|18| - "It was never romantic." -
I'd never lived alone before. After being with flatmates at university, I'd moved in with Nathan. Then I'd moved in with Jasmine. There'd never been a real period in my life where I woke up alone in the morning, knowing there'd be nobody else around for the rest of the day.
Nathan and I didn't completely cut off contact with one another; we still messaged throughout the day, but stayed away from any subjects that were likely to evoke an argument. It meant we continued treading on eggshells to a certain degree, and so we'd arranged to have dinner on the evening before Nathan's Christmas party, to get everything out in the open.
Whenever Nathan and I went out for dinner, we'd light-heartedly label it Date Night. Even as our number of years together increased, the effort we put into our appearances for Date Night never diminished. I wasn't prepared to let this one be an exception, either.
Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas. Despite being unusually mild for December, the rain was lashing down and the wind strong. No matter what I tried to do to my hair, it wasn't going to survive the journey to the restaurant. Foregoing my original plan of straightening it, I scraped it back into a messy ponytail, so at least it would look like it was supposed to be untidy if the weather did attack it.
Even though I wanted to look like I'd made an effort, I was conscious of misleading or teasing Nathan unnecessarily. I stared at his favourite top of mine in the wardrobe for a good few minutes before deciding that it wouldn't be appropriate. We needed this dinner to sort things out, and that was the priority. So, instead, I settled on a pair of black skinny jeans, heeled boots and a red cami.
He was already at the restaurant when I arrived. As the waiter showed me to the table, Nathan lifted his eyes from the wine list and then rose to greet me with a peck on the cheek.
"You look lovely," he said as I removed my coat.
"So do you."
It wasn't a lie, or an automatic compliment to return his own. The deep purple shirt he wore was striking; he'd worn it a few times before, but only for special occasions. This appeared to be one of those occasions.
"Did you want wine?" he asked me. "They've got a good Barbera here that you'll like... unless you're sick of it by now."
Normally, it would be assumed that I'd be drinking. Nathan wasn't making any assumptions tonight, though, and admittedly I'd considered keeping to the soft drinks and a clear mind, before deciding that I was being unnecessarily cautious about the whole thing.
"Sure. Just a glass, though."
He ordered a glass for himself, too, and we made small-talk for the next few minutes. Nathan told me how he was trying to help out Louisa as much as he could around her flat as a thank you for her hospitality. They'd apparently banned the subject of me, which made me think that he'd taken my comment about forcing Louisa to choose sides seriously.
When that conversation dried up, though, Nathan sighed and threaded his fingers together in front of himself as his eyes locked onto mine.
"I want us to go forwards with a clean slate and that means complete transparency. I know you saw the cigarettes and I'm sorry for lying about it."
I sighed. "Are you telling me that because you genuinely want transparency, or because you know I've already found you out?"
At least he was honest about that.
"But not because I'm backed into a corner. I'd forgotten they were in there. That's your side of the bed and I never use that drawer. I don't know why I didn't just throw them away, but instead I put them in there because I was ashamed and didn't want to look at them. It wasn't until you got back that I remembered."