IV

Have you ever realized that deboarding a plane is akin to what it may feel like for a line of cattle meandering on their way to slaughter? Or am I just being morbid? I think I’m just being morbid.

I can feel Alex’s presence behind me like a shadow, a very friendly, handsome, and welcomed shadow. Do you ever feel like your shadow is unwelcomed though?

Between short naps, and more conversation than I would have imagined I could make in my personal state, Alex and I have set a date to meet tomorrow afternoon for him to take me around to different must see sites. When in Rome and all that shit, I’m here so I might as well enjoy.

We make our way through the airport and through customs, which I must say is way more lenient than you’d ever expect in this day and age. We have finally arrived at the baggage carousel to learn that our baggage has not come out yet.

Alex is the first to break the silence as we wait. “So, this may be premature, and you can most definitely say no and I will not be offended in any way, shape or form.” I stare at him with my eyebrows knitted in confusion at what he could possibly have to say that I would respond in a manner to offend him. I rearrange my face to imply that he should continue. “But.. I was wondering, since I feel that we enjoyed each others company on this fairly long flight… I umm..”

“Oh spit it out already Alex.” I say with a baffled look. He’s slightly fidgeting and I find it strangely endearing.

“Well, I was just wondering… and you can change your mind at any point leading up to it…” He’s shuffling from foot to foot, and I give a small smile at his uncomfortableness. “Would you like to come with me to my sister’s wedding? Think of it as crashing more than you are my date.”

I think about this, like really think about it, and the prospect of being at a wedding ceremony seems nauseating. “To be quite honest, I don’t think I could sit through a wedding.” He starts nodding his head as if he understands thoroughly somehow. “But, maybe the reception?” I add with a faint smile, inwardly knowing I will most likely not be in attendance at the reception either.

He smiles in return, and begins fishing around in his pocket. He pulls out an embossed square-shaped card, which after some observation I realize is the wedding invitation. He opens it up and rips off the top half and extends the bottom half to me. “That’s the address, if you decide to come, it’s Saturday.”

I nod and slide the ripped invitation card into my purse with very little intentions of watching this couple celebrate their union, when I had not more than 14 hours ago, watched my own union crash and burn. I’m suddenly taken over by a wave of exhaustion, and as if on cue, the carousel starts up reminding me once again that I am in Paris, with no income, no significant other, and no plan.

As Alex and I collect our luggage and walk outside, Alex flags down a cab for me taking the paper from my hands that holds my aunts address, scribbled in haste. He directs the cabbie in French and then helps me load my bag into the trunk.

Holding the door open for me as I slid in to the back seat of the cab, he says, “I will send a car for you tomorrow, to this address.” He holds the sheet in front of his phone and takes a picture of the address. “Be ready for twelve o’clock sharp.” He reaches into the cab and plucks my hand off of my lap and kisses the top of it, momentarily sending a wave of sensation through my funny bone and up my arm. He closes my door before I can utter a word and taps his hand  on the top of the cab twice, giving the driver the signal that he can move along now.

Alex leaves me with the feeling that I’ve stepped into an alternate universe. Like yesterday was somehow all just a dream. If only the last 3 years were a dream. I reach into my pocket and turn on my phone, and then it starts to seize as hours of texts, missed calls, and messages reign in. I have missed calls from my mom, Steven, the scumbag, two of my closest friends, my dad. There are a multitude of text messages conveying thoughts of strength woven with sympathy, or more better titled, pity. Lots of fucking pity, that’s what my phone is full of.

I erase all of the missed calls, and open and close all the messages without replying so they show up as read. I don’t even bother to listen to the voicemails and I don’t delete them so there’s no room for anymore. I send a quick text to Steve letting him know I have landed safely, and I hit dial for the one and only call I feel I need to make right now. The call gets answered after the second ring. “Sloane ?!” I can hear the layering of my dad’s baritone and my mom’s soprano voices as they answer two separate house phones at the same time. Even before they can barrage me with questions I say, “I’m in Paris, I’m safe, don’t worry.”

“Oh, thank God.” My mother is proclaiming her relief. “That son of a bitch called here looking for you earlier.”

“He’s lucky all he did was call, I would have run him over with my car if he dared dawn his face on my doorstep.” My father adds in his gruff tone.

“He told you?” I’m more shocked than I can admit that it was my ex who informed my parents of his transgressions.

“He said that you had found some compromising images on his iPad of him and some other women and you had taken off.” My mother says in a disgusted tone.

“Ha!” The hoarse laugh is out of my mouth before I can think about it. “Compromising images my ass.” I take a deep breath to try and calm my nerves. “Look, I’m going to go and stay with Aunt Irene and just figure my shit out. I bought a one way, and I don’t know where I’ll go, what I’ll do, or anything really.”

“Sloane,” It’s my dad’s voice that comes across the line, soft yet still hoarse. “If you need anything at all, money…anything, you just call us alright?” I tell my parents that I will, knowing deep down I probably won’t.

For the past three years I have endured almost every member of my family secretly harboring their disdain for my boyfriend, later to be fiancé, as he slowly isolated me more and more from my friends and family. I attempted to stay by his side to stand up for him and our relationship, all to be let down in the worst kind of way, by what I didn’t know was the worst kind of man.

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