“It’s—– difficult to explain.” He hesitated, automatically reaching up to run a hand through his hair and leaving breadcrumbs clinging to the curls. He barely seemed to notice, too caught up in cringing at his own poor life decisions. “It sounds so pathetic when you say it out loud, but… ah, Jesus…”
He let out a heavy breath through his nose, visibly steeling himself. “It wasn’t anything dramatic; not really dramatic, like she was fucking somebody else or she had an evil twin or something like that… It just… I came to realise that there was something really wrong with the way the relationship was. Like, someone’s no good for you, but you refuse to see it until you’re in too deep? I guess it was like that.”
A flicker of movement at his elbow, and there came a waiter like a ghost in a starched half-apron, bearing plates of spaghetti and an expression that said that he saw this kind of awkward date material every day of his damn life. Hard not to, he supposed, in such a popular place. Briefly he wondered where this ranked on the scale of drama – preferably below public, sobbing breakups and screaming matches – but the waiter was not forthcoming. Instead, he placed their meals in front of them in silence, refilled their wine with a smile and a quiet ‘enjoy your meal’, and yet Kieran could have sworn he received a very small wink. Weirdly enough, it helped a little.
“You know how I said I was crazy about her? Well, it didn’t go both ways.” The plate under his nose held a wonderful aroma of garlic and parmesan, but he didn’t so much as pick up his fork, eyes fixed somewhere in this past, not on his food. “If you’d have asked me then, I’d have said she was the One. I loved her so much and she… pretty much ignored me. She was so far above me, and it seemed like nothing I could do could bring her down to earth. She—– she acted like she was somehow doing me a favour in being with me, like I wasn’t good enough for her to be an equal. I had to fight to impress her, to kiss her, to even get a smile on the bad days. She was so… cold. So remote… and then she’d smile and laugh and put her arm around me and I’d forget all over again. Give up my friends, change my style… I was like a fucking puppy begging for scraps.”
Somewhere in this monologue, Kieran had given up trying to look Marian in the eye, his gaze sinking to the steam curling from his pasta. He couldn’t bear to see the look upon her face: those big blue eyes filled with disgust… no, not disgust, Marian wasn’t so cruel. Pity. That’s what it would be: pity for this silly man-child she’d married, who was fool enough to be taken in by a red-headed witch, his heart carefully plucked out with sharp, manicured nails and thrown at his feet. No, he didn’t want to see that expression, not as he made it quite clear how emotionally inept he truly was.
“I had to get out. I just… couldn’t take the hurt any more. I packed my bags while she was at work, left a note saying it was over and just… turned up at my brother’s place. She never even called.”
This is really tough for him, Marian mused as she watched her husband stiffen up, the way you would before a needle or a shot of bourbon. Marian’s lips thinned to a pink line. For a time, only her eyebrows moved, up then down again when Kieran swore. Not that her fun-loving, Irish husband never swore, but there was swearing casually with your mates…and there was swearing afterward.
“Like, someone’s no good for you,” he was saying, “but you refuse to see it until you’re in too deep? I guess it was like that.”
“I have that sort of relationship with cake,” Marian put in with a wan smile, aiming for something between interrupting and easing the tension.
She thanked the waiter politely, taking a moment to lean over the steam wafting from her plate, inhaling deeply but resisting the urge to take up her utensils until KIeran did. She glanced down the way the cheese was sort of sinking into the gaps between the noodles, begged whatever deity might be listening for patience, and locked her fingers together on her lap. Luckily, Kieran started talking again and her thoughts left the food as briskly as the waiter had left the table.
Sounds more like an iceberg than a woman. Marian kept that thought to herself, watching in her mind as the story of Kieran and his ex played out. She didn’t have a lot of dating experience herself to compare it to. There were a few highlights, sure, but she’d never really been able to hang onto anyone long enough to give up anything but her buzzer number.
Her brother, Garrett, knew a thing or too about women that were more like weather systems though, blowing into your life and leaving you shuddering.
The brown eyes she’d been growing fond of had drifted down and away, as though Kieran was ashamed of what he’d been telling her and Marian noticed this with a twist in her chest.
“Well,” he finished and she sat back with her brow knit tight, meaning with every ounce of her being to say something assuring and confidence-boosting to the man who had just poured his heart out to her, but instead all that came out was an incredulous, maybe too loud for a quiet restaurant: “What a bitch–I mean, that’s awful and everything but–”
“Breakups are like arrests: you’re entitled to a phonecall! Trust me I’ve overheard a lot of them. Actually,” Marian paused, torn between wanting to solve the puzzle and not wanting to make trouble. “Actually, darling…” There, that was better. She hoped.
“Are you absolutely sure your brother didn’t intercept them?”