It has been a while. Hannah said she would keep an eye out for someone suitable for Dani and apparently this woman met the criteria.
Dani had not seen Jamie since the small “goodbye” at the front office at school, when Jamie left.
The fact that the “suitable” woman chose this pub; the one Jamie drove her home from the first time they met in public, wasn’t doing her consciousness any good.
The woman and Dani both sit down at a familiar table, the one once shared with Peter and Rebecca.
A quick, careful glance around the pub lightens Dani’s mood. No Jamie. Not yet at least.
It’s Friday evening, the pub would soon start to fill up.
“So, school teacher, hm?” Of course, she starts with their jobs. “Yes.” Dani quickly compiles some information Hannah had given her earlier in her head. “Account Manager, right? Office job.” A remark, not a question. The other woman laughs. “We both sit on our asses all day, just that you entertain children and I entertain adults behaving like children.” That forces a genuine laugh out of Dani.
The conversation continues with a variety of topics, from American and English differences, to countries both would like to visit and finally their lives. Dani tries to share as little as she can.
She does enjoy the company of said woman but she isn’t her. She isn’t Jamie.
“Ah, well.” The woman looks around with the pub finally filling up. Plenty of people rushing to the bar as if it was a contest. “Looks like rush-hour. You wanna head out?” The woman’s gaze is stuck on Dani. She expects an answer.
“If it’s okay with you, I’d rather stay just a little while.” Dani glances back, blue eyes meeting. “Sure thing, but I can not stay much longer, I’m afraid. Work.” The woman states. “You work Saturdays, too?” This comes as a genuine surprise.
Dani couldn’t imagine managing people on Saturdays. What for.
“Yes. As exhausting as it may be, I love my job. I get to deal with people’s problems all day and then boss them around. Couldn’t imagine anything else to be honest.” She lets out a small chuckle. She other woman takes a long sip of her glass, setting it down perfectly on the tab. Dani smiles into her words, breaking eye contact. She was about to speak up when she finds an all too familiar presence at the back of the pub, playing darts. Jamie. Not alone.
“You okay there, love?” The other woman leans a little closer over the table, looking at Dani.
“Ah, yes. Sorry, I thought I’d seen someone I know.” Dani’s eyes meet the other woman’s. She waves her hand. “Pubs, right. Thought this place was so far off from everythin’ we are used to, no one would recognize us here. Small world, huh.” She is right. Dani chuckles at the thought.
“Yeah, just…small world.” She looks down at the table, her glass half full.
“Well, I am gonna head out. You’ll be okay here by yourself? Shall I call you a cab?” The woman stands up, putting on her jacket.
“Thank you, but I’ll be alright, I think.” Dani looks up at her. “It was nice.” A smile appears on the woman’s lips. “It really was.” She takes a pen from her blouse and scribbles something onto the tab below her empty glass.
“In case you want to repeat this.” She winks at her. “Good night.” A small wave of guilt overcomes Dani. She feels like this entire night was about her, once again, not the other woman. Just like that conversation with Jamie. “Good night. I’ll call you!” And out the door she went. For fucks sake.
Dani pushes the empty glass of the tab and swipes it closer to her. She can clearly make out the numbers and thinks back to when she had given her number to Jamie. “Sara.” That’s her name.
Dani shakes her head. A small glance at her watch confirms her suspicious. It was late. The woman had stayed longer than she said she would. Good for Dani?
She takes the tab and places it in her jacket pocket as she stands up. One last big sip of her glass and she puts it back down, a little too strongly, on the wooden table.
She turns to the bar and pays for her and Sara’s beer. She turns to leave, her eyes locked on the door. She can still make out Jamie in her peripheral, turning to look back at her. Dani swallows hard, and heads out the pub. She gives herself a nice little pep talk on the way to the bus station.
“Not armed and late at night in a city you don’t know. Perfect, Dani. You’re going to die.” And that is what she thinks until she sits down at the poorly lit bus stop.
She can feel the coldness of the bench through her jeans. Skinny jeans blue, converse white and a pink pullover with a denim jacket. Not the best choice when it comes to warmth, but at least a good looking one. She presses her hands between her thighs and takes a look at her watch.
“10 Minutes left. Great. I’ll freeze to death.” She says to no one but herself.
Footsteps approach the bus stop. Dani doesn’t dare to look, she knows the wrong kind of glance can send you to the hospital, or grave, quite quickly.
“So, it was you.” That voice. Dani turns, her eyes shoot open. “Jamie.” It’s not a question, it’s a statement. She’s there, leaning on the bus station’s metal frame. “That’s my name.” Dani turns back to look at the ground, her hands feeling a lot warmer already.
“Can’t even look at me now? Not worth it?” Her tone is cold as the air around them. “That’s not…why are you here? You don’t have to take the bus home.” So very true. Why was she there?
“I want to know the truth. It’s been like what…a month maybe and you’re already out datin’? So, it was nothing to you? I was nothing to you.”
Dani can feel Jamie’s gaze focused on her, the anger spitting out with every word she says.
“What?” Dani turns to face Jamie, nothing but hate reflected in her eyes. “You heard me.” Jamie straightens up. Dani is surprised she has not used violence to beat the truth out of her yet. Maybe later.
“No, I didn’t. A friend set me up. They know I am gay but not…about us. So, she wanted to help and set me up with this woman. And no, I did not choose to come here, Sara did.” Dani continues to hold Jamie’s intense eye contact and sighs.
She seems to relax just a little bit. “But no. You were never nothing to me. I…” Dani looks down at the ground, knowing Jamie would comment on it so she shot it down before it even happened. “I know what I said hurt you. And I know I’ve said things I shouldn’t have said. But I was scared, okay?”
She turns back to Jamie, fear in her voice.
“Scared of losing all of this, scared of losing you. This is all new to me, I never…dated like this. I never had to justify what I did. I never had to justify who I loved. And I hated him, I fucking hated all of it…” Dani can feel her eyes becoming more and more watery and turns back to the cold ground. “But then there you were. And you just…you felt so right. Sometimes I couldn’t wait to see you, to hear your voice. When you’d come over I’d go over everything a hundred times to set boundaries even though I never wanted to.” Her voice trails off.
A quick glance at her wrist, 2 Minutes left before the bus arrives. Dani sighs. “I was in your way. And you found that one thing that makes you happy and I made you feel like shit about it. I’m sorry, Jamie. I should have…I should have said it back then but it won’t matter now.” Dani can hear the bus before she can see it. Early. Way too early.
Dani gets up as the bus door opens. She looks at Jamie one last time with a tired smile.
“Have a good night.” Dani manages before she enters the bus, getting her wallet ready for a ticket.
As she picks up foreign currency in her hands to hand it to the bus driver someone is behind her, holding the bus door open. She can see the annoyed face of the bus driver.
“Ay, we’re leaving. Either get on or out!” Dani turns. Jamie is holding the door open.
“If you really mean what you said, come with me.” Dani shakes her head. She does not want to hurt Jamie again, give false hope of something that would never happen. She remembers Jamie’s look that day too well. She sees it before she goes to sleep. She sees it in old photos. She sees it whenever she closes her eyes and opens them to find herself alone. Without Jamie.
“I’m sorry, Jamie…” The cold air enters the warmth of the bus. She turns and sits down at the very end, as far away from Jamie as she can. She doesn’t see Jamie’s face as she turns. Can’t.
Jamie doesn’t get on. The bus moves and Dani can feel it in every fiber of her body. She’s shaking but certainly not from being cold. On the contrary, she feels rather hot like she’s burning up. It’s the guilt, she thinks. Should’ve grabbed a coat, she thinks. Shouldn’t have broken Jamie’s heart, she thinks.
The bus drive feels a lot longer than it should. Dani gets off a bus stop too early; she can’t sit in this moving pit of guilt. The fresh air will clean her head for sure. She just has to breath, in and out.
How many times does she tell the children she teaches to breathe. How many times does she say it’s easy, it calms the body. Just in and out. Nothing inside Dani feels calm. Not her hands, not her lips, not her eyes, not her heart. She hates herself.
She loves being with Jamie. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. The way she burns their breakfast, the way her accent becomes a complete puzzle to Dani sometimes, as if she’s speaking a foreign language, the way she fidgets her fingers when she’s nervous or unsure, the way she puts her hair in a messy bun when there’s something serious going on with her plants like she’s performing emergency surgery. She loves Jamie.
“Oi, look who’s tryin’ to be sneaky.” Jamie tells the pasta that has clearly burned in the past 5 minutes as Dani tries to sneak past the open kitchen. “Definitely not me.” Dani’s head peaks around the wall, looking at Jamie with a suppressed smile. “The pasta on the other hand…” Her sentence trails off.
Jamie drops the wooden spoon into the boiling water pot in defeat.
“It’s a romantic gesture, ya know.” Dani has stepped fully into the kitchen now, leaning on the counter behind her, unaware that except for Jamie’s way too long T-shirt, she’s bare naked.
“The burning or the cooking?” This grin Dani can’t suppress.
Jamie turns sharply on her feet, determination on her face and Dani’s sure she’s a hundred percent ready for what’s coming.
“The sacrifice.” Dani was not ready.
“It’s not nothing, Eddie. This is who I am…how I feel…my entire life…I…I felt so wrong. I felt disgusting…not that you did…no, please understand that I-“ Something made out of glass hits the wall and disintegrates into a million pieces landing on the carpet of their home. Their carpet. Their something-made-out-of-glass that’s now broken. Broken like their relationship, broken like Eddie’s heart. And if Dani does not get out of here in the next few minutes, probably her arm, too.
Eddie doesn’t speak. He’s looking at her, through her. Like he doesn’t see Dani. Or maybe he does, the shell of lies she has been telling for years.
“You.” His voice breaks the atmosphere like a thunder after the storm has already passed.
“You lied. For years…right to my face. You embarrassed me. You’re sick, Danielle. Fuck. You.” It’s sharp and slices her just like the knives in the kitchen would. The kitchen in their home. Stocked with their knives.
Dani had given up on packing her clothes in secret last week. Made up another lie about how she was going on a school trip. Across the Ocean to England. To never return. Of course, except for her, no one knows the last detail.
Her open suitcase is displayed on their bed. In their home. But it’s a bed Dani shared with hate, neglect and tears, when it was supposed to be shared with happiness, tenderness and love.
She wonders what that is, love. With a million glass pieces next to her feet, she makes her first move.
Heading straight for her open suitcase, she almost rips the zipper off, stuffing the last of her belongings, the last reminder of Danielle Clayton, into a bag. Eddie does not say anything. He does not move. His presence is enough to remind Dani of everything she has done. Everything she should feel guilty for, everything she should hate herself for.
And she does.
Less than a minute passes and Dani has successfully left their home. No. It is not her home anymore.
But then again, it never has been, really.
She hates herself as she throws her packed suitcase and bag into the back of the taxi.
She hates herself as she tells the taxi driver to head to the airport.
She hates herself as she hands her pre-booked ticket to the nice lady behind the counter at said airport.
She hates herself as she boards a plane to England.
She hates herself as she falls asleep on the plane, 4 hours in, thinking of nothing other than the look on Eddie’s face. Or Judy’s face. Or the call with her mother in the taxi.
She couldn’t face her. Couldn’t even face her own mother. Dani wonders if that’s strength or weakness.
She hates herself.