What You Can’t Have
I was pretty sure my jaw was hanging low because of what I had seen. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I kept on blinking just to check if my mind was just playing tricks on me but it wasn’t the case. He really was here. Zach was here. And he was even grinning!
He remained seated with his head cocked to the side. There was an air of arrogance with how he looked at me but I didn’t know… It kinda suited him—him being a lawyer and all that shit… But I immediately shook the thought away. It was freaking inappropriate to even think that way.
“Oh, wow,” I managed to say after a few seconds that kind of felt like a lifetime. I didn’t know why I was reacting this way. It was not as if we had so many memories that we share together but I didn’t know… Something about him felt so awfully familiar. Maybe it was because he was so persistent and he managed to tell me everything about his life during the few moments we had been together. He made me familiar with his ways. Well, forced, rather.
He was just that talkative, that guy.
There was a playful smirk on his face.
“What’s with the wow?” he asked.
I straightened the imaginary crinkle on my top and lifted my chin.
“I didn’t just expect to see you here,” I replied.
“Me, too, Miss?”
“Walton,” I said. I didn’t give him my name before. I didn’t feel the need to because I never thought I’d see him again. With how big Seattle was, meeting him was so unexpected!
He nodded and smiled.
“Miss Walton,” he repeated.
I sat down and my heart resumed its rapid beating. Before, I was utterly nervous with how this interview would go down but now? My nerves just freaking tripled! Every time Zach would look at me, he just made edgier than I was before. I tried to calm myself but Zach was staring at me and it was not helping at all. I wanted to peel his eyes off from their sockets just so he would drop that gaze. It was making me uncomfortable.
He told me he was a lawyer, I was quite sure at that, so I was pretty surprised seeing him here in the HR office. What the heck was he even doing here?! And as they were scanning my resume, Zach lifted the side of his mouth as if he liked what he was seeing.
“So, top of your class,” he commented. “Why work only now? I’m sure companies must’ve offered everything just to have you.”
Taking a heavy breath, I began explaining. I was expecting this question but for some reasons, it still felt difficult explaining why I chose this. I knew I made the right decision before because at that moment, it felt so fucking right… But now that I had to explain myself, I was suddenly lost for words.
But I couldn’t let him see that doubt inside my head. I wanted this job. Heck, I needed this job! I believed that time away from Adam would do us good…. That maybe if we had breathing time away from one another, we’d learn to forgive and to finally come into terms with the differences that we both had. Because God knew that I couldn’t keep on fighting with him. It was exhausting and exhilarating. I didn’t want to consume all the patience I had left inside me.
I wanted us to heal first before we could try again because I didn’t want to repeat the same mistake… I didn’t want to read the same book for I knew I would just break my heart reading the same ending.
“Yes, I received generous offers from different companies,” I replied but I was cut off when Zach immediately asked another question.
“So why didn’t you grab the opportunity?”
“I got married.”
He narrowed his eyes.
“You got married and? Does being married means you can’t work, Ana?” he asked the woman beside her. “How do things here in the US bloody work?”
I clenched my jaw. Why was he being so arrogant? He wasn’t like that the last time I saw him! But maybe this was the true him? What did I know about his true self when I merely knew him? Two days weren’t enough to thoroughly know someone… And I should knew because I had been with Adam for years but he was proving to be someone I didn’t know at all.
Adam. Even here, thoughts of him still plagued me!
“I chose not to work,” I replied as I straightened my face. “I believe it was my prerogative if I would work after I graduate or not.”
He nodded and then crossed his arms over his chest.
“So what makes you want to work now? What changed?”
The nature of his questions didn’t go with the usual flow of job interviews but I just wanted to get this done and over with. I answered the questions as honestly as I could without the risk of jeopardizing this job. And much as I didn’t like the idea of working with Zach, I didn’t want to humiliate myself. I still needed to ace this interview and just dump the offer of employment later on. I didn’t think my pride would let me live if ever I failed this interview. I just thought I wouldn’t survive that fall.
“I want to explore my choices and not limit myself to being a plain housewife. And I don’t mean to mock housewives but I just think that I am not cut for that kind of life. I am not someone who’s comfortable staying at home and being domesticated. I want to challenge myself—to challenge my limit. I feel more at ease in a different kind of environment. And I feel that I’ll thrive better in a corporate setting,” I answered as calmly as I could because I was close to hitting Zach’s face for some reason unknown to me. “I hope that my answer satisfies your curiosity.”
Zach looked at me and then sighed. Ana, the woman beside him, looked at the both of us with her forehead crinkled. She must have been wondering why such exchange had been made.
“Well, we’ll just call you for the result of your interview, Miss Walton,” Ana said. “We’ll keep in touch.” She stood up and then we shook hands. And because I was a decent person, I shook Zach’s hand, as well. After that, I saw myself out and the moment I was out of their sight, I let out a deep sigh.
I rested my back against a wall and closed my eyes. Suddenly, I felt drained… but at the same time happy. I couldn’t understand myself. I had all these emotions inside me and I couldn’t pick out what to feel first. It was like a battle inside me and right now, I was just utterly hungry from everything that happened.
And as if on cue, my stomach grumbled.
“Care for some tea?” I turned and saw Zach standing a few meters from me. His hands were tucked inside the pockets of his pants and there was a small grin on his face that revealed his dimple. “My treat. And also some pastry, if you’re hungry.”
“Are you serious?” I asked, my face aghast. “After what you did in there?” I pointed at the room that I just exited.
He took a step forward.
“Well that was a part of the job. Don’t take it personally, Miss Walton,” he replied. “Seriously, I just had to ask questions.”
“Questions as personal as those?”
“What? My credentials are not enough? Now, you got to question my life choices, too?”
He shrugged and it annoyed me. Suddenly, everything he did annoyed me! Seriously, everyone around me now infuriate the living daylights out of me!
“To be honest, Miss Walton, we get applications from people with better credentials than what you have—”
“So don’t hire me,” I quickly rebutted.
He raised his index finger and motioned me to stop. The hell with this guy!
“I wasn’t finished talking, was I? As I have said, we have wide range of choices but for me, academic background isn’t enough to hire someone. There’s got to be something more, don’t you agree?” he said and then smiled that it showed the dimples in his cheek.
Angling my head, I met his stares.
“And why were you even there during the interview?” I asked him because as far as I was concerned, he was a lawyer and not a part of the human resource. If not for him being there, I would have aced that one! I could’ve answered the questions but his presence made it worse. I poured my heart out to him before and it made everything uncomfortable.
I never thought I’d see him again. So hell I told him everything before! And now, he was here right at my face!
He shrugged again.
“The position you’re applying for is directly under my supervision so I’d like to be a part of the process,” he explained. “So, anyway, tea?”
Zach was relentless. He kept on asking me if I wanted to join him for tea that I just ended up saying yes. We were walking outside because the coffee shop he wanted to bring me to was just a few blocks away.
“Do you know that?” he asked and discreetly pointed at Jess who was religiously tailing behind us.
“Don’t mind him.”
“So you do know the bloke?”
“Is he a stalker?”
I kept on walking but he kept on talking, too.
“Are you not in the mood to talk or—”
I halted and faced him.
“Why are you even doing this?” I exasperatedly asked him. “We met and talked before, you berated me during the interview, and now you want to drink tea with me? What’s wrong with you?”
His brows were knitted together and he looked at me like he didn’t know what I was talking about.
My lips parted with disbelief for this guy.
“Why? I am just trying to get to know you,” he answered, appearing as if he was completely clueless as to why I was acting like a complete nut-job.
“For what? We’re not even friends!” I shouted, just completely frustrated with how he’s acting! I couldn’t understand him! He’s just so annoying and everything in between!
He kept his hands inside his pocket and stared at me.
“Well, if we’re not friends, then we’re workmates. See you on Monday, Miss Walton.”
He winked at me and then turned back and walked away. The audacity of that guy!
That night, I was still pissed. Even when I was in the bathtub and enjoying a relaxing bath, the scene earlier kept on replaying inside my head. There was something about Zach that was pushing all my buttons! I didn’t know what was wrong with me that I thought he was a nice person before! Clearly, I wasn’t in the right disposition when I made that call!
After my bath, I went down when the maid informed me that the meal was ready. Adam was already there and I quietly took my seat.
“How was your day?” he briefly asked.
I shrugged as I began cutting my chicken.
“It was rather fine,” I replied.
“Did you get the job?”
I was hesitant to answer because technically, I got the job… But I didn’t know if I wanted it. I didn’t know if I could really work with Zach because I might end up strangling him. He did say that I would be working directly with him. Too much interaction with him would probably drive me nuts.
And I wasn’t ready to make that kind of commitment.
“They’d call,” was all I said.
We quietly finished the dinner and I was thankful for that. It was unlike all the nights before when we’d end the night with shouting… For the first time in a long time, I felt at ease. And it felt good.
I was still staying at the guest room. I was not as mad as I was before at Adam but I just couldn’t risk another fight with him. I was always at the tip of my toes around him… I knew the past few days had been hard for the both of us and I was just trying my best not to make the matters worse. Of course I loved him—I never questioned that. I knew that no matter how fucked up our situation was, that no matter how many times I doubted us, at the end of the day, our love was real. Heck, it was the only think that I knew was real. And I wanted to protect that.
And I think this distance was a good thing… I knew that someday, things would get better. We just needed to be apart for a while so that we’d learn to appreciate each other better.
In the middle of my preparation for sleep, there was a faint knock on the door.
“What?” I said after I opened it and found Adam.
“Can I sleep here?” he said and suddenly, I noticed that he was holding a pillow. “I brought my own pillow.”
I looked at him. It was so hard to resist him especially when he’s looking at me like that! I felt so guilty!
“I just want you near me, Bree… That’s all. I just want to know that you’re near me.”
He stared down and it hurt my heart knowing that I was causing him pain… I knew we had our indifferences but Adam had always put me first. He’d always treated me like any women wanted to be treated. I knew I shouldn’t hold it against him that he stayed with Lauren but I couldn’t. It was the only thing that I couldn’t put behind me. It was my deal breaker. I couldn’t just shrug it off. Every time I would close my eyes, pictures of them together kept on replaying at the back of my mind. It was maddening and I didn’t even want it but it was there!
“Bree, please…” His lips were quivering and I wanted to just give in. “I miss you. I miss you so fucking much.” His voice croaked and I just lost it.
I stared at him.
I didn’t even get to finish what I was saying because he enclosed me inside his hug. I felt him kissing the top of my head and I melted inside his arms.
This felt familiar. This felt comfortable. And I terribly missed being this close to him…
“Please don’t push me away again, Bree… You’re killing me every time you do that to me…”
My arms stayed still. I didn’t hug him. Something inside me was fighting…
“This distance is doing us good, Adam,” I tried to explain to him.
“You may not be killing me all at once, Bree, but you’re killing me slowly…”
I broke the hug and faced him. I fought the spur to touch his face and wipe the tears that were threatening to fall.
“It’s a fucking torture seeing you live your life without me. And I wouldn’t have that, Bree.”
“Adam, I just want to explore my life,” I explained. My heart was breaking at the sight of him breaking. I never wanted to cause him pain. I never wanted to break him. I wanted to hurt him but not like this. His pain was clenching my heart. I couldn’t bear him like this.
“But you’re drifting, Bree. Slowly, you’re drifting away from me… So forgive me if I don’t want you living your life without me because that would be fucking unfair because I couldn’t imagine life without you. Not anymore.”