I hold her hand as we climb, only letting go to reach into my pocket for my keys. I grab her hand again and pull her into my space, a little nervous about showing her my place. We walk through the door, I lock it behind us, and she stands there and looks around.
I feel my cheeks heat a little, knowing what she’s looking at. The place is small, but it’s set up as an apartment with a living space, kitchen, and bedroom with an attached bath. It’s nothing over the top, but it’s clean and private. I’ve never let anyone in here before, so I decorated it the way I wanted to.
“Abraham,” she whispers, and my face reddens further. “Why?”
“Because this was the only way I could have you.” On every wall in my home, there’s a picture of Julie. A few of them are of us before the accident, but the biggest one is of our wedding day.
“After Vegas, I lost it. I started drinking until I blacked out, doing drugs, anything to numb the way I felt. I thought that night was the end of me, and I was running away from everything that I loved to finish my life as fast as I could. I had nothing left to live for after that night. After a few months, I decided to end it all, and I drove out to the river with a pistol. I was there, thinking about how I couldn’t have you and how nothing in my head would ever be right, when Mac showed up. She told me how she knew what it felt like to hate yourself, and how if I ended my life, it wouldn’t fix the wrong I’d done. She told me if I spent the rest of my life trying to make it right, then it was a life worth living. I didn’t know if I could ever have you again, but I could have this.”
I open my arms and gesture around the place covered in her smiles and laughter.
“And this was worth living for. If I got to wake up every day and see your face, even if it was just a picture, it was a day worth living. I hoped one day that I could make it back to you, and fix the wrong I’d done. I was trying to find the perfect moment, but there didn’t ever seem to be one. Tonight I was pushed to act faster, I had someone watching you, only telling me if you were okay. I didn’t know where you were or what you were up to. Tonight I asked where you were so I could find you and start my apology. I wanted to start to make right what I did to you, but hearing where you were, and how you were tangled up, sent me over the edge. I couldn’t wait any longer, and I needed to have you by my side.”
She looks at me and puts her hands over her mouth, tears running down her fingers.
“I know what happened on our wedding night was awful, and my leaving you like that was the worst thing I could’ve done to you. When I hit bottom, Lucias threw me in a ring, and gave me a way to channel my self-loathing. I hate myself so much for leaving you, and not being the man I knew you deserved.” I take a step towards her, walking slowly so she doesn’t step away. “I knew if I saw you, even for a second, before I was better, I wouldn’t be able to let you go, and I would have made the same mistake as before. I know what I did was wrong, and I wish I had a better word than ‘sorry’, but I’m so sorry, Julie. I’m so goddamn sorry.” I get on my knees in front of her and open my arms. It’s the same thing I did in her parents’ house the night I convinced her to run away and marry me.
Julie drops her hands, but tears still stream down her face. “Don’t you do this shit, Abe. Don’t you get on your knees and tell me you’re sorry. You broke my fucking heart, and I hate you for everything.”
“Baby, I hate me too. I hate me for being so fucking stupid and so fucking proud and for walking out on you. I hate me more than you ever could.” I kneel in front of her as she cries. I don’t have any tears left after nearly three years without her, so she cries for both of us as my heart bleeds. “Please, Julie. I can’t do this again. I can’t live without you and I can’t let you go. I’m not the man I was then. I’m so sorry, baby. Let me spend my life making it up to you.”
She looks around the room, seeing the pictures of herself, and then closes her eyes, taking a deep breath. I can see she’s been hurting just as much as I have, and it’s time we both put an end to the pain.
“Shortcake, we have a child together, and now that I know about him, I want to be in his life. I may have been a shitty husband, but I won’t be a shitty father. Whether you agree to let me back in your life is your decision, but I’ll be in his, no matter what. So if you’ll be mine, don’t do it because of the baby, say you’ll be mine again because you love me.”
She opens her eyes and looks straight into mine. “You know I love you more than bacon.”
With her words, I reach out and wrap her in my arms. She falls on her knees with me, and I hold her while she cries.
“Fuck, I love you so much, Julie. I’ll never leave you again, baby.” If this is the universe giving us one last chance, I’m not screwing it up.
I cradle her in my arms before picking her up off the floor and carrying her to my bed. I lay her down on it and climb on top of her, looking down at how beautiful she is. “Four years since I first met you, and you’ve only grown more beautiful. You’re still that gorgeous, sassy shortcake who stole my world out from under me.”