Chapter 4 Part 2
To start reading from Chapter 1, Click here
“Lara, are you alright?” Eleanor inquired, hesitantly.
“Sorry, yes,” Lara said abruptly, “it must have been … really hard for you.”
“Are you sure that’s what you’re thinking?” Eleanor asked doubtfully.
“Yes — ”
“You look … upset. It’s alright Lara, don’t worry about it. Really.”
Eleanor picked up her book and started reading, or at least pretended to read. Lara couldn’t tell if she was upset or if she was intentionally ending the conversation because Lara was the one who looked uncomfortable. I’m sorry, Eleanor. I’m so silly. I shouldn’t have reacted this way. What’s wrong with me today? Again, Lara had so much she wanted to say, but she didn’t. It didn’t feel like the right time. So, instead, she told Eleanor she was going to go to her room to do some writing and would meet Eleanor a bit later. Eleanor didn’t say much either, but just nodded.
Lara went back to her room and opened her journal. She felt compelled to write. She wasn’t sure what her dare of the day would be, and she suddenly felt herself getting anxious again. She could feel that pace – the pace of a heartbroken woman. She got up and stood in front of the mirror, tied her hair up in a ponytail, only to let her hair down, then pull it up in a ponytail again. She couldn’t decide what she wanted to do with her hair. Too many flyaways, it didn’t look right. Seriously, Lara, can’t you take better care of your hair? Just because you’re sad doesn’t mean you should look like this … What is wrong with you? Lara combed her hair with her fingers, but she grew even more agitated. As she stood there, in a battle with her hair, Lara felt her stomach starting to knot up. She had to sit down on the edge of her bed, her hands on the mattress, propping her up, her arms shaking. She heard herself shout, “Allen, I hate you!”
It was only when she she touched her drenched tank top that she realized she was in a flood of tears, sobbing uncontrollably.
Everything was taking time to register. The pain she was feeling, the desperate crying, how weak her knees felt, how heavily her heart sank within. She was watching herself break –all over again – just when she thought she was getting better. Suddenly, even the urge to write was gone. All she felt was anger. She was no longer just sad. She was angry. She was so angry. Your Stuff. She hated him. She hated him so much.
Lara woke up about an hour later. She had fallen asleep, her body curled, her journal under her arm. But it didn’t really feel like she had slept. If felt like her body was attempting to recover from something so strenuous, that it had no choice but to ‘sleep’. She felt lightheaded as she walked cautiously towards the bathroom. She splashed cold water on her face, and as she walked out of the bathroom, she got a message notification. It was from Tia.
Message from Tia:
Hi Lara! Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to do any shopping this week, because I have to cover some yoga classes for another instructor. But Emilio is going to the market this afternoon. Why don’t you join him? He’ll show you around and help you with the bargaining!
No, I can’t go with Emilio. No, I can’t. Lara knew she was attracted to Emilio, and she didn’t think this would be a good idea. Being with him, knowing he has a girlfriend, knowing that getting any attention from him would be wrong, would only make her feel worse. But I don’t think he’s attracted to me, so maybe it’ll be fine. Maybe I’m just exaggerating things. Maybe I should just go. Just go buy some souvenirs with a friend…
Message from Lara:
Tia, would’ve loved to go with you, but of course I understand. Very nice of you to offer this. What time will Emilio be going?
Message from Tia:
No worries at all! 2pm. He’ll be in the parking lot outside where the scooters are parked.
Message from Lara:
Ok, great. I’ll be there. Thank you so much!
Lara tried to silence the doubtful thoughts in her head. Going out with Emilio, alone, could be good for her. Maybe she had a very small crush on him, maybe his girlfriend reminded her of Allen’s woman, or maybe it was all much simpler than that –
she was just going with her yoga instructor to buy some souvenirs, based on his girlfriend’s suggestion. Why is everything so complicated now, Lara? What’s wrong with you? Just get ready and go. And talk to Eleanor first. Why are you being so strange, Lara? She was the ‘other’ woman. But her circumstances … You don’t even know enough about her, or why this happened, or how it happened. Who are you to judge, Lara? You’re just afraid that you may be taking advice from the “wrong” person, or that she doesn’t really get you. You found something special in Eleanor – comfort. Why do you think things are different now? Just because she’s been the other woman? Maybe you would’ve been too if you’d lived like her. No one’s perfect, you aren’t either. Snap out of it, Lara. Enough. This is ridiculous.
Lara wasn’t sure what to wear, what would be appropriate for this afternoon with Emilio. Nothing too revealing, nothing too casual, nothing too … Enough. Just put on some shorts and a tank top. She wore her short denim shorts and a white tank top. She pulled her hair back in a pony tail, still feeling conscious of her hair, and wore some light makeup. The bronzer on her cheeks and the pink lip stain complimented her hazel eyes. She added some mascara, and thought… this is for me, this make up is for me. This isn’t for Emilio.
She was ready a half hour earlier, and read Allen’s email again. Was she going to reply? Was it worth a reply? Would the reply make her look desperate? She could send him an email that made it very clear how angry she was, how inappropriate his email was … or she could ask him questions, she could tell him she needed answers, she could tell him how miserable he made her feel … But she didn’t have to decide now. He didn’t deserve an instant reply, perhaps he didn’t deserve a reply at all. She was so tempted to write, to send an email, to take advantage of this open line of communication between them. There was an “us” in this… an email between “us” … something that connected him to her – but she hated him, didn’t she? Why would you want to write to someone you hated so much? As she sat there, frustrated with her inability to make a decision, she decided that would be her dare for the day – to not make a decision about Allen’s email. Everything that related to Allen was always so urgent, so important, a priority— she needed to be her own priority now, and she would take her time and decide what she wanted to do with this email.
Lara went to find Eleanor before leaving with Emilio. Eleanor was in a Yoga class. She walked over to where Eleanor can see her, and when she caught her eye, she gestured that she was leaving. Eleanor smiled and nodded.
Lara was relieved to see Eleanor smiling at her again. Perhaps there was no more awkwardness. Perhaps Eleanor had forgiven Lara for acting so strangely when she recounted her story with Richard.
She walked to the parking lot where she found Emilio waiting, “Hi Emilio, thanks for taking me along with you.”
“Of course,” he smiled, “I’m looking forward to this. You’ll love the markets here.”
Emilio was wearing a navy blue tank top that showed off his muscular arms and looked like he hadn’t shaved for days.
This rugged look really suits you, she thought as he handed her the helmet.
Soon they were on their way, Lara’s arms around Emilio, in a closeness that made her feel both good and afraid. This wasn’t like that day with Eric. This felt different. It felt how she thought it would. She was very attracted to Emilio, and she could already feel herself regretting going with him to the market. This would only make her feel worse. Nothing could happen between them. He has a girlfriend. What is wrong with you Lara?
The ride took almost a half hour, and Lara tried to enjoy it as much as she could. But she couldn’t stop thinking – of what it could’ve been like if Emilio was single. And if he was attracted to her, then perhaps, it would’ve helped – save her. She wouldn’t have to think of Allen so much. She could enjoy being with an even better looking man – and revel in the attention he would give her.
“This market place is a smaller one, we’re near the Tanah Lot temple. You should come spend a day here just for some sightseeing. There’s a bigger market in Ubud, but that’s a bit further away now. Hopefully, you’ll find what you like here,” Emilio explained as they walked toward some of the stalls.
The stalls overflowed with an array of scarves, dresses, hats, and beaded accessories. Everything was so beautifully colorful, and with the ocean and the temple in the distance, there was so much to see in one place. Emilio started browsing for some things Tia had asked him to buy, and he told Lara to take her time and let him know if she needed anything. Lara loved the long, flowing patterned summery dresses, and bought a few, with Emilio’s help getting her a good price. She bought a few necklaces for some of her friends, and bought her mother and Eleanor purple shawls with a gold trim and a matching necklace.
As they looked around, a lady with a basket of flower hair clips walked up to Lara, “Beautiful,” she said giving Lara one, “only 10,000 …”
Emilio took the clip from Lara’s hand, “this is my gift to you.”
He paid the lady and as Lara thanked him, he gently placed the flower in her hair, “she’s right, beautiful.”
Emilio’s eyes lingered on her face, as he tucked a strand of her hair behind her ears – and for a moment, it felt like he had brushed her fears away. She stood there, a woman desired, her heart lighter than she had felt in a long time, a palpable tension between them. He likes me, she thought. It felt like a small victory and she couldn’t help but feel good – it wasn’t right, he wasn’t hers, but she was savoring the moment – with everything in it – beauty, hope, attraction, and the possibility, just the possibility, of freedom.
Once she composed herself, she finally smiled and said, “thank you Emilio.”
“If you’re done, we can go get some coffee before heading back,” he said, in what seemed to be a very casual tone – the change in the tone of his voice disappointed her.
“Yea, sure. Let’s do that.”
“When do you go back?” Emilio asked as he sipped his coffee.
“Four more days.”
“You probably won’t want to leave. It’s hard to leave Bali.”
“It’s a great place. I’ll probably want to come back again one day.”
“Maybe … with someone.” She wasn’t sure if his words were meant as a statement or a question.
“Yes, perhaps – ”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“I’m divorced,” she quickly added, “just recently.”
“Oh, sorry to heart that.”
Would they have a conversation about the divorce now? Would he ask her what happened? Did he care?
“It didn’t end well, I can tell …”
“He had an affair. So, yes, there was no good ending. But I don’t think there are any happy endings with divorce, anyway.”
“Many people have affairs …men and women … being faithful is not easy.”
Did he just say being faithful isn’t easy?
“Well, it was hard enough for him … I guess …”
“We can’t help who we are attracted to. It’s unfortunate …”
“Great, you’re making an excuse for him now,” Lara retorted.
“No, I’m not. I’m just trying to say that I believe things like that can be … complicated. I’ve been with Tia for nine years now, and I love her. But, I am sometimes attracted to other women.”
“Well, I was married to him, for six years, and we were together two years before then. When you get married, when you make that decision … it’s different …” Lara fidgeted with her napkin as she looked away.
“I’m sorry, you probably don’t want to hear my opinion on something like this. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“You’re not offending me. You’re making claims about something you don’t know anything about. You were never married, unless you were – ”
“No, never was.”
“Well then, you don’t understand. You don’t get it. People don’t get married to be attracted to other people. People don’t get married to end their marriages. They get married because they see a forever with someone. And you know what … I could’ve forgiven his affair, perhaps I could have. It would have taken some time, but he didn’t even want my forgiveness. He wanted to leave. That’s what hurts the most. Not only was I betrayed, I wasn’t wanted. At all. We were over, because he decided we were over, and I had no choice …”
“I don’t think – ”
“Look, Emilio,” Lara interrupted, “I get that you don’t mean anything. But a marriage is different,” she insisted.
“I don’t completely agree, but I understand that I don’t really have the right to judge something I never experienced.”
“Since you’ve been very open with me … I guess I can ask this question, do you and Tia ever think of getting married?”
“I wanted to marry her two years ago. It took a lot of courage for me to be able to ask her to marry me. Commitment is a big deal for me. But, she said she wasn’t ready. She said we needed to be sure. Now, I think she’s been ready for a few months … but I’m just not sure anymore … it worries me that I can’t be faithful to her.”
He was looking at her again, that same lingering look, and as she looked back, into his eyes, she couldn’t stop thinking of how much she wished he didn’t have a girlfriend.
“You really are beautiful,” he said as he reached across the table and held her hand. His hand felt warm and reassuring. She didn’t expect that she would let him hold her hand. This is ok. He’s just holding my hand. Just a friend holding my hand.
“Can I see you again?” he asked as she sat lost in her thoughts.
“I don’t know.”
“Think about it. I think you have my number …”
“Yes, I do,” he let go of her hand as she felt like clinging to it. Although Allen was still there, somewhere embedded in every thought, every action, Emilio’s presence made it just a little bit easier. It was like Allen had smashed her confidence into pieces, and Emilio’s eyes and touch were slowly helping to make put it back together. But do I really need a man for that? What did Eleanor say? She said if I’m only happy when I’m in love … then maybe I need to reconsider … But Eleanor had Richard. Her circumstances were different though. She was really trapped. But, aren’t I trapped too? Why do I have to be the stronger one, always? Why do I always have to do things right? Why do people who do the wrong things – get away with it and seem to be happier?
After Emilio dropped Lara off, insisting that she should get in touch and that they should meet again, Lara went to find Eleanor. Eleanor was in the room terrace writing in a journal. It was the first time Lara saw Eleanor writing.
“Hey, you’re back,” Eleanor looked up with a warm smile.
“Yes, and I got you something,” Lara showed Eleanor the shawl.
Eleanor’s face lit up, “This is so beautiful Thank you darling!”
“I went with Emilio,” Lara said hesitantly.
“Oh, not with Tia …”
“No,” Lara sighed, “Tia couldn’t go …I don’t think it was a good idea. But, I actually feel a little happier … ”
“Do you want to tell me about it?”
“I will,” Lara said as she sat a chair next to Eleanor, “but first tell me more …”
“Tell you more about Bill?”
“No, tell me more about Richard.”
End of Chapter 4 Part 1