Who: Tristan Montgomery, Tom Pippin
Where: Tom’s flat
When: 25 November 2001, evening
Tristan was sitting quite happily on Tom’s couch, flipping through a magazine, with her long legs stretched out in front of her and crossed at the ankles. It was nice to be able to come here and relax after a long day at the office. As much as she loved her sisters (and Ronnie), it could get to be a bit much at their house sometimes (especially when Gwen and Terence were actually around).
She paused in her idle page flipping for a moment and glanced at a few photographs of men in formalwear from The Curl & the Flame premiere. They looked rather dashing. She couldn’t wait to see Tom in a similar get-up in a few days time.
“Darling?” she called, not sure exactly where he’d gotten to. “What color did you say your dressrobes for the ball are?”
Tom sighed. Not the stupid ball again. He didn’t believe in soulmates since his marriage fell apart and ever since he’d managed to avoid being in a relationship when it came about. Not this time, unfortunately. It had crept up on him without warning.
He liked Tristan, he really did, but he couldn’t see himself spending the rest of his life — the rest of his life! — with her. He suspected she could imagine that far, though, which was the issue.
“Uh, black,” he answered. He walked in from the kitchen with a plate of biscuits and put them down on the coffee table. He took a seat next to Tristan.
“What are you reading?”
“Nothing important. Just some crap Daphne left lying around the office,” Tristan said, tossing the magazine onto the table and shooting him a smile. Black dressrobes, hmm? Well, at least black went with everything which meant she could pick out whatever robes struck her fancy.
She watched Tom for a moment. He looked a bit off. Shifting on her knees, she rubbed the back of his neck in a comforting manner. “Everything all right?”
Tom sighed. He had done this… quite a few times actually, but honestly nobody before had probably cared as much. He told himself that maybe he was getting vain and reading too much into her feelings. That would help.
“Um, not quite,” he started. “I’ve been thinking about our relationship. About where it’s going. Or not going.”
Tristan frowned so that a little wrinkle formed in her forehead, right between her eyebrows. What did he mean ‘thinking about where their relationship was not going’? That didn’t sound good at all and suddenly her stomach felt like it was made of lead.
“Yeah,” said Tom, with renewed determination. He certainly couldn’t back out now. “I mean, you don’t want to—” No. He couldn’t ask whether she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, because what if she said yes? He’d rather not know. He changed tack.
“Tristan, I think this relationship has an end date.”
Her frown only deepened. What did that even mean? She wasn’t stupid, she could understand where Tom was going with this, but it was easier to ignore the gaping hole that had suddenly appeared in her chest in favor of being annoyed at his cowardice.
“So are you actually breaking up with me? Or are you just clarifying that at some point in the future, you’re planning to?”
Or worse, was he trying to make her do it? Was this his way of saying, ‘Tristan, I’m never going to marry you’ so that she’d say that she wasn’t interested in a relationship with no chance of a future and drop him, thus absolving himself of any guilt? Her head was pounding and she was having to fight off the hot tears that wanted to fill her eyes. Was he really this callous?
Tom had just recognised the stupidity of leaving the threat of a future break-up hanging in the air. Where was there to go after that, except break up first to preserve your dignity? No, he had started this conversation and he was going to finish it.
He hesitated, but only so he could find the words, not because he was changing his mind. “Yes, I am breaking up with you.” He bit his lip.
Tristan suddenly understood what people meant when they talked about the world crashing down around you. She’d hoped, vainly, that perhaps she’d misunderstood him. Every single warm, gentle, soft, lovely memory she had of Tom was suddenly rushing through her mind along with the searingly painful realization that all of that was over forever.
“Right,” she said softly, averting her eyes so he wouldn’t see her tears. “Right.” She got to her feet. “I guess I’ll just…” She picked up her magazine. “I guess I’ll… go then.”
Tom bit down the urge to tell her she didn’t have to go. Of course she had to go, didn’t he remember what he’d just done? He swallowed. “Yeah.”
Then he got up, stuck his hands in his pockets and walked off elsewhere in the flat to give her space.
As soon as he was out of sight, Tristan physically drooped. Was that it? After months together, that was it? He was the only person she’d ever slept with and all it took was less than twenty words for him to remove her from his life? Now she was just a person he’ once spent time with when seconds before she’d been his girlfriend?
It was surreal and painful and awful and she felt as if someone had punched her in the gut.
Snatching up her coat and bag, she Disapparated with a pop and reappeared in her bedroom at home. She locked the door and activated her privacy charms before she allowed a pained sob to rip out of her chest. She didn’t want anyone to know. Not yet.
She could hardly believe it was real herself.