“I love you, but…,” Tara began before she faltered. She knew it would be difficult, but she had prepared for this moment. No she didn’t know if she could go through with it, but also knew it was now too late to back out.
“What do you mean?” Lenny interrupted her, his forehead furrowed. His voice wavered with worry, though there was a touch of resignation as well. Tara thought he knew this day would come.
Tara looked away. His eyes. They were mesmerizing. They were light blue, almost grayish, with an intensity that was hard to resist. Unfortunately Lenny suffered from a severe lack of confidence. Had he known the power of his gaze, Tara mused he would be a dangerous man.
It was his eyes that drew her to him in the first place. He was intense and intelligent. He was good at just about anything he put his mind to. He studied philosophy, psychology, and literature. He played the cello, oboe, and the electric guitar. He had trouble with drums, but he was not physically coordinated.
She cleared her throat and tried again. “Lenny, we’ve known each other for a long time.”
“Since freshman year,” he agreed.
“And it took you two years to ask me out.”
“You were usually dating other people,” he shrugged.
“True, but that didn’t stop most guys from trying.”
He sighed. “I saw what that did to my dad,” he glared angrily. “Men didn’t care that my mom was married, and neither did she. She fooled around and broke my dad’s heart hundreds of times. I know it’s what killed him.”
“I thought it was cancer,” she replied.
“Yeah, but he had no strength to fight it. He gave up. It devastated my mom, but that didn’t stop her from fooling around. She was even late to the funeral because she had overslept at Todd’s house.”
“I get your point,” Tara threw her hands up in surrender.
“I don’t think you do,” Lenny glowered. “I have no desire to end up that way. If you are the type of woman to date me while dating others, or to break up with someone just because someone better came along…,”
Tara shrunk back.
“There’s someone else, isn’t there?”
She nodded. “Phillip at work. We’ve – we’ve been talking for a few months and I kind of like him.”
“Talking or was – is there more?”
“No, well,” she hesitated, but Lenny was too intelligent to lie to directly. He might look the other way if he wasn’t sure, but those eyes bore into her and she knew she couldn’t keep the truth from him. “Okay, there was one time, but only once, I swear.”
“When? On the business trip to Cincinnati?”
Lenny stood up and nodded. “I didn’t want to believe it, but I knew it. It’s been off since Cincinnati.”
“You, us, everything! You never looked at me the same way after that. You never let me hold you in bed, and you stopped kissing me, except for the occasional peck. You grew cold and indifferent. I knew. The only thing I didn’t know is if it was because you didn’t love me or because you felt guilty.”
“Of course I love you, and I feel guilty about it, but I’m in love with Phillip. He’s everything you’re not.” She clasped her hands over her mouth, ashamed of what she had just admitted.
“Cocky, rich, and quite the ladies man,” he nodded. “Not very bright, but he doesn’t know that. He’s been sleeping with Heather, you know. You know Heather, your best friend at the office? I bet you told her all about sleeping with him. That didn’t stop her from sleeping with him. How does that make you feel?”
Lenny almost felt bad looking at the pain wash across Tara’s face. Tears welled up, then a look of rage began to build, rage at the thought of being betrayed by both Phillip and Heather.
“How do you know?” She finally managed to ask quietly.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on them for a while now, well on him. I was hoping I was wrong, but obviously I wasn’t. You fell in love with a liar and a cheater. That’s something we both have in common now, I guess.”
“I am not a liar and a cheater,” she protested angrily.
“Oh really? Didn’t you just admit to fucking Phillip?”
“Well yeah, just the one time,” she defended herself.
“And didn’t you tell me that I had nothing to worry about with him? You even told me you two never talked on the trip to Cincinnati. You even swore that you hated him.”
“I might have stretched the truth a bit, but I’m nothing like Heather. I’m not!”
Lenny shrugged. He stood up and began to walk out the door. “Where are you going?”
“Does it matter?”
“It does to me,” she said weakly.
“Not anymore. You broke up with me. I no longer answer to you and you have no right to know, but just this once, I’m heading over to Mitch’s apartment. I’ll be back for my things when I find a place to move to, and a few of my thing in the meantime while I’m staying with Mitch. I hope you and Phillip are happy together. You deserve each other.”
Lenny smiled sadly as Tara began to cry. There was nothing left to say so he turned and walked to his car. He picked up his phone and dialed the first person on his contact. “Hey Babe,” he said. “Yeah she broke up with me. I told her that you’re sleeping with Phillip. Why? Because you are and you know you are,” he laughed. “Anyway, I’m heading over. Phillip can join us tomorrow if he wants, but I’d like a night for just you and I.
“Love you, babe.”
Next story –
Previous story – Perfidy