So they ran back to the kitchen and threw the pan of spitting black meat into the sink, laughing at how they had been so wrapped up in their game. Luckily there was some steak left over and they were able to start from the beginning, because by now they were both so very hungry.
Soon the second attempt at teri-yaki was ready and they took a tray each with plates, bowls, glasses, sauces and wine up to the roof garden. They sat cross legged nestled up to each other, eating messily with their chopsticks, occasionally feeding each other the nicest chunks of meat from their bowls. Carla smiled happily at Dave and he leaned forward to rest his forehead on hers - he was going to speak but was chewing to clear his mouth first.
" What do you think of my cooking? I mean the second attempt..." Carla was already laughing, but managed to reply:
“ I love it, as I love you, dear...” she whispered and kissed him quickly and softly, then a big smile appeared on her face, that just made Carla even more beautiful in Dave's eyes. He put his chopsticks down to caress her cheek with one hand, the other was resting on the edge of his plate.
” Nah, don't joke. I'm curious ” he answered as his thumb slid gently onto her lower lip.
” Dave, it wasn't a joke. Your cooking is really delicious, I guess you've heard it from others too. ”
A little wave of sadness rose and sank in him – she saw it in his green eyes as his children and family came into his mind for a minute. Was it right to " play " with this woman, who was seeking love and respect so desperately - just like him ? He knew really well where this would lead.
Both of them could get hurt. Maybe badly. And how'd he be able to face himself in the mirror, knowing that he'd broken another one's heart apart ? That he'd left a broken heart behind him, inside someone who was hoping not to get hurt again ? Could he do it ? Just for some pleasure ?
He wanted to say something, but couldn't find the right words, he was just searching Carla's face, trying to save every detail of it into his mind.
”Such a beautiful face...” he whispered so quietly, that she couldn't catch the words, but saw that he needed to gulp from the intense of his look.
"Carla, my love, do you realise how little of myself I can give you ? Really ? Think hard about it : a few weeks like this, maybe four or five times a year ? You should be in a real relationship, in someone's arms every night, giving your love and affection every day to the person with you, not keeping it corked up for me." Dave was trying once again to make her see think hard about this.
Carla's expression changed. This was the third time that he had tried to encourage her to walk away, to get out before she got badly hurt. She thought he was adorable to insist, but then another reason for his insistence came into her head : a reason he didn't want to commit himself even to those few weeks. Perhaps h e wanted to return to his wife and make a fresh start.
"How are things between you and your wife ? She was there when you went to New York, I suppose. "
Dave looked almost relieved that she had mentioned what he was trying to bring up.
Carla was searching his face for a clue or something that would show her Dave's true feelings. Suddenly she wasn't sure what she was doing here with this man. Is this right ? No, it isn't. . She knew well that Dave has a family, a wife, a merriage and travelled a lot. Four or five weeks a year ? That would never be enough for her.
Was Dave right ? Should she search for another man, who can give himself entirely to her. But.... but she loved Dave so much already... How could she turn away from him ? He had had a great effect on her life, and yet she'd known him only for a few days, but Carla was dead sure, that she wanted this man. Badly.
But how could she manage to have a relationship with him ? Or was Dave just playing with her ? Some nice lovemaking and stuff like that ? It would hurt Carla, because Dave was the first man for a long while, who managed to extract some feelings from her... And now she was afraid being used again !
Carla felt sadness taking over her slowly. First she was just a bit blue, then the process accelerated and in no time her mind reached its final destination : desperation. Suddenly everything hit her, every single problem and trouble of hers, one buy one, and all her problems seemed to have multiplied suddenly.
She started blinking rapidly then tears flooded from her, flowing in little rivulets on her face. Dave wasn't aware it what is brewing and he jumped up alerted when he heard loud sobbing from Carla, who kicked her chair over as she got up and ran back into her flat, into the bathroom and she shut and locked it behind her.
“Carla ! Carla, what's the problem ? What's got into you ? ” Dave asked gently when he arrived at the bathroom's door. He heard the sound of her crying. He felt awful. What had he done?
” I... I just need a few... minutes...” he heard from the other side of the door.
" Carla, please ! Don't cry - tell me what's wrong ! "
" Dave, if you love me, when I come out of here you'll be gone - is that a deal ? I'm not strong enough to have you - in - my - life..." and here she dissolved into loud sobs, as she sat down on the bathroom floor, clutching herself as if her own arms could bring comfort.
Dave's mouth fell open – he had no words for about two minutes. Just like that, she had decided to discard him. Then the hurt inside him turned to anger -
" Hey - fine - if that's what you want, Carla, I'm outta here." A pause - some pacing up and down in her corridor - some muttering, in the middle of which, ear to the bathroom door, she picked out " crazy French women " then Dave spoke again, the tone unpleasant, and as for the content ...
"Been nice screwing you, dear ! " by the sound of his voice, he was almost at her entrance door already, and the noise of it opening and being angrily slammed confirmed this.
Now Carla would get to see if she could cope without Dave. She had to try - a life as his mistress would bring more sorrow than joy in the long term. Still sobbing and shaking, she got up and ran herself a bubble bath. She was tense, feeling cold and tired. A hot bath was the fastest way to deal with this.
Dave was disturbed, confused, deeply hurt. Was this what he wanted ? She had had enough of his " I can't give myself to you totally so decide what is it you want "- line. She had sent him away and worse than that, she had been right to send him away.
He became suddenly quite sad, thinking he shouldn't have said those last things to her. Now knowing that both of them were feeling miserable, he quickened his pace and hailed a cab. When the driver asked him he told his home adress. He was sitting in the backseat, head bent, while he examined his fingernails. He was immersed in his thoughts when his cell started ringing....
He hoped it would be Carla - he was willing her name to appear on the screen as he flipped open his phone, but it wasn't: it was a call from home - his little girl was sick - had been rushed to hospital with a sudden fever - Dave's mind started racing. " I'll be on the first plane I can get - I'll call from the airport " He asked the cab driver to hurry.
He hung up - he had to put Carla to the back of his mind now and concentrate on his precious little Stella Rose - he felt sick knowing how long it would take to get to her.
He could feel himself sweating even though it was cool in the taxi - he saw his hotel and began to search for money to pay the driver, fumbling in his pockets, unable to calm down. He would ask the taxi to wait for him - ten minutes to pack a bag and then off to the airport. Carla would just have to wait.
After almost 12 hours he finally got to the Cedar Medical Center where his daughter was admitted with a West Nile Fever which had developed from a few harmless symptoms into a fully fledged disease. Rosie was on the pediatric ward, in the intensive care unit because she had been put on a respirator.
Dave rushed to her and when he finally wanted to enter the glasswalled room he wasn't allowed to until his hands were fully disinficiated and he had put on a mask, hat and hospital - shoes plus a sterile gown. He could see her at last. His wife was there and held the sleeping little girl's hand.
He felt a heavy burden on his chest and was devastated to see his little girl on a life supporting maschine. He greeted Jen only with his eyes and kneeled down at Rosie's bed, his head bent, tears were gathering in the corner of his eyes and he had to swallow hard to prevent them falling down.
A nurse entered and called him by his name. He stood up and followed her in silence, looking back at her little angel on the bed. She led him to the office of Dr. Dietrich Lindeman, the leading physician.
He was informed about his daughter's condition and about the symptoms which mostly were mild but in some cases the infiltration of the lungs made admittance hospital with an intravenous treatment necessary. So this was why she was on a drip. The epidemiologist told him not to worry and that her daughter will be better in a couple of hours.
Dave thanked the specialist for explaining so clearly and for diagnosing his precious girl so quickly, and for looking after her so well. He then returned to where his wife was now standing probably hoping for a reassuring hug with her man, but Jen was to be disappointed : Dave passed right by her and continued to where Rosie was laying.
So Jen came up behind him.
" Hey stranger - she's going to be fine - she might even come round in..."
" Yeah - they said. " He cut her off abruptly. Just to shut her up - just to hear the respirator clearly, to know that Rosie was getting the air she needed, that was all he wanted to hear.
" I'll - er - be outside.I need a coffee. Want one ? " Jen was taken aback by his attitude. . . When Dave only replied with a frown, Jen felt tears welling up, and not for Rosie this time. She didn't want Dave to see them.
Dave knelt by the bed and whispered to his little girl, squeezing her soft little hand in his :
"Hey Rosie - Daddy's here, sweetheart. He loves you very, very much. You're getting better, did you know that ? Even while you sleep - the doctor said. That means, " and he kissed her limp little hand " you'll be awake and we can talk very soon, very soon."
Then he stood up, ready to go outside as soon as Jen returned – he paced up and down the room, desperate to get some privacy to call Carla. He would have to tell Jen he'd be going away again - as soon as Rosie was back home. He missed Carla badly already.
He felt disloyal to his daughter, thinking about his mistress at such a time, but not to Jen. Seeing her again just confirmed that his love for her had changed : it was still love, but a " habit love ", for the mother of that little angel they had created.
His heart was in Paris with Carla. He wanted to spend more than those four or five weeks a year with her... that he knew for sure. That is, if she would still have him back... he needed to call her.
He heard footsteps – Jen was at the door, so he let her pass into the room and then said he would be outside and to send someone to find him if Rosie came round. All this in a flat, indifferent tone – with barely a glance at Jen's red-rimmed eyes.
He went out into the hospital car park and turned his phone on - and to his surprise there was a voice message from Carla ! Dave closed his eyes and kissed the phone before putting it to his ear - please let her have calmed down - please let her still want him in her life !
"Dave - mon amour - I'm sorry for how I acted. Can you forgive me ? ( a pause while she sniffed ) I am finding this hard to get used to - having you in my life makes me like this - my emotions are all over the place. I should have let you stay so we could talk. ( another sniff ) Now I don't even know where you are - can you please call me when you get this ? I want you to know - I love you. "
He pressed " call back " and paced up and down as he waited to hear a ringing noise, and was rewarded after less than five seconds. Two rings, three rings, maybe she was out....
" Hello ? " It was a tired and hoarse voice that answered. Dave needed to hear it so very much.
" It's me - I - got your message " Dave suddenly found it hard to talk, feeling all the things he wanted to say fighting for priority...
" Dave, mon amour, where are you ? "
" I had to leave for New York - Rosie got a viral infection but she's stable in intensive care now, only because Jen acted so quickly. She's going to be fine but - I'm - just really shaken up - you know ? "
" Your poor little angel - did they let you see her ? "
" Yeah, they even think she might come round soon - if I have to go, Carla, that's the reason why – OK? We need to talk, don't we ? " his voice was barely audible.
" Yes, but maybe now is not the best time..."
" But I need you to know that if I didn't have to be here, I'd be with you - my arms around you, is that what you'd want ? All there is for me here are my kids - I want to make you a big part of my life - if you want that too, that is..."
Some visitors to the hospital had recognised him and were smiling and nudging each other - Dave turned and walked away from them as he waited for Carla's reply.
He heard the same sniffing sound he'd heard during the voicemail and realised Carla was crying again - then she spoke.
" So you want us to be together whenever it's possible ? Not just a few weeks of the year ? This is - a complete turnaround. Are you sure ? " she sniffed again.
" Yes - it's you I want - I'm missing you so badly already and we haven't even been apart for a day yet ! "
Dave walked up to a pillar at the hospital entrance, now that it was deserted, and started absentmindedly engraving a " C " into the cement convering with his thumbnail. His eyes were hot, on the verge of betraying him with tears - like they'd been by Rosie's bedside - he didn't feel right without Carla.
" So come back to me when you think Rosie's out of danger, spend a few days with her to spoil her a little – hm ? She would love that : don't you think ? And then when you're back here, we'll talk about the future, O.K.? I want this too, I want you with me - I'm missing you too. I love you, remember ? "
" Yeah - me too - I love you, mon amour ! " and that brought a nevous little laugh from Carla, Dave and his sweet accent, when he said mon amour ! She loved that. He wanted to continue but he heard his name being called by the doctor ...
" Carla, honey, the doctor's calling me back in - he's all smiles - I think Rosie's woken up - have to go - I'll let you know when I get a flight sorted out OK ? "
" Go, my love, give her a hug from me - I'd love to meet her - all your kids, one day. "
" Yeah, that's on the cards, babe - there's so much I want us to do...." Dave was running along the corridor as he spoke, Carla could hear his pounding footsteps " that's one of the things. I'll call you very soon. Bye mon amour ! " and he hung up.
He soon realised that Rosie's condition was brighter then he thought. She was fully conscious now, had been examined thoroughly and been given a stronger concentration of medicine. Her temperature had sunk and only sufebrillitas (I have no idea what it's called in English) remained, which ceased in two days and they could go home.
Meanwhile Dave was going mad, calling Carla every hour just to hear her voice. Jen suspected something and with a good reason. Dave was acting strangely. He hid in his study and even began to start msn-messenger to chat with Carla. He hardly ate anything, not even his favourite chocolate, and he didn't sleep much.
He was unshaven, unwashed and his hair was uncombed. He wore the same shaggy clothes for three days and started to listen to Carla's favourite classical music tracks, a sort of music he had nevr had time for before. He was in love with her head over heals.
He decided to wait somehow the full recovery of Stella then leave for good. Jen was sitting in the bedroom and was thinking hard, she felt grip on Dave loosening.
Dave was checking flight details on his computer when there was a knock on the door. Jen noticed how he always closed the door now, whereas before it would be open, and more often than not the computer would be used for playing games with Rosie.
ŰŰ . D D D D
” May I come in ? ”
” Sure Jen, do come in ” Dave breifly lifted his red eyes to her and knew what was coming, he felt that it was unavoidable now.
Jen tried to be careful, because she felt this time it was not a game or if it was then it was a deadly one. She was cunning and wanted to make Dave stay and be a good boy. She wasn't sure, but she suspected he had a lover.
„ What do you want from me? ”- Dave asked absentmindedly as he continued to search on Internet.
Jen had come into the office and had leant against the door to close it - that much Dave could tell without looking round. When she said nothing, he felt obliged to swivel round on his chair and look her in the eyes.
" Yes? " he was obviously trying to finish something on the screen - Jen could see flight details, to Paris, from where she stood.
" We need to talk - it's not good for the kids to see you like this - you've changed. " she seemed to be just stating facts rather than confiding her emotions and worries in him, and this was all Dave needed to lose it with her.
" And you HAVEN'T changed ? " he said icily. His voice was no more than a hiss. " If anything's different around here it's YOUR behaviour! We're not robots, the kids and I, much as you'd love that, it just won't happen. And if you can't deal with my ups and downs, then I wonder what we're still doing here together. "
He turned back to the computer screen and worked with the mouse, as if he'd dismissed her and was expecting her to leave that very moment.
" So that's it - no discussion possible? You've decided it's all down to me - nothing to do with YOUR unpredictable hours, mood swings, missed calls - I'm sick of making up stories to Rosie as to why you haven't phoned, trying to keep you up there on the pedestal where she has you....look Dave just because your father didn't do things properly..."
Dave spun round and glared at Jen: he breathed in sharply, stood up and walked slowly towards her, stopping just a few centimetres from her:
" Don't you ever - " he blew out slowly, allowing most of his anger to be evacuated, before going on " don't you EVER - make comparisons between him and me. IS ... THAT.... CLEAR? " The last three words came through gritted teeth, perhaps his way of stifling his need to shout them at her.
" I'm sorry - look, this isn't the best time to talk - I was wrong - can we try again in the morning ? " Jen was trembling, back still against the door, her hand now on the doorknob - she just needed a "yes" and she was out of there. But Dave didn't want to stop now...he laughed, a long hollow sounding rattle, as he went back to his chair and sent his flight details to the printer - tapping hard on the keys, knowing how much it annoyed Jen.
When the printer came to life, he looked back at her: she was so beautiful - he would always be moved by that - but she was so out of touch with him now! They had been so close - she had saved him from himself - and she knew how grateful he was for that, but she seemed not to realise that she could lighten up now, that this was who he wanted to be.
Instead it was as if she wasn't happy with her work and wanted to improve it - like a restless artist, never knowing when to stop making little changes to her masterpiece. Dave sighed and removed the last traces of his cruel laugh from his face. He had to tell her now. Gently.
" Jen - you need to know something. I've felt so alone recently, even in this home, surrounded by you and the kids - sounds stupid doesn't it ? - but it's true: the only time you make time to talk with me is when there's something wrong, or something you want, or the kids need. We have no time for us. Maybe there never was an "us" - maybe there was just you helping me get back on track, us having a child together, and now your work is done, what is there? "
" I'm always here for you - how can you say all this? " she was dreading the worst. He could see her eyes blinking as she fought with her tears...
But Dave wasn't moved by this. Not now. Too much too late. He had chosen someone else. Carla. As her lovely face came into his mind, he closed his eyes for a moment, almost able to hear the softness of her voice, her skin, to inhale her smell of her hair, its long brown locks...
He felt his body awakening so he opened his eyes not to sink too deep into his memories. He missed her already too much. He tried to concentrate on Jen, on the actual problem in front of him.
" Yes, you are and were here for me. In the past - I guess. Because in the past you loved me, you were helping me, but now I don't feel this. Tell me : when was the last time when we were talking about something which wasn't about the kids, or your needs? Jen, we haven't got any common things for a while. How long do you think we could go on like this?”
He paused, giving her a chance to answer – Jen was losing the fight with her tears, which ran down her cheeks as she bowed her head. Dave continued.
„ Oerhaps you want to live with me just to show a picture to the world and the family? You want to pretend that everything is OK ? Don't you feel that nothing is OK ? " he looked straight into her teary eyes.
He knew that his words were cruel for her. But she had been cruel to him so many times... " You just want to use me... Look Jen, do you see what I am doing, I've been searching for a flight to Paris, because the one I love is there, and I will be there for a while. Both of us will have some time alone, thinking, examining the state of our marriage. I was lying to myself continously and I can't live a lie, it's killing me. It's hurting you whatever I do, so I think it's best if I get out - soon.”
As if she realised there was no way he'd change his mind, Jen sighed, wiped away her tears and quietly left the room. Just as Dave hoped she would. She was never one to have loud arguments, and perhaps that's what they had needed from the beginning - to really show their true colours to each other.
If he meant so much to her now, how could she accept this news, that he had someone in Paris waiting for him, with such a level head? That was Jen. At times like this, Dave thought he had never really known her - she was the one who had picked him up, back when he was a wreck, and he'd always be grateful to her for that.
She'd also given him Stella Rose: the little girl he'd always wanted - but she was used to her Daddy going away, and Dave would fight for as much custody as he could get, as was good for her, keeping her schooling in mind of course.
He half-heartedly imagined having an argument with Carla - but the thought got as far as her trying to blame him for burning that beef - and why it had burnt - what they had done instead - and his expression changed from disappointment in Jen to fond memories of Carla. He had to call her and tell her about the flight.
He waited impatiently for Carla to pick up - he hadn't even thought about what time it would be for her, with the 6 hour difference between Paris and New York - he had just dialed, blindly, at 1 in the morning. It happened to be 7am for Carla, and she was driving to work in the city traffic, her CD of PTA playing loudly. She was singing along to "I want it all " so didn't even hear her phone...
" Salut c'est Carla - laissez votre message, et je vous rappelle dčs possible. Merci. " and so from across the Atlantic, Dave was forced to leave her a message:
" Bonjour, mon amour ! It's me - just to let you know I'll be coming back to Paris, to see you, in two days' time. I've just booked something that'll leave Rosie time to get better and come out of hospital. I miss you so much it hurts - just wanted you to know that, too. And ..."
Here he stopped and swallowed because his voice was cracking up with the emotion. He gave a long sigh then continued : "- I love you, Carla. I'll show you just how much very soon, maybe right there in the airport if you come and meet me off my plane! Call me when you can, babe, so I can hear your sexy voice - bye for now. Here's a kiss for you! " and he kissed the phone before ending the call.
His eyes were stinging, from the words with Jen and the realisation that it was over for them, and now from the thoughts he was having about Carla. But despite being on the verge of tears, he smiled: this meant that Carla really did count for him, and he felt a warm glow of love for her run right through him.