She woke with a blazing headache and lay in bed deciding what to do with the night’s events.
He had done his best, he had failed, and he’s gone now, she determined. She was safe again. She decided to view the whole event as a test which she had passed–maybe not with flying colors, but at least she had not embarrassed herself. She had not fallen for his emotional bribery–not this time.
She had been tempted, oh yes. She had been ready to allow a physical relationship, even. But she had stood her ground where she was most vulnerable: her heart was safe. It was cruel of him to awaken her affection, to spark that tiny glow of hope that she might again feel the profound comfort, security, passion, love, and fun that has characterized their early relationship. But she had not given in.
This called for a little celebration. Or a little self-medication. A bit of both, she decided.
She rose and peeled off the dress and her bra and panties, washed her face, and put on her ankle-length cotton bathrobe before trucking into the kitchen to make coffee and waffles, her preferred hangover breakfast. She also found a couple of aspirin. With these and the coffee and waffles, she began to feel a bit more human.
There was a knock on the door.
Charlotte looked at the clock – 9am. She looked at the door and wondered whether or not to open it.
Surely, if she really had passed the test, she was in no danger now. She could tell him no once more and he would leave knowing that no trick or scheme would break her down, ever. She opened the door and tried not to notice the jump in her heart when she met his eyes.
“I already made breakfast. You might as well come in.” He followed her, like a chastised puppy in a Brooks Brothers suit.
“Erm…” he started.
“Thanks, yes. Look. I’m sorry about what I said. It was… well, we’re in an awkward position here and I’d like to make sure that whatever personal issues we might have don’t interfere with the business aspect of my visit.”
Exasperated, she said, “Oliver, there is no business aspect without the personal aspect. I left that job, I left New York, in order to leave you. For good. If I come back to New York, I’m coming back to you. And I can’t do that. I won’t. Don’t you remember the agony of it at the end? Don’t you remember how we fought, how we enraged each other?”
Oliver looked down and said to his coffee, “Honestly no. I look at you now and all I remember is how lucky I felt to walk down the street next to you, how undeserving I felt when I lay beside you at night. I remember how beautiful you were in the streetlight pouring in from my bedroom window. Quite literally breathtaking.”
Charlotte stared at him, appalled at herself for the glow his words sparked inside her.
“You’re a complete bastard.”
“I know.” He took a sip of coffee, then put his cup down and ran both hands through his hair. “I know. You told me not to come and I came anyway. Look, I’ll go.”
“Good. Go.” She rose and walked to the foyer. He followed her heavily. Charlotte put her hand on the doorknob and turned to him. “Bye.”