So damn tired of being lonely.
Never thought I’d see this day, yet here it is, slapping me in the face. Hard. Reminding me that I played the field far too long and took people for granted. Nagging me that it is time to grow up and settle down.
Too bad the man I want to settle with isn’t here.
Once again, Trent is gone. Away on business. Flying across the US to oversee the next construction site in his business empire. A mirror image of the one in Tampa, just thousands of miles away.
I should be happy for him. Should congratulate him on the feats he has accomplished. Should be his biggest cheerleader as he nears the top of the wealthiest-people list in the Bay Area. He worked hard to get where he is and I should applaud his diligence.
Instead, I sit in my dark living room, surrounded by filth, pouting. Berating myself and my decisions.
Trent left three days ago for California. Told me he would be gone five days. As with every previous trip, he basically broke things off. Gave me permission to hook up with other people, guilt-free.
And I hate it. Hate his easy dismissal of me, of us. Hate that every time he does this, it feels like a knife to the chest. An effortless rejection that slashes and scars and fucking hurts for days. Makes me feel disposable and worthless.
“We don’t need to do this.” I wave my hands between us. “Break up every time you go out of town.”
He rubs the back of his neck, averts his gaze, and sighs. “Reese, I don’t want you to feel obligated or tied to me when I’m not here.” His eyes close as he takes a deep breath. “And I’m gone more often than not.” Dark-green irises meet mine, a silent plea in them begging me to understand. To accept and drop the argument. “It isn’t fair to you. Don’t limit yourself because I can’t be here.”
Irritation heats my skin as I consider his words. Play them over and over and let them sink in. Is it me who is limited or him? Maybe he does this every time because he doesn’t want to feel guilty for any acts he commits when he goes out of town.
“You sure it’s me you’re worried about?” I ask before I lose the nerve.
His brows pinch together, his eyes narrowing. “Not sure I follow.”
“If I complain about us breaking up every trip you take, I don’t think it’s me who feels limited.” Without outright saying it, I insinuate he is the one who doesn’t want limitations. He doesn’t want to be obligated or tied down. Because maybe his trips have more side adventures than I realize.
“Say what you mean, Reese,” he bites out. “We’re grown men. No sense in skirting around how we feel.” His face reddens as he works his jaw.
Braving a step forward, I swallow past the lump in my throat. Ignore the pang in my gut and building sweat on my brow. Take a deep breath and straighten my spine as I open my mouth to speak my truth.
“Are you sleeping with other people? While you’re gone, I mean.”
God, now that it is out in the open, I feel foolish. Immature and needy. Like a damn jealous nag.
Minutes pass as Trent simply stares. His face is void of expression. No hurt or shame or anger. No disbelief or confusion or humor. He’s just… blank.
And damn if it doesn’t throw my head into more of a tailspin.
On the verge of walking away, I study him for one last deep breath. Scrutinize his impassive expression. Stab. With a shake of my head, I step back, pivot, and start my retreat. I don’t need this bullshit. I don’t deserve this bullshit.
On the second step, a hand wraps around my bicep.
“Wait,” Trent whispers. “Please.”
I halt my retreat but don’t spin to face him. Not yet.
“Are you?” I ask again.
His hand falls away, but the heat of him remains. A constant reminder Trent is more than anyone that came before him. Trent is who I want. Who I need. If only my affections were reciprocated. If only luck were on my side.
“No, Reese,” he answers, sadness softening his voice. “I don’t have sex with or date others while I’m gone.”
I spin around at a dizzying speed. Drag a hand through my hair. Open my mouth to speak, then snap it shut as my mind races. Sucking in a deep breath, I close my eyes, count to three, and pray for clarity. As my eyes open, Trent runs a hand over his mouth and jaw.
“Then why?” The two-word question laced with incredulity. “Why all the dramatics when you leave? I… help me understand.”
He steps into me, invades every ounce of my personal space, and frames my face with his hands. I gasp from the simple yet intimate touch. Because all I want to do is kiss him. Kiss him and make all this nonsense end. Kiss him and tell him with my lips I want no one except him.
But I don’t move.
“How long have we been together now?” His question is rhetorical, so I don’t answer. “Close to a year. Unless I discount my time away.” He inches closer, his breath warm on my lips. “I hate leaving you. Hate that I’m gone a week or two at a time, and you’re just here, waiting for me to return.” On a deep inhale, he shakes his head. “It isn’t fair to you. To sit and wait. To wish I was here. So, I give you a pass. Give you the freedom to do as you please, without guilt.”
“But you’re wrong,” I whisper with my eyes on his lips. “You say the words, but there is no pass. Not really. Because the moment you return, we’re right back where we left off.”
He inches back and pinches the bridge of his nose. “This will get old, Reese.”
“For who?” I rear back and meet his gaze as his hands clap his sides. “Because it sounds like you’re fishing for excuses now.”
Trent steps back, and I shiver at the chilled look on his face. “I don’t need to make excuses, Reese,” he bites out with more volume. He checks his watch and huffs out a breath. “And I don’t have time to argue.” He turns away and walks toward the bedroom.
“So that’s it?” I ask, following in his wake. “You don’t have time, so the conversation is done?”
He pops up the handle on his carry-on suitcase and wheels it out of the room. “No, of course not. But I have a flight to catch. I can’t spend the next several hours debating this.”
He pockets his wallet, keys, and phone. “When, what?”
“When will we finish this conversation? Because it needs to happen.”
He checks his watch again, and I want to scream. It has been maybe a minute since he last looked.
“When I’m back,” he states, unlocking and opening the front door.
Five days. I can hold off for five days. It isn’t the longest he’s been away. “Fine. Have a safe trip. See you when you’re back.”
Without another word, Trent leaves. The immediate silence is deafening. The sharp pain in my chest is excruciating. And with each new breath, I wilt from his absence. With every heartbeat, I shrink in on myself.
It’s only five days. He’ll be back in no time and we’ll talk.
Three days have come and gone without a word from Trent. On most of his trips, I get texts or picture updates. Small check-ins that let me know he thinks of me, that he cares.
This time around, nothing. Complete radio silence. And I hate it with every cell in my body. Hate the rift that suddenly exists between us. Hate that our relationship was left on a sour note. More than anything, I hate the feeling beneath my diaphragm. The one that begs me to reach out and initiate contact, but I fear it will do more damage than good.
His silence has taken its toll. Made me question if staying with him is really what I want or deserve. With each passing second, the gray cloud following me in his absence grows darker. Thicker. Angrier. Miserable.
I need to do something to fix this, fix us. Help us find balance in our off-kilter lives. Help us find a middle ground. A place where we can be together and not feel at odds.
Trent leads a busy life, but his workload is a lame excuse for us to not move forward. Countless couples with hectic schedules have meaningful, happy relationships. If he didn’t care, he would let me go. And he hasn’t. Not completely.
Deep in my bones, I know we will make this work. He just needs proof. Needs to be shown that if we both want this, us, we will overcome every obstacle thrown our way. Together.
Whatever it takes.
Because, dammit, I don’t want a day without him.
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