She finally has the perfect life - only to realise it's not all it's cracked up to be...
|“Ellie? Ellie, please say something.”
I looked at the room around me, and at the situation I had somehow now found myself in. I was in a beautiful first-floor flat in London, my flat no less. I was wearing a gorgeous designer dress and heels, and was surrounded by my closest friends and family. To top it all, my boyfriend of five years was in front of me, down on one knee. I should be ecstatic; jumping up and down, crying, screaming. Something. But right at that second all I wanted to do was to run away, lock myself in my room and never come out again. Why didn’t this feel right?
Looking down at Jason in front of me, still on his knee with the ring out in front of him - a truly beautiful princess cut solitaire, by the way. That look of fear and realisation on his face will never leave me as long as I live. He always could see straight through me, even when I didn’t want him to. And right at that moment I really didn’t want him to. I couldn’t bear to embarrass him in front of all these people, but how could I let him down without doing just that?
I must have been standing there with my mouth agape for much longer than I thought, because eventually Jason cleared his throat and stood up. He looked at me, his blue eyes swimming. I could feel my own eyes stinging, too.
“Ellie?” He whispered it this time, closing the ring box and looking me right in the eye. “I don’t understand, I...I thought this was what you wanted.”
He looked so confused that for a moment, I thought about just saying yes just to stop him from hurting. But I knew deep down that wasn’t the answer. I had made my decision the second he began to kneel, and unfortunately now I had to follow through with it.
“I’m – I’m so sorry Jason.” I stammered, trying to keep eye contact with him through the tears. “I thought it was too.”
His face changed from confused to annoyed in a matter of seconds. “Then what’s changed? We’ve been together for five years and you’re always going on about marriage and having a family. I thought that now you’re settled at work this would be the perfect next step.” He grabbed my wrist as I attempted to wipe my eyes, making me look at him. “What’s happened, Ellie?”
“Erm...sorry to interrupt.” Jason’s best friend Michael appeared beside us, blocking the rest of the room from view. “We’re all going to make our way out, give you both some privacy to talk about....things. Call me, mate. OK?”
Jason nodded. “Yeah, I’ll check in with you later. Thanks, Mike.”
“Thank you.” I said, watching as he ushered my friends out the door, my mother's shouts of protest audible even as the door closed behind her.
“I am not leaving my daughter to make the biggest mistake of her life! I’ll make sure she does as she should, you mark my words. Just let me stay and mediate!”
Even Jason had to crack a weak smile at that. My mum is famous – or should that be infamous – for her ‘Mediating’. In reality all she does is reel off a great long list of what you’re doing wrong and then tells you what you should be doing, no arguments.
“I don’t think even your mother’s mediating could help us now.” He said quietly, turning away. “I don’t understand, Ellie. What’s going on? Is it someone else?”
Just the idea of that thought crossing his mind made my heart break. I sat down on the edge of the sofa we had a struggled to buy when we moved, it's cold leather sticking to my slightly clammy skin. I gestured for him to sit beside me, and waited until he'd done so to try and explain.
“Jason, since the day I met you, there has never even been a thought of anyone else. You have made me so happy, and given me everything I could ever wish for out of life. I couldn’t imagine my life without you in it – ”
“Just not being married to me?” He interjected, standing again and beginning to pace the living room floor. “If I make you so happy, what are we doing here having this conversation? We should be celebrating our next big step with all our loved ones. Instead I feel like I’m walking through a crime scene or something; everything has been abandoned mid-party. The champagne's still in the ice bucket in the kitchen!”
“Jason, please come and sit down. I’m trying to explain – ” I tried again.
“Explain what, Ellie?” he shouted, his patience deserting him. “Alright then, explain. Go on, explain why I proposed and you said no!”
“I never said no.” I pointed out, feeling a little spiteful for doing so. “I never said anything.”
“Oh because that makes it so much better!” He scoffed, reaching for the blue velvet box he'd left on the coffee table. “You couldn’t even muster the balls to say no, you just said nothing! That’s even worse, Eleanor, and you know it.”
“Please don’t call me Eleanor.” I muttered. “Only my Dad calls me Eleanor, and you know I hate it.”
“I’m sorry, am I supposed to be thinking of your feelings right now?” He asked, his eyes flamed with anger. “What about my feelings in all this? I have to face Mike and the boys tomorrow as a failure; the guy who could see his girlfriend didn’t want to be with him anymore, and instead of talking to her about it, he asked her to marry him instead!”
“I am happy with you!” I protested, then paused. We may as well now accept the truth. “I was happy with you.” I corrected quietly. “As I was saying, you gave me everything I ever wished for. But I wonder now, if that might be the problem.”
He remained silent, so I continued. “Jase, when you proposed, I suddenly saw my whole life with you, like it was playing out in front of me. Getting married, having kids, buying a big house in the suburbs, life ticking by as we grew old together. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with that – ” I added when he opened his mouth to counter. “It made me fear that there’s so much I’d still love to see, love to experience. Things that having this life means I’ll never get to do. I realised that I’m only twenty-six years old, and I’ve been acting like I’m older for far too long. I don’t want to grow up yet. I don’t want to be given everything. I want to work at something, fail at something and come back from it.
“I do love you Jason, and I probably always will. But to leave you waiting here while I go off 'in search of myself’, for want of a better expression – ”
“I’ll wait.” He said instantly, sitting back down beside me and grasping at my arm. “You can go, travel the whole world over. Take as long as you need. I’ll still be here when you come back.”
“Jason, that’s not fair – ”
“It’s fine. I love you, we can get married once you’re back. You can take a month or so off work to go away somewhere, I can square it with my brother - go relax and take your mind off things. Then when you’re back and well-rested, we can get back on track and get our life together started properly.”
“Jason, stop.” I said firmly, more so than I thought I could right at that moment in time. “This isn’t doing either of us any good. I have dreamt of the day you would propose to me for years, and today it finally happened. My birthday, no less; what more could a girl ask for? But that’s just it, Jase. Tonight should’ve been my dream moment. But it wasn’t, it didn’t feel right. And I know you felt it too. There’s no need to pretend with me.”
I placed my hand on his knee, and tried my best to stop crying. I really did love him, and had I met him a few years later, done a bit more growing up first, I’d have jumped at his proposal. But right now, right this second, I wasn’t ready. And he was – it wasn’t fair to lead him on. I just wish I’d seen that before now.
“I’ll stay at Millie’s for tonight,” I said, wiping my eyes with the back of my hand as I stood and grabbed my handbag from the hook by the door. “We’ll talk more tomorrow...if you like?”
He stayed sitting on the sofa, staring at me as though I was a ghost hovering in front of him.
“Please stay,” He said quietly, reaching for me again. “Please. I’ll sleep on the sofa, you can take the bedroom. Just – please – stay with me tonight.”
“I’m sorry, Jason.” I cried, the tears winning the battle again now as he started to come towards me. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea. I’ve made my decision, and it’s hard enough to stick to. Please don’t make it any harder.”
“But I love you!” He sobbed, pulling me into a crushing embrace, his lips tasting of beer and salty tears.
“And I love you too.” I said, pulling away from him. “Just not in the way you want me to. I’m not ready for that, I’m so sorry.”
I dived for the door before my heart made me change my mind. I could hear him crying out my name as I pummelled the button for the lift, as though it would make it get to me quicker. I took the lift to the foyer and ran out of the front door, forcing myself not to look back up at the window. I knew he’d be there, watching me leave. My heart was beating wildly, so loudly I thought others would hear it too. My make up was running down my face in rivers onto my once cream dress, but I didn’t care that I looked a fool. I couldn’t believe it had happened. A few hours ago I was deliriously happy, getting ready for my birthday party. I had a great apartment, a fantastic job and a guy who loved the bones of me. Now I was wandering the streets, my dress smeared, my face and hair a mess and only the handbag I carried to my name.
His only crime was loving someone who wasn’t ready to receive such a powerful gift. And I had broken his heart. I felt like the worse person in the world.
But amongst all the anguish and pain, I also felt a strange sensation in the pit of my stomach. I felt like I could either vomit or run a marathon. I couldn’t go back now even if I wanted to, which I admit a small part of me did. But the majority was terrified and excited for what was to come next. I felt sick and exhilarated all at the same time...and as I made my way through the staring crowds, it finally struck me as to why.
I felt free.
***AUTHOR'S NOTE*** Thanks for taking the time out to read this first instalment, please leave feedback, it's always welcome! More to come from Ellie soon! xx