"No." I give the answer out of reflex more than honesty, because while the idea of going somewhere without Emma while we could be spending time together feels preposterous, I am equally appalled by the idea of being in the manor with her. The constant tiptoeing around each other while faking smiles and sweet words that no longer come as natural as they used to… I'm exhausted even considering it. 
I know what she's doing. She's doing exactly what I did for weeks on end: catering to my needs without considering herself in that equation. The problem is that I'm aware she's doing it, and it makes me feel awful. 
"I wouldn't… rather." I continue, because I regret my answer. I just don't know how to tell her without breaking half the shells scattered around us. "Because then what? We're just gonna wallow in self-pity and self-hatred apart from each other? And then when I come to Edinburgh, we're going to continue pretending for the outside world while living past each other, you on one side of the apartment and I on the other because we can't stand to be near to each other?"
I still haven't met her eye. Mostly because I know I'm currently hurting her, and I don't need to see that painted on her face. I sink down on the edge of the bed, and she sits next to me with one leg pulled up, tucked under the other. There's a fair distance between us, one that used to hurt me when it was her choice, but now I'm grateful for it. Because apparently I needed more reasons to feel guilty.
"What are you saying?" She asks softly. 
"I don't know, Emma." I shake my head. "I'm saying that I want you to come, but also I don't want you to come. But I don't want to tell you not to come, because I do want you there. I just… don't know how we'll make it work."

I insisted that Emma flew home with the private jet. Row had everything prepared, it felt wrong not to use it, and I trust Row more than I do any commercial pilot. Knowing he has access to cars at any airport he gets to, I even asked him to be Emma's taxi. Emma resisted at first, but caved without too much of a fight. Not because she wanted to, but because this is what I wanted. Still catering to me. 
I took the train, because it wasn't any slower than flying commercial and the French countryside is comforting to me, even if it zips past me at high speeds. Now it's past midnight and I'm in the middle of the gardens, on my backside staring at the night sky. It's hazy, so there isn't a ton of stars. Not that I'm really looking at them anyway. I think back to my conversation with Jean-Claude, just this morning. I had found myself at the harbour after a very lacklustre run, my mind no clearer than the night before. I hadn't slept, instead sat out on the balcony for most of the night because I couldn't get myself to lay down next to Emma.
I called him, because he was the only person that could possibly get me any insight on this. My friends mean well, but truthfully they haven't got a clue what we're going through. He came over, alone so he wouldn't be distracted.
"How long has it been? A month?" He asked. 
"A little over. Time's been blurry."
"Yeah, trauma will do that to you." I grimaced at the use of that word, and he took notice. "Trauma isn't something bad, you know. I mean, it is, but not 'bad' as in 'to be ashamed of'. Everyone has trauma in some kind of way."
"Trust me," I'd told him bitterly. "I'm well aware of trauma. How did you and Gemma pull through? You already had a child in the mix, it must have felt even more urgent to salvage the relationship."
He shrugged. "We nearly didn't. I wasn't raised to talk about what I felt, so I shut down." His sideways glance told me he knows exactly that it's what I'm doing. "Just did what was expected of me. Life moved on, I had to make sure we could have dinner on the table, take care of our son. Gemma started to think that I wasn't as affected as she was. We spiralled from there. Fight after fight, and Gemma taking Alex to her parent's place for three weeks. We were on the very edge. Until I had a friend give me the same advice as I'm going to give you now."
"What's that?" 
He presented me with a business card, held between his pointer and middle finger. "He's Paris based, but I'm sure something remote can be arranged." 
"I don't…" 
"Do therapy?" He grinned. "Me either. But in the end the choice between losing Gemma or putting myself out there was one of the easy ones."

I'm playing with the card as I lay there in the grass, flipping it between fingers. The light coming from the house is enough to illuminate the name whenever it flashes past. Thibault Dubois. Relationship counselling. Best in his game, if I have to believe Jean-Claude. I know that it will most likely go to waste on me. I still believe that we can figure this out together, all we need to do is figure out how exactly we do that. There has to be a way. Last time I had someone besides my friends dabble in my private affairs, it only made things worse to me. Matthew would never shut up how in therapy things had to get worse yet, disguised under self realisation. If there's one thing I'm certain of in this complete mess of things, it's that Emma and I wouldn't survive a worse. We're barely making it out as is. Like hell I'm going to let a stranger poke their nose in this so they can push us over the edge under the pretenses of making it better. 
The skies have pulled close with clouds. Just a second after I realise that, I feel the first splash of water on my face. I tuck the card in my breast pocket and push myself up, my entire backside damp from the equally damp ground. Inside there's a shower awaiting me, as well as a soft bed that has shaped itself perfectly to my body and its preferences.
They're waiting for me alone.

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