He had a way of saying that that just melted Joan inside. It was like a code.
for (i = Nathan; i <= infinity; i says "Sweetheart")
It annoyed her that she loved it so much.
This time it wouldn’t work though. She was determined to find out for herself whether or not he still loved her. She walked down the stairs to confront him, checking the time on his old grandfather clock on the way. 3:48 am.
“You’ll expect me to believe you’ve been in the studio since eight o’clock right?” she said.
“It is what is, love,” he replied.
“It is what what is? You’re lying.”
“And why would I wanna do that?”
“Umm... let’s see,” she said in mock concentration. “Maybe because you were with your guys in the club and didn’t want me holding back your playa, or maybe... maybe because you were with another...” she let the words hang.
He sat down and looked up at the ceiling. What was all this nonsense? He was sure she didn’t believe any of what she was saying, so he wondered why she said it.
He let her vent her fabricated frustrations, offering little by way of reply, gently encouraging her to let it all out in the hope that she’d run out of steam and allow him talk. She surprised him.
“My bags are in the car and I’m leaving”, she said.
“Why?” was all he could manage.
“Why?” she asked, incredulous. “Why? Because you never listen to a word I say that’s why. Because you’re never at home when I need you, that’s why...”
And she was off again, far from him, a voice that he could tune out as easily as a radio. He only snapped back to the present when the $35,000 engagement ring he’d bought her hit him square on the forehead.
“Ouch!” he said.
“You can keep your fairytale wedding, I’m gone” she said, and out the door she went. He followed her outside.
She’d stopped in front of the car he’d bought her, obviously torn between the fact that she shouldn’t really take the car if she was leaving him, and the presently greater fact that she couldn’t get anywhere near her mum’s house alone at three am in the morning if she didn’t drive. He walked out from the shadow of the doorway.
“Take the car,” he said, “it’s yours anyway”
If you really don’t feel comfortable, I can drive you over. In any case you really shouldn’t be alone at this time in the morning. What do you say, sweetheart?”
She wanted to say no, but he’d called her sweetheart again. And she knew he was absolutely right, because deep inside she knew he cared deeply for her. But how could he be so calm about her leaving him? She accepted his offer with as much bad grace as she could muster, and sat silent in the car while he drove.
He didn’t say anything either, neither to tell her she was being foolish and should stop all that nonsense immediately; nor to plead with her to stay with him. He just did what she wanted. It infuriated her. He was supposed to get angry, sad, frustrated or at least confused. But he just drove in silence, a very wry smile on his face. She determined to see this through. What she didn’t know was that he was just as determined to win this little war.
Two weeks later Joan got a phone call from a friend.
“Hey you! Tune into E! Now!”
“Why?!” she asked.
“Just do it, okay. It’s important”
Joan flipped channels and watched. She wasn’t really ready to pay attention to the idle gossip peddled by E. She was pining, missing Nathan. But that was until she saw the ring. Her engagement ring on the finger of a rich middle aged fan of Nathan’s. The story said he’d sold the ring on eBay at half the price he’d paid for it. She was livid.
She couldn’t believe he could do such a thing. No wonder he’d been so calm about it. She’d been nothing but a fling right? Nothing but a plaything to be enjoyed until he grew tired. Well thank God she’d left him before he’d been able to dump her. Damn! He was IMPOSSIBLE!
She kept her thoughts in this frame of mind for a good amount of time by remembering all the good times they’d had, and forcing herself to believe they were all lies. Lies! All of them. But how could he be so callous? That was just evil, to make a public mockery of their relationship like that. She couldn’t forgive him this time. That was impossible. But she could go over to his house and give him a rather sizable slice of her mind. Yes. That’s what she would do. She got into HER car (he’d left it with her, the more to be able to mock her she now suspected). Well she wasn’t going to have it. She’d leave his hunk of trash parked outside his house after he’d heard her out. And hear her out he would.
She leapt out of her car as she got to his drive. She ran down the rest of it, and knocked angrily on his door. He looked as if he’d been expecting her, she thought. Whatever.
“Sweetheart”, he said, and she fought hard to steel herself against his onslaught. He didn’t know how hard it made things for her. Sweetheart. After selling her ring. She composed herself.
“Hello Nathan, I’m really mad at you.”
“That’s why you left, isn’t it?” Nathan asked, and she boiled over.
“You sold our engagement ring on eBay!” she screamed.
He didn’t say anything.
Then she broke the floodgates. As usual, he let it all wash over him. He realised he’d let himself get too used to her petulance.
“Be quiet,” he said.
She shut up, stunned.
“What did you say?”
“I told you to be quiet,” he said quietly. “You always make a big deal of little things. If this is why you came” he said, producing the ring, “then you’ve seen it, you can leave.”
She sat down quietly, thoughts racing through her head. She was trying to make sense of what she’d just seen. He’d wanted her to notice him, she realised. Their relationship wasn’t the lie, the eBay sale was. And she’d fallen for it. She was sure he’d known all along that she really cared about him, and that anything that connected her to him was precious to her. So he’d laid down the bait and she’d come running. And now he was asking her to leave.
“But Nathan...” she stammered, “I never realised.”
“Goodbye Joan,” he said.
“Goodbye,” she said, the shame too much to bear, the finality crushing, the knowledge that she’d single-handedly destroyed their relationship bringing tears streaming down her face.
“Goodbye, sweetheart,” he said.
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