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The Idea of You: home

It hurt.

Those first few weeks, when I was trying to hold it together and occupy my time and my mind and convince myself that I could return to functioning normally. But I could not. And it would hit me at the oddest of times: on the off ramp at La Cienega, or picking up birth control pills at the pharmacy, or struggling to click in my shoes on my bike in spin class, and I would feel it in my gut—his absence—and I would start to cry.

When he went from calling and texting me several times a day to not at all, I assumed he’d moved on. That he was having too much fun in Bali or Jakarta or wherever he was. That he was living his life and enjoying his youth, like I’d told him to. And I had only myself to blame. I felt it then, my insides coming undone.

*   *   *

The last Saturday in April, I skipped the annual fund-raiser for Isabelle’s school, which was a first. But I could not go out and socialize and pretend that everything was fine when my heart was bleeding. I lied and told her I was coming down with something, and retired early. Yet sometime in the middle of the night, when I had assumed she was sleeping, she came into my room and climbed into my bed. Her arm wrapping around me, her breath warm at the back of my neck.

“Mommy? Are you crying?”

I was.

“Because of Hayes?”

I nodded.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

She held me and allowed me to sob until it seemed there were no more tears to shed. And I marveled at how this had happened, how we had traded places.

When I had calmed somewhat, I rolled over and turned toward her, and I could see it on her face: the mess I must have been. Hollowed and swollen and wan. And not like her mother. She had never seen me like this. Not even during the worst of Daniel. I had hid it so well.

She was quiet, reaching out to trace her hand along my cheekbone; over the road map of broken capillaries, I imagined. “I’m sorry that you hurt.”

“It’s okay, Izz. I’m okay.”

She nodded. And then just as quickly she shook her head and began to cry. “You’re not. I know you’re not.”

It was unexpected, her declaration. “I will be.”

“I’m sorry that I couldn’t ignore it,” she said, her voice quaking. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t strong enough … For you. For him.”

“Oh, Isabelle.” I reached for her hand, lacing my fingers between hers. “It’s not your fault. This is not your fault. There are a thousand reasons why we wouldn’t have worked…”

She stilled then, biting her lip. Her very French mouth. “Did Hayes know that?”

“I think he did. I think deep down he did.”

“Do you think he’s hurting this much, too?”

I nodded. “Yeah … I do. But he’s going to be okay.

“Love is this very precious thing, Izz. It’s this precious, magical thing. But it’s not finite. There’s not a limited amount of it out there. You just have to be open to allowing it to find you. Allowing it to happen.” I was not entirely sure that I believed this, but I needed her to.

“And for a long time I closed myself off to it, because it was easier and safe … But I wasn’t necessarily happy.

“And Hayes is young. He has many, many years ahead of him. And he’s going to fall in love again. And again. Even if he doesn’t realize that right now, he will. Hayes is going to be okay. Promise.”

She was quiet for a long time, her breaths deep, even. “What about you?”

I managed to smile. Despite the tears, and the thrumming in my head and the wrenching in my chest, I managed to smile. “I’m going to be okay, too.”

*   *   *

It was late the following Thursday when I heard from him again. Out of nowhere, shortly after midnight, he texted.

Open your door.

I thought it might have been a prank. They were supposed to be in Europe. But sure enough, he was there, on my doorstep. His eyes were swollen, and my first thought was that he’d been in another fight with Oliver. And then I realized he’d been crying.

“What are you doing here? What are you doing here, Hayes?”

“I had to see you.” His voice raspy, low, brought back every sweet memory. My happiness, my love.

“What about the tour? You just left?”

He was looking beyond me, into the house; lost, it seemed. “We have three days off.”

“So you flew here? Hayes, I can’t … You can’t be here.”

“Please let me in. Please, Solène.” His eyes were brimming. He looked to me at once young and old. His tortured face a harsh reminder that I’d destroyed us. I’d done this. I’d done this.

I stepped aside and shut the door behind him. “Isabelle is here. She’s sleeping.”

“I won’t wake her. I promise.”

“Hayes, we can’t do this…”

He wasn’t listening to me. His hands were in my hair, at my neck, caressing the sides of my face as he inhaled me, and kissed me, thoroughly, passionately, completely.

“What are you doing? We can’t do this.” Even as I said it, I was aware my body was communicating otherwise. Melting into him. His hand beneath my T-shirt. The feel of his skin on mine. His mouth. Hayes Campbell. Like a fucking drug.

“I love you. I fucking love you so much. You cannot leave,” he whispered. “Tell me you don’t feel this, Solène. Tell me you don’t want this…”

I shushed him. My finger on his lips. “You’re going to wake Isabelle.”

He stopped, his eyes peering into mine in the half-light. Pleading. And before I’d registered what I was doing I had taken his hand and led him down the hall.

*   *   *

It happened fast, the first time.

I did not regret it. Not feeling his weight on top of me, and his hips between my thighs, and smelling him—familiar. His mouth moving over mine, and his fingers gripping my hair, and his dick … filling me. Fulfilling me.

We came quickly, and at the same time. And we might have been both laughing and crying when I said, “This is not setting a precedent.”

“It’s not.” He smiled, shaking his head.

“I’m serious, Hayes. We can’t do this again…”

“We can in two more minutes.” He curled himself up beside me with his head on my chest, his fingers interlaced with mine, and I felt it: happy. “I missed you, so fucking much,” he said, soft.

“I missed you, too. But I’m serious: this can’t become a habit. I don’t care how far you’ve flown, or how long it’s been—we can’t do this again. Do you understand that?”

He did not respond.


“I heard you.”

My hand was in his hair, his coveted hair. “If you keep coming back like this, you’re never going to move on, and you have to move on.”

We were both quiet. His phone vibrated on the nightstand, and he ignored it.

He propped himself on one elbow, gazing down at me, his fingers tracing my eyebrows, my cheek.

“Why? Why do I have to move on?”

“Because I can’t be your girlfriend. And I’m not going to be one of your friends you fuck…”

“Do you think I could ever think of you that way?”

“I don’t know.”

His fingers were outlining my lips, trailing down over my chin, my neck. “I could never think of you that way, Solène. I didn’t think of you that way in the beginning, I’m certainly not thinking of you that way now.”

I was quiet. His phone was vibrating again, unanswered. His hand was descending across my clavicle, my breast. The tip of his middle finger drawing circles around my nipple.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m just loving you for a few more minutes before you kick me out.” His voice cracked and I realized he was crying. Again.

“I’m not kicking you out just yet, Hayes.”

He nodded. A tear fell onto the side of my face and he kissed it away. “Sorry.”

His phone vibrated once more, and he reached over to silence it.

“You’re quite popular tonight.”

Whether or not he’d registered what I’d said, he did not respond. His fingers had returned to my chest, descending, traveling over my belly to my navel and back up again.

I stilled his hand then with my own and, without saying a word, guided it down between my legs.

For a second, he resisted. “You said no.”

“Now I’m saying yes.”

“You’re very confusing. You realize that, don’t you?”

I nodded. God, his fingers. “You’re already here.”

“So if I’m already here, it’s fine. But if I’m not already here, I can’t come back?”


“Well then, I just won’t leave, then…”

*   *   *

The second time he was controlled and focused, intense. He was unusually quiet, and it felt to me that every movement was a concerted effort to win me back. His thrusts, slow and deep, our hands clasped above my head, his gaze holding mine, never wavering. He wanted me to feel it, all of it. And remember it. And I would.

“Look at me,” he said when I was coming. “Look at me, Solène.” And the moment was so unbelievably charged, I started to cry.

Afterwards, he held me in his arms, close, ignoring his phone, which was still lighting up on the nightstand.

“Who keeps calling you?” I asked once I’d regained the ability to speak.

“Jane,” he said, low. “I quit the band.”

“What?!” It was quite possible I had not heard him correctly. “You what?!”

“I quit the band.”

I sat up, alarmed. “What do you mean you quit the band? Why would you do something like that?”

He looked up at me, confused. “Because,” he said, “it was the one thing that was keeping us apart.”

Funny how I’d waited for this for months, it seemed. And when it finally came, it had the complete opposite effect on me. Nothing about this was good.

“Oh no. No no no no no.” I grabbed my T-shirt from the other side of the bed, pulling it on. “You’re not going to do this. This is a mistake.”

“It’s not a mistake,” he said, sitting up. “What are you doing?”

“You’re going.”

“I’m not going.”

“You’re going. I’m going to go to the bathroom, and when I get back, you’re going to go.”

*   *   *

When I emerged, he was still sitting on my bed, naked. His expression, lost. “You’re freaking out. Why are you freaking out?”

“You can’t quit the band, Hayes.”

“I did it for us.”

“I understand why you did it, but you can’t. I don’t want you to do it for us. You need to stay in that band. You’re going to get on the phone right now, you’re going to call Jane, and you’re going to tell her you’re coming back. Tell her you made a mistake and you’re coming back.”

“I’m not going back.”

“You’re going back. I am not going to let you squander this opportunity, this gift, for what? Sex?”

He looked at me, shocked. “This is not just sex, Solène. I love you.”

“I know you do.”

“I thought you loved me, too.”

“That doesn’t matter.”

“Of course it matters.”

My head was spinning. My heart, racing. Nothing seemed clear. “What is this, Hayes? What do you think is going to happen with us? Do you think we’re going to move in together? Get married? Have kids? Are you going to be a stepdad? Drive Isabelle to fencing practice and visit her at summer camp in Maine? Think about it. Think about it.

“I have thought about it.”

“Then you have to realize how crazy it sounds. Nothing about us makes sense.”

“Don’t say that.” His eyes were welling. Crap.

“You’re young, you have your whole life ahead of you…”

“Stop saying that.”

“It’s true. You think you know what you want now, but it’s going to change a million times before you reach thirty. You’re not going to be the same person ten years from now. Five years from now, even. You’re not.”

“Stop,” he said.

“I’m not going to let you do this. I’m not going to let you throw this opportunity away for something you think you want right now. And I’m not going to be the fucking Yoko Ono of August Moon.” I was crying. I did not recall at what point it started, but it had. “I don’t want the wrath of your fans. I don’t want this pressure for us to make this work. I don’t want the guilt when it doesn’t. You need to call Jane and tell her you’re coming back. Now.

There was a thump against the far wall and I feared we’d woken Isabelle.

“Fuck. Put your clothes on. You have to go.”

He sat there, seemingly stunned.

“Now.” I grabbed his underwear from the floor. His black jeans, his T-shirt. His boots. “Now.”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this.”

I stopped for a second, peering into his eyes, haunted. “This was never going to be forever, Hayes … You need to move on.”

He reached for my arms. “I’m not going to stop loving you, Solène. I’m not ever going to stop loving you.

“It’s a choice. You make a choice.”

“You don’t honestly believe that.”

“Put your clothes on. You have to go.”

I watched him dress. Crying.

“Why are you doing this? Why are you pushing me away?”

I could not speak. My chest, crushed. My heart, hemorrhaging. And I thought perhaps this is what it felt like to drown.

I led him back down the hall. Past Isabelle’s room, past the photos of me pregnant, of me doing ballet, of me at seventeen figuring out who I was supposed to be. And out into the night air.

“You love me,” he said. “You loved me. You said you loved me. Why are you doing this?”

And I realized, then, that there was only one way to truly let him go. “Maybe it wasn’t you,” I said. “Maybe it was the idea of you.”

He stared at me for a minute, silent, his eyes red, wide. And when he finally spoke, he seemed to me broken. “You’re lying,” he said. “You’re lying to me. You’re trying to push me away. Again. And I don’t know if you’re just trying to convince me. Or you’re trying to convince yourself. But either way, I know you’re lying.”

“You have to go, Hayes.”

The tears were falling, rushing, easy. “Tell me. Tell me you’re lying, Solène.”

“You have to go.”

Tell me you’re lying.

“Please. Go.”

“Fuck. I love you. Don’t do this to us.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. And I stepped back in the house and shut the door.

*   *   *

He went back to the band. And from what I could tell, nothing came out in the press about him having ever left. He’d missed a show in Sweden due to the “flu,” according to their management. But I knew better.

*   *   *

He called me. In the beginning, every day. Multiple times. Although I would not answer. And he texted. At first often, and then every few days or so. It went on for months. These little messages that would paralyze me. And to which I resisted responding. Because I had made a choice.

I miss you.

I’m thinking of you.

I still love you.

And then one day, they stopped.

Long, long before I had stopped loving him.


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