I feel myself drifting awake, my dream receding into nothingness. Yawning, I roll my eyes open and stretch my arms out but then quickly recoil them, remembering that I no longer sleep alone and I could end up accidentally whacking Tom in the face. The bedroom is still fogged over with the grey-darkness of the night. It must be the early hours of the morning.
I shuffle over onto my side to peep at sleeping Tom, who always looks so pensive as he dreams. My heart jumps a little when I realise I am sleeping alone. Pushing myself up onto my forearms, I squint at the thin stream of light coming from the living area. The bedroom door is slightly ajar. I sigh and drop my head back onto the pillow. Tom's just probably getting a snack or something so I close my eyes and let sleep take me under.
When I open my eyes a dream later and find myself still alone, I start to grow worried. I slip out of bed and pad my way over to the living area. The door creaks a little but Tom doesn't move. He's sat with his back to me on the sofa, his head in his hands. The lamp on the coffee table illuminates him.
"Tom?" I say, making my presence known. He doesn't answer. Furrowing my brows, I walk up to him and touch his shoulder gently. He doesn't flinch. He doesn't do anything. His breathing is slow and steady as if he's trying to control himself. "Tom, are you okay?" I ask, running my thumb along the curve of his ear. He's wearing a thin white top and his boxers.
"We were being stupid," he finally says, hopelessness making his voice wobble a little.
I gulp. "What do you mean?"
"We were being stupid to think that this was all going to work out okay." He shifts his body and looks up at me. His eyes are bloodshot from recent tears and the sight makes my chest tighten.
"Don't say that." I grip his shoulders, mainly using them for stability. His words are like being kicked in the ribs.
"But it's true." His voice wobbles even more as fresh tears build up in his eyes. He blinks and looks ahead. "I've been trying to focus on the good. On the silver lining that borders the huge, ominous cloud lurking over us." He balls his fists and presses them against his mouth, shaking a little. "You are that silver lining, Ebby. I love you so much but our relationship was built on very unsteady ground." I squeeze his shoulders tighter, my lips wavering as tears pool in my eyes.
"I tried to make light of it though. I chose to see our relationship like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of mine and Sharon's relationship. But…that ash is still there. Sharon is still there." He clenches his fists so tight that his knuckles look like they're going to tear through his skin. "Don't get me wrong Ebby, mine and your mum's relationship was good. I wasn't leading her on. If it wasn't for you, I'm pretty sure it could have been perfect." He exhales deeply, dipping his head so his chin rests against his chest. "But once I saw you I knew…I had entered Sharon's life so that you could enter mine."
I release one of his shoulders and cover my mouth with my hand as ugly sobs begin to escape me.
"What we've done was wrong, Ebby. We're not going to be accepted."
"But…if mum forgave us…"
He turns and looks at me. His face is as red and blotchy as mine feels. Tears trickle down his cheeks. "Would you? Would you forgive us if the tables were turned?"
My heart falls to my feet, making my chest feel empty and cold. I shake my head. His clenches his eyes shut. "Then how we expect Sharon to forgive us? She's only human." He turns back to the wall. "We keep saying that we're going to get through this…but it just seems like we are just going to be fighting forever and not actually getting anywhere."
"What are you saying, Tom?" My teeth grit together as I try to gather some sort of composure but I feel like I'm crumbling inside. "Do you want to break up?"
He shakes his head vigorously. I let out a tiny sigh of relief.
"What would that solve?" he asks, bitterness hardening his tone. "I would have still cheated on Sharon. You still would have betrayed your mum. The only thing that would be different would be that there will be no silver lining to our cloud." He looks up at me. "And if I lost that I…I don't think I could take it."
"So, what are you getting at?" I ask reluctantly, not feeling ready for whatever answer he's going to give me.
He shakes his head and bows it, running his fingers through his hair. "Just that…I know you want me to be your rock and stay optimistic but I cant. I just…can't." He rubs his eyes and looks up at me. His eyelashes are wet and stuck together in clumps. "I'm sorry. That's all I've got."
I gulp hard and try to steady my erratic breathing. "Okay," I exhale deeply. "How about we go back to bed and take every day as it comes?"
The muscles in his jaw flex but he nods numbly. "It seems like that's all we can do."
He stands, still shaking a little. Once he comes round the side of the sofa, I wrap my arm around the small of his back. He does the same to me and squeezes me a little.
As we lie in bed, side by side, I bunch up the duvet in my fists and press it against my nose and mouth to muffle my sobs. Tom is sleeping with his back to me, almost curled up in the foetus position. It had taken him a while to settle down. He had been holding me close to him, the way I always did with him. With his head on my chest and his hands round my hips, his breathing kept hitching as he shook but he finally calmed down and rolled over into the position he is in now.
But still I lie, chewing my lips and pressing the duvet to my mouth, wondering if this is all worth the mess. Tom is the love of my life. That much is clear. But is there supposed to be this much collateral damage when two people finally find each other? It's supposed to fun and exhilarating and beautiful. And when I'm with Tom, forgetting everything else beside him, it is like that. I couldn't be happier. It's only when the outside world comes creeping back when I feel like a pile of human crap. And now I know that Tom feels the same? Well, that's just made things a million times worse.
I'm just clinging onto the hope that we actually are soul mates and we haven't just ruined my mum's life for nothing.