Time seemed to stand still then. Cynthia and I stood, motionless in each other’s arms, for what seemed like an eternity. I could feel her quietly sobbing into my chest, the whole time wishing that there was something, anything that I could do to ease her pain.
Holding her close in a way I hadn’t for such a long time made me feel a rush of guilt for having left her so long ago. I thought I was doing what was best for her. I thought she would forget about me and move on.
I thought wrong. She hadn’t moved on. She had loved me from the day she laid eyes on me to the day I broke her heart in the very place we were now standing and every day since. I wished I hadn’t been so callous to her feelings. I wish I hadn’t lied all those months ago and I wish I could go back and make things right. But, of course, I couldn’t turn back the hands of time. I couldn’t change what I had done but I could change how I handled the situation from there forward. I would change. I would do it for Cynthia. She deserved better than this…better than me.
Cynthia looked up at me. Her eyes were as expressive as ever. It was a heartbreaking sight for me. I couldn’t stand to see her in such pain, especially knowing that I was the cause. I opened my mouth to speak but my words got caught in my throat.
I couldn’t say anything to her. There was nothing to say.
The two of us stared, soundlessly, at one another for a short while before she closed her eyes and rested her head on my chest. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to her and she couldn’t seem to find any words to say to me either. I wanted to apologize. I wanted to beg her forgiveness. I wanted to do so many things to prove to her that she could open up and trust me once again but, words didn’t seem adequate enough to express just how sorry I was for hurting her.
I thought back to the lie I’d told Cynthia about the money I borrowed for the loan shark. Another lie I told, in an effort to attempt to distance her from me. I wasn’t being hassled for money I didn’t owe. I knew full well that I did owe the money and I knew that I had neither the means, nor the intention, of paying it back, and that was my problem. It’s one thing to borrow money from a loan shark in desperation and simply not have the means to pay it back. It’s another thing entirely to take money from a loan shark and give him the finger when it’s time to pay up. In retrospect, I might not have made the best decision there but I know that I needed the money and the loan shark was my only option at the time.
And then, when I knew I was getting in over my head, I decided that it was best to break up with Cynthia, rather than tell her the truth. At the time, it sounded like a good idea. I didn’t feel good about it, per se but she would understand…at least…I thought she would.
I was wrong. She didn’t understand and she didn’t forgive me. She thought that accepting a contract offer to kill me would bring her peace…but it didn’t. It couldn’t. She couldn’t do it. Even when we were face to face in her own house and I was only a few feet away from her, rather than several dozen, she couldn’t kill me.
I guess I should be thankful that she decided not to kill me after all but in all honesty, what difference would it make? I was a marked man now. If she didn’t kill me, someone else surely would. I was as good as dead anyway. Once again, I’d rather leave her than put her in such danger. I took hold of her shoulders gently and took a step back from her, looking directly into her still misty eyes.
“I…I have to go.” I said in a hushed voice.
I released her with a pained smile and went to grab my jacket which was lying in a heap on the floor, next to the binder she’d shown me earlier and its revelatory contents, which were strewn about the floor now. As I bent down to pick up my jacket, Cynthia turned to me.
“So, you’re just going to leave me again? Even after all of this?”
I looked over my shoulder, only enough to see her in the periphery of my vision. “I…I have to.” I slung my jacket over my shoulders, running my arms through its sleeves and tugged on the front, making sure it fit well.
“You haven’t changed at all.” Cynthia said scathingly.
“What do you expect me to do?” I said, whirling around on the spot and staring her down. “You think I want to leave you again? You think I wouldn’t rather stay here with you? Well I’m sorry but I can’t do that. The loan shark who sent you after me is going to know soon enough that you betrayed him. At least this way…” I looked away from her, frowning. “At least this way, if I give myself up, he might not care too much about what you did. At the very least, you should have some time to disappear.”
Cynthia was thoroughly unfazed by my brief rant. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Alex, but I’m a big girl. I’ve been taking care of myself long before I met you and I don’t need you to protect me or make decisions for my benefit. I can fight my own battles.”
“So it’s just that easy, huh? You think you can take down one of the biggest loan sharks in the criminal underworld, just like that?” I retorted. “Well, damn. I wish I’d known it was that easy before all of this shit started. Hell, I’d have taken the bastard down myself.”
“You don’t understand.” Cynthia said. “Alex, you’re wrapped up in something bigger than you know. Now that you’ve come here, you can’t just leave.”
“Oh? And why is that?” I asked plainly.
“I can’t say. Not here.”
“Oh, how convenient.”
Cynthia furrowed her brow and shook hair out of her eyes. She walked closer to me, her arms folded. She was fixing me with an intense stare that I couldn’t resist. There was a fire in her eyes that I hadn’t seen before. “Alex, listen to me. We need to leave. Now.”
“Where are we going?”
“I can’t tell you. You just have to trust me.”
“Why can’t you tell me?” I asked, impudently.
“Because I can’t. I promise you, everything will be explained when we get there but until we do, you have to trust me. Please.” Cynthia pleaded, a sincerity in her eyes that I knew all too well.
I decided to trust her. I owed her that much.