She had been on the phone for the last half hour at least. She said very little, just nodding her head a lot and saying “Yes Mummy” every now and again.
He recognised the conversation as it was the same whenever he spoke to his mother. There was a lot of listening and agreeing and you just trying your best to come off the phone as quickly and politely as possible. When she hung up, she undid her hair and let its fall around her face. He couldn’t help but think how beautiful she was, though he knew this wasn’t really the time for that type of reflection. He reached out and put his hand on her thigh and squeezed it. She looked over at him and gave him a tired smile.
“So she was crying and said that I had hurt her deeply. She said marriages are too important to throw away on a whim.”
“It’s a shock. It will take a while but she will calm down and listen.”
Once they had driven off Gemma had asked him for his phone and called her mother in Trinidad right away. He drove back to Kensington and they were now sitting in front of the building in the car. He did not need a recap to know that the conversation with Roger had not gone well.
“I know he saw you. I had to call her before he did.”
“Why would he call your mother? Why not his folks?”
“He wants to hurt me and besides he wants to know who you are right now.”
“Wow so that’s mature. He’s going to hurt you through your family.”
She looked at him.
“Matthew he has a right to be mad. I left him. And now he knows that someone else is involved. You would be doing the same thing.”
“No Baby. I am a big boy. I would rather fight with you that through your family. Don’t justify him being an ass.”
“Fine. Whatever you think, I can’t blame him.”
“So what you just going to let him do whatever he wants because he’s mad?
“I am in the wrong here!”
“Give me a break. This is 50, 50. Whether or not I came into the picture you two were not working out.”
“He is a nice guy you know. Apart from what went wrong with us he is a great guy. I feel bad that I hurt him.”
Matt decided to say nothing else about it. She was right in a way but he was not about to sit and listen to her beat herself up about it all. As far as he was concerned what was done was done and it was time to move ahead.
“Come let’s go inside.”
As he opened her door her phone began to chime in her bag. She pulled it out and looked at the display.
“It’s Jules.” she said
“I guess today is the day for conversations.”
She let out a deep sigh and answered it. Julia was frantic.
“Gemma what happen? Are you ok? Roger called me….” She told her sister about the call and Gemma felt her head begin to hurt. She had handled this all the wrong way. Julia was her confidante and she had kept this secret from her for all of these months. As she finally told her everything she could feel her sister’s shock and disappointment.
“You could have told me Gemma. I would have helped.”
“Maybe Jules. I didn’t know what to do.”
“You really leaving him?”
“I’ve already left.”
“This new man, how you so sure you can trust him? You moving from one relationship to another in lightning speed.”
“I didn’t just meet him yesterday Jules.”
“True but it sounds like you just made up your mind to leave Roger. Why did it take you so long if you love this new guy so much?”
They talked for almost an hour. Gemma did not realise until she came out from the bedroom and saw the time on the clock over the fire place. Matthew was watching the news on his laptop. He looked over to her when she came out.
“How was it?”
“Not as bad as it was it Mummy but she had a lot of questions. She is hurt I did not tell her anything.”
“Your mum called her?”
“No. Roger did. She said he was shouting down the phone asking who you are.”
“He can meet me if he wants.” He said it with a smile. Gemma did not return it.
“This is not a joke Matt.”
“I never said it was. Look, come here.” he pushed back his chair and patted his lap. She wanted to go but stayed seated in the settee. It took him a few seconds to see she wasn’t moving.
“Can you understand that I can’t be nonchalant about this situation? My family is mad with me, Roger is angry, and my life is just in a jumble right now. I can’t act like everything is going to be ok.”
“So what you want me to do Gems? Get upset and cry about it as well. What’s the point in that?”
“I would feel like you trying to understand.”
“I don’t understand! I’m not you. Now you can tell me about it and I can hold you as long as you want but I’m not going to act like the world has crashed around me.”
Somewhere in her head she acknowledged that this was their first fight. It was the first time they had disagreed with each other.
“Im not an eternal optimist. That’s not the way my mind works.”
“Well mine does. I’m hoping it wears off on you eventually.” a smile played on the corner of his lips. She could not let it go so easily wanting to cry instead. Maybe Matt sensed this because he came and joined her in the settee. He wrapped his fingers around hers and she looked down at their entwined hands and tried to keep the tears back.
“Everyone is so mad at me. I feel like they will never understand. I did so many things wrong.”
“Baby you did your best. People aren’t always going to like your choices. That’s life.”
“Jules asked me why I was moving so fast with you. She said it was a mistake…” she paused when she heard what she was saying. “Why am I even telling you this? I’m sorry.”
“You telling me because you trust me. And that’s why she’s wrong. You trust me and that’s why you’re here right?”
She nodded while he kissed the back of her hand.
“You want to cry?” he asked her
“Yes.” She admitted
“Go ahead. I’ll just put this shirt to wash later.” she smiled “Its going to be covered in tears and snot and maybe some hair stuff. You have any makeup on?” he dragged a finger across her face.
“Leave me alone.” She pulled his finger away playfully
“Ok. Well use this side of the shirt. Try not let the tears soak through too much. I don’t want my chest to get too wet.”
She slapped his arm playfully then hugged him, burying her face in his shirt. He kissed her forehead.
“I just need some time.” She mumbled but he understood
“Well I’m not going anywhere”
They sat silently for a while with the news video on the laptop playing loudly in the background.
“Did I really just say that?” Matt asked
“What?” he face was still squashed against his shirt
“I’m not going anywhere. Seriously the number of corny one liners I’ve used since I met you! I mean I mean every word of it but I swear if anyone else besides you ever hears me say it out loud….’” she laughed and hugged him tighter.
It was more than two months later when she came back to the house she had shared with Roger and packed her remaining things into a van they had rented. Matthew stayed outside willing to accept that it would be disrespectful to be in there with her. Roger said very little but he helped her pack the boxes she had come with. The last eight weeks had been an interesting transition but it wasn’t difficult. Being with Matt 24/7 made her appreciate how much she had changed and how they suited each other. He had surprised her with a trip to Boston and they spent the week driving around in his car seeing the world he grew up in. His parents, as he had predicted, were easy going and fun and she saw clearly how they had shaped the person he had become. It was during those ten days they spent there that she finally put her small doubts aside and stopped listening to her family’s voices in her head
When she came back to London she and Roger spent an afternoon literally throwing verbal punches at each other. She had been honest about everything especially Matthew and he had not been able to handle her words. A few hours later they were on opposite sides of the room, both exhausted from the experience.
“I tried my best you know.” Roger tod her. “I didn’t know you were so unhappy.”
“I should have said but it was just so hard to explain it all.”
“I think it would be easier if he was not part of it. It’s serious?”
“Well I not going to lie. You know I don’t want it to work out for you.”
“I know. And I’m sorry. I mean that Roger. I am sorry.
“I can’t say I forgive you yet. I probably can’t ever do that.”
They sat there for a long time each with there own thoughts.
“Did he apologise to you?” that was all Matt wanted to know about the conversation.
“I didn’t expect him to. I’m the one who needs to get over it. I don’t need him to say anything to me about it. Not anymore.”
So they packed in silence. And she did felt sad. It was like moving away from ten years of her life. Deep inside she wanted Roger to be her friend one day. She wanted them to be how it was when they first met each other. Before they forgot how to talk and laugh and be a real couple. But she knew that the reality was that they may never see each other again after the divorce was done.
“Ms Karen been calling me but I told her we should not talk for a while.”
She was surprised to hear him say that. Her mother was refusing to talk to her at the moment.
“You two can still be friends you know. You like an extra child to her.”
“I know but she is your mother. You two can’t fix your problems if she have me moaning to her all the time.”
Gemma felt really emotional then. Just when she had concluded that he would hate her forever she saw a hint of the man she used to love more than her own self.
“Thank you.” She said softly and he did not have to ask her why she said it.
She told Matt about the conversation as they sat in traffic an hour later.
“That was cool of him. At least now I can get a chance to bowl her over Ms Karen with my charm and good looks”
He had cut his hair low and decided to grow out his beard. She had dyed her locks back to their natural black and gained a generous ten pounds. Matt called it happy fat while she pondered about the changes they had both made. It seemed to be part of their new transition. A new version of Gemma and Matt.
He leaned over the seats and kissed her, grabbing the extra curves the ten pounds had given her.
“Stop reminding me it’s there!”
“I like it. You look sexy when you’re rounder.”
“Enjoy it while you can because it’s going to be gone soon.”
“No way. I will sabotage the diet.”
She laughed then and shook her head. She knew he was serious.
“So this is what it means to be in love. Me hairy and bald. You round and cluttering up my place with boxes.”
“Yes but we tilt the world every night remember.”
“True, true. And don’t forget the mornings and the late afternoons. And Im sure it will be tilting in about an hour or so. Shoot I’m surprised scientists aren’t looking for us yet!”
She threw back her head and laughed. He was a silly man her boyfriend.
“Today was harder than I was expecting it to be.” She admitted a few minutes later
“Yeah but you came out in one piece right?”
He blew the horn at a bicycle that was cutting through the cars and coming within scratching distance of the van then leaned back and played with her hair as he always did.
“I love you Gems.” he said softly.
It was the first time he ever said the words to her. They both knew it but said nothing. She just reached over and wrapped her fingers around his and they looked out at the stagnant traffic in front of them.