Chapter 40 : Infidelity
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“Knut for your thoughts?” Tyler finally asked, his voice scratchy sounding. He cleared his throat.
“Not even a million knuts,” I replied desolately.
He pulled his arm tighter around me and kissed my hair. I took it as a good sign. Finally, he sighed. “I don’t really know how to even begin with this.”
There went the good sign. “Just say it, Tyler.”
He raised his arm, and I took his hint and sat up, turning to look at him as he rose as well. He stared at me for a long moment before finally opening his mouth. “I miss you, Flicka,” he said.
My heart soared, but my head heard the ‘but’ at the end of his sentence. He didn’t continue speaking. “You miss me, but…”
He looked to be in thought. “But I’ve done a few things I don’t think you’ll be able to live with while we were apart. I wouldn’t blame you if you no longer wanted me back after I told you, but if I don’t tell you… I just don’t want to lie to you.” His eyes finally looked away from the tree he’d been focused on while talking, to me.
I nodded once, already knowing where he was heading. “Did you use protection?” I asked.
“Did you use protection every single time?”
“Did you sleep with anyone while Mackenzie was over?”
“Jesus, Alix!” he yelled. “Of fucking course not!”
I pressed my lips together tightly, staring at the ground. Thinking I knew was one thing. Having him confirm it was another thing entirely. Tears were already brimming in my eyes. “Is it because I wasn’t putting out after we had Mackenzie? Is that why you left?”
“What? Alix, no!”
“Cause if you would’ve told me that it would lead to you leaving, I would have!” I was hysterical, but I didn’t care.
He reached forward, pulling my chin up roughly so I met his eyes. The force caused the tears to run down my cheeks. “No, Alix. It wasn’t anything you did. Not even the schoolwork that I blamed it on. I felt trapped. That was me. That was my problem. I settled it and I figured out that I missed you more than I ever thought I could miss somebody. I was wrong, Alix.”
The moment he let go of my face, I stared back at the ground. “How many?”
Tyler sighed. “Five.”
I sobbed, placing a hand over my mouth to muffle it. I hoped he wouldn’t reach out for me again. “Who?”
“Alix, I don’t think –“
“Parkinson twice, Fitzpatrick, Collins, Rogers, and a Hufflepuff girl I didn’t know the name of.”
“Muffy?” I asked. “Muffy Parkinson.”
Tyler didn’t reply, which gave me all of the answer I needed. After what she’d done to us last year, he’d been inside her.
“It was nothing compared to being with you, baby,” he finally said a few moments later. “Nothing.”
I nodded, but didn’t reply.
“Is this something you can forgive?” he asked.
“I – I don’t know, Tyler.”
“You already knew, though. When you confronted me, you said that you were ‘standing by while I opened the legs of sluts.’”
“I didn’t know it was six of them! I didn’t know it was with a girl who used to be my friend! I didn’t know that there would be girls on that list who I’d known since I was eleven years old, or who had said ‘Hi’ to me in the Great Hall while we were split!” I yelled back. We were gaining people’s attention by now, I’m sure, but I didn’t look away from Tyler. “You know what the saddest, sickest part of this is?” I asked, lowering my voice. “I probably will fucking forgive you.”
“You shouldn’t have told me,” I replied, cutting him off. “You should’ve just kept it to yourself, and never said a thing.”
Tyler looked at me pointedly, but sympathetically. “I couldn’t do that to you, Flicka.”
“But you could sleep with other girls, Tyler?”
Tyler sighed and put his head in his hands. I wrapped my arms around my waist and let myself cry. When he reached for me, I slapped his hands away.
Why did it hurt this much? It hadn’t even hurt this badly when I had thought Tyler cheated a year ago. Was I stronger now, or was it just because Tyler had told me it was true this time? Despair turned into anger quickly, but I kept my mouth shut. Yelling wouldn’t solve a damn thing, and hadn’t when I’d done it earlier.
“Do you want me to take you home and give you some time?” Tyler asked, dejectedly.
I scoffed. “I’m so sick of that word.” I stood, brushing off my pants unnecessarily just to have something to do with my hands. “Go home if you want. I’ll find my way home myself.”
He started to protest, but I was already gone. After a few seconds of walking, I laughed to myself. I’d walked away from Tyler the last time we spent the afternoon in the snow at Hogsmeade as well. Once I was fairly far away from Tyler, I apparated.
I ended up in a café outside of London. I’d never been there before – as far as I could remember, and halfway wondered how I’d even been able to get there. As I took a seat at the bar with my back to the door, a blonde waitress in a blue and white checkered dress and white apron walked up. “What can I get you?” she asked. It was more than obvious she hated her job, but needed it desperately. I wished I had more than just a few pounds to give her.
I smiled the best I could. “Um, tea please.”
The waitress nodded and stuffed her notepad into her apron without writing down my order. When she brought back my tea, I sipped it slowly, letting my mind wander.
An immeasurable amount of time passed before I heard a familiar ‘ahem’ behind me. I smiled to myself as he walked up and took the seat beside me.
“Long time no see, beautiful,” Tripp said with a smile, taking the stool beside me and shaking his head at the waitress when she walked up. “You don’t look too good.”
I laughed. “Thanks. You sure do know how to make a girl feel better.”
“Eh, I’m working on it.” We sat in silence for a few minutes while he stared at me and I wiped my tears. “What’s the matter, love?”
“What’s not?” I replied with a scoff.
“Talk to me about it.”
I looked over at him. Could I dump all of the problems Tyler and I had been having over the past few months on him? I’d done it before. Of course, that had ended up in a relationship and that was the last thing I wanted right now. “How are you?” I asked, ignoring his command.
“Good,” he replied. “Really good, actually. Graduated last year. Taking a year off before Uni, but then I’m off.”
“Really? That’s great, Tripp!” I didn’t have to fake my enthusiasm. Just because we’d ended things didn’t mean I didn’t really care for what happened to him. He deserved the best. “Why’d you take off a year?”
“My girl’s graduating at the end of this year. We wanted to go together.”
So he had a girl? I’d be lying if I said a lot of the tension didn’t disappear. “That sounds pretty… capricious.”
He seemed impressed. “Nice word, Granger.”
“Two names ago,” I muttered, but he didn’t pick up on it.
“We’ve talked about me. You’ve discovered I have a girlfriend who I am very much in love with. So now will you tell me what the matter is?”
I sighed and stared at my hands for a moment before replying. “Tyler,” I replied, summing the whole situation into that one name.
“Ah, the boyfriend.”
“The husband,” I corrected, and I could see his shock out of the corner of my eye. “I, um, I got pregnant. We got married.”
“Shit, miss a year and miss a lifetime. Are you still in school?”
“Yeah, yeah, of course. We both are.”
Tripp nodded. “That’s good. How’s the baby?”
I smiled, turning to look at him again. “Mackenzie. She’s amazing.” I could go on all day about my daughter, but stopped myself. I was burdening him enough.
“So what’s the problem?”
“I got married at sixteen. Tyler was seventeen. We were each other’s first… everything. We had a baby. Tyler felt suffocated and we got into a fight. We separated,” I spoke slowly, but Tripp never took his eyes off of me, never stopped listening. “He wants to get back together.”
“And now you don’t want him back?” Tripp asked, confused.
“No. I mean, yes. Of course I want him back. That’s not the problem.”
“Then what is?”
“He slept with five other girls while we were split up. One of them was an ex-best friend of mine.”
Tripp whistled. “Shit,” he said simply, grabbing for my tea and taking a small sip. When he put it back down in front of me, he sighed. “Your boyfriend’s an ass.”
“Husband,” I corrected again. “And I know. He can be.”
“So what are you going to do?”
I scoffed, and turned to him. “If I knew that, I wouldn’t be lost in London drinking this disgusting tea.”
Tripp laughed boisterously. “If I didn’t have a girlfriend, I’d take you out to get something stronger.”
“Thanks for the offer,” I said with a smile.
“Do you still love him?”
“Can you forgive him?”
“I probably will.”
“Tell me about some of the happier times in your relationship,” Tripp said. “You’re right about the tea, by the way.” He dabbed a napkin against his tongue, grimacing.
I laughed, and then started thinking, smiling every so often. “The day we played hookie together. The day he told me he loved me. The day my mum surprised me by bringing him home a few days early. When he proposed to me. Going to the fair together. The first time we, uh,” I looked over a Tripp to see him nodding in understanding and waving his hand for me to pass that memory. “Making up after our first fight. Getting married. Our honeymoon. Having Mackenzie.” I stopped myself. There were millions of times we’d just laid in each other’s arms that made me happier than almost anything.
“Alright. Now tell me the downfalls.”
“When I thought he cheated on me,” I answered. “And this.”
“Hmm.” Tripp pretended to think for a minute. “They don’t seem to add up.”
I sighed, staring back down at the tabletop.
“I know he hurt you. Give him hell, baby doll. Yell, scream, cry, punch walls, get it all out. But I have a sneaking suspicion that even after you do all of that, he’ll be there with his arms open.”
“You think I should go back to him,” I concluded.
“I think you should do it for your daughter, for your marriage, and for yourself. But only if you still truly love him, and if you think you can honestly put this in the past.” I started to nod, but he cut me off. “And I mean really in the past. Don’t bring it up every time you get into a fight. Don’t hold it over his head. Get all of the fight out and then be done with it, because if all you ever do is keep bringing it up, it’s going to ruin your relationship and your friendship.”
I nodded again, but said nothing.
“Don’t trade in the one time he really fucked up for the millions of things he’s done to make you smile, love.”
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