“Fine. You have five minutes.” I said to him.
“Can we sit first?” He asked, going for the nearest armchair around the patio. “I also have a gift for you.” He said, taking out a small jewelry box inside of it from his jacket.
“I remember how you always wanted to have one.” He opened it, and I saw a small turquoise butterfly attached to two bracelets.
“I’ve been holding on to it for years, and I didn’t get to give it to you.” His eyes lingered on me — full of regret, probably as he reverted his gazes as soon as I caught his. How did we get to this? We were once happy, but now I’m sure he wasn’t entirely been.
“The first few years were easy.” He started. “Loving you, I mean.” He added. He closed the bracelet box and shoved it into the middle of the table.
“Everything was so easy to me that I like being around you. But then when my parents got involved — “ he chuckled. “You know how they are.”
I chuckled at his words. Everything got complicated the moment his parents got involved. I still remember all the spotlights they put us through — the events and dinners we must attend together. The smile we were faking because we were exhausted, yet I was still trying to look my best. For him, I have tried. I tried not to say anything about his parents as he was never on good terms with them. Broken rules, bonds, unwanted attention, loveless love between them, and the constant drama that happened occasionally.
I was exhausted and told myself that this would be the last time I would not say anything, but I still did it the next time we had to do this together. The cycle was repeated, and I told myself the same thing. I tried my best for him, even when exhausted, to the point that I just went with the flow.
I saw how they neglected Gabriel from time to time. He does not care enough to attend his graduation is a big deal for him. They never came to any of the important events in his life too. It was always him — by himself. His parents have always had to be somewhere other than with his only son.
But when there are events that would put them in the spotlight, they would fly and come looking happily. Our lives were nothing but a show, he said.
“Everything got complicated.” He said, reasoning his past behaviors. It was complicated for him — always.
I listened to him carefully as I already knew where this was going.
“I got compared to Daniel — “he looked up at me.
“I know I was nothing compared to him.” He said, which I’m afraid I have to disagree with. Gabriel has his charm, and Daniel has his own too. But when he got constantly compared throughout the years he lived, the feelings of not being enough started to grow. He started not believing in himself, detached from his surroundings, and averted his life to the nearest possible distraction — his university friends.
My heart was racing, about to burst out because I remembered everything too well. The constant screaming from his parents and pain every time I watched him storm out after the fight with his father, too — I remember it all. It was a messy fight between them — they were at each other’s throats, and I couldn’t do much.
He left me in the dark and did not want to fill me in, even when I was just outside the room — knowing what they were fighting for. He left me some time, not realizing he brought me there too, came to apologize after learning he had left me, and said he wanted to be alone. That’s how it goes whenever he gets into arguments with his parents.
Slowly but surely, I felt myself disconnecting, a gradual detachment born out of the realization that our love had been built on shaky ground, and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t make anything on it. Our love had become a mere semblance of what it once was — familiarity and comfort rather than passion.
I heard whispers of him being way too comfortable with one particular girl. Monaco’s a small country — words travel fast around here, faster than any racing cars on the racing track.
And then it happened — I saw him in that disheveled state at the hotel. In that instant, I made a choice that we both should have made long ago. Letting go of each other. It was a decision, not out of anger but simply because I knew we couldn’t have fixed it. We were drifting apart from long ago and just stayed silent about it. I let him go already way before that day.
Was I angry? Absolutely. But the anger wasn’t staying for too long.
“We were never okay,” I said.
He nodded in agreement, “We were far from okay.”
“I didn’t want you to know because I was ashamed. You were incredibly kind, beautiful, and smart, Nat. But I wasn’t happy — I tried to be happy but failed to do so.”
Tears started coming down my face as his words came out. A few years might have passed, but when we got reminded of the past that we weren’t a big fan of, it would throw us too. The hurts, memories, and feelings all came back to us in a flash.
“So it was because of me,” I said. It would be a very different situation if I knew some part of it — at least a bit of what was happening during those times.
He let out a sigh, “No!”
“We weren’t just meant to be.” He added.
We weren’t similar in any way — I realized it all now that he was always trying to fit into my world. Like how he tries to come to any charities the foundation has thrown — he never was a charity person. He was trying — for me so everyone could see that he was decent enough to be with me.
“Were you happy when you were with her?” I reverted the question.
He shook his head, “But at least I got to be me.”
The saddest part of being alive is when we can’t be ourselves; sometimes, pretending to be someone way too long means gradually losing a part of ourselves — even when it was just a tiny part. And at some point in life, there will be a time when we get used to it and mistakenly believe that this is the life we want. But we don’t.
Maybe that’s how Gabriel has been feeling. The constant pressure threw his old self, and he had to lose everything first to get back. Perhaps he never intended for everything to unfold as it did. Life has a way of guiding us down unexpected paths, and sometimes it is only through loss. But even when I know the real reason, I hope he doesn’t have to hurt me in returning to his old self, but who am I to judge? I wasn’t in his place.
He accumulated years of pain and put it on his shoulder by himself, but I just wish he was man enough to let me know instead of doing all those horrible things he did. I would have let him go earlier if he told me the reason. I won’t even fight for it because our love would be impossible to fix. No amount of sorry will ever make up for what he did behind me. But I was in the wrong too, and I should have let him go when I started questioning my love for him. I should have let him go when my heart started to wear off.
“Who is she?” I asked.
His eyes widened in surprise, the question catching him off guard, “What?”
“The girl that you like,” I said. I have caught the hints already. Apologize months after all this time?
“You’re trying to put everything behind you. Properly.” I explained.
“Someone in the States.” He said, smiling. “I met her briefly after I got discharged.”
I nodded in understanding. Now I understand why he wanted to put everything, including me. He has someone in his life already.
“I haven’t thanked you properly.” He said. “Thank you for sending me to the rehab. I heard you were the one who asked Alex to help me.”
“I did what I felt was right, what you deserved. Sending you to the rehab was the least I could do. You needed it.” I said to him.
He stood up and said, “This probably will be the last time I see you.”
“I’m moving to the States.” He said, giving me a slight smile — a smile where I hadn’t seen in years from today. During the last few months of our life, before we broke up, he rarely gave me a genuine smile where he meant it, not the forced ones.
His lips curved upwards, “I haven’t been this happy for so long.” I’m sure he hasn’t. But I just wished he didn’t need to remind me how he wasn’t happy back then.
“Goodbye, Nat.” I watched him walk out of the house.
Goodbye, Gab. I wish you well, but I hope we don’t have to cross paths again. The hurts have gone, and I have healed, but I don’t want to see you. I think it’s best if we remain as strangers because there are a few things I can’t forgive, one of which is cheating.
“And, Nat.” He stopped for a few seconds, then turned to me. “Daniel’s a lucky guy.” He said before going into his car.