“Nathan, honey, breakfast’s ready. Come on down”. My mother’s soothing voice into the realm I have built around me of anxiousness. Her voice drags me out of the fake reality into the present.
Wearing a tux I sit in my bedroom, alone. That's okay, atleast I hope so because I had my first book published a couple of weeks earlier. Comforting myself that everything is okay for some weird reason I stare deep into my eyes in the mirror, like a freak. After successfully getting my book out there all my fantasies came to life when it hit the bestseller mark as positive critiques started flooding in. I have dreamed of it a lot but living that dream it’s awesome. I have been invited by my publisher for a Q&A session and give a little speech to my ‘fans’ which is about to happen in two hours.
Amidst all this euphoria one thing keeps bugging me. Amanda, my first and only love so far has not yet commented on my book. Of course, she was the first to read the manuscript, but it was that nasty rough first draft. Still, she said she loved it. Why wouldn’t she? When we are entitled to critic the work of our beloved ones we let our strict critic guard down and go through it masking the lenient one. Whether it really appears worthy to them or just that they are afraid to bash us with harsh criticism is a question for which I’m trying hard to find an answer.
The day our relation started to deteriorate still feels fresh in my mind. We were supposed to go out for dinner at our favorite diner for my birthday. Woefully I was not able to make it there as a friend of mine arranged for a meeting with a reputed publishing agent the same night. Guess what I did, I chose my passion over my love life. Still, Amanda handled it quite brilliantly. She knows me very well and so supported my decision wholeheartedly.
And then things started to take awful turns from there. The number of missed dates hooted up so high. Every single one was my mistake. No turning back on that. I even forgot to wish Amanda on her birthday. Still, not once did she spit fire on me. Man, the way she handled everything, I wish I knew how to do it. Finally, it happened. Like Mother Earth, after being subjected to hardships, disappointments, and emotional brutality, she shook. Not with rage, but with compassion. Compassion for me. She took the blame on herself for the breakup and stated I deserve better. Seriously, that is a huge lie. The truth is she deserves better.
As I step down the stairs for breakfast Amanda’s image floats in front of me.
Standing backstage and waiting to be displayed and questioned on the podium, my nerves start to shake. Right from the moment, I decided to become a writer I always yearned to be on a stage delivering an unforgettable speech. But as reality dawns on me, I realize I was not meant for this kind of limelight. Nothing has changed between my post and pre-publishing period except for this freshly sprouted stage fear. God, I wish Amanda was here along with me.
My name gets called upon and I make the nervous walk to the center where there were two chairs set up opposite to each other. The anxiousness starts looming all over my face. I guess many in the audience would have sensed my fear. I just send silent prayers to keep the number below par.
Somehow I managed to survive the stage. The moment I walk off the stage I had no idea what I spoke on stage. But that doesn’t matter now. For all I know I’m free from facing a massive crowd. Well, atleast for time being.
As the sun sets down I sit on my porch glaring at my phone. Amanda has not yet seen my message. The absence of the double blue tick proves it. Deciding to patch things up with Amanda, I thought of asking her out for dinner. But my guilt popped up crushing down my gut and so ended up sending a simple ‘Hi’. We have not spoken once or even texted once since our day of the breakup. It stood like an unwritten rule for us to stay out of touch for a while. It sure has proved to be effective by showing me how much I love Amanda and what exactly she means to me in my life. Everything. My patience wore out. Taking my phone I began to type in another message for her.
“There?” As I prepare myself to hit the send button, Amanda’s text pops up as a relief. A huge one indeed.
“Hey”. Just that. Yet I was happy that she replied. Deleting my previous text I put in another phrase.
"It's been a while. I hope you are doing great."
“I am. How are you holding up?”
“Great, I think. So, are you free tonight?”
“Sorry, I promised my mom to take her out for dinner.” Is she telling me so to avoid me? But after all these years knowing her I trust she would never do so.
“Tomorrow?” I try my luck once more.
“Okay. Text me the time and place.”
She replies with one of those thumbs-up emoji. I don't want this conversation to be over. It feels so good to talk with your loved ones. Even though it was just through texts, it means so much.
"Thanks, Amanda." I regretted immediately after sending this text and felt stupid. Desperate to continue texting her I blurted out something insane.
"What for?" Oh my god, what am I gonna reply to her now? I have to come up with something quick.
“For meeting up with me for dinner after all that happened.” This felt something reasonable. But still, the previous one is stupid.
“Don’t be silly.”
"I love you, Amanda." Before I could press the send key my instincts insisted me on pressing backspace and so I do. Just like that those words disappear from the screen but not from my heart.
“I’m being honest. T.C.” I send this text instead and she replies again with that thumbs up emoji.
Standing in front of the mirror wearing my checked J.C.Penny and a faded blue jean, I keep adjusting my hair. I brushed off the thought of wearing a tux to tonight’s dinner when it felt like I would be overdoing it. I’m okay with this faded out jeans. This is what Amanda is used to of me. Once satisfied with my hair I grab my car keys and shut my bedroom door.
I sit at the diner anticipating nervously for Amanda’s arrival. I’m a plump fifteen minutes early for the date. This shows how desperate I am to meet Amanda. Time seemed to go by like a sloth climbing a seven-foot ladder. As this tedious nervous wait was wearing me out, I felt a hand on my shoulder from behind. I turned around with a jerk. There she is. My angel. The stupider part of my mind wanted to emphasize it was 7.03 and she was three minutes late for dinner. Luckily my sensitive other half took hold screamed “Why in the hell does it matter now?” and cooled me down a bit.
“You look gorgeous.” I stutter but manage to complete the sentence.
“Thanks. You look great too.” I knew it’s a freaking lie and it is just her compassion for others.
“Thanks.” We order and sit in silence for the whole time until the food arrived. As far as I was looking forward to this dinner, I was unable to gather some words to strike a conversation. The noise of the cutleries being placed on the table by the waiter is the only sound between us for a long time now. In silence, we begin to munch on our dinner.
The silence felt eerily creepy for me to take. Deciding to break the ice I went first. “So, did you read the book?”
“Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world” Amanda says with a spark in her eye.
“I was expecting your review to be the first one. You know it has been more than a couple weeks now and nothing from you yet. And that’s why I had to ask you that.”
“I thought I indeed was the first one to read and review your book” smiles Amanda.
“That’s the crappy first draft version.”
“Nothing you do looks crappy for my eyes.”
“See, you have reviewed it with prejudice.”
“It’s impossible to argue with a writer, huh?” Amanda chuckles and takes a bite from her steak. “What can I say, you are the apple to my eyes.” I unleash a shy smile in return.
“If you don’t mind, can I ask you something?”
“Shoot it out. Anything for you.”
Amanda inserts her hand in her bag and takes out my novel. Clearing out some space on the table Amanda gently places it on the table.
“Can you sign this for me?”
“And you thought I would mind if you ask me that.” I chuckle.
“That’s a well-written acknowledgment note thanking your mom, dad, and friends," Amanda says as I sign the book. I feel like I have got a hint about where all this is heading to.
“Thanks,” I just blurt it out absently.
“Why did you have to dedicate a whole page for me?” My hand freezes where it is and refuses to move further.
“I thought of telling the truth to everyone out there.”
“So, I did.”
“Come on Nat.”
“What? Honestly, you were the inspiration for me to write this book. You persuaded me to pursue my dreams. You motivated me all along through this journey, not tiring once. You were there calming me when I was afraid and lost. You were there composing me when I was frustrated. In fact, you stood by me as my guardian angel throughout. You guided me and believe me, you still are. You stood by me through all my dark days and it's not fair to miss you when there is finally light around me. Do you remember that you said the reason behind our breakup, was you? That was a stupid and fat lie and we both know that. We both know that I'm the reason. Yet you took it upon yourself. Why?"
“Because that was the right thing. Atleast that’s what I thought.”
“No, it’s not Amanda. It would have been better had you slapped me and instilled some sense in me.”
“We both know I can’t do that.”
“Well, you had every right to do so.”
“Come on, that’s all water under the bridge now.”
"Of course." The waiter walks in with the check. After paying we walk out together.
We both stand reluctantly in front of my car to leave. "So, that was a great night."
“It indeed…,” I didn’t let her finish as I lunged forward and pressed my lips against hers.
“I love you,” I said with a genuine tone, taking a break from her lips.
“I know. I love you too.” Amanda says and lunges forward planting her lips on mine. This kiss takes us to those good old days. And right at this moment, we know the deal is sealed.