I had called Michele the morning after Lily's party and had told her I was staying at Alex's for the weekend. She had been worried about me when neither her nor Alex could get a hold of me. She got even more worried when she couldn't get a hold of Alex later in the night. I convinced her I was OK and Alex offered to treat Michele, Lily and I to breakfast Sunday morning. It felt so great to see my little girl again I almost forgot how pissed off I was at Emma – almost. We spent a good time talking and having breakfast at Denny's. Unfortunately, like all things, it had to come to an end and Alex drove us back to his place where I had left my car. When we got there, I hugged Alex, thanked him, and drove back to my place with Michele and Lily.
Throughout the drive home, all I was thinking about was the promise I had made Alex and, more importantly, myself. Did I really have it in me to leave Emma?
"Are you OK, Sebbie?" Michele's voice broke my train of thought.
I looked at her and said, "Yeah. I'm fine. Just got a lot on my mind."
"Anything you want to talk about," she asked. Even though I had told her the reason I had left the party early was because of a fight between Emma and me, I hadn't told her what I was planning on doing.
"No, not really. Thanks
though, Mich." That ended that.
As the week rolled in, I couldn't find a right moment to talk to Emma about our relationship. How could I tell her that I had changed my mind about her and that I didn't want to be with her anymore? Over breakfast? Lunch? If I was being really honest with myself, I couldn't find the courage to break off our six year relationship. Six years. I had been back and forth with Emma for six years. This was another big reason why leaving her was so hard for me. Emma was always the girl who I would fall back to. I had six years to leave her but, instead of doing that, I went ahead and had a baby with her. It hadn't always been bad between us, though. We started off good – we did. I guess it just wasn't enough, though. I racked my head trying to think of a way or a place to tell her it was over but nothing came to mind.
In the meantime, Emma tried her best to better the things at home. To her credit, she was making great progress but it just didn't matter to me anymore. I knew her. I knew that it may take weeks or months, but she would revert to her old self. She always did. Wednesday morning, Emma found me eating breakfast alone in the kitchen. Michele and Lily were still asleep.
"Hey, Seb," she said, grabbing my shoulder.
She walked to our cabinet, grabbed a bowl and began serving herself cereal. "You know what we haven't done in a while," she asked.
"What's that," I said through a mouthful of cereal.
"We haven't had a date night, you know? Just the two of us."
"Right." I thought back to the last date night we had, almost two months ago. It was the same night I went over to Alex's house and slept with him for the first time.
"Well," she continued, obviously trying to sound excited for the both of us. "I was thinking, we could have another this Friday night. I know Michele leaves Sunday morning so maybe we can do something special for her Saturday night, too. We could invite whoever and go wherever you wanted but we could just make Friday our day first. How does that sound?"
I looked up from my cereal and maybe it was how tired I was or maybe it was just too early but I nodded and said, "Yeah, that sounds good, Em."
My short reply didn't seem to convince her so she added, "We could go wherever you wanted. I don't mind as long as we're together."
I forced myself to look at her and nodded. "Ok," I said. "Yeah, we could probably go have dinner somewhere and finish the night at El Vaso or something." Emma seemed OK with that as she nodded, sat down next to me and ate her cereal with me. A few minutes later, I heard Lily wake up and my busy life as a dad officially started.
Thursday night, Emma had reminded me about our date night on Friday and how excited she was for us. We had arranged for Michele to babysit for us on the premise that Saturday night would be all about her. Emma planned our date night at Applebee's to the minute that, 15 minutes till 7:00 PM, we were walking out the door and heading to the restaurant. When we got there, we sat on one of the booths to the back and had a relatively good dinner. We didn't talk about our problems or our fights, we just enjoyed each other's company – whatever that meant. Towards the end of our dinner, Emma asked me, "So, you really want to go to El Vaso then, Seb?"
"Yeah," I said, not thinking twice about it. "I really liked the atmosphere there. Seeing people sing and play up there is really cool, too."
"Ok," Emma grabbed her drink, looked away from me and drank. When she looked back at me, her eyes looked different. "It's just, you never used to be into that before."
I shrugged, "I don't know. I guess when I gave it a chance, I turned out to actually like it."
"Ok, sure," Emma said. When we finished our dinner, I paid for our tab and we headed over to El Vaso. I parked close to the front, opened the door for Emma and we walked inside. Being a Friday night, the place was a little full. I led Emma to the back and we sat down in a small table. I looked around and saw people laughing, drinking and generally having a good time. I looked towards the stage and saw a familiar face playing up front. I didn't remember his name but I knew it was one of Alex's friends. I remember seeing him and Alex talk a few times here at El Vaso. The guy seemed to recognize me as he nodded in my direction and I nodded back. I turned back to Emma as the unnamed guy finished playing his song.
Emma looked at me and smiled. She reached over for my hand and took into in between both of hers. I couldn't stop myself from noticing how cold they were. Where they always this cold? Did they ever feel right when I held her? "It's a good night, Seb," she said.
I gave her the best smile I could muster, "Yeah, it is."
We small talked for a few minutes when I felt hands on my shoulders. "Hey. Sebastian, right?" It was Alex's friend who had his hands on my shoulders. I turned around and shook his hand. "Yeah, and you're Alex's friend, too, right?"
The guys nodded his head. "Yeah, name's Jay. I realize we haven't been properly introduced," he laughed. He had a nice laugh.
"No, we haven't." I looked over at Emma, "This is my girl, Emma. Emma, this is another of Alex's friends." Jay leaned over and kissed Emma's cheek.
"Nice to meet you," he said. "Well," he continued, "It looks like you guys were having a night out. I don't want to intrude any further."
He was on the point of leaving when I said, "No, man. Stay. You can keep both of us company and tell us more about this place. Emma and I are fairly new here."
I knew Emma wouldn't like it but Jay didn't know that as he sat down. "Ok," he said, "Sure." It took a few minutes but Emma seemed to warm up to Jay as they both started talking about their common interest in music. As I listened, I realized how much his interests mirrored Alex's and I realized I began to feel a little ... jealous. I knew Alex and Jay hadn't spent much time together but I guess I couldn't help it.
Half an hour went on and all of us seemed to loosen up after a few more drinks and music. At one point, I looked at Emma and began to think about how hard she was trying to make this work. It wasn't her fault it never would, though.
"Listen, Jay. I need to go to the restroom. Mind keeping Emma company for a bit?"
"Uh, sure," Jay said.
Emma looked at me for a
second but I nodded and said, "It'll only be a few minutes."
I walked towards the restrooms and, going in, I used the urinal. After washing my hands, I looked at myself in the mirror for a few minutes. Unconsciously, I grabbed my phone and scrolled through my messages. Landing on Alex's messages, I read some of them. I smiled at the stupid things we texted each other. Looking up, I realized how much I missed him and decided to text him:
I pressed send and smiled to myself. I walked out of the restrooms and, walking back to Emma, I noticed that the stage was empty, the last guitarist getting ready to walk off. It was a spur of the moment and, before I knew it, I had asked the guitarist to stay upstage and I was sitting on the stool facing the crowd.
I cleared my throat, "Hello. Uh- my name is Sebastian." I saw Emma and Jay turn to look at me. "This is my first time up here and, to be honest, I wasn't planning on doing this tonight but here I am," I laughed nervously. Some of the people here were looking at me while others were focused on their drinks and friends. "I haven't practiced this song much, and," I looked over at the guitarist, "Nate here and I just met but we'll do our best on this one song." To his credit, Nate had heard Blake Shelton's song before and was able to help me with the music. I cleared my throat again and began to sing.
"I picked up the phone. She said, `Hey, it's me.'
I know it feels like forever since I heard your voice but I guess that's the way it had to be.
We talked awhile `till she said, `I better go.'
But before we hung up she said, `There's something you need to know.'"
I looked back at Emma and saw her smiling back at me. I couldn't fake a smile back this time though, so I kept singing. I noticed Jay looking at me differently, though. Maybe he had heard this song before and already knew what Emma didn't.
"I found someone – it just happened out of the blue.
And even though I'm moving on it don't mean that I don't still love you.
And you'll always have a place here in my heart.
But somewhere in this new life I've begun,
I found someone."
Emma's face had changed. She went from being excited of seeing me onstage to ... something else. I wanted to tell her it wasn't her fault. It was ours. We had broken each other with every bitter argument we had. I wanted to tell her that, although I had found someone else, someone who made me happy, she would always be in my life because of Lily. I wasn't going to leave them, I was just going to end something that was already dying.
"Well I wasn't surprised – still it hit me kind of hard.
It's hard to believe a little space and time could turn into miles and worlds apart.
I said I'm happy for you – you deserve the very best.
Since you've been gone I've done some praying and searching for myself."
Six years. Emma and I had history spanning six years. We had gone back to each other countless times yet, after all that time together, we couldn't be the furthest apart right now. Nothing – not time, not sex, not fancy dinners like this – would ever make me feel the way I used to feel for Emma. I had found someone – I had found Alex.
"I found someone but it took tears and time down on my knees.
And it's not who you'd ever guess or who I dreamed it'd be.
But in the mirror one morning looking back at me,
I found someone – it just happened out of the blue.
And it took everything I had – it took me loosing you.
You'll always have a place here in my heart.
But somewhere in this new life I've begun - looking for my place under the sun.
I found someone."
It hurt – it hurt like a bitch. I realize that I had the same amount of fault in this as Emma and that's why it was so hard to end it with her. When I saw myself in that bathroom mirror though, I realized my reflection wasn't ... happy. Despite today being such a "good" day between Emma and me, it didn't compare with how I felt one day with Alex. I remembered my reflection the day he had hung out with me and sang Lily to sleep. The Sebastian that was looking back at me in that mirror was one that was so much happier, so much complete, so much ... more.
Now I knew I had found them. I had found ... my person - and this was definitely not someone I'd guessed or even dreamed it'd be. I knew - I knew it was going to take everything I had to stay with them. Maybe I had known this from the day I met him. Maybe I had known this from the night I first drunkenly kissed him. Or maybe I had known this just now when I got out of the restroom and decided to sing Blake Shelton's I Found Someone during Emma and I's dinner. Whatever the case, from the expressionless look on Emma's face, I knew that she understood that the words I had been singing weren't just lyrics – they were the words I was feeling, too.
When I walked off stage and back to Emma, I noticed the change of atmosphere immediately. Jay tried to break the tension by congratulating me on the song but we both knew it wasn't just a song – we all knew. So after a few considerate minutes, Jay mentioned he had to leave and left Emma and I alone again.
"That was a really nice song, Seb." From the look in her eyes, I knew that this was all she could say.
"Thanks." I said.
"I didn't know you listened to country now."
She was avoiding the elephant in the room.
"It was really good singing," she interrupted. She looked away from me for a second then back at me. "Sebastian, my head is hurting I kind of want to go home."
I didn't know what else to say other than, "Ok." Emma finished her drink and I followed her out the door. Together, we rode back to our house in silence.
Michele had told me that Sebastian and Emma were going out on a date night tonight and they had asked her to babysit Lily for them. I was ashamed to admit that part of me believed (read: hoped) that today would be the day Sebastian called it off with Emma. Whatever the case, Michele insisted that I joined her at Sebastian's house to keep her and Lily company. After some back and forth, I agreed to help Michele out.
I showed up at their house at around 7:30 PM and was informed by Michele that Sebastian and Emma had just left for their dinner date. I was sad to hear that I had just missed Sebastian. In the past two weeks that Michele had been here, we had gotten pretty close. After our conversation about my love life, she understood that I still hadn't gotten over the person I had talked about and backed off on the flirting and hitting on me. I appreciated that.
We spent time watching a Marvel movie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) while Lily watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Sebastian's tablet. When we got hungry, I went to the kitchen and placed an order for Domino's while Michele fed Lily in the living room. Twenty minutes later, our pizza arrived and we ate it while finishing The Winter Soldier. As I grab a slice of pizza for myself, I feel my phone vibrate. I take it out and see that it is a text from Sebastian:
Hey, Alex. Don't text back but maybe later on tonight we could hang out?
I smiled to myself and put my phone away. Having finished the movie, Michele turned to look at me with a serious expression on her face. I raised one eyebrow and asked, "What's up, Michele?"
After a long pause, Michele said, "Well, I've been thinking, Alex..."
"OK," I laughed nervously. "What have you been thinking about?"
Her hazel eyes locked with mine. "Well," she said, "I've been thinking about that person you told me you were crazy for."
"Ok." I said. I didn't laugh this time.
"And," she continued, "I think I understand why you said that it was complicated."
"Do you?" I ask, worried about what the next words she might say could be.
"Yes," she answered. She looked at Lily before standing up from the couch, "Wait here."
So I waited, patiently sitting on the floor of Sebastian's living room while Lily bounced up and down on her little baby walker. A minute later, Michele came back with a guitar in hand and two sheets of paper.
"What's that?" I asked.
"It's a guitar, Alex."
I rolled my eyes, "I know it's a guitar. I meant, why did you bring it?"
"I brought it," she sat down on the floor in front of me, "Because I wanted to play for you."
"I didn't know you played guitar, Michele."
Michele smiled, "I can play guitar and a little bit of piano."
I could see she was proud of herself. "That's awesome," I said, "I can do that and play a little bit of drums, too."
"Wow," she smiled at me, "You're an all-around guy, huh?"
"I'm ok," I said with a smile.
Michele made herself comfortable in front of me and placed the sheets of paper on the floor in front of her. "I want to play something for you. Is that ok?"
"Yes," I said meeting her gaze. "That would be OK."
"Before I do that though, I want you to know that I'm not mad. I'm not judging you. In the two weeks I've known you, I've seen how good of a person you are." My mouth had become very dry all of a sudden and I had to swallow what little spit I had to moisten my throat. "I've seen how much help you've been to my brother. Thank you for that. I'm leaving back to Houston this weekend but I just want you to know that I'm very happy my brother has you to help him out in his life. Between you and me, Emma has always rubbed me the wrong way."
I nodded my head, never breaking eye contact with her while she continued. "I want you to listen to this song. Ok, Alex? Just think about the lyrics – I mean really think about the lyrics – and know that, although I can't tell you what to do, I fully support whatever it is that you decide to do."
My breathing was getting heavier and I could feel my heart beating faster and faster with every word she was saying. I was finally able to brake her gaze when I saw her fingers begin to form a chord on the neck of the guitar and heard her begin to sing.
I had heard Michele sing multiple times before and she was good, but this time her voice was like knives to my heart.
"I've been sitting here staring at the clock on the wall.
And I've been laying here praying, praying she won't call.
It's just another call from home – you'll get it and be gone – and I'll be crying.
I'll be begging you, baby, beg you not to leave.
But I'll be left here waiting with my heart on my sleeve.
Oh, for the next time we'll be here seems like a million years and I think I'm dying.
What do I have to do to make you see she can't love you like me?"
The words to Sugarland's Stay cut through my heart like a razorblade. Michele wasn't looking at me anymore, she was looking at the chords in front of her and I was grateful for that. Otherwise, she might have seen the hurt and the longing that was expressed on my face hearing her sing. I really did feel like I was dying waiting for Sebastian. I don't think it possible for me to forget the nights Sebastian would receive a call or text from Emma and have to leave my apartment to go back to her – they were seared into my head. It was just as impossible to forget how much I wanted to beg – fucking beg – Sebastian to stay with me, to not have to leave. I never did it though, and he always left.
"You keep telling me, baby, there will come a time,
When you will leave her arms and forever be in mine.
But I don't think that's the truth and I don't like being used - I'm tired of waiting.
It's too much pain to have to bear,
To love a man you have to share."
"I'm going to leave her. I am," he promised. I could see in his eyes how much he wanted me to believe him – how much he wanted to believe it. Every single time he told me that he was leaving or that he was unhappy, I believed him. I believed him because, as many times as he might tell me he was leaving but end up staying with Emma, I loved him. I loved him and because I loved him I had to put up with having to share him. I had to put up with the pain of being his secret. The worst part was that I didn't care if I was his secret as long as he was with me. I didn't care if I was a home wrecker as long as I could touch him, as long as I could hold him, as long as I could be with him. I loved Sebastian more than I hated myself for what I was doing to Emma ... and I hated what I was doing to Emma a lot.
"Why don't you stay?
I'm down on my knees. I'm so tired of being lonely – don't I give you what you need?
When she calls you to go, there is one thing you should know.
We don't have to live this way.
Baby, why don't you stay?"
Hot tears burned my eyes. Not the kind that rolled of your face, though. They were the kind of tears that just continue to pool in your eyes while you hope against hope that they don't fall. And they don't. They just stay in your eyes, burning, trapped, getting larger and larger until your eyes feel like they are drowning in their own sadness.
"I can't take it any longer but my will is getting stronger.
I think I know just what I have to do.
I can't waste another minute after all that I put in it.
I've given you my best – why does she get the best of you?
So the next time you find you want to leave her bed for mine."
That's when they finally fall. My own tears, betraying my pride. I can feel them rolling down my cheeks leaving a burning, wet trail across my face. I looked away from Michele and around Sebastian's living room. I've given you my best – why does she get the best of you? Why, if both of us can see how happy we are together, does Emma still get to have the best of Sebastian?
"Why don't you stay?
I'm up off my knees. I'm so tired of being lonely - you can't give me what I need.
When she begs you not to go, there is one thing you should know.
I don't have to live this way.
Baby, why don't you stay?"
I didn't have to live this way. I could choose to forget about Sebastian, forget about Emma, and just find someone that could be free to love me back. I wiped the trail of tears from my face, clear my throat and look back up at Michele. Looking into the eyes that remind me so much of Sebastian, I realize that no, I can't just choose to not be in love with him. I was stuck. I am silent as I continue to look at Emma and she looks back at me, pity in her eyes.
"How long?" I asked.
She understood immediately. "Since Lily's party."
I looked away from her, ashamed of having her know my secret. "I'm sorry," was all I could say.
"Don't be," she replied. I looked back at her, surprised to hear her say this. "You're a good guy, Alex. From what I saw these past two weeks, you are. Whatever you and my brother are doing, I don't judge you for that. But," the look in her eyes changed from concern to something else, "How do you think this is going to end, Alex?"
I remained silent. The only sound coming from me was my breathing and my beating heart. She shook her head and continued, "Do you really think he'd leave Emma? Do you think he'd be open about the two of you? Is he going to move out of here and into your place or will you?"
All of these questions, all of these valid questions, had never occurred to me. I had always thought that the universe or something else entirely would take care of all the little details after Sebastian and I were together. Now, I wasn't sure if that idea was romantic or just plain stupid.
Michele must have noticed the look in my face. "Look, I don't mean to be a downer Alex, but you should really think about those things – for both your sakes."
Before I could add anything, Michele and I heard the bolt on the door begin to turn. Emma and Alex walked in, weird looks on their faces. Emma nodded hello to both Michele and me and walked into her room. Sebastian followed suit, pausing to look at Michele, then at me. It was as if time had frozen still as I looked into Sebastian's eyes. Then, for the longest second of my life, I see a miniscule shake of Sebastian's head. I understand immediately: Not tonight. All at once, time gets back on track, Sebastian crosses his living room and follows Emma into their room. I cleared my throat and looked back at Michele.
"I guess this is my cue to leave, Michele." She has nothing to say as she sees me grab my keys from the kitchen table and head to the door. As I walk out, Michele follows me and holds my shoulder to wait for her at their porch.
"Alex, wait." I turn around and was about to insist on my leaving when she continued. "Look, I'm actually leaving tomorrow morning. I didn't want to tell Sebastian because I knew he'd make a big deal of tonight. I want to say thank you for helping my brother." It was here when she leaned over and hugged me tight. "Whatever happens, know that I'm here for both of you. OK?"
I looked into her eyes and nodded. "Good," she said. "It was nice meeting you, Alex."
I smiled through my sadness. "It was nice meeting you, too, Michele." We hug goodbye one more time before I head to my car and drive back to my empty apartment.