“Were you two engaged?”
“No,” I answer tersely.
“Ever think about getting engaged?”
“Make any tentative plans in your mind about getting engaged?”
“No,” I blurt out, the word tasting bitter on my tongue.
“Why not?” he asks me quietly.
Taking a deep breath in, I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans and then let the air out slowly. This is confidential…no one will ever know what’s said in here except the two of us, and I don’t intend to ever come back. So I decide to just go ahead and unload, because the sooner I do, the sooner I can get out of here. “Because I wasn’t sure that she was the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with.”
“You sound bothered by that admission.”
“Yes, I’m fucking bothered by that. She was the mother of my child. What if I was wrong?”
Dr. Pannaker’s eyebrows rise in surprise. “Many couples never get married nowadays. They have solid relationships, share everything legally, and even raise children together. They do all of that with a great deal of love and without the need for a piece of paper to validate it.”
I swivel my jaw back and forth, trying to loosen the stiffness out of it caused by this subject. He’s making me think about things that I’ve pushed away and buried under denial and fear. It’s bad enough that I feel guilty that Gina is dead, but I honestly don’t think I can handle the additional remorse I’ll be made to feel if I give any validity to these suppressed feelings.
Tipping my head down, I stare at the ivory-colored carpet for a moment before looking back up at Dr. Pannaker.
“Look…I loved Gina very much. And by that I mean that whatever was in my heart to give to the woman you love, I gave one hundred percent of it to her. I miss her today the same amount I missed her the day after she died. That hasn’t diminished. But what bothers me…what really makes me feel like fucking shit, is that I just didn’t have this knowledge, you know, deep down in my heart”—and here I pause to rap my fist on my chest—“that she was the one for me. I mean that one soul mate in all the world you’re supposed to have. That’s why I didn’t marry her.”
There…I said it out loud. It’s been acknowledged. I finally said what was in my heart, and what I never had the courage to ever say to Gina for fear of destroying her.
For the first time since this session started, Dr. Pannaker actually looks at me with empathy. He understands exactly what I’m saying. “Zack…it’s not unusual to have doubts like that. Many, many couples go through their relationship sometimes wondering the very same thing. Gina may have even had the same doubts you’re suffering now.”
Shaking my head, I deny what he’s saying. “No, she didn’t have those doubts. She was sure.”
“Even so,” Dr. Pannaker points out, “it doesn’t mean that you are wrong to have them. Marriage is sacred…it’s not something to be entered into lightly.”
I nod, because what he just said is the fucking truth. It was something I didn’t take lightly or treat with a lack of respect. In fact, it was so serious to me that I just couldn’t make the move to take those vows, even though I knew Gina wanted to.
And that is where the true guilt lies. It’s because I withheld something from Gina that would have made her happier than anything else in the world. She was a wonderful mother, a beautiful woman, a fantastic lover, and a trusted friend and confidante. She was everything a man should want in a woman, and she deserved to have someone commit his life fully to her. Gina died thinking that I just didn’t love her quite enough to give her what she deserved, and I feel wretched about it, because she may have been right.
Even worse, I’m now doubting myself and all of the reservations I had. In thinking back over my life with Gina, there isn’t one thing that I can think of that should have caused me hesitation to marry her. Not one fucking thing she did wrong in our relationship. Sure, we had our fights, but who doesn’t? Outside of that, our relationship was pretty much as perfect as one can be, so for the life of me, I have no clue why my gut instinct was to avoid marriage with her.
I don’t voice this out loud, though, and if Dr. Pannaker presses, I’m not going there. This is my burden to carry and I’m going to keep it with me. I’m going to let it weigh on my conscience as a reminder of how I failed the woman I loved and the mother of my son.
Pulling my SUV into the double garage of my home, I cut my eyes over to Gina’s Mercedes. It’s a two-seater convertible and completely impractical. I haven’t driven it since Gina died and I need to work on getting it sold. I might see if Delaney wants it first, though, as I’d gladly give it to her for all she’s done for me since the accident.