“I’ve come to realize something about you,” Valerie said slowly and surely into her FaceTime camera, carefully holding the phone to ensure that she was showing the very best angle of her visage. She was beautiful, no doubt, but 33 wasn’t treating her as well as 28 had, and even in moments like these, she was careful to make sure that she presented herself as elegantly as possible.
Staring back at her through the single crack on the screen of her iPhone 7 was the plain but handsome, older but youthful face of a man who was desperately, hopelessly in love with her. She knew that what she was about to say—what she had rehearsed saying in her mind dozens of times since she had last seen him just 24 hours ago—was going to destroy him.
But so fucking what? Valerie had been destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again in the three years she and Paul had been together, and mostly by his doing. Through all of it, she had loved him. Defended him. Even protected him.
Paul had a bad habit of lying to protect her, but she could handle that. She knew that he needed to lie to her sometimes. Dating a man who traveled for a living and likely had a girl in every proverbial port before he met her…she didn’t want to know about all of that. But there was the one time he hadn’t lied, and that was the one she could never forgive him for. And that’s why she had to say what she was about to say.
“I’ve realized that while I will always love you—deeply, from the bottom of my heart—I’ve realized that I don’t love you romantically.”
There. She had said it. It was done.
Just saying it wasn’t enough, though. That’s why this call was a FaceTime. That’s why she had to see him break as she said it. Because if he was broken, she’d feel better about being broken.
And that’s why when Paul’s face cracked, ever so slightly, just long enough for a single tear to escape his eye, she finally felt the relief that had been missing from her life for so very long.
“Okay,” he said. Because what else could he say? He tried to smile, but that tear had betrayed him. “I understand.”
All the times they had been on and off, will they/won’t they, are they/aren’t they over the past three years, she had never been able to say that. But even in that moment, she wasn’t sure that it was true.