19. Chapter 19
Springtime was a pretty busy time for my job. All the habitats needed to be prepared before the zoo officially opened. The animals that were boarded inside for the winter were anxious to return to their homes. I knew how they felt. Winter was o.k. but I'm an outdoor person. I don't like being cooped up in the house for too long.
As I walked around, checking cages and such, I came upon the deer exhibit. I stopped and watched them for a moment. My mind was drawn to my forest home. It made me sad to think about the deer from long ago and how he would not see another spring. I felt a pull in my heart. I wanted to be there. I wanted smell the flowers. I wanted to feel the cool spring breeze through my hair. I wanted to see him again.
Whoa… that thought caught me off guard. Why was I still thinking about Legolas, the mystery man? Over the last few months, I tried to talk myself into the idea that it was all just a dream. What happened was so far fetched, it couldn't be true, could it? I felt as if I needed some kind of resolve and my mind would not rest until I found it.
* * *
I had not heard from Ethan since he moved out. I thought he would have called by now, just to check up on me. We were together for seven years. Could he just forget about us so easily? I ran into his sister a few weeks ago. She told me he finally sold his first million dollar house. It was a goal we both looked forward to and it surprised me he did not call to tell me. Even though we were on the outs, I thought we still had some kind of connection. Anyways, she said Ethan was having a big party at this bar downtown and invited me to come. I started to decline but she talked me into coming. Still, I couldn't help but wonder why Ethan didn't invite me himself.
It was the night of the party and I pulled into the parking lot. I looked in the mirror, checked my hair and makeup then made my way to the bar. As I entered, it seemed like everyone was there just for Ethan's party. I was a little anxious to see him again. In my mind, I imagined our eyes connecting and us embracing each other. Maybe tonight would be the night we got back together. I looked around the room, searching for Ethan. That's when his sister came up and grabbed my arm.
"Hey how are you doing? I didn't think you would show. But here you are." she said suspiciously.
"Yeah, I thought about it and decided to…" I stopped mid sentence when I saw Ethan. He was sitting at the bar, laughing and talking to his best friend. He was just as handsome as ever. My heart beat out of my chest. And then, just as quickly, my heart shattered into a million pieces as a tall, busty red head walked up to him and devoured his face. I watched as his hands grabbed and squeezed her ass. I must have had a look of shock on my face as his sister looked back to see what I saw. She turned back to me and put a hand on my arm.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know until I showed up tonight or I would never have asked you to come. I didn't think he was seeing anyone. He never mentioned it. If it makes you feel any better, he still asks about you." She was trying her hardest to be sincere.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and forced a smile. "Hey, the agreement was mutual. We're not together anymore. I guess we are free to see other people. I just didn't think it would be so soon." I felt tears welling up in the corners of my eyes. "Well, anyways, I can't stay. Busy day at work tomorrow. So… I'll see you around then." I turned to leave.
"I'll tell him you dropped by." she yelled over the loud music.
I turned back with a fake smile. "Don't bother." I said and left the bar. As soon as I got in my car, the tears flowed. This was one of the worst days of my life.
* * *
For the next few weeks, I threw myself into my work. I tried to forget the scene in the bar. I was better off without him I told myself. I didn't need a man in my life. I had wasted the last seven years on a man that did not share my same feelings. Who knows? While I was seeing Ethan, Mr. Right probably slipped through my hands and I missed my opportunity. That was fine. I was intelligent, a hard worker and made good enough money to support myself. I didn't need a 'man' in my life. I never knew how true that last sentence was.
I was at work one day when my supervisor, James came up to me. "Hey, Ethan is here. Says he needs to speak to you. I thought you two broke up." he said.
"We did. Uh, tell him I'm busy and I've got nothing to say to him." I said while I kept working on fixing the midday meal for the chimps. I liked making their food. No raw meat or dead fish to deal with, just fruits and veggies.
"He says he won't leave until he sees you." James said.
"Then I guess he'll be here for a while. Maybe you should send him on one of the tours." I laughed and returned to my work. I was in no mood to see Ethan or hear anything he had to say. I spent the rest of the day working behind the scenes of the zoo. No one but the staff was allowed back here and I could avoid Ethan. I only hoped he gave up and went home before my day was done. Unfortunately, my prayers went unanswered.
As soon as I left the back gate to get to my car, there he was waiting for me. I could have cried. To see him now brought up so many emotions. I held my composure and just went straight to my car. Ethan ran to keep up with me. "Babe, I'm sorry. I didn't want to hurt you but we broke up. I swear, she means nothing to me. I was stupid. Please forgive me." he begged.
"Leave me alone Ethan. It's over. Move on. I am." My voice was low and serious.
"Please, I want you back in my life. I know we can work things out. I miss you. I love you so much." he said.
I watched as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a little black box. 'Oh please God. Not now. Not like this.' I said to myself. I made it to my car and reached for the handle, but Ethan grabbed my hand first.
"I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Things are looking up for me. My work is taking off. You can quit this crummy job. We'll start a family." Then he got down on one knee. "Will you marry me?"
My head was spinning with emotions. I had waited for so long to hear those four little words. Nevertheless, the matter in which they were being said left a bad taste in my mouth. I would have cried if it weren't for the overwhelming anger. "Seven years, Ethan. Seven years I waited for you to do this. You don't know how I longed to hear you utter these words to me." I looked at Ethan and then back at the walls of the zoo. "No. No Ethan, I will not marry you." Suddenly I was filled with a strength I did not know I possessed. I could feel the trees of my home calling to me. I could feel the warmth of the summer breeze traveling over the green fields. The smells of summer filled my mind. "I'm going home. This is not my life. This is not what I was meant to do. I don't know what it is, but I know there is something I'm supposed to finish." I pulled my hand from his and reached for the car door. "Goodbye Ethan. I hope you find your future, but it is not with me." I got in my car, closed the door and drove off.
On my way home, I stopped at the florist to pick up some fresh cut flowers. That always cheered me up. I was about to grab a mixed bouquet when a bunch of daisies caught my eye. I smiled as I picked them up.
"Those are fresh, miss. Came in not but an hour ago." said the clerk.
"Great. I'll take them. And arrange them in this vase, please." I said handing him a blue vase that was the color of the sky, the color of his eyes.
I got home, took a shower and went to the kitchen to fix something to eat. I stopped and sat at the table, staring at the daisies. Something so familiar washed over me. I felt like I had done this before. I was lost in my thoughts, trying to remember what it was that I forgot when the phone rang. I jumped and went to answer it. I glanced at the clock. An hour had passed already. How is that possible, I thought to myself? I had only just sat down.
I looked at the caller ID. It was Ethan. I decided to let the machine get it. I didn't feel like talking to him. I suddenly felt like I didn't know him. He was a stranger to me. I felt I knew my mystery man better than I knew Ethan. Seven years or seven days, it suddenly didn't matter. It wasn't quantity, it was quality. I heard Ethan's voice in the background but I wasn't paying attention. Like a light being switched on, I knew what I had to do. I knew where I needed to be. I grabbed my cell and called James at home. He was surprised to hear from me at this late hour but was more surprised when I told him I quit. He begged me to reconsider but my mind was made up. I was going home.