The Truth of Never
by O.E. Boroni
Adult, Contemporary, Romance
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Can love really conquer all?
Thirteen years ago, Lenora Baker and Nathan Roque ran into each other in their boarding school courtyard. Despite the bitter losses and experiences that they were both nursing in their hearts, they somehow managed to find in each other a passion that healed as powerfully as it burned. But demons aren’t chased away that easily.
Now, thirteen years later, everything is rekindled with a ferocity that neither of them can ignore. They’ve found their way back to each other but in this conclusion to the trilogy, their hope for the love-filled future that neither of them ever believed that they could have is on the line.
Life happens; disaster rocks the already shaky ground that they’re standing on, and dreams begin to seem like nightmares. Will they find the answers to the questions that have plagued them for so long, or will they once again succumb to their fears?
At first I didn’t know what was wrong. I just knew that he had stopped and it was driving me out of my mind.
“Your legs,” he muttered in shock, and lifted his eyes to mine. “You just wrapped them around me.” A beautiful smile broke out on his face but all I could do was stare guiltily at him, my heart pounding violently within my chest. I fought the urge to hang my head in shame.
“Yeah …” I replied, my voice a mere whisper but he was too happy to notice. He carried me away from the wall and back to sit on the bed. Lowering himself to the floor, he sat down and gently wrapped his hands around one of my ankles. The feel of his palms against my skin was pure fire, and it was searing me with guilt.
“Can you feel my hands?” he asked, as he raised his warm blue eyes to mine. I couldn’t believe that I had ever thought them cold. Right now they were flashing with barely contained excitement, and his entire face was lit up in a way that I’d never seen before. He was ecstatic with joy … and I was evil.
“Lenora?” he called, wondering why I wasn’t responding. I forced a smile to my lips and nodded, because quite frankly, any attempt to open my mouth would have caused me to choke. Unconsciously, I started pulling my leg away from his hold.
“What is it?” he asked, concern pulling his brows together. “Does it hurt?”
I shook my head.
“I’ll go call Gary,” he said and rose to his feet, but I quickly reached out and caught his hand.
“No, wait,” I said and he stopped.
“What is it? Are you alright?”
“Uh …” I began, but I didn’t know how to say what I needed to. So I just took my gaze away from his and stood up. My hands were trembling.
The moment he saw me standing, he froze. He was silent for so long that I had to return my gaze to him. There were tears in his eyes.
“Oh my God,” he said quietly. “How? When? You can stand?”
I nodded and he came over to draw me into his arms. Shutting my eyes, I allowed myself to rest against his chest and tried not to think of the disaster that was coming as he stroked my hair. With the widest smile on his face, he leaned away from me to look into my eyes, and then he looked down at my legs.
“Holy shit! When did this happen? Did you just try now? It’s not possible for you to be able to stand so quickly.”
I wasn’t answering any of his questions so he brought his eyes back to mine. I didn’t want to have to report myself so I hoped that somehow he would figure it out, but if he didn’t, I wasn’t going to lie to him either. I’d done enough of that already. It took him a few more seconds but with the panic so evident in my eyes, the suspicion eventually came to him as to why I was acting so strangely. The moment it did, his hold loosened around me.
“When did this happen?” he asked.
“A while ago,” I muttered.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I was a bit scared … w-worried that it might not be … permanent.” Damn it! I was lying again, but his countenance had changed and it terrified me.
His eyes narrowed as he considered this. “That doesn’t sound right, you would have told me.”
I stared guiltily at him.
“You’re lying to me.” he accused, but I didn’t respond. “Nora?”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, in hopes that it would help calm my jittery nerves, but it didn’t. “I … I was okay in the hospital.”
His arms completely left my waist.
“Please don’t be mad at me. I mean you can be mad but … please …”
“Lenora, what happened?”
He called me Lenora. I swallowed painfully.
“I was better in the hospital.”
“You’ve already said that. And that was more than a week ago. When exactly were you better?”
“After the surgery.”
He briefly closed his eyes, and I knew that his patience was wearing thin.
“When exactly after the surgery?”
“As soon as I woke up.” I whispered.
Calmly he said, “I didn’t catch that.”
I knew that he did but either way I repeated myself, this time a bit more audibly. “Immediately after I woke up.”
“You lied to me that you were paralyzed?”
“I didn’t lie, I just …”
“I don’t know where to start explaining from.”
He took a deep breath to calm himself, and it gave me a bit of hope. “Are you alright now?” he asked.
“You don’t feel pain anywhere?”
I shook my head.
He turned around and started walking towards the door. “I’ll speak to you later.”
I ran after him and threw myself in front of the door. “Nathan, let me explain.”
“I don’t want to hear it right now. I’ll call you later.”
“Lenora,” he said calmly, “you want this straightened out right now, I get that. But I don’t want to listen to what you have to say until I calm down.”
“Okay, but do you forgive me?”
He looked at me like I was out of my mind, and for a second there, I felt like I was.
“I haven’t even heard what happened yet.”
“Then let me tell you.”
He took a deep breath and folded his arms across his chest. Right then I hated more than ever that he was so much taller than me. As I stared up at him, I felt more intimidated than I’d ever remembered feeling in my entire life. I started speaking as fast as I could.
“I didn’t plan for it to drag out as long as it did. It was just something that Wendy suggested, and I knew it was a terrible idea but –”
“Lenora, you’re rambling.”
“Stop calling me Lenora!” I yelled out of nowhere. I then lowered my tone. “And stop looking at me like that.” Tears stung my eyes.
“How am I looking at you?” he asked.
“Like I betrayed you.”
He didn’t respond to that but he didn’t have to.
“I didn’t betray you,” I said to him. “You haven’t even heard why I did it yet. How can you just rush to a conclusion?”
“Are you getting offended right now?”
“Stop speaking to me with that voice.”
“It’s cold,” I said. “You’re making me cold.”
I took a step closer to him, and then another, until I was pressed against him. Holding unto the crook of his folded arms for support, I lifted myself on the tip of my toes and pressed my lips to his, but he didn’t respond. He didn’t even close his eyes. He just watched me.
“Did you break up with Damian?” he asked.
I answered quietly, “I haven’t yet, but I plan to.”
I couldn’t meet his eyes anymore as yet another lie was revealed. Calmly, I took a step to the side so that he could leave. He unfolded his arms and pulled the door open.
“I did it for us,” I said, and he stopped. “So whatever you eventually decide to do, just know that I did it for us.”
“I’ll call you when I’ve calmed down,” he said, and closed the door behind him.
As I drove home her words rang in my head. I did it for us, she’d said, and that was all it took to complicate how I felt. I was angry, but now I was also troubled because thirteen years ago, that was exactly what I’d told myself when I’d left without speaking to her. So what right did I have to be mad at her now?
I didn’t even want to think about what reason she could have had for pulling off this stunt but one thing was for sure, I was shocked-shocked to the core because I would never have expected this from her. She’d actually tricked everyone into believing she was paralyzed. I still couldn’t believe it.
Ever since she’d gotten sick, I’d not been myself. At first she’d gotten better, then she’d gotten worse, and then she’d gotten better again but with what I thought was a sentence to a life that I was terrified would crush her. I was ready to help her through it, to give her as much support as she could possibly need and even more. I’d renewed my contract here in New York the day after I’d cooked lunch for her. Gary had refused to say anything more to me other than to wait until she was okay so for the last week, I’d been consulting spine surgeons all over the country trying to find a glimmer of hope that would encourage or help speed up her recovery. And in all that time when I was worried out of my mind, she was lying to me.
I wasn’t raging mad, but I was deeply upset and it was worse because I didn’t know when I was going to get over it enough to listen to her reason for it. It didn’t matter much to me anyway because whatever the reason, she’d still done it, and that was the sin because actions had consequences.
I didn’t want to speak to anyone so the moment I got back to my apartment, I went straight to bed. For the last month I had had no peace of mind or sleep for that matter, so now that she was okay, I was going to rest. However, just as I got underneath the covers, the door to my room opened and my dad appeared in the doorway.
“Hey Dad,” I responded.
“I heard you come in,” he said in Portuguese. “I thought you were coming home later? Is Lenora okay?”
“She is,” I replied. “She just needs to rest so I left.”
“Okay,” he said, but the slight concern in his tone showed that he suspected something was wrong. He probably thought I had been chased out by Damian again, so he turned and left me to myself.
More than an hour later I still couldn’t sleep. I needed to clear my head, but the only way that could happen was if I spoke to her and I wasn’t ready to do that yet. So I got up to find the book I’d left in the living room the previous night, and occupied myself until I eventually fell asleep.
I especially kept my phone with me throughout the rest of the evening. I also left the door to my home office open just in case for some reason, he couldn’t reach my cellphone and tried calling the phone in my office instead. However, he didn’t call.
He didn’t call all through that evening, or the next day and the next, until I had to leave my apartment for fear of losing my mind.
Damian had come by earlier in the day to see how I was doing. I was in bed throughout his visit so I didn’t have to lie or not lie. I just stayed still and talked with him a bit about the gallery show he had coming up. He had just a few months now and since he’d been distracted for the past month with my illness, he needed to give his full attention to it. I didn’t say anything because I wanted to be reconciled with Nathan first before I told him the truth. I didn’t want to have to handle both of their wraths at the same time.
As I drove out into the bustling New York City night, I thought about whom I could go to for help in sorting out my dilemma. Wendy had already caused too much damage so she wasn’t an option, while Carlie and Elisa were still angry with me from when they’d found out a few days earlier. I sighed heavily. I was back to being an expert in isolating the world from myself. But still they were all I had, so I decided to head to Elisa’s’. She would be more forgiving than Carlie.
I was driving as carefully as I could because it was the first time in what seemed like forever since I’d been behind the wheel of a vehicle. Also at the back of my mind, I was still a bit scared that karma was going to get me for what I’d done. Maybe my legs would suddenly turn numb or I’d wake up again to find out that I couldn’t move.
My nostrils stung as tears filled my eyes. Yes, what I’d done was terrible because I was one of the lucky few that had recovered from this injury, and I’d practically insulted that luck. But after what I’d been through I was filled with a lot of fears, and for once I wanted to at least be sure of something. Now it seemed like it had all backfired.
Nathan hadn’t called me in two days. Two freaking days. It felt like forever and I was close to freaking out, but I couldn’t call him. He’d told me to wait until he’d calmed down but with each day that passed, I became more terrified that he would never fully forgive me. I stepped on the gas pedal and increased my speed to Elisa’s.
It was just after 8pm in the evening when I arrived, and Peter was the one who opened the door for me. He had a sympathetic look on his face when he saw me and immediately gave me a hug.
“Are you alright? Are you sure? Are you meant to be walking?” He kept on asking, despite my continuous insistence that I was okay. I appreciated his concern, but all it did was remind me that at any moment, I could become sick again.
I found Elisa in the kitchen and went straight to her.
“What do you want?” she asked.
“You can’t still be that angry with me.”
“I am. Although I’m happy you were able to drive here. Why didn’t you call your driver? I don’t like it.”
She eyed me suspiciously before returning her gaze to the batter she was mixing in a glass bowl.
“Did you need some fresh air?” she asked. “Is that why you came out? You could have just called me to come over.”
“It’s fine. What are you making?”
“I want to deep-fry some fish.”
I moved to the other side of the counter, sat on a barstool and thought about how to broach the subject with her.
“Nathan came over two days ago,” I eventually said. As I’d expected, she listened properly enough to detect what I was really trying to say.
“What do you mean by two days ago?” she asked as she turned to pull the refrigerator open. “Hasn’t he been coming every day?”
At my silence she stopped, and glanced at me. “What happened?” she asked.
“I told him.”
Her face held a look that was a mixture between shocked and angry’.
“Lenora …” she complained.
“Shouldn’t I have told him?”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” she said, sounding pissed all over again. “Do you know what he’s been going through with you being sick? I can only imagine how he feels right now.”
“Elisa, you’re making me feel worse.”
“You should feel worse. You really should. Have you told Damian?”
I shook my head. She sighed, got a pack of mushrooms from the refrigerator and returned to the counter.
“What did Nathan say?”
“That’s why I’m here.”
“What do you mean?”
“He said he’ll talk to me when he calms down.”
“And it’s been two days,” she said.
“It’s been two days.”
“What do you want me to do?”
I was silent for a while as I considered the question. Then I asked, “Could you call him?”
“No!” she replied without even bothering to look at me.
“Lenora, no! Wait, just like he said. Wait for him to calm down.”
“Elisa, please. Just ask him how he’s doing? You don’t have to talk about me. He was really upset.”
“Did he yell at you?”
“No, he wasn’t…angry. He was just …” I exhaled in exasperation. I couldn’t find the words.
“Yes! And that’s worse.”
“Lenora, out of respect for Nathan I don’t want to get involved.”
“I know but please, just this one time.”
She didn’t respond but she didn’t have to, so I behaved myself and helped her get dinner ready for her family.
After she was finished with dinner, we went outside to the backyard. She brought out her phone to find his number from her contact list while I fought the urge to hide behind her back. She put it on speaker and the moment his voice came through the receiver, something hard hit my chest and knocked the breath out of me.
“Nathan,” she said with a smile. “How are you?”
“I’m okay. Is everything alright?”
She huffed. “Of course. Can’t I just call you to say hi?”
Her voice was unusually high and it sounded so fake that I slapped my palm against my face. He was silent for a few seconds
“Okay,” he said quietly. “We’ll go with that. How’s Peter and –”
“They’re fine.” she quickly replied.She didn’t know what to say after that so she turned to me with widened eyes.
I didn’t know what to say either, so she started to say goodbye but then something occurred to me. “Ask him about his dad.” The initial plan had been to whisper the suggestion to her but my voice came out too loudly. I closed my eyes and shook my head in self-pity when I realized that he’d probably heard me.
“Oh, um, how’s your dad?” she spurted out.
“He’s doing well; I’m taking him back home tomorrow.”
“Oh, okay,” she said, and I almost screamed.
“What do you mean okay?” I whispered way too loudly. “Where home? I mean, what home? Ask him if he’s traveling.”
“Are you traveling?” she quickly asked. “I mean, where do you mean ‘home’?”
“Yes, I am. I’m taking him back to Portugal tomorrow.”
My heart dropped into my stomach.
“Okay, have a safe trip,” she said, and she ended the call. I wanted to punch her.
“What do you mean by ‘have a safe trip’?”
“Lenora, I’m too old for this. Nathan loves you so stop fucking torturing me. Pick up the phone and call him.”
“I can’t do that, he told me to wait.”
“Then wait!” she almost yelled. “You’re making me anxious too. Let’s go inside.”
“I’m going home,” I said, suddenly angry with everyone – her, myself, Nathan, this whole mess of a situation.
I picked up my keys and wallet from the counter.
“Why won’t you just wait?” she asked.
“Because he’s leaving,” I cried. “And he might not come back. He’s going to be in Portugal for who knows how long and then he has to go back to Atlanta. There’s no time. I’m so freaking confused.”
I turned around and headed towards her front door. She followed me.
“You know you should have a bit more faith in what you two have. It’s survived this long; his absence is not going to break it that easily.”
“It’s not his absence I’m worried about.”
“I know, but Nathan loves you.”
“When has love ever solved anything?”
“Lenora he moved to New York because of you. He’s not going to just…”
“What?” I interrupted. “What do you mean by he moved to New York because of me?"
“He wanted to try to get in contact with you again.”
“But he’s been here for a year already. Why did he only recently contact me? Wait … he didn’t even contact me. We only met coincidentally through the documentary. And I was the one who made that happen.”
She sighed. “Maybe he would have found a way.”
“That’s an assumption. He probably would have just gone back. What if I hadn’t gotten sick? He never pushes for me.”
“Isn’t it true?”
“He was there when you were ill.”
“Exactly.When I was ill. He only cares when I’m in danger. That’s the only time I become a priority. When everything is alright he gets complacent. Why am I even bothering with him? He’s so freaking unreliable. He’s going to up and leave again, just like he always does.” I turned around to leave, upset at why I was even bothering with him. At the end of the day he was going to just do what he wanted, or whatever he’d managed to convince himself was the right thing to do. He always did. “I’ll call you later,” I said.
“Please drive safely,” she called out. “And call me when you’re back home.”
I got into the car and started on my way back to Manhattan. Everything I’d said was true, and it frustrated the hell out of me that none of it agreed to strike me hard enough for me to go my own way. I still continued pondering on how I was going to reach him before he left. What if he never came back? My chest was tight with anxiety, and then anger at how infuriating he was. If Elisa hadn’t called him I wouldn’t have even known that he was leaving the country. Ideas continued to elude me, so out of desperation I finally just picked up my phone and called his father. He picked up on the first ring.
“Nora,” he rejoiced.
“Hi Nicolau,” I said, a smile creeping onto my face despite the turmoil that was brewing in the pit of my stomach.
“I haven’t heard anything from you for a long time. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine,” I said, trying to keep the bitterness out of my voice. “I haven’t seen you either. Hope you’re doing okay.”
“I am, thank you for calling.”
“You’re welcome,”I replied. It was quiet for a few seconds and I felt like a crook in every way, but I had no other choice.
“So, when are you going home? I mean, how long are you staying? I hope it’s going to be a while.” I said, my eyes rolling into the back of my head at my deviousness.
“No, unfortunately. I leave tomorrow with Alexandre. So sorry I forgot to tell you. I think we’ll be leaving early in the morning, I’m not sure how Alexandre planned it.”
“Oh, okay. That’s lovely. I’ll miss you.”
“Oh me too,” he said in a happy voice.
“I wish I could see you before you left though.”
“Of course!” he exclaimed. “I’ll tell Alex to send me over now.”
“No,” I almost yelled. “I mean, I’ll come to you.”
“Of course not,” he said, sounding as though he thought my plan was an abomination. “You’re not well. Alex said you can’t walk.”
“I’m fine now,” I replied. “I’m even driving. I’m just coming from my friend’s place.”
He took a few seconds to consider the offer before he eventually said, “Then in that case, please do. I’ll be so happy to see you.”
“Thank you, and, uh, if you don’t mind, please don’t tell Alex that I’m coming over.”
“Oh, okay. Do you want to surprise him?” He sounded excited.
“Uh … n-not really.”
He again remained silent for a while as he considered my request. Then he said, “Okay. He’s not yet at home anyway so you might not see him.”
“That’s fine.” I said, but the taste of the words in my mouth were sour. Either way, half of something was better than nothing at all so I pushed my gloom away, and headed over to his apartment in the Time Warner Center.