I didn’t know what to say. Time had stopped. It was just Ben and I… but not in the ways I’d remembered, cherished and adored. His stare was not one of admirations, content or lust, but somewhere along the lines of betrayal, hurt and, dare I say it, hatred?
I gulped hard and wrapped an arm across my front, holding onto my other arm at the elbow. I opened my mouth, ready to speak, but couldn’t find the right words to start such a sensitive and difficult topic… well, it was sensitive and difficult for me. I tried again, with success,
“You know… it’s rude to eavesdrop.” I began. Ben didn’t move a muscle. His stare bore into my deeper. This was the wrong thing to say, obviously. I tried again, “How much did you hear?” I felt like a criminal… guilty of a crime of constant lies. I should have told him right from the start. When Ben opened his mouth to speak, he spat his words out, like acid, in a cold, heartless manner,
“Enough.” So simple… it was heartbreaking. He’d never spoken to me like this before; I hadn’t even pictured him to ever act in this manner. It was so unnatural for a guy like him… the opposite of norm.
I released myself from my protective hold and took a cautious couple steps towards him, with my arm outstretch slightly to touch his arm gently. He retaliated and moved away from his stone physique into a new, domineering stance.
He stood tall, back straight with broad, stern shoulders, his arms lay by his sides, fists clenched loosely, and his face remained a mirror as before. His handsome features were hidden behind his apparent rage and he wasn’t the Ben I knew and loved… he was his terrible, monstrous alter-ego… his evil twin.
“I’m so sorry…” I whispered, as a lump grew in the back of my throat, “I never intended to hurt anybody… I just…”
“Did?” he interrupted sarcastically, yet in spite.
“Yes.” I admitted. I had hurt him, it was obvious, and it was hurting me that he felt that way.
“When were you planning on telling me?” he asked. I couldn’t answer. Truthfully, I hadn’t planned on telling him… not for a while, at least… but I couldn’t tell him that, “Did you ever plan on telling me? Or was the plan to just keep me in the dark forever?”
“No, I did want to tell you but…”
“But what? You chickened out?”
“In a way, yes,” I told him a little more defensively. That shut him up, “there were plenty of times I’d been prepared to tell you: the day I told you I was leaving, in the park, when you met him the first time, at the beach, today! I chickened out because I didn’t know how you would react. But, now I’ve experienced it… I think I would have rather carry on lying to you for the next twenty years and more.”
During my monologue, Ben’s physique had loosened, and his face was now more pained, rather than angry. We didn’t utter a word for moments… we could only just manage to look each other in the eye. People passed us and looked at us oddly. They could tell something heated was going on between us and didn’t want to be around when one of us finally lost control and erupted.
“Did you want him?” he asked seriously, “When you first found out… did you want him?” I knew the answer, but it was complicated.
“No,” I stated. I watched his wounded eyes wince at my answer. It was a stab in his heart, “but, at the same time… yes. I was fifteen-years-old, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, let alone whether or not I was physically, mentally or emotionally prepared to introduce a human being into the world.
“I was so scared that I felt I couldn’t tell anyone, not even my mum! Who wants to be known as the fifteen-year-old that got knocked up in a drunken state? I certainly didn’t! So we moved away and I had him in a place where I didn’t know anyone, and never intended to get close to anyone, and where I wouldn’t be judged by the people most close to me.”
“But if you didn’t want him… why didn’t you just get rid of him when you had the chance to? Surely it would have been much simpler…”
“But I did want him! Sort of… and, besides, I would never have been able to look myself in the mirror if I’d killed something that would someday become so precious to me.
“The minute I laid my eyes on him, I knew I loved him and I knew that nothing could make me stop loving him. If my mum had, had her way, James would not be here today. He wouldn’t be lying in that room recovering from an allergic reaction. We would not be like we are today if he was not here!”
Tears had been brewing in my eyes as the rage from deep inside of me had been set free. I’d kept quiet for too long… it was finally time to let it all out.
Ben seemed bemused by it all. I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was weighing out the pros and cons of being with me and whether or not there was actually and point. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d simply left me there and then and never returned… I deserved it, from what I’d done to him.
Ben continued to stare at me, in silence, with a blank expression. No emotion shone through his eyes… they were dead. I breathed in,
“Please say something.” I murmured, taking his hand into mine. His arm froze and he did not respond the way he used to. His hand hung there… limp and heavy. It broke my heart that all love he might have held for me could have been gone for good.
“What am I supposed to say? That I forgive you and we can go and play happy families now? I don’t think so, Case. You’ve been lying to me for – what? – a year and a half? And you’ve denied me the knowledge of knowing that I actually have a son… a son that I’ve been meeting on occasion thinking that he’s someone else’s kid!
“The first time I saw Jamie… there was a connection that I couldn’t explain. It might have been the fact that he looks exactly how I did at that age, minus the hair and eyes, or maybe the fact, simply, because he was with you.
“I’ve had a son for almost a year now… and I don’t even know anything about him, other than his name. I don’t even know his birthday… or how much he weighed when he was born. I missed my first child’s birth! Didn’t you ever consider how I’d feel about it all?”
“Of course I did! Every single time I looked down at my swollen stomach I saw you. Every time I look at his face I see you and you alone. I never see me… just you.
“I am not proud of what I’ve done to you and all I can do is apologise until you find it in your heart to forgive me. I am so, so sorry for the pain I have caused you and, if I could, I would have done anything to prevent this from happening.
“Ben, you’re the best thing that’s happened to me… I don’t know what I would do without you. I… I love you.” My words were sharp and wet with tears. I kissed his lips forcefully, willing and begging for a miracle that he would respond positively. His lips didn’t fit together with mine. It was like forcing a jigsaw piece into a space that obviously didn’t fit. He stayed stone-like and motionless… my heart was truly broken.
“I have to go.” He said quietly, untwining his fingers from mine and pushed me away gently. He spun on his heels and glided down the corridor in a blink. I couldn’t move…
My heart had been torn into a million tiny pieces, and no amount of glue, sticky tape of needle and thread could mend it…