I sat outside on my balcony with a beer in one hand and my phone in the other. Tripp called at nine every night. It was the only way I kept myself sane. Listening to him tell me about what she was doing, what she was saying, and even what she was wearing was the only way I held on to my last shreds of sanity.
The moment Tripp’s name lit up the screen I answered.
“Hey, how is she?” I didn’t care about small talk. I had decided not to find Tripp and break all the limbs from his body when he’d called me the first time and promised to keep me updated on Della. He said she needed time to deal with things and I needed to give her that. I was trying like hell but I wanted to go to her. Every time he told me which city they were in, I fought the need to jump on a plane.
“She was quiet today. Didn’t talk much and couldn’t wait to get rid of me. She’s depressed but this is just another stage for her.”
“Where are you now?”
“Are you checked into a hotel?”
“Yeah. She’s in the room. I’m out, giving her some space tonight.”
Giving her space? Alone, in a strange city? “What the fuck are you thinking? You can’t leave her alone! If she’s been quiet she may be closing in on herself. You can’t leave her alone. She’ll need someone to bring her back. She can’t—“
“Woods! Calm down, man. Calm down.” Tripp’s voice was commanding.
“She can’t be alone,” I said again as emotion lodged in my throat. I hated to think of her alone.
“She needs to be alone. She needs to cry. She needs to decide if giving you this freedom she thinks you need is going to be possible. Her leaving is all about you, Woods. She didn’t want to leave you. I’ve told you that already. She loves you so much that she left to give you the life she thinks you want. One where you don’t have to deal with her shit. So, now that she’s done that, she has to live with it. Give her time. She’ll come back.”
I had set my beer down and stood up. Gripping the railing, I closed my eyes and fought back the pain. I just wanted her. Just Della. Any way I could have her, I wanted her. I wasn’t ever going to be all right. I didn’t want her to be alone. I wanted someone to hold her.
“Hold her for me. Hold her tight. Don’t let her be lonely. Don’t let her hurt. Please.”
“I will do what she allows me to do. But my arms aren’t the ones she wants.”
“Fuck,” I growled as sharp pains wrapped around my throat.
“Just give her more time,” Tripp said.
I took several long, steadying breaths. He had to get back to her. He couldn’t leave her alone like this. “When we hang up, go back to her.”
Tripp sighed. “Fine. But I had plans tonight. There’s a hot little bartender giving me the eye.”
“Do you need more money?” I asked him. I had been depositing money into his account since he had called the first night. I wanted her in nice hotels and I wanted her to eat well.
“She’s going to notice soon that we aren’t running out of money. I keep waiting for her to bring up the fact that we stay in the nicest part of each town and eat in high-end restaurants instead of fast-food chains. She’s not an idiot.”
“I’m holding on by a damn thread. Your phone calls and the fact I know she’s in nice hotels and eating good food is the only fucking thing keeping me sane.”
“I’m going to see if I can convince her to go back to my place in South Carolina with me. I have a nice place there. It’s safe and I have a job I can go back to. I can get her a job, too.”
I just wanted her to come home. “Whatever you need to do. But she stays safe.”
“I’m keeping her safe. I promise.”
“You took her from me,” I reminded him. I couldn’t thank him.
“She asked me to. I’m her friend, too.”
“She needs me.”
“No, dude. Right now, she needs to find the strength inside herself. The strength she doesn’t think is there. Once she realizes that she isn’t a burden, she’ll be back.”
“She has to,” I said, then ended the call before Tripp heard the pain in my voice.