She stands too far away, on the other side of the room. She stands there, just looking at me, and all I can think is that she's too tall. Too tall, and too blonde and too perfect for me.
I look at her and can't imagine what she is doing with me.
I look at her and I know she's about to destroy me.
“I'm sorry, Ruth.”
Her voice is low and subdued and it lulls me to a false place of security. Her voice lilts and tilts, and breaks me with three simple words.
“You can't . . .”
“We have to . . .”
Our voices mingle and mix and I can't work out who is saying what. I want her to look away, to look down, to show pain, or shame or something. But she just stand there, her eyes fixed on me.
“I guess I should have, well I should have expected it, shouldn't I. I mean everything's been changed since, well, you know . . .” I can feel the words spilling out as I turn away from her, as I feel my knees weakening beneath me.
“Ruth . . .” I turn back towards her, and she reaches out for me. I can feel the tears welling in my eyes, as I step into her arms, as her lips search for mine, as she freezes and pulls away from me.
“I'm so sorry.” She bit on her lip, and I realised she was crying too. “We should have stopped, you know, when . . .”
“When Danny died.”
They're the words that stop us, that freeze us, that make us pull away. They are the words that have torn her away from us, that have launched her into some new phase of her life, a phase that can't include me.
“Will you call me?” I watch her as she collects her bag, as she checks to make sure her phone and purse are enclosed inside.
“I can't.” She walks away from me, towards the front door, out of my life. “You know we can't, Ruth.”
And you do know. Because that's the life you've chosen to live, while she's chosen something else. You're on the spot, treading water, while she's moving towards new things, new people.
It's the way it has to be.