He waited, there was no response. He started the car and drove home, checked his phone and still, there was no reply. He took a shower, drank almost an entire pot of coffee and tried to remember everything from the night before. She still didn’t respond. He had been dry heaving all morning, and he was lucky that he was in the house alone; he did not want to explain this to his mom.
He tried to recall everything from the day and night before but the last thing he could vividly remember was at a bar with his friends. He had been drinking heavily and had failed miserably at playing darts. That is all he remembered until he woke up this morning on the floor. He was afraid to call any of his friends because of the answers they might give him. He did not want to realize that he did something that would mean he derailed his relationship. Especially after he made a point of telling Josh that he had never screwed around on any of his girlfriends.
But the more he thought about it, the angrier he got at Mallory’s reaction. The fact that she didn’t even wait for an explanation. She just hung up the phone and took for granted that he did something wrong. Why was that? He had not done anything to misplace her trust in their time together. In fact, if anyone would be trigger-happy regarding trust issues, it would be him. The more he thought about it, the more his head hurt. He decided to go to his room because everyone would be coming home soon and he was not in the mood to be around anyone.
He was lying on his bed, eyes closed and praying for his headache to go away when his phone started to ring. He quickly jumped to answer it, hoping it would be Mallory, it wasn’t, it was Josh. His voice was groggy when he answered, “Hello.”
“Hey, are you alright, Chris?” The concern in Josh’s voice seemed genuine.
“Yeah, okay. I just have a headache that I am trying to get rid of; that’s all.”
“Oh, alright then. Well, look, I just talked to Mallory and thought you’d want to know I set the record straight for you so you could quit worrying.”
Chris sat straight up on the bed, “Wait; you talked to Mallory? How in the hell did you know? Oh, let me guess, she called you to cry on your shoulder, nevermind,” he sounded disgusted and dejected and tossed himself back down on the pillow.
“Actually no, I called her. The girl, Libby, she came back into the apartment laughing about how she followed you out to the parking lot and surprised you in your car. She mentioned you were on the phone and you look terrified, so she played it up and planted a kiss on you. She was giddy with how she played up being all sexy and stuff and how you did not look amused. I kinda figured you must have been on the phone with Mallory when she did that.”
“Yeah, I was and when, what was her name, Libby? Well, when she pulled her little stunt Mallory hung up on me. She won’t take my calls and told me to quit calling her.”
“Yeah, she turned her cell phone off. I tried calling her a few times, and when I couldn’t get through, I called the house phone. Mind you; I had to wait until I got home because some asshat left this morning and he was my ride.”
“Sorry, I wasn’t thinking Josh. I was so upset after that and completely sick to my stomach that I just took off.”
“Yeah, when Libby told her story I looked out the window and saw you drive off. I figured you were upset and I wasn’t going to call and make you come back for me. Zach ended up taking me home,” Josh stopped for a minute to collect his thoughts. He wasn’t sure how to proceed. “Do you remember anything from last night?”
“Bits and pieces of the night including drinks at the bar and playing darts but not much after that. Please tell me, Josh, I didn’t mess around with any of those girls did I?”
Josh couldn’t help but let out a chuckle, “No, you didn’t mess around with any of the girls. Not for lack of trying on their part, though. Damn, they wanted a piece of you in the worst way.”
“Tell me I didn’t drive either.”
“You didn’t drive either, one of them drove your car to Brent’s because none of us were sober and all of the girls were.”
“Ok, well that makes me feel a little better. Care to fill in the gigantic blanks?”
“Sure, I will tell you what I told her. When we went out all you wanted to do was talk about her; she was the only topic you would discuss all night long. We kept pouring drinks down you hoping you would shut the hell up, but you wouldn’t. Chris, you left no doubt that you have it bad for her. We left and went to another bar with some girls that we picked up, one of them drove your car because the girls were sober and we were not.”
Josh stopped for another moment, wanting to gauge Chris’ reaction to the story. He wasn’t saying anything at all; you could just hear his rhythmic breathing on the other end of the line. So, Josh decided to push forward.
“The second bar was boring, so Brent suggested going back to his place. We stopped at a liquor store and stocked up and then went to his place. We got the stupid idea to play strip poker, and the alcohol was hitting us, so we all started passing out one-by-one. Your poker game is strong, even when you are hammered, so you were still partially dressed when you passed out. I told Mallory all of this and the tidbit that Libby had been coming on to you all night long, and you had rebuffed her at every turn. Libby was furious that you showed no interest in her, but you never shared with the girls that you had a girlfriend.”
“So, I take it that the incident in the car was her retaliation?”
“Absolutely, and it worked. I think when she saw you engrossed in a conversation she guessed you had a wife or girlfriend and maybe her little scene would cause a problem and you would come crawling to her. When I told Mallory that you were loyal to her and that you did nothing wrong except drinking too much and maybe smoking too much, she started to feel sorry for not listening to you.”
Before Chris could respond, his phone chirped to indicate he had a text message. “Yeah, well my phone just chirped so I guess now she feels like talking to me.”
“Go easy on her Chris, she feels awful so don’t make it worse.”
“So yesterday you told me you didn’t want me to be with her and now you are trying to patch things up. What exactly do you want, Josh?”
“I want her to be happy, Chris and if that is going to be with you, then I am going to make sure it happens.”
Chris thanked Josh and hung up. He took a deep breath before clicking on the text message.
I’m sorry that I didn’t give you a chance to explain, I let my fears and emotions get in the way. I’m ready to talk if you are.
Chris read her message several times; now he wasn’t sure he was willing to talk. He felt the relief of knowing that he had not fooled around with another woman or driven while drunk. But he could still not shake the anger he was feeling toward Mallory. He swung his feet over the side of the bed and walked downstairs, thinking that maybe he would go to mom for some advice.
She was in the kitchen cooking dinner. He looked around and didn’t see Carly or the kids, which was odd. “So, where is everyone?”
“Tonight it is just the two of us. Ryan and Carly took the kids out to dinner for a change,” she turned and looked at her son, “Ok, you don’t look so hot, what is wrong?”
“I need some advice,” he said as he took a seat at the bar.
While his mom continued to cook, Chris told her about his conversation with Josh and his admission that he was ready to be a dad and settle down. He also told her about the drinking and the situation at the apartment and the incident with Libby. His voice was low, and he was embarrassed to admit everything to her.
“I take it that you are angry with yourself?” Lisa finally asked.
His head shot up, “A little but I am angry with her, too. Mom, I never did anything to make her not trust me, this is the first time, and while I get she was a little upset, she shut me down. I am the one who should have the trust issue with her, she’s the one who left me,” his voice had started to rise.
Lisa turned off the stove and walked over to Chris. She took his hands in hers and looked him straight in the eye, “Chris, you know that relationships are hard and you know that it is give and take. How much do you want to be with her?”
“I have never wanted anything more; I want to be a family with her and Henry.”
“Then I think you need to make sure that your relationship is indeed built on trust and love and that you two are not rushing headlong into something without thinking. Honestly, you already knew what you wanted to do, but you wanted affirmation from me, right?”
Chris nodded his head, “I guess I wanted someone to agree with me that tearing it down and starting over is what I have to do because it sure in the hell isn’t any easy decision to make.”
She patted his hands and then finished getting dinner ready. The two of them ate in virtual silence, and when they were finished, Chris helped clean up the mess. He went back upstairs to his room and dialed Mallory’s number.
She was reticent when she answered the phone, “Hi Chris.”
He quickly interrupted her, “Mallory, I am sorry but I need to say this before I lose my nerve. I think you were right when we talked the other day, we are rushing into this relationship at breakneck speed, and I am not sure we are ready for it right now. I think we need to concentrate on building our friendship and my relationship with Henry – those are the most important things right now.”
“Wait, so what are you trying to say?”
“I think for right now we need to table the idea of rekindling our romance,” he took a deep breath and attempted to steady himself before continuing, “I love you, I mean that; I’d seriously marry you right this instant. But you didn’t trust me this morning and didn’t even want to give me a chance to explain or anything. That won’t work for a relationship, and you know it.”
Mallory said nothing; she was trying to keep the tears from falling down her cheeks. His words stung but she knew he was right; she had jumped to the conclusion that he had done something wrong and never gave him an opportunity to explain. She finally found her voice, “I see, okay.”
“I’ve got, to be honest, it hurts like hell that you didn’t trust me and I have no clue as to why that is. What did I do to make you feel that way? When did I betray you?” He was pleading, and she could hear the pain in his voice. “I am not giving up on us, I need to stress that, I just want us to slow down. We have feelings for one another and we want to be together but we need to go slow, and we need to rebuild our relationship from the ground up.”
Her response was curt “Fine, got it,” she wiped her tears and straightened her shoulders to try and empower herself. “Thanksgiving is coming up, and Henry will have fall break. If you want to make arrangements to come down and see him, let me know. Bye, Chris.” And with that, she abruptly hung up.
Chris let out all of the air in his lungs until it burned; this was more painful than he had anticipated it would be. She would have no idea how hard that was for him, but he felt like it had to be done. He would call Josh and explain to him, but he wasn’t sure if he would understand either.
He did want this to work, and he would find his way back to her, and they would be together; she would have to trust him on this. Right now she was probably mad, and he most likely made her cry, and he wished he was there to dry every one of her tears. He just needed to prove to her that he was worthy of her trust. What she failed to realize was that she had been in love with the idea of him for twelve years, just like he had been in love with the notion of being a dad for all those years. But now that it was a reality, things are different, and he had come to realize that all in the span of a few days.
He was going to make Mallory actually love him and trust him, and that journey started now.