Left and Leaving – Chapter 20

Small request
Could we please turn around?
So you whisper your arrival
Walking backwards to the door
Wonder briefly what it is you’re hesitating for

The Weakerthans – “Time’s Arrow”

“Come on, Cam.” Chris prodded the following afternoon. “It’ll be fun.”

Camille shook her head. “No. I really don’t feel like going out. I just want to relax.” She said sternly.

Chris sighed. He’d been trying all day to get Camille to go out with him and his friends for the evening, and so far no avail. She was sticking to her guns on staying in that night. She rarely went out on Saturdays anyway. She much preferred to stay in and watch TV or go online. “You relaxed last night, come out with us.”

Camille looked at him. He was right, she had stayed in the entire night before. Maybe it would be good for her to go out and have fun. Hopefully that would help get her mind off Nick for a while. It wasn’t like Nick was thinking about her anyway. He hadn’t bothered to call or anything. To Camille, it seemed like he had finally given up. That was a good thing, it was far less tempting this way. A clean break was exactly what they needed.

“Okay.” She agreed, standing up and walking towards her bedroom to get changed. “You twisted my arm.”

***

Little did Camille know, Nick was thinking about her. In fact, she was the only thing on his mind as he impatiently waited in LAX. He nervously tapped his foot on the ground as he watched the people walk by him. The couples made him especially apprehensive. Was his plan actually going to work? Nick didn’t know what he would do if it didn’t.

As his boarding call was announced, Nick gathered up his backpack and walked towards the gate. He slipped his hand into his pocked for the millionth time that day, making sure the ring box was still there. And just like every other time he checked, it was safe and sound, waiting to be presented to Camille.

Nick tried as best he could to distract himself on the flight. He tried listening to music, but every song reminded him of Camille. The in flight movie was American Pie, which they’d watched on one of their first dates. Sleeping didn’t help much either, because she haunted his dreams. Hell, he’d even dreamt that he’d gone through with his proposal and she’d accepted immediately.

Unfortunately, he’d woken up to see that he was still on the plane and not engaged to Camille.

This was going to be a long ride.

***

Chris grinned at Camille as she downed another drink. For not wanting to go out, she sure was having a good time. Chris kept buying her drinks, and she kept drinking them. As far as he was concerned, this was a good thing.

Not that he was planning on taking advantage of her. Oh no, that couldn’t possibly be it!

Well, maybe that was part of the plan. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing, to get her inhibitions a little lowered. That way, she wouldn’t over analyze things, she wouldn’t flip out when he kissed her… no, it was definitely a good idea.

“Chris!” Camille called from the other side of the pub. “You have got to come over here, we invented a new game!” She said, running over to him and pulling him towards the dart board. “It’s called blackjack darts!”

Chris laughed and gave her a strange look. “What?”

Camille bounced up and down with excitement. “It’s darts, but you have to try to get to twenty one!” She explained, putting her hand on his shoulder for emphasis. “Well… not really twenty one. I mean… let’s just play!”

Chris shook his head. She was cute even when she was drunk. How could Nick be so stupid as to let a girl like her go?

***

Nick ran a hand through his hair as he rushed through the airport once his flight had landed. He didn’t even bother going to baggage claim. Not that he needed to, he hadn’t brought anything with him other than what was in his backpack. He’d gone to Tampa for one reason and one reason only. To get back the girl he loved.

After hailing a cab to take him to Chris’s apartment, he was well on his way.

Again, he checked his pocket. The ring was still there, he was good to go.

***

Camille held onto Chris’s arm as they walked the short distance back home. They’d left the pub earlier than normal on account of a band coming on stage that no one seemed to really like. Instead of heading to another place with the others, Chris had opted to take Camille home and put his plan into action.

Camille happily obliged. As much fun as she was having, she was ready to call it a night. She hadn’t drank too much, only enough to get slightly buzzed and to have some fun. She knew her limit. Any more and she would risk doing something stupid. Still, she liked to create the illusion she’d had more, that way she could have a little fun and just blame it on the alcohol. No harm, no foul, right?

Once they got back to the apartment Camille made a beeline for the couch. It was still early enough to catch Saturday Night Live. She flipped on the TV and Chris sat down beside her.

“Nick and I used to watch this every weekend.” Camille said when the opening credits graced the screen.

Chris bit his lip at the mention of Nick. He had to get Camille to notice him and to forget about that moron. Picking up the remote and switching off the TV, he turned to Camille. “Cam…” He started, not really knowing what he should say.

Before Camille could respond, Chris’s lips were on hers. She didn’t know what to think or say. Why was Chris kissing her? What the hell was going on? Still, she didn’t stop him.

***

Nick couldn’t pay the cab driver fast enough. In fact, he was sure that he overpaid him a ridiculous amount. But Nick didn’t care. All he cared about was racing up the steps to Chris’s apartment and professing his love for Camille.

From the outside of the building, he could see that the lights were on inside. Nick grinned, she was home. He quickly unlocked the front door and ran up the steps to Chris’s second floor suite.

Unlocking the door, he spotted Camille on the couch, exactly where he’d expected she would be. Only she wasn’t alone. She was with Chris.

Kissing him.

Camille’s mind was racing. Why was Chris kissing her, and who had opened the front door? Before her mind could register what was going on, she was being forcefully pulled off of Chris. Her mouth hung open in shock as she saw Nick grab Chris by the collar of his shirt.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Nick shouted, his face inches away from Chris’s.

“Nick!” Camille yelled, instantly feeling more sober. “What are you doing here?” She asked, shocked beyond all belief. He didn’t bother to call her for an entire week, and then he randomly shows up? He made no sense!

Nick glanced behind him and glared at Camille. He pushed Chris back down onto the couch and shoved his hand into his pocket. Throwing the blue Tiffany’s box in Camille’s direction, he snarled. “I came here.” He said in an eerily calm voice. “To give that to you.”

Camille knelt down and picked up the box. Opening it up, she gasped at the diamond ring that sparkled inside. Nick was going to propose? She looked up at him, his eyes begging her for an explanation of what was going on.

“Nick…” Camille said, swallowing a little. She had so many questions, and didn’t know where to begin to start asking. “I broke up with you…”

“I know!” Nick shouted. “And then he just moves in on you?” Nick asked, turning his attention back to Chris, who was still sitting on the couch. He was confused as hell. “Or has this been going on for longer?”

“No!” Camille yelled. Nothing was going on between her and Chris! The kiss was… random. It was nothing! She didn’t even know what was happening, it just sort of happened. She didn’t want to date Chris, he was her friend and nothing more. Had she led him on? Everything was happening way too fast.

“It doesn’t make sense, Cam.” Nick said in a pleading voice, taking her hands in his. “Why did you end things? You’re the one that never called me…”

Camille scoffed. That was a laugh. “I never called you? Please Nick. The last time you phoned me was when I was at school on lunch hour. And even then you didn’t have a whole fuck of a lot to say.”

Nick gave Camille a strange look. “No… I called you two weeks ago to this day.” He said, staring right into her eyes. “You were too busy fucking around at the bar to call me back.”

“No one ever told me that you called…” Camille said quietly. The two of them pondered that for a moment, before it clicked. They both turned their heads to look at Chris, who still sat on the couch with a smug look on his face.

“So I didn’t give her the message, big deal.” Chris said, rolling his eyes.

“Oh, it’s a very big deal.” Nick growled, glaring at his so called best friend. “Did you think you could just move in on my girl when I’m not around?”

Camille shook her head. “It’s not like you were trying very hard to keep me, Nick.”

“Cam, I’m sorry. I was so stupid.” Nick said, turning his attention away from Chris and back to her. “I should have realized what a dick I was being.”

“Um, I’m gonna go.” Chris said, standing up and moving out of the living room. As fast as he could he slipped his shoes on and left the apartment.

“Yeah, you’d better run!” Nick shouted after him. Unbelievable. As if his best friend would deceive him like that. Glancing back at Camille, his heart broke. She looked completely lost and confused. He didn’t blame her, a lot had happened in the last five minutes. Slowly, he hugged her. “I love you, Cam.” He said softly. “I’m so, so sorry.”

Camille buried her head in his chest. How was it that one person could make her feels such anger one moment, and such love the next? Still, it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t Chris’s fault that their relationship had failed, that was just the straw that broke the camels back. “I love you too, Nick.” She replied.

Nick pulled away from her a little and searched her face. She didn’t look happy, she looked sad and tired. He licked his lips and inched his face towards hers, kissing her tenderly.

Taking the ring box out of her hand, Nick opened it up and knelt down in front of her. “Will you marry me?” He asked in a shaky voice. This definitely wasn’t how he’d planned for things to go, but it was better than nothing and definitely worth a shot.

Camille looked at him sadly. He was offering her the world, and she knew she couldn’t accept it. It wasn’t what Nick really wanted, it was only a desperate attempt to get her back. Sighing, she placed her hands over the box and shut it. “I’m sorry, Nick.”

Nick shook his head. “You’re supposed to say yes.” He said, looking up at her.

Camille drew in a breath, fighting back the tears that were sure to fall. How badly she wanted to say yes, but where would that land them? Right back in the same place they were. Fighting all the time, never in agreement with one another. No, this wasn’t a good idea at all. “I can’t.”

“Why not?” Nick asked her, standing up and placing his hand on her arm. “It was just a stupid miscommunication. Chris’s fault.” He said, rolling his eyes at the antics of their friend. “He’s a moron. We never have to talk to him again.”

“It’s not just that, Nick. You and I are too different.” She tried to explain everything she’d been feeling for the last couple of months. It wasn’t that she didn’t love him, but the relationship caused her far more stress than it was worth. “Or maybe we’re too similar. I don’t know… either way, it just doesn’t work.”

“We can make it work.” Nick pleaded, hugging her tightly. “I promise.”

Camille shook her head, and pushed Nick away. “We can’t. We tried.”

“We’ll try again.” Nick said sadly.

“Nick, I’m tired.” Camille said, her voice filled with exasperation. “I’m tired of trying. Please… just go.”

Nick knew better than to overstay his welcome, and he also knew when to admit defeat. He’d lost, plain and simple. Their relationship was over, and it was a large part his fault. Not totally, but he felt that if he hadn’t acted so childish earlier that year their breakup wouldn’t be happening. Hell, if he’d just called her again later that Saturday evening it probably wouldn’t be happening! That wasn’t the whole reason, but it’s what really got Camille thinking. Nick nodded, and gave her a final hug, handing her the ring as he pulled away.

Camille shook her head and tried to give it back to him, but Nick insisted. “Keep it, I bought it for you. It’s not like I can do anything with it.”

Camille held it tightly too her chest. She looked down at the floor, as she knew if she looked at Nick she would burst into tears and take him back. That wasn’t what she wanted. She wanted to move on. “I love you.” She whispered quietly.

“I love you too.” Nick said with a sad smile as she looked back at her one last time before exiting the apartment. He was glad that she wasn’t look at him, she’d never seen him cry and he very much preferred it that way. With a heavy heart, Nick began walking down the street in search of a hotel to spend the night. He’d been so confident she was going to say yes that he hadn’t bothered to make a reservation. So much for that.

Meanwhile, Camille was curled up in a ball on the couch crying her eyes out. She wanted so much to chase after Nick, but she knew it would only result in more heartbreak in the end. Sure, he wanted to marry her now, but what happened when he came to his senses and realized the implications of what he was asking her?

She could contemplate the pros and cons all night, but in the end she knew she was making the right decision.

Still, that didn’t make it an easy one.

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