She stirred her coffee with her right hand, a little bit awkwardly. It’d be much easier to use her left hand, but she kept that on her knee, her ring carefully hidden under the table.
She was just about to decide this was a bad idea and bail when he fell into the chair opposite hers. “Ah, Lisa. It’s really good to see you again.” It took her a moment longer to look up then it should have. But when she looked at him, she gave him a proper smile.
“William. It’s good to see you too.”
His smile faltered just a little bit. “William? I’m William again?”
“I think that’s for the best. I think—while we’re face to face, it’s good to have a couple little barriers up.” Lisa stirred her coffee again, and William raised an eyebrow.
“Fair enough. But, we are still being completely honest with each other, right?”
“Being completely honest with me has never been a hindrance for you, William.”
“In that case, I know about Clark. It’s okay to use your left hand. I’m not going to make a scene.”
“Oh,” Lisa sheepishly lifted her other hand to the table, shifting the mug so she could stir properly. His eyes watched the ring as she moved. “I wasn’t going to hide it the whole time. I just thought I should tell you in my own way—not just because you saw a ring.”
“That’s fair enough,” William was still watching the ring as she stirred, “I don’t think—“ he trailed off until she snapped in front of his face with her other hand. “I’m sorry.” It was his turn to look sheepish. “It’s just an impressive ring. He’s got good taste. Well, of course, he does. He wants to marry you.”
“He does have good taste. Although, I’m pretty sure his sister helped him in this case. Jewelry is not quite his forte.” Lisa watched her own ring for a moment before remembering who she was sitting with. “So, I’m pretty sure you didn’t call me to talk about my engagement ring. What’s up?”
“Oh, well,” William started to tear at the cardboard sleeve around his coffee cup, ripping off little pieces and putting them in a stack next to his drink. He was nervous, really nervous, and Lisa began to wonder if she would have been better off to not have taken his call or at the very least not to have agreed to meet him. “It is kind of about your engagement ring. Or—your engagement, anyway. But I want you to know that it was just the catalyst that caused me to act—It’s something that I’d been feeling for a while, but I’d decided not to say anything yet because I didn’t really have the right and I didn’t want to step on Clark’s toes, or your toes or—“
“Will. You’re rambling.” Lisa insisted softly.
Will set down his coffee cup, splayed his hands flat on the table to steady himself, and smiled up at her again, “I am. And I’ve got this feeling I’ll ramble a bit more before all is said and done, but I’m asking you to bear with me here. I think you should know all the facts before you get married.”
“All the facts about what?” Do you know something about Clark I don’t?” Lisa’s mind raced a mile a minute. What could Will know that would cause him to break their no face to face meetings rule?
“What? No,” Will lifted his hands off the table and reached out to put a calming hand on top of Lisa’s. “Clark is a good man. One of the best I’ve ever met, and clearly a little bit smarter than I am. No, sorry for scaring you. This is about me.”
“What about you, Will? You’re starting to make me nervous.” She slid her hand carefully out from under his. She was prepared to write that off as ‘old habits die hard’ but she couldn’t allow him to just sit there and hold it.
“Don’t be nervous,” he insisted, folding his hands back into his lap, “This is entirely about me, and nothing has to change if you don’t want it to. We can both walk out of here right now, for another year and a half of not seeing each other face to face, and if that’s what you want we can do that. But—I’m here to tell you everything if you want to hear everything. It’s up to you.”
Lisa wanted to believe that she considered just walking out. She wanted to think for a moment that she was completely over Will and that she could have walked out easily except that she was mildly curious. That would have all been a lie. She needed to know what William had to say, and she couldn’t leave until she knew. “Tell me.”
William smiled. “I love you. I was a complete idiot to let you go. The truth is that I never stopped loving you but we were young and I was stupid and scared of how serious we were getting. But now—well—now I know what I want is you. I wasn’t going to say anything, I was going to let your relationship with Clark run its course and then talk to you again when you were available, to ask you to give me another chance. It never occurred to me that you could get that serious with Clark, that you two weren’t the perfect match, but you accepted his proposal and I couldn’t help but wonder if you have said yes to him if you knew that us getting back together was an option and I know that sounds cocky and perhaps overstepping my bounds, so if you want to throw your coffee in my face and storm out, I understand and know I deserve it and so much more. But I think you and I are meant to be something. Think about it, we broke up three years ago, and we haven’t seen each other face to face for nineteen months, and you still e-mail me every morning and I email you every night to make sure that we’re doing okay, to keep each other up to date on the big life events. I know more about your life then I do some of my best friends. We’ve got something, Lis, and I don’t want to let it go if I don’t have to. So—please, say something because you’re just sort of staring at me and it’s starting to freak me out a little bit.”
Lisa realized that her mouth was hanging open and clenched her jaw shut. There would have been so many times that she would have loved to hear that from William, that they had something special, that they could be great. Now was not one of them. “For fuck’s sake, Will. Now? Really? I’m engaged to a great man who is good for me and I’m good for him. You say all of this now?”
“I know,” William at least had the decency to look like he had done something wrong, “I am slow on the draw and an idiot for not realizing this three years ago, for not proposing instead of panicking, And I know that I have no right to ask anything of you now but—“
“No. No, shut up, do not ask me anything. Don’t say anything else. I’m going to go, and if you don’t hear from me for a couple of days—well, deal with it.” Lisa stood up, and as a reflex, William stood up too. As she got her purse and put the lid back on her coffee cup, William said her name softly enough that she could have pretended to not hear it, if she’d ever been good at ignoring William. She glared back up at him.
“For what it’s worth. I’m sorry.”
Lisa tried to be angry at that, but she believed him. Everything he’d said today, she believed him. “I told you to tell me.” She pulled her bag over her shoulder and walked to the car with more certainty and conviction than she felt. She rested her forehead against the steering wheel for just a second to regain her bearings before starting the car and headed towards the apartment she shared with Clark. Life had been so simple when she woke up this morning. Now—what was it?