Chapter 21 - Please Don’t Leave Me
In spite of all his personal turmoil, John’s show stayed top-notch. The fact that he was drinking very little had a lot to do with that. Also, he was on top of his notes. Not having Lana to rely on, he knew he’d need to keep a very tight focus on everything. He was more than a week ahead of himself, tracking what he would be discussing and updating himself on guests and briefing himself on their background and issues. Right now, he was relying on nobody but himself. That gave him an edginess and tension which came across in the show as excitement. The callers liked the electricity and his wit was sharper because of it. The better it got, the more his confidence was repaired and the easier it was for the staff to work with him. They actually smiled at him now and then and a few offered to help but he wasn’t ready to accept that just yet.
He would have been lonely in the evenings (after all, he had no Lana anymore). but he had Iago and the dog kept him busy. Ms. Smalls talked John into enrolling Iago in a dog training class so John took the dog on Tuesday and Thursday nights and, of course, John had Christopher on Wednesdays.
Still, his being busy didn’t necessarily mean that he didn’t feel empty. There were times he’d stretch out on the couch with Iago tucked up next to him. He would intend to watch television but, instead, glance over at photos of Elizabeth and Christopher and he’d find himself lost in thought about them. He’d wonder what they were doing or he’d plan some adventure for the boy. Sometimes he’d be half asleep and begin dreaming about Elizabeth’s arms, how soft they were, or the shape of her face, or the silkiness of her hair, only to shake himself out of the imagining and make himself get up and go to bed.
It had been almost a month since their evening together and the wonderful walk they had taken with the dog. Elizabeth had opted not to stay on Wednesdays when she dropped Christopher and it hurt John’s heart to see her go out the door each week but he could think of nothing to do other than to offer her dinner or a drink. She seemed interested in neither. This week appeared to be no different.
“Elizabeth.” He helped her remove Christopher’s winter coat.
“Yes, John?” She didn’t look at him.
“You’re welcome to stay. I wanted to show Chris some of the tricks Iago is learning. You might find them cute.” John tried to smile but he could read refusal in her face.
“I have someplace to be.” She stood and folded Chris’ coat over the back of the couch.
“Will you ever stay?”
She turned toward him. ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Why is it never a good idea?” His jaw and fists were tight.
Looking down, she said, “Because it just gets things started.”
“But I WANT to get things started.” He moved toward her. “I want to start things back up with you. Please, Elizabeth. Just give me a chance.” He raised his hands palms up.
“John, do you know how many chances I gave you?” She looked him straight in the eye. “Do you know how much it hurt when you slept with other women, when you came home drunk and barely made it to the couch, when you mocked me and said such hurtful things? I gave you plenty of chances.” She began to turn away but he grabbed her arm.
“Please, Elizabeth. I can’t stand this.”
“You can’t stand being alone, John. It’s not me you want, it’s company.”
“That’s not it.” He turned her towards him. “I can’t stand being without you.”
“Oh, you stood it pretty well when you had those other women.” Her eyes snapped at him.
“I don’t want other women. I was a fool.”
“Hah, you just don’t want to be by yourself,” her voice was poisonous.
“That’s not true.”
“No?” She yanked her arm away from him.
“No. I had another woman but I only want you.”
Her eyes widened. “You had another woman?”
He stepped back. “Well, you said that I only wanted you because I didn’t want to be alone. I just wanted you to know that wasn’t true. I wasn’t alone. But I didn’t want anybody else. I only want you.”
“You had someone else?” She shook her head.
“Elizabeth, that’s not fair. You had someone else too.”
“I just dated a few men. I didn’t have another man.”
“Did you sleep with any of them?” Now, HIS voice was venomous.
“None of your business.”
“So, you did.”
“None of your business, I said.”
“Was it good?” His eyes narrowed and his nails dug into his palms.
“I suppose you didn’t sleep with your… your woman.” Elizabeth’s chin lifted.
“None of your business, Elizabeth.” John crossed his arms over his chest. “Like you said.”
“Fine.” She moved toward the couch to grab Christopher and John dropped his arms to his side.
“I didn’t mean it… none of it.” He moved over to her. “Please, Elizabeth.” He put his hands on her shoulders and stopped her, then he rubbed them gently. “I need you.”
“Yes, you need me.” Her teeth were clenched.
“No… Elizabeth… I… I love you.”
She turned to him and her eyes met his. “Talk to me, John.”
“I…,” he swallowed.
“Talk to me.”
He shook his head and swallowed again then removed his hands from her shoulders.
She reached down for Christopher and said, “It’s alright.” Sighing, she added, “I understand. It’s impossible for you.” She patted John’s arm and headed for the door.
He watched her then said, “Elizabeth,” as she reached for the knob.
“Please don’t go.” His voice choked and he came towards her. “Please don’t leave me.” His words came out in sobs and he buried his face in her chest as he cried. He held her to him. “Please, I love you. I always loved you.” It all came out in a garble of humiliating snivels and gasps but he didn’t care anymore. The only thing he cared about was the feel of her accepting him, holding him, kissing him. and whispering to him that she wouldn’t leave, that she would stay with him. “Elizabeth, I loved you the first moment I ever saw you. No one believed me, but I did.” He kept crying. “The best day in my life was when I found you and the worst was when you left me.” He slid down in front of her until he was kneeling, arms wrapped around her legs.
“It’s alright, John.” She squatted down by him, tears slowly making their way down her cheeks as well. Her gentle voice soothed him, as it always did. “It’s okay.” Her fingers stroked his hair. “I love you. I just couldn’t be hurt by you anymore. But I love you so much.” She lowered herself further until she was sitting and he stayed wrapped around her. They both remained on the floor in each other’s arms. Chris untangled himself from the mess and went back to the couch where he managed to wrestle his coat off then climb up next to Iago.
After a time, John raised his head. “I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed that I cried in front of you.” He wiped his face with the back of his hand. “I’m ashamed of everything I ever did to you.” He sniffed. “I’m ashamed that I wasn’t a good father before and am only learning now.” His eyes welled up again.
Elizabeth simply stroked his hair once more then pushed his head back down onto her shoulder. When the position got too painful to keep, he stood then helped her up. And, as a family, they had dinner. Later, the two of them put Christopher to bed in his room then John poured himself into Elizabeth and she accepted everything he had to give.