Love Still Isn’t Easy: Chapter 4
By the time Arlene had her baby, Eric and I were doing fairly well. I had agreed to see him at my apartment when he came over, but we didn’t go out in public. I just wasn’t up for taking a chance that the press would see us together. I had softened quite a bit in my attitude towards Eric. Clearly I still loved him and desperately hoped that the second paternity test would give us a green light to proceed with repairing our relationship. I allowed Eric to touch me, but kissing was still off the table. I just wasn’t ready to open up quite that much.
Eric’s lawyer and Arlene’s had worked out child support payments for Eric Junior based on Eric’s most recent film so the payments were whoppers. If Eric had seen the boy at all, he kept it from me, which was just fine. I wasn’t quite ready for that.
Eric told me that Arlene had another boy. He didn’t have to say anything, but we both knew that the paternity test results would be known within a week. He was at my house when the call came from his attorney. I took his hand in mine to show my support, but then let go when I saw the look on his face. As much as I had braced myself, I knew then that I had never really believed that Eric had cheated on me until that very moment. He was pale as he hung up and turned to me to whisper, “It’s not possible.” I wanted so badly for that to be true, but I had to accept the test results.
I held the door open as I told him that I needed to be by myself and was amazed that I managed to hold back my tears until he was gone. His tears pooled in his eyes as he begged me to believe him one last time before I closed the door.
At least I was alone when I finally fell apart.
I counted back nine months and realized that Arlene’s baby was conceived while Eric was shooting his last film. Just like in his other productions, shoot days were long and often involved nights so it wasn’t uncommon for him to be out all night. I had such a hard time accepting that he was cheating on me, but then decided that anything was possible. Maybe I was terribly naïve. Maybe I never really knew Eric like I thought I did. I began to question our relationship from the beginning and it overwhelmed me that I could have been so wrong about us for so long. I took two days off of work just because I was such a wreck. I also didn’t want to face the tabloid headlines and the whispers in the office. I finally put my big girl pants on and went in. That first day back was a tough one, but at the end of the second day, something happened that I never expected. I was getting ready to go home when Alcide stuck his head in the door and said I had a visitor in the lobby. I picked up my purse and jacket and headed out, and then my jaw fell open when I saw who was waiting for me—Bill Compton.
We exchanged an awkward hug and he asked if he could buy me dinner. I honestly couldn’t think of a reason to say no to him and so the next thing I knew, we were eating Thai food and catching up on our lives since college. My anger towards Bill had dissipated long ago and I actually found it comforting to be with him. My ego was still so raw from Eric’s wounds that having a man who once loved me paying me some attention felt good.
Over the next few weeks, I spent a lot of time with Bill. I had never needed a friend more and his timing was impeccable. He was in L.A. working as an I.T. consultant and was considering moving here, and I have to admit that the idea of having him around did appeal to me. My other friends handled me with kid gloves and I tired of their pity. Bill knew what had happened with Eric but never dwelled on it. Instead, he seemed interested in just spending time with me and showering me with attention. He took me out to dinner frequently and was affectionate but never pushy. He told me that he had ended a serious relationship recently and that she was the reason he had initially come to L.A. He also made it clear that he was interested in being more than just a friend. But he knew that I wasn’t ready. At the end of each evening we spent together, he would leave me with a soft but chaste kiss on the lips and something to ponder other than my failed mess with Eric and so I focused on the one positive in my life and tried to give him a chance.
Eric called almost every day, but most of the time I just listened to his voice mail and didn’t return his call. He continued to profess his claim that he could not be the father of Arlene’s new baby and his attorney had filed a motion for a new DNA test, but without new evidence he was not optimistic about being granted a new test. Pam called frequently and I did take her calls but almost always ended them in tears. She was adamant that Eric had not cheated on me and pleaded with me to believe him. I wanted to more than anything else in the world, but just didn’t know how. I told her about Bill and she warned me to be careful because I was in such a vulnerable state.
As Bill and I got closer, I asked him about his recently failed relationship. He never wanted to discuss details, but indicated that it was complicated and painful. I could certainly relate to that, and so it made sense to me that we should spend time together and help each other heal. In spite of my broken heart, I tried to find happiness in my life and began to consider allowing Bill to gradually become more than just a friend. I had finally decided that I would let him give me more than his usual chaste kiss and see where that led after our next date. I assumed that it would be another dinner and was pleasantly surprised when he asked to spend a Saturday with me at the beach. It was going perfectly. We were holding hands, walking the boardwalk in Venice. We were watching the street performers and for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, I found myself laughing and really having a good time. But then that all came to a screeching halt when I looked up to find Eric’s piercing blue eyes watching me from across the boardwalk. My smile faded when I saw the hurt in his eyes and then I lowered my gaze to the little boy holding his hand and felt a stab to my heart.