I knocked on Tiffany’s door. I still couldn’t believe that I’d agreed to come over. I wasn’t ready to forgive her, but she made it hard to say no. She looked great this morning. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed her until I saw her in my office. I was still angry with her, though. I’d fumed about it all weekend. I still didn’t understand why she kept a secret from me. I don’t know that I ever would understand, even if she tried to explain.
Tiffany opened the door with a smile on her face. I could tell that she was happy to see me. She was probably nervous that I wouldn’t show up. To be honest, I’d thought about not showing up, but I knew that I owed it to both of us to talk to her.
“Come in,” she said. “Thank you for coming over.”
I walked in without saying a word. She led me inside and we took a seat on the couch.
“Is Mandy here?” I asked. I hoped that she wasn’t. Their apartment was small and if Mandy was there, she would hear our conversation no matter where she was in the house. I wanted to have a private conversation without anyone else involved.
“No, she’s at work,” Tiffany said. “How was your day?”
“It was fine,” I said. I wanted to tell her that it was awful. I wanted to say that I couldn’t concentrate because I kept replaying everything through my head. I think I’d my least productive day ever at work today. I would have to work late tomorrow night to make up for it.
“So, what did you want to talk about?” I asked her. I wanted to get right to it. I’d to pick up Austin from my parents’ house soon. My mom had told me to take my time with Tiffany, but I felt bad leaving Austin there. Plus, I could use it as an excuse to get out of here if things started to go badly.
“Cayden, I am so sorry,” she began. “I really screwed up. I was wrong to not tell you about Brad, and I made it even worse by not telling you when you knew something was obviously wrong.”
I nodded again. I was glad that she had realized that she had screwed up. While she had made a poor choice, she was still smart when it came to knowing right and wrong.
“You did screw up,” I said. “I just don’t understand why you continued to lie to me. You could have told me. I would have been upset, but not nearly as upset as I am right now. You have no idea how much it hurt to realize that you saw Brad behind my back. It was even worse that I found out after you met my family. Austin really likes you. I don’t know what to tell him now.”
“You don’t have to tell him anything,” Tiffany said. I could see the tears forming in her eyes. “We can get back to a good place, Cayden. This doesn’t have to end.”
I shook my head. I’d wanted to get back to a good place, but I wasn’t sure that was an option anymore. Maybe I wasn’t made for another relationship. Maybe I was meant to be a single dad. At least I would only have one other person to worry about if I stayed single. Austin. I needed to protect both of us. I’d vowed not to be the dad that brought random women over all the time. If I brought a woman around Austin, she needed to be the right woman. She needed to be someone that I could trust.
“I just don’t know how we can go on,” I told her. She began to cry. Fuck. I didn’t mean to make her cry. I was mad, but I didn’t want to see her cry. I didn’t like it when anyone cried, especially women close to me.
“Don’t cry,” I said, moving close to her. She sniffled.
“You’ve changed my life, Cayden Lewis,” she said, looking at me with her green eyes. “You made me a completely different woman and I’m thankful for that. Before you came along, I was struggling to live life. I felt hopeless, and love was the last thing on my mind. But you came along and made me believe in myself again. You made me believe that I was beautiful, that I was strong, and that I was smart. If it wasn’t for you, I probably wouldn’t be in my writing position or giving a course on how to empower other women.”
As she continued to talk, I felt my heart began to thaw a bit. Everything that she was saying was beautiful. I knew that I’d made an impact on her life, but I’d no idea how much of an impact that it was until right now.
“You helped me find myself,” Tiffany continued. “I am so thankful for that. If it weren’t for you, I would still be fact checking and just walking through life like a zombie. I can’t even think about what would happen if you weren’t in my life. I am so sorry, Cayden. You must forgive me. We can’t end like this.”
She started crying again. I got up and grabbed a Kleenex from the side table.
“Here,” I said, handing her the Kleenex. “Wipe those tears.”
She smiled as she accepted the Kleenex from me.
“Thank you,” she sniffled. She took a deep breath.
“I just don’t want this to be over,” she said. “Can you give me a second chance?”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. Part of me wanted to give her a second chance. I didn’t want this to be over, either. But, the other part of me was scared. I didn’t want to give her a second chance to hurt me, or possibly hurt Austin. I could handle a breakup, but I wasn’t sure that Austin could if he got more involved. He had already asked about Tiffany all weekend. I didn’t tell him anything was wrong between us. He wouldn’t have understood anyway.
“I’m not sure I can trust you,” I finally told her. She bit her bottom lip, fighting back more tears. I didn’t want her to cry again, but I’d to tell her the truth. My faith in her was broken. I wasn’t sure if I could trust her. If she hid something from me once, would she do it again or had she learned her lesson?
“You can trust me, Cayden,” she said. “I know that it was a shitty thing to go out with Brad, but it actually made me realize what a great relationship I’d with you. He was such an asshole at dinner that I ended up walking out before eating. He was so rude to both me and the waiter in front of the entire restaurant. You would never do anything like that. You respect me and other people.”
I nodded. She was right. I would never dream of disrespecting her, or anyone else, especially in public. I didn’t understand how Brad had treated her so badly. I also still couldn’t get over the fact that I’d bumped into Brad without even knowing who he was. I tried to picture him and Tiffany together, but I couldn’t. They seemed completely incompatible.
“So, as screwed up as it sounds, I’m glad that I went out with him,” Tiffany said. “Being with him again made me realize how far I’d come since we broke up. I’m not the same girl anymore. With Brad, I was insecure and let him control my thoughts and feelings. With you, I’m a strong, confident woman.”
As she spoke, I felt myself begin the process of forgiving her. Although it was tough, I knew that I needed to do it. Everyone made mistakes. It was how we reacted to them that shaped our relationships. I could either not forgive her and walk away, or I could forgive her and start a great relationship.
As I contemplated what to do, I thought about what my mom had told me. She had said that Tiffany cared for me and that everyone went through shitty times. I couldn’t just quit when the going got tough, could I? That seemed like a disservice to both Tiffany and myself.
“I forgive you,” I finally told Tiffany. She turned her head to look at me, not believing the words that had come from my mouth. I was a little surprised that I’d said them, too, but I knew that I needed to say them. We needed to move on together, and this was the first step.
“Oh my God,” she said. “Thank you!”
She threw her arms around my neck and buried her face into my chest. She began to sob, big, heavy tears. I let her cry into my chest as I wrapped my arms around her. We embraced each other for a while before she moved back.
“I love you,” she said, kissing me. I returned the kiss with desire. She loved me. I ran my fingers through her dark hair as we kissed passionately. This was a different kiss than before. This was a kiss of two people desperately in love with each other. This was two people who were willing to fight for each other.
Our lips and tongues intertwined as our hands moved against each other’s bodies. It felt so good to kiss her again and have her in my arms. I wanted her, but I didn’t want to have sex. I wanted to make love. I wanted to show her body what my heart felt.