Southern Charms: Prologue
Posted on 09/06/2012
Ryan closed the door to his apartment behind him with his feet, balancing the paper bag of Chinese food in his arms. “Teddy? I’m home. I got dinner—Chinese. The noodles that you love so much. I know you said you’re on a diet, but I think you can afford to break the rules a little bit.” He placed the bag on the island counter in the kitchen and his keys beside it. “Baby? You here?”
No answer. His brows furrowed, Ryan ventured further into the apartment that he and his girlfriend shared. Was she home?
“I’m in the bedroom, Ryan,” Teddy called. When he entered the room, his face went slack. All of Teddy’s clothes lay on the bed, an open suitcase beside them. “What are you doing, Teddy?”
She refused to look at him. Instead, Teddy continued to shove her clothes into the suitcase.
“Teddy. What are you doing?” his voice grew louder. Ryan moved closer, grabbing her arm to stall the packing. “Can you just talk to me, please?”
Teddy heaved a great sigh and turned to face him. “I’m leaving, Ryan. I don’t want to do this anymore.”
He frowned. “Do what?” Ryan asked in confusion. “If this is about me coming home so late lately, that’s not a regular thing. We had a lot of patients coming in and—”
“This isn’t about you coming home late or your patients at the hospital,” she interrupted him impatiently. “I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to do us anymore.”
Her words stung him. Swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat, Ryan reached for the clothes she’d already tossed into her suitcase. “Why do you always do this? Unpacking your clothes and telling me that you’re leaving isn’t going to solve our problems.”
Teddy rolled her eyes. “Do you even know what our problems are, Ryan?”
“No, I don’t know. But that’s because you do this instead of talking.” When she shook her head at his response, Ryan grasped her arms. “Teddy. We go through this at least once a month. I don’t want to fight tonight. Please.”
“I’m not fighting with you, Ryan,” she spoke clearly and concisely, making direct eye contact with him. “This is not just one of our spats. I’m leaving you today. Right now, I am packing my bags and walking out of this apartment for good.”
Hearing the seriousness in her voice, Ryan released Teddy and took a step back. “Why?”
“I’m sick and tired of being here, Ryan. You don’t know how much I hate Baton Rouge now. I feel like I’m stuck here.
“What do you want me to do, Teddy? Leave LSU, one of the best medical schools in Louisiana, because you don’t like it here?” Ryan mulled it over for a second. “Fine. If you don’t like it here, we can leave. I can apply somewhere else.”
Teddy placed her hands on her hips. “It’s not just the city that I’m stuck with. It’s you. You’re still the same person that you were in high school.”
Ryan was more confused than ever. “So I’m still the same guy you fell for. Why is that so bad?”
“It means that our relationship is static. There’s no change, no advancement. We’re just the same as we were when we were seventeen. I hate that. I want to be able to grow as a person, to go out and see the world and live my life. When I’m old and gray, I want to be able to tell people that I’ve done everything that I ever wanted to do. But I can’t say that because our relationship is holding me back.”
Stunned by her admission, Ryan could only blink at Teddy. “I’m holding you back, Teddy? How could you even think that I’d hold you back? I only want you to be happy. I love you.”
“If you love me, you’ll let me go, Ryan.” She took hold of his chin and forced him to look at her. “Look at me. This, this shade of a woman, isn’t Teddy. At least not the Teddy I want to be.”
Ryan took her closeness as an opportunity to engage her in a tight hug. “Don’t go. Please. You’re the only thing I have right now, Teddy. You’re the only thing I need to keep going.”
She didn’t return the hug. Instead, Teddy wriggled from his embrace. “I need to breathe. I feel so stifled here with you. Just let me go.” Throwing the rest of her clothes into the suitcase, Teddy zipped up her luggage and pulled it out the room, down the hall, and right through the front door of her former home.
Ryan sank onto the bed, cradling his face in his hands. His eyes stung for the first time since his father had died when he was seventeen, but he wasn’t surprised to feel a tear run down his cheek. He didn’t know what to do or who to call.
Suddenly, he heard his aunt’s voice in his head, reminding him of God who answered prayers. Would he answer the prayer of someone in need, despite the long gap of time since the last time?
It was worth a shot. Ryan knelt at his bedside, clasped his hands together, and squeezed his eyes shut tightly. “God,” he began in a shaky voice, “I know that it’s been a long time since I did this last. But right now, I need you to help me out. You didn’t save my dad from cancer, but you can bring Teddy right back to me now. I need her more than anything else in the world. If you make her come back, I’ll do everything right. Please. I’m begging you.”