Act IV, Scene V
The evening eventually drew to an end, and the moon was already high in the sky when they finally made it back to the hotel. They were standing alone in the elevator, waiting to reach the level of their rooms, when Anna suddenly realised how quiet it was – and how quiet the man at her side had actually been ever since leaving the small bistro. She tried to remember if she had said anything that may have caused his silence, but couldn’t think of anything. They had been laughing for most of the night, joking and teasing as if they had known each other for years, and had each shared embarrassing childhood memories. When it became time to leave, Tom had snatched the bill and had paid for their meals before she’d had any time to even reach for her purse. After that, she had looped her arm through his like she had done earlier that day, and had savoured his body heat as they had passed into the cold night.
She was still pondering the issue when they had made it to their floor, and were already making their way to their neighbouring rooms. He murmured a soft good night, and was about to unlock his room when she hastily put a hand on his arm to halt him.
‘Tom, wait... Are you okay?’
'But... I...,' she faltered, unsure what it was she wanted to say to him. Darn it all, she should be better at this if she was to ever be a good psychologist. ‘I’m doing better. I’m taking control of my life; getting a job, looking for an apartment. I’m trying to move on and I can honestly say that while I am not there yet, I believe that I will be.’ She breathed in deeply, ‘What I am trying to say is: I’m not the lost and helpless girl that I was, and you don’t have to take care of me. We’re friends; that’s supposed to be a two-way thing. If there’s anything going on, I want you to know that I’m here for you. You can tell me.’
‘I know that…’
‘Then tell me what’s wrong. Don’t even try to pretend there’s not because I…-‘
‘I can’t tell you.’
‘What, why? You can tell me anything! If it’s something I did, please tell me and I will try to make it better.’
His expression was conflicted, and it made him look more vulnerable than she had ever seen him. He was always so strong, so certain. Her rock. Now he looked more like the boy she had first seen in a music video almost fifteen years ago. Tom mumbled something under his breath in German, then put a hand through his hair. At last he sighed, but when he started to speak, he did not meet her eyes and his voice was soft and fragile. ‘It's just... days like today are difficult for me. I get to laugh with you, joke with you, even hug you, but at the end of the day I never get to have you.’
‘You mean like have sex with me?’
‘No! I mean that…’ He groaned, ‘I like you, Anna. I really like you. And I know you don’t see me like that and I respect that, but it’s so hard on days like these where I can almost pretend that you do. And…-‘
‘I like you too,’ she said, honestly, as much surprised by the admission as he was. But it was true. How many times had she not compared her relation with him to the one she'd had with Ian? How much had she not thought about all the things that she liked about him? It wasn’t that easy, of course. Like she had told to Bill, even if the stars aligned and everything else was perfect, she may simply never be ready for another relationship. She sighed as reality started to set back in. ‘It’s just…-‘
‘Yes. No. I don’t know. That’s the thing: I can’t promise you that I can do it. I am damaged, perhaps permanently. I don't know if I can give you all that you need. You deserve someone who is whole, unbroken.’
‘I don’t care,’ he said simply, ‘Hell, I would take a quarter of you if that is all you’re able to give me. All that matters right now is if you want to give it a try.’
The words, so full of conviction that they seemed almost tangible in the air around them, were followed with silence – and Anna became a little uncertain. What was she supposed to do? Was he expecting a kiss? A hug? Did he expect her to sleep in his room now? She wasn’t sure if she was ready for that, but then again, she had just told him she’d try, so…-
He nodded simply, then smiled at seeing her scrunched up face. ‘Go to bed Anna. Tomorrow is going to be a long-ass day for the both of us,’ Tom chuckled, and leaned in to give her a sweet kiss on the cheek. Then, without another word, he turned and disappeared in his room, leaving her standing dazed and confused on the hallway. What a night.