She wasn’t going to lie; she felt GOOD. It had been entirely too long since she could admit to that. Years, to be exact.
Amanda put the book she was reading down and stared out into space, thinking of her plans for that evening.
Rational and practical it was not, but it made sense. She’d done a lot of soul searching the past few days, and she figured now was the time. She had to be honest not only with herself, but with others. It had started with Nick; finding a confidante in him had given her new hope, and when she’d spoken with San, things had really begun to feel right for her.
Yes, tonight was the night. She only had one more person to come clean with, and it seemed to be that he was the one she was more concerned about. She marveled at that thought, wondering when exactly it had been that she’d come to depend on and care so much about AJ.
The front door opened and closed, and her heart leaped into her throat. She went to the foyer and saw AJ standing there, observing artwork he had displayed there.
“Hey,” she greeted, studying him closely. Something was off.
“Hi,” he replied casually, still eyeing the picture. His hands were jammed in his pockets, and she noticed how tense he was.
“Are you okay?” she asked him warily, and he turned to face her. She’d never seen that look in his eyes before, and she really couldn’t tell what it was, but she knew it made her nervous.
“Depends on your definition of ‘okay’,” he replied, his tone nearly mechanical, void of it’s usual cheerfulness. Why the hell bother? It was all shot to hell anyway, right?
When she stared at him and didn’t reply, he took the initiative. “I’ve got something for you.”
“You.. you do?”
“Yeah,” he pulled a manila envelope from his inside coat pocket and handed it to her. “Congratulations.”
She took the envelope and opened it, removing it’s contents slowly.
“I... don’t understand,” she said slowly. “What is all this?”
“Initial divorce proceedings,” he mumbled.
“I may be irrational, I may be crazy, I may get on your last nerve without even trying,” he began, his heated gaze burning into hers. “But I’m not stupid. I think I deserve better than this.”
“What do you mean? AJ, I really don’t understand any of this..”
“I deserve better than living with someone who doesn’t return the love I feel,” he said, smirking when her eyes grew wide. “Yes, love. I love you, but you don’t care.”
“You don’t know that!” she exclaimed then, her voice trembling with surprise. He.. loved her?
“I do know that,” he corrected her. “Just like I know that this is not going to work. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being lied to.”
“Don’t play stupid, Amanda,” he said bitterly. “I know.”
Her breath escaped her, and she couldn’t do a thing to keep the tears from forming, then spilling over.
“All this time.. you could have been honest,” he continued. “You could have said to me so many things, told me why you didn’t want this. Instead, you opted for trying to make me miserable. You tried to weasel your way out of this without giving on legitimate reason. You LIED to me.”
“Who.. told.. you?” she stammered.
“That doesn’t matter,” he snapped. “What matters is that I know, and I didn’t hear it from you! I should have been the first to know, Amanda! You should have come to ME. I would’ve moved heaven and earth to make you happy!”
The frustration he felt gave way to an onslaught of emotions he’d enver intended to unleash on her.
“But you,” he continued on, as she could only look at him. “You changed all that. In the blink of an eye. You.. you didn’t trust me. You didn’t confide in me. You KNEW.. I know you did.. you knew I would’ve done anything to make you happy. What happens then? I hear it from my best friend.”
Her eyes shot open at the mention of his ‘best friend.’ Nick?
“I forced it out of her,” he all but shouted. “She didn’t want to say a fucking word, and I MADE her talk. Not only do I feel like shit for being lied to, but I feel like the scum of the eath for doing that to her. She didn’t deserve it, or my reaction afterward. I’ll be lucky if she even thinks of me in a good way after all this!”
“It... she.. Sandra?” Amanda couldn’t believe it. COULD NOT BELIEVE IT.
Before AJ could respond, before he could get any word in, she turned and bolted through the front door.
“Amanda!” AJ called out to her, to no avail. “Amanda, get back here!”
But she was gone. Her car had sped down the street at light speed, and as AJ jumped into his own car, he had the sinking feeling that things were going to get a hell of a lot worse before they got better.
If they ever got better.
[chapter list | chapter twenty]