“Don’t fucking nod at me. Don’t just sit there and take it.”
He looked up at me. “What do you want me to say? I’m sitting here, scared to death that you’re going to kick me to the curb, and there’s not a damn thing I can do because we both know I deserve it, Falyn. So, I’m just going to keep my fucking head down.”
“How am I supposed to respond to that?”
He opened his mouth to speak and then thought better of it.
I sat back in my chair, fuming, and at the same time, the guilt and anguish in his eyes was hard to watch. He already felt bad. He already knew it was wrong. He was already sorry. I was angry with him for all of those things, too. I deserved a guilt-free moment of anger, and he couldn’t even give me that.
I covered my face, unable to finish my meal.
“Do you want me to just get the check?” he asked, sounding miserable.
“Jesus Christ,” he whispered. “Everything was so good. How did we get here?”
Once we finished breakfast, we returned to the room, packed, and then made the jaunt to the lobby for checkout. The entrance was abuzz with activity—people coming and going, employees busy with guests.
“We should have a car waiting outside,” Taylor said to the desk clerk.
“All right,” she said. “You’re all set. I hope you enjoyed your stay at The Ritz-Carlton and that you come back to visit us soon.”
He carried our bags outside and greeted the same driver who had collected me from the airport.
Taylor stared out the window for most of the drive to Charlotte Amalie, and he only spoke when necessary once we reached the airport.
Taylor sat next to me at our gate, but he otherwise acted as if I were just another traveler in the terminal. An airplane headed for New York was boarding. We were so early that the monitor above the desk didn’t reflect our flight.
I checked my watch several times, curious if he was worried about his family or me or both and if I should try to talk to him about it or leave him to his thoughts.
An infant squalled somewhere behind us, and like so many other times when I’d heard a newborn, something twinged in my chest. Families were all around us, exasperated mothers and fathers trying their best to keep their tired, bored toddlers entertained.
I wondered if Taylor would ever watch children with longing the way I did, if he’d even have to because of our rough start, and if the weekend in St. Thomas was the beginning of our end.
He pulled his finger from his mouth, spitting out a hangnail. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to ignore you. I just have a lot on my mind.”
“Do you want to talk about Travis?” I asked.
“No, I want to talk about us. Are you just waiting? Are you going to drop a bomb on me when we get home?”
He looked at me, dread in his eyes. “Are you?”
I kept my voice low. “You fucked another woman because you were mad at me, and worse, you don’t know if you used protection. I don’t know how I feel about it. I don’t know how I’m going to feel about it later today or tomorrow or next week. This is one of those things that we’re going to have to play by ear.”
He peered down at the floor, his knee bouncing.
“What else do you want to talk about?” I asked.
“What you said, about all of us having secrets, is true. I don’t like it.”
“I saw Travis this morning. He was fine.”
“Yes, as I was leaving the room, he was going to see Thomas.”
Taylor thought about that and then shook his head. “Damn it. Something’s going on with them. Something big. Nothing good either.”
“I think Camille has an idea of what it is.”
Taylor narrowed his eyes. “She kept it from Trenton that she was dating Thomas. She didn’t tell Trent for a long time. I’ve always thought there was a bigger reason behind it. I mean … we all know Cami. Trenton was in love with her for years. No one knew Thomas was dating her, and I assumed it was so we wouldn’t jump his shit. Now … I don’t know. It has something to do with Travis, and that makes no sense.”
“Travis looked devastated. What would do that to him?”
Taylor shook his head. “Losing Abby. That’s about it. He just doesn’t give a shit about anything else. Fuck … do you think it’s my dad? Maybe he’s sick.”
I shook my head. “It wouldn’t make sense for Thomas to only tell Travis, right?”
Taylor thought for a long time, and then he sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it anymore. It scares me and pisses me off. Camille shouldn’t know more about my family than I do or than Trenton does. That’s fucked up.”
“You can think about it. It’s a distraction,” I said.
His shoulders fell, and he leaned forward, rubbing his temples with his fingers. “Please don’t.”
I couldn’t stand the misery anymore. “I love you. You said once that it’s not a phrase you throw around. It’s not for me either. I don’t like what you did. But I don’t like what I did either.”
“I don’t care. I don’t fucking care. We have to fix this.”
“I’m not going to drop anything on you. We have a lot to talk about. If we hit a wall, you’ll see it coming.”
“I do. I see it coming.”
“You don’t get it,” he hissed, leaning in closer. His jaw worked under his skin. “I have never been so afraid as I was when driving back to Estes from your apartment. I’ve never felt so lost as I did in the hallway outside Thomas’s door, waiting for him to get home. I thought I would feel better when he got there. I didn’t. I thought Tommy could tell me something that would make sense of how I felt and my fears, but he couldn’t. That feeling has only gotten worse, Falyn. Not until I saw you standing in that lobby did I realize what it was.”
I waited. The agony in his eyes made me want to look away.
“It was grief, Falyn. I haven’t felt it since I was a kid, but I remember that helpless feeling when you lose someone. No matter how much you love someone, you can’t bring them back. No matter how much you scream or drink or beg or pray … a hole was created when they left. It burns and rots you from the inside out until you stop crying for the pain to stop and start accepting it as the way life will be.”
“I’m not saying I don’t deserve to be left. But I’ll do anything if you’ll just give me a chance to prove myself to you. Thomas said something to me in Eakins about not sleeping with someone to dull the pain. It’s no excuse, but it was a mistake, and I’ll learn from it.”
I listened to his words and then replayed them in my mind. “I have conditions,” I blurted out.
“Name them,” he said without hesitation.