Tangled Love

 

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Photo by Johnia

The snowstorm spews chaos all throughout the night. Snow covers the ground for miles. The only thing that can be made out in the blizzard is the small airport. Inside, everything stands still, except for a lanky janitor scrubbing the floor with a floor-waxer.

The boarding sign flashes delayed for all outgoing flights, not that it matters. The only gate that has any passengers is a flight to New York. Empty chairs fill the departure lounge, except for a flight attendant, an older couple, a young man, and a young woman. The flight attendant silently amuses herself with her phone; the older couple huddles together, tired from travel. The young man occasionally lifts his head from his newspaper to spy on the young woman wiping her nose.

The young woman looks to be in her 20s. Her hair is mahogany and flows in waves around her porcelain face; her eyes are a bright emerald green. If she were to smile, the world would sigh with serenity. If she were to laugh, the world would laugh with her. But she isn’t smiling nor laughing. Instead, she is weeping.

She looks deeply upset and in need of comforting. Poor thing, the young man thought.

Laurel notices the young gentleman watching her as she dries the tears from her swollen face. She quickly wraps the tissue up and stuffs it into her coat pocket. God, get it together, Laurel. It’s been two weeks. Yeah, it’s over, but that doesn’t mean you have to cry every second of the day. Stop being so pathetic.

Laurel reaches beside her for her purse and takes out her compact mirror. Black lines of mascara stain her cheeks from where she had been crying; she blows out a quick breath and begins wiping away the smeared mascara. As she turns to place the mirror back into her purse, she catches a glimpse of the young man walking her way. Maybe he’s going to the bathroom, Laurel thinks as she turns back to her purse.

“Excuse me, may I sit?” Laurel turns around in shock, unable to speak.

He points to the empty chair next to her. She simply nods, keeping her lips clamped tightly together. He gives her a soft, friendly smile and sits down. On closer inspection, Laurel can see that the stranger is quite handsome. Tall, dark, and handsome – nothing like Mike.

The stranger slowly turns to Laurel. “Nice weather we’re having tonight?”

“I guess,” Laurel mumbles, clutching her purse tightly to her chest.

“Yeah, I’ve seen better days. I’m Nathan, by the way.” Nathan gently stretches out his hand, allowing her to take it.

Laurel looks at him oddly, but takes it anyway. “I’m Laurel.”

“Nice to meet you,” he says with a slight nod of his head. “So, what brings you to the busy streets of the Big Apple?”

Unable to fight the tears back anymore, Laurel wails into the palm of her hands, “I … was supposed to be on my honeymoon, but … my fiancé, … Mike cheated on me.”

Nathan hastily digs into his jacket pocket offering her his handkerchief. She takes it, giving him a warm smile. “I’m sorry. You know, maybe I can help. Why don’t you start from the beginning and take it from there?”

Laurel nodded and began to share her story.

****

It happened almost a week and half ago at the rehearsal dinner. Laurel had been searching for Mike everywhere. It was time for the toasts to begin and he was nowhere in sight. He’d said he would be back in a minute, but that was twenty minutes ago.

Laurel stomped her foot and thought, Just wait until I get my hands on you, Mike! You’ll be sorry!

As she rounded the corner near the back exit, she spotted Mike talking to her friend, Melanie. Laurel stopped and stepped back, pausing behind the corner. Mike and Melanie seemed to be in a heated conversation with Melanie on the verge of tears and Mike annoyed.

Mike bellowed at Melanie. “I’ve told you, I can’t see you anymore!” He ran his hands through his hair.

“But you said…you…loved me,” Melanie murmured as she tried to grip the hem of his suit. He pulled her hands away, took a step back, and sighed.

“It was never that way between us, Melanie—not the way Laurel and I feel about each other. We had a fling, but….”

Laurel felt her heart pounding; she couldn’t breathe! She had to get out! She had to go! She turned to run the other way when she bumped into her father. Mike and Melanie immediately turned around, both in shock to discover Laurel and her father.
Laurel’s father caught her before she could tumble to the ground. “What on earth is going on here?” he demanded.

Blinded by tears, Laurel could not answer the question. She forcibly pulled out of her father’s embrace and ran back the way she had come, with Mike at her heels and her father calling after her.

Laurel barricaded herself in the bathroom. Her body shook. She kept thinking. How? Why me? Laurel felt her knees buckle as her body slowly slid down to the floor. Bang! Bang! Bang! Laurel jumped from the impact of the pounding door.

“Laurel, open the door! It wasn’t what it looked like, I swear!” Mike spoke through the door. The doorknob started to rattle. Laurel shook her head and covered her face with her hands.

Mike continued, “Laurel, please! Let me explain! It’s not what you think! I was never with her! Please, Laurel, let me in!”

Something in Laurel snapped. She shot up from the corner and threw the door open. “What do you mean you never been with her? I just heard you tell her that it was over! You cheating bastard!” Her hands quivered; she wanted to do nothing more than to slap Mike.

“Laurel, listen. It was….”

Mike tried to finish, but a fist collided with his face. Laurel was so caught up in her confrontation with Mike that she didn’t see her father. Mike fell head first to the floor. Blood gushed over the top of his hand as he gripped his nose. He tried to right himself.

Laurel tried to pull her father back, but in vain. She screamed, “Daddy stop! Stop! Somebody, help!”

Several people heard the commotion and rushed into the room. Someone seized her father and pulled him away from Mike. Laurel’s mother yelled at her husband, “What are you doing? Have you lost your mind?”

“Let go of me! I’m going to strangle that son of a bitch!”

After that, everything became a blur: Mike’s parents demanding explanations, the paramedics arriving for Mike, Laurel’s father being escorted from the room, and the guests whispering. It was a disastrous night, one that Laurel wanted to forget.

****

Bang! Nathan and Laurel jump from the sound of the floor-waxer hitting the ground. Soft curses escape the janitor’s mouth. Nathan turns back to Laurel, saying, “I understand how you must feel. Perhaps Melanie did you a favor by confronting Mike before the wedding. At least now you know what sort of person he is.”

“Yes, but that does not stop the pain or the humiliation. Being with him meant everything to me. And now it’s gone,” Laurel confessed.

“Pain? Hmm. I lost the one person that meant something to me.” Nathan looks out the window at the dark, snowy night. His thoughts start to drift back to that tragic night.

****

It was their anniversary and Marie was waiting for him at the restaurant. Nathan quickly gathered the scattered documents from his desk and stuffed them into his briefcase. He sprinted to his car and threw his briefcase in the trunk. Nathan burst out of the parking garage, nearly taking out the passing traffic. Horns blared.

“Jackass!” A taxi driver bellowed.

Nathan gritted his teeth as the stoplight turned red. He slammed on the brakes. Shit! He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. Come on, come on, come on, he chanted impatiently in his head. Then the light turned green. “Finally!”

Nathan raced to the restaurant in record time. He was only ten minutes late. As the waiter showed him to his table, Nathan started to form excuses to explain his tardiness. Sorry honey, my conference call took longer than I expected. No. Sorry honey, traffic was backed up. His train of thought was cut short, though, when he saw the empty table. Nathan began to worry; Marie was never late.

Suddenly, his cell phone started to vibrate. Nathan answered relieved, “Honey, where are you? I thought something might have…”

“Mr. Scott?” A male voice asked.

“Yes,” Nathan answered, confused.

“Mr. Scott, this is Officer Gailmont of the NYPD. I’m sorry to inform that your wife has been in a car accident…” Everything stopped. A waiter that carried the serving platter stood frozen. The laughs of the people at the nearby table were muted. Everything was still, except for the phone that tumbled to the ground.

Flashes of Marie appeared. She was in the kitchen cooking and singing with Cher – “you haven’t seen the last of me.” Her long brown hair swung as she swayed to the music. Marie. Oh, Marie. How he missed her.

****

Nathan turns back to Laurel, “I’m sorry. You see, you remind me of someone I lost a long time ago.”

Laurel doesn’t know what to say. She just stares at him. Nathan continues, “I can see now that this was probably a mistake.” He rises from his seat and stands in front of Laurel. He stretches out his hand and says, “I do hope everything works out for you.” Laurel takes his hand and wishes him luck. Nathan nods as he gathers his bag; he starts walking down the lonely terminal away from her and away from New York.

The flight to New York is lonely, though not from the lack of passengers. She hopes that New York offers her more than a disastrous pseudo-honeymoon. The streets are lined with the hustle and bustle of pedestrians. New York is alive. Taxi drivers whiz through the streets, often taking the long routes and charging ridiculous cab fares.

Laurel gets out of the taxi, cursing under her breath. I may be a tourist, but I’m not dumb. It’s a good thing that the hotel isn’t that far of a walk. The cab driver tried to take a detour instead of straight to the hotel. Laurel makes a mental note to take the subway for the remainder of her stay.

She spots the hotel. It’s a beautiful building, beige with columns of windows overlooking the city. On the inside, the ceiling reflects the image of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Elegant light fixtures adorn the walls, and the furniture is beautifully crafted
Laurel stands mesmerized by the scene, completely oblivious to the person shouting her name. “Laurel! Laurel!”

Mike quickens his pace when he sees Laurel. He’s tried for days to reach her, but all his calls rolled straight to voicemail. He remembers running into her mother a week after the rehearsal. The woman was set on keeping Laurel’s whereabouts a secret, but that all changed after Mike told her mother the truth. Melanie stalked him for the past year. The woman was obsessed. She had left messages on his cellphone, crazy love notes, and even showed up at his office. They had dated, but only for a couple weeks. Their relationship ended when he met Laurel.

“Laurel!” She turns and sees him.

Mike! Oh my god, what’s he doing here? Laurel panics and is about to make a break for the entrance, but Mike grabs hold of her before she can.

“Laurel, I need to speak with you. Please. Stop. Running.” Laurel shakes her head and tries to get away. Mike keeps hold of her hands as he tries to catch his breath. “Laurel, there was a misunderstanding. I need to talk to you. Please.”

“No! I just want to go home. I made a mistake coming here.”

Mike, thinking that if he could just get her to pause, pulls her into his arms and captures her lips with his. The kiss was slow and sweet. Laurel never wants it to stop, but then the image of Melanie and Mike kissing in the hallway appears in her head.

Laurel pushes Mike away and slaps him, “What the hell do you think you are doing?” Not waiting for an answer, Laurel pushes past Mike and tries to make it to the door again. Mike grabs her, struggling against her resistance. “You need to talk to me!”

“No! Just stay away from me!” Angry that she can’t get away from Mike, she grabs his hair and yanks it.

“Ow! Laurel, let go! Christ!” Mike immediately releases her. He steps back, trying to catch his breath, while Laurel tries fixing her clothes and untidy hair. Laurel makes her way past Mike again and this time she’s successful.

“I’m sorry!” Mike cries out.

Laurel’s comes to a halt; she slowly faces him. “Melanie and I were together once. She had been following me around for months. I called off our relationship a couple weeks before you and I met. Melanie took it hard. She would call my house, saying that things were not over between us. I thought about telling you, but…”

“No, that’s a lie. I heard you. You were ending it with Melanie that night. You said…” Tears start to flow from Laurel’s eyes and her voice cuts off.

Mike rushes to her, trying to surround her with his arms. She shakes her head and pushes him away again, but with little effort.

Mike turns her so that he can look deep into her eyes, whispering, “Laurel, I swear, I never cheated on you.” Mike sighs, closing his eyes. He continues, “Melanie told me if I said anything to you, she would tell you that I was sleeping with her. I’m sorry, but I was so afraid that you would believe her, and I love you so much. Please, forgive me.”

Thousands of thoughts race through Laurel’s mind at once. What if it was Melanie and not Mike? He might be telling the truth. No, he can’t be! He’s just saying these things to get me to forgive him.

“How do I know that you are telling the truth?”

Mike reaches into his pocket and pulls out a crumpled piece of paper; he unfolds it and hands it to Laurel. She reads:

Don’t think you can run so easily. Just wait, you’ll see.
You will be mine again. She will be just a memory.
Love, Melanie

Laurel folds the letter in her hands. Mike has been telling the truth all along.

Laurel looks back to Mike; she sees the truth written in his eyes. New tears start to form in her eyes. Laurel softly whispers, “Will you ever forgive me?”

Mike only smiles. He’s known Laurel was the only one for him in this world. He gently takes her face within his hands, “Well, there is one way.”

Laurel looks a little confused and asks, “How?”

Mike’s smile grows, “Will you marry me again?”

Laurel laughs.

 

Ashley Jarman currently attends the University of Mount Olive as a undergraduate and expects to graduate in the Fall of 2016 with a double major in English and Psychology. Her career plans involve pursuing a career in publishing. She credits her mother for her love of literature.

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