When neither of us could breathe any longer his lips left mine and a ragged breath followed as he slid his hand from the back of my neck up and gently rubbed his thumb across my cheek, cupping my jaw with the palm of his hand before resting his forehead on my chin. I was still pinned up against the wall however we both knew that no matter how much we wanted to take things further it just wasn't the answer.
We were both exhausted but knew that whatever was coming we needed to face it head-on. I gently kissed the top of his forehead before throwing my head back gently against the wall, closing my eyes and exhaling. It was the only thing I could do to fight back the tears that were slowly creeping their way back down my face silently.
I had no idea how we had managed to get to this place where simplicity seemed so out of reach and the longer we kept ignoring our issues the more prominent they became and the more distance they put between us.
I was fighting the urge to pull him close to me and tell him everything was okay, that nothing was wrong, but I was too exhausted. I knew I didn't want a fight and I could feel that I would surely get one with what I had built up inside me, the biggest problem I was facing was the fact that I really did not want to lose this amazing man but I knew if I didn't say something I would end up losing myself and weighing up those options I knew what I had to do.
I placed my hand on Hugh's chest and gently pushed him away from me. For a moment I thought he was going to get that look in his eyes that meant there was no way I was going to be able to open up any form of discussion but something shifted in him. He looked calm, scared, and even sad. I looked into his beautiful brown eyes and saw a flicker of vulnerability. I took a deep breath in and steadied myself against the wall trying to keep my balance in my tired haze. We both knew what was coming as the silence grew to a deafening roar and yet neither one of us wanted to be the one to speak first….neither one of us wanted to be the instigator to what would surely be our biggest fight ever.
It was like preparing for battle…loaded with everything you would need to shoot but freezing when it was time to pull the trigger.
Hugh had officially hung his head in shame, his head was hanging so low to the ground that I thought he would have been able to tie his shoelaces with his teeth. I opened my mouth to speak, afraid that the words in my head wouldn't form verbally but he placed his hand out to stop me.
"Ava, I know what you are going to say and I am not going to deprive you of your right to chastise me for my actions and yield to silence as you describe every single sordid detail of my actions which will surely paint a picture of a person I will barely recognize to be myself. I won't deny what I have put you through and I won't lie or try to undermine your feelings in any way, but before I face everything I need you to think about what I have to say very seriously and answer three questions for me. I need you to look deep inside yourself and review every single thing that we have been through, the good, bad, and ugly. I need you to give me an honest answer, both of us cutting all the bullshit in this very moment and figure out what the future holds. Ava, I need to know…do you love me enough to forgive the mistakes I have made and will make in the future, for being too scared to tell you the truth about my life, warts and all, and for being too scared to lose you that I would have rather wrap you up in bubble wrap and ignore the distance we both know has been growing as we both hold so many things back? Do you love me enough to wait while I sort out the tangled web my life has become, and heal the bruises my heart has sustained making me a cold withdrawn person?, and lastly but utmost importantly…Because I cannot fathom the thought of losing you under any circumstances and need to find a way to make this work, I need to know right here right now, in your heart of hearts…what is it that you want from me, for us?…whatever it is, I will work my fingers to the bone to make sure that I never hurt you again the way I have so obviously done without even realizing it. I cannot promise you that I won't make mistakes, or falter occasionally but I will work every single day to be a better person that I have been to you, because I truly believe that the only thing that would kill me at this age is seeing your back towards me as you walk out of my life forever…the image of that in my mind's eye right now makes me realise that you…are exactly what I have been searching for as long as I can remember…and now that I have found you, I'm not giving you up without a fight and knowing damn sure that I did EVERY SINGLE thing humanly I could to keep you in my life forever, however if your answer is no to any of the questions I have asked or you feel that you do not have the strength to continue on this journey with me, I will not begrudge you of walking out and giving yourself the chance at a love that is uncomplicated and easy, I will never forgive myself for not treating you the way I should have if that is what we have come to but I will always be here and I hope that you would know that no matter what I would always be here for you and hope that I would always have a place in your heart and life in whatever capacity you would allow me to have, I am not sure that I would be able to live without you in my life even if it was only in the smallest capacity possible…I love you Ava Reilly and this is me baring as much of my soul to you that I honestly can at this point. I am learning to love again and you are the reason I want to try, no one has ever made me feel the way I feel when I am with you". He spoke so calmly that it was unnerving. I had never seen Hugh this desperate, this broken and he was pleading for my forgiveness. As I stood there listening to every single word he spoke with such care and soothingly honest tones I saw the tears welling up in his eyes that made them glassy and almost hard to recognize behind the wall of salty water. This was the most honest and vulnerable conversation we had ever had and it had literally come out of nowhere. I was too stunned to speak, breathe, or even move. All I wanted to do was slide down the wall and hide my face and thoughts from the world but there was no possibility of running from everything without in turn breaking his heart as well as my own.
As I contemplated with a heavy heart what he had just said to me I realized that something inside me had broken well beyond repair. I didn't trust this man with my heart. As much as I loved him, there was something that always held me back. I trusted this man with my body and soul but I had never truly given him my heart. I couldn't blame him solely for where we had ended up. I had hidden my feelings well until this very point in time and I was just as much at fault as he was. It would have been so easy for me to have grabbed my bag and ran from the room, never speaking to him again and erasing every single memory of our time together, or to go to him and wish all his pain away but my feet were planted so deeply in that spot that the thought of moving in any direction felt so alien to me. I knew I loved him but there were two questions that kept replaying in my head like an echo that seemed never-ending…was it enough and did I have the strength to withstand the unknown?