She arrived from Paris on a cold February Friday evening and he was waiting for her at the airport.
She had been there on a training week and God knew how she had needed that space. She needed time away from him, from work, from home, from their problems. She needed distance; she needed to confirm there was a whole different world out there, different from the one she had built around him. She needed to understand her feelings – did she want their story to end, once and for all?
The week had been good in the way that she had really confirmed there could be life beyond her marriage. From the beginning she had connected well with her colleagues – British, Irish, Brazilian, French, Belgian, Spanish and Portuguese as well – and by the end of the week they were really enjoying each other’s company. In the last evening they had all gone out for dinner and then to have some drinks at an Irish pub (imagine whose idea it was?!) and after some drinks she remembered dancing the “lambada” (a Brazilian song very much in fashion then) with the Irish chap on top of one of the pub’s tables, while their colleagues were clapping and laughing. By the end of that evening she also felt one of the members of the group would certainly be someone she’d like to get to know better, if only she weren’t married (and he, of course).
But then, even if she was married, her marriage had been going through a huge crisis, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to stay married anymore. But this was something she would have to sort out by herself – no use bringing more problems into the equation.
They had been married for four years when he had suddenly become very strange. He was working very hard, every Saturday, and most of the time it was just him and a colleague of his, a quite attractive woman only a few years older than he. Of course the money he earned on those Saturdays was very welcome, but she did feel lonely and after a certain time she began to feel uncomfortable too. One could feel complicity between those two… moreover they all worked for the same company which was not good – not good at all.
Those summer holidays were awful. He was withdrawn and always finding excuses to get out of the house they were sharing with some friends, to go and buy cigarettes, to call his mother about some urgent matter (no cell phones then…). She tried not to get hysterical but she was more and more suspicious, and when they came back from holidays and one Saturday she had to call him at work to ask something – or maybe it was just to check if he was there – and the doorman told her he hadn’t been there all day it was too much for her.
When he came home in the evening all hell had broken loose. She let go of all her insecurities and suspicions and jealousy and accused him of cheating her with his colleague. He denied it, but she was out of control. She slammed the door and drove to her parents’ house and asked them if she could sleep over. They were not too happy about it – she could see it – but said nothing.
She cried bitter tears and swore she would not forgive him. It was not only the pain and heartache, the crumbling of her illusions, but the public humiliation – after all at work everyone looked at her as if they knew her husband was cheating her with a colleague. On the two or three days after that fateful Saturday she didn’t even show up – she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, she supposed – but then she decided it was time to face whatever hardship was in store and went back. Her closer colleagues were very supportive but she lived very difficult moments that she never forgot – nor forgave, she felt, deep within.
For days he tried to convince her that she was wrong, and his colleague even called her to say she was mistaken, but she would not hear anybody. She felt betrayed, and that was probably one of the worst feelings as far as she was concerned.
But then she had to ponder on many things, not just her feelings: they had just moved to the apartment of their dreams – which she didn’t want to lose; she had no means to keep it by herself and was not yet in a financial position to live somewhat comfortably on her own; she didn’t want to go back to her family, nor would she be welcome; more than anyhing, as hurt as she was she still loved him deeply and she had always hated to give up anything she really wanted – and she had married for life. So, after some time and his swearing (by the most sacred things for him) that he had had nothing with his colleague (although he admitted to a “slight attraction” and a brief kiss – only once) she went back home and they tried again. But she could not forget and she felt very unhappy, she felt let down. She felt nothing would ever be the same between them.
Some months went by and such was the state of their relationship when the opportunity to go to Paris had presented itself, and she had grabbed it eagerly.
And now she was back. He hugged her enthusiastically and kept talking – he, who was never too talkative – as he drove home. She could see he was anxious to show her he had missed her, that he wanted to feel all was well between them, but she was very unsure.
As they arrived home, he took her to the living room where a fire was burning in the chimney. He cooked dinner for her – he was the cook, most of the times! – and he poured some wine. He toasted “To us”, and she knew he really wanted her to give him another chance, to try again.
Still she was unsure, still all the pain and humiliation kept coming back and she kept seeing him in the arms of the other woman. It still felt unbearable. She told him she was very tired and she went to bed, falling into a deep slumber until the following morning.
The following day he was still determined to win her over. In the afternoon, as it was getting dark, he again lit the fire in the living room in the attic. Was it because she was reading a very romantic book about an improbable yet torrid love story between a Norman knight and a Saxon girl after the Norman invasion of England? Was it the flames that seemed to dance in the chimney? Was it the fact that the man she loved – but who had hurt her so much – was trying to win her back using all his powerful seduction? Maybe a little of everything but perhaps most of all the lyrics of the song they were listening to (she had brought it from Paris in a tape): “More than words” by Extreme. What a beautiful song. The melody was beautiful but the lyrics were very meaningful, and as she heard them she thought of something he always told her when they quarrelled, that more than tender and romantic words from her he would like to see love in her actions; he accused her of paying too much attention to words of endearment he didn’t say and none to his acts that spoke of love. He always said she should be more attentive, and also that she should try to show love instead of speaking about it – as this was so much easier, of course. And as the song went:
“Saying I love you/ is not the words I want to hear from you/it’s not that I want you/ not to say but if you only knew /how easy it would be/ to show me how you feel /more than words/ is all you have to do to make it real/ then you wouldn’t have to say/ that you love me /’cause I’d already know”.
She felt that maybe he had been right in telling her that, and that now he was really trying to show her his love, his regret at what had happened and his strong resolve to make things right between them. He wanted them to have a chance to be happy again, and he wanted her to understand that very clearly and to accept him back – not just apparently, as she probably had been doing for the last months, but really, truly, wholeheartedly, without reservations.
And it went on: “What would you do/ if my heart was torn in two/ more than words to show you feel/ that your love for me is real/ what would you say/ if I took those words away/ then you could have made things new/ just by saying I love you.
As she heard the last words of the song she felt an invading, but very nice, drowsiness, and she thought that maybe, only maybe…. they could be happy together once more. Showing love but also saying I love you. Reconciling both their worlds. And on that moment she knew she would give their marriage one more chance. It was worth it.
She was never sure of what the truth was – if he had deceived her or not. But then, looking back after so many years – it really didn’t matter anymore. Not at all.