The answer was there inside me, lodged deep within, where my lungs met my heart, where the blood was pounding hardest. He looked up at me with those eyes so bright and glassy from the booze in his flask, you could almost ice skate on them. I swallowed hard and felt every second of it. The wintry breeze spread cold sparkles of snow on my face, and I stamped my feet to keep them warm. I knew what my answer was, and I knew that he would not like it. But there was no use pretending. I was where I was, and that had to be the end of it.
“It’s okay,” he said, putting an arm around my shoulders. “We can just go in. We don’t have to have a plan.”
“No,” I managed, because flashes of him with her suddenly flooded my mind. But then I saw me saying what I had to say, what my answer had to be, and I saw the brightness fading from his eyes, his shoulders sinking. I didn’t want that, either. “Uhm, can we see how it goes? Maybe if I can get to know her…”
“Yeah,” he said, perking up. “She’s great, you’ll love her.”
I was sure she was a lovely person. He wouldn’t be so excited to see her again if she wasn’t. He wasn’t the kind of man to waste his time on someone. And I knew that, and I knew that was why he had been with me for nearly six years. But it was just the first time we’d done this. This, being… we were standing at her door in Massachusetts with overnight bags, about to walk into this woman’s house, because my boyfriend might be falling in love with her. None of us knew where it was going yet. It was lucky I felt some kind of instant happiness at seeing him so happy, and since he’d met her last month, things had been going great in our relationship. But there was still the whole “other woman” business. So here we were, about to drink wine and eat cheese and crackers, and maybe have a conversation about she was going to fit into our lives.
That’s all it was, I thought to myself, just a conversation. Logistics. Data. Negotiation. The kinds of things that my analytical mind loved. Maybe we wouldn’t even bring up the whole feelings thing. (Why was I so reluctant to explore that particular corner? I asked myself. Because you’re afraid he’s going to stop loving you, came the answer.)
And really, that was the answer to the question he’d been asking me. “Hey,” I said, as he had just raised his hand to knock on her door. “Just don’t forget about me, okay?” There was that pre-cry sting in my nose, and I felt my eyes water as he dropped his fist and gave me a hug. “I know you can’t promise that,” I said into his overcoat. And really, that was what scared me.