The mundane chores of stay-at-home moms everywhere drove her into a panic, as silly as it seemed. Her biggest fear was becoming that mom. The Karen, the Linda, the Deb or Barbie. She didn't want to be home resenting her life and her marriage watching over bratty kids and day drinking. Going to the store in the middle of a Monday afternoon gave her that feeling. She looked around at the few people around her and immediately thought they looked like daytime zombies, buying their bottles of asparagus water and pre-peeled oranges to bring home to the Brayleigh's and Jaxxxxon's of San Francisco. Isla knew how suspicious she looked, aimlessly wandering around looking for oat milk and almond flower (what even), a one-year-old strapped tight to her body like a suicide bomber ready to blow at any second. Bellany pulled at the hair that hung just long enough for him to reach while simultaneously grasping for any and everything else in his reach. Her annoyance at daytime errands as well as amusement with his busy hands made for a weird cocktail of emotions. She hummed to keep both him and herself occupied. To the tune of Bat out of Hell, she reached for a bottle of Siracha, unsure of whether they had it at home or not. Since she only spent time in the kitchen to feed the baby or eat cookies and make coffee, she had no idea what condiments and sauces graced their fridge and cupboards.
Back becoming a little sore from a wiggly Bellamy, she spotted an empty and unused grocery cart that she could pawn him off to while she pushed him around and shopped for nothing in particular. Once he was comfortably seated, babbling and giggling up a storm as she blew raspberries and made faces at him, she went about weaving him up and down the empty aisle, still quietly singing Bat out of Hell to him. She quickly turned a corner carelessly before smacking almost face first into the carriage coming the opposite way. Her hackles went up and she immediately hissed out, "baby on board, dude, slow your roll," before looking up at the other victim in the head on collision.
Grocery runs weren't what they used to be. Back in the day, before Owen had looked responsibility in the face and it had looked right back at him and then playfully smacked him in the face, grocery runs had meant frozen foods and plenty of beer and snacks. Sure, that had changed a little bit as he'd gotten older and took more pride in his body and what went into it, but rarely was it an event that took much thought. But then Diana had come into his life and for some reason, that once mundane errand had changed. When Marianne had become too ill to leave the house, Owen had taken it upon himself to keep the house stocked with food. And to get little Diana out of her mother's hair for a while, he often took her. And it had become their little ritual. It was time spent alone and during that time, he'd come to grow a bond with the girl. And now he could never go to the grocery store alone.
He always had a list, but Diana liked to go up and down the aisles, pushed like a princess in a carriage by her father. He didn't mind. She babbled on about some story or another, and she helped him pass the time of finding the right organic dressing that she liked or which snacks she was obsessed with this month. Sometimes it was a game, a scavenger hunt of sorts. If she could guess the treat he was thinking about and find it before they left the aisle, she would be the proud owner of fluffernutter, or oreos. Something out of the ordinary.
But his attention on her sometimes meant he didn't pay attention to what was going on around him. So, as he and Diana went to turn around a corner to the next aisle, he didn't see the oncoming patron and as such, their two carts collided. The woman steering the other cart went on the offensive and Owen raised his hands. "I'm very sorry, I wasn't paying attention..." his voice trailed off as his shock at getting hit with a carriage and immediate concern for his daughter wore off and he took in the owner of the voice. That voice. He'd really know it anywhere. That blonde hair, that pissed off gaze. It couldn't be. But it was.
"Isla?" he asked tentatively. He could be wrong. But he didn't think he was.
She wished she hadn't left the house, or at least found a more interesting place for her and Bellamy to go together. That was one thing she looked forward to if she did take that leave of absence; doing new things with the kid. Since Nate had him most of the time while she worked, she hadn't spent long periods of time with him except for her days off or the days she took him to work, which were becoming rare after the run-in she had with former clients. Knowing there was still members of the Triad (or Triad adjacent, something less, she didn't know,) that knew where she had safely put some of their former workers, she didn't want to chance Bel's safety if they happened to show up one day unexpected. That being said, a grocery store was not the most exciting place for a baby, but they were learning together and that's what mattered.
Her hands were bracing the baby as if he were the most fragile package on the planet, like his soft, porcelain skin would shatter beneath the weight of the carts bumping. The voice hadn't registered as one she recognized, so she didn't immediately look up once she let go of the kid and placed her hands back on the bar. When she heard her own name, it was like a delayed reaction that she finally turned her attention back to the man she bumped into. "Oh, fuck me," she immediately blurted out, not being mindful of children nearby. She looked around to see if there were tiny ears, and lo and behold, there were. Isla looked from the child to the man that muttered her name again and narrowed her eyes. She wanted to act like she wasn't Isla, but Isla was known well enough to be spotted, whether it was for music, fighting, work or otherwise. She was unmistakably Isla Wilson through and through.
Pulling the cart away, she clammed up trying to think of something, anything to say. "Hi," she eventually greeted following her unsavory reaction to him. She wanted to ask why he was there, in her store, in her aisle, in her city, so on and so forth, but she didn't. Isla also wanted to ask why after years of not hearing a peep from him, he was suddenly existing in the same spot as her. "Why are you here?"
All at once a million emotions assaulted him. All at once he was pulled back through time, just for a moment, and he was standing in front of a woman that he loved more than anything. For a moment, this might have been fate, they might have been shopping at the same time and found each other after each going their separate ways in order to shop faster to get back to one another, to get home, to be together. But that moment passed. Faster than he would have liked. There was something on her face, in her eyes, that told him this wasn't exactly a happy moment. Could he blame her? It was always shocking to see someone you were once intimate with (fuck that, MARRIED TO) after any amount of time. But it was probably something else entirely when, until this moment, you hadn't even lived in the same zip code
. He knew where she was. Or at least he had a vauge sense of her comings and goings. But after signging and sending off the divorce papers, releasing the woman before him from their marriage like she had wanted, he hadn't kept her aprised of his life. She could have asked, if she wanted. And she didn't, so he assumed she didn't care. When she swore, he looked down at Diana, who was blissfully unaware of what had happened, and in doing so found himself looking at a small boy. A small boy with Isla's eyes.
He cleared his throat and looked away, looked anywhere but at her until she said hello. And then he couldn't help but look at her. She looked the same, and yet different. Harder, perhaps. But she was still the woman he'd fallen in love with. Which meant she was still the woman that had broken his heart. He cleared his throat again to answer her question but found it wasn't easy to form the words. "Shopping," he said lamely, to buy himself some time to collect himself. "For the week. Of course if you mean here as in california, then i'm here for work. And the weather is just plain nicer, don't you think?"
For all intents and purposes, Isla was a fighter. She fought for everything. Looking back on the last four years and all the fighting she did with Nathan, for Nathan, and about Nathan, she knew she was a resilient and teflon tough person. She literally fought flamebirds and street-level villains and the four horsemen of the apocalypse, but one thing she didn't do was fight for her marriage with Owen. Seeing him now after all this time was strange. Like for the first time things were calming down and she felt content and whole and life dropped him right onto her map, just like that. Not that she was unhappy about it, because she wasn't. It just gave her a very long pause for thought. Why now after the last several years was he put right in front of her?
Her facial features hardened into the look she perfected when she pulled a brave face. Isla was almost definitely going to have a meltdown by the time she got to the car with Bellamy, but she couldn't let him see that she felt...well, anything. Letting him go out of her life was one of the most difficult trials she had ever faced, but she made it through that and she could make it through this. She tried not to make prolonged eye contact with him, not wanting to see if there was as much hurt etched into his eyes as there was in hers. Not that she didn't absolutely love Nate and their son, but Owen was....he was the one that got away. There was never going to be another person she loved the way she loved him.
Her hands gripped the bar as tightly as possible, knuckles turning white as she held on as if it was supporting the weight of her entire body. She tried to straighten out and not look like she had been run over by a freight train, but there was the man that she forced herself to stop thinking about day in and day out just feet away from her. Her heart sped up, beating uncomfortably hard, as if it would free itself from its bony cage. "The weather here sucks, Owen. It's always overcast and never actually warm," she deadpanned, but the serious tone it took on had actually made her laugh. She shook her head and smiled at how serious that had all come out and she looked at him. "I'm sorry," she finally said, trying to soften her features and warm to him. "It's just...I'm surprised."
Backtracking, she held out her left hand, the one with the dainty antique canary diamond wedding ring on it and smiled. "It's good to see you," she finally greeted, hand extended to shake his hand in some kind of weird grocery store truce.
Owen knew Isla. He knew her well. Too well. Or at least, he had thought he knew her. He wouldn't say that she never surprised him, but their relationship had been "easy" because he understood her. He knew her moods and could see them coming. He knew how to navigate her. The only time she'd turned into someone he didn't know was after...well. After. Even thinking about after made it feel like he was being stabbed with something cold. That feeling never went away. He didn't think it ever would. After, she became different. And when he left, when she let him leave, he realized she'd turned into someone he didn't know anymore. Someone who would give up. Had that made it easier to sign the divorce papers she'd sent him? Maybe. But he would always maintain that he did that for her. No other reason than she wanted it, so he gave it. He would do anything for her.
But as he stood before her, now, he realized he did still know her. He could see the fight in her, the fight to maintain a calm and cool exterior. If he hadn't been so thrown by her sudden appearance, just like she was, he might press on that nerve and get a reaction out of her. But he was flustered, too. And judging by the way her knuckles turned a fantastic shade of white, she was taking this a bit harder than he was.
And he was taking it hard. This woman. He loved her, and not entirely in a past tense sort of way. No one could compare to her. Marianne had been a friend, and she'd known that. She had needed him in ways that Isla never had and, if he was honest with himself, that was part of the appeal. Marianne had a vulnerability, the opposite of his first wife, the true love of his life. He had to take several deep breaths to steady himself when she apologized and said she was surprised. That made two of them.
He looked down when she held out her hand, thinking it odd at first that she'd hold out her left hand to greet him, but then he saw it. It was like cartoon tunnel vision took over. The wedding ring. Now it was his turn to grip his own cart tightly and take as little time as possible to collect himself and return the gesture. When he did he forced himself ot meet her eyes, attempting to mask his true feelings. "Its good to see you, too. Its... been a while," he finished lamely.
Isla was taking it hard. Not because she didn't want to see him, but because she always wanted to see him. She thought about him all the time. Had boxes of his stuff in her garage, their papers, her ring, wedding photos. It was all there, neatly stashed away for those days when she needed a reminder for how far she had come and how she had changed as a person. The thing he didn't know was that his leaving ruined her. It was the beginning of her downward spiral. Sure, she had been known to bounce back, but so much could be traced back to their untimely demise.
He would never know how much of her he had taken with him when he left. For months she tried to just...move on, but she couldn't. Isla threw herself into work, she casually saw a guy she boxed with (who also broke her heart and took probably what was left of it after Owen left), she went to therapy and sought out new ways to fill her empty time. It was only when she and Nate finally began dating that her wholeness began to come back. He had helped her through months (and now years) of depression; making her dinner and making sure she got out of the house and wasn't wallowing all the time. He stood by her side even when he didn't want or need to, so it was only natural progression to gravitate towards him.
But now Owen stood in front of her and suddenly she felt like four years of an uphill battle was going to come to an abrupt halt in the condiments aisle. She saw the puzzled look he gave when she held out her perdominant hand in greeting. Isla wasn't dumb, she knew what he saw, and what he probably thought. She went through it with Mike as well when he came back after ghosting her and found out she had chosen to be with someone else over him. There was a nervous smile as she took her hand away.
"Where are my manners?" she asked, moving the conversation along so she could go hyperventilate in her car. "This feral maniac is Bellamy," she said, just as the baby reached up and grabbed a chunk of her hair. "Alright, you mad lad, maybe not so hard." Freeing her hair from his grip she turned back to Owen with all the confidence she could muster up. "Who's this?" she asked, smiling toward the girl. She had questions, and she was sure he did as well, though she didn't imagine the store would be a suitable place for it.
A lifetime flashed before his eyes in the moments that he allowed himself to stare at the ring on her finger. It took him a moment to remember (how could he forget) that she did that, most of the time, greeted people with her left hand. It wasn't meant (entirely) as a means to an end. But all he could think about was the last time he saw that hand, she was wearing a ring he had put there. And now she was not.
Of course, he wouldn't delude himself into thinking that after all this time she'd still wear her ring. He'd worn his even after the divorce papers were signed and he only took it off when he and Marianne were certain they were going to get married so she could have a fighting chance. But he still had it, tucked away. And he'd never worn a ring again. Not even when married to Marianne. She'd thought it strange, but also understood. She never pushed, knowing theirs was a marraige of convenience and not love. She'd asked, only once, and he'd shut her down. And now he faced the love of his life, wearing a ring given to her by someone else.
"Congratulations," he said softly, almost under his breath. He didn't want to dwell on it, didn't want to ask questions. Because if he did, he would most certainly lose it. And in public was not a good place for him to lose it. He was, after all, trying to put those years behind him. And you never knew who would be watching from the aisles of the grocery story, phone at the ready, eager to make a quick buck.
He gratefully shifted his focus from her wedding ring to the little boy she introduced to him. Bellamy. He looked like Isla, with the hints of another man, something that made his insides twist painfully. Instead of succumbing to that feeling, he smiled at the boy. "Hello, Bellamy, its nice to meet you." Only half a lie. He turned his attention to his little girl. "This is Diana," he said succinctly. He coudl have explained futher, but he didn't have the nerve, not at the moment. Diana was peering up at Isla as if she could recognize the lady in front of her. ANd it was only then that Owen truly noticed how Isla and Marianne had similar features. So he did have a type.
"You're pretty," Diana finally chirped, then went back to attempting to color in the basket seat of the cart.
Her smile was quickly fading and she was becoming uncomfortable. Seeing Owen wasn't what was uncomfortable, but the years of pain it brought back were hitting her all at once. She was an emotional creature and her emotions read clear as day on her face. This man that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with was standing in front of her with someone elses child, just as she stood before him with Bel. Of course it would be a shock to the system to learn that the former love you had moved on to be with someone else rather than pining for you until this exact serendipitous moment put two people together. But this wasn't a movie, and this wasn't really a serendipitous moment. It was just two strangers bumping into each other.
"Hm? Oh. Oh...thank you." She swallowed a growing lump in her throat and her mouth felt so dry. She wouldn't indulge him in information he didn't ask for. What was she to say? Oh, remember that guy from our wedding who was surly and didn't talk much? I married him because there was no one left to love me. It wasn't true. She did love Nate, and he clearly loved her in his own way. If he hadn't, he wouldn't have moved in, knocked her up, and married her. Their relatioship was destiny.
She chewed on the inside of her lip while Bel slapped at her hands cheerfully, babbling on and on as he looked up at the lights. "Mamba!" he shrieked excitedly, then grabbed at her hair again. Isla rolled her eyes a the restless infant and smiled. It was easy to feel bad in the presence of the person you were supposed to love forever, but let down. But when the universe blessed her with Bellamy, she had to stop thinking about it. She had to devote everything to him for the rest of her life.
"Diana," she cooed and smiled at the girl. "You are very pretty, and very talented," Isla said with a smile before looking back to Owen. "Looks like we've got some catching up to do." Immediately, she kind of regretted it because while she did so desperately want to catch up with him, would it be worth the emotional labor?
Watching the emotions flit across Isla's face was like getting a play by play of his own. He'd thought about her over the years, wondered what she was doing, how she'd ended up, if she still... But he always mentally trailed off after still. Because the answer wouldn't matter. Would it hurt more or less to know that she didn't still love him? Or that she did? He coudl never find an answer that suit him, so he stopped asking it of himself. He threw himself into caring for Marianne, into raising Diana, into working at the company. As it happened, he made himself a better man, maybe a man better suited for the woman who now stood before him, who had everythign they had wanted together: marriage, life, child. It hurt. More than he would ever admit.
He wanted to stay here forever. He wanted to take her by the hand and lead her away from all of this, to find a quiet place to be together. But the excited cry of her son took him out of his fantasy and landed him square in the present again. They both had lives. He coudln't just take what he wanted this time. It wouldn't be fair to her and to her... husband. The word, not even spoken, was bitter.
He smiled with pride when Isla praised Diana. She was a talented little girl, but then again, he was her father and he thought everything she did was perfect. When Isla looked up at her, he had to fight to not avert his eyes. He'd been staring at her. And he was caught. But there was ntohing he could do about that. Then she spoke. Suggested catching up. And he immediately latched onto that.
"Yeah. Yeah I guess we do. I'd... like to catch up. If you.. might be good. I'll be here for the foreseeable future so it... I'd love to catch up with you," he said, flashing her a reassuring smile.
Her chest rose and fell quickly as she breathed. She was so nervous standing in front of this man that she promised a lifetime of happiness to. It shocked her to think that seeing him again could have such and effect on her, but then again, why wouldn't it? Isla was broken when things ended. She never told him about the emotional turmoil she had gone through following what had happened, but maybe it was time he found out. Her life fell apart after losing the baby. She had failed him, failed herself, failed everyone, so after that she didn't feel like she was worthy of anyone's affections, especially not his. That's why it was so easy to be with Nathan early on. They were each others rocks already, but he took care of her, and she took care of him. They found love in a broken place and they clung to it desperately, even when things got really bad for them.
But now, even in the briefest of meetings, she wondered if she should have waited. Could she have waited four years to see him? Would she have waited that long, or would she have realized that he was always going to be the person she wanted and pursued him? It didn't matter, they were out of each others reach and she was hopelessly devoted to the man that essentially saved her life.
There was a half smile on her face while she looked from the girl to Bellamy who was still as slap-happy as ever. He kicked and slapped and giggled and gurgled and Isla was pretty sure he had also filtered through every word he knew how to say, as well. He was so invested in having a conversation with anyone who'd listen that when she looked up and caught Owen staring, she immediately blushed. Her cheeks turned warm and pink as fast as an anime character and she had to look away quickly. He still had the same pull on her that he always had, which was dangerous for both of them.
"I live here, so..." She paused for a second and shook her head. "Not here here. Just here in the city. It would be weird if I lived between mustard and barbecue sauce." Her words were all a nervous, jumbled mess. It was clear as day that she was nervous beyond repair at this point and she shifted uncomfortably while looking up at him. Her eyes pleaded with him, communicating things that not even she would be able to. It was like they begged him not to hate her, or to understand. Asked him to be patient while she got it together enough to be near him again. She may have filed for divorce, but it wasn't what she had wanted. "We can grab coffee? I'm free...pretty much anytime. The luxury of making your own schedule, I guess."
He'd be lying if he said it didn't give him a measure of pleasure that he was clearly having an affect on her. Did he want her to be flustered and uncomfortable? No, not really. But that he could still ilicit any sort of reaction from her did give him some sort of feeling. Was it just male pride, that the woman who had broken his heart now looked like she wanted to die or run away or both? Probably. But, at the same time, he did wish he could make her feel calm. In another life, he'd take her hand and tell her it was alright. In another life, he'd tuck that stray strand of blonde hair behind her ear, press his lips to her forehead, and tell her she was okay. He'd tell her what she was feeling was valid and justified. But this was this life. And he couldn't do those things.
Still, the way her cheeks pinked up made his heart stutter step. SHe was just as beautiful as she had been, four years ago. Maybe more so. He chewed the inside of his cheek to stop himself from saying something he couldn't take back, something he might regret. Or worse, something she would regret. He found himself eager to make a date with her. NO, not a date, but to find a time when they could catch up without this awkwardness of standing in the middle of the condiment aisle. He locked eyes with her and he read her thoughts. Or he hoped he did. Maybe time hadn't dulled everything he knew about this woman.
He smiled at her, a warm gesture. He moved his hand to reach out to her, to squeeze her hand, but he didn't want to spook her anymore than he already had, so he turned the movement into adjusting the bow in Diana's hair. "I'd love to grab coffee. I, too, basically make my own schedule. Diana's in daycare and I have a nanny, who can watch her in the evenings," he paused to stop from rambling off all the ways he would make time for her and took a steadiying breath. "So you just let me know when is good for you, okay?" He locked eyes with her again, letting her know without words or physical gestures that he would be patient. "My number... is the same," he admitted.
Diana looked up at him, her patience at an end. She wanted to go home. She wanted lunch. He kenw the look she gave him. He sighed and looked from daughter to love of his life. "Whenever is good for you," he said with a nod. "It was nice to meet you, Bellamy," he said with a smile to the young boy. He straightened adn looked at Isla again. "Motherhood looks good on you," he said softly, a little sadly, before he nodded goodbye and forced himself to finish his shopping. He didn't say it to make her remember, but to truly compliment her. It was something he'd wanted so badly, to see his wife as a mother. Now he had. And now he knew exactly what he'd lost, all those years ago.