Who will Nicole choose? Is coming to the South a good thing for James after all? Will this be the end of Nicole and James’s relationship? Find out in the final part of ‘No One Else’.
She did not go back to work that day. She stayed with me until the sun vanished into the night. Afterward, she called for food delivery for us (“You need to eat, Jimmy..”) and told me I should take a shower. We had sat together on the couch much later trying to finish our foods. The TV was on. She talked about what was on TV, made simple comments on it, and in between that, she asked me simple questions like if I catch the news lately or if I’ve seen that new cola commercial on TV. She didn’t talk about Jacob, or anything about me being in the South. She talked about happy things; about us. She talked about the places we had gone to, things we had done together in the past. And for a moment, I felt like I came to the South to visit her from the start, nothing had happened, she just wanted me there, and it made me feel at ease.
As she continued talking, I studied her face, her lips, her cheeks as she drew a smile and laughed lightly, as if I had never seen it so close before. I had thought earlier, what was it about Jacob that made her fall so deeply in love with him? What was it that he did so differently than I did? But as I sat beside her on that couch, I thought I finally understood. I finally understood.
That night, I fell asleep on the couch with her in my arms. I was woken up the next morning when the soft sunlight gently touched my face. I raised myself from the couch and realized I was alone. I looked around and Nicole was nowhere within my sight. Suddenly it hit me; she left! She left and she was not coming back again! This was the kindest way; her staged, kindest way to get rid of me. As I was stricken with that fear, she came into my view from the narrow hallway behind me.
“I need to go to the office,” she said, looking at me while buttoning her ivory jacket. And then she paused and gave me a smile so honest it seemed it made me feel relieved. “I’ll be back, okay?” she said, engaging her eyes to mine before walking to the door. I followed her to the door with my eyes. In a few moments she was gone and I was still on that couch when suddenly the thought came to me. What if this was all just a play she plotted for me? What if the curtain fell the moment she shut that door behind her? ‘I’ll be back, okay?’ What if that was a part of the play too? What if she told Jacob about everything? What if they were laughing together now at how stupid I was? The questions made me leave the couch and walk back and forth in the hall. After a while, I brought myself to sit on the bed, but everything still seemed wrong. Finally I went to the bathroom and washed my face. Pull yourself together, Jimmy! I said silently to my own reflection in the mirror. And I felt more calm after that.
Walking out of the bathroom, my eyes lay on the room opposite of it. It was the place, I assumed, where Nicole kept her things, for I saw her coming into and out of the room a few times last night. Without particular purpose, I turned the knob and pushed the door open. The room was slightly bigger than I had thought. There was a wardrobe inside which occupied most of the space. An iron and ironing board at the side, hanger holder mounted on the wall. Her jackets and blazers were neatly hung on it. I stepped in and opened the wardrobe door carefully. A few more of her jackets and work suits were hung inside. With no reasons, I went through her folded clothes, knowing, somehow, that deep down inside I was expecting to find that photo album, the one with a poem about two people in love on its last page. Expecting to find it there in the pile of her clothes. Because if I found it there, I would know for sure that everything was just an act. I would know what to do. I would know when to leave. I would know.
But I found nothing. Half-relieved and half-disappointed, I put everything back to where they were before, tried to keep it appear as if they were never touched. That was when something fell from one of Nicole’s folded pajamas. It slipped smoothly from her silk pajama down to the floor. It was a silver necklace. It looked new, as if it had never been worn, but I also knew it was not. I recognized it immediately. It was the necklace I gave her on the night of our very first anniversary more than three years ago. She had only worn it once, on the night I gave it to her and helped her put it around her neck. She had really liked it. It had her name carved as the pendant. I had ordered it for her a few days before the night. She did not wear it again after that night because it gave her an itchy skin. I had almost forgotten all about it. I had thought she had forgotten all about it. But there it was. Being there as it was, it only meant that she carried the necklace with her to the South. She can’t wear it, so why did she bring it with her here?
I put the necklace down and took the pajama out to examine it. A small card, about double the size of a business card, fell to my lap as I did so. I picked it up and immediately remembered, it was the card I had posted to her house address a day after our very first date, years back. I had not been able to stop thinking about her, and I had been holding myself from calling her on the phone. I didn’t want to look desperate to her. So I wrote something on a card and posted it to her home address. I had to kill to get the address from her friend. I thought at the time, a card would take longer to reach her than a phone call. After I pushed the card into the post box, I had regretted it almost immediately. I thought of the awkward things she would think of me. But the card had amused her, she had thought I was interesting because of that. (“I think you’re quite interesting”).
I smiled to myself, remembering the early memories of our relationship together, one by one. And then I took a longer look at the card in my hand. It looked old and raddled, like it had been carried here and there or had been held in someone’s hands way too many times. I never thought she would still have it, let alone keep it. Two of the things that I gave her a long time ago, that I had forgotten about, secretly hidden among the pile of her clothes, like a token of remembrance, token of love. Not for Jacob. But for me.
It was only then that I realized there was someone at the door behind me, watching. It was Nicole. When I turned to look at her, she had turned red. Her eyes were on the card in my hand before she shifted her gaze up to face. At the meet of my eyes she smiled and looked down to her hands, as if embarrassed. “I still keep it,” she said. I wanted to apologize to her for going through her things, but somehow, for some reasons, my tongue seemed to freeze. When she lifted up her head to look at me, our eyes met. Her expression had turned soft. She gave me a smile. It was her usual peaceful smile that made me fall so deeply in love with her. “Let’s go home,” she said.
I put the card and the pajama back in the wardrobe and walked toward her on the door, not really understanding what she just said. “Let’s go home,” again she said, more settled this time, when I was standing right in front of her. “Are you sure?” I asked. She nodded. She looked confident as she had never been before. Suddenly I remembered the promise I jokingly made to her a long time ago. We were riding a paratrooper at a carnival together for the first time. She looked scared from the beginning, and when the ride was beginning to spin, I asked her, “Are you scared?”. “A little,” she said. I laughed and jokingly promised her I would bring her to the mount Everest one day. We wouldn’t need to feel scared because we would be on top of the world, together, just me, and her. The world could spin all around us, but we would be laughing, because we would be laughing together, just us, on top of the world.
Remembering that, I slowly took her hands into mine. I was scared this time. Scared of what might await us ahead. But she just looked at me with her peaceful smile, as if nothing in the world could ever shake her.
“Are you scared?” I asked her. She shook her head.
“You?” she asked me. “A little,” I said. She looked me in the eyes and said, “It’s okay.”
We stared into each other’s eyes for a long time. Slowly we drifted into our own world, the world so isolated, so quiet, where there was only us, and no one else. No one else.
– THE END –
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