The truth hit her so hard it felt like a physical blow. She tried to steady herself, tried to stay focused and not let the pain show on her face. It was an attempt in futility. Her breathing came in short labored gasps and her head felt dizzy. She was sure she would faint in the next few minutes.
Mark sat on the other side watching her silently, saying nothing and yet missing nothing. He put a calming hand over hers that was on the table. She recoiled immediately and he flinched as if in pain. The expression however, was only fleeting. It disappeared as fast as it came, leaving her thinking that maybe she had imagined it.
They stared at each other with their mouths shut. Their mouths shut…..but still….they managed to communicate so much between them.
Finally she spoke.
“I hate you,” she hissed through clenched teeth.
He stared at her for a brief moment and then shrugged. His indifference seemed only to infuriate her further.
“You lying son of a bitch,”
“You might accuse me of everything else my dear Elsie, but I’m afraid lying isn’t one of them.”
“You lie,” she said with so much venom it threw him off balance.
“You knew I had a woman in my life. I did not hide that fact from you.”
“I thought we had something special….” She trailed off and looked away, avoiding his stare.
“Look at me,” he said softly. She turned her head slowly to look into his eyes and for the first time that evening she thought she saw some form of affection in them. It didn’t last. She felt rather than saw him harden and then the pity was back.
She hated that look of pity. She could take anything else from him. Anything but pity.
“I’m sorry if that is how it came out. I was just trying to be friendly. You must have misunderstood my intentions.”
She gave him that look again and said nothing.
“Tell me,” he asked calmly, “what did you expect? Did you think I would leave her for you? Is that what you wanted, Elsie?”
Oh, the sting of his words! If only he knew how much he hurt her, how such words only deepened the raw wound in her heart.
“You knew I had a woman in my life, you knew, even though it was never a matter of discussion amongst us, how much I love her. Yet, you wanted me to leave her; you wanted me to throw away six years of our lives together to the wind….and for what? I do not know you, I do not love you. I admit some aspects about you fascinate me, but that is just about it. I’ve known you for about three months but that is all.”
“You led me on,” she said resignedly, the humiliation flashing through her body like a whip.
“Again, my apologies if it came off that way. That was never my intention. Clearly, we were looking at things from very different point of views. I saw a friend in you, you on the other hand….”
“You really do love her,” she said suddenly
He looked up in surprise, not knowing what to say.
“We’ve been through a lot together,” he said finally.
“But do you love her?” she insisted
“That, Elsie, is none of your business.”
“Who are you?” she asked painfully. “Who the hell have you become, Mark? You are a lot of things, but arrogant and cruel never was one of them.”
“Well that goes to show you how little you know of me. Because this is who I have always been.”
They locked eyes for a long time. She wanted to get up and hit him hard on the face. She considered it for a moment and as much as she relished the thought and the temporary reprieve she knew it would bring, she wasn’t going to give him the pleasure. Not now, not ever. She was not going to cause a scene. She had been played all along. Played like cards, but if she was to be honest with herself deep down she always knew. Always knew she didn’t own him, always had the feeling that he was not there a hundred percent. And yet, her biggest mistake had been to dare to hope…..to dare hope for the impossible.
She remembered those moments, those brief moments holding his hand, looking into his eyes. Her heart wept for what would have been. What could have been? What if? He was a fool not to give them a chance, because she was almost sure they were soul mates, they were meant for each other. He just didn’t realize it. Yet.
She knew she had lost him. But she knew also, that she could not claim to lose what she did not have in the first place.