When Reagan walked into the apartment after her session with Dr. Brown, from the heavenly smell, she knew Archer already had dinner ready. Guilty fingers started walking up her spine. She needed to tell him she was leaving, that it was time for her to go home.
She also needed to tell him she wasn’t in love with him. She loved him. There was no doubt of that. She would always love Archer. But not the way he loved her and definitely not the way she loved Evan. That last thought made her physically ache because it may be too late for her and Evan. And now she was going to hurt Archer. It was almost too much to bear.
Reagan pasted on a smile. “Hi,” she said, “It smells heavenly. I swear I’ve gained 10 pounds since I’ve been here. At this rate you’ll have to roll me home.”
He put down his spoon and held out his arms. “Welcome home,” he said, “I wanted to celebrate you.”
“Me?” she squeaked out. He smelled like Archer and garlic. Comforting. He wasn’t making this easy being so damn sweet. He was one of the sweetest men she knew and he loved her. Her. Why, she had no idea, but he did. He told her he did.
“Yes you. You’re talking to your family. Smiling more and getting help. You’re getting better Reagan.”
She wiggled out of his embrace, uncomfortable with the display of affection, knowing she was getting ready to hurt him. “I never said thank you for being there for me.”
“Yes you have. And besides, you’re here. That’s thanks enough.”
“What can I do to help?” she said and turned away from him so he wouldn’t see her choking back her emotions.
“Pick out a nice bottle of wine,” he said and returned to the meal.
They sat down to eat and it was delicious as usual. “How was therapy?” asked Archer.
“Okay. We didn’t do much. I’m going back on Friday.”
“Really? Do you want me to go with this time?” he asked.
“Archer, no. This is something I have to do myself. And … another thing I need to do by myself … is sleep … I need to sleep alone.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Because, I can’t stay here any longer. I have to go home.” Hot tears were stinging her eyes.
“No, Reagan. You don’t. You have to stay here. Besides, you don’t have a place to live.” He said it as if that would be the end of the discussion, and maybe two days ago, it might have been.
She took a deep breath before answering. “I told Evan to take my house off the market. I have a job I worked hard for and I want to get back to it. I need to get back. I’m going crazy here.”
Archer put his fork down with a loud clink and looked at her. “You called him.” His tone was accusatory mixed with hurt.
She felt so guilty and looked down at her plate before answering. “I told you I was,” she said softly.
“Why did you tell him to take it off the market? You can’t stay there. Reagan! You need to be away from the reminders. It was making you sick. You still have nightmares. You have so stay here, at least while you’re in therapy.”
She swallowed hard. She had to do this. “I need to learn how to have a life again,” she spoke slowly and deliberately. “Dr. Brown said I might have nightmares for a long time. They won’t magically go away. I have to work on it. And I can’t do that sitting here in your apartment.”
“This is all because of Evan, I should’ve … Reagan, you can’t tell me that you don’t love me, because I know you do.”
This was making her sick. “Archer,” she said softly, “I will always have love for you in my heart.”
“Goddammit Reagan.” He looked so angry and hurt.
“Archer … don’t, please don’t make this harder.” The tears were leaking out now, she couldn’t hold them back any longer.
“So, what the fuck am I supposed to do tonight when you wake up screaming in a cold sweat? I won’t be able to stay away, and I don’t think you want me to either. So you can be damn sure I’ll be there and I’ll hold you until you calm down. And then I’ll kiss you and make love to you so you’ll forget the bad and just focus on the good.”
Reagan was full on crying. “I don’t know! I need …”
“You need me!” he yelled and slammed his fists on the table, causing the wine to slosh over the side of the glass.
It scared Reagan and she let out a terrified yelp, no longer crying, just frightened.
Archer put his head in his hands and took several deep breaths. Finally he looked up. “I’m sorry Reagan,” he said softly. “I was out of line – again. It just hurts me to see you in so much pain. You should sleep in the guest room. But just stay, so I can be there when you need me. So I won’t worry.”
“Archer,” she said softly, “I’m going to Newcrest tomorrow.”
His head shot up. “Why?”
She took a deep breath before answering. “Evan and I have to talk. And we can’t do it over the phone.”
She could see him working hard to control his rage. His nostrils were actually flaring. She had never seen him so nearly out of control before. She began to talk to fill the silence. “I’m going to take a Suber so I can bring my car back. While I’m there I’m going to ask my grandparents if I can move in with them, until I’m ready to live alone.” There. She said it. She just didn’t say when.
“You’re not moving in with Evan?” He seemed a little relieved.
She shook her head. “No. Archer, I just need to get my head on straight. And I don’t know how long that will take. I was serious. I do love you. But, it’s just not the same as before. Maybe because I’m so messed up. I don’t know.” She needed him to know she didn’t hate him but she wasn’t going to tell him she was in love with Evan. She’d already hurt him enough.
“Damn right! It’s better than it was before because we’re adults now.”
She stood up, unable to continue their conversation and frankly a little afraid of him now. “This was good, but I’m not hungry anymore. I’ll clean it up. You can go do whatever you need to do.”
“I’ll help,” said Archer still clenching his jaw. Silently, they cleaned up the dishes.
“I’m going to go to bed early,” said Reagan father they were done. “I need to think. Goodnight Archer.” She was grateful when he didn’t try to stop her or make her sleep in his bed. She figured he was just biding his time for her nightmare to come.
“Archer! Stop! Oh my God! Evan! Noooo!” screamed Reagan over and over but he wouldn’t stop.
“Reagan! Wake up!” yelled Archer, shaking her.
“Don’t touch me!” she screamed, “Get away! Look what you did! Somebody help him!” She slapped at him to get him away.
“Reagan. Stop. It’s me.”
“You killed him!” she yelled trying to slap him, but he held her tight.
“It’s a dream…” said Archer.
She looked around and realized he was right. But it was much more vivid than the last ones had been. “I’m soo sorry,” she said and let him engulf her in his arms while her breathing got back to normal.
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay to go to Newcrest today?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said taking huge gulps of air as she lay in his arms, “I have to do this.”
“I could take you,” he offered softly, “I’d feel better.”
He was being so sweet after being so upset with her last night. She sat up in an effort to move away from him. “No … I have to do this myself,” she said and felt him tighten his hands on her when she refused him. “I’m sorry Archer.” She didn’t want to fight with him.
“At least let me make you breakfast,” he offered.
“I don’t think I can eat. Maybe coffee.”
“Okay,” he said as he finally released her and scooted off the bed. “I’ll go scrounge up something and put the coffee on.”
She sat back, relieved he left her room so easily. After she heard him leave the bathroom, she got up and got herself ready, then made her way to the kitchen for some much needed coffee.
Archer already had bacon, eggs and toast on the table. “Sit and eat so I won’t worry,” he said keeping his voice upbeat, “You didn’t eat anything last night. Also, since you’re leaving today and will likely be gone for awhile, I figured I would go into the office, before they forget who’s boss. So I may not be here when you get back. There’s a couple of jobs that I need to check up on.”
So that’s why he was so dressed up. “I’m sorry I’ve been keeping you away from work,” she said.
“That was my choice. So stop apologizing. I’ll try to call if I’m going to be late.” He stood up and looked at her like he wanted to say more. Instead, he just said, “I’ll see you tonight,” then turned around and left.
Reagan immediately felt his absence. The empty apartment felt like a heavy weight pressing down on her. She almost panicked and ran to call him back.
Instead, she instinctively took slow deep breaths and calmed down enough to text Evan to let him know she’d be there in about an hour.