kiss him back.
What on earth was I doing? He wasn’t the same Ant. I wasn’t the same Bubbles. He was married. I was in a relationship. This was not college. I broke the kiss abruptly, jumped up from his lap and tried to laugh it off, “Ant,” I said breathlessly. “This isn’t why we are here. You’ve got your own room and your own family.”
He smiled. Standing up and quickly closing the gap between us. “Bubbles, we’ll always be us. Nothing can change that.”
He kissed me again, long and deep, then took my hand – “let’s go inside.”
I followed him meekly. My mind was racing. I hadn’t returned Michael’s call to let him know I’d got in safely. I’d already broken my own rules – although from the second I booked my flight and appointments I knew my stellar track record of never getting physically or emotionally involved with a married man was over. After all it wasn’t a man, it was Anton. Anton who I had spent my formative years loving. Anton who I had been waiting for 7 years to get back together with or get completely over.
He sat on the edge of the bed and pulled me down beside him. We started kissing again, and when he made a move to take off my cardigan I got up abruptly.
“Darling,” he said with frustration lacing his tone. “Come back here. What’s wrong with you?”
“Bathroom break,” I responded as I made a bee line for the bathroom.
My head began to spin and I lowered myself on to the edge of the bath. Here I was again, on the edge of another bath, on the edge of another bad decision. The butterflies in my tummy started to turn to nauseous excitement as I realized Ant hadn’t even asked me anything about how I had been, whether I was seeing anyone, how my career was going, nothing. He had outsourced the romance and had me delivered like a package to his doorstep, and now he seemed only interested in unwrapping me from my clothes. Another voice convinced me otherwise. There was something special between Ant and I, we did not need words to catch up, we were soul mates. Besides there was time for talk later.
I stared in the mirror and tried to tidy myself up a little. I released my hair from the high ponytail and allowing it to cascade around my face. I pulled off the cardigan and stood in my sleeveless top and tights pulling faces in the mirror. Just as I was preparing to head back into the bedroom and into Anton’s arms I heard his deep voice talking. He was on the phone, and still hadn’t dropped the habit of keeping his phone on speaker whenever he took a call. I knew I shouldn’t eavesdrop, but since I had thrown all morals out the window I didn’t think it mattered much at this point. I tiptoed towards the door and put my ear up against it…
“Baby,” Anton said, “where are you now?”
“I’m at the reception darling. When will you be done with your meeting? I’m going for a pedicure after my swim and want you to come keep me company,” she said.
I wasn’t sure who she was yet.
“I’ll be there in 45 minutes babe. By the time you’re ready to hop out the pool I’ll be holding your towel. Okay?”
“Okay,” she replied in a flat tone. “I came out the shower and you were nowhere to be found Ant. You promised to keep your work to a minimum on this reunion trip. It is supposed to be a mini honeymoon remember?”
“I know Tanya,” Ant replied. “I’ll be with you soon Bubbles,” he said as he dropped the phone. “I’ll leave the office now and meet you by the poolside.”
I had been holding my breath, but hearing him call her Bubbles literally knocked the wind out of me. He was here with his wife? He was talking to his wife? He was going to meet his wife? He called his wife Bubbles too? I leaned against the bathroom door trying to steady myself. I heard footsteps heading my way and quickly backed away from the door and turned on the tap. By the time Ant opened the door I was washing my hands. He stuck his hands under the running tap and took my hands, pumping more soap and rubbing the soap suds between my fingers. Surprisingly, given all I’d just heard his butterflies commenced their flapping. However this time I could not shake the sinking feeling just below them in the pit of my stomach.
“Don’t be upset Bubbles,” he said, “But I’ve got to pop out for a meeting. If it wasn’t extremely important you know I wouldn’t leave my darling alone.You know the only reason I’m here is to be with you. We have so much to discuss. We need to make future plans. I don’t know how long it will take my darling but I’ll be back tonight though and we can spend the whole night together okay?” As he was speaking he turned off the tap, dried off my hands and pulled me back into the room.
I looked him in the eye to see if there was any remorse or guilt from the lie he was spinning. None, he looked genuinely sorry that he had to “work.”
“Okay Ant,” I responded in a flat tone. “I’ll see you later.”
He pulled me in for one last kiss, gathered his stuff and left.
About 30 minutes later I sat back down on the balcony thinking over my recent conversation with Michael. I had finally called him after Ant left, and he didn’t stay upset for long that it had taken me hours to get in touch. He quickly accepted my explanation about having to rush to a “meeting” with some authors straight from the airport. As I sat there reliving the conversation and taking in the irony of being upset with Anton while using the same lie on Michael I began to fell like my life was turning into a hot mess. I stood up and looked down from the balcony which conveniently overlooked the pool 16 floors below. And lo and behold there he was, the bald round head I couldn’t miss bobbed down the walkway leading up to the pool, till it came to a halt at the staircase in the deep end. He bent down, put his arms around a red head who was resting her forearms on the edge of the pool and pulled her out of the water and into his arms. Her wet bikini clad body was pressed against his fully clothed one as she looked up cocking her head at the perfectly angle with years of practiced ease and kissed him. It was like a movie. They were the perfect couple. At least in this moment. I looked away from Anton and his wife and went indoors closing the sliding door behind me.
What future plans could we possibly have to discuss? Lies about a pending divorce held no weight in light of what I had just seen and heard. He wasn’t even leaving for an emergency, he had literally dropped everything to escort her to a pedicure. How could someone that was so attentive and loving in one breath be so attentive and loving to me in another? I was starting to get my closure. This chapter should have remained closed.
I bolted the door, took a shower and slipped into my pajamas. I had the rest of the champagne and strawberries for dinner and snuggled beneath the covers. I was exhausted. At around midnight I heard the door handle turn. It was Ant. He had tried his key but because I’d latched the door it wasn’t opening more than a crack. He started knocking on the door and quietly yet firmly calling out my name. I didn’t answer. Eventually he gave up and my phone buzzed. It was an email to DecemberDarling1906@me.com. I didn’t open it. Every few hours he alternated between knocking on my door and sending me emails. I barely slept all night, tossing and turning, and strengthening my resolve not to open the door. Every time I felt tempted I replayed the 24 hour reel in my head. It was not worth it. I deleted each email without reading it. The subject line getting more and more desperate with each one. I had suddenly realized that there had never been anything to talk about. We didn’t need to talk. We had broken up years ago and moved on, I couldn’t get sucked into my feelings and let sentiment sabotage my present and draw me into a past that was no longer as simple as it had once been.
When my alarm rang at 7:00 a.m. I ordered breakfast to my room, hopped in the shower, and booked a hotel car to take me to the airport in an hour. I was leaving.
The porter came up to get my bags and I followed behind him. The ride to the airport was uneventful and so was the flight I had booked sometime earlier that morning when I couldn’t sleep. I landed and took an uber straight home. To my shock I stepped into the bedroom and found Michael packing his things. He had been house sitting for me in my absence so I expected him to be home, I just didn’t expect him to be packing. My heart skipped a beat.
“Why are you packing babe? Are you leaving?” I inquired.
He turned with a start. He hadn’t even seen me. His eyes lit up as he jumped over his duffel bag, took me by the waist, and spun me around. “You’re home!”
“Yes, I was done with work and missed you too much. I decided to skip the reunion.” I said. “Where are you going?” I asked in a timid voice. Swallowing the lump that had formed in my throat as I concluded the lie.
“I was coming to surprise you babe,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “We have much to celebrate. I got the business grant! My proposal was chosen by the Innovation Fund for the first place grant! One of the executives from the board called me this morning. It’s all coming together December and there was nothing I wanted more than to share the news with my favourite girl!”
Tears pooled in my eyes. I was happy and sad and confused all at the same time.
Michael let me go and took a step back. He began to dig in his duffle bag.
“I’ve got something to tell – ,” I said as tears began to pour down my face.
“I’ve got something to ask –“ he said at the exact same moment.
“Jinx,” Michael laughed. “Okay babe, who goes first?” he asked as he stood upright I saw him tuck a small velvet black ring box into his shorts pocket.
My head began to spin and the tears continued cascade down my face. Next thing I knew I was falling. I know I didn’t hit the ground. I felt Michael catch me, scoop me up into his warm arms and lay me gently on the bed. He placed a warm towel on my forehead and I opened my eyes. He was staring down at me, massaging my temple, a mixture of love and worry pooled in his dark eyes.
“Are you okay darling?” he asked. Kissing my temple. “Take it easy.”
He handed me a glass of water which I sat up and gratefully drank.
After I had rested a while and regained my strength, with Michael at my side fussing over me the entire time I adjusted to face him.
Michael held my hand tenderly, “What did you have to tell me darling?”
Remember – you have the free will to determine your destiny, the freedom to make the right decisions, and you are the star of your own show. Shine brightly like a diamond darling and don’t let anyone or anything dim your beautiful. Happy New Year Beautiful! xoxo