Chapter Twenty-Two

Sophie sat at her desk in her office, quietly tapping her fingers on the brown table top. She thrummed her fingernails across the hard surface and sighed for about the fiftieth time since she had arrived. Her collection had been a hit, she had a variety of offers, companies interested in picking up some of her pieces or adding them to their lines. Why did she feel so unfulfilled? Sophie closed her eyes and pictured Laith's face. It pained her to do it but she couldn't help herself. She could see his beautiful almond black eyes, his straight nose, his short hair, his thin frame. She smiled to herself. I will love him forever, Sophie thought to herself. Who knew? Who knew someone could take a hold of your heart so quickly? The time slid away from Sophie as she day dreamed. The thought of Laith brought the tears back to her eyes once more. She wrapped her arms around herself and shook quietly. She tried to blink away the tears but the movements of her eyelashes only made them fall faster onto her cheeks.

Sophie felt so lost in her emotions for Laith that she almost missed the quiet jingle playing on her phone. She reached for her phone instinctively and checked the number. It was her sister-in-law. Sophie hesitated, she loved Rayne but she was hardly in the mood to talk. Or answer questions about how she was doing or feeling. But this could be about Nathan. Or it could be Matthew calling from his wife's phone. He and her mother was all the family she had. Sophie cleared her throat.

"Hello?" She tried to disguise the pain and the quivering in her voice.

"Hey Sophie, it's Rayne."

"Hi." Sophie rested her forehead on her hand and tried to steady her breath.

"How are you?" Rayne continued.

"Fine." Sophie lied. She shook her head back and forth, wanting to hang up the phone.

"Are you feeling better?" Sophie held back a quiet sob. Was she feeling any better than what? Or when? When she was with Laith, in the UK, happy? Or when she was at the fashion gala, half unconscious in his arms? Or when she was in the hospital bed, being screamed at by Laith and torn to pieces by his rejection?

"Much better."

"I'm glad, Sophie." Rayne didn't sound convinced and quite frankly, Sophie didn't care. She didn't bother with a reply but instead wiped the tears away from her cheeks with her fingertips and choked down another sob. "Listen, Sophie, I have a favour to ask you."

"Okay." Sophie whispered.

"Can you meet me somewhere?"

Sophie squeezed her eyes together, mascara be damned. "Why, Rayne?" She squeezed the words out of her aching and constricted throat.

"Because I need you to." Rayne replied simply. Sophie sighed. Rayne was as close as Sophie was ever going to get to a sister, and Sophie knew that not doing something would hurt her brother. She could not afford to lose any more people in her life. "We need to get you back to being Sophie." Her sister-in-law added. Sophie almost snorted. Getting back to being Sophie was the last thing she needed. She didn't need to go back to the person she once was, what she needed was to get back to being the person she had been with Laith. Once upon a time. Not the person she had been with him come the end.

"Okay, Rayne." Sophie breathed.

"Was that a yes?" Rayne checked.

"Yes." Sophie repeated.

"Can you meet me at 360?" Sophie wanted to bury her head further into her hand. Rayne wanted her to meet her at the restaurant at the top of the CN Tower? Why? For what purpose? So Sophie could finally put herself out of her misery and jump? No one could screw up dying after jumping off the CN Tower. Knowing Sophie, she would probably fail at even that.

"Fine, Rayne." She couldn't hide her upset and frustration. She needed to get off this phone.

"Tonight, seven."

"Fine." Sophie pressed 'End' on her phone and let her forehead hit the top of her desk. Why did she think she could do this? Why did she think she could go on with Laith hating her? She loved him. She really loved him. And she loved how he had made her feel - once upon a time, before he had sent her away, before he had rejected her. But she still loved him. And it hurt. It really hurt.

Laith paced back and forth in his hotel room. Was this going to work? Would Sophie ever be willing to forgive him? Would he ever be able to make it all up to her? She lived in her head but he needed to open her eyes. Laith loved her, he had loved her from the start. She was the one for him but he didn't think that she even realized it. Laith put his hand on his stomach as it churned in nervousness. He took a calming breath and pulled on a crisp lavender dress shirt. He button it up his chest methodically, hoping his shaking fingers would remember what to do.

What was he even going to say to her? How do you tell someone who you have hurt that you love them and need their forgiveness? What if she wouldn't forgive him? Laith hadn't thought about that yet. He had been confident in the fact that he could make her see the light, that he could make Sophie see how much he loved her. That he could almost force her to forgive him. But Sophie was her own woman. Laith's hands froze on the button. He could not force her - he could not make her see. He could try, but if she didn't want to forgive him, or move on in her life with him, or be with him, then what could he do? What if she didn't even love him? What if she never actually loved him? Laith could barely breathe. He grabbed his light and dark purple striped tie and nearly choked himself with his shaking fingers. He breathed her name, "Sophie", in an attempt to settle himself. Oh Sophie, he thought. Laith let out another long breath and gave up on trying to tie his tie. He sat down on the edge of his hotel room bed and placed his hands on his knees. He began his prayers, the same salat he had been praying since he was a child. Help me, he thought.

Sophie had somehow wandered back to her condo. She didn't even recall the journey home, how she had gotten on the correct subway or street car. But she had gotten home. Sophie slipped out of her dress clothes and pulled on a soft cotton cardigan. The warmth of the Toronto summer didn't really touch the coldness and sadness she felt in her chest. She pulled on some jeans and wiped away another few tears that had fallen on her cheeks. Sophie knew the 360 Restaurant was a formal affair but she really couldn't be bothered. It hurt too much to try right now, and if she was just meeting Rayne it didn't really make a difference. Her sister-in-law probably just wanted some girl time, away from her family. Or she somehow felt it was her duty to get Sophie out of the house. Or over Laith. That one hurt - the idea of trying to move on from Laith.

Sophie took a steadying breath and tried her best to force her feet out of her apartment door. She was early for the dinner but she couldn't sit alone in her dark bedroom wishing for something, someone. She let her hair fall in her face as she walked. Sophie let her feet carry her once more, keeping her eyes on her feet. They drifted her down to the subway once more and onto one of the cars. She collapsed into the seat and rested her head against the subway window. Closing her eyes, Sophie held her purse tightly against herself, hoping the added pressure would ease the pain in her chest. Would time heal these wounds, she wondered? The swaying of the subway soothed Sophie's exhausted mind enough that she began to doze. She felt her body and mind beginning to drift into the mindless comfort of sleep. Her head fell to the side, awakening her with a jolt. Sophie shook her hair out, frustrated. Would her body not even let her sleep? After all of this?

Sophie sunk down further into her seat in frustration and hurt and waited for her stop at Museum Station. When the voice on the intercom called out the name of her stop, Museum, she stumbled out of her seat in the still moving car, grasping onto the metal bars for support. She had a long way to walk to reach Rayne, but she had the time and the state of mind to wander alone. Her body felt weak, her mind weaker, and her heart the weakest. How was she going to get through a meal with Rayne when she could barely get through a day sitting alone in her office avoiding phone calls?

Pulling herself out of the subway car, Sophie slowly made her way up the subway steps to the warm summer air of the street. Putting her head down once more, Sophie walked down front street towards the biggest monument in Toronto. As she stumbled along she found herself walking past St. Michael's Cathedral. Sophie stopped and looked up. The brown brick and huge windows stared back at her. She placed her hand on the black rot iron gates that surrounded the old church. Sophie had been baptized Catholic at one point in her life. Squeezing the railing, letting the cold and hard metal imprint in her hand, Sophie let out a sigh. She used to believe in something. She used to have hope in something, or someone. She used to pray for a better life, or for help, or for a new pair of designer boots.

She didn't know what it was, she didn't know what compelled her, but her mindless feet seemed to gain a mind of their own. She began to walk towards the opening in the gate, towards the front door of the Church. She stepped onto the path that led to the large wooden doors. The manicured bushes on the sides of the path gently rustled in the wind. Sophie glanced at them and kept walking. Her purposeful feet walked up to those wooden doors and her hands, following suit, opened one of those doors. She stepped inside the quiet church. Small bulletins hung on the cork boards and candles burned in front of pictures of Saints. Sophie, like any good Catholic, sat down in the pew in the back row, carefully avoiding the eyes of the giant crucifix at the front of any Catholic church. She hadn't prayed in so long, she didn't know if she remembered how to do it. Or if God, or whoever was listening, remembered her. She fumbled through a sign of the cross and bowed her head in her hands; resuming the same position she had taken all day at work. "Um, well, uh," she tangled her hands in her hair. Closing her eyes and attempting to quiet her mind, Sophie quietly pleaded with whoever might have been listening to her inner monologue. If you're there, please help me.

Sophie didn't know how long she sat in that pew, pleading for assistance, pleading for forgiveness, pleading for the pain to cease, before the priest had sat down beside her. He hadn't said anything to her, he merely sat close to her, his own hands folded in prayer. Sophie stared at him, wondering if she should say something. He turned to her and smiled.

"Good evening." He stated.

"Uh, hi." Sophie stared at his white collar and long black frock. She hoped the tears in her eyes were not obvious to him in the dimly lit church.

"Would you like to talk?" He asked. Sophie continued to stare.

"I," she began. She what? What did she want? Why was she here? Did she even have a right to be here? When was the last time she had prayed, let alone come to church? She was an imposter. "I just came to pray." She tried to excuse herself.

"May I pray with you?" He asked.

Your church, she wanted to reply. "Uh, sure." Sophie uncomfortably shifted a few feet further away from the priest and eyed him carefully in her peripherals. They sat in silence for a few minutes. Sophie wanted to check her phone to see the time but was scared to take it out of her purse while sitting beside this priest.

"Is there anything you would like me to pray for in specific?" The priest asked quietly.

"Uh, what?" Sophie whispered back.

"Do you have any prayer intentions?" Sophie thought for a moment. How about sending me back to my birth for a re-do? A mulligan of sorts? How about taking away all my pain? How about giving me back Laith? Or what about giving me back my innocence?

"For Laith." Sophie decided.

"For Laith?" The priest asked.

"Yes, for Laith."

"And what about for you?" He smiled at her.

Sophie couldn't help herself, she shook her head and smiled back. "Sure, for me too, I guess."

"For Laith and for you." Sophie let out a quiet sigh. For Laith and Sophie.