... ... ...
Say something, I'm giving up on you...
... ... ...
This is it. The message is clear in the mixture of sadness and determination he can see on her beautiful features; the feigned strength. He has found the proverbial straw. He has pushed and pushed and pushed and she has stood firm throughout. So he pushed some more. And now here they are. He has this one last chance and he marvels at the fact that she's giving him that. He sure as hell does not deserve it.
He doesn't fully understand, himself, why he needed to do this; why he had to know how tightly she would hold on; why he had to know how long she could last. He's never let his mind dwell on it though, so that might explain his lack of comprehension. Regardless, he now has his answer. This tightly. This long. But now she's slipping. And though she isn't physically holding out her hand to him across the distance between them in his office, her expression is asking him to catch her. Behind the uncaring, hard exterior she's trying her utmost to maintain, there is a hope, a need, a plea in her eyes. She wants to hold on even longer. She doesn't want to let go. But he's done it: He's found her limit. He's cracked her spirit. And her self-preservation has kicked in: She has to let go... before he breaks it. She'll allow him a lot, but she won't let him do that to her.
He has one chance now to prove that he doesn't want to.
A million different suggestions as to what he can say are running through his mind. She has told him, in the past, to use his words but now he can't pick out the right ones. He isn't prepared for this. Because, throughout his campaign to find this point, he never believed they would reach it. There should have been earlier signs that they were this close to the edge. But if they were there, he missed them. Or he ignored them. He knows that is more likely. He knows, for him, the core of their relationship has always been how much he needs her; how much he depends on her to keep everything in line; to keep him as close to in line as possible. And along the way that selfish outlook has strengthened almost blocking out her needs and wishes. Yes, he would do absolutely anything to protect her but, evidently, that only extends to outside influences. She's needed protecting from him for years and he's ignored it. What can he possibly say that will make up for that?
Should he say anything?
If he speaks now; if he takes hold of her hand, offers her the reassurance she's seeking, would that be his self-serving side speaking? Is there anything at all that he can say or do now that would be, genuinely, for her benefit? Wouldn't it be best for her to walk away? The mere thought of not seeing her every day; of not hearing her gentle voice; of not watching her smile, or laugh, or glare at him with as much force as she can muster, is crushing his heart and he has no idea how he could cope with that reality, but... Isn't it time he put her first? If he wasn't involved; if he was watching this on television, he would be screaming at her to just go. To walk away.
Maybe that is what he should say.
Instead of asking her to stay, perhaps he should use his words to set her free. If he stays silent, if he says nothing for long enough, she'll leave of her own accord and forever be haunted by guilt for that. Because that's not who she is; because she doesn't do that. She is waiting for him to say something to stop her. Maybe he needs to tell her it's okay to go.
Her posture straightens but there is a glimmer of relief in her eyes. And everything he has just convinced himself of is up in the air again. Because she wants him to ask her to stay. She wants to stay. So if he tells her to go will that break her heart anyway?
She shouldn't stay. He has put her through hell; he has taken her for granted at every turn; he has let his fear or his insecurities or whatever the hell the impetus was for him to treat someone so precious the way he has, push her to go against every one of her loving instincts. She should not still be there. She deserves so much more than he has given her. But if she thinks otherwise then which outcome is best for her? And she obviously does think otherwise. She knows him better than anyone has ever known him and she's still there. And she's prepared, after everything, to carry on. And is that what really scares him? Would he really be letting her go for her sake? Or would it be easier than being the man she clearly knows he can be? If he wants her to stay so that he can be that man, then is that still selfish?
He feels tears stinging his eyes. Above every single other consideration, he doesn't want to hurt her anymore. But he's lost track of what he should say that would accomplish that.
Maybe he should trust her instincts. If she thinks leaving is the best way to save herself then he shouldn't stand in her way. But, then, she's standing in her own way, seeking out a reason to stay. Should he ask her to stay?
He almost releases a growl of frustration. He's going round in circles. His head is starting to ache and his heart rate is increasing. He's starting to panic. He owes her something. He owes her so much more than that, but he, at least, owes her more than this silence. But he can't settle on the right thing to do. He really is completely lost without her to fix things for him. He cannot bear the thought of losing her. But she deserves so much better than he has given her.
Her lips are beginning to quiver. He's taking too long and she's interpreting that to mean that he doesn't want to stop her. He wants to reach out and tell her that isn't true. Well, it is true but only because he thinks that would be best for her. That if he was being his usual selfish self then he'd have already begged her not to go anywhere. Because he needs her. Because he loves her. But he is trying to do the right thing by her. Because that is all that matters to him in this moment. Because he is sorry that it came to this; he is sorry that she doesn't know how important she is to him. He is sorry that he can't find the words to fix this. He just doesn't want to hurt her anymore.
And then it hits him. And it really does feel like a weight has been lifted off him. Because he doesn't want to hurt her anymore. He has his answer as to how much she will take. He has his answer that she won't leave him; she won't run at the sight of his problems and fears. He has the results of the test he has apparently been running and his conclusion is that he doesn't want to hurt her anymore. He wants to be the man she deserves. He wants her to stay. He wants to make up for everything. He wants to make her happy.
And if he's understanding her plea correctly then she wants the same.
So, although it is everything that he wants, it's not really selfish if she wants it as well, right? He doesn't need to let her go in order to protect her. Because he is prepared to do absolutely everything that he can do to keep her safe. Because if she is willing to stay, then he is willing to do whatever it takes to assure her that was the right choice.
And she is still waiting. So, of course, she is willing to stay.
He is still shuffling the words into the best order; still figuring out how to voice all that so it sounds sincere, so she'll grasp just how important she is to him. But she is still trembling and she needs to know now.
It takes three strides for him to reach her and then a split second for him to enclose her in his embrace. One arm around her shoulders, one around her waist, his head coming to rest by her ear so he can whisper to her as the sentences form. He starts with, "I'm sorry," over and over until her hands cling to his shirt and everything else just pours out.
He's not convinced it all makes perfect sense, but it's something. And he hopes he'll have a lifetime to prove that he means it.