Truth be told, I wouldn’t have minded getting back with my old flame. I wasn’t daft enough to think that things could ever be the way they were before. They were never going to be. Even if we had stayed together, things would have changed. That was just the nature of existence, and I had always found it easier to just go with it rather than trying to fight it.
Lila’s cheeks were thinner, which was surprising because her body had gotten a bit curvier. She had seemed the same at the office, but I really wasn’t seeing her clearly. The only things about her that remained unchanged were her white-blonde hair, ivory skin, and her startling blue eyes that seemed like they could look right down into your soul.
My ex finished her call and looked up, almost making me fall down. I was so dazzled by her beauty, I barely noticed her pointing to the door behind me. Telling me, wordlessly, to get the fuck out. Lila didn’t need to know sign language — which she did — to let me know this with nothing more than a gesture. In case her nostril-flaring fury wasn’t quite enough to carry the message across.
Fortunately, I had a comeback and crooked my finger for her to follow me, making it clear that I wasn’t going to be put off so easily. I was on a mission, dammit, and I was damn well going to give it my best bloody try.
I was at the office so early, there was no one there to look to when Lila glanced desperately around the room, hoping for any excuse to get rid of me. After appearing quite torn for a while, she got up from the desk and came toward me a few feet. Generally a good sign, though, I really didn’t think it was going to be for a hug. I could feel her rage from across the room, as sure as if she had been literally burning with it.
I opened the front door and looked back to see if she was following me. Instead, Lila crossed her arms and stood firm in the middle of the lobby. I knew from long experience, there was no point in trying to argue with her when she just wasn’t in the mood for it.
Leaving the door with a jingle, the little bell attached to it jangling wildly, I went back to her, standing well within punching distance, if that was the route she chose to go. I had never known my ex to be particularly violent, but people could be unpredictable when emotions were high. I was prepared for the worst.
“Speak,” she said, addressing me as the dog that I felt I was.
“It sounds pathetic, but I’m sorry.”
She rolled her eyes. “You’re right, it does sound pathetic, what the hell are you doing in Vegas and not working for your dad?”
“I could ask the same question.”
Lila fumed and stamped one of her feet. “Yes, but you fucking won’t because you weren’t the one who was betrayed and abandoned without a fucking explanation,” she said, poking me in the chest like she used to do when we were kids.
I sighed. “Fair enough. Basically, I realized I couldn’t live with myself anymore. I’m not saying I was suicidal. I’m not digging for sympathy here. I’m just trying to tell the truth. Things had gotten out of hand, and I was acting like an asshole.”
“No argument here, bub.”
“I didn’t want to be an asshole, so I went into rehab to try and learn how to not be an asshole again.”
I thought Lila might be skeptical, which was fair enough. That was why I had made sure to bring my card from the facility that marked me as an Outpatient. I had started as an inpatient. No straight jackets or anything. They just kept me in my room for a while. Particularly after I was caught trying to get bets going on the ping-pong matches in the rec room.
“Oh,” Lila said, staring at the official-looking document.
“Yeah.” I nodded, looking down into her light-blue eyes. “Still angry?”
“Of course.” She sighed and turned away from me. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
It was my turn to look away. “It probably doesn’t help, but I really didn’t tell anyone to be honest. I really wasn’t in any fit state to be going over it all. I just needed to get out and get help. Of course, when I did get help and realized what had happened, I felt really ashamed about what I did.”
Lila let out a deep breath in a hiss. “You could have contacted me after if you cared.”
Resisting the urge to take her in my arms, I looked into her face. “No, I couldn’t. I did care. Of course, I did. I also knew that I wasn’t good enough for you.”