They walked quietly, hand in hand along the long terrace, enraptured by the touch of their palms, kissing shyly.
“I haven’t been here for ages,” Sophia said wistfully.
“Why not?” He frowned. “It’s such a lovely place and at your doorstep.”
“Memories. Just too many memories.”
Coming to a halt, he lifted her fingers to his mouth and pressed his lips gently against them. “We can create new memories, Sophia. And better ones. I’m back, and for good.”
“You forget I’m not a free woman,” she replied, freeing her hand from his.
“You are as free as you were ten years ago. Marriage does not take away the freedom of a woman. Leave him, we can start over. A fresh new start. We are now grown-ups,” he grinned.
She turned around and leaned over the balustrade. “Callum, it’s not that simple.”
“Do you love him?” he asked her, pulling a crumpled packet of cigarettes from his pocket and shaking a couple loose. “Want one?”
“No, thanks. I stopped a long time ago. I thought you would have done the same by now.”
He lit the cigarette. “I’ve tried, rather unsuccessfully,” he shrugged, taking a deep puff and exhaling slowly. “Do you love him?” He repeated.
“I’m fond of him. He’s always been kind to me, you know. I own more things than I’d have ever wished for.” She stared at the gardens, avoiding his gaze.
“Always so materialistic, my poetess,” he said, taking another deep pull of the cigarette.
She shook her head in annoyance. “Money is important, Callum,” she remarked, “it gives us freedom.”
“Does it? So why do you live your life in bondage to him and his conventions?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” she scowled at him.
“Sophia, his money may buy you pretty things but it certainly does not make you happy. I can see that. Everyone can see it. You are miserable. There is no life in your eyes.”
“I’m just a little weary, that’s all. Since I stopped the pills, I haven’t been sleeping very well.”
He pitched the cigarette away and stepped towards her. “What pills? Why are you taking medication?”
“To calm my nerves. After being rejected for the post at The Words of Feather Journal, I felt so discouraged and low that anything would drive me to lose my temper. Tom thought they would help me control the mood swings. They made me so drowsy though.”
“What a tosser!” He grimaced, “you’re his wife, for God’s sake, not a patient.” He cupped her face in his hands. “Sophia, he doesn’t make you happy. Leave him. Come back to me.”
She smiled, taking his hands into hers. “Always so impulsive, Callum Reid.”
“We’ve lost so much time. Time we’d never get back.”
And he was right, she thought. Their best years were passing by like lifeless Autumn leaves, swished by the wind.
“I made a promise, Callum. For better, for worse, remember? I must take responsibility for my decisions and actions.”
“But that’s ridiculous!” He cried, gently striving to free himself from her hands. “Marriages fail, people break up! And that doesn’t make them irresponsible, but quite the opposite, I daresay.”
“It’s not his fault. He didn’t push me to marry him.”
He paced up and down in exasperation. “But you rather lie to his face and pretend you love him than leaving him.”
“Why are you so hard on me?” She asked, tears pricking her eyes.
“Because it saddens me to think you’re prepared to spend the rest of your life with a man you don’t love, because of a promise.”
“I’m scared, Callum.” Her bottom lip quivered and she tried to hide it with the back of her hand.
In two strides, he was by her side, his arms firmly wrapped around her. “You’ll be ok, my sweet, there is nothing to be scared of. I’m here.”
They stood in silence, absorbed in the closeness of their bodies and their familiar scent, still so intoxicatingly addictive.
She gazed at him steadily. “If I walk away,” Sophia continued, “I’d lose everything.”
“So what? You start again, with me.”
“He won’t let me go,” she shook her head, “Tom can be very controlling and over-protective.”
Callum heaved a long sigh. “Sophia, what is that you want?” He asked, giving Sophia a measuring look.
“You,” she answered, her cheeks blushing at the realisation of her unguarded response.
He grasped her chin and kissed the tip of her nose softly. “I was starting to worry you wouldn’t know,” he smiled.
“What shall I do?”
“Well, sooner or later you’ll have to tell him. Talk to him. Let him know your feelings for him have changed and you would like a divorce.”
“And if he says no?”
“You leave him anyway. He cannot stop you, I won’t allow him.”
Sophia studied his beautiful face, full of conviction and courage and she realised how much she envied him. He was everything she had always aspired to be. Talented, successful and honest. But she, she was a lie, full of contradictions and fearful of being unmasked. “All right. I’ll tell him.”