Meryl was ready for the performance of a lifetime.
Just a few more moments before showtime, and Meryl was already bouncing in her skates with anticipation. She would make this last show count.
Yes, last show. Charlie and Meryl would be taking another two-year retirement.
Now that Charlie was married to Tanith and they were trying for a child, and Meryl felt the overwhelming urge to go out and do something different than skating in her life, they’d decided it was time to call the Davis/White ice dancing duo quits for now.
Not forever; just temporarily.
“Ready, White?” Meryl teased, poking Charlie’s side.
“Ready, Mer-bear,” Charlie replied, the old nickname causing Meryl to scowl at him in disgust. Charlie, of course, had been expecting the reaction, and he let out a pleased laugh at her distaste.
All of a sudden, the announcers’ voices boomed through the arena’s speaker system.
“Meryl Davis and Charlie White,” their names reverberated throughout the arena and out into the night.
One final show, one last hurrah, and then that was it for them.
“Let’s do this, Mer,” Charlie glanced over at his partner, giving her a grin, “let’s give ‘em hell.”
Meryl shot a quick smile back, nodding in emphatic agreement.
She proceeded to get into character, running through a plethora of expressions until she settled for one she hoped looked like romantic love.
She reached down for Charlie’s hand, who grasped hers right back.
The duo skated onto the ice together in front of the thousands of people who had come to see them.
“You both were great!” Tanith cheered for the Davis/White duo once they had skated off the ice.
“Thank you, Mrs. White,” Meryl teased, smiling warmly at Tanith before pulling her into an excited hug.
Charlie followed up Meryl’s hug with a quick kiss to Tanith’s lips.
Meryl ‘aww’ed, half-joking, and Tanith’s cheeks turned bright red in response.
“Yeah, he is pretty cute,” Tanith chuckled, and Charlie pouted at her.
“Pretty cute? What about ‘the cutest?’” He inquired, bringing a hand to his heart in mock-hurt.
“You’re not that cute,” Tanith winked, squealing when Charlie threw her over his shoulder.
“Put me down!” Tanith exclaimed in delighted protest.
“Only when you say I’m the handsomest man you’ve ever seen in your life,” Charlie mischievously replied.
Meryl chuckled to herself at the lovers before her.
She truly was happy to see the Whites still as in love as the day they’d met.
A stray thought came before she could help herself.
‘I could have had something like that.’
She was surprised at how suddenly the thought struck her, how forceful and bitter it sounded.
It wasn’t like she was jealous of Tanith—gosh, no. Meryl loved Charlie, and they had a very special relationship, but she didn’t want to be anything more than friends with him. Ever. (They once tried to have a romantic relationship years and years ago, but it became clear it wasn’t going anywhere fairly quickly. “I’m sorry. I can’t kiss you,” Meryl had told him, “without it feeling like we’re performing. It just doesn’t feel natural to me.” Charlie had immediately agreed with her sentiments, saying it was probably better for the pair to remain close friends. Unanimously, they ended things, and that was the end of that ‘romance’.)
She was jealous of the love that the Whites had. She wanted someone to look at her the way they looked at each other. She wanted someone to think about her the way she knew they did—to talk about her nonstop like Charlie chattered on about Tanith at all of the rehearsals for the show. She wanted her great love.
You could have had all of that. But you gave it up.
She shoved the harsh thought to the back of her mind immediately.
No. No, she was not going to ruin her night by thinking of him, or the heartache their breakup had caused.
It was in the early hours of the morning when she got the call.
Her phone buzzed violently on her wooden nightstand, throwing her out of her peaceful sleep.
She glared at the digital clock across the room and frowned, perplexed, annoyed and tired. Whoever was calling her now had the worst timing in human history.
She heavily brought her hand down upon her phone. She grabbed it, raising it up to see whose name was displayed on Caller ID.
Her mouth went dry immediately.
Who did he think he was, not bothering to remain in contact for months and then calling now at 1:32 in the morning? Maybe if they had been friends, but seriously? And what the heck happened to trying to remain friends after their breakup? Why hadn’t he ever made an effort before? Nuh uh, she did not want to deal with this now at 1:32 AM.
Despite her mind screaming at her to go back to sleep, she answered the call.
A large part of her wanted to retain her dignity, though, so she tried to make her replies as clipped as possible.
“Maks,” she spoke into the phone, her cordial tone all but forced.
“Meryl, hi,” he breathed, and against her will, Meryl’s stomach did somersaults at the very sound of his voice.
There they were. The first words they’d said to each other in months.
“Why are you calling me at 1:32 in the morning?” She struggled to keep her tone clipped and polite after hearing the poorly-concealed emotion in his voice. No. Remain professional.
She heard a wince from the other side of the line.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you. It’s not that big of a deal—” he trailed off.
“No, Maksim. I’m awake already. Tell me what you want.”
He involuntarily let out a quiet, pained noise at her ‘Maksim.’
She had to admit, it did sound pretty formal.
She’d chosen to say it for that reason.
She hadn’t talked to him in months.
Why would they be anything but strangers now?
“Meryl,” he said, continuing on, “I was wondering… I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind driving me to California? I have to go to Val’s wedding this Saturday, but of course he’s having a destination wedding in California, and you know how much I’ve always had a slight fear of flying alone… You would be doing me the biggest favor of my life if you could even consider it.”
Dead silence from Meryl.
While her mouth remained shut, though, thoughts came whirling out at her from every direction and slammed into her all at once.
Why hadn’t he ever contacted her before? Why was he asking her of all people? Couldn’t he call someone else? And why did he call her now? Why at 1:34 in the morning was she talking to him? Did he realize how insane his suggestion was? Why would she ever want to drive him? Why was she even considering driving with him? Shouldn’t she be laughing it off? Shouldn’t she tell him no automatically? Didn’t she hate him for not replying? Didn’t she not want to spend any time whatsoever with this man who had broken her heart? Well, then, why was she entertaining the idea of going through with it? Did she want to do it? Would it be a good idea? Did she even care if it was a good idea or not? Was she willing to admit that the more she thought about it, the more she wanted to? Even if she agreed, would they take her car or his? Who would pay for gas? Where would they stop? Where would they stay? Wouldn’t she have to stay in California to drive him back home again? Would she be invited to the wedding? Who was Val even marrying? Why hadn’t she heard of his marriage before? God, what was even going on?
“Um,” said Meryl.
“You know what? It’s totally okay, Меріл—um, I mean, Meryl. I’m sorry. Forget I ever asked you. I’m really, really sorry for waking you up this late—er, early,—for such a ridiculous request. It’s just that I can’t sleep and I got the idea in my head to call you, and I thought it’d be a good idea, because I miss you like crazy. Now I see that it obviously wasn’t a good idea, and I’m pretty sure you hate me… I hope we can maybe try to be friendly after this whole thing…” Maks was babbling on and on.
She had to ask it the one question burning in her mind. The make or break question.
“Why me?” She asked.
He stopped what he was saying.
“What?” He seemed momentarily floored.
“Why me, of all people? You could have asked anyone. Why me?”
His answer was immediate.
“I still care for you. I’ve never stopped caring for you, Меріл. That’s why I chose you. I’m not going to keep secret the fact that I desperately want us to reconnect. But of course, there are other ways. We don’t have to drive across the country together or anything. We could start out with simple coffee, if you want..”
As he went on talking, she could feel her steely resistance crumble to dust.
He had called her Меріл.
God, she hadn’t heard ‘Меріл’ in an eternity.
The old nickname made her heart sing and clench painfully all at once.
And what did ‘I still care for you’ even mean? He still cared for her as a friend? As a girlfriend?
Was he still in love with her?
The very idea that he still loved her…
She had to find out exactly what he meant. Had to see if they could still make ‘them’ work out. He was willing. She could try.
Almost against her will, Meryl decided she would do it.
God, Meryl, when did you become so weak?
No, self, you’re not being weak. You can still try to keep things professional for a while.
She let out a sigh before replying.
“I have nothing else to do with my time now, and it sounds like it could potentially be a good time. I want to see Val and Zendaya again, too.”
The only thing she heard from the other end was his light breathing.
“I’ll do it,” she conceded.
She hoped she wasn’t going to regret this.
“You’ll… You’ll what?” Finally finding his voice again, his shocked voice came through the line clearly.
“I’ll drive with you,” she confirmed.
“Really? Oh God, Zendaya and Val are going to be so happy that you’re coming. Do you want to come to the wedding? They’d love to see you again!” He spoke, voice full of happiness and hope.
He genuinely sounded like he was getting into the idea.
“Wait; Valdaya are finally a thing?” She questioned, a pleased smile creeping its way across her face at the newfound information.
“They’re the thingiest of all things,” he replied, chuckling.
“Good,” she was proud of them for finally making it work. At least they had found happiness with each other.
“I’ll pick you up at 10:30 AM tomorrow. We’ll stop along the way at different hotels. We should get there in a few days, and yes, I’ll go to the wedding with you, but only if they’ll have me.”
“Sounds good to me,” Maks spoke, and Meryl could swear she heard a smile in Maks’ tone.
“Night.” Meryl hung up the phone without waiting for a reply.
What had she just gotten herself into?