Cause I can’t make you love me, darling
If you don’t
You can’t make your heart feel
Something it won’t
Oh, here in the dark
In these final hours
I will lay down my heart
If you feel the power, but you won’t
Oh, you don’t
-I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bon Iver (version)
The first rays of light are glancing off the sparkling water as I pound the sand, having not slept. When I woke we were still in the same position, holding hands. Kate’s tear stained face barely stirred as I slipped out of our room before sunrise.
Now I am trying desperately to deal with the tumultuous emotions coursing through my body. I don’t think I have felt so completely useless in my life. The thought of failing at the only relationship that has ever really mattered to me is bringing me undone. Pain is everywhere and my heart is threatening to burst through my chest as I sprint the final 50 back to where I started. Stopping suddenly I double over, hands on my knees, chest heaving as I try to gasp in air. I want to cry, curse, hit something. In the end my body convulses and I throw up on the sand, dropping to my knees my body heaving.
“Elliot, Elliot, sweetheart, are you okay?” Julie appears beside me, seemingly out of nowhere and drops to her knees crooning in that soft lilting voice as she rubs my back. This will go down in history as one of the most surreal moments in my life. My soon to be ex-girlfriend’s mother comforting me on a beach in Barbados while I cry like a fucking baby. “Shhh, sweetie, breath, just breath.”
I am not sure how much time passes before I start to get myself under control. To her credit, Julie doesn’t ask any questions, she just talks me through the process of taking one breath at a time, seeming to know that this is all I can cope with right now. My body is shuddering and aching but I embrace the physical pain as it serves to block out the emotional for even a moment. How fucking ironic would it be if I am actually having a heart attack? Eventually I sit back my head bent between my knees, my thumb and forefinger pinching the bridge of my nose as I I try desperately hold back any more tears. Don’t be such a baby, Grey, she doesn’t fucking love you, get over it. Julie doesn’t leave my side, she just drapes a comforting arm lightly across my shoulder.
“Do you wanna tell me about it? I don’t want to pry into your personal life but I heard you two fighting last night.”
“Julie, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come. I don’t want to ruin your holiday.” My voice is cracking and I am in serious danger of blubbering again.
“If it is any consolation, I know my daughter, Elliot. She loves you.” Yeah, right.
“I love her.”
“Have you told her that?” Almost every damn moment of every day since I met her. That is the problem. I should have just kept my stupid mouth shut.
“Like a cracked record.”
“Ah, then this isn’t about love, it is about trust.” Why are mother’s always so bloody insightful.
“I don’t know what to do except walk away. Leave her to get over me. She doesn’t want me.”
Julie gives a little wry laugh that makes me frown.
“Did she tell you she doesn’t want you?”
“No, but she doesn’t want me to love her. She wants me to back off.”
“But you don’t want that?” Dammit, I don’t know how.
“No, I want…her…forever. I can’t explain…”
“Honey, you don’t have to. The heart wants what the heart wants. The only question I have for you is as a mother. Is there any reason why she shouldn’t trust you?” Yes…no…a million that don’t even fucking count.
“A loaded question. No, there is no reason why she shouldn’t trust me. Now that I have met Kate, I know there is no one else for me. But she is worried about my past and I don’t really blame her.” Julie takes a deep breath beside me.
“She has good reason not to trust.” I hang my head, Julie’s disapproval weighing heavily on my shoulders. “Not for the reason you think.” What?
She hesitates for a moment before continuing, “I am going to tell you something in confidence and maybe you will understand. When Kate was very young, Sam cheated on me. My husband has always been a very handsome man, a virile man. We fell in love young, straight out of college. I was pregnant with Ethan before we got married but our fathers made Sam do the right thing as soon as they found out. We were mostly happy, and he was a young star on the rise in the newspaper world. It wasn’t long before television came knocking on his door. Soon he was off all over the country as a correspondent. A glamorous life for a young man and somewhat easy to forget the wife and kids at home. Women threw themselves at him, flirted with him and I had no choice but to trust him. Finally temptation got the better of him and he had a very brief affair. When I found out, I didn’t take it very well. Kate would have been around four years old, Ethan was at school. I knew this woman, had met her at functions, knew where she lived. Irrationally I wanted to confront her, tell her to leave my man alone. Unfortunately, when you are being hurt like that it is not easy to be rational so on the day I chose to confront her I took Kate with me.”
My body tenses up. Why the hell would she do that? She catches the question in my eye and continues.
“Don’t judge me. Sam had driven me to drink with all of the doubt and hurt. Like I say, I wasn’t rational. So I had Kate in my arms as I knocked on that woman’s front door. I wanted her to see that Sam had a wife and children. I wanted her to feel guilty over what she was doing to my family. Problem was, I had already started on the vodka before I got there. I wasn’t able to talk, I just cried. And on the way back home…” Her voice falters and I see a single tear drift down her cheek. “I lost control of the car. Put Kate and myself in hospital for a week. Sam came to his senses, realized that he had nearly lost us and broke off the relationship. The love between us had never died… the trust took a lot longer. I always believed that Kate wouldn’t remember any of it. How wrong I was. At sixteen she finally confessed to me in one of those mother and daughter knock down all in wrestling bouts that teenagers like to have, that she remembered everything down to the color of the woman’s hair. The memory of her words when she screamed at me for having put her through that day was almost more than I can bare and nothing that I will ever forgive myself for. She was only four years old and I had scarred her for life. Not only did she not trust men because of her father but I suspect that she doesn’t trust herself to not end up as pathetic as her mother. I don’t know if Sam would have come back to me if I hadn’t rolled the car.”
“Julie, you’re not pathetic. It was Sam’s fault too. You can’t take all the blame.”
“Oh, now darling, a mother’s guilt knows no bounds and Sam and I …well we have talked the legs off an iron pot about the past and not been to absolve ourselves of the shame and hurt that we all caused each other and our kids. Eventually Kate and I made our peace. I am happy to say Sam and I are more in love now than we were as newly weds. I would like to think that the past is the past but Kate knows that I have always had my doubts about how things might have turned out. I suspect that is why she has trouble committing to anybody long term. But darling, when I watch you, you look at her like Sam looks at me. My heart tells me that you should fight for her. Elliot, if you want her I suggest you come clean with her. Give her time to see that she can trust you and she will.”
“I am not sure where to begin.”
“Start with Sirens.” What the hell?
But Julie is already standing brushing the sand off her legs. She peers up at the sky and then turns back to look toward the villa.
“Now, I can see my darling son heading this way. Why don’t you and he go do some male bonding. I have shopping to do and I suspect Kate needs her beauty sleep. Her papa will be there for her when she wakes up. Y’all go and blow off some steam. And I don’t want to hear any more talk about you leaving. If things get tough you can always move into one of the spare bedrooms.”
I watch as she passes Ethan on her way back to the villa. They stop and exchange a morning kiss in the same way that I would with my mom. Right now I miss her more than I thought possible. Julie is a pretty damn good substitute and it is knowing that Kate has her in her life that finally convinces me I might have a chance.
Before Ethan gets to me I quickly check my phone. There are two short texts.
CTG will be in transit to Atlanta by 1200hrs.
Arriving Bridgetown pm today. Meet us at Zanzibar.