Five years had passed, and her life had changed completely.
Milena didn’t live in that city anymore, even in that country. She had moved to where she always believed was the ideal place for her.
She was happy, working for a publisher as Managing Editor, lived in a Victorian house in front of Primrose Hill Park; and rode her bicycle every day to go to work. Everything worked almost as she had planned, and she felt glad and smart for that. On time off she met with friends and hung out at expositions, went to the cinema, or even went picnicking in summer.
Guilherme never called back or send an e-mail. Milena noticed he erased her from Facebook, Twitter, and all social networks they had in common. This was just one month after they broke up. She tried not to call him, not to make contact. But she was curious if he was ok. And also, felt alone. Being by herself could be amazing, but nights and night of solitude were appearing, and for a long time she didn’t deal with this feeling. She knew she did the right thing, but it doesn’t mean she didn’t feel alone.
With time she started to get used again to be alone. Working, paying bills, take care of the economy, taxes… everything he used to take care of when they were together. On the beginning she felt incapable, but with time she not just relearned how to do it, but feel powerful of being the unique who can really took care of her own life.
In five years she hadn’t had news about him Not straight from him; she knew what people told her. And many of them just made a drama which just made her be more concerned about it.
It was sunny Friday in June.
Almost impossible to believe such a great time in that month. She decided go to a Vernissage on Walton Street with some friends. That day Milena told them to not expect her because first she would make a stop at Foyles to listen the presentation of an old friend’s book and also pick up a small picture she had bought in a Gallery close to the Tate Modern.
For more than 6 years she hadn’t seen Ed and she was very excited about that. So she dressed up, put on her best look; black dress, low high heels, hair in plaits wrapped around her head showing just her fringe, soft make up and the best smile ever.
She arrived at the bookshop and went straight to buy his book before he arrived. She asked people where the presentation would be and the counter lady pointed her to the stairs.
The presentation was like any other book. Any guy talking about himself and his brilliant ideas for writing. Of course she was there listening, the first in line. She was actually very proud of her friend.
It didn’t take longer than an hour before everybody stood up and got in the queue to get his autograph. She stood up, looked around her and saw a guy staring at her from the end of the line. She didn’t understand but he didn’t move on. She avoided eye contact and still moved around, but when she looked again he was still staring her.
It took her 5 minutes to realize that was him. Her partner from a failed relationship was right there. She was shocked. The only thing she thought of was to run and hide in the toilet. So she did. On the toilet she started to feel miserable, not for her but for him. She could see the unforgiving look in his eyes. She knew she had to do something. She looked at herself in the mirror and decided to face the situation. First she erased the smile on her face. Everything was the same but the smile.
She left the toilet and went back to the room. He was not sitting anymore. She looked around and found him again; staring at her.
Guilherme was very well dressed, much more handsome than before, with a beard. She always liked him more with a beard. She starts moving in his direction. When she got just in front of him she told:
“You know, when I saw you I couldn’t recognize you. Even with my eyes assuring me, my brain still denied it. Maybe because I never thought you would be capable of crossing the ocean.”
“Did I surprise you?”
“Oh, yes definitely. How are you?”
“Well I am doing pretty well,” he said, sounding very proud to have the chance to say this directly to her. “How about you?”
“Not too bad.”
“Wow, what’s this answer? You were always ‘great’, ‘not too bad’ was always the British way to say that your life was shit, you told me once.”
“Suppose so many years here I get used to it. I am alright. Are you working here?”
“Nope. Just came for meetings. They offered me a position here 2 years ago, I said no. They promise lots of things. I negotiated coming here twice a month to do what a man has to do.”
“And what does a man have to do?”
He was so cynical that she couldn’t understand. No matter how successful he was now, the best thing was showing off to her. She just would have liked to have a normal and sincere talk with a guy she use to live for 10 years together but he behaved so superficially. Its seems like he had changed during those years; but she couldn’t tell what. She realized how difficult was reading through his eyes after so long time. But he was there, just in front of her, and she couldn’t avoid her curiosity. So without any ceremony she asked:
“Would you like to have a coffee close to here?”
“Yes, why not?”
Then she started whispering: “But you have to invite me. I am short.” looked her, hesitating:
They went to Costa Coffee close to the bookshop. Milena had to leave Ed and the signing for another day. The circumstances made it like that.
When they sat and ordered a coffee she looked at him in silence. She started staring at his eyes. Guilherme looked back waiting for her to say something. He made this interrogatory face, questioning her and himself what a hell they were doing there.
She made a face like she would start talking but didn’t, like she just had regretted everything before saying a word. Then she stood up thinking about leaving the cafe… and sat down again.
She couldn’t say anything; just broke into tears. He looked at her with a tiny smile on his lips and without saying anything, waited for her starting talking.
“It’s terrible to say that. I was so sure of myself, of my decisions. I had to do it. I don’t know. I don’t know…”
“You don’t know what?” he asked. He seemed angry with her. Maybe for making his feelings of that day come back.
“I don’t know how to say it.”
“Do you hate me?”
“No, I don’t. What do you need to say?”
“This! If you hate me.”
Of course he hated her. She new it. She could feel it. She could saw at his face. But if he admitted it would be like admitted he didn’t get over it.
Milena looked at him and saw he was very pissed.
“I need to say… I… I….”
She started shaking. She was searching for the courage to say:
“Today I know how much I regret leaving you.”
Bingo. Milena could read on his face he had never felt so powerful in his life. The precise felling she wanted to make he feels, she got it. It’s like he knew this would happen some day and he felt terribly good hearing it.
“I came here and I failed.”
“It doesn’t matter.” She cleaned her tears and stood up.
“Wait, wait, wait… where do you think are you going? I want to know what happened.”
“No you don’t. You want to make a fuss over me.”
“And so you did once with me.”
“Don-t be silly”
“Stop, don’t go… Maybe I can help you. Please sit down. Tell me.” He was asking her, holding her arm so strong that she felt he was almost begging with his eyes.
She sat down again, breathed, concentrated for a few minutes.
“It was difficult.”
“Yes, for you and everybody.”
“You know, if you continue I will leave.”
“Ok, I will listen…”
“I came here and started looking for a job. It was impossible. After the crisis, everything became more difficult. I had savings, but when they start running out, I had to look for a menial job. I found one as a waitress.”
“No way. People told me you are doing great here.”
Milena realized he had heard about her during those years. She got a bit shocked but continued:
“Of course, I couldn’t say my dream was bullshit and they were right about me. Guilherme, please, knows how people are.”
“I see.” So she still telling him all the things she interpreted he wanted to listen. The more he listened, the happier he got. She saw he wanted to make a question but was unable to complete the sentence for few times. She already knew what he wanted to ask, so she stopped and waited.
“How about Tim?”
Why is he asking that to her? Maybe he wanted and doesn’t want to know the truth. The possibility he was with her could terrify him, she thought. She told Guilherme at all. Not important as he thought. He was just the guy who encouraged her to get out of the relationship she had been stagnated for years. How to explain that, how to say him about her friend, cause he is a friend… more than nobody else. So, she just cried louder and louder with her hand over her eyes. Suddenly she started having hiccups.
“You were right about him.”
“I knew it.” Milena stopped for a moment and looked at him. She suddenly realized that the hate he had in his look when she saw him had vanished. She continued:
“I hate this city… I spend long nights thinking about us, our plans… how we use to spend whole afternoons at Ibirapuera Park. How we used to be… I passed through a terrible time. 2 months ago they fired me at the coffee shop and I had to start to look for another job. So, I went to the book shop, put on my best clothes thinking about talking with Ed about my situation, and then… you just appeared…”
“Wait, wait, wait…”
“You are not working right now. How do you survive in a place like this?”
“You know, I had some savings. Until next month I have enough to survive.”
“Now I get the coffee stuff.”
“I am sorry? It is not my intention to make you worry about me.”
“Who is worried? Milena, you know, you made your choice… And I knew it was the wrong one.” He said the last sentence slowly, with rhythm, almost like singing a song.
“I just want to say… how sorry I am… to have been so… stupid” – she pronounced “stupid” with difficulty; she never talked about herself like that. But this time she had to…
“I am sorry I have to go… If Ed still on Foyles I needed to talk with him, and see if he can help me.”
“I need to go to the toilet first.”
“Of course. I’ll wait for you here”
As she stood up and went to clean her face, she felt he was in the most wonderful dream of his life. Perhaps he thinks she still loved him. And maybe he didn’t care about it. It was wonderful and a bit sadistic as well. “Guilherme could feel guilty for a while and, maybe, feel compassion. The compassion he had never had for her” – she thought.
As she came back from the toilet with her face washed and made up again, she looked at him and recognized in his face that she was looking at the guy she had loved once.
“So I have to go.”
“I understand. I come in two weeks and if you want we can hang out. Maybe I can help you to find a job. I have few friends in publishing here. That’s what you always wanted, right?”
For the last time she made her eyes tearful and said to him:
“Please don’t make this more than difficult than it is… I still need time to forget this awful situation and recover myself. I can take care of myself. I do. I did during those years.”
“Ok, ok, anytime… I promise I won’t look for you if you don’t want it. I am doing ok. But please accept my help.”
He put his hand in his pocket and took out his wallet.
“No way. I am not gonna accepted that. Are you crazy? Listen I know that it is difficult. But it is over and you know I need to take care of me. If I accept any help come from you I would feel miserable. So please don’t make things more difficult than it is now for me”.
“Ok, so hold this while I am going to the toilet.”
On her hand she had his wallet. It was not anymore the one she gave to him many years ago. This one it was even more elegant. With the letter of his named printed on the leather. She was look to his wallet without any kind of curiosity. She was standing up waiting for him, when a guy crash with her and the wallet fall down. She looked to the floor and saw the money there and the wallet widely opened. She started pick up all stuff and when she saw the picture of a little toddler in the middle of his documents. She got shocked. Guilherme didn’t have any siblings. It is impossible being his nephew. Milena got shocked; she didn’t know what to think. She picked his wallet and starting looking for evidences. And she did. She found a picture of a woman, him and the toddler together. They all looked very pretty and happy… at Ibirapuera park.
Milena close the wallet. Guilherme was arriving from toilet. She looked to him and say:
“Everything was a mistake. Sorry I have to go”.
“Wait, what’s going on”.
“Nothing”. She gave him the wallet and the pictures that were still at her hand and left.