Esmeralda reads the text a couple of times as if somehow it would change its wording. Her stomach turns from fear as she calls him. There are a couple of rings until his voice comes through.
“What?” He says dryly.
“What’s going on?” Anxiety fills her more and more as each second passes.
“It’s pretty simple. I’m not coming.” The words weaken her heart. Never has he told her this before. She’s got ‘be there soon’, ‘let me finish up’, and even on occasion ‘I can’t make it tonight, but I’ll make it up to you’. But never in time they’ve been dating has she ever got I’m not in the mood.
“Is it something I’ve done?”
“Can we not,” Ben’s voice is flat and almost sounds as if he’s annoyed with her.
“Ben, can we talk about this?”
“What’s there to talk about? I’m not in the mood to drive all the way over there to nurse you back to health. This happens every time you go on a mission.”
“I don’t need nursing. What I need is my boyfriend for comfort.”
“That’s my point. I’m not going to keep babying you because you want to play adventurer.”
“Play adventurer?” Esmeralda is more hurt by the shock of this than his unwillingness to come. The women from this morning were unable to hurt her because she knows what she is. But when someone she loves says the same thing it makes her question herself.
“Yes, run around with a stupid sword and fight monsters and all that nonsense. It was exciting at first, but now it’s,” Ben spits out a low curse. “ Just. Look, I don’t want to talk about it. I’m not coming.”
“This is something we need to talk about, Ben.” Esmeralda is sickened with how weak she feels right now, but she can’t help but feel hurt. Hurt on a level that she didn’t think she could.
“No, we don’t need to talk. You want to. I’m not coming, end of discussion.”
“Will we talk tomorrow?” Esmeralda hears her voice weaken, but hopefully, it’s not as bad as it sounds. There is no answer. “Ben?” she says and checks the phone. He hung up. She hits his number again, only for it to ring once before going to voicemail. She places the phone on the sink and braces herself. She’s not sure if Yabe-sama’s teachings of controlled breathing would help with this kind of pain, but she could try.
Slowly she breathes in and out, keeping her knees from buckling. She takes a seat on the toilet lid and places her hands on her knees. The weight on her heart carries to her head, making it incredibly difficult to hold her head up. So when she feels the tiny warm drop hit her leg, she is shocked. A single tear rests on her leg, and she quickly wipes it away. Soon, it is joined by more, and no matter how much she tries to fight them, they invade her face.
Running down in such force that it causes her to shudder when she breathes. The heaving comes next as she finds it harder to get air in her lungs. The slow, gentle shakes of her sobbing get more intense, to the point that she holds herself for support. This does not help. Racked with dread, she stops fighting her tears and lets them stream down. Nothing else would work.
Leaning back and feeling the pain of the porcelain press into her back didn’t exactly help her cause. Still, it was the most minor inconvenience to her right now. Her hands covering her eyes from the bathroom light and the other muffling her cries, she can’t seem to think of why this hurts so much.
She and Ben have been dating for a couple of months now, not even half a year. So why does this hurt her so much? Her brain tries to go over the statistics of the situation. But, unfortunately, her body took a vote, and her heart was winning this fight. The heart didn’t care about the amount of time they had been together, only the feelings it held for Ben.
The feelings that she couldn’t get from anyone else. The feelings that even though all of his friends teased him about talking to her, he stood by her. The feelings that developed even though everyone else told her that she couldn’t have them because she decided to not follow the social rules laid before her, yet they found her anyway. The feelings that Ben seemed to have worked tirelessly for weeks to place in her.
Esmeralda couldn’t begin to think of what would bring this about. She and Ben were good in their relationship, they saw each other several times a week, and they had sex many of those times. She never asked him for money, never asked him where he’s been, nor did she care. His time was his own, and what he did with it was not her concern. The only things she ever asked of him were time and, on a few occasions, sex. She usually didn’t have to. He usually came ready.
He mentioned nursing her, but what could that mean? She had always had potions and healing items done by the time he came. Maybe there were a few times she needed him to message her, but even that turned into sex. It could be when she needed to cuddle with him after some of the more challenging missions. That couldn’t have been more than three or four times – was it?
All this has her questioning her relationship and if she did everything perfectly as she remembered. She couldn’t handle this. A ding reminds her that she has a pizza in the oven, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. She needed to get out of the bathroom. She couldn’t be locked in here with her thoughts.
After a quick dry, she tosses the towel in the laundry bin and walks to the kitchen bare. At least she still feels comfortable in her own skin. Taking the pizza out, she sets it to cool. This will give her enough time to get dressed before dinner.
Earlier, she set out a low-cut tank top and denim skirt, a present for Ben. She couldn’t possibly think of wearing it now. So instead, she reaches into her closet and finds her Mercury & The Architects shirt and jean shorts. Something also compelled her to place on her high-top skater shoes, and she listened. She never puts on shoes when she gets home, but after her spell in the bathroom, her body is telling her she doesn’t need to be alone right now.
After fixing her hair in a messy bun and applying all her beauty products, she drifts back into the kitchen and stares at the pizza. It was kind of a ritual with Ben, and all it did was push up those feelings she was actively fighting. She finds a plate large enough for the pizza, breaks it up into slices, and shoves it into the fridge. She would eat out tonight, but where?
She takes her phone and sees that she has a few missed texts from Lisa, her order of potions are ready. Maybe there is a better opportunity here. Hitting the necessary buttons to get her on the line, Esmeralda puts on her headphones and waits for the Drow’s voice to come through.
“Well, hello, E.”
“Hey, Lisa. Are you busy?”
“I’m a business owner, a wife, and a mom. I’m always busy. What’s up?”
“I was wondering if I could come by… you know to get those potions.” She feels stupid in the way she asks.
“Our doors are always open to you, E. You know that. Especially for dinner, the kids love seeing their extended family. I think Desmond has a few questions for you about how to use Power anyway.”
“I don’t want to intrude. If you guys are having dinner…” Lisa cuts her off.
“E, I am a woman, and I know when another woman needs to talk. It’s all in your voice Hun. Come by, we have plenty of food, and that’s an order. Don’t make me have Andre come and get you.” Esmeralda shivers at the thought.
“On my way, Lisa.”
“Good. Also, grab some wine. I feel like we’re going to need it.”