"Hey," he said gently, startling me. I stopped in the middle of my packing – he'd gotten home earlier than I thought he'd be. "I missed you. You never told me when you'd be back."
Because you never asked, idiot.
"Yeah," I croaked. Great, now my voice sounded like I was a teenager again. "I thought you were at work – I just needed to get some things and then I'll leave."
He hadn't been looking at me before, studying our wedding portrait's frame behind me. I knew he wasn't looking at the portrait itself because he was looking too high up. Now his green eyes flickered to meet my own blue ones, green when I wore my contacts. He didn't like them, because he had said he'd rather look at my own eyes instead of a mirror of his. "I was taking Margaret out to lunch, but needed to get something. Leave?"
"To my parents'. I'm… leaving," I repeated.
He didn't seem to think deeper about that. Maybe because I'd never gone visited my parents before – that this was the very first time Nicole Maverick, wife of the Logan Lansing, was actually going somewhere for the first time in roughly eight months since she'd gotten married. Um, since I'd gotten married. I don't know – I'm just confusing myself.
"Okay," he sighed, running his hand in that messy hair that I loved so much. Then he asked me the question I had been hoping to avoid. "When will you be back?"
I looked around anxiously, trying to calm down enough to say what I'd wanted to, ever since the end of the honeymoon.
"I'm not. I'm leaving you."
The words sunk into him fairly quickly. His green eyes darkened in color with what I guessed were anger.
"Leaving me? Why the hell are you leaving me, Nicky?" To my surprise, though he'd certainly sounded annoyed, he looked resigned and tired. I decided not to take my chances with believing he wasn't the tiniest bit angry. I'd be, too, if I was the CEO of my father's company and my rich wife was leaving.
I took a deep breath, still not daring to look at his face. I was scared to look at him, because this was the man I'd fallen in love with, even before our parents told us we were arranged to be married. (Our parents told me in kindergarten, when he was in third grade.)
This was the guy who'd gotten us to be best friends when we were young, so we wouldn't be as angry about the arranged marriage when we were older. He was the guy who gave me my first kiss. He was the guy who took me, a freshman, to his senior prom. He… he was the guy who told me he had feelings for me, when I believed I was stepping into a platonic marriage.
"Being married to you… has been really tiring. I – I can't do it anymore. I'm sorry," I began.
"All you do is hold charity events and write all day!" he protested.
I stared at him, flabbergasted. How dare he speak as if I just have fun while he works all day? His eyes widened when he realized how callous it was.
"Oh my god, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean –"
"It's okay," I said icily. My entire posture had straightened and stiffened. He did too, looking at his hands. He'd only heard me use this tone with him once, and that was when he first introduced me to Margaret – when she'd claimed him as her territory and it wasn't until weeks later that Logan finally set her straight. "Of course you didn't mean it. You never go to the events, where the people with old money take pity on Stood-Up Mrs. Lansing, instead of the fucking cause. Or that what I've been writing was something an editor has been looking at. All the people at the events, they don't go because they care. I end up having to practically blackmail them into volunteering or donating because they'd all rather just see poor Mrs. Lansing without her husband. Or the one time he attends, he has his fucking new assistant Margaret on his arm!"
My sudden volume in voice had surprised him, even me. I was breathing heavily from that last bit, but I suddenly felt like I couldn't stop. My mind suddenly flooded with images of Logan with one of his best friends he'd met in college, Margaret, together. They looked so perfect as a couple, and while the press wisely had kept quiet about that, I knew they saw him with Margaret more than him with me. They were both tall, lean, and had messy dark hair. I was short and had blonde hair. He and I looked like opposites – I didn't see how we could've made the hottest couple in all the magazines.
"Now hold on a second. You can't just say that about Margaret," he said angrily, to my disbelief. Did he have selective hearing or something? Did he just entirely miss my point?
"Margaret's in love with you, okay?" I interrupted. My eyes were getting damp, but I didn't dare let him see me cry. I didn't want him to say, "Let's discuss this later," because I didn't want him to draw out the pain even longer. "She – she might not even be after your money, too. If I leave, you guys can give it a go. I'm making this easier for you."
I sat down on our – no, my bed. He'd taken to sleeping in the guest room, because he used to come in late and since I was a light sleeper, I'd usually wake up. He started sleeping in another room, claiming I needed my sleep, but I'd felt the distance anyway.
I rubbed my forehead – Logan at least deserved a full explanation.
"I'm tired of being in this marriage, though it seems like a stereotypical rich heiress' dream marriage. You're good looking, my age, faithful – at least that I know of, and don't care what I do with my time."
"Of course I'm faithful to you," Logan said. He looked angry, sad, and confused. I was angry, sad, and hurt. I felt like trading spots with him. "Of course I care what you do with your time. You're my wife."
Wife. Oh, how much I hated that word now.
"I held a charity event last week. Some guy gave me his number and when I declined, he said, 'It's not like your husband's going to notice anyway. He's always with that hot little slut.' That really shows what you care about what I do with my time!" I screamed. Now that I was on a roll, I really couldn't stop. I had started crying, too. I knew I looked awful, with makeup running down my face. That made me feel even worse.
"I want to be your wife!" I exclaimed.
"But you already are," Logan said, confused.
For some reason, that caused me to go into hysterics, laughing, but my laughter was full of bitter pain.
"That's what you and everyone else thinks, but no, I'm really not."
"We're married. I'm the husband; you're my wife. Unless you haven't told me…"
I could only gape at his attempt at a joke. Why couldn't he see he was hurting me… that I was dying? "Exactly how much stupider can you get?"
That was when, like what he'd said about me being his wife, I knew calling him stupid had been a mistake.
It wasn't common knowledge, but Logan was dyslexic. A boy in kindergarten had bullied him about being stupid, and to this day, he still can't stand being called that.
"Margaret wouldn't have called me stupid," he hissed, pinning my wrists and body down on the bed. My body turned cold, meeting his eyes. This was the first time I'd ever been truly afraid of Logan, though I'd seen how intimidating he was with others. I turned my face away, whimpering. I could literally feel ice water moving through my veins, effectively shocking and paralyzing my body.
It took Logan about a second to realize that I was scared of him hurting me – that I was scared of him, period. He sat back up, holding me, my back pressed against his chest. I immediately scrunched up into a ball, trying to get as far away from him as possible.
"Fuck, I'm sorry, Nicky," he said, still holding me tightly. It reminded me of how he'd held me during our first snowfall as a couple. "I shouldn't have said or done any of that."
"You think?" I shot bitterly, pushing him away from me. "If we were really married, I'd really be your wife. I'd be the one you woke up at night because you came home late from work. I'd be the one you called at work. I'd be the one you attended social gatherings with. I'd be the one the paparazzi kept taking pictures of you with. I'd be the one you told everything to. I'd be the one giving you a reason to come home every night. I'd be the one you'd never ignore, in favor of Margaret or work. Not Margaret! That'd be how I'd be your wife! Though legally it says I am, I'm really not. I'm just a prisoner in your home that you use as a booty call!"
I took a deep breath. My mouth kept on going, spilling out everything that had been bubbling in me since after the honeymoon.
"Margaret tells me every single day, every single fucking thing you guys do together. She laughs in my face, talking about just how much I love you but you're oblivious. She brags about how close she is to getting you to admit that you're in love with her. She fucking screams in my face how she's going to take you away from me, because I ruined your life."
I had to stop to wipe more tears. I was completely hysterical by now, at my breaking point. I couldn't breathe, no matter how huge the gulps of air were that I took.
"So I'm sorry I ruined your life. I'm fixing it now. I'm sorry our parents decided to use us to gain more money and publicity because of how an arranged marriage actually became the fairytale wedding all the girls of the nation dreamed of. I'm sorry I forgot your dad told us to act like we were really in love with each other. I'm sorrier that I believed you when you said you loved me. Just part of the acting, right? I'm sorry that you couldn't be happy with Margaret right now. I'm sorry I ever considered declining that number from that guy who was right about you anyway, okay? Maybe then you would've, at the very least, noticed me. That's why I'm leaving you."
By the time I'd ended my tirade, I'd gotten quieter, now that my voice was hoarse.
"I really wish I was your wife though, instead of Margaret," I whispered into the blanket. He was still sitting there, but I didn't dare look at him. This was the most personal I'd ever gotten with him, and I wasn't sure I wanted to see how he was feeling about it. "I always wished I was the one giving you your coffee and bagel when you were running late, receiving that kiss on the cheek when you got your food. I wish I was the one helping you put on that damn tie you still haven't figured out. I wish I was the one you smiled at when you saw me. I wish I was the one you asked about clothes, or just plain anything. I wish I was the one you weren't embarrassed to show around in public. I wish I was the one you took along, whenever you needed to leave for work. I – I wish I was the one you loved."
My heart was still thumping wildly from all the secrets I'd told him. I couldn't believe I'd just said all that to him, but it was all out. He now knew what I'd felt for the past eight months, but he gave no response.
"I'll be leaving now. See you around, I guess," I mumbled, closing my suitcase. I was about to leave when his hand caught my wrist, his thumb rubbing the fleshy part of my hand.
Trembling, I let him pull me back into his embrace, where I let his body warm mine. My back was to his chest again, but this time he entwined our fingers together, where our rings brushed against each other, and he buried his nose into my hair. I hadn't taken off my rings – inside, I knew even while he neglected me, I'd never been able to resist him, ever. I simply loved him too much to deny him anything he wanted.
Which in this case, was Margaret.
"I just wanted to feel like I was actually your wife," I whispered into our fingers, looking at our rings. I'd probably never admit it, but my heart clenched at the sight of them. He hadn't taken his off, either. I could see our names engraved on each other's rings with the sweet message – 'Nicole & Logan, together forever'. "Is that too much to ask?"
He didn't speak for a moment. I could feel him breathing, and I wondered if he was thinking of a way to let me down. My heart thumped painfully, but I couldn't cry. All my tears had gone to my broken marriage, and I didn't have anything else to lose, but Logan.
And Logan was everything.
"You're running away," he finally said. I didn't argue.
"Yes. I can't do this anymore."
He continued on, as if he hadn't heard me. "Don't both spouses need to sign the papers?"
A flame of hope shot up in me, even before I could suppress it. Logan felt it too. I almost felt almost desperate now, to end our marriage before he hurt me again.
"Why can't you just make our lives easier?" I said, my mouth working desperately to achieve that goal. "You can have Margaret! And you'll never see me again!"
"If we're not together, I don't think our lives will get easier – I don't want Margaret. Nicky, I want you," he said, holding me tighter. I started to cry again, disgusted with myself. Just how much more did I want to dehydrate my body by crying?
"I'm so sorry," he whispered into my hair. His whispered apology drifted to my ear, not helping me try to put my hopes down. "Margaret told me that you'd fallen in love with someone else – someone younger than me. Stupidly, I believed it. I still love you so much. I'm sorry I distanced myself away from you. I want you to be my wife, but I just kept imagining you and this other guy together, off being so much happier."
He paused a little, to idly twirl my hair.
"Yesterday, Margaret mentioned you were putting on weight, and I yelled at her for it. No matter how many times she's tried, I'm still not speaking to her – I don't think I ever even want to see her again. Just look at what she's done to us! I want you to do all those things Margaret's taken for herself to do. Don't you ever believe Margaret. I've never cheated on you, never even thought about it, and I love you, only you."
I sat there, just listening to his quiet, deep voice. I could easily imagine this voice telling his children how much he loved them, after he said goodnight and they were too asleep to hear him. My heart clenched when I realized how much I wanted to have those children he'd use this voice with.
"My heart hurt, when I saw you afraid of me. I shouldn't have scared you. I'm so sorry; I hope you can forgive me. I knew you didn't mean to call me stupid, but I acted without thinking. I forgot who you were. I – A husband shouldn't be allowed to frighten his own wife. Maybe – maybe we should get a divorce."
He started to let me go from his lap, but I held on tighter. My face went to his shoulder, probably wetting his shirt with tears. I could tell he didn't really care, at the moment.
"Please don't leave me," I cried brokenly. "I forgive you. I'm sorry too. I love you. Please, just please, don't leave me."
He had his arms wrapped around my waist by now. "You have nothing to be sorry for. I love you too."
I lifted my face to meet his since both our speeches. His eyes were clear and bright, probably from unshed tears. I imagined mine to be the same. His lips weren't set in a thin line like they always were when he saw me; they were curved in a genuine smile. My heart warmed slightly, knowing he was smiling for me.
"I should at least be sorry for putting on some weight," I said softly, remembering his words from earlier. The close proximity of our faces scared me a little, and our eye contact, too, but I wanted to see his face.
"Don't listen to Margaret. I don't care if you're fat –"
"Truth is, I'm pregnant."
His voice froze, and his body went rigid, but after a second, he relaxed. I exhaled a breath I didn't know I had been holding.
"We're going to be parents," he said, smiling brilliantly. I probably had a matching insane grin on my face. "How far along are you?"
"Three months," I said shyly, wiping at my tears. "Due in February."
He caught the significance too. It was in February when he first told me that he loved me. "Damn, Nicky. Let's go celebrate today, hm?"
"But don't you have to go eat with Margaret?" I asked tentatively, seeing as Margaret had been such a sore spot for both of us.
His eyes darkened at the mention of her. "I don't care about her. After all, I've already got my wife."
And finally, then, he kissed me.
A/N: I just had a David Copperfield flashback with Dr. & Mrs. Strong.
Whoo! This is the fastest thing I've ever jotted down, revised, and typed up! Thanks for reading, and please review!