Somehow, it’s already two am in the morning. The evening has flown by in a haze of good humoured company, plenty of delicious food from the local catering firm, laughter, dancing and drinking. A lot of drinking . Most of the party attendants that are still hanging around have spread out across the venue, either sitting by the tables or crashing on the sofas by the walls. There’s a mish-mash of bodies, of people, seemingly no longer paying any attention to what crowd they usually fit into, the unlimited access to alcohol possibly having something to do with that. The tunes of 90s dance techno hits are playing from the speakers and some are dancing, swaying to the music or moving in irregular patterns across the floor, forgetful of the late hour, literally dancing the night away.
Sam is standing by the bar where he has been occupying himself for the last hour, downing dram after dram of fine whisky, an irish label he is prone to order if it’s available. He can’t say exactly why he likes it so much. The bottle is elegant and the liquid itself has the colour of amber, almost golden, but it’s obviously the taste that appeals to him; smooth but smoky, rich in taste but most importantly, just fiery enough to block out the burning sensation in his chest that has nothing to do with alcohol.
Earlier, he had been deeply involved in an in detailed discussion with Reese about the latest drafts in the world of rugby. (They both had very strong opinions about the choices their favourite teams had made, luckily they usually saw eye to eye on these matters.) Lauren and Sophie had then gone about mocking him relentlessly on pretty much everything about his personality and his looks - they thought it was intensely funny the way his fans behaved around him, and they never tired of teasing him about it. He doesn’t mind it, they are his friends after all, so he let them have their fun, and in any case it took his mind off things for a bit. It was a relief really, something easy, joking and chatting with friends and coworkers, despite mingling being something he doesn’t particularly enjoy.
What is not easy, what he has avoided all evening and the sole reason he is now half drunk on dry fancy champagne, highball drinks and whisky, is talking to her, looking her in the eye. He’s been watching her across the room throughout the night, had actually stopped breathing the moment she walked through the door; the sight of her, a vision in crimson red, stealing the breath right from his lungs. In that moment, their eyes had met, briefly, but he hadn’t been able to get a read on her, to tell what was going through her mind, the way he was usually able to, the way he had grown so accustomed to doing.
That hurts more than anything; it’s like a sharp stab right through his already sore heart, her reluctance to reveal herself to him, to let him in as she always has.
He really should head home instead of torturing himself this way, he really really should... but it seems as though he is incapable of actually doing it. Going home and saying goodbye to everyone is one thing; that’s like see you later and really is no big deal. It’s completely different with her. Saying goodbye to her, or worse, just leaving without talking to her, would be like a thousand small paper cuts leaving him wounded and aching and would most likely spell the end of everything, and that, he cannot bear. He is unable to wrap his mind around the fact that the person he trusts most in the world no longer will be a part of his life. He is terrified of the consequences; it scares him to death, more so than anything he has ever encountered in his life, and lord knows he has done some terrifying things in his day. But he can't picture existing without her. This last month has given him a taste of what that would entail, what his days and nights would be like, and it has been hell.
Torturous, excruciating hell.
He knows that the darkness will consume him, because without her, there will be no light, no joy, no love. Only pointless existing.
And he… he will be alone.
He has simultaneously anticipated and dreaded this moment for weeks now, ever since that night, and now it seems he’s at ways end.
The point of no return.
Sam knows she is still here. He can hear her from across the room, her laughter cutting through the loud music and judging by the way it’s even more unreserved than normal, she too is quite intoxicated. He feels desperate for the sound of it, drinks it down in mouthfuls, like a man dying of thirst. Knowing he is no longer the reason for her bursting out in giggles, or laughing until she can’t breathe; knowing he isn’t the reason for anything anymore, hurts . But all that really matters, all he wants, is for her to be happy, be it with or without him. He can bear pain himself, is actually a master of it by now, but he can’t bear hers, and he certainly can’t bear being the reason for it.
As long as she’s happy...
His gaze is trained on his now empty glass, his left index finger tapping out a staccato rhythm against the smooth surface as he contemplates his options... One more drink? Leave this place? Turn around and face her despite the anxiety he’s feeling? He swallows hard in a futile effort to suppress the lump of anxiety that is trapped in his throat. It makes it almost impossible for him to breathe, to take in oxygen and prevent himself from blacking out right there on the spot.
He turns to the bartender and orders another drink, thinking it will help him strengthen his nerves, bracing himself for what he's about to do. After taking a breath, as deep as he can, and a few sips of his fresh drink, he turns around. His palms feel damp and his legs shaky, suddenly not feeling strong enough to carry his body. His heart is pounding furiously, as though it’s threatening to beat its way right out of his chest. But he knows he has to talk to her, to say something, even if it is nothing more than a simple goodbye. He's going to hate himself even more than he already does if he just leaves without a word, without a second glance.
Caitríona is positioned in one of the sofas by the opposite wall from where he is standing at the bar. She’s facing him but surrounded by several of the other cast members, Sophie, Lauren, César and a few of the extras and deeply engaged in conversation. They appear to be having a good time, all of them laughing, gesticulating wildly and indulging in drink. The moment he turns around she throws her head back, laughs with her entire body, one hand clutching the fabric of her dress covering her midsection, the other holding onto a glass filled to the brim with clear liquid. Gin and tonic is his guess, her drink of choice after midnight. She had told him once it made her head hurt less in the morning compared to whisky or wine. He had begged to differ, arguing that it was the amount of alcohol that caused the hangovers, not the type of drink. She’d been insistent of course, so that’s what he always bought her, or fixed her, whenever they stayed up late to drink. He always complies with her wishes, not because he felt that he has to, but because he wants to.
Because the truth is he would do anything for her.
Anything, and everything. No questions asked.
Turning her gaze in his direction she looks straight at him. Her smile is frozen in place but she doesn’t look away this time. She holds his gaze steady and once again there isn’t enough oxygen in the room to fill his lungs.
Slow melodic tunes begin to fill the room and he can’t help it, he gravitates to her, as if pulled by invisible strings. From the very beginning, it had been like this. The inexplicable connection he feels with her, as if she is the sun and he is trapped in her orbit, his faith to forever be in her present. At the same time, she stands and slowly walks towards him. The silky fabric of the dress flows around her legs, making it look as if she’s walking on air as she approaches him, somewhat steadily on her high heels. Briefly he lets himself appreciate how they accentuate her long legs and the shape of her arse, feeling a familiar rush of desire run through him, the effect she has on him never really gone.
She’s only stopping when she’s so close she must be able to smell the whisky on his breath.
Without thinking, he reaches out his hand towards her face but hesitates right before skin meets skin, not certain if it’s still his place to do this, to touch her. But encouraged by the fact that she doesn’t flinch or turn her head, he slowly lets his knuckles grace her cheek, tracing her hairline with his fingertips, gently touching her earlobe and jawline. She closes her eyes and he thinks he can see an ever so slight tremble in her chin. It’s subtle, barely noticeable to the point where he wonders if it’s a figment of his imagination. When she looks up at him the expression in her eyes sends a jolt through his body. They are bottomless oceans of the deepest shade of blue and he drowns, helplessly, unable to fight the sudden sensation of weightlessness. Any reservations he might have had earlier vanish, and all that is left is a feeling of coming home. But the familiarity of that feeling confuses him, because she is not his home, not anymore.
At very least he isn’t hers any longer, if he ever was.
He is not quite sure how it happens, or who initiates it, but suddenly she is in his arms, her left arm draped across his shoulders, her other hand tightly in his. Very gently he ghosts his lips over her knuckles before he settles it on his chest right above his heart, covering it with his own. He draws her closely to him, his arm wrapped around her waist. As they begin to sway in time with the music, she rests her head in the crook of his neck and he can’t resist nuzzling his face against her silky smooth hair, breathing her in. Her scent, a mixture of expensive perfume and shampoo and her , intoxicates him, clouding his mind, as it always does without exception.
He shuts his eyes tight and swallows hard, overcome with emotion but willing himself not to give in to the amazing feeling of finally holding her again. Braces himself against the sensation of her slender warm body pressed tightly against his. Forces himself to not care about how perfectly she just fits in his embrace. He will not think about what he has always known, what he has been more sure of than anything in his life, that they are perfect for each other. Meant to be.
Not now. He knows he will relive it all later when he’s alone, counting and recounting and recalling in detail the mistakes he's made, what he was supposed to say and do but didn’t. And worse what he failed to say, what he chose not to do.
He will not be able to stop thinking about it and he will have all the time in the world to fall apart.
Far too much time.
Sam can't remember if he has ever heard this song before, but the lyrics speak to him as if he’s listened to them every day of his life. They are the same words that have been echoing in his head these last weeks, months, years. For as long as he has known her;
“ But I can't make you love me if you don't,
and you can't make your heart feel something it won't
Here in the dark,
in these final hours
I will lay down my heart
and I'll feel the power,
but you won't,
no you won't …”
The meaning of those words sends shivers down his spine and makes his heart pound even harder. He thinks she must feel it, how fast it's beating against the palm of her hand, and he’s sure she knows why.
But all he can do is keep on dancing, slowly guiding them across the floor, trying to prolong this moment, make it last an eternity. The music will come to an end, that’s inevitable, but if this is it, if dancing with her like this, holding her close once again, is all he’s going to get, he will savour every small detail and hold on to her as close as he possibly can.
Not quite registering at first, lost as he is in the moment, but suddenly he becomes aware that she is shivering against his chest, her hand weakly fisting the fabric of his jacket. And then he realizes that she is crying, his collar and neck already damp from her tears.
“Hey,” he whispers. “Are you ok?”
She shakes her head, presses her forehead against his chest, halts their movements.
Taking one raggedy breath after another, sniffling, she says,
“I should go… I’m sorry....”
She makes an attempt to break free from him, but he refuses to let go of her hand.
“No…” he says, “no, don’t.”
Without hesitation, and free from the nerves he had felt earlier, he drags her along with him, right past all of their co-workers and friends, and out into the cool Glasgow night. As soon as they’re outside he shrugs off his suit jacket and drapes it over her shoulders, her fingers brushing against his as she grabs hold of it and pulls it closer around herself. It makes her look even smaller, the jacket covering her slender frame completely.
He gestures to a bench nearby and they sit down side by side but not quite facing one another. It’s dark outside, the sky pitch black, the only light coming from a streetlamp nearby. He watches her face intently until she finally looks at him with those eyes he never has been able to resist. They are big and bright and still blank with tears.
“I moved out.”
Her words hit him like a punch straight to the gut. Whatever he thought they were going to talk about, he hadn’t expected this. He had dreamt and hoped that one day she would say these exact words but he never really thought it would actually happen.
It takes a minute before he grasps the meaning of what she has just told him, and she must notice the confusion on his face because she offers him an explanation without waiting for his response.
“I just couldn’t do it anymore. I mean, I tried to tell myself it was everything I ever wanted, the life we have… the life we had… together. I thought I was happy, I really did. But I guess the truth is that it’s felt wrong for a long time, for so many reasons…” she trails off, fixates on a point just above his left shoulder, as if she can’t bare to look him in the eye.
“So I broke it off, the day before yesterday. I’m staying with a friend for the time being, can’t stand hotel rooms, as I’m sure you know… it’s depressing enough as it is and I just”
“Why didn’t you call me?” he cuts her off, mid sentence. His question forces her to look at him again.
“Because it has nothing to do with you. Not entirely anyway… I just needed some time to figure things out, to be by myself, but then this happened and obviously I couldn’t not go so…”
With a grunt of frustration he gets up from the bench and starts pacing back and forth in front of her.
“I can’t believe you.” His voice is low, controlled, but he can feel the anger roaring beneath the surface, as if there is something wild and fierce caged in his chest waiting to be set free. “Nothing to do with me? Really?”
“Sam, come on, you know it’s not as simple as that.”
“I think it is actually. For me, it’s really simple, I don’t understand”
“No it’s not!” she cuts him off this time, her voice high-pitched and impatient. “We have never promised each other anything, never defined this, whatever the hell this is,” she waves her hand between them, “and I am not leaving one man to run straight into the arms of another.”
“Are you fucking kidding me Cait, how the hell can you say that to me? Do you have any idea how long I've waited for you to tell me this? To finally be able to… to…” he feels as if he is standing at the edge of a cliff, unsure of whether to take the plunge or not. His head is spinning, knowing that the point of no return is approaching without him being able to stop it.
“To what Sam? Please, by all means, explain it to me! This doesn't change anything, not really. We still have obligations, contracts to comply to, we’re not free to do whatever we want…”
“But that’s not the point! I don't give a shit about all those things, I couldn't care less what some stupid contract says, not when it comes to us!”
He stares at her, unblinking, dares her to take a stand.
“Well I do. This job means everything to me, I can’t risk that for a fling with a coworker!” There’s defiance in her voice but also hesitation; he can see it in the way she still avoids direct eye contact. She, the one person he knows who usually isn’t afraid of anything. The one who dives head first into tanks of water when they have to shoot underwater scenes, or lets live snakes slither over her body. She never flinches at anything, not even having to be stark naked in front of dozens of people, all the while he always feels scared to death being that exposed and vulnerable. She had always made him feel braver than he really is; it had always been her that was the courageous one.
Except for this time.
Except for when it came down to real life decisions.
“I don't know what you want me to say…” she continues. “What exactly do you want from me?”
She sounds so depleted that he stops pacing and looks at her with nothing short of desperation in his eyes. Shaking his head, he runs both his hands through his hair.
“What I want from you? How can you not know that?” He can feel the heat behind his eyes, his vision getting blurry, the lump in his throat growing, can even hear the tremble in his own voice, but he doesn’t give a damn about any of that anymore.
All these weeks he’d spent in utter misery he hasn’t cried, has not allowed himself to truly feel . He had the morning after that night though, had wept like a child, clutching the stained sheets in his fists, curled up on his side, sobbing as if the whole world was lost to him. She’d left him minutes before, quite unceremoniously. Without a word she had gotten up from his bed, put her clothes back on and walked out the door. He had been too far gone, too shocked to stop her, even though everything within him had screamed at him that he should get up from the fucking bed and run after her. But he hadn’t and that was that. The end of everything.
The evening before had marked the last day of shooting, and it had been a rough one. He’d been sitting at home, drinking and watching stupid reality shows on telly in an attempt to stop his mind from spiralling. The knock on the door had startled him from his dark thoughts. There was only one person he knew who would show up unannounced at his house at one in the morning. When he had opened the door neither of them had said anything and without taking her eyes from his face she had stepped inside, closing the space between them. Her eyes; dark blue and wide open, had told him everything he needed to know as she pulled her sweater over her head, unbuttoned her jeans and stepped out of them along with her underwear.
He would never be able to explain, not even to himself, the kind of power she held over him, the way he was completely under her spell the second she was in his presence. One look, one single glance, and he was gone, and there was nothing that would ever change that. So there in his hallway, her naked before him, bare in every sense of the word, he was completely helpless. Helpless and deliriously happy.
Without a word she had taken him by the hand and dragged him with her into his bedroom, and he had followed her, like he would have followed her to the end of the world, no questions asked.
They had devoured each other that night, made love in a way he had never experienced before. It was impossible to describe the feeling of total surrender, the feeling of not knowing where his body ended and hers began, whether he felt his heart beating, or hers. He would never forget the sounds they made in the dark, how her crying out his name made his heart swell, how him moaning hers as he lost himself time and time again caused it to crack open a little bit more each time.
When the sun had started to peek through the shades, they were lying on their sides facing each other, moving languidly, exhausted but not yet ready to let go. Everything about that night was a blur, moments melding together, but this he remembered with perfect clarity; the look on her face, her tangled hair, her hands gripping his arms, and the pleasure building relentlessly one last time as he rocked as slowly as he could inside of her. He had held her close, memorizing each fleeting second, everything he felt and saw and heard, never wanting it to end. But inevitably it did and like a curse he did remember, all of it, could see it play out as a movie in his head, every single time he let his guard down, every time he closed his eyes.
It drove him insane.
And now here they were.
A breaking point.
He falls to his knees, right in front of her where she’s sitting on the bench, sobbing, tears spilling over and running down his cheeks. But he hardly notices. All he can feel is panic and an overwhelming urge to grab hold of her, to scream, to force her to feel and to recognize what he already knows, that they are made for each other. Why can’t she see it? He takes her hands in his, interlocks his fingers with hers in an attempt to physically link her to him. All the things that he is made out to be, all of those things the world always praises him for, his charisma, charm, gone, vanished. What is left, kneeling on the pavement, is just him, a simple man offering what’s in his heart to the woman he cannot live without.
He doesn’t look at her when he finally speaks, his voice barely audible;
“Don’t you know that I love you?”
He feels her twitch, hears her inhale sharply.
“I can’t do this anymore, I know you can’t either… please Cait...”
He moves so he’s kneeling between her thighs, cupping her face in his hands, looking her straight in the eyes.
“I love you Caitríona. I have loved you since the moment I first saw you in that tartan dress, your curls all over the place, running late... and you were nervous and passionate and so goddamn beautiful I couldn’t believe my own stupid luck when you walked into that audition room... but if you tell me know you never want to see me again, that you don't feel the same I’ll back of, I’ll leave you alone… just tell me and I’ll deal with it… but this is torture, the waiting, wondering, longing…”
She just stares at him as he speaks, trying to avoid his gaze at first but then surrendering to it, placing her hands on his chest, shaking her head slowly.
“I don’t know…” she whispers. “It’s too hard…”
But she does lean into him, her lips hovering so close to his, as if she’s breathing him in.
“It doesn’t have to be,” he murmurs. “It can be as simple as you’d like.”
He starts kissing her, testing the waters, unsure if he should but at the same time unable to stop himself. He tastes the gin from before, the salt from their tears and her , and it has him burning again, the flame he thought forever extinguished reignited by some miraculous turn of events. He stands up and she follows, kissing him back, wrapping her arms around his waist.
“God Sam… I love you too, I do…” her breath hitches between sobs. “It’s just so scary and I don’t know what I’m ready for…”
He gently tilts her chin up with the tip of his finger, forcing her to look at him again in the dim light, pure joy spreading in his chest and belly, obliterating everything else. I love you too. I love you too. I love you too. He wants to rush inside and yell it out for everyone to hear. She loves me too! But of course he doesn’t. Instead he just smiles, a big grin spreading across his face.
“It’s okay darling, we have time, all the time we need… as long as we’re together we don’t have to be scared ok? We’ll figure something out, I promise…”
She kisses him again, this time with so much passion and determination he feels as if he’s floating, flying, everything suddenly light and easy and perfect .
And he thinks about what she once said a long time ago in an interview for all the world to hear; sometimes you just get lucky, sometimes the stars align.
As if they were destined for each other.
As if this was meant to be.