I Still Do
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So, you know it’s a bad sign when you walk to where your wife parked the car ... and it’s gone. She’s gone.
You’d think after the day I had that Callie would have waited for me, but she didn’t. Nothing can really surprise me at this point. Today has been hell and this? This is just the icing on the cake. It’s pure luck that Addison Montgomery saw me standing in the rain and offered me a ride. She’s pretty nice. And Callie really likes her.
We talk about the weather. We talk about her need for a new car. And we even talk about the Archfield and how much we like it. We don’t talk about Meredith. Meredith is alive. Nothing else in the world matters much except that Meredith is alive.
Actually, that’s a lie.
Over the months, I’ve gotten to know Callie’s expressions. I can tell when she’s pissed, when she’s about to scream at me. I can tell when she’s about to be sarcastic and about to say something so funny that my stomach will ache from laughing at her. But I saw something in her face today that scared me. It was something I’ve never seen before.
She was broken.
And Izzie did that to her.
My best friend put that look on her face and it scared me. I’ve never seen Callie cry. I’ve never seen her break apart or show much in the way of weakness, but when I approached her and asked her what was wrong ... she said nothing. She gave me a chart and pointed toward a man who was sitting on a stretcher.
And she walked away.
In the elevator, I thank Addison for the ride and she nods. She looks as horrible as I feel. Not for nothing, but ferry disasters don’t rank really high on the best way to spend your day list. Having one of your best friends die, for hours, and then having your other best friend verbally assault your wife ... it almost makes you wish you were the one on the ferry.
When my dad died ... I thought about dying with him. Who doesn’t when they lose a loved one? Your brain goes to this place where you shut down and you want to sleep beside them. I was sleepwalking through the motions of the viewing, the funeral, and Callie was there. She cooked for my family. She cleaned up after people had brought a million dishes and she never thought bad of any of us for falling apart. She was a constant, steady comfort. We all felt her presence.
I made love to her three days after we buried my father and it was in that moment that I knew my dad had been right. Callie understood me. She loved me. She accepted me.
Ever since we got married ... I have loved the walk down the hallway to *our* room. It’s a beautiful hotel and I know what happens when we’re alone behind the door. It’s not the sex ... don’t get me wrong ... the sex is amazing. But she talks to me. She tells me things. She listens to me talk and she never judges me or makes me feel stupid for the things that I say. Knowing that you have someone to come home to may be the most beautiful feeling in the world.
I expect to see her on the bed when I open the door, but she isn’t there. I check the bathroom, but come up empty. I pull out my cellphone and dial hers. Her cell phone rings loudly, some crazy ring tone from Dreamgirls that she decided reminded her of me, and I see her coat in the corner. The vertical blinds that cover the sliding glass doors move a little and I realize that the door is partially open.
I find her on the balcony, soaking wet. She’s still wearing her scrubs and she’s sitting in the corner, her back against the wall. The rain is coming down in sheets and a majority of those sheets are crashing against her. It’s also freezing cold and I can hear her teeth chattering. “Jesus, Callie! What the hell are you doing?”
The balcony isn’t very big. I cross the space in a hurry and hold out my hand. “Let’s go inside.”
She shakes her head a little and doesn’t take it so I squat down in front of her. “Talk to me.”
Her hair is plastered to her head and her eyeliner has run down her cheeks. I can’t tell if she’s been crying or if it’s the rain. Either way ... I don’t like it. I push her hair back and cup her chin, which is trembling from the cold. I make a valiant attempt at pulling her to her feet, but she won’t budge. “Don’t,” she finally tells me.
Yanking off my jacket, I lay it over her. “You’re going to freeze to death out here!”
“I’m not cold.”
I catch the scent of liquor on her breath and I wonder how early she left the hospital. A bolt of lightning streaks through the sky, illuminating the balcony enough for me to see the half empty bottle she has between her legs. I take it from her and pour what’s left over the side. She reaches for it too late and I catch her hand. “Tell me what happened.”
“Go inside!” she snaps.
“Hey! You can order me around all you want while we’re at work, but don’t you *dare* do it here.”
She flashes the look I always get before she screams at me and I grip her upper arms, roughly yanking her to her feet. She throws my jacket at me and stalks past me, into the room. When I enter behind her, she’s slipping her scrub shirt over her head and I can’t help but enjoy the view when she takes her undershirt with it. The shirt hits me in the face a second later and it’s cold, wet, and pisses me off so much that I can barely stand it.
“What the hell is your problem?” I yell, throwing it back. It hits her ass and the look I get almost makes me laugh out loud.
“I haven’t done a damn thing to you!”
“That - that *person* you call a best friend -- do you know what she said about us?”
“That our marriage license was just a piece of paper! That you and me? All we have is the fact that we fool around! That I don’t belong in your little ... group!”
“She just -”
“SO HELP ME GOD, GEORGE! IF YOU ARE ABOUT TO DEFEND HER --- THEN LEAVE NOW BEFORE I KILL YOU.”
“I WAS GOING TO SAY THAT SHE JUST DOESN’T GET IT!” I shout. “AND IF YOU WOULD CALM DOWN FOR TWO SECONDS I COULD ALSO TELL YOU THAT I SAID SOMETHING TO HER ABOUT IT!”
She cocks one eyebrow. If we ever have children ... that’s the look that she’ll give them that will instantly make them stop whatever it is they’re doing. It’s impressive. And scary. “Did she tell you her version of it?”
“No. I didn’t give her a chance.”
“How did you know she said something then?”
“Because your face said it all. I’ve never seen you look the way you did. It broke my heart, Cal. And I’m not going to defend Izzie. I’m not, but I can’t keep listening to the two of you bitching about each other every single damn day. I’m tired of it.”
She rolls her eyes at me. “If I can’t talk to you about it then who am I supposed to talk to?”
“Stop fighting with her! Just ignore her.”
“I was only trying to help her today, George! I even told her that we could be friends if she’d stop attacking me all the time!”
“What did she say?”
“Nothing. So I told her that if she kept doing it then she would become the person you used to know.”
My temper flares and before I know it, I snap, “You don’t get to make that decision!”
“That’s exactly what she said.” Her chin trembles and I reach for her, but she slaps my hand away. “And apparently I was mistaken when I told her that you would choose me.”
“I married you.”
“You keep saying that like it means something,” she says. “That’s a little more Izzie wisdom and she’s right.”
I watch as she grabs a dry sweater from the dresser and snatches a pair of jeans from the neatly folded pile nearby. She stalks to the bathroom and when she comes out a few minutes later, she’s dressed. “Where are you going?”
I block her path as she tries to cross the room. “It’s late. You’ve been drinking and -”
“And I can’t be near you right now.”
“Well, you should have thought about that when you said ‘I do’ because you’re stuck with me.”
“No, I’m not.” She shakes her head. “I’m going to see a lawyer tomorrow.”
My stomach clenches and I feel like the rug has been pulled from underneath me. I stare at her in total disbelief, hoping that she’ll break into a smile and tell me she was kidding. She doesn’t. She tries to get past me again. “You’re not leaving!” I shout. “And don’t you *ever* threaten me like that again!”
“It’s not a threat!” she yells. “You think *you’re* tired? Try my life on for size, George! I’m exhausted! I can’t keep trying to juggle work and you and your bitchy little friends. I’m an adult! I’m not playing these games anymore!”
I can only stare at her. I can barely breathe because the lump in my throat is too big to swallow. It takes me a second, but I finally manage to say, “So you just want to quit? Just like that? What happened to ‘for better or worse’?”
“The same thing that happened to ‘forsaking all others’.”
“So, you want me to just forget my friends --- the same friends who have been with me since day one at the hospital. The same friends who I think of as family and only make room in my life for you. Is that right?”
“No,” she replies. “I just want you to get your things out of my hotel room and sign the papers when they’re drawn up.”
“I will not!” I yell at her. I yell it so loud that my throat hurts. “Do you hear me? This is ridiculous!”
“What do you want from me? Tell me! How do I fix this?”
"You told her that I was the most important person in your life. You said it! You told her that if she pushed me away then you were gone, too! And she pushed me so hard today, George, that it broke me! And you act like she can do no wrong! So go. Be with Miss Perfect."
“She’s my best friend.” It’s the only thing I can say and I can tell immediately that it’s the wrong thing.
I watch helplessly as she slips her shoes on and grabs her keys from the dresser. She glances at me as she grabs her purse and says, “I’ll be gone for one hour. You be gone when I get back.”
“Don’t do this! This is not the answer to our problems!”
I don’t know the answer to that, but I know if she walks out the door then everything I’ve ever wanted is going with her. “I’ll talk to her.”
“Because it worked so well the last time.”
“Callie, goddammit! I believe in what we have and I honestly believe that Izzie will realize how wrong she is when she sees us working out. Let’s prove that we’re real.”
“I’m sorry, George. I’m not going to live my life trying to prove someone wrong. I don’t have the energy.”
She reaches for the door knob, but I block her. “You’re not leaving. And I’m not leaving.”
She has her poker face firmly in place and it lasts for all of ten seconds. I watch as she fights her tears and I have to touch her. I cup her face and when she doesn’t pull away ... I take a step closer and hug her. Her hair is still wet from the rain and it smells like roses. I breathe her in and hang on tight. “I’m not leaving, Cal. You can push me, you can scream at me, you can see a hundred lawyers, and I’m still not leaving you. It was too hard to catch you this time.”
When she sobs against me, I hold her a little tighter and say, “I’m not going to lie to you. I don’t know what to do about Izzie. I don’t understand why she feels the way she does or how to open her eyes, but I do know that she is not going to cost me my marriage.”
She stiffens and pulls back, wiping her eyes. “She already has.”
I can feel my own eyes welling with tears and I don’t even try to fight them. “You don’t love me anymore?”
“I’ll never stop loving you, but-”
“Then fight for what we have!”
“You told me to stop fighting with her!”
“She’s not the one who’s giving up on us! You are!”
“Because of her!”
“Because you’re a coward! What the hell happened to you, Callie? A few weeks ago you were telling me that you were strong and independent and didn’t give a crap what people thought of you! Where did that woman go?”
“She got married. And just look at the mess she made.”
I take a step back, feeling like she has slapped me across the face. She seizes the opportunity to race out the door. I let her go. Not because I want her to go, but because she has stunned me too much to react. When the door slams behind her, my legs almost buckle so I sit down on the edge of the bed.
In some vague corner of my mind I’m aware of the chills that are racing through me. I know that my teeth are chattering and that my clothes are soaking wet from the few moments I spent on the balcony, but I don’t feel cold. I feel like I’m being consumed by a slow flame. I’m hot. I’m nauseated. I feel like I’ve stepped into hell and it’s scorching my soul.
I focus on a picture of us together, one of those insane pictures where the photographer asks you to pose and check back in an hour. We’re in front of one of the Vegas casinos and I’m clutching our marriage license like it’s a million dollars. Both of us are smiling, but while I’m looking at he camera, she’s looking at me. She’s looking at me the way that I used to look at Meredith.
And I doubt she’ll ever look at me that way again.
With my forehead in my palms, I made the decision that I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be in this same spot when she gets back and I’ll make her understand. I will. I have to. Because I love her. I didn’t realize it at first, but every second that I spend with her makes it loud and clear. I love my wife.
My wait is short lived because the door opens and she steps back into the room. I slowly get to my feet, ready to go another round because I know she’s going to demand that I leave.
Instead, she shocks me by walking right into my arms.
“I made it as far as the lobby,” she says softly. “Before I had to turn around.”
I hug her, hanging on tight. “Oh, thank god.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, baby.” I kiss her cheek. “I don’t want to fight anymore.”
“Me either.” She shakes in my arms and I can tell that she’s crying again. “I hate this. I hate that I finally got what I wanted and I’m still fighting for it.”
“But you’re not fighting alone.” I pull her even closer. “It’s not a paper, Callie. Our marriage means that we’re in this thing together and it’s us against them.”
“It doesn’t feel that way.”
“Then I’m not doing it right,” I say. “Because we’re a team.”
She doesn’t say anything for a few minutes, then I hear her teeth chatter. Our room is freezing and even though she has on dry clothing, she’s still cold. I nuzzle her neck and whisper, “Let’s go to bed.”
With a nod, she kicks off her shoes and heads into the bathroom. I hear the shower turn on a few seconds later. I showered at work, standing under the hot stream of water as if it could erase the horrors of the day. It didn’t. I could use another one so I undress quickly and join her.
For some reason, she likes to scald herself with the water. The moment I slide the door open, I can feel the steam and know that the bottoms of my feet are probably going to blister. I don’t know how she does it, but it doesn’t seem to phase her. She always turn bright red after her shower and I always insist on rubbing her down with lotion ... more for my own peace of mind than hers. And because I savor touching her all over.
She is leaning back in the corner, her arms over her chest while the water stream hits her on top of the head. I know she’ll probably protest, but I adjust the temperature and move the shower head so that she’s not taking the brunt of it. I push her hair off her face and kiss her, lingering just a moment.
It worries me that she won’t make eye contact with me. I don’t know if it’s something she is purposely doing or if she’s unaware of it, but it unnerves me. “Look at me,” I whisper.
I regret it immediately. That look - that same look that Izzie put on her face earlier is back again. It honestly feels like someone has a hot poker that they’re jabbing into my heart. I hate the pain in her eyes, the way she looks lost and ... destroyed. I don’t know what to say to her but I have to say something. “It’s okay.”
“It doesn’t feel okay.”
“What does it feel like?”
“Do you regret this? Us? Marrying me? Do you-”
“No.” As soon as I say it ... I know how true it is. Izzie can believe what she wants, but I know in my heart that Callie is the one for me. What we have is not perfect, but it’s all I need. I want to be the man that Callie deserves, the person who makes her laugh and smile. I want --- forever. “I don’t regret anything we did. The only thing I regret is that my dad didn’t see me make the best decision of my life. He knew - my dad. He knew that you and I were supposed to be together.”
“Then why doesn’t anyone else see it?”
“Because they’re blind. And we don’t have to worry about that.”
I kiss her again and she wraps her arms around me. I’d love to seize the opportunity and make love to her against the shower stall, but she’s exhausted. I can see it on her face. I have to be content with washing her skin, which I do, even though she tries to take the loofah away from me and do it herself. She gives in when I massage her back with it and I have to smile a little at how easily I can push her buttons: good and bad.
After we shower, I watch as she combs the tangles from her hair. When she picks up the hair dryer, I take it from her and tell her to lie on the bed. She doesn’t argue. She lets her hair hang over the edge, tucking her arms under her head and I dry it for her.
She’s sound asleep by the time I’m finished.
I climb into bed beside her and hang onto her for a very long time.
My mom and dad faced many things together. They dealt with the struggles of raising three boys, of never having quite enough money, and through it all they were happy. My dad was the joker, the goofball who liked to embarrass my mom and she was the one who grounded him. They were different ... on opposite ends of the spectrum. He liked country music and fried food and she liked to go to the opera and eat salad. But they met somewhere in the middle and found the kind of love that everyone should experience.
When my dad died, my mom laid her face against his to feel his last breath. I can feel Callie’s breath on my neck and I know ... I just know that one day ... when I feel her last breath, I will be just as proud of the life we had together as my mom and dad were.
I don’t need anyone to believe in what Callie and I have because I have enough belief for ten people. She’s the one for me. My dad was right when he said that I was crazy if I let her get away.
She throws her arm over my chest and I look at the ring I placed on her finger. It isn’t huge.
But it came from my heart and if the world could see that --- it would sparkle so bright that it would blind them.
Callie’s love blinded me.
I can’t see anything but her.
And I could look at the view for eternity.
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