"Do you want to save the green beans?" Andrew asked.
"Sure, with the leftover hamburger, they’ll make a good lunch. That reminds me," she said trying to sound casual. "I still have half of a brisket from last weekend. Why don't we grill it tomorrow night?"
She saw Andrew freeze and knew she had her answer. He had two tickets to the ball and hadn't invited her. She forced the pain away as she waited for him to respond. Andrew put the dirty plates on the counter and returned to the table before he answered.
"I have plans for tomorrow night," he said softly.
Victoria's heart cracked but she kept her voice light. "Plans that don't include me?"
There was a long pause. She turned to see him watching her cautiously, and at that moment, Victoria knew he was going to break her heart. She watched as he wiped his hands with a dry cloth.
The simple statement shattered her heart. She quickly turned back to the sink so that he wouldn't see the hurt in her eyes. She felt tears begin to form but willed them away.
"Tori," he began and then stopped.
Victoria waited as the silence grew. Then, she got angry. She welcomed the anger as it overshadowed the pain. She turned back and looked at him coldly. "Why, Andrew?"
He sighed and looked away. Victoria followed his glance out the window and saw the children swinging on the tire. "I’m going to the Dallas Charity Ball tomorrow. I’ve decided to run for the Texas State Senate and the ball will be a good place to start."
"Why haven't you mentioned this before?" Victoria's voice was soft but steady, her anger still controlled.
He turned back to her. "I talked about it several years ago but put things on hold when Carolyn died. It wasn't until recently that I made the decision to go ahead. Next year is election year and I need to begin gathering supporters. The ball is the ideal place."
Victoria knew this was true. Before Carolyn's death, everyone in town thought Andrew would be running for office. Victoria had thought he was a perfect choice. He cared about people and he knew how to get things done. Her own political views were somewhat left wing but she knew he would be an exceptional leader. As he said, the ball would be a perfect place to start. Now, her only concern was who was going with him. "Are you going alone?"
There was another long pause. Her anger growing, Victoria had the incredible urge to hit something. Her eyes blazing, she asked again. "Are you?"
"Damn you," she yelled losing control of her anger.
"What's wrong, Andrew?" she asked harshly. "I'm good enough to bed but not good enough to take out in public? Is that it?"
"No," he said sharply. "That's not it at all."
He took a deep breath. "We did agree that we would do things occasionally with friends. Barbara knows a lot of people and..."
"Barbara?" she interrupted.
"Barbara was a friend of Carolyn's," he said carefully. "They went to school together."
"I see." Victoria was shaking with fury. "A Carolyn clone. I should’ve known. I should’ve realized I didn't fit the ‘perfect Carolyn’ mold."
"This doesn't have anything to do with Carolyn," he said anger beginning to line his voice.
"Oh, I think it does. Everything has to do with Carolyn. You're still living in the past. You've idealized the life you had with her and think there is no other way to live."
"There is no other way for me," he replied.
Victoria turned quickly and stomped out of the kitchen and into the living room, trying to regain control of her temper. She stopped in front of the huge window and went perfectly still. Victoria closed her eyes. No, she thought, I'm not going to break down now. She heard Andrew behind her and then a welcome numbness invaded her soul. "I think you should leave, Andrew."
"Tori, listen to me. You and I have a great thing going. I love you but you know how conservative these balls are. It’s better this way, believe me." Twenty-four hours earlier, Victoria would have been ecstatic to hear Andrew say he loved her but she felt nothing now. She wasn't sure she even believed him. It no longer mattered. She knew it was over. He would never accept her in his life. "Victoria, if you would just be patient. I know we can work this out."
"Be patient," she laughed harshly. "I have been patient. I have loved you since I was sixteen. I watched you marry someone else, build a home with someone else, have children with someone else. Don't talk to me about being patient. I'm tired of being compared to a dead woman. I'm tired of falling short of an ideal that didn't even exist. Carolyn wasn't the paragon you make her out to be, and I won't complete with her memory anymore."