Phil had heard the chime of the text. “Message from your friend?” he asked with a smile. He’s jealous, Stella thought. The thought made her smile. How ironic.
“Yes,” she said, “I’m going to go make a call.”
Calvin answered his phone immediately. “I thought you may be in class,” Stella said.
“You’re forgetting the time difference,” he said. “I’m done for the morning.”
“How is it going? Any more visits from the desperate student?”
They talked awhile about Calvin’s morning and Stella filled him in on the good news about Gemma. Then Calvin said, “Things ended abruptly that night at Pepe’s. I wanted to talk to you more.”
“OK,” Stella said, not knowing where this was going.
“I loved Christine very much,” he said.
“Yes, I know.” Why was he telling her this? She knew!
“I...have really enjoyed spending time with you,” he said. Stella closed her eyes. She was bracing herself to hear him say that it wasn’t the same with her, he didn’t want to continue.
“This is really hard to express,” he said.
“Listen,” Stella said, “This is hard over the phone. Let’s wait until I get back home and then we’ll talk OK?” She did not want to deal with this right now.
“All right,” he said miserably.
Stella hung up the phone and her shoulders drooped. It was for the best anyway. She didn’t want to spend her life being second to Christine. He might as well end it now. She looked up and saw Phil standing before her, watching her. “Guess who is hungry?” he asked, smiling.
“Gemma?” Stella smiled too and followed him back down the hall to Gemma’s room. This was progress. Gemma was getting better all the time.
“So how’s your friend?” Phil asked as they walked.
“Fine,” Stella said. She knew Phil wanted to hear more but she didn’t want to say more.
In the room Gemma was smiling and looking more like herself than she had through the whole ordeal. “I want food!” she said.
A nurse talked with her about what she could eat and promised to bring it back. After she left, Gemma turned to her parents. “I asked the nurse about Tad and she wouldn’t tell me anything. She said to ask you. Is he OK?”
Stella felt Phil by her side and felt his arm at her back, supporting her. He knew how she had been dreading this moment.
“Sweetheart--” she began, “He didn’t survive the accident.”
“What?!?” Gemma burst into tears and Phil and Stella sat by her bedside, comforting their daughter, together.
Despite all of the great progress Gemma had made, that was perhaps the hardest day at the hospital. Gemma was heartbroken over the loss of Tad. She felt guilty that she had survived and that she had let him drive. “He kept saying he was fine,” she wailed. Phil gently took their daughter in his arms while she cried and Stella looked on, eyes welling with tears too.
When they finally left the hospital, Phil said, “Let’s go to dinner. I’m starving.”
Stella agreed. They found a small Italian restaurant and settled into the booth. “That was rough,” Stella said.
“You were amazing though,” Phil said, “You’ve always been such a good mother.”
“You were pretty good too,” Stella said, “It was easier to be there together.”
“This is what I’ve been telling you,” Phil said. “We belong together, Stel. I love you. I’ve made some big mistakes. I was rotten. You have to forgive me though. I want you back.”
While he spoke, Stella looked up into Phil’s handsome face. She was remembering all the small kindnesses he had given her in the past days. He had been attentive and charming. He knew what she liked. It was just comfortable to be together. Maybe they should give it another try.
At that moment, a woman in a tight and revealing dress walked by the table. She caught Phil’s attention and he broke off from what he was saying as his eyes followed the woman’s progress past the table. The woman smiled coyly at Phil and kept walking. Phil watched her go then turned his attention back to Stella.
That was as familiar as sitting next to him or Phil remembering she liked to drink with a straw too. Maybe on some level Phil did still love Stella, but he had not changed. She could see that.
“I’ve got to go,” Stella said, “I’ll take a cab back to the hotel.” She rose from the table and Phil was right beside her.
“What is it?” he said, “Are you OK?”
“I just want to leave,” she said.
“Well I don’t even know if you could get a taxi around here,” Phil said, “I’ll drive you.”
Stella waited by the door while Phil paid for their half eaten food. She wasn’t hungry anymore anyway. She was mostly angry and not even at Phil. Poor Phil didn’t even know what had happened. She was angry at herself. How could she be so desperate that she could overlook Phil’s wandering eyes?
She had done that long enough. She was a different person now. She didn’t need Phil and she was not going to put up with his antics again.
Phil kept trying to ask her what had happened while they drove back to The Four Seasons. “I’m fine,” Stella said with a sigh.
“I’m going to walk through the lobby and see why the wi-fi wasn’t working in our room this morning,” Phil said.
“I’ll go with you,” Stella said. It was late and she didn’t want to walk down the wooded path to their condo alone.
A familiar figure rose from a couch in the lobby.
“Calvin?” she said, stunned.
“I needed to talk to you,” he said, looking from Stella to Phil and back to Stella again. “Can I?”
“Yes,” Stella said. It was hard to wrap her mind around Calvin standing here in front of her.
“I’m her husband,” Phil said.
“Oh, sorry,” Stella said, “Calvin, this is my ex-husband, Phil. Phil, this is Calvin.” They awkwardly shook hands.
“Can we go for a drive?” Calvin asked.
Once inside the car, Calvin didn’t turn the key, instead he faced Stella and said, “Stella, I love you. I tried to tell you at Pepe’s and on the phone this morning. I couldn’t get the words out. I also couldn’t stand the thought of you here, with him.”
“What? I thought you were breaking up with me.”
“I love you,” Calvin said, “I was trying to explain...about Christine. I loved her. We had a good marriage. But, I love you. I always have. I want to be with you. I don’t want you to get back together with Phil.”
“So you flew here? To tell me this?”
“Yes,” Calvin said, “I was terrified. You sounded so distant on the phone and then, you were sharing a room with Phil…” Calvin shook his head. “I lost you to Phil once before and I am not going to let that happen again.”
“Please,” Calvin said taking her hand in his, “Just give us a chance.”
“OK,” Stella said, smiling up at him.
Calvin pulled Stella across the front seat for a kiss more intense than either of them thought was still possible.
Thanks for reading!!!