The Fine Line

Three years ago, Max made the biggest mistake of his life. He left his one true love and has regretted it ever since. He had a perfectly good reason as to why he left and he kicked himself in the butt all the time when thinking about her. Three years have passed since Tory lost the one thing that was close to her. All he left was a note that said "I'm sorry" by her picture and that was it. She forced herself to go through life, hoping with every waking moment that he would return and when he does, he brings a huge burden with him. She finds out that his survival depends solely on her. Will she forgive him and save him, after he just comes back out of the blue? Or will she have him fend for himself? Find out in: The Fine Line

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3. Chapter Two

Chapter Two

 

            Weeks passed by since I had been working at Napoli’s Finest Restaurant and with each day that passed, I couldn’t get over how much I really enjoyed being there.  It felt more and more like home and when mid-April came around, the fifteenth to be exact, I couldn’t seem to come to grips with everything that was happening.  Max and I would have been together for four years if he had only found the courage to stay.  I woke up one morning and he was gone.

            “Tory!”  Julia called for me.  “There’s a man in a seat in the back, can you tend to him for me?”

            “Sure thing.”  I told her, moving from cleaning the counter of crumbs and a little soda that spilled from a previous customer.

            I put my pad in the pocket on my apron, my pen behind my ear and walked out onto the deck.  When I saw who was sitting there, my heart started beating rapidly and I couldn’t move.  Every part of my body became numb and my legs started trembling as if they were going to buckle beneath me but I knew that I had to compose myself.  My life depended on this job.  I looked at Julia who looked back at me and mouthed “What’s wrong?”

            I mouthed back “That’s my ex.”  She put a hand over her mouth and signed to me that she’d be here if I needed her to be and I nodded. 

            I composed myself, keeping all of my tears in, letting only one or two escape and I slowly walked over to him.  He didn’t look up from the menu; all he said was that he’d have the steak with a salad on the side and steak fries.  I just stood there staring at him.  His once greasy, thin, shoulder length hair was now a full head of thick luscious hair that stopped at the nape of his neck.  He was wearing a white V-neck shirt that showed his biceps and his eight pack of torso; I knew this because he was hunched over the menu and I could see through the V from where I was standing.  He had on blue jeans and a pair of white sneakers.  I looked at his face that I could picture above me on our bed, in our apartment room.  It was clean shaven and smooth and I had to stop myself when I reached out my hand to touch it. 

            “Would you like anything to drink, sir?”  I asked, in a low tone hoping that he wouldn’t recognize my voice. 

            That’s when he quickly lifted up his head and stared at me.  His chocolate brown eyes locked on mine and I knew that he saw the stains from the tears.  Why hadn’t I wiped them?  He stood up then, towering over me at six feet one inch tall.  I brought my gaze to the ground and closed my eyes, hoping that this was all a dream.  “Tory?”  He asked and that was it, I ran out of the restaurant ignoring Julie and Max who were calling after me.  I got as far as my car that was parked outside and started to cry as hard as I could, leaning over my silver car with my hands on the top of it on the passenger side and my forehead resting on my hands. 

            For the first time in three years, I allowed the tears to fall relentlessly fast one after the other, soaking my face and neck and I just didn’t want to stop.  It felt good to cry as hard as I was doing now.  I was tired of keeping it all in.  For three years straight I played my life as if it were perfect and everything that I have ever wanted and I was done now.

            I felt hands on my shoulders and my first instinct was to scream, “Get the fuck off of me!”  But I stopped myself on realizing that it was Julie and not Max.  “What’s wrong?”  She asked.

            As soon as she said that, I started to relive the moment where I woke up and found a note lying on my bed but I threw the thoughts back to the back of my mind and I just continued to cry.  “I…love…him….Julie.”  I blubbered.  “For…the….past….” I wiped my tears and tried to control myself, succeeding only for the next few words.  “Three years…I have lied to myself.”  I said, crying hard again.  “I love him so much.”  Julie hugged me then, rubbing my back to calm me down while I decided to hug her back to compose myself.

            She stroked my hair then and said, “Compose yourself, Tori.  It’ll be okay, sweetie.  I’ll help you through this.  Do you want me to ask him to leave?”  She asked.

            I shook my head on her shoulder.  “I want to hold him in my arms once more.”  I told her.  “I want to feel him against me.”  I started crying again, tears falling uncontrollably fast down my face.  I felt his presence the minute he stepped out of the restaurant.  I knew that he was there; my heart felt it, my soul felt it, my body felt it but I wouldn’t stop speaking.  “Three years, Julie.”  I said.  “I have waited to hear his sweet voice.  Three years.”  I told her, continuing to cry.

            “He is right here.”  She said.  “Listening to you.  Would you like to talk to him?  I’ll tell Trapoli that you needed a break?”

            “Would you, Julie?”  I asked her.

            She nodded.  “If you need me, shout.”  She said.  “The door is open.

            She went inside, giving Max, who was standing a few inches away from me with his hands in his pockets, his thumbs resting on the outside of them, a stern glare.  I looked into his eyes and I saw pain in them, I saw lust in them but most of all I saw love in them.  Love for me.  He walked closer to me, leaving his hands in his pockets and he leaned against my car like that.  “I don’t know what to say.”  He said.

            I swallowed and stayed inches from my car, standing sideways, not facing him and said.  “How did you find me?”

            “I didn’t.”  He said.  “I was riding my new motorcycle and I was hungry so I stopped.  I really had no idea you worked here.”

            “Where have you been?”  I blurted out, now looking at him.  “Do you have any idea how I have waited for you?  Do you have any idea how bad I needed you?  How many times I thought—”

            “Don’t you think I know that, Tory?”  He asked, taking his hands out of his pockets, moving closer to me.  “Don’t you know how much I have missed you and how many times I have picked up the phone to call you but I didn’t have the guts to follow through with it?”  He asked.  “Every second of everyday, Tori, it has haunted me for the past three years that all I left you with was a note that said ‘I’m sorry’ by your pillow.”

            “Where the hell did you go?”  I asked him. 

            “I went to London.”  He told me.  “To the penthouse I always told you that we would go to because I needed to get away.”

            “And you didn’t think it necessary to tell me at least where you were?”  I asked him.  “I had thought that—”

            He put his hand over my mouth lightly.  “Don’t ever have thoughts like that, Tory!”  He said, removing his hand.  “Please.”

            “How could I not?”  She asked.  “Given everything that you put me through…” 

            “I know.”  He said.  “I put you through a lot.”

            “What are you doing here?”  I asked him.

            “I came back to find you.”  He said.  “I saw Trish yesterday but there was no way in hell that I was going over to her.  I knew that she was going to curse me out so I didn’t even dare.”   He paused.  “How have you been?”

            “How have I been?”  I asked, trying so hard not to shout.  “How have I been?  I’ve been slowly dying inside with every breath that I take.  For three years, Max, three years I waited for you to come back and hold me in your arms.  For three years I hoped that I would wake up on morning and that I turn over to your side of the bed and you’d be lying there beside me, looking at me.  For three years, I have kept in my tears, telling myself to be strong, hoping in the back of my head that you had been a dream and just when I started to believe in that, here you are out of nowhere.  I have no idea where the hell you came from.”  I told him.

            “I told you I was in London.”

            “That’s not what I mean!”  I snapped.

            “I’m sorry.”  He said.  “I’m just making a mess out of things.”  He ran his large fingers through his hair and turned on his heels and starting walking away from me.  When he was half way down the block and about to get on to his motorcycle I ran to him and hugged him. 

            “I love you!”  I told him as he turned around and held me close to his body.  “I love you more than anything!” 

           

I woke up to the sound of my own voice screaming out for Max, mixed with my alarm clock.  It seemed so real.  I thought to myself, feeling my face which was wet with tears.  It’d been a long time since I’ve had these dreams about him…it’d been a year to be exact.  I pulled my blanket up to my chest and hugged it tight while I cried. 

            I got out of my bed and thought it best to take a shower and kill two birds with one stone.  I could cry and shower at the same time.  I missed Max so much and since Trish said that he was back, every part of me wished that he would surprise me and just show up on my doorstep or something.  I cried as I rinsed my hair remembering the first day that we met.

 

It was back in my first year of college and it was raining outside.  He was riding past me on a black and red motorcycle and I didn’t have an umbrella.  He was going way too fast and wind up splashing water all over me and he stopped dead in his tracks when he did so.  He took his helmet off and just stared at me, blankly.  After a minute or so he spoke.  “I’m sorry.”  He said.  “I didn’t mean to take a sharp turn.  I forgot the way I was supposed to go.  It came on me abruptly.”  He paused.  “Where are you going?”  He asked.

            “To my apartment off campus.”  I said in an annoyed tone. 

            “I also stay off campus if you want I can take you.  I’d feel bad if you have to walk there soaked like this.”  He said.

            “No, it’s okay.”  I told him.  “You can go.”

            He shook his head.  “I’m not going to leave until you say yes.”

            That’s when I realized how good looking he was.  He had on a gray V-neck t-shirt and a pair of black jeans with a pair of black boots on.  His hair was thin and down to his shoulders and now it was completely wet from the pouring rain.  I wanted to refuse but I couldn’t.  “Alright.”  I said.  “But do you have an extra helmet?”

            He shook his head.  “You can use mine.”  He said, sitting on his bike.  I climbed on and grabbed on to him and quickly pulled away.  I saw him smirk through the mirror on the right side handle bar.  “Wouldn’t want you falling off.”  He said.  “I promise I don’t bite.  You can hold on.”  I rolled my eyes at him and put my hands on his shoulders but when he took off.  I grabbed him around the stomach and held onto him for dear life, realizing how muscular he was.  “It’s an eight pack.”  He said when we stopped in front of the apartments.

            I stumbled off of his bike but he caught me and my breathing became ragged and in a hushed tone I said, “Thank you.”

            We looked deep into each other’s eyes for the longest moment in history and in his British-Indian accent said, “You’re welcome.”

            It took me a while to catch on to the fact that I was still in his arms and when I did finally catch myself, I stood straight up and extended my hand toward him.  “Tory.”  I said.

            “Max.”  He said.  “I’d tell you my long name but I don’t want to bore you.”  He said with a wink. 

            I laughed lightly.  “Would you like some coffee or something?”  I asked.  

            “You’re inviting me in?”  He asked, putting his hands in his pockets.

            I nodded slowly.  “I believe that I am.”  I said.

            “Then how can I refuse?”  He asked.  He parked his bike in the space that he was occupying and followed me to my apartment and up the stairs to the second floor.  I let him in ahead of me so that I could lock the door properly behind him. 

            “You live alone?”  He asked, observing the rooms.

            “Yeah.”  I nodded, unsure of why I even had the decency to admit that I lived alone.

            “Must get lonely.”  He stated.

            “At times, yes.”  I admitted, walking into the kitchen.  “What would you like?”

            “Water would be fine.”  He said.

            I poured him a glass of water and went into my bathroom to get two towels.  For a second I forgot that we were in the pouring rain.  I handed the towel to him.  “You should dry off before you go back outside.”  I said.  “I wouldn’t want you catching a cold, missing class and then blaming it on me.” 

            “I wouldn’t do that.”  He said, drying his hair.  I put my towel on my head and started to move the towel around to dry it, completely failing.  He laughed at me and took the towel from my hands.  “I’ll do it.”  He said.  He put the towel and my head and gently shook it and then wrapped it around my hair and patted it down.

            “I’m gonna change.” I told him, suddenly feeling very shy.  I walked into my room and closed my door behind me, breathing heavily.  My god, there was a hot stranger in my kitchen and I could hardly find a word to say.  I held the towel close to me, my only beige towel.  “From now on,” I whispered, “I’m only using you.”  I hung it on the rack behind my door and went into my dresser and found an oversized t-shirt and a pair of shorts.  I threw them on and walked out into the kitchen. 

            He turned around when he heard me approaching and he just kept staring at me.  I could see a hint of lust wash over his eyes but as soon as it had come, it was banished.  “Sorry about getting water on you.”  He apologized, again.

            I shook my head.  “Don’t worry about it.”  I said, sitting at the small kitchen table I had. 

            “What year are you?”  He asked.

            “First.”  I said.  “You?”

            “Third.”  He answered.  “What major?”

            “Teaching.”  I said.

“Really?”  He asked.  “You do have the height for it.”

            I laughed.  “Nothing original, huh?”  I asked.

            “Ah, you’ve heard it before?”

            I nodded.  “What are you studying?”

            “Architecture.”  He said.

            “Get out of here.”  I said.  “You don’t seem like the type.”

            “What type do I seem like then?”  He asked.

            “The type that’s undecided and only here for the amount of girls he can get.”  I said.

            “You judge so quickly.”

            “Sorry.”

            “No need to be.  I’m sort of only here for the girls.”  He winked at me. 

            I smiled at him.  “Sit down.”  I said.  “It’s bad enough I have to crane my neck while I’m standing.”

            He sat down across from me and we sat there silently for a little bit.  “You have a pretty smile.”  He said.

            “It’s not something I do often.”  I blurted out.

            “And yet you want to be a teacher?”  He asked.  “You have to learn how to smile for the children.”

            “Eventually I will learn.”  I told him.  “Just not today, not next week….”  I trailed off.

            “And what if I taught you?”  He asked.

            “Be my guest.” I told him.  “But you’re wasting your time.”

 

The cold water beating against my back snapped me out of my flashback.  I could not believe that I was in the shower for over twenty minutes.  The water usually went warm on me before I had to get out; it had never gotten to the point where it was freezing cold.  I quickly turned off the water and wrapped myself in the beige towel and hugged myself in it for a few minutes before I left the bathroom. 

            I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered what had gone wrong.  I couldn’t understand why he left and why he was in such a rush to leave when all he ever talked about was staying with me and being close to me.  I took out a pair of dark blue skinny jeans and a black V-neck shirt that had vampire teeth on it and I figured it would do since my apron covered it.  Besides, today was my last day of work for the week. 

I couldn’t believe that today had marked one month since I had been working at the restaurant and it also marked four years that Max and I would have been together.  Would have been, Tory.  Stop expecting him to come back.  But I couldn’t do that.  I wanted Max back at any cost. 

            I put on my black hi-top sneakers, grabbed my keys and walked out of the door, making sure that it was locked behind me.  I unlocked my car and sat in the driver’s seat, remembering the last time I sat on Max’s motorcycle, not realizing that it would be the last time.  Stop it, Tory, it’s work time.  I told myself.

            I put the key in the ignition and backed out of the parking lot and drove the fifteen minutes to work.  I got a parking spot in front of the restaurant and couldn’t help but think to myself how weird this had been.  That’s exactly where the car was parked in my dream.  Now all I need is for Max to come out of nowhere and be on the deck seating.  Stop it, Tory!  I snapped at myself.  Max is not coming back. 

            I walked into the restaurant and up the stairs to the back where I had to clock in and take my apron.  Julia’s was gone so I knew that I would find her somewhere.  At least that part hadn’t been in my dream so maybe I was overthinking all of this.  I ran down the stairs and situated myself behind the counter, where Trapoli wanted me to work for the day.  “Hey there!”  Julia called to me.  “Honey, there’s a man sitting outside on the deck, would you mind taking care of him for me?”  She asked.

            I swallowed the lump that formed in my throat and nodded slowly.  “Sure thing.”  I said.

            I took my time walking to the back and I stopped dead in my tracks.  This just couldn’t be happening!  There Max was clear as day, studying the menu.  I walked back inside.  “I can’t do this.”  I said. 

            “What’s wrong?”  Julie asked.  “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

            “You remember that ex-boyfriend I told you about?”  I asked her.

            “Yeah…”  She said, looking at me with a puzzled look on her face.

            “Well that’s him right out there and I had this same exact dream last night.”

            “Calm down.”  She told me.  “Maybe it’s not.  Let me go have a look.”  She walked back with me and stopped dead in her tracks just like I had done.  “Honey relax, it’s just your imagination running away with you.”  She said to me.  “I see the resemblance but it’s not him.”  She said. 

            I breathed a sigh of relief and walked over to the guy who was sitting alone.  “Good afternoon.”  I said.  “My name is Tory and I’ll be your waitress today.”  I said.  “What would you like?”

            “Water would be fine.”  He said. 

            ”What would you like?”  I had asked Max when he first came to my house.

            “Water would be fine.”  He had answered.

            I held my tears in as I walked away and Julie saw it.  “What happened?”  She asked. 

            I shook my head.  “Just reminded me of my first encounter with Max.”  She said.

            Julia gave me a hug and told me that she’ll wait on the guy for me that I was allowed to work behind the counter.  I insisted that I carry out my job but she wouldn’t let me.  “We’re all friends here.”  It was another worker’s voice coming from behind me, Christian.  He was a close friend of mine and stood at five feet eleven.  He had light brown hair and forest green eyes and if I wasn’t so hung up over Max and if dating co-workers wasn’t against my policy, I might have even flirted with him a little bit. 

            “I know.”  I told him.  “But I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.”

            “We’ve all done it.”  Christian said.  “Miguel did it for me when my girlfriend Lucy broke up with me and decided she would come here on a date with her boyfriend.” 

            I rolled my eyes in defeat.  “Alright.”  I said.  “I get it.”  I let out a smile.  “That you Julia.”  I said, and hugged her.  “I owe you!”

            I walked over to the counter and stood behind it, fiddling with my thumbs until a young couple came in and sat down there.  “Good Afternoon.”  I said to them.  “My name is Tory, I’ll be your waitress.”

            “Good Afternoon, Tory.”  The girl, who had shoulder length blond hair and a pink tube top on, said.  “I’ll have the burger deluxe.”

            “I’ll have the same thing.”  The boy said.  He had black hair and hazel eyes and was beautiful but my thoughts shifted instantly back to Max.

 I wrote their order down on my pad.  “What would you like to drink?”  I asked them.

“Bring two sprites please.”  The boy said.  I wrote that down on my slip and immediately came back with their sods, two glasses and two straws.  “Thank you.”  He said.  “Are you new here?”

“Not so much anymore.”  I smiled.  “I’ve been here for about a month now. 

“Is it really that long since we’ve been here?”  The girl asked her boyfriend.

“I guess so.”  He shrugged.  He turned back to me.  “How do you like it?”

“I think it’s amazing.”  I said, honestly.  “I’ve never felt more comfortable in any other place.

            Just then I heard a motorcycle speed by and it sounded exactly like Max’s blue one but I knew it had to be impossible.  It couldn’t have been him.  I looked through the blinds but I couldn’t see the guy, I could only see part of the motorcycle which was blue.  “—school?”

            I shook my head in realization that I had completely missed with the girl said.  “I’m sorry.”  I told her.  “I zoned out.”

            She smiled a sweet smile.  “It’s okay.  It happens.”  She said.  “I asked if you to go to school.”

            “Oh yeah.”  I said.  “I’m in my last year of college.” 

            “Nice.”  They both said together and we talked about the college, which I found out that they went to as well and were both in their first year.  I gave them some pointers on studying since we were slow and then all of a sudden I found myself talking about Max.

            “Did you guys hear stories of a guy named Max?”  I asked.

            “Motorcycle boy?”  The boy asked.  “Of course.  We heard plenty of stories about Max and how he was the most popular boy on campus because of his motorcycle and good looks and every girl wanted to be with him.  We heard one girl got lucky and then he up and left one day and no one has heard from his since.”

            “I was that lucky girl.”  I mumbled.

            “Tory!” Christian shouted.  “Stop thinking about Max and get your butt over here.”  He laughed.

            I rolled my eyes.  “I’ll be right back with your food.”  I told the couple.

            I walked over to Christian and took the food from him.  “How are you feeling?”  He asked.

            “I’m slowly feeling better.”  I admitted.

            I brought the food to the couple and the boy started talking as soon as I got there.  “I wasn’t sure that I heard you correctly until Christian called you.  You were Max’s girlfriend?”  He asked.

            I nodded and smiled a sad smile.  “I couldn’t figure out anything after he left.”  I admitted.  “Sometimes I hope that someone will come around and tell me that he’s looking for me.  My friend Trish said that she saw him…that was a month ago and she didn’t talk to him.  I haven’t gotten a call from him.”  I said.

            “Maybe he got into an accident or something?”  The girl asked.

            “He’s been gone for three years.”  I told her.  “It’s likely but if Trish saw him then I have to assume that I will too.  I’m just bracing myself for it.”

            Then sure enough I heard the revving of the engine again; my heart stopped and I couldn’t breathe.

 

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