Continuation of Part I. Please start there if you have not already.
My brother told me there was a message on the machine but when I went to check it, he had already erased it. He was protecting me. He had been there when I walked back in the house wet from the rain, with a broken heart. He had picked up the pieces that I left there by the door that day and helped me rebuild.
I knew I should not care that she called. I had not spoken to her since that night. I did not want to know how her new life was. I did not care if she wondered how I was, the pain was too great. But I was drawn to the machine. I looked at the tape and thought maybe it had not been erased, although I did not have a way to play it back.
So I went out the next day and bought a mini tape recorder. When I heard her voice I could tell there was a sorrow to it. She said it took her a long time to call and she wanted to see how I was doing. I could sense she was trying to be upbeat but realized that behind the smile she was putting on while talking, she was not happy.
I waited. A few days went by and despite every effort my fingers could not dial her number. I picked up the phone several times but my mind stopped me before I could push all the buttons. What if she wanted me back, what if she made a mistake, what if she was just curious to see how I was doing, what if she was calling me to say she was getting married? I do not know what made me go through with it but I finally called her, one night alone in my bedroom.
“Hey,” she said like she always did before. When we were living on two different coasts we talked every night and her voice would always be the last thing that I wanted to hear. Hey was always the first thing she would say when she knew it was me. Even after all these years I still love to hear her say it.
We tried to speak nonchalant about things. The questions were simple. How are you? What are you doing now? Do you like where you live?
The questions were superficial and I did not even care to know the answers, I only had one question in mind that I could not work up the nerve to ask. Why did she call?
I could tell there was unhappiness but the first conversation ended with, we will talk again. She would call me from work, at first once or twice a week. She had not told her new boyfriend that she was talking with me yet. Was she going to break his heart too?
Then the frequency of her calls increased, eventually we were talking once a day. Our talks were mostly about life, what our day consisted of, what we were planning to do over the weekend, never once about our relationship.
One night while I was sitting in bed talking with her I heard the statement that stopped my heart, “I made a mistake.” I could not bring words to my lips. I thought I was going to die right there. My heart could not take any more of it. My voice broke, but I managed to get out, “with what?”
“Us,” she said.