I don't think I will share much of it along the way, but I wanted to share what I wrote today. Mostly because I finally sat down and started. Though this part that I wrote is actually somewhere closer to the end. It might be awful and trite. But I am okay with that. First time marathon runners don't try to win, they just keep running.
As they walked through the door of the small coffee shop, the ring of the bell reminded Mia of their first date, the first time she finally let this man buy her a cup of coffee. How long ago that felt. How far removed from this moment.
They both ordered lattes and then went to sit at a table by the window. Neither spoke. Mia could not even look at Tim. She kept her eyes on the little girl sitting on the bus bench outside. Tim watched Mia, hoping she would finally say something, anything that would fix the words that broke him.
The barista came over and set down their drinks. Mia held her cup. The heat of the milk and espresso warmed her hands. As she picked up her drink to take a sip her eyes fell on Tim’s face. The pain she had seen in his eyes the day before was still there. It had hardened though. It looked less wild but deeper.
Tim looked back at Mia. He searched her eyes but found nothing that explained what had happened. This Mia before him was the girl he loved. She looked back out the window again. The bus bench now empty. Still no words.
Tim finally spoke, “I know what she said.”
Mia’s eyes stayed moved from the bus bench to the tree. Anything to keep her eyes off of Tim’s face. Anything to keep her gaze trained and her heart in check.
Tim’s voice grew quieter. “I’m sorry.”
The pain was so clear in his words. Mia could hear it. But she could still hear his grandmother’s words. Those words, mixed with the words her mother had spoken to her all those years, rang louder in her head.
“You know what she said is not true. You know it. Why, Mia? Why do you let her words change our love?”
Mia finally looked Tim in the eyes. Her voice strong with conviction, “I told you. I refuse to be a disappointment anymore.”
And then her eyes went back to the tree, putting distance once again between the two.
“But Mia, you are not a disappointment. You know that. You know how much I love you. Why is that not enough? Why does what my grandmother says or think matter?”
Without looking at him, Mia said coldly, “She is your family. You are tied to one another. I do love you, but I cannot do it again. I cannot be part of a family that is clearly disappointed to have me as a member. It took a long time to escape that once, to find my own person, my own footing. I cannot do it again. I won’t lose myself again. I cannot be with you.”
Tim breathed deeply. The words stung again, more so even, because the shock had worn off. The first time he heard her say it, he didn’t believe it. He was caught off guard but convinced that once they talked, once they saw one another face to face, he could fix it. But these words, her coldness, her conviction felt so final, so true. His heart was breaking and he did not know what to do. He did not know how to fix it.
He looked around the coffee shop. There was a business man in the corner typing away on his laptop. A couple of students were studying at a table nearby. The baristas were happily chatting, waiting for more customers to come through the door and ring the bell. And here in this room, his life was falling apart. This girl, the girl he loved deeply, was letting go. His pain turned to anger. How can she not fight for us? How can this strong, smart, beautiful girl, this girl that put him in his place and taught him how to love, how could she let go so easily.
As he looked at her again, looked at her steeled face and her clenched hands, he saw her pain. He saw the fight within her. She was not blasé about this. He could see it now. He could see through his pain into hers. He could see the struggle she was having between protecting herself, a need that was deep inside her after all those years of trying to please someone who was never going to be happy with her, and loving him in spite of his family.
Suddenly his heart grew quiet. His body relaxed. He took a last sip of his coffee and stood.
His movement startled Mia, it broke her concentration. She looked up at Tim, finally looking in deep into his eyes.
“Mia, I love you. You are where I want my life to be. But I do understand now. All I ask is what you once asked me. Pray. Talk to God about this. See what He has to say.”
He then turned and walked away.