I had no right to be sad in seeing him go. I really didn’t. But I distinctly remember going in the bathroom and closing the door. This time, I locked it. Pulling the lid to the toilet closed, I sat down and buried my face in my hands, the tears flowing freely. I felt defeated. That’s the word for it. Life had beat me up so many times that I was broken and hollow and now, defeated.
Now, I’m not a religious person. I was when I was younger and even a while when my husband was still alive. But I felt lost, like a wayward ship upon story waters. My compass was broken and my soul bled. I had no choice to go down with my ship.
I took in a ragged breath and I knelt at the toilet, folding my hands piously and resting my forehead on them.
“Dear Lord,” I cried, “I’m so thankful for everything you have given me, but I am so lost right now. I know it has been a long time since we’ve had a conversation and I’m sorry about that. See, I don’t know what to do. I’m so confused. I finally allow myself to care for another guy after all these years. I feel like I finally started to enjoy living again and he gets taken away from me too. What was the purpose for all this if I’m just supposed to be alone? I don’t understand and this is one of those moments in my life that I really need you to carry me through it. Lend me comfort, I pray…”
A loud rap on the door scared the daylights out of me and I gasped loudly, quickly sitting back down and pulling at the toilet paper to mop my face.
“Ruby?” Jack asked sounding panicked.
“Yes?” I replied feebly, hoping the emotion couldn’t be heard beneath my voice.
“The door is locked. Are you alright?”
I chuckled. “I’m fine, Jack. Be out in a minute.”
“Don’t scare me like that!” he exclaimed and a pain shot through my chest.
I could tell he cared and he wasn’t meaning to hurt me at all. I was merely being selfish and wanting what I was not meant for. My status was not the same as his, we were from completely different worlds, and I was an emotional mess.
I ran some cold water over my face and pat it dry. Then, I paused as I unlocked the door and opened it to find him still standing there. That dang lump formed in my throat and burned so bad I could not speak. I looked down at the floor so he wouldn’t see my tears and I moved past him.
He reached out and grabbed my wrist, pulling me to him. I felt those strong arms close around me and my weak ones wound around him. We just stood there together for a time. My silent tears ran over my face and wet his shirt. His silent tears ran down his face and wet the top of my head.
“Thank you,” he croaked out.
“For what?” I sniffed and looked up at him.
“You opened my eyes, that’s what,” he smiled.
I was speechless. “I’m not following you.”
He took my hand and led me to the couch where we both sat.
“I can’t really describe it. I was cut off from the world even though I was a big part of it. I was angry, I was impatient, and I was ungrateful. Davis hitting you with the car was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I mean that. There is only so much happiness that money can buy,” he gave a false chuckle.
I looked down at my hands. He envied my simple life and I envied his lavish one.
“Thank you, Jack. I can’t say that being hit with your car was the best thing that ever happened to me, but I’m glad that I was able to know you for the good man that you are. I will be really honest, my first impression of you wasn’t the best even though I am probably your biggest fan,” I laughed and he joined me. “I do want you to know that I wasn’t following you. You really did keep popping up everywhere I went. I was not stalking you, I promise.”
His hand found my shoulder. “I know. Perhaps there were greater forces that kept throwing me in your path.”
“I came up here to find closure and I found you and your great kids…and the bumper of your car. But you have helped me too. You have shown me there is so much more to life that I have missed out on these last few years. I thank you for that,” I said wringing my hands in nervousness.
“You want to know what I think?” he asked.
I tilted my head and looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Do I want to?”
He smiled, the lines around his mouth deepened and the lines around his eyes crinkled. “I think you look for the magic in the world because you don’t have any magic in your life. You have to find it somewhere to keep from going batty. But I think you are an old soul that has been very sad for a long time and if I was able to help you out of that, even for an hour, I’m happy I could help you back. But what you did for me was more than I could ever do for you.”
I shook my head to the negative and I felt the sadness creep up on me again. If he cared so much, and if I did so much for him, why couldn’t he just make a promise to me that he would come back someday? Was I so undeserving? Was it really as silly as it sounded? I mean, we were two human beings. Why did it matter so much about the stereotypes of the world? I felt like the peasant who fell in love with the prince and everyone around him was telling him how the peasant girl was not good enough or have royal enough blood to be with him. If only more princes stood up to those people and broke the bonds of society.
“What are you thinking right now?” he asked when I didn’t respond.
I flicked my gaze to his. “You don’t want to know.”
My thoughts piqued his interest and his eyebrows shot up. A hint of a smile played on my own lips but I didn’t want to feel happy.
My brain worked quickly, searching the corners for some viable excuse. “I was feeling free.”
“What do you mean by that?” he asked quietly.
“Well, I am able to make my own decisions, except when a movie star takes me out with his car and I’m forced to stay in his hotel room.” I heard him laugh out loud. “But I’m pretty in control of my life. Yes, I have bills that are late, most people do. I can choose who I take with me to dinner. I can choose what clothes I wear. I can be who I want to be and it’s okay. But you…you have expectations to live up to. You are forced to put your own life last for the entertainment of millions of people. You can’t be seen in public with people who aren’t of a certain status. You are forced to vacation in tiny mountain towns to escape cameras. While I might envy your bank account, I’m much freer than you are.”
I stood then and left him on the couch headed for the bedroom. I paused before I passed through the doorway and looked back at him just staring into nothing, the muscles of his jaw leaping as they clenched and unclenched.
“I told you that you didn’t want to know…” I muttered and went to lie down.