Song: SWV – Use Your Heart
I swiped my card over the hotel lock and threw my bag down. I hadn’t found an apartment yet so I was staying at a hotel for the time being. I flopped onto the bed, arms stretched, mind wandering. I’d grabbed a coffee on the way and felt the caffeine kick in at the expense of my empty stomach. Not a good combination. I could feel my body buzzing and my anxiety increasing. I needed some water but I didn’t have the strength to move. Then the phone rang. I rolled over and picked up the receiver.
“Buenos noches, señor. There is a visitor at the desk to see you.”
“Yes. Elizabeth Easton?”
My heart froze. What the hell was she doing here? How did she know I was even here? Then I remembered the reporters outside the hotel. She could have seen it on the news. So much for privacy. But that didn’t explain why she was in Barcelona. Had something happened between her and Gerry? I realised I’d be thinking in silence with the concierge waiting on the line.
“Oh, yes. Right. Send her up. Gracias.” I put the phone down. This was the last thing I needed in my state. I was doing my best to clear my head and my past was following me. I brushed myself down and checked my beard. My breath was a little pungent from the coffee so I quickly gargled with mouthwash. Then the knock on the door. I took a deep breath and opened the door. There she stood with her golden hair, sharp green eyes and a nervous smile on her face. Heart-stoppingly beautiful.
“Hi.” I knew I was staring but I wanted to take it in and make sure it wasn’t some kind of horrible dream.
“I realise you might not want to see me but I needed to see you. It was an impulsive thing.”
“How did you know I was here?”
“I had to ring around. The advantage of working in PR.”
“Right, of course. Sorry, come in.” I pulled out a chair for her and she sat down sheepishly.
“Just water, thank you.” I needed something stiffer but decided water was the best option too. I handed her the glass and she took two large gulps.
“So… how are things?”
“They’re good. You?”
“Alright, I guess. Back in football. I’m at Espanyol now.”
“So I heard. Good win.”
“Thanks.” I took a swig from my glass. What the hell was this? I still didn’t know why she was here.
“I split up with Gerry.”
“Oh,” I tried to make that as neutral a reaction as possible but I couldn’t tell in my anxious state. “I’m sorry.”
“It just wasn’t working.”
“That’s a shame. He seemed nice.” My sincerity was wearing thin and Elizabeth pounced on it.
“You don’t have to pretend you liked him. I know you didn’t.”
“Was it that obvious?” I laughed and she smiled too.
“Very. Fortunately, he didn’t notice. But I know you.” There was an awkward silence. I used this as an opportunity to cut to the chase.
“Why are you here?”
“I needed to tell you.”
“What, that you split up with Gerry? Why do I need to know that? And why did you come all the way here to do it? I came here to get away from-“
“Yes. I guess I did. But not just you. Everything. It was too hard staying there.”
“I know. I know. I’m sorry.” Her voice trembled as she apologised.
“I’m sorry. I was an idiot. I should never have let you go in the first place.”
“That’s why I’m here. The reason I broke up with Gerry is that… I’m still in love with you.” I stood frozen like a block of ice. Well, iced coffee since the caffeine was still coursing through my veins. The words I’d wanted to hear for the longest time and I didn’t even know how to respond.
“Donny? Did you hear what I said?”
“Yes. Yes, I did. I’m just… I don’t know what to say.”
“Oh.” I moved closer to her and placed my hands on her shoulders.
“It’s just shocked me, that’s all. I thought everything was over. That’s why I came here – to start afresh. But this changes everything.”
“For the better?” Yes. Undoubtedly. Without question. Absolutely 100% for the better, I thought. But I couldn’t get the words out. The fear of being so open and vulnerable with her in a hotel room brought memories of the last time. I’d proposed to her on her birthday on our hotel balcony many years ago. She didn’t say yes. I got upset. We fought and it was downhill from there.
“I don’t want a repeat of last time. I can’t go through that again.”
“It’s not going to be like last time. We were young. I’m ready now.” She clutched my hands with such warmth and love. Her eyes flashed from green to brown and I remembered why I’d proposed in the first place.
“What do you want with a washed-up football manager, anyway? I’m sure there are better blokes in PR.”
“Yeah, because men in PR are the most reputable men on the planet.”
“They can’t be worse than these lot in football. Sexist, homophobic, hyper-masculine.”
“And that’s why I love you. The fact you even realise that makes you different from them. You’re nothing like that. You can be a dick sometimes but all men can.” I laughed and playfully hit her with my pillow. She laughed and stroked my knee. What was I even considering? I had the chance to start a new life with a new football club and get the girl of my dreams.
“Lizi Easton, you’re something else,” I cupped her cheek in my hand. I looked longingly into her eyes and softly kissed her. Thank fuck for that, I said to myself. But not out loud. I made sure to say the right thing to her face.
“I love you too.”