Never again, I won't fight for this anymore...
The office is an emotional nightmare. Simon is either shut in his office or walks around in a daze distracted only when necessary by the tekkie boys. And, as if aware of his problems, John passes me phone calls from clients with the words, ‘I don’t think it’s important but can you just speak to...’
Maria scurries into her room to avoid me. We don’t eat lunch together and when we pass each other on the stairs she is tense and silent. I feel her strength of will and see the torture in her eyes.
We are in the Tekkie lab and Liam’s client Sally Richman from OUT Magazines has speckled grey hair and a thick rimmed glasses. Her nails are manicured and her shoes are glossed and polished. They are asking for more specs than priced for and John decided that I should help sort things out.
The meeting is laborious and time consuming and I have this compulsive urge to see Maria before she goes home and I can’t get out of the meeting fast enough. I rush up the stairs two at a time and she is pulling on her summer jacket as I walk into her office.
“I haven’t had chance to speak to you lately…” I say breathlessly.
“What about?” She gathers her handbag and another shopping bag in her arms. She is ready to leave and I feel like a pathetic schoolgirl, over anxious, over excited and eager to please.
“Everything has changed between us. I miss our lunches and our chats. I miss the friendship we had.”
The frown lines on her forehead are like a patchwork of fine lines. She speaks slowly and softly. “I don’t know what you want me to say.” She glances at her watch. “I must go, Lily–”
“I miss seeing Lily too.”
“You came to her concert last Friday.” It’s like a stern reprimand and I am rebuked.
“That’s fine! Your feelings have changed. Is it because Michael is in Belfast and you are back playing happy families?” I can’t hide the bitterness of my words. They spill out and I am ashamed but I can’t stop. “Was I just an experiment for you? A one night stand. A bit of excitement in your boring marriage…”
She holds up the palm of her hand and her mouth opens but all my pent up feelings, emotions and thoughts that have been my companion night and day for the past weeks spill out between us.
“No, Maria, say nothing! I understand perfectly that your life is with Lily and Michael. I knew it all along. I knew you were married. I knew the score but–” This time I hold up a finger. “I think I deserve a little more kindness, a little more thought and a little more decency. We could still be friends or perhaps you can’t look at yourself in the mirror knowing that you have been unfaithful to your husband and you enjoyed being with me. Is that why you are being so distant?”
“You accused me of not being a good friend when I didn’t tell you I was gay and look at how you are treating me. Well, it won’t happen again Maria. I will not mention this again nor will I beg for your friendship. We shared something very special. Something very tender and passionate. It was important to me and I am not going to ruin the memory by embarrassing you, or me, ever again.” I don’t wait for her to answer. Instead I take the stairs two at a time back to the tekkie lab. My heart is pounding and the memory of Maria’s surprised O-shaped mouth, and the image of her face stays with me for the rest of the evening.