“Stubborn Love” The Lumineers
She'll lie and steal, and cheat, and beg you from her knees
Make you think she means it this time
She'll tear a hole in you, the one you can't repair
But I still love her, I don't really care
When we were young, oh, oh, we did enough
When it got cold, ooh, ooh, we bundled up
I can't be told, ah, ah, it can't be done
It's better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love's indifference
So pay attention now, I'm standing on your porch screaming out
And I won't leave until you come downstairs
So keep your head up, keep your love
Keep your head up, my love
Keep your head up, keep your love
And I don't blame you dear for running like you did all these years
I would do the same, you'd best believe
And the highway signs say we're close but I don't read those things anymore
I never trusted my own eyes
When we were young oh, oh, we did enough
When it got cold, ooh, ooh we bundled up
I can't be told, ah, ah, it can't be done
So keep your head up, keep your love
I sat in my childhood bedroom for the past couple hours, not knowing what to do or where to go. I had never planned to come back, and never this soon. I was not ready to be back, but that with my residency ending and my mother being ill, I really had no choice. I accepted the transfer from Portland back to Santa Monica.
“Is that all that you brought with you?” my mother’s husband asked.
“Yeah, thanks for helping me carry boxes,” I told him as he walked out of my old room.
There was a bitter sweet clenching in my chest after he closed my door softly. I didn’t want to be back, not now, not ever. I wondered if he was here, I know I shouldn’t care but I couldn’t help but wonder. I open my carryon bag and pull out a cigarette and my lighter. I take a drag and immediately feel relief. I think about marching over there and telling him everything I’ve held inside for the past couple of years. It’s been so long, I should be over it by now. It’s been almost eight years.
I put out my cigarette and flicked it out the window. It was 11: 47 p.m. which meant my mother and Rob were fast asleep by now. I took the opportunity to go to the store and fetch a bottle of Cîroc. I got into my car and drove to the nearest liquor store. I walked around throwing things into my basket and filed up in line to pay for my things. I had the strangest sensation that someone was watching me.
“Holly?” they asked.
The sound of my old nickname made goose bumps rise on my skin. I didn’t want to turn around, I wanted to run. I wanted to be anywhere but here. I turned around slowly and my eyes met with bottomless blue eyes surrounded by brown lashes.
“Holly?” she repeated.
“It’s Sydney, but hi,” I said forcing a smile.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re back. You’re really back. I heard you were, but I couldn’t believe it. You dyed your hair, and oh my God,” she rambled before throwing herself into my arms.
“Oh, okay. Yeah I’m back. My mom’s sick and I got transferred to work here so I can take care of her,” I explained as I grabbed a lock of my light brown dyed hair.
“It’s been so long,” she said reminiscing into our past.
“It has,” I agree.
“You just have to come over sometime. We need to catch up,” she gushed.
“We should,” I said, hoping this was just a formality.
“Are you free tomorrow? You could come and have dinner,” she proposed.
“I don’t know, not with everything that happened,” I responded.
“That was eight years ago darling, it’s all blown over and forgotten,” she beamed.
My items were bagged and I waited for her to be done at the register. We walked in silence to our cars, she turned to look at me and I didn’t know if I could do this.
“Tomorrow, 7 p.m. Dress nice, we’re going out,” she said before hugging me goodbye.
She got into her car and drove off. I got into my own car and sat in the driver’s seat with my head against the steering wheel. Not even a full day here and I had already managed to ruin my chances of living here without them noticing. I put my car in reverse and drove out of the parking lot and back home. I went up to my room and drunk out of the bottle as I stared out the window.
“Wake up dear,” Rob said shaking me awake.
“Uh, is there something wrong?” I asked rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.
“No, but your mother wanted you to join us for breakfast,” he said kindly.
“Yeah, I’ll be down in a bit, thanks,” I said standing up.
I sluggishly made my way downstairs and into the bright kitchen where my mother was trying to make pancakes.
“Here mom, I got it,” I said taking the pan and spatula from her.
“I can do it myself. Just because I had surgery doesn’t mean I can’t cook,” she mumbled.
“I know. I just don’t want you to force yourself to do too much. Remember Eric said to take it easy,” I said.
“Eric is a nice boy, why don’t you invite him down to the dinner you’re having at the Plascencia’s?” she suggested.
“How do you know I’m having dinner at their place?” I demanded.
“Please, I talk to little Samantha ever since you left me alone,” she replied.
“I did not leave you alone. You know what happened, don’t try and make me seem like the bad guy. I left because I had too. I couldn’t stay here, I’m not sure I should even be back yet,” I fumed.
“Maybe you should take it easy darling,” she teased.
“You know it’s extremely hard to stay mad at you when you’ve just had a valve repair,” I said serving each of us a stack of pancakes.
“Are you going to invite him down?” she nagged.
“I don’t know, maybe,” I pondered.
“You should, he’s only twenty minutes away,” she said.
“Listen to your mother,” Rob teased as he kissed her cheek before leaving for work.
“I never did so why start now?” I shouted as he left laughing.
“Hush, now you must invite him down. Little Samantha said she was taking you out to Via Veneto, it’s a lovely place,” she gushed.
“Maybe, now please eat,” I begged while I put my dishes in the sink.
I went back upstairs and opened my suitcases to see just what I would wear tonight. I texted Eric to come down and he said he would. I beamed at his responses and was starting to look forward to tonight.
I slipped on the dress and fluffed up the flared skirt that landed right above my knees. I adjusted the top seeing as it was a little tight. I slid on all black felt wedges and snapped the strap across the top of my foot. I checked my hair making sure it was all flat and straight. I descended down the stairs where a dressed up Eric was waiting.
“Well don’t you look absurdly beautiful tonight?” he complimented.
“Don’t you look stunning?” I asked tugging on his tie before placing it back into place.
We left soon after and arrived at the same time as Samantha. I could see that she was still with John and I felt happy for her. We all sat down and I let out a sigh of relief that he hadn’t shown up. We spent most of dinner discussing what we had been doing in the past eight years. Samantha and John had already gotten married and were expecting a child, although it was too early for any visible markers of her pregnancy. Samantha worked for the local middle school as a science teacher, and John ran David’s law firm. She never brought Eli up and for that I was grateful. She started to look comfortable as out dinner neared an end and that’s when someone approached our table.
“Sorry for being so late, I got caught up at the office,” he said.
I froze at the sound of his voice. Eric and John were too wrapped up in their conversation of baseball to pay attention to the looks of utter discomfort coming from Sam and me. He hung his gray suit jacket on the back of a chair and rolled up his sleeves before sitting down.
“You didn’t tell me I was supposed to bring a date,” he teased Sam as he kissed her cheek.
“I must’ve forgotten, not that you would’ve brought anyone anyway,” she said shooting me an apologetic glance.
His eyes finally met mine but not before I looked down at my wine glass. I could hear their hushed whispering but decided to ignore it. I was debating whether to run out, but I knew I had to face him eventually. There was no way of not running into him, I couldn’t avoid him forever. I knew I dreamed that I could, but it wasn’t possible.
“You’re back,” he stated.
“Yeah, I got back yesterday,” I replied.
“Is this your husband?” he asked.
“No, he’s just a friend,” I responded bluntly.
“Oh, well how have you been? I hear you’re a surgeon,” he said attempting at making small talk.
“I am, I’m in my last year of residency. I’m thinking of pursuing a fellowship in neurosurgery,” I said playing with my napkin.
“Nice, I always knew you would do something big,” she said giving me a small smile.
“Hey Sydney, I just got paged from the hospital, I need to go. I’m sorry for leaving early,” he said getting up and kissing my cheek before he left.
“Is he a surgeon too?” Eli asked after he left.
“Yeah, he’s an attending. He’s a cardio thoracic surgeon,” I answered.
“Very cool,” he muttered.
“So how have you been?” I asked.
“Pretty good, its busy running the firm with John ever since my dad passed away,” he said looking down at the table.
“Oh. I’m sorry I didn’t know,” I apologized.
“Hey guys we’re gonna leave too. It was nice seeing you again Holly, you guys have a nice night,” John said as they left too.
This was not how I had envisioned this night to go. I had not expected to have ended up alone with Eli. I had no ride and didn’t want to ask him for one.
“Do you need a ride?” he asked.
“Can you read minds?” I wondered out loud.
“Excuse me?” he asked seeming to be taken aback.
“Sorry, I was thinking aloud. But yes thank you,” I said as he left a couple bills on the table.
I got into his car and he drove me home. The whole ride spent in silence. He stopped back in front of my old home and he got out to open my door.
“Thanks,” I said.
“It was nice seeing you after so long. I hope I can see you again,” he said nearing closer to me.
“Not likely,” I muttered.
“It’s been eight years Holly, you have to forgive me sometime,” he said.
“Forgive you? I ran away and didn’t look back for eight years. I still wouldn’t be back if it hadn’t been for my mother getting sick. I would still be in Portland right now. So don’t you ask me to forgive you,” I cried looking up at the sky.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
“You can’t just expect to say sorry after eight years of never calling, you can’t expect me to forgive you after eight years of nothing. I waited for you for awhile, but it was evident you weren’t going to call,” I said laughing bitterly.
“Well what do you want me to do? Get down on my knees and beg for your forgiveness? We’re not children anymore Sydney. We are adults, act like one,” he shouted.
“Please, just leave me alone,” I trembled.
“I still love you. And I feel like the biggest fucking idiot. Because I still love you after eight years of you being gone. I still love you when you’re dating stupid surgeons. I’m still in love with you when you hate me for trying to protect you,” he ranted to the sky with his hands on his head.
“I don’t” I started before he interrupted me.
“Love me. I know,” he finished.
He got into his car and slammed the door angrily before peeling out of my driveway. I stood there stunned, hearing the words I yearned to have heard eight years ago.
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