Chapter 1: Chapter One
Sophie never forgot him. Keith. The man who had managed to break her nearly as much as the death of her uncle had. It had been 7 years since she had fallen in love with Keith and endured the subsequent disaster as a result of it. Now a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and a professional pianist, Sophie was no longer the naïve girl she once was. It had taken the swift drop to rock bottom for Sophie to finally be free of the ghosts of her past. A mother she never knew, a father who didn’t know how to be, and an uncle who put her on the path of music and then left her to follow it alone.
After disaster followed her on her runaway trip to New York, leaving everyone she encountered nearly as broken as she was, she just kept on running. For an entire year Sophie travelled the world in search of that special something that she knew she wanted but couldn’t quite figure out what it was. All throughout the states, South America and even Australia, Sophie searched for what was just out of reach. Looking back, she realized she was searching for herself.
When she first started playing the piano, she played for her Uncle. He was her only support, her parental figure and he was someone she thought would never leave her. After he passed, she lost all will to play until she met Keith. For all of 12 hours, Sophie’s path in life became crystal clear. She loved to play and she loved him and that’s all that mattered. It was her year on the run that made her realize that she had always relied on someone else to allow her to play. It was a small town in Oregon where she stayed for 4 months without a piano, and only a waitressing job to keep her afloat when she realized that she didn’t need anyone to justify who she was. Her existence wasn’t just defined through others, and her will to play was not because of her Uncle’s presence, it was the love that he introduced her to the minute she first played those keys. It was feelings of love and contentedness that embraced her when she played. Her uncle didn’t teach her how to play so she could play for him. He was giving her a world of opportunity, an outlet as well as a true love. With this gradual self-realization, Sophie grew up.
Taking her time to finish her travels and discover what she truly wanted out of life, Sophie finally decided to apply to Juilliard and Berklee. She had considered returning home to England but realized that without her uncle there, it was no longer home. Needing a fresh start, Sophie decided to initiate the next phase of her life in Boston. The four years spent studying the subject she loved were some of the very best. Being surrounded by music nearly every second of every day, Sophie wondered how she had ever stopped playing in the first place. She met lots of new people, people with passion for music like her, friends who cared about her, even a boyfriend or two.
Through all of this, as much as she tried not to, she still couldn’t stop thinking of Keith. She tried for about a year to convince herself it was just a little childhood crush. She was grieving her uncle when she met him, so obviously she just latched onto Keith to solve her issue with father figures. After a while she finally accepted that maybe her eighteen-year-old self really did fall for him, and that possibly some of those feelings lingered. She could never determine if the emotions that would flood her every time he crossed her mind were feelings of anger or longing. The thought of him was like a tiny lead weight in her heart, as soon as her thoughts tipped over into him her heart would sink. It wasn’t the same heart-shattering feeling that was present in the first months after he left her, but it still left a mark. She would sometimes almost forget about him entirely, that is until she saw leaves blowing in the wind, heard the soft moans of a cello, or tasted beer on her lips.
The few men she had dated since had been welcome distractions, and while the physical side of things was never an issue with them, it just took one look in their eyes to see what they lacked. They didn’t stare at her as though they could see right into her very soul and still liked what they saw. They couldn’t hold eye contact for minutes on end, silently communicating in a way no one else could understand. She knew he would always be a part of her, but she also knew better than to hope that she would ever see him again. Then again, even if she did see him, she wouldn’t know whether to cry, slap him, or kiss him senseless.
Keith tried to go back to normal. The panic of almost losing his only child had made him momentarily forget Sophie just enough to try to go back to his usual life. The panic faded eventually, but her place in his thoughts and heart never did. After his life-changing mistake, he could only beg for the forgiveness of his daughter, and in order to do that, he needed to earn the forgiveness of his wife. He tried for an entire year to go back to the doting husband, father and teacher that he had been for the last 17 years, but it all felt so superficial. Megan never really let go of the fact that he had nearly left her to runaway with a woman he had only just met, but she slowly became more civil. After a year of trying to look after her every need to earn her forgiveness, they decided that there wasn’t even a marriage left to salvage. Despite the mess that was their marriage, they split on relatively amicable terms (especially considering their history), and still spend holidays together with Lauren. He thought that the loss of his marriage would break him, but he found himself more relieved than anything once it was finally over.
His relationship with Lauren was the one that broke his heart. It took the better part of 4 years before he no longer saw the look of betrayal and lost trust in her eyes when she looked at him. When she almost died, he had vowed to himself that his number one priority from that moment forward would always be her. After taking a year off after her graduation, Lauren eventually earned a swimming scholarship to the University of California and he never missed a meet. She refused to see him after her meets for the entirety of her first year, but he understood her actions and just kept trying to bridge the gap between them. The realization that your parents aren’t who you thought they were is a tough pill to swallow. Eventually she came around, and now, even though she’s never the same around him as she once was, Keith likes to think that they have a good relationship.
She’s now working as a school Counselor in California; a job Keith thinks she is perfect at, and they talk at least twice a week on the phone.
He not only failed at returning to his marriage, but also failed at returning to teaching. Every time he stepped into the classroom, he could only see hazel eyes and hear a soft lilt of “one day you’ll be free.” Once he realized there was no salvaging his marriage, he also figured he no longer needed to teach so he quickly tried to get as many auditions as he could find. The New York Symphony Orchestra eventually took him back after he explained why he turned down the chair 2 years previous (leaving out a few key details of course). Finally following his passion, Keith knew it was all thanks to her.
After his divorce, Keith remained single. He was happy spending all his time and energy into salvaging his relationship with his daughter. While he never fully admitted it to himself, he knew that no one could ever match up to her. Every time she crossed his mind, he would feel the oddest mix of both longing for her and disgust with himself. He knew he had made a mistake pursuing her; she was only 18 years old and 20 years younger than him, but she was the first person in years to see him for who he truly was and aspired to be. She saw his consuming love for music and was heartbroken for him to see it being squandered in the classroom. When he looked into Sophie’s eyes he knew that no one could ever see him the way she did; as though with a glance she captured his soul. Now a man of 45, he never forgot the sound of her playing the piano, the stubborn look she got in her eye when he made her play in front of the class, and the feeling of her next to him as they ran in the rain. He knew that even if he saw her again, she would never forgive him for the way he left her.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
It was the beginning of fall 7 years after the incident when Sophie finally returned to New York. As she boarded her flight from Boston, she had a fleeting thought that maybe somehow, she would run into him somewhere. She quickly squashed that dangerous thought down, telling herself that New York was massive and that she didn’t even know if he had stayed there or not. Turning her mind to other thoughts, she thought about her reason for travelling in the first place.
Sophie was scheduled to perform at the Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic in 2 week’s time. After her graduation from Berklee with honours, Sophie had travelled the world once again, but this time she was in charge of her own destiny. She performed all across North America and Europe (including London, making her aunt extremely happy) and was starting to make a little bit of a name for herself. Sophie didn’t care much about the politics of it all, all she knew was that every time she stepped up to that piano, she no longer felt the need to run.
As Sophie rode in a taxi leaving the airport, she pondered her return to the scene of her heartbreak. Maybe this is the trip she needed to finally let go of her feelings for the bloody man that haunted her thoughts. Maybe it would allow her to finally find a nice man and move on.
While Sophie considered her return to New York, Keith was reviewing the sheet music he needed for his rehearsal the next day. For some reason, he could feel himself getting nervous but couldn’t pinpoint exactly why. He had been to countless rehearsals in his last 5 years with the Symphony and hadn’t felt this way before. Keith brushed his nerves off, refusing to think about a certain woman whispering “breathe in, and out.” Deciding that practicing was out of the question, Keith put away the cello and decided to cook dinner. Never truly adjusting to life on his own, Keith always made enough dinner for at least 2.
Sophie arrived at her hotel at around dinner time. Used to a life of travelling alone, she efficiently ordered room service and flicked on the television to TLC. Not the most exciting of nights, she thought to herself but as her mind flashed images of a night filled with car accidents, near escapes and betrayal, she thought that she might prefer the un-exciting.
The next morning, Sophie prepared for a day of rehearsals with a new orchestra. It was always tricky trying to get everyone on the same page, especially since she was always the newcomer that threw everyone’s cohesion off. This lack of together-ness always faded after the first day or so as they all adapted to one another through the language of music, so it wasn’t too big a concern.
Sophie arrived at their practice hall at Julliard an hour before rehearsal was scheduled to start, wanting to get a warm-up in before everyone arrived. As the driver who was sent to pick her up helped her leave the car, she was introduced to Jean, who was the conductor of the orchestra. Jean was an average-sized man of about 40 with jet black hair. He seemed like a sensible man; very friendly and chatty and almost came across as though he was trying to impress her, (though that wasn’t necessarily unusual for her when in the company of men, and some women.)
Jean spoke to her fondly about many members of the orchestra, some having been part of the orchestra for over 10 years. Talking of a wonderful cellist, a superb lead violinist, and flawless percussion he painted a nice picture of the orchestra and made Sophie excited to get the chance to play with them.
Eventually Jean left her at her piano, needing to go attend to other members who could possibly be arriving early as well. She played a few of her usual warm-up pieces and exercises, and then maybe it was the nostalgia of being back in New York or maybe it was pure accident, but she started to play a certain Chopin piece that had gotten her into a lot of trouble 7 years ago.
Keith didn’t sleep well, not that he normally slept that well, but the night previous was much worse than usual. After laying in bed in the wee hours of the morning trying to fall back asleep to no avail, he figured he could get ready for the day and maybe head to his rehearsal a little early
As he packed up his cello, he felt lingering nerves in the pit of his stomach. Unaware of why his body was reacting this way, almost as though it was anticipating something, Keith brushed his nervousness aside and left for the rehearsal. Having rehearsed at this location many times, Keith let himself in through a back door and walked towards the main hall. Lost in thought as he tried to decipher the reasoning behind his quickening heartbeat and increased breaths, he didn’t immediately notice the sound of a familiar tune.
His brain finally caught up to his ears the moment he entered the concert hall. A tune he had heard before, one that had in fact signaled the start of a wealth of trouble for him, was filling the hall. His heart dropped and simultaneously skipped a beat as he snapped his head around the room only to freeze when he saw the source of the song.
Sophie was consumed by the song, being transported into another time, a time in which she harboured a not so innocent crush on a man completely off-limits. As the song came to its climax, Sophie was finally pulled back to the present due to a suspicious feeling. It was almost as though she was being stared at. Quickly glancing up, the Chopin piece at her fingertips immediately faltered and soon after, stopped as she located the culprit. The man she had been trying so desperately to forget was standing less than 10 feet from where she was seated at the piano, looking as though he’d seen a ghost.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
As their eyes met again for the first time in seven years it felt as though the whole world was holding its breath. An entire lifetime could’ve passed in those moments where hazel and blue collided and Sophie and Keith would’ve never noticed.
The instant she laid her eyes on him, she was eighteen years old again sitting on a piano bench as the man she adored left her without a second glance. She held her breath as her heart sank deep into her chest and a confusing tangle of love, anger, abandonment and surprisingly, fondness burst into her chest. Their eyes locked for what could’ve been hours but likely lasted less than a minute.
Keith was stunned. As he gazed into her eyes, he could plainly see the hurt reflected in them, a remnant from years past. As his brain processed her obvious disappointment, he also couldn’t help but notice maybe the tiniest shimmer of happiness hiding somewhere buried deep in her gaze. He couldn’t help but hope that this small happiness was in response to seeing him, though his rational brain assigned that thought to that of the wishful thinking variety. Throughout this internal struggle, Keith hadn’t broken out of his trance as he laid his eyes on Sophie for the first time in seven years. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. He decided that although was absolutely stunning, it wasn’t her looks that made her even more alluring than he remembered. As he stared, he pinpointed what had changed in her. Now Sophie radiated a level of self-assuredness and confidence that made her all the more irresistible. He immediately forced that thought away, reminding himself of how poorly he had treated her. It quickly occurred to him how undeserving he was of even a second of her attention. Her gaze, though unchanged, suddenly seemed overpowering, as though he was looking directly at the sun.
Sophie sensed the change in him as his gaze immediately switched into one of shame and embarrassment. Some part of her felt satisfied at his obvious guilt, but as he broke his gaze, she couldn’t help but feel a sort of disappointment at the loss of their connection.
“Sophie….” he spoke, the first to break the minutes of silence that was previously occupied solely by their warring gazes.
“Hi” Sophie replied, impressed at how unwavering her voice sounded, considering the situation and the rush of emotions flowing through her.
Their gazes found each other once again, but before much more could be exchanged, Jean loudly clambered over to them. “Oh, I see you two beat me to introductions!” Jean exclaimed. “Sophie, this is the cellist I was telling you about” he said.
Sophie, still in shock and trying to simultaneously not look at Keith and keep him in her peripheral vision, was a little slow to reply. “…he’s the cellist” she quietly repeated, as Jean, completely oblivious to the tension between the two musicians grinned broadly and nodded.
Keith, conflicted between the wishes of his heart which desperately ached to just look at Sophie, and his mind which reminded him that she would likely never want anything to do with him, and he couldn’t blame her. Overwhelmed by his conflicting thoughts, he could only nod, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground in attempt to minimize the pull he felt towards her.
Thankfully Jean quickly got distracted by the entrance of Emily, a violinist in the orchestra and promptly dragged Sophie over towards her to be introduced. Sophie spared Keith a half glance at him as she walked away.
Keith was left with only his thoughts, and honestly those were not really the best company at the moment. Detailed images of Sophie lying in his arms as they were surrounded by nothing but trees flashed through his mind. Just as quickly as they appeared, the images twisted into flashes of him walking up a flight of stairs, seeing her for the last time. He knew he didn’t deserve her forgiveness, but at that moment with every fibre of his being he desired it. Even after her departure from his presence, he was still hyperaware of her whereabouts across the room. He involuntarily stepped towards her, his body attempting to convince him to stride over, take her into his arms and kiss her like he had been dreaming of for seven years. Luckily, before he could embarrass himself further, his rational self triumphed and he stopped in his tracks. Changing course, he instead moved towards his chair and pretended to fiddle with his cello case while covertly watching Sophie speak with Emily across the room.
Sophie let Jean grab her wrist and pull her away from her former teacher and towards a pretty woman who had just entered the room. Her heart still pounding in her chest, her body betrayed her and before she could override it she glanced back at Keith. He looked so conflicted, keeping his eyes locked on anything but her as he remained rooted to the spot. His emotions seemed so complex and all over the place that it was the first time that even she couldn’t get a clear read on him. As Jean introduced her to Emily the violinist, Sophie realized the whole room around her seemed dull and muffled. As Jean and Emily spoke to her, they almost sounded as though they were speaking through a thin film. All of her senses and focus was dedicated to honing in on Keith’s whereabouts, despite the fact that she wished for the exact opposite. She kept an eye on him over Jean’s shoulder as Jean and Emily spoke of something that she didn’t have enough desire to try to attempt to overhear. As he fiddled with his cello case and Emily and Jean rattled on, Sophie finally got to take in his full appearance.
He looked very much the same as he had years ago, still wearing his plaid button-up, but he now sported a shorter hairstyle that Sophie found she didn’t like. She couldn’t pinpoint exactly why... It was definitely a more fashionable haircut but as she stared at him she couldn’t help but think of what it felt like to run her fingers through his longer hair. ‘I guess now there wasn’t really anything there to even run her fingers through’ she thought. There was another major difference Sophie noticed about him, but it wasn’t really due to his appearance directly. She just thought that he somehow seemed lighter, especially considering the extra tension she could see radiating through him (which she could only assume was due to her presence.)
In her not-so-subtle appraisal of him, she hadn’t noticed the practice hall was slowly filling with more people. As Jean called some of the newcomers over to introduce her, she had to purposefully snap her focus off of Keith and direct her attention to casual greetings. She and Jean conducted her train of introductions, the random noise of different pieces of the orchestra warming up started to fill the room and soon it was nearly time for rehearsal to start.
Finally escaping Jean’s side, her eyes immediately searched for him, but whether it was out of need of intel for avoidance or pleasure she didn’t know. Fortunately, he seemed occupied, chatting with a couple of other musicians whose names she’d already forgotten. This gave her time to flee back to the piano, effectively putting a protective barrier between her and Keith. She didn’t know if it was to stop him from approaching her or to stop herself from trying to reach him.
Keith was soon saved from his awkward fiddling as more of his colleagues started to arrive. He had pretty friendly relationships with most of the orchestra, but wasn’t really close to any of them ever since Shelly moved to England. His focus on Sophie was disrupted by the arrival of two of his fellow cellists.
He had no real chance to even try to put Sophie out of his mind as the conversation around him quickly turned to their new feature artist. David, an older man who was balding but refused to admit it insisted that she was one of the most talented pianists he had ever heard, having seen her play in Berlin months prior. Stephanie, a woman who never failed to appear at rehearsals in the tightest buns he had ever seen shared the research she had gathered on Sophie. Apparently, though new to performing professionally, Sophie was making a name for herself and was already widely respected in the cities she had visited. David asked Keith if he had ever heard her play, or had any additional information on the woman who, unbeknownst to David, had haunted Keith’s thoughts for seven long years. Pausing slightly, Keith glanced over at Sophie who was now strategically placed behind the piano. Memories of her knocking a Chopin piece right out of the park and her sitting on a piano bench brushing against his elbow filled his head. Without taking his eyes off of her he answered, “No, I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing her play.” The moment these words passed his lips he couldn’t help but think that he probably didn’t deserve the pleasure of hearing her play again.
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
The entirety of the morning rehearsal was a test of self-restraint for both of them. Sophie constantly switched between wanting to glare viciously in his general direction and wanting to gaze longingly at him until she uncovered every bit of his life in the last seven years. Quickly squashing those thoughts down, she chastised herself for thinking so foolishly and settled on a façade of neutral indifference towards him. It was an extremely difficult task but she managed to refrain from looking at him throughout the rest of the morning segment, and instead tried to focus on the overwhelming sound of the orchestra around her (except for the cello part of course.)
Keith on the other hand was battling feelings of self-deprecation, self-loathing and the urge to strategize a way to make her forgive him. With a little less willpower than Sophie, he continued to get distracted by Sophie throughout the whole rehearsal. Her playing was absolutely magnificent. As he listened to her fingers glide across the keys the rest of the orchestra faded away until it was just the sound of her playing. She had improved immensely, which he didn’t know was possible, but then again it was Sophie. She always seemed to make even the impossible appear easy. Though still amazed and entranced by her playing, he could tell she was holding something back. She played each piece without a single flaw, but the extreme emotion she embedded in all the pieces she had played for him years ago was blatantly missing. Somehow, she managed to play nearly perfectly in-sync with a foreign orchestra, and from the looks of his colleagues, they were all very impressed with her abilities. It seemed he was the only one who noticed that as beautiful as the songs were, Sophie had so much more to give.
Sophie continued to supress all thoughts and feelings as she played the final notes of the final piece that they were rehearsing that morning. She knew that as soon as the break that separated their morning and afternoon rehearsals arrived, she needed to escape. She looked up at Jean as the orchestra started to pack-up in anticipation of the break. As soon as she had confirmed that her presence was no longer required, she briskly walked towards the door. Realizing she probably looked as though she was fleeing, she tried to slow down but her urge to leave was too strong for her effort to have much effect.
Just as she was about to walk through the exit, her peripheral vision noticed Keith was frantically packing his cello and kept glancing in her direction. Not wanting to risk being followed, Sophie sped up the second she had left the rehearsal hall and quickly entered the first unlocked door she could find.
Keith noticed Sophie’s race to escape the room and assumed she was trying to avoid the talk he knew they needed to have. Packing up as quickly as you can when dealing with a giant instrument, he rushed out of the room in search of the woman he loved so many years ago, and likely still did. As he glanced in every room he passed in his search, it never occurred to him that he had no idea what he was going to say to her when he found her, he just knew he needed something.
In a small room filled with a few tables, Sophie was finally by herself and she finally let the flood of emotions rush through her. Memories of scruffy hair, plaid button ups and glasses filled her mind and overlapped with recent images of shame and guilt reflected in eyes the shade of blue. She knew that she hadn’t ever really gotten over Keith, but seeing him again made her realise how strong her feelings still were. The man had tossed her aside. Yes she was also to blame, she had known he was married, she had known he had a family, she even knew he would always choose them, but she was young and she was in love so she stayed. ‘God I’m such an idiot’ she thought to herself as she realized the strength of the feelings she still had for him.
She heard footsteps approach the door to her hiding place and the rattling of the handle announced the entrance of her new companion.
As Keith opened the door of a secluded coat room his searched finally proved successful. Sophie was sitting on the ground at the far side of the room with her arms wrapped around her knees. She wore a look of such heartbreak that he felt a deep urge to scoop her into his arms and comfort her.
“Sophie” he said again, repeating the only word he had spoken to her in 7 years. “I am so sorry.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Sophie couldn’t stop herself from crying. With tears streaming down her face, she felt every bit as much the eighteen-year-old left alone on a piano bench with nowhere to go.
“Sometimes rules are there for a reason right” she replied, confidently looking up at him as tears continued to stream down her cheeks.
He broke eye contact at her statement, recognizing his own words being repeated back at him. “I’m no longer a teacher” he replied after a long period of silence, and finally looked back towards her.
“That’s good” Sophie replied, the tracks of tears down her face finally ceasing and she continued to look deep into his eyes. She didn’t know what she was looking for there, he was married, and he had already made his choice, but she couldn’t help but search for something. He had broken her heart so completely, but from the minute she saw him again she couldn’t stop herself from wanting him as desperately as she had at eighteen.
Keith recognized the longing in her eyes, but could see it was tainted with memories of a broken heart and a broken promise. “Listen Sophie I – “
“– look its fine we really don’t need to go over this. I’m fine” she interrupted him before he could say any more. “You were right to choose her, they’re your family. I was just a young moronic girl but I’ve moved on” she continued, sensing he wasn’t quite done with the topic.
As the words left her lips, she saw a quick flash of hurt on his face before he covered it up. Not trusting herself in the situation any longer, she stood and went to walk past him out the door. Keith’s hand betrayed him as she walked past as it stretched out in an unconscious effort to make her stay. Before it could reach her arm, he managed to gain enough control to withdraw his hand back to rest helplessly at his side.
Just as she walked out the door, she heard Keith whisper almost intelligibly, “I haven’t.” It was nearly inaudible and definitely not meant to be heard, so she continued walking away without even the slightest pause in her stride. As she fled the room, her tears returned along with an all too familiar ache in her chest.
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
Somehow, Sophie managed to avoid too many conversations as she returned to the practice hall after her brief trip to the washroom to collect herself and remove all evidence of her tears. Safely behind the piano, she had the perfect vantage spot to see Keith as he entered the room. He avoided even looking over at her side of the room and returned to his seat.
As the afternoon part of the rehearsal began, Keith had successfully managed to avoid even glancing in her direction, though he swore he could feel her eyes following him. As the orchestra prepared their music for their first piece of the afternoon, all Keith could hear was her voice in his head repeating over and over, ‘I’ve moved on.’ He knew he shouldn’t be upset with her words. It’s what he had wanted for her when he chose his family all those years ago. ‘You have no claim over her’ he told himself, ‘you let her go, you broke her heart.’ In his rumination, everyone had collected themselves and Jean stood ready to count us in. Pushing down the urge to look at Sophie, Keith positioned his cello at the ready and waited for his cue.
Sophie hardly took her eyes off of him as he sat looking deep in thought. ‘What was he going to say before I interrupted him’ she thought to herself. ‘He was probably just being polite and was going to say that he hopes things won’t be awkward with us working together’ she told herself. ‘I wonder if him and Megan are still together’ she thought and then immediately scolded herself for that dangerous line of thinking. ‘It doesn’t matter if he’s married or not, even if you still have feelings for him, and even if he’s not married, he left you’ she told herself. Plus, she doubted that he would even still be remotely interested in her, she was just a mid-life crisis for him, a pretty girl that thought the world of him and sufficiently fed his ego.
‘But no one else has ever looked at you the way he did all those years ago’ some part deep inside of her piped up. ‘No one has ever understood you as well as he did’ the voice continued, ‘I mean, you two don’t even need to talk to communicate, you can just look into each other’s eyes and know what the other is thinking.’ Shit she thought to herself, trying to squash the hope rising in her chest at those unwanted thoughts. ‘He left you’ she repeated to herself. ‘Even if he did love me, he doesn’t anymore; and besides that, as much as I feel for him, I don’t know if I can ever forgive him for breaking my heart, even if I understand why he made that choice.’
With that final thought to herself she finally got out of her head and took in her surroundings. Noticing the second half of their rehearsal about to start she prepared herself to begin. With thoughts of hope, longing, heartbreak, and a particular plaid-wearing man swimming in her mind, she began to play. With a mess of feelings to deal with, she could no longer suppress them like she had all morning. As the music began, she closed her eyes and let all her thoughts of inadequacy, guilt, sadness and anger (at both herself and Keith) explode from the tips of her fingers.
As soon as her fingers played her first notes, Keith’s silent vow to himself to refrain from looking at her all afternoon was broken as his head snapped to watch her. Immediately he could tell that something was different about her music compared to the morning. He joined in at his proper cue and robotically made it through his part, though his entire focus remained on her. She had her eyes closed and her whole body was moving as though it was a part of the music. She had never looked more brilliant than she did at that moment.
As he listened to her play, he could feel her thoughts through the song. Still staring at her he started to understand how his abandonment had affected her. He heard notes of fear that she would never be good enough, followed by trills of stubborn determination that refuted those thoughts and insisted that no one could decide her worth. This was followed by syllables of sadness and loneliness that smoothed into rising arcs of longing and hope. She was not the Sophie he had known all those years ago, she was a woman who had gone through a horrible time and had come out on top. Sophie was plainly exhibiting the scars and wounds she held in her soul without shame, instead almost displaying them proudly. If he wasn’t already in love with her, he knew he would’ve been 2 minutes into hearing her play.
Sophie let the sound of her thoughts wash around her. When she gave in to her emotions, playing the piano was almost a reset button for her. It allowed her to see the deepest and most repressed parts of her soul and accept them as a part of who she was. As she played, she allowed herself to admit that she was still in love with Keith and simultaneously agree that she was still furious with him. She let herself accept the loses she had been privy to throughout her life and realize that while they had a profound affect on her and made her who she was today, they did not control her life. It was the most refreshed Sophie had felt since she had arrived in New York and midway through the song she opened her eyes and immediately found her hazel eyes locked on their blue counterparts.
When she opened her eyes, they immediately found his that hadn’t left her since her opening notes. Desperate for the tiniest bit of connection with her he tried to display his overwhelming guilt and shame silently, hoping she would understand. Seeing a glint of acceptance in her eyes, and a barely discernable nod he was overwhelmed by relief. ‘She is willing to try to forgive me’ he said to himself with wonder. ‘Maybe we could somehow be friends’ he thought. Still locked in her gaze, he couldn’t help but feel all of the admiration, longing and desire he had been repressing for seven years burst to the surface. He knew his feelings were unmistakably clear in his eyes and with no power left to try to hide them, he just hoped she wouldn’t be disgusted at the old man who was still obviously infatuated with her.
Sophie couldn’t help herself but accept Keith’s unspoken apology. The part of her that knew him so intimately after such a short time knew that he wasn’t the type of guy that usually used and then discarded women. She’d known for years that he never meant to intentionally hurt her, and that they were doomed for a horrific ending from the first time they looked into each other’s eyes. It was easier to blame him than to accept her role in fracturing an entire family so for years she refused to admit that by leaving her, Keith finally did the right thing.
Sophie saw the weight lifted from him immediately at her almost imperceptible nod of acceptance. He looked lighter. Happier. She told herself that the butterflies in her chest were due to her release of anger and had nothing to do with the way he was looking at her.
Still locked in his gaze, the piece started to come to a close, and just before the last notes rang out, she couldn’t help but give him the smallest of grins and her heart jumped at the resulting sparkle in his eye.
She finally broke their connection as the final note resounded through the hall and was brought out of her head by the sound of gasps of wonder and small bits of applause.
“That was wonderful Sophie,” she heard Jean say from the front of the orchestra. She glanced around and noticed some of the members looking impressed at her emotional performance.
“Thank you” she replied sheepishly with a slight smile and a hint of a blush on her cheeks. She managed a glance over towards Keith and saw him looking at her with proud amazement gleaming in his eyes. She couldn’t help but realize that out of the entire room, his was the only one whose approval she desired. Quickly looking down at the piano again, Jean luckily picked up on her wish to lose the attention focused on her and directed them towards their next song.
Throughout the rest of the rehearsal, she reigned in the expressing of her feelings just enough to not draw too much attention towards herself again.
Her and Keith exchanged brief glances and small smiles throughout the rest of the set, but had no more hyper-emotional exchanges from opposite sides of the room.
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
As everyone started to pack-up at the end of the rehearsal, her heart started to accelerate as she questioned whether she would get a chance to talk with Keith again, and despite their earlier silent exchange, whether she even wanted to. She took her time putting her sheet music back into her bag, grabbing the notes she had made from the day and closing the lid of the piano, hoping her delay tactics weren’t too obvious. Most of the room had cleared out by the time she was done, and besides a few people who wanted to tell her how much they enjoyed having her play with them that day, it was just her and Keith.
After replying to a couple people expressing her happiness to be playing with their orchestra, the few stragglers left, leaving just Keith as he slowly returned his cello to its case. She slowly walked towards him but didn’t know what to say. She just stared silently at him until finally he was finished and glanced up at her. Standing up tall he grinned at her, reminding her of the smile he gave her while she sat in the passenger seat of his car with the backs of her knuckles brushing his stubble.
“Hello” he said.
“Hi” she replied, still trying to figure out where this was going to go.
“I should’ve said this before, but you know…” he paused momentarily as she tried to determine what was coming next. “It’s really great to see you” he finished.
“It’s really nice to see you too” she replied, her heart still racing in her chest. Silence filled the room as each of them awkwardly tried to figure out what they could say that would keep the interaction going as long as possible.
Finally, Keith broke the silence with a peace offering, “I was uh, just going to go grab a bite to eat, would you uh like to join me?” he stammered out, hoping his question wouldn’t scare her off.
“Um, yeah I guess I could eat” Sophie replied after a moment’s consideration, and watched his jaw unclench with what she could only assume was relief. ‘It’s just a dinner to catch up with an old friend’ she thought to herself.
As they walked out of the Julliard building, Sophie asked him how he was enjoying playing with the Philharmonic and living in the city again, and he asked her about her schooling. They kept the topics light on their way to Café Luxembourg, just down the street. There was no mention of family, significant others, or what they meant to each other now after their surprise reunion.
They had an enjoyable dinner, Sophie told him the light parts of her travels, and he spoke of his adventures being back in the city, careful to avoid any implication about his marital status. It was unusual for them to talk about such easy topics since most of their previous interactions tended to skip the small talk and dive straight to the life-altering variety. Towards the end of dinner, Sophie had worked up enough courage to carefully ask about Lauren and where she went to college. Luckily it wasn’t too awkward as he told her about her degree in California and her work as a school Counsellor. Sophie found she enjoyed Keith’s tone of fondness as he spoke of Lauren, the walls she had maintained between them softening slightly. When the bill came, Keith insisted on paying as a ‘welcome to New York gift’ and Sophie tried to ignore any thoughts that included the word ‘date’ in them.
Somehow the conversation turned to Central Park and Sophie let slip that she had never been. Since it was early fall, the weather was mild and there was still plenty of light left so Keith suggested that they take a stroll. He had to tell himself numerous times that it was a completely innocent suggestion, he just wanted to give an old friend a tour, she just happened to be an old friend he had been pining for for seven years.
Trying not to look too excited, Sophie accepted, so shoulder to shoulder they walked into central park. Having run out of sufficiently safe topics of conversation, a comfortable silence fell over them as the setting sun made the falling leaves glow around them.
Resting on a park bench as twilight settled around them, Keith finally broke the silence.
“I really missed you” he said softly, looking deep into her eyes.
Sophie didn’t know how to respond to that, as her mind tried to process the fact that he still thought of her in that way. She’d been convincing herself for seven years that she was just a silly girl to him, just a moment of poor judgement long ago.
In her speechlessness, Keith continued, “We don’t even have to talk about actual meaningful things and somehow I still feel more connected with you than when I’m around anyone else.”
This woke Sophie up, as the hope that was starting to build came crashing down as reality set in, and that internal voice dedicated to protecting her from heartbreak spoke up. “You left me” she said as she stood up from the bench they were sitting on. “You left me and chose your wife.”
Looking down, feeling horrible and not knowing how to respond Keith just sat on the bench flexing his hands.
Seeing that he wasn’t equipped to respond to that, Sophie continued. “I do forgive you; she was your wife and you had an obligation to your family, I see that now” she said, “but I can’t make the same mistake twice. You broke my heart. You made me fall in love with you and then left me alone so that no other guy could ever live up to the expectations you set for me.”
At her admission of love, Keith finally looked up to see unshed tears in her eyes that she seemed determined not to let fall. ‘She loved me’ his mind repeated. ‘It wasn’t just a schoolgirl crush, or a distraction from her uncle’s death. She was in love with me’ the words were spinning in his mind.
“I never stopped loving you Sophie” he finally said, never breaking eye contact.
Sophie, previously managing to stay calm could no longer hold it in at his declaration of love. “You have a wife” she said firmly, not quite yelling but not really utilizing her inside voice either. Anger flashed in her eyes. ‘I already forgave him for how he acted years ago and now he decides to try to break my heart once more as if once wasn’t enough’ Sophie thought to herself.
“I don’t have a wife!” Keith quickly interjected. “We couldn’t make it work because I’d realized when I met you that I’d never really known what it was like to be truly in love with someone” he said. “It was impossible for us to last because I knew that no one could ever understand me the way that you do and no matter how hard Megan and I tried, we were doomed to fail.”
Overwhelmed by everything he was saying when she had spent years convincing herself that he had only ever paid attention to her because he was having a midlife crisis and she was available, Sophie had no clue what to do. Too much had happened that day and her mind was trying to keep up and process everything when all she could hear in her head was his voice saying ‘I don’t have a wife’ and ‘I never stopped loving you’ over and over again. Squashing down thoughts of ‘he loves me, I love him we have to be together’ Sophie knew she had to do what she always did when things got tough: get the hell out of there.
“I don’t know what you expect me to do with this information” she said. “I just can’t deal with this right now I’m sorry” she said and turned to hurry away.
Keith stood from the bench and reached for her hand. The moment their fingers touched she paused her escape but didn’t turn around.
“Sophie…” he said.
Pulling her fingers from his after a moment, he let her slip away, watching her form retreat into the distance in the fading glow of dusk.
Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
Her walk back to her hotel room was a blur. Her mind was a disastrous tangle of thoughts and feelings and she didn’t even know where to start. His voice in her head kept echoing “I’d realized when I met you that I’d never really known what it was like to be truly in love with someone” and “I don’t have a wife.”
The eighteen-year-old inside her was screaming at her to turn back, rush into his arms and never let go. ‘He loves you’ that part of her kept saying. ‘It’s what you’ve always wanted, someone who actually understand who you are and loves you for it.’ No, her conscious mind objected. ‘Even if he isn’t married anymore, he still made his choice seven years ago, he can’t just back-track now. I’m not going to be his second choice just because his wife left him, and I don’t think I can trust him not to destroy me again’ she thought.
Torn between opposite points of view, the moment her key-card beeped her entry into her hotel room she collapsed into a chair and stared out the window at the bustling city below. ‘Anonymity must be really nice’ she thought to herself, watching strangers as they headed home from work.
Keith didn’t sleep well that night. Everything in his body was telling him to just go find Sophie and make her realize that he had never meant to hurt her and that he would never ever do it again.
Sophie didn’t sleep much at all either. Her mind never stopped processing the eventful day she had. ‘I can’t believe I thought I could come to New York and manage to avoid even the thought of him’ she told herself, almost finding it comical. The little sleep she managed to get was filled with fitful dreams of green leaves in the wind, rainstorms, cello strings, and blue eyes paired with a scruffy beard.
Sophie was the first to reach Julliard again the next morning for rehearsal. She hoped she didn’t look as horrible as she felt, and was just hoping she could make it through the rehearsal under the radar and manage to avoid any interaction with her fellow musicians. Sitting at the piano, her fingers hovered over the keys, almost stroking them, but never touching them. Her mind couldn’t think of anything to play, it was too preoccupied obsessing over a man that insisted he loved her, but still chose to abandon her. As Sophie ruminated on her feelings for the one man she could never get over, the very man consuming her thoughts entered the room.
‘He looks miserable’ Sophie thought to herself, and he did. Keith was wearing the same shirt he had the day previous, except today it was extremely wrinkled and one of the buttons wasn’t done up. Her heart sank in her chest as she looked at him, her love for him obviously strong enough to hate seeing him so upset. His dishevelled appearance reminded her of the day he came home from the hospital, absolutely wrecked from the near loss of his daughter and the explosion of his marriage. This time though, he didn’t even spare her a single glance as he took his seat. Some of the other musicians had already arrived and began to get ready for a day of rehearsing, but she only had eyes for him. ‘He looks so defeated’ she thought, and felt a strong urge to pull him into her arms, rest her head on his chest and tell him that everything was going to be alright. ‘Everything isn’t going to be alright though’ she told herself. ‘We can never be together, our history is too muddled, he’s way older than me, and I don’t know if I can ever trust him enough to bare my soul to him once again’ she thought defeatedly.
Tearing her attention away from him, she started to warm up for what was hopefully going to be a smooth rehearsal before she was interrupted by Jean.
“Hey gorgeous” he said as he approached her at the piano, invading her personal space. Sophie could smell the overwhelming amount of cologne he must’ve been wearing and tried to move back to put some space between them.
“Hi Jean” she said, then started shuffling through her sheet music so that he’d get the hint that she wasn’t in the mood for chatting.
“So I was thinking that you know, since both of us are the stars of the show and we both happen to be extremely attractive that we should get to know each other a little better” he said trying to charm her with a large grin. Sophie didn’t know if that worked on other girls but it was definitely not going to work on her.
“Um I’d prefer to keep things professional between us Jean so that’s probably not the best idea” she said, trying to let him down politely, while simultaneously trying not to look back over towards where she knew Keith was glowering.
“Don’t worry, you won’t have to try to restrain yourself from jumping me for much longer” Jean said, clearly not getting the message before he turned around and walked away.
Jean and his misogynistic ego quickly vanished from her mind as soon as he left her presence and her focus turned back to her turmoil over Keith as she prepped for their rehearsal.
Keith felt like shit. He knew that Sophie was it for him. There was no one else that could ever replace her in his heart, and knew that this likely meant he was destined to spend the rest of his life alone, longing for a girl he had only briefly known. Keith had accepted this years ago, and back then he was content being alone, playing music and trying to maintain his relationship with his daughter. He knew his future was going to be Christmases in California, spoiling his future grandkids, and fulfilling his passion for music. This was completely acceptable to him, that is, until he locked eyes with Sophie once more. The solitary future he had long ago accepted was tossed to the side. Now, all those thoughts of Christmases and grandkids had Sophie there right next to him.
His mind had been trying to work out how he could make Sophie see that they should be together throughout the night and into the hours of the morning, yet he came up with nothing. He knew she could never love someone like him. Someone who had ruined his family and abandoned her without a single word or a second glance. ‘I deserve to be alone,’ he thought, ‘and she deserves to be able to move on, fall in love with a young man and be happy.’ Stuck in his thoughts, he was a zombie as he prepared to leave for rehearsal and somehow got to the practice room without even realizing it.
As he entered the room, he couldn’t care less if his colleagues noticed how much of a disaster he was that morning. He refused to look her way as he entered, vowing to himself he would do her a favour and make it easy for her forget him and move on with her life.
The entire day was spent without a single look or word exchanged between the two of them. Sophie tried to feel relieved that he was leaving her alone but somehow, she only felt an overpowering desire for him to just look in her direction. In her yearning for him, she almost considered trying to corner him at the end of the day to speak with him, but couldn’t think of single thing she would say.
The next three days passed much like this one, although Keith somehow managed to shower and actually put-on fresh clothes each day. He would only risk looking at her when he knew she was distracted and wouldn’t notice. His devastation at not being able to get close to her, even just as friends, was luckily hidden by his wish for her to be happy. Avoiding her was the best thing he could do for her he resolved.
Every day that passed, Sophie’s ability to be in the same room with him while he refused to look at her or even acknowledge her existence was starting to fracture. Every day was painful as her longing for him just built up, having no method of release. Somehow, she refrained from crashing into his arms, but every day it was getting harder for her to come up with reasons why she shouldn’t.
Over the three days, Sophie had become sort-of friends with Emily the violinist, finding her easy to be around, and quite good company for post-rehearsal drinks.
It was Friday, and the orchestra had the next 2 days off when Emily mentioned that a few of the orchestra members were having a get-together at her house that night.
“It’s going to be pretty low-key, we’ll probably play some music, have a few drinks and just chat” Emily explained. “I’d really love it if you came, and I know at least a few other members who are looking forward to getting to know you a little more intimately if you know what I mean” she said with a wink.
Emily’s words made Sophie almost sick to the stomach at the thought of being with other men right now, but she figured it would be a great change from returning to her hotel room to pine over a man who she had no future with.
“Sure, I guess that sounds like fun” Sophie replied.
“Awesome!” Emily said with a smile. “People will probably start showing up at 6-ish but you are welcome to come by any time, I’ll text you the address.”
Sophie nodded in response, and then asked if she should bring anything.
“Just yourself” Emily responded, “oh and don’t forget to wear something super cute, though I guess you’d look good in anything” she said with a wink. “Plus, I think Jean would swoon over you no matter what you were wearing” she added.
Feeling that sickness in her stomach again Sophie tried to figure out how to explain that she wasn’t really looking for a man in her life right now, but before anything came to mind Emily was pulled away by a flautist by the name of Marianne.
“I’ll see you later tonight” Emily called back to Sophie as Marianne tugged her towards another group of musicians.
Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
Later that evening, Sophie returned to her hotel, showered and prepared to head over to Emily’s place. As she tried to decide what to wear, Emily’s statements concerning some of the male musicians came to mind. Figuring it was better to be safe Sophie decided to wear tight black jeans, a white blouse and a grey wrap jacket, rather than the skimpy black dress that showed off all her assets.
Hopping into a taxi cab and giving the driver Emily’s address, she made her way to the party. When she arrived, Emily opened the door with a big smile then proceeded to quickly shove a drink into Sophie’s hand and drag her around the room. Emily introduced her to members of the orchestra that Sophie recognized but hadn’t officially met yet, as well as a few of Emily’s friends from outside of the Philharmonic. Sophie enjoyed the company and the atmosphere. Music filled the apartment due to a number of guitars, a piano and even a couple violin’s that were stationed around the living room available to anyone who was willing to step up to play.
Most of Emily’s guests were piled into the open concept living room and kitchen, but Sophie could tell there was a few others in the next room over where it was a little quieter. After Emily strategically left Sophie alone talking to a tall man named Kevin who was apparently in a jazz band, Sophie stayed for a polite amount of time and then excused herself to the washroom.
After her successful escape and short bathroom detour Sophie decided to check out the room adjacent to the living room, hoping it was a little less busy. It was a beautiful room, 3 of the walls filled with beautiful paintings, and the fourth was filled with large, almost floor to ceiling windows displaying a 15th floor view of the city.
Smiling at the 3 people already in the room, she took a seat on an empty couch near the window and looked down at the city pensively. Rain was pouring down outside and the music from the other room was slightly muffled creating an atmosphere of nostalgia. Taking another sip of the beer Emily had given her, her mind drifted back to Keith. She recalled the feeling of his fingers brushing hers, and the softness of his hair in her hands. ‘I’m so doomed’ she thought, ‘even after seven years I’m still as hopelessly infatuated with him as I was at eighteen.’
Stuck in her own reminiscing, and mesmerized by the raindrops hitting the window, Sophie didn’t notice that the other occupants of the room had left, but an another one had entered.
Keith was desperate for anything to distract him from thoughts of Sophie, so even though he usually turned down social invitations from his fellow orchestra-members, he accepted. He stopped on his way to grab a case of beer so he arrived at the apartment later than most of the others. He was greeted with the sound of music and soft chatter as he entered and immediately made his way to the kitchen, stashing all but one of his beers in the fridge. He chatted with various people, yet kept mostly to himself in the outskirts of the group. After spending a while listening to the improvised tunes of some of the experimenting musicians, he felt he needed someplace a little quieter.
He weaved through some of the other guests and headed down a short hallway into the adjacent room.
Sophie turned from the window at the sound of someone clearing their throat, her eyes falling on the room’s new occupant. Her eyes fell onto Jean, dressed up in a casual black suit and coiffed hair. ‘Oh no,’ she thought, ‘how am I going to escape from this situation.’
“May I join you?” Jean asked with a cocky grin and before she could answer he plopped himself down right next to her on the couch, a little too close to be appropriate. “So, are you enjoying yourself in the city that never sleeps?” he asked, confidently looping his arm to rest on the couch behind her.
Sophie tried to subtly skooch away from him on the couch before replying. “Yeah, New York is pretty great” she replied awkwardly.
“I have to say, New York feels the same about you” Jean retorted with a grin that was unnaturally white.
Letting out an awkward laugh, Sophie started to reply “Listen, Jean, I’m really not–” she stopped, distracted as she locked eyes with the person who had just joined them in the room.
Noticing her distraction, Jean turned around on the couch, moving his arm from behind her on the couch to rest on her shoulder. “Keith” he said in greeting.
“Uh sorry to interrupt” Keith spoke, his eyes still locked on Sophie’s.
Sophie knew she shouldn’t feel guilty; she had no obligation towards Keith for one, and for two, she wasn’t doing anything wrong with Jean anyway. She was so distracted by Keith’s presence that she didn’t even notice Jean’s arm was now resting on her shoulder. Keith was dressed as his normal self, just a plain button-up shirt and disheveled hair, but to her he looked a hundred times better than the heavily groomed Jean.
“I was just…” Keith faded off, and Sophie caught a glint of sadness and resolution in his eyes before he looked away. “I’ll just leave you two to it” he said, turning back around, exiting the room.
“So where were we” Jean said, turning back to her, placing his other hand on her thigh.
Immediately pissed, Sophie threw his hand from her thigh and shrugged his hand from her shoulder. All she could see in her mind was the look of anguish on Keith’s face, Sophie acted before she could talk herself out of it. Standing up quickly she turned to Jean, “Look Jean, I’m sure you’re an okay guy, I’m just not interested” she said and started to rush out of the room. Jean grabbed her arms aggressively trying to hold her back.
“What do you mean, of course you’re interested” he said with an annoyed look in his eye as he tried to pull her in to kiss her.
“Jean stop” she said, pushing him away and continuing towards the door, not even fully registering her interaction with Jean. Every ounce of Sophie’s focus was fixated on getting to Keith, she didn’t even know what she would say, but she knew she needed to find him.
“What the fuck Sophie” was the last thing she heard Jean say as she rushed out of the room without another word, and with only one person on her mind.
Keith’s heart broke at the sight that greeted him as he entered the room. Sophie and Jean were sitting with their thighs almost touching, and his arm was resting behind her on the couch, caging her in. His first instinct was to react with anger. He wanted to storm over to them, grab Jean and pull him away from her as roughly as he could manage. He wanted no man to ever touch her again. This thought finally woke him up and he realized that he should be happy for her, this is what he had been waiting for. ‘I’ll have to leave her alone to fall in love with someone else, even if it shatters me to pieces’ he thought.
He apologized for interrupting as he stared into her eyes. ‘She looks upset’ he thought, ‘she must be angry that the man who treated her so poorly interrupted her cozy little date.’ He started to explain his reason for entering the room but faded out, not wanting to be vulnerable in front of her as she sat in another man’s arms. He felt the familiar weight in his chest and his yearning for her returned so he looked down, avoiding her intense gaze. He couldn’t look at her next to her new love interest any longer so he made his excuse and hastily left the room.
Saying a quick goodbye to Emily and thanking her for hosting he hurried out of the building and into the rain, his lack of foresight causing him to get soaked instantly due to the absence of his raincoat. He found he couldn’t care less about the water, he had just lost the woman he loved.
Chapter 9: Chapter Nine
Back in the crowd Sophie immediately started scanning the room looking for one man in particular. Not having any success, she interrupted Emily while she was mid-conversation with a couple people Sophie didn’t recognize.
“Have you seen Keith” Sophie asked, trying to hide her sense of urgency.
“Oh yes, I think he just left” Emily replied. “He said it was some kind of emergency.”
“Oh, I see” Sophie said. “I actually had something I needed to talk to him about, maybe I’ll see if he’s still in the building.” Sophie turned to glance at the door and then back to Emily. “Thanks for having me over, you have a wonderful apartment” she said, giving Emily a friendly hug.
“Yeah of course, really great to have you” Emily responded, “Text me if you want to grab drinks or something over the weekend.”
Nodding, Sophie turned to the door trying to keep herself from running out. Her mind was a confusing mess of feelings; even Sophie had no clue why she was so desperate to find him, she still hadn’t made a decision about whether she should let herself fall for him again, or kick him to the curb. All she knew as she left Emily’s apartment was that some part of her needed to at least see his face, even if she said nothing to him.
The elevator came immediately, and soon she was running out of the apartment building into the rain. Her thoughts were so all over the place, it didn’t even occur to her that she left her coat at Emily’s, even as she was immediately drenched by the falling rain. Her eyes scanned the street in search of a familiar figure. Seeing him about a block away, she started to run towards him, wiping the water from her eyes as she was pelted by the thick raindrops falling down on her.
“Keith” she said as she finally caught up to him, stopping ten feet behind him looking wistfully at his back.
Hearing a familiar voice call his name, he stopped walking and slowly turned around to look at her. She was absolutely drenched, mascara running down her face and clothes clinging to her skin. He was captured by her hazel eyes and once again the two of them found themselves locked in each other’s gazes. They both looked at one another, neither knowing what to say.
“I really missed you too” Sophie said, her eyes displaying the internal struggle going on inside of her. ‘What am I doing’ she thought to herself.
“Sophie…” he said, a glimmer of hope twinkling in his eyes. ‘She missed me, she actually missed me’ he thought to himself. He started to feel like there was a possibility that they had a chance together. Maybe he would have a chance to make up for his mistakes. Maybe, just maybe he thought, she loved him too. He stepped towards her, reaching a hand up as though to stroke her cheek.
Seeing his movements toward her caused her to step away, still afraid to break the walls that she had put up to protect anyone from hurting her the way he had.
“I miss you so much every day, but I still don’t know if I can ever trust you again” she said, the rain concealing the tears building in her eyes.
His mind searched for a way to explain why he treated her the way he did, but it came up with nothing. He knew she understood why he chose his wife, but he had no reason to explain why he couldn’t have had a conversation with her rather than leave her abandoned on a piano bench without a word. Words couldn’t explain that in that moment seven years ago he had thought if he had so much as even spoken to her or looked at her tear-stained face a second longer, he would’ve never been able to stay with his wife. He couldn’t risk another glance in her direction as she sat crying on his piano bench for fear of realizing just how intertwined their hearts already were. If he had taken a minute to explain to Sophie why was he was leaving her, he knew that he would’ve realized Megan and him had no chance, and therefore he would've forfeitted his relationship with Lauren.
“I’m finally free Sophie” he finally spoke, almost nonchalantly while keeping his eyes firmly locked on hers. “You were right, I finally got myself free” he continued. “I freed myself from being a teacher, I got free from Megan and yet still somehow for years I’ve still been trapped.”
Sophie continued analyzing him as he spoke. She had never seen him look as vulnerable as he was at this moment, soaked to the bone and his soul bared for her to see.
“I’ve been trapped by you Sophie” he said desperately. “I haven’t been able to forget you. I tried so hard to forget about you Sophie, but it was impossible. It’s not even like you changed me Sophie, this is who I always was. It feels like somehow my whole life, even before you were born, I’ve known who I was supposed to be but no matter what I tried I could never fully grab hold of it. Then you came into my life and it was like a light came on. You made everything so clear and I knew how to become the person I always was but never could reach. As an eighteen-year-old girl you opened my eyes and I could never go back. You saw me Sophie, and I saw you.”
He took a few steps forward till he was only a few feet away from her, and this time she didn’t back away. “I saw a woman that was so lost, yet so fierce, stubborn, intelligent, talented and so unbelievably kind. I saw the only woman I ever truly loved. For years I’ve accepted a life alone because you were it for me Sophie. You were it and I thought I would never see you again. I knew you would hate me for what I did to you.” He paused for a moment looking deep into her eyes, searching for an answer to his unasked question. “I hate me for what I did to you, but I just…. I just had to tell you the truth about how I felt about you…how I still feel about you. Please just tell me what a fool I am making of myself and I will turn around and leave you alone forever, and you and Jean can go live happily ever after.” He finally finished, looking desperately into her eyes, hoping she would put him out of his misery quickly.
Throughout his entire speech Sophie’s world was tilting. She saw a man as broken and lost as she was. She saw a man who had tried so hard to do the right thing, to make up for his mistakes but by doing so, he somehow just made more mistakes. She saw a man who was looking at her the same way he had all those years ago. He looked at her as though she was his air, as though for seven years he had been holding his breath and its just now that he’s finally able to breathe again. She knew what that was like, having felt out of breath for seven years. When he finally finished speaking, she continued staring into his eyes, checking for the smallest hint of deceit. She found none, though she wasn’t surprised. She knew him. She knew this infuriating man better than anyone else in the world.
There was a heartbreakingly long pause as Keith waited for her response.
Still looking into his eyes, Sophie finally spoke taking a half a step closer to him. “Sometimes it’s so hard to do what you want to do” she said, repeating her words from seven years ago and then paused. “And I’ve been wanting to do this for seven years.”
Closing the distance between them, Sophie placed a shaking hand on his soaked chest and leaned up towards him slowly.
Keith was elated, and not sure if he could believe what was happening, he remained still as she slowly leaned in to him, closed her eyes and pressed her lips against his.
It was the softest of kisses, but it carried the heaviest weight. All the mistrust, heartbreak, longing and anger was washed away along with the rain.
Sophie broke the kiss and started to pull away, but Keith didn’t let her get very far. Finally convinced that he wasn’t dreaming, he reached up and cradled her face in his hands and looked down at her lovingly.
“I think I have loved you my whole life” he said.
“I love you too” she replied, and after hearing the words he thought he would only ever hear in his dreams he couldn’t hold back anymore, moving one hand to her waist and pulling her into a passionate kiss. Wet lips fit together like they were two pieces of the same puzzle. Neither of them could think coherently, all they knew was that this is exactly where they belonged.
Sophie moved one of her hands to stroke through his wet hair, as the other grabbed him by the buttons of his shirt to pull him even closer. They had never kissed like this before. Seven years ago, they had only shared a few chaste kisses, instead focusing on their mental and emotional connection. This was an entirely different kiss altogether. This was a kiss to make up for seven years apart. It was a kiss to release years of passion and love that never had an outlet.
Keith loved the feeling of her in his arms. He loved the feeling of her lips under his, and every inch of her body pressed against his own.
They kissed as though they were making up for lost time, oblivious to the world moving around them. Eventually, they had to come up for air, but neither made it very far. Resting their foreheads against one another’s, they finally became aware of where they were almost simultaneously.
Keith stepped back a couple inches and turned his head up towards the rain smiling. Tilting his head back to her, his smile was infectious and she beamed back at him.
“Come on, let’s get out of this rain” he said with a grin and a lightness she hadn’t seen since being reunited with him. Waiting for her to nod her agreement, he grabbed her hand, not missing the fact that it fit in his perfectly, and then started to run.
Trailing a step behind him, Sophie laughed in a way she hadn’t for a long time, and happily chased after him in the rain. As they ran, both of them were reminded of their escape from a swim meet that happened long ago.
Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
Fortunately, Keith’s place was only a few blocks away from Emily’s, and in the blink of an eye they were ruining the floor of the elevator as they stood, dripping wet staring into each other’s eyes. Grins plastered to their faces, Keith kept his hand in hers and reached the other up to fondly stroke her cheek.
As the elevator opened on his floor, they ran, laughing to his doorstep and into his apartment. As soon as the door closed behind them, Keith pressed Sophie up against it and molded their lips together once again. After another passionate round of kissing, Keith pulled away with a question displayed in his eyes.
Sophie answered with a tiny nod, her heart skipping at the love for her that was prominent in his eyes.
This time, they didn’t hide behind separate doors as they undressed. Keith pealed the wet blouse from her upper body and proceeded to try to kiss every inch of her exposed skin. Starting with the pulse point on her neck, he moved down to softly drag his lips across each collar bone as his hands roamed her back. Skipping her breasts, he moved his lips down the middle of her body, holding her in place with his hands on her hips as he kissed her naval.
Keith was sure he had died and gone to heaven at the feel of her skin under his lips and fingertips. He wanted to memorize every inch of her skin, every mole and every scar.
Sophie, overwhelmed by the sensation of his lips on her skin, buried her hands in his hair and let out soft sighs when he hit particularly sensitive spots. When he lingered too long at her stomach, Sophie realized she was desperate to feel his skin against hers. Pulling him up so that his lips softly captured hers again, her hands moved to unbutton his shirt.
She broke the kiss to look at him as she slowly pushed his equally soaked shirt to join hers on the floor. Running her hands through the slight scattering of hair across his chest she looked up into his eyes, seeing that his desire for her mirrored her own for him.
As she stroked his chest, over to his shoulders and down his arms, she stood on her tiptoes and brought her lips within an inch of his, teasing him before she dragged them down to kiss along his jaw. When her hands followed the trail of dark hair downwards from his belly button, he let out an involuntary groan. This made her smirk and gave her enough confidence to continue her path downwards and unbutton his pants.
Grabbing her hands to stop their task, he brought them up to his mouth and kissed her palms, locking their eyes once again. Keeping his grip on her hands, he gently navigated them through his apartment and into his bedroom, never once taking his eyes from hers.
Sophie started to get nervous, as reality hit her. She was standing in the bedroom of the man that broke her heart, had haunted her for years, and the one she was madly in love with.
Picking up on her nerves he used his grip on her hands to pull her into an embrace. She rested her cheek on his chest as he moved one of his hands to stroke the back of her head.
“We don’t have to do anything else” he said, meaning every word. He could do nothing but look at her or speak to her for the rest of his life and it would be a life well-spent.
She moved her head back to look up at him as her cradled her face in his hands.
“No, I want this” she said. “I’ve wanted this for as long as I can remember.”
Looking into her eyes, he slowly captured her lips, trying to convey the depth of his feelings for her in that single kiss.
They stripped the rest of their clothes off of one another and Keith slowly backed Sophie up until the backs of her knees hit the end of his bed. Breaking their lips apart momentarily, Sophie fell back onto the bed and Keith quickly followed her. His hands started to trace patterns on her inner thighs, causing her desire for him to flare.
As his hand started to move upward towards the apex of her thighs, it paused momentarily and his eyes silently asked her for permission.
“Please Keith” she said, desperate for him to touch her.
“As my lady commands” he said, his fingers finally reaching their destination. His fingers stroked her as though she was an instrument he had already mastered, building her up to a spectacular crescendo. She moaned his name as she came, and he looked down on her, watching her unravel.
Still desperate to feel him she quickly recovered and reached down to stroke him. He let out a desperate groan that might’ve resembled her name as she continued to slowly brush her fingers across him.
“Sophieee…. please” he groaned.
Wanting to please him and not wanting to wait much longer before he was inside of her, she pushed him onto his back and gave him a quick peck on the lips before starting her trail downwards. She kissed all the way down his chest and stomach, making special note of a particularly sensitive area on his lower belly and eventually reached her destination.
Still stroking him in one hand, she took the tip of his cock into her mouth and swirled her tongue along the tip. The noises he made gave her a significant amount of satisfaction, and she looked up at him, locking their eyes together as she continued to lick and suck along his length.
After a short period of time, he pulled her lips away from his cock and enthusiastically captured her lips with his own, flipping her back onto her back before positioning himself between her legs.
Looking down at her as the sound of rain hitting windows filled their ears, he finally pushed inside of her. Their eyes never left each other’s as they moved as one, chasing after the same high. With nearly every inch of their bodies touching, he thrusted into her one last time as they came together, each whispering the other’s name as they reached their peak.
Keeping her in his arms, he pulled out of her and she rested her head on his chest as he pulled the covers up to cover them.
“It’s never been like that for me” Sophie admitted, raising her head slightly to look at him.
“Me neither” he said, stroking a stray strand of hair from her face.
They communicated their feelings to one another in their usual way, silently through love-filled eyes.
Sophie had never felt as content as she did while laying in his arms. Her last thought before she fell sleep was how happy her inner eighteen-year-old self must be to end up here after seven years of secret pining.
Keith couldn’t even form a coherent thought before the exhaustion of trying to stay away from her finally caught up to him and he drifted off into the best sleep he had had in years.
Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven
Sophie awoke to the feeling of warmth enveloping her and soft fingertips stroking the back of her shoulder. Basking in the peace of the moment, surrounded by Keith’s arms with one of her legs draped across his, she didn’t dare move even a finger for a few minutes after waking. Eventually wrapping her arm to pull him even closer to her she raised her head to look down at him.
“Good morning” he said immediately, giving her his characteristic toothy grin, the one that played a part in getting her into this position in the first place.
All the doubts that could’ve crossed Sophie’s mind about what last night meant for them, where they go from here, the logistics of even trying to be together, and the possible reactions from their loved ones (mainly Lauren) vanished when she looked into his eyes. She could see the love, admiration and respect he held for her as plainly as the scruff on his face.
“Good morning” she replied after a second, trying to hide some of the intense emotions that were flooding her but not succeeding because this was Keith. He saw right through her.
Lovingly stroking a strand of hair from her face and then leaving his hand cradling her cheek, they continued to stare at one another, both enjoying the morning glow around them.
“How did I get so lucky” Keith said, breaking the peaceful silence around them. Dropping his hand from her face he grabbed her waist and flipped her onto her back with him resting on his arms above her. “I am so intensely happy to be here with you right now” he said keeping his eyes locked on hers.
‘I couldn’t agree more’ Sophie thought to herself as she grabbed his shoulders and leaned up to kiss him. As their lips met for the first time since the previous night, it was though they’d been apart for seven years all over again. Slowly their lips and tongues stroked against each other’s for a moment before reluctantly breaking apart.
“I think I should probably shower” Sophie said, her hands softly stroking his sides.
Rolling off of her onto his side, he rested his head on his hand and continued to watch her, trying to hide his disappointment at her leaving the bed. Easily brushing those feelings aside, he thought about the possibility of spending every morning with her in his bed, waking up in her arms .
Giving him a quick peck on the lips, Sophie got out of bed and started to walk towards the bathroom.
Keith turned onto his back, bending his elbows behind his head and grinned cockily, admiring her body as her hips swayed towards the bathroom.
Turning to look over her shoulder she glanced back at him, mischief in her eyes. “Aren’t you going to join me?” she asked flirtatiously, turning back around and adding extra sway to her hips as she disappeared into the bathroom.
Eagerly jumping up out of bed, Keith raced to the bathroom, excited to repeat the previous night’s activities.
Once they were both thoroughly satisfied and cleansed, Keith gave Sophie one of his old t-shirts to borrow then he pulled on some underwear and retreated to the kitchen to put on the kettle and fry up some eggs for the two of them.
When she got to the doorway of the kitchen, Sophie couldn’t help but admire Keith’s backside as he stood making them breakfast in nothing but boxers. ‘Seven years and yet he doesn’t look a day older’ she thought to herself, not noticing the smirk that appeared on her lips.
Feeling her eyes on him, Keith looked over his shoulder and was once again taken aback by the sheer beauty she radiated. ‘God she looks amazing in my shirt’ he thought to himself. Some not so small part of him was very pleased at the thought that her wearing his shirt was like her displaying his claim on her.
“Hi” he said, turning away from the sizzling pan for a short moment to look at her thoroughly, still not believing he was allowed to freely look at her this way.
Sophie’s thoughts travelled along the same path somewhat as she realized she could take advantage of her ability to freely touch him the way she had thought about for what felt like her entire life. As he turned back to tend to their breakfast, she wrapped her arms around him from behind, resting her head between his bare shoulder blades.
“Can I help with anything?” she asked after eventually releasing him from her grip and resting her hip against the kitchen counter.
“Yes actually, can you grab us a couple plates from that cabinet there” he responded.
As Sophie grabbed the plates and set them on the table Keith finished cooking their eggs and then scooped them onto recently-set plates. Sophie sat down, keeping her eyes on him as he placed the frying pan in the sink, grabbed their tea and then joined her at the table. ‘I could really get used to mornings like these’ she thought to herself before calmly silencing that line of thought, realizing they still needed to talk about some important things before getting to the whole happily-ever-after part.
They ate in silence for a minute or so, stealing glances at and softly stroking their fingertips against one another’s.
“So, what does this mean?” Sophie asked once they had finished their eggs, quickly taking a sip of her tea to give him time to respond.
“Sophie this can mean whatever you want it to mean” he said, and could tell she was immediately disappointed.
‘I guess he still doesn’t want to have a relationship with me, and this time he can’t even use the wife excuse’ she thought. ‘I really thought he was ready after all those wonderful words he said to me last night and this morning. It’s obvious he cares about me, but as much as I love him, I don’t think I could be in a relationship that won’t go anywhere’ she continued to think before her thoughts were interrupted by Keith grabbing her hand and continuing.
Keith took her hand as he tried to stop the thoughts he knew were coming to her mind.
“No wait, that’s not what I mean” he backtracked, seeing the glint of hopefulness quickly return to her eyes. Holding her gaze with his own he lovingly stroked her wrist as he continued. “What I mean is I will take whatever you want to give me. I don’t want to pressure you into anything, especially if your thoughts have changed since last night or if you were just caught up in the emotion of it all.”
“It’s not like that at all Keith, I was telling the truth when I said I loved you. I love you more than I thought was possible” she said.
‘I’m never going to get over hearing her say those words’ he thought to himself and couldn’t stop a smile from appearing on his face.
“I love you too, which is why I’m saying this” he replied, reaching his other hand to rest on her shoulder. “I’m all in Sophie. Like I said last night, you’re it for me, you’re the love of my life and I want to spend every minute I have left of it with you. That being said, I know you may never be able to forgive me for my past and I am ready to accept that, which is why I said this can be whatever you want it to.” Taking a quick moment to stroke her cheek he eventually continued, “If all you want is to be friends, I will be there. If all you need is a booty call once in a while, I will be there. If you just want to date, count me in.” He took another moment to collect himself before he got out his next words as Sophie patiently waited for him to continue. “If what you want is the love of a lifetime, the late-night chats, the connection, the love-making, maybe eventually even the marriage…. the babies…. I’m in.”
Sophie’s heart immediately sped up as he finished his explanation. ‘He wants a life with me’ she thought to herself. ‘This is all I’ve wanted for years, he’s the man I’ve wanted for years.’
“Yes” was all she said in response.
Keith felt pure joy at her answer, he was fully prepared to accept that he may only get one night of his dreams before it all came crashing down again. “Yes to which part again?” he asked, still holding one of her hands in his.
“Yes to all of it” she said, bringing her knuckles up to stroke his beard, her smile so wide it could’ve fallen off her face.
Not able to hold it in he stood up violently, knocking his chair to the floor, took the two steps towards her and pulled her into his arms.
“God Sophie I never knew it could be like this” he whispered, still holding her in a deep hug. “Where have you been all my life” he asked rhetorically.
“I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you” Sophie whispered back, feeling just as much joy as Keith was at the prospect of their future.
Staying in each other’s arms, they pulled back slightly to gaze into the other’s eyes, both seeing their glee reflected back at them. They rested their foreheads on the other’s and stayed that way for a long time, enjoying the idea that for the first time they could finally hold one another without any guilt or doubt and knowing there was zero possibility that it would be their last time.
Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve
After their intense conversation over breakfast the happy couple moved to the living room, both Keith and Sophie refusing to let go of their clasped hands. Noticing a guitar on a stand in the corner, Sophie was immediately inspired.
“Will you play something for me?” she asked turning towards him and releasing his hand only to lay it on his chest. “I feel like I missed out on all those Unconscious Brothers performances. It’s a real shame too because I’ve always been attracted to the bad-boy rock-star types” she joked, causing him to let out a laugh.
“Well, I could give you a taste of rock and roll but I don’t know if you’d be able to handle it” he said with a smirk. “Though if I did, it might make you fall so in love with me that you could never leave” he finished jokingly.
“I’m not on the run anymore” Sophie replied, sensing a slight shift from their previous playful mood. “I have the sense that the only direction I know how to run these days is straight back to you anyways.”
Looking into her eyes, Keith could blatantly see her honesty, and despite knowing she had no plans to leave him in the foreseeable future, he still found his breath was taken away at her words and her gaze. He leaned down to give her a short but very sweet kiss, then pulled away from her grasp to walk towards the guitar.
“There is something I’ve always dreamed of playing for you, but never thought I would ever get the opportunity” he said while he removed the guitar from its stand. Sitting down across the room from Sophie’s position on the loveseat he glanced at her only to see her smiling fondly at him with her knees up against her chest. “I wouldn’t really consider it a rock song, more of a ballad I guess, but hopefully it’s okay” he said.
“Well, I really had my heart set, but I guess it’ll have to do” Sophie said sarcastically, still beaming at him.
He started to play, fingers picking at the strings creating a beautiful acoustic melody. After a few bars, Keith started to sing.
At the sound of his voice Sophie felt her heart start to flutter, and she felt like her teenage self all over again. ‘He’s really quite amazing isn’t he’ she thought, her eyes never leaving his form. His eyes were closed and Sophie could tell he was entirely submerged in the music. His vocals spoke lyrics of such longing and pain, yet the music held tones of immense love and hope. ‘Every time I learn something new about him it just seems to make me fall even more in love with him’ Sophie thought. ‘He truly must be the person I was always meant to be with.’
As he continued, Sophie was lured into the music and felt all her thoughts disappear as she stared at the man she loved.
As the song came to a close, Keith finally opened his eyes and chanced a look towards Sophie, a little bit (…okay a lot) insecure that she wouldn’t enjoy it, especially considering she was the most talented musician he had ever met. All it took was one glance at her eyes for all of his fears to dissolve. Her admiration and joy were displayed in every contour of her face as she watched him from across the room.
“Keith, that was incredible” she said, trying to find words to describe what his playing meant to her. Failing to come up with anything worthy of describing her amazement, she realized Keith could probably read it all over her face and eyes anyways; it was their secret method of communication.
“I’m really happy I got to play it for you” he said softly, almost bewildered at her unspoken reaction to his song. “I’ve never played that for anyone, I’m glad you’re the only one to hear it” he finished with a sheepish grin.
“Wait, did you write that?” Sophie asked in awe, leaning forward in her seat.
Keith shyly broke their gaze, looking down. “Yeah, I mean… I wrote it for you Sophie” he said tentatively. “I couldn’t get you off my mind for seven years, and I guess this was one way I tried to cope with losing you” he said, finally looking up to find her gaze again feeling extremely vulnerable.
Sophie slowly stood up, walked across the room, and after seeing his nod of approval she carefully grabbed his guitar out of his hands and returned it to its stand before turning back to Keith. He had stood up after she had taken his guitar, and was watching her from the top of his brow, somewhat nervously clenching his fists. Sophie calmly walked over to him and grabbed one of his clenched fists with both of her hands, unrolling his fingers softly and bringing them to her lips. Kissing the pads of each finger then dropping his hand to cup his face, she gently tilted his head down to meet her eyes. She reached up on her tip toes to warmly kiss his forehead, right between his eyebrows while her hands stroked his beard adoringly.
“Thank you for playing for me” she said, holding his gaze with tender conviction and adoration.
Pulling her closer, Keith buried his head in her hair and felt overwhelmed by his feelings. Feeling absolutely content in each other’s arms, they soon moved to the couch and fell into a peaceful nap.
They spent the rest of the day performing together and for one another (most of the songs with more lighthearted tones than the previous), reading, talking and just generally enjoying finally being in each other’s presence again after so many years apart.
They cooked dinner together working completely in sync, each anticipating the other’s actions as they moved around the kitchen while they also stole quick interludes to share a grin or a kiss.
After dinner, they stayed at the table and chatted over tea.
“Do you mind if I ask you about Megan?” Sophie finally asked, after their laughter had subsided due to Keith’s previous joke (she really wasn’t kidding seven years ago about the comedian thing, he could be quite funny).
Sobering up quickly, Keith replied “I don’t mind at all.” He was expecting this discussion sooner or later, and wasn’t shocked that she brought it up.
“How long were you with her after…you know…” she said, relieved he wasn’t upset with her bringing Megan up.
“Less than a year” he said, still somewhat guiltily. “In my heart I knew it was a lost cause, but I had to try for Lauren. I just…, I mean…, I don’t think she ever would’ve talked to me again and I – “
“– Its okay Keith” Sophie interrupted when he struggled to get his words out, and took his hand from across the table. “You did the right thing, and I am so thankful that you and Lauren still have a great relationship despite all the problems I caused” Sophie continued, giving him a small uplifting smile.
Keith was amazed once again at Sophie’s wise and intuitive view of the world. She always had a way of seeing the truth in people and had an unbelievable knack for seeing the big picture in tough situations. “You didn’t cause any problems Sophie, they were always there waiting to happen” he said quickly denying her claims.
“Speaking of Lauren…” Sophie continued giving him a quick look and a small smile to say she acknowledged his words, “I know we won’t need to worry about this right away, but I figure eventually we’ll have to tell her about us.”
That thought had occurred to Keith, but he’d tried to push it down to deal with at a later time, preferring to savor their little bubble of happiness for as long as possible.
“Yes, you’re right” he said. “I’m sure it won’t be easy for her to accept right away, but I think she’ll come around to understand eventually” he continued reassuringly. “I’m hoping her opinion of me has been salvaged enough over the last few years that she’ll forgive me if I give her time.”
Sophie stroked her fingers across his palm in an attempt to provide some form of comfort to him, knowing the idea of losing Lauren again was extremely painful for him.
“From all the things you’ve told me about her, it seems like she’s grown up to become a fantastic woman” Sophie said. “She loves you and looks up to you so much, and nothing can take that away, but I’d understand if you want to keep this quiet, or if you want to cool down for a while to give you time to –“
“No!” Keith interrupted her quickly. “I won’t lie and say that her opinion of our relationship doesn’t matter, but I want this. I want you, and she will just have to accept that, and we can work through it together. It won’t be easy, but we’ll find a way. You both mean so much to me I couldn’t live without either of you in my life” he finished, placing a hand under Sophie’s chin and leaning in for a soft kiss. “I’m supposed to head to California for Thanksgiving, and if you want, I mean you don’t have to, but I’d really like it if you came with me?”
“It would be my pleasure” she responded immediately, loving the glee in his eyes at her answer.
“Good…that’s really good” Keith said, trying to calm his excitement. “Well, I guess we can tell her about us at Thanksgiving then.”
Giving him a reassuring smile in response, she returned to her cup of tea and switched to a more lighthearted topic, one that had them both laughing again within two minutes.
Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen
They spent the rest of the weekend basking in each other’s company, getting reacquainted with one another. For some reason it didn’t shock Sophie that even only 3 days into their relationship, she was already more comfortable and open with Keith than all of her of her other long-term relationships combined. Touching him felt like coming home.
Keith just revelled in the fact that he was loved by someone who saw him so completely and loved him for his every skill and fault. Sophie had faith in him, and as someone who had always struggled with his insecurities, it was wonderful to finally be uplifted by someone’s unquestionable belief in him. Just being near Sophie gave him undeniable courage in himself and a sense of true belonging.
Once Monday arrived, the couple finally had to face the world outside of Keith’s cozy apartment. They were both due at rehearsal, and had discussed the night prior about whether or not they would be open about their relationship with the rest of the orchestra. Mutually deciding on not hiding their relationship, but also not shouting it from the box seats, they arrived at the concert hall hand in hand.
They each had to answer a few questions from some of their curious orchestral-mates, but managed to satisfy them with explanations of how they’ve recently gone on a few dates and are just going to see where it goes, though Sophie could tell that Emily suspected that her feelings for Keith ran much deeper than casual dating. Each of them were also on the receiving end of dirty glares and a massive silent treatment from Jean, but neither of them could care less. Sophie figured his ego was just bruised and he’d get over it eventually.
The next couple days went by in the same manner as the entire symphony prepared for their performance on Saturday. After rehearsal each night, Sophie returned home with Keith to his apartment, only returning to her hotel room once to grab all of her things.
On Thursday night after their rehearsal, Sophie insisted on having a period romance movie marathon with Keith, ensuring him that he would actually enjoy them; some of the love stories actually mirroring their own. They picked up a pizza on their way back to his apartment and settled in for their first movie: Pride and Prejudice.
Just as the sun was rising around Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and the end credits started rolling, Keith’s phone rang.
“Sorry Sophie, it’s Lauren, I should probably take this” Keith said after a quick glance down at his phone.
“Of course, I’ll go make us some tea and give you some privacy” Sophie said giving him a quick peck on the cheek before retreating to the kitchen.
Keith took a moment to watch her go, thinking again of how grateful he was to have her in his life, then turned his attention to his phone.
“Hi Lauren” he said as he answered it.
“Hi Dad” Lauren spoke from the other end. “I’m just calling to check in and see how everything’s going with you in New York?”
“Everything is really really great here, how are things on the West Coast?” he asked.
Lauren told him all about her students, as well as her boyfriend Mark who she’d been seeing for about a year. Keith met him when he visited during the summer and liked him. Mark was a teacher at the same high school Lauren worked at and he treated Lauren very respectfully which is a check in Keith’s book.
“Enough about me” Lauren eventually said. “What’s new back home?”
“Umm actually, I’ve started seeing someone” he replied, attempting to do some groundwork so he didn’t absolutely blind-side her at Thanksgiving.
“Oh my god Dad that’s awesome!” Lauren responded immediately. “Wow this girl must be really something to get you to date again.”
“Something is an understatement” he said slightly lowering his voice. “She’s absolutely amazing, she’s caring, wise, beautiful and just brilliant in general.”
“Daaaad” Lauren continued, “I’m so happy for you, this is a really great step. You know I thought you had kind of sworn off dating after you shut down every attempt I made to set you up with someone or put you onto a dating site.”
“Yeah, I thought I had too, but then she came along and I didn’t have any choice but fall for her” he said.
There was a moment of silence before Lauren responded. “Wow you’re totally in love with her” she said.
“I am” he said simply. “Besides you, she is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“That’s so great dad, I truly am happy for you, especially since Mom’s moved on now, so it’s about time you did too” she said. “I can’t wait to meet this lady, how did you two meet?”
Nervously chuckling for a second, Keith eventually answered. “We met when she came to play with the symphony, she’s an extremely talented musician and we just clicked” he said, figuring it wasn’t necessarily a lie, he was just leaving out a few truths.
“She sounds perfect for you Dad” she said.
“Thanks Lauren, I’m really glad that you approve, keep that in mind when you meet her” Keith said, nerves rushing through him.
“What does she have two heads or something?” Lauren joked as the sound of laughter came through the phone.
“Something like that” he answered, nervously laughing. “I’m thinking of bringing her to come visit you for Thanksgiving if that’s okay with you?” he asked.
“Of course!” she said enthusiastically. “I can’t wait. Alright I have to go Dad, but I’ll see you soon okay.”
“Okay, thanks for calling honey” he said.
“Anytime” she said, “oh and congrats Dad, I don’t know if I already said it but I’m really glad you’re happy.”
“Thanks honey, take care and be safe” he said, his heart warmed by his daughter’s kind words, even if they were said before she knew the whole truth.
“Love you dad, bye” Lauren said before Keith heard before the call ended.
Keith took a moment to reflect on his conversation with his daughter before getting up to go join Sophie in the kitchen. When he entered, she was leaning up against his counter with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other. He took a moment to appreciate how much he enjoyed having her here and how absolutely adorable she looked before Sophie noticed that he had joined her.
“Hi” she said beaming at him before she placed her book down, and handed him his cup of tea. “How was Lauren?”
“Lauren seemed really happy” he said, “even happier once I told her about you.” He saw Sophie’s jaw drop. “Well, not who you were exactly, but I told her I was seeing someone who I had fallen madly in love with” he clarified.
Sophie’s nerves receded with his words, and then her heart sped up at his casual profession of love. “And she took it well then, I’m assuming” she said, still curious about their conversation.
“Yes, she said repeatedly how excited she was that I had finally found someone” he said. “She even said something about you sounding ‘perfect for me.’”
Their gazes locked as they smiled at one another over their tea. “I’ve always had this idea that no one’s perfect on their own” Sophie said, “but that if you find a person who’s very being complements you in all the right ways, then you can be perfect together” she finished, staring contemplatively just past him, before returning her gaze to him.
“You’re right” is all Keith said as he slowly sauntered closer to her, placing his tea on the kitchen counter. He got closer and closer until they were just a hair’s breadth away, Sophie’s back against the counter. She could feel his breath against her face as he took his time leaning his face in towards her and whispering in her ear “I think we’re perfect too” he said before lightly tracing the shell of her ear with his lips.
Already getting worked up at his teasing Sophie closed her eyes and clutched the shirt at his chest as his lips moved to just barely graze her jaw and neck. “Please… Keith” was all she had to say before he captured her lips in his, lifted her up onto the counter and made them both completely forget about the rest of their movie marathon.
Chapter 14: Chapter Fourteen
Their last rehearsal on Friday was amazing, hinting at the quality of show they were going to put on the next night.
Soon enough it was Saturday and Keith and Sophie spent the entire morning in bed, Sophie having surprised him with breakfast in bed which according to her is one of the solutions to combat pre-show jitters. He came up with a few other distractions he thought would help, and although they took place in bed, they were quite different from the breakfast in bed variety.
Both liking to be early, they took a cab to the Lincoln center with 2 hours to spare before their performance. They each went through their pre-show routines, getting in the right mental space to perform.
About 45 minutes before the show was scheduled to start, one of the assistants approached Keith, letting him know there was someone there to see him. Confused as to who it could be, he was just thinking about how glad he was that he showed up early as he followed the assistant to meet this guest.
As he turned a corner he was greeted by the sight of Lauren and her boyfriend all dressed up for the show.
“Surprise!” Lauren said when she saw him, walking over to give him a hug.
Keith was so happy to see her, it had been two months since he saw her last. “Lauren, hi” he said returning her hug. “Hi Mark” he said once Lauren released him and he had space to shake his hand.
“Hi Keith, it’s good to see you again, what a beautiful venue to perform at” Mark said.
“Thank you, we’re pretty lucky here at the Philharmonic” Keith replied. “What are you guys doing here, you should’ve told me and I could’ve planned something?”
“We wanted to surprise you” Lauren said. “Plus, Mark has never been to the city so it was a great excuse for a romantic getaway” she said wrapping an arm around her boyfriend as their shared a smile. “Speaking of romance, how about this lady friend of yours, is she performing tonight?”
Feeling extreme nervousness start to set in, Keith’s heart was beating out of his chest. ‘I wasn’t ready for this, she’s supposed to have some time to get used to the idea before I break it to her that Sophie’s the woman I’ve fallen for’ he thought. ‘How am I going to deal with this.’
“Umm yeah she is” Keith finally said after a decent pause. “Look Lauren, there’s something I should probably tell you before – “
“Excuse me Keith, we should really get you backstage, Jean wants the orchestra all ready to go in 5” the assistant interrupted.
“Yes of course” Keith said, “just give me a second.”
“It’s okay Dad, you can tell me after” Lauren said, giving him a kiss on the cheek. “Break a leg” she said before grabbing Mark’s hand and walking away.
‘Well that didn’t go well’ he thought. ‘I’ll just have to pray that either she doesn’t recognize Sophie, or that she does and handles it reasonably well. Honestly if she doesn’t slap me and storm away back to California and refuses to talk to me for years, it’ll be a win.’
Pushing those negative thoughts away he focused on the breathing exercises Sophie had shown him all those years ago (he still used them before every major performance). Once they calmed him down somewhat, he quickly made his way back to the stage.
Sophie could tell something had rattled him once he returned from wherever that assistant dragged him off to. She made eye contact with him as he entered the room again and tried to send him love and reassurance. It seemed to take some of the weight off of him and he even managed to give her a smile back.
Once he was seated, he managed to push aside all anxiety, and embrace his excitement at getting to play with Sophie. He looked over at her again and saw her relief at his seemingly better attitude. ‘Lauren will be mad but she’ll forgive me, and then I’ll have my two favorite people by my side for the rest of my life’ he thought optimistically. ‘Plus, I get to perform with the love of my life playing some of the most brilliant music ever in probably what’s going to be the best performance I’ve ever been a part of.’ With that comforting thought, he was ready to start the next part of his life.
Sophie, grateful that Keith seemed to be doing better, also turned her attention back to the performance. She knew she was ready; the whole Symphony was ready and she was excited to see how all their hard work would be received. Usually, she tried to reign in her emotions during performances such as these but if the last week with Keith had shown her anything it was that there are advantages to showing vulnerability. Deciding to take this advice to heart, she had resolved herself to putting the entirety of herself into every piece they played that night. She knew that as long as Keith was there, it would be perfection.
Lauren was excited to get the chance to support her father. He had been trying so hard to be there for her and support her ever since her accident. It was a really long time before she could forgive him for his actions seven years ago. Before the incident she thought the absolute world of her dad and had it all come crashing down in seconds.
She can see now how her parent’s marriage was doomed to fail regardless of whether or not Sophie had ever been a part of their lives. Still, it’s hard to accept that your dad was capable of seducing an eighteen-year-old girl right under her and her mother’s noses. But that’s old news, he made the right choice and she could see the change in him as he dedicated himself completely to their family.
Now, scar tissue had formed on her old wounds, both physical and mental and she had grown up. She had gone to therapy and put the work in to realize that she was constantly looking for the approval of others to justify her sense of self. Now she had the best job in the world, was in a healthy relationship with an amazing man and she couldn’t be happier. Through hard work and time, Lauren has come to love herself, just as she came to forgive her dad.
That’s why she was so determined to surprise him. She bought the tickets a month ago when his performance had come up during one of their phone calls. Being on a Saturday, it was perfect timing to take a couple days off work and spend a few days to not only see her dad, but get a chance to show Mark where she grew up.
Lauren was really happy to see her dad, and was ecstatic when she saw his look of surprise shift into one of excitement to see her. She knew she was probably the most important person in her dad’s life, besides maybe this new girlfriend. She could tell her dad was nervous about something as they talked before the show but chalked it up to pre-show jitters and let him go quickly so that he could get back to his pre-show preparation.
Her and Mark took their seats and soon enough the show was about to start.
As the first notes started to play, she started to get this nagging feeling like she was missing something but for the life of her she couldn’t figure out what it was. The music was wonderful, although it wasn’t really her thing, but she kept being pulled back to this feeling like there was something right in front of her nose but she just couldn’t figure it out. Stumped, she resigned herself to never finding out the source of this feeling just as the first piano notes were played. Even Lauren, who wasn’t the most musically-oriented person could tell there was something engaging about this piano. It wasn’t really like anything she had heard before, and without a command her head turned to find the source of this music.
That’s when she saw her. Sophie. The person whose arrival into her life had caused a colossal amount of shit to happen to her. Yes, she realized now with age that it wasn’t all Sophie’s fault; Aaron was a supreme dick, and her parents were seconds away from divorce anyways, but it didn’t mean she had to like her. No small amount of feelings came rushing back to Lauren as she listened to Sophie play. It wasn’t even just the sight of Sophie that was causing this, her music seemed to be drawing all these feelings she had hidden deep within her up to the surface. She didn’t notice a tear had streamed down her face until Mark had gently wiped it away and then squeezed her hand in comfort. His eyes asked her silently if she was okay and not ready to explain it to him she forced a nod and a small smile.
‘That’s right’ she thought. ‘Forget Sophie, I’m not eighteen anymore, I’ve grown and I have a great life and an amazing partner to spend it with’ she thought as she turned to look lovingly at Mark. ‘Speaking of partners’ she thought, ‘I still have to figure out who my Dad’s been – “ and then it hit her. ‘It’s Sophie. He’s back with Sophie, a woman half his age, and one who helped him get in a lot of shit years ago’ she thought. She couldn’t stay there anymore, she needed to breathe.
“I just need to go to the bathroom; I’ll be right back” she whispered to Mark before quickly fleeing the concert hall.
‘Sophie. Sophie. Sophie and my Dad. Sophie’ was all that was running through her head. ‘What is he thinking being with her again, wasn’t the one massive life fuck-up she caused enough’ she thought, and then their conversation on the phone came back to her. ‘Wait…he’s is in love with her, and not in a childish, midlife crisis way, a passionate, she’s the only one for me for all eternity kind of way’ she thought. It occurred to her how happy she was just 10 minutes ago that her dad had finally found someone. ‘But did it have to be SOPHIE’ she thought again.
Trying to calm herself down, she thought about how her and Mark had fallen in love. They saw each other at work everyday for about a year before he even asked her out and despite being resigned to never date a co-worker, she had already been in love with him before their first date. ‘I guess you can’t exactly control who you fall in love with’ she thought.
‘Alright fine, I won’t freak out on Dad because he’s just a man helplessly in love, but it doesn’t mean I have to like or forgive Sophie’ she told herself, satisfied with her resolve.
Lauren walked back to her seat, giving Mark a kiss on the cheek and decided to think about all the ways she could yell at Sophie later. Lauren won’t hold back in protecting her dad from the catastrophe that is Sophie.
Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen
Sophie felt amazing throughout the entire performance. It was fortunate that Keith was located just across the stage from her piano, so in between pieces and even throughout some of their parts together, they could hold each other’s gaze. All she could think about was how grateful she was that they found their way back to each other, and how excited she was for their future.
Keith’s feelings mirrored Sophie’s. He felt so profoundly lucky as he looked at her from across the stage as they played in perfect harmony. It occurred to him that this was the epitome of their relationship. Two instruments, completely different in shape and function, but tuned to the same key, playing different notes that somehow magically fit perfectly together. It’s exactly how he felt about being around her.
It was a brilliant performance. No member of the symphony had ever heard such fierce applause. It seemed to last forever, even after they left the stage and started to congratulate one another. He kept one eye on Sophie, stealing not-so-secret smiles with her in between all of the musicians wishing to express how amazing she was tonight. And she was truly amazing.
He chatted with a few of his colleagues, David and Stephanie once again roping him into a conversation about Sophie, causing him to lose sight of her.
“I thought I was performing well the whole time” said David “and then I heard Sophie and realized I could never reach that level.”
“She was really impressive” said Stephanie, eyeing Keith’s reaction. “You two are seeing one another aren’t you?” she asked.
“Yes, we are” he said, distracted as he glanced around trying to find Sophie but not spotting her anywhere.
“Well, you should try to convince her to stick around” said Stephanie, “we could use a pianist like her on a permanent basis.”
“Yes, you’re right” he said distractedly, still looking around to spot Sophie, but his eyes ended up landing on Lauren instead, who had somehow found her way backstage. “Um excuse me, my daughter’s here. Great job tonight both of you, it was the performance of a lifetime” he said to his colleagues, trying to calm down his terror at having to face Lauren.
‘She’s never going to talk to me again’ he thought. ‘I’m about to be yelled at in front of the entire orchestra and I probably deserve it.’
Walking towards her, he could tell she’d gone through some turmoil since the last time he’d seen her.
“Lauren, I tried to tell you, I’m so sorry” he said as he got close to her.
She took a moment to try to read him, determining that he was telling the truth and showing her how concerned he was about how she was going to react.
“Why her Dad” she said, “out of anyone in the world you could’ve chosen to sleep with, why’d you pick her?”
“It’s always been her” was all he said desperately. “She wasn’t just a fling seven years ago, she wasn’t just a distraction or a way to escape. She was it. She was the one” he said. “I should’ve waited, I never should’ve put you or Sophie or your mom in that position. I fucked up royally and I’ve been trying to make up for it ever since, but to me Sophie was never the mistake.”
Lauren thought about what he said and realized she already knew everything he had said. “I know Dad, I still love you but I’ve just got to say this is a pretty fucked up situation” she said.
“You’re right” he said. “I tried to let her go, I really did, but it was impossible. I never thought she would even look at me again after everything happened, so I’d dedicated my full self to being your dad, maybe even one day a grandad and I was really happy with that future. And then one day she showed up here, playing with the orchestra and we couldn’t help it. She’s the love of my life Lauren. I understand it may take you time to understand and accept that, and that is completely fine. I want you to take all the time you need, but I hope that one day eventually, you can forgive me.”
“I already forgive you Dad” she said without hesitation. “I don’t have to like it but I do forgive you, it was Sophie I have an issue with. But I guess after what I just saw, I think I might need to cut her a tiny bit of slack.”
Sophie was surrounded by her fellow musicians, each of them trying to congratulate her on a successful performance, or gushing about her skills, or some of them even trying to convince her to permanently join the Philharmonic. She looked around, noticing Keith was stuck in conversation with a few other musicians so she decided before she went to see him, she’d go find Jean. She wanted to offer him congratulations on a successful performance because their personal issues aside, he did a good job, so she figured she’d get it over with before finding Keith to celebrate.
She escaped her crowd with gracious thanks and made her way over to Jean who was talking with some manager-looking fellow hiding in the corner near the entrance. As she approached, she could hear them talking softly.
“He just isn’t a great member of the orchestra” Jean was saying “he has little skill, practically no drive or hard-working bone in his body, doesn’t seem to enjoy playing and he’s late for almost everything, so I just don’t think Keith’s the best fit here.”
Once she realized who they were talking about Sophie felt anger overcome her. Everything he was saying was a lie. Keith was a phenomenal celloist, he loved what he did and worked hard at it, and of course he was never late for a single rehearsal! She was somewhat biased, she admitted to herself, but she took music very seriously and would never lie about someone’s abilities, even for the man she loved. Furious at Jean’s petty way of getting back at Keith for what she assumed was ‘winning her’ over Jean himself, she took the last few steps towards the pair.
“Hi Jean, congratulations on a successful performance” she started with fake sweetness.
“Thanks Sophie, I guess I’ve just got what it takes to lead, what can I say” Jean replied, looking all too full of himself.
“Well you know usually leaders tend to have their subordinate’s backs” she said. “You know normally a leader would realize that without the people following him, he’d just look like an idiot with a stick” she continued. “Great leaders would even realize that throwing one of their most talented musicians under the bus to satisfy a personal agenda is selfish, childish, and likely means you’re compensating for something below the belt.” Giving him a little pause to process her words, she watched his face grow increasingly red, then continued. “The orchestra did a phenomenal job tonight and it was thanks to leaders like Keith and Emily and Stephen and Jessica, who are all amazing musicians. It’s tiny weasels like you that I would say ‘aren’t a great fit’ in more ways than one I’m sure. Oh yeah and before I forget, your little Harry Potter wand is not a musical instrument so its probably better to leave the judging of musicians like Keith to actual musicians.”
‘God I might’ve got a little carried away’ Sophie thought to herself as she stormed away from a fuming, red-faced Jean and his speechless accomplice. Deciding it was probably good for her to cool off before she found Keith, she took an outdoor exit to get some fresh air, unaware of Lauren standing in a nearby doorway, having heard the entire exchange.
Chapter 16: Chapter Sixteen
Seeing Sophie defend her Dad like that gave her serious points in Lauren’s book. It wasn’t just because Lauren had a soft spot for tough women sticking up to chauvinistic men, it was because clear as day, Lauren could see how much Sophie cared about her dad. She knew it wasn’t really in Sophie’s nature to start a confrontation, so seeing her willingly put herself out there like that proved the depth of her feelings. She still didn’t have to like her, but it did make Lauren forget many of the horrible things she had been rehearsing to say to her throughout the entire performance.
Once Sophie had fled the room, Lauren headed over towards her dad, and after their conversation she explained the exchange she had witnessed between Jean and Sophie. She could tell her dad was astonished at Sophie’s words to Jean, but could see that under the surprise he was pleased at her defense of him. After she was done explaining, she figured she could do some explaining for herself.
“I’m sorry I haven’t already said so, but it was really a great performance Dad. I’m glad you’re finally doing what you’ve always been meant to do” she said sincerely.
Keith was once again overwhelmed with her words. First, she quickly offers to forgive him for being in love with Sophie and now this. “Thank you Lauren, you don’t realize how much that means to me” he said, tears coming to his eyes.
“I love you dad, I always will no matter how royally you fuck up” she said with a laugh.
He joined her and soon the two of them were laughing like idiots.
“Come on, let’s go find Sophie so you can get on her horse and ride off into the sunset” Lauren said.
Together, they exited the building and quickly spotted Sophie sitting against a wall. At the sight of Keith she quickly got up, broadly smiling and looked as though she was about to run and jump into his arms, and then she looked behind him and saw Lauren.
“Lauren” she said in shock, trying to comprehend why Lauren was currently here.
“Sophie” Lauren replied.
Sophie eventually catching up to the situation, started to apologize. “Listen Lauren I am so so sorry about everything that happened when we were kids. I never meant to blow up all of your lives the way I did. There’s no excuse, I am just so sorry” she said, feeling horrible.
“Sophie, look I don’t know if I forgive you for back then, and I have to admit the thought of you and my dad is still fucking weird” Lauren said, “but you seem to make my dad happy, and since I just witnessed your freak-out at Edward greaseball back there I think you might be just as in love with him as he is with you. So with all of that in mind, I will release my hatred for you and settle for contempt instead, with maybe a hint of respect” Lauren said. “So I guess I approve of whatever this is” she said gesturing between the two of them, “but just keep all the touchy stuff to yourself at thanksgiving, okay? Good. Now I’m going to go find Mark and we’re going to enjoy the rest of our weekend.”
Sophie and Keith just stood there stunned at Lauren spoke, trying to process what they think meant that she was okay with them being a couple. Maybe Lauren was giving them a chance to move on from everything that had happened in the past.
“Love you dad, it was amazing to hear you play, I’ll see you at Thanksgiving” Lauren said giving him a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Sophie” she said nodding slightly before she turned around and left a dumbfounded couple behind.
After they could no longer see Lauren’s retreating form, Sophie turned to Keith grabbing both of his hands in hers.
“You were brilliant tonight” Sophie said, looking deep into his eyes, showing him all the thoughts and feelings that she couldn’t put into words.
“Thanks for defending my honor” he said, letting go of one of her hand to brush a strand of hair out of her face.
“He’s such a jackass” Sophie said.
“I am so deeply in love with you” Keith said after a long period of silence between them. “Each day I don’t think it’s possible to love you more and then I learn that you used to think island was pronounced 'is-land', or that you buried a time capsule when you were nine only to dig it up 2 months later because you forgot what was in there.”
“I feel the same way” Sophie said. “We’re partners. We complement one another and we understand one other. Even when we were apart for seven years I still felt this connection to you no matter where in the world I was.”
They stared intensely at one another enjoying their shared moment, before Keith pulled her into a hug. Sophie stroked the hair at the nape of his neck, noticing it was already longer than when they were first reunited.
“You know the first time I saw you again I kept thinking about your hair” Sophie said. “I was so fixated on the fact that now its cut shorter and I think I missed the feeling of running my hands through your longer hair.
“I can grow it out again” he said as she continued to stroke his hair.
“No, I like it like this length too, and it looks really nice on you. I think I was so fixated on it because it was you that I truly missed and I was worried that you’d changed too and that maybe you’d forgotten about me” Sophie said.
“Quite the opposite actually” he said, absently stroking her hips with his thumbs.
“Do you want to go get a beer and find a live band to watch?” she asked.
“Only if you make that two beers” he replied.
“I think I might be able to make that happen” she said with a wink as she grabbed his hand and led him away from the hall towards the rest of their lives.