Chapter Two: Part 2
By: Abeer Fahim
“This class was great! Feels good,” Eleanor said as they walked toward the pool.
“Yes, it really was,” Lara said.
“Any plans for the day?” Eleanor asked as they put their towels and bags on the loungers.
“I thought I would just take it easy today before I begin some sightseeing. Would you be interested in visiting a few places?”
“Of course,” Eleanor said as she applied some sun screen and stretched on the lounger.
A waiter came to ask for their orders and they both ordered Raspberry smoothies.
“There’s this place in Chicago,” Lara said, “they make the best chocolate milkshakes ever. It’s a really small place, nothing fancy. Allen took me there on our second date. I couldn’t believe how good those milkshakes were! The ice-cream, the malt, perfect! ”
Eleanor laughed, “Sometimes the simplest things are the most satisfying. Doesn’t need to be a fancy place.”
“I agree. I wonder if I’ll ever dare go back there. It was our place. And we’d take the milkshakes and drink them in our parked car, listening to music. It was wonderful.”
“You’ll go back one day. It doesn’t have to be right away. But you’ll go back and drink that milkshake and make new memories. Trust me.”
“Doesn’t feel like it right now. What if he takes her there? You think he’ll take her there?” Lara looked pensive as she sat down.
“You have to make new memories,” Eleanor said, “unless you plan on leaving Chicago. You can’t abandon places just because you went there with him. Those stories are in the past. You’ll make new stories. Trust me, you will.”
“I hope so,” Lara shrugged, “Hey, I stared at a gecko today. If I can do that, maybe I can do anything.”
“I saw that,” Eleanor smiled.
“Thought I was going to make a fool of myself!”
“Not good, especially when your Yoga instructor is that handsome!” Eleanor exclaimed
They both laughed and Lara shook her head, “that would have been a disaster!”
The waiter brought the smoothies; as Lara drank hers, indulging every sip, she thought of how amazing it would be if she could forget everything for just a few minutes. If she had no memory of Allen for three minutes. No memory of the pain, no memory of the joys, no memory of any of it. If she could simply be a woman laying by the pool, ready for an adventure, her heart at peace. If only that could be her story. For three minutes, just three minutes.
She wondered how many people came to Bali each year, each month, to get away, to escape, to create new narratives for themselves. She tried hard to think of what she wanted for herself, but she didn’t really have a clear vision of it. For years, what she wanted was a family with Allen. He didn’t want a child. She was patient. She thought he would change his mind one day. But, he never did. And she never really knew if it was because he didn’t want a child at all, or if he didn’t want a child with her. She never asked that question- at least not directly. It made no sense to ask it. Or perhaps, it made sense, but she didn’t want to know the answer. Look closer Lara. Look closer.
She put her smoothie on the table and took out her phone. She had to look through those messages. She knew Eleanor would not approve, but she needed to do it. She needed to go back.
She went through her messages and searched for the word “New York”. There they were. All those messages he sent her from there while on a business trip in August, 2013.
More than two years ago.
August 15, 2013, 7pm
Allen: Just arrived! Miss you.
Lara: Miss you too! Should’ve taken me with you haha
Allen: Not sure you would’ve enjoyed it though. Just work you know.
Lara: Yea, I get it.
Allen: Alright, got to go. Message you later. Take care, babe.
Lara: Love you.
Allen: Love you too.
Could he have possibly been having the affair then? Would he have called her babe and told her he loved her? Can you love someone and betray them? Was she there while he was writing these messages? Laura wondered if she’ll ever know. She had to know. She needed to know. This made no sense. He must’ve loved her then. So, when did it all go wrong? What did she say or do?
August 17, 2013, 10am
Lara: You up babe?
Allen: Yea, ready to go to my meeting.
Lara: Great! Still missing me?
Allen: Of course.
Lara: Mom’s coming over today. We’re cooking dinner and dad’s joining too. It should be fun.
Allen: Sounds like it. Sorry, have to run. Talk to you later.
The tone was different. What happened from 7pm that evening to 10am the next morning? Maybe nothing happened. Maybe he was just honestly busy. “Honest”. A word with a meaning so elusive. What does it mean to be honest anyway? What if we tell the truth, our truth, thinking we’re being ‘honest’? Who determines if it’s honest?
“Lara, what are you doing?”
Lara, quickly put her phone down, “nothing”.
“Lara, really, what are you doing?”
“Looking through our messages. I can’t help it. I really can’t. I need to know. I don’t believe him. I don’t believe it all started just last year. It doesn’t add up. Something’s not right.”
“And how’s your detective work going to make things better?”
“I don’t know. I just know he’s lying. He lied. I feel stupid. I feel so stupid. How could I have missed this? Surely these messages mean something? There has to be meaning here to this. He was in New York on a business trip and from one message to the other, his tone changes. Sometimes loving, sometimes distant. Maybe she was there.”
“Or maybe not,” Eleanor sighed, “there’s no point going back through these messages. It will take you nowhere. Some questions are best left unanswered.”
“That’s not true. I refuse to believe that. I need answers. My heart needs it, my mind needs it.”
“Well, Lara, then maybe you’re searching in the wrong places.”
Lara shook her head and picked up her phone again. She suddenly felt angrier than she had felt all day. She bent her knees and wrapped her arms around her legs, her phone held firmly in her hand. As tears rolled down her cheeks, she quickly put on her sunglasses.
“Lara, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It’s not you, Eleanor. It’s just so unfair. All of this is unfair. And I hate having to be a strong woman. Why do I have to be a strong woman?”
“Take your time, Lara, and be kind to yourself.”
Lara nodded, “I’ll try.”
A while later as Lara tried to clear her head, Emilio walked past and put his towel on the lounger next to hers.
“Good class?” he asked as he sat on the edge of the lounger.
“Great,” Lara said, wondering if he could tell she had been crying.
“There are lots of geckos around here. And lizards too. Don’t worry too much. These creatures won’t harm you. Try to enjoy your time and stay present. Where are you from?”
“Chicago, but lived in a few other states growing up.”
“I love Chicago!”
“You’ve been there?”
“After I graduated college in Rome, I went there, with my girlfriend. We really wanted to spend some time in the US, so I attended a yoga and meditation school for practitioners there. It was great. We only spent a year, then we moved out here.”
Girlfriend. We moved out here. Does he still have a girlfriend? And why did she even care? She was being absolutely ridiculous.
“Small world,” Lara smiled, as she struggled to find something to say that wouldn’t make her look sad or desperate.
“It is. You know what the best thing about Bali is? It’s a world of its own. How many days are you here?”
“Nice. Enjoy every minute. Do you have friends around here?”
“Just me and my friend Eleanor.”
Eleanor looked up at Emilio and said “hello.”
Emilio said “hello, nice to meet you.”
A few moments later he looked back at Lara. She wasn’t sure if that look meant anything. Things needed to start meaning something. She needed meanings attached to signs, or she felt she would go crazy.
“Alright, going for a quick swim now,” he said as he stood up.
Please, please don’t say thank you.
Later that evening, Lara and Eleanor sat outside on their terrace.
Eleanor read a book as Lara nervously looked looked through her Facebook newsfeed, as if preparing herself for that moment she would see a picture of Alen and his girlfriend pop up. How can someone be so afraid of a picture? She wasn’t just afraid, she was terrified of how she would feel when that picture showed up. She had unfriended him on Facebook a while ago, but she hadn’t blocked him – yet.
Her thoughts were interrupted when her friend sent her a message. Lisa, one of Lara’s best friends, believed that the only way Lara would get over her divorce would be if she met someone new. Falling in love again would solve everything, she insisted. She messaged Lara to tell her that she was putting her in touch with a friend rom college who was also in Bali.
Lisa: Lara! How are you gorgeous? So, just found out that Eric (yes, Eric
from college) is in Bali with some friends. I messaged him and gave him your number. You need to go out. I hope you’re not planning on spending your entire time by the pool!
Lauren: What??! You realize I dated Eric in college, and it did not work
out. I left him remember! What are you thinking?
Lisa: 10 YEARS AGO! Who cares?? And who knows? 😉
Just as Lara tried to wrap her head around what Lisa had done, she got a message from a number she did not know. The message said: Hey Lara! Been a long time. It’s Eric Clarkson. Heard you’re in Bali.
It was too late now. He had already messaged her, and she could not be rude to Eric. He was kind to her. He never hurt her. But she never really fell in love with him. She was waiting for her knight in shining armor— Allen, to show up in her life. And, of course, he did.
“Eleanor, sorry to interrupt your reading, but my friend got me in touch with an ex-boyfriend. Well, we only dated for a few months in college, and he’s here in Bali with some friends. She thinks it would be good for me to go out with them.”
“You should. I mean, if there’s no awkwardness, if things ended….”
“I think it’s ok. I guess. I don’t know. I’ll message him back. Maybe I’ll meet up with them one evening.”
“You should,” Eleanor said.
“I’ve often thought I can’t be truly happy if I’m not in love. Does that make sense? I always felt that I became truly happy when I fell in love with Allen. Maybe I do need someone else in my life. Maybe Lisa is right. I mean technically Allen and I haven’t really been together for six months since he told me…”
Eleanor put her book down and was quiet for a few moments. Then, she looked at Lara and asked her, “So you’re saying you need to be in love to be happy? There needs to be someone else in your life?”
“I think it helps. I think love makes me happy – well, at least it did.”
Eleanor said, “Perhaps you need to reconsider your perspective….”
“My perspective on love? Or happiness?”
End of Chapter 2 Part 2.
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