Goodbye, My Love
I kiss Louis’s cheek and smooth down his hair. He looks so sweet in his little suit, a miniature adult rather than a child of only six. If he was dressed up for any other occasion I would have taken a photograph of him, but I don’t want reminders of today. The feelings that have been stirred in me today, and the days leading up to today, have surprised me.
I thought I was over Charlie.
I was wrong.
“Be a good boy for Daddy” I say, and he nods his assent. He doesn’t smile and I have a horrible feeling that Charlie will blame me for brainwashing our son against him on this oh-so-happy day. But I’m not smiling either. I force myself to and it feels strained, but it does the job. Louis smiles shyly back.
“Why aren’t you coming?”
His big blue eyes are staring up at me, asking the innocent question over and over again. I don’t know how to explain that it’s not the done thing for the ex-wife to turn up at the wedding of her ex-husband. The politics of the grown up world are beyond Louis’s understanding.
“I have some things I have to do, Louis. I’ll pick you up later.”
He seems satisfied and I leave him to answer the knock at the door to our hotel room.
I show him in and Louis runs to greet his father. Charlie lights up and I catch myself thinking how handsome he is in his pressed grey suit and tie. I feel underdressed in my jeans and jumper. No, more than that, I feel excluded from their love for each other.
Charlie looks up and catches my eye. “I’ll take good care of him, you know.”
I realise I must look as pensive as I feel and try to relax. “I know.” I smile, forced again.
“If you drop by at six to pick him up…? You have the address of the reception hall?”
I nod. “Yep.”
“Thank you for bringing Louis over, it means a lot to us to have him here.”
“He is your son.” It feels odd to say that. Your son, not mine or ours. For today he belongs to Charlie, for today everything is about Charlie and I’m not a part of it.
Charlie is staring at me. Our eyes meet for only the briefest of seconds before he looks away again but I know he saw right into my soul. He knows what I’m thinking, and suddenly he’s nervous.
“I should get going…”
“Louis’s still tired from the flight…”
We spoke together and everything seems awkward.
I allow him to speak. “Like I said, I’ll look after him, but I really should go, it’s the bride who is supposed to be late, not the groom after all.”
He hoists Louis up onto his hip, not an easy task but the last time Charlie saw Louis he was that much smaller and lighter. Guilt washes over me for separating them. For separating the family. For breaking up our marriage. And now he’s found someone else there’s no way I can put things right between us.
He turns and heads back to the door. My mind tells me to let him go, that dragging things out will only make it harder for me but my heart has taken control and I call out to him.
He turns, waits.
I’m speechless. I can’t say what I want, I can’t tell him not to marry her, to come back to me. It wouldn’t be fair, but more importantly I couldn’t be sure I would remain dignified if he said no. I remember the way he pleaded with me, his expression, the pain in his eyes. I remember too how it made me feel to walk away from him, and achingly I remember my reasons. None of them seem important anymore. A job is only a job, Paul only a momentary distraction. Charlie’s work… his work is a part of him. It’s what makes him who he is, and what makes him the man I love.
“You do love her.” Not a question as such. I don’t expect him to say no, and I don’t want to hear his reasons for loving her either.
I think he understands this. He says nothing, only dips his head in a slow nod. For what feels an eternity we stand and look at each other from across the room. I want to run to him, but I don’t. He sets Louis down on the floor and walks over to me. The sound of my heartbeat fills my head acting like a drum roll as he nears me.
When he talks it’s in a hushed tone. He doesn’t want Louis to hear.
“There’ll always be a part of me that loves you. A part that remembers how good the good times were, but I can’t forget how much you… we hurt each other. It would happen again, and we’d be more bitter and more resentful of each other. I don’t want to hate you, Baz, you’re far too important to me for that.”
I listen, fight back tears, murmur a wordless agreement. He kisses me, but it’s a tender brush of our lips and I don’t force it to be more.
He leaves with Louis. He doesn’t look back.
The two most important men in my life, about to become a part of a different family. When the door clicks shut, and I’m alone, I let the tears fall. Whispering into the ether as I do so, “Goodbye, my love.”