The train pulled into the station in Essen, and my mind immediately turned to Roman. Then again, I thought of Roman no matter where I was or what I was doing. He was always there in my mind. I hadn’t seen him or spoken to him in five years, but time had not changed the fact that he was always my first thought in the morning and my last thought before I went to sleep. I still loved the man as much as I ever had. I left him alone because that is what made him happy. His happiness was the only thing that kept me from running to find him every day and beg him to give me another chance.
I had changed over the last five years—grown up. That growth only served to make the loss of Roman more profound because with the growth came knowledge that what we had was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
For me anyway.
For Roman, on the other hand, it seemed that Marc was his once-in-a-lifetime love. He left Essen five years ago after we split up and went to Hamburg to be with Marc. Our mutual friends are usually careful not to mention the two of them unless I ask. Unfortunately, I never seemed to be able to go too long without asking how they were doing. The reports were always the same and always felt like a knife to my gut. They were, by all accounts, blissfully happy in their relationship and extremely successful in staging their ice shows. I had been in Hamburg when their second show was opening and had even bought a ticket, but I couldn’t make myself walk in the door. It was just too much. I wished Roman nothing but happiness, but I just wasn’t strong enough to witness his happiness with someone else first hand.
I kept myself busy traveling from modeling gig to modeling gig—all over Europe and the US. After I lost everything five years ago, I decided I needed to go back to doing something that could get me back on my feet financially as quickly as possible. I was lucky to get a modeling job with a start-up Italian sportswear company. Within the first year, they had gone international and so had I. I had earned a reputation for my punctuality and reliability on the job. I traveled often, but partied rarely. The days of Deniz-the-playboy were over. I worked hard and saved my money.
I hadn’t been involved in a relationship since Roman and I had split up. I had had an occasional one-night stand with two turning into two-night stands, one with a man and one with a woman, but that was it. My life, despite my frequent travels to exotic locations, was really rather boring, and that was just fine with me.
I gathered my bags and headed to the taxi stand to hail a cab to take me to my hotel. Vanessa had offered to let me stay with her, but I always got a little moody when I came to Essen. It was better if I had my own space. My dad had long since sold No. 7 and had moved to Turkey. I had seen him a couple of months ago when I had taken a couple of weeks off. He seemed to be doing well. We still saw each other at least three or four times a year, but things had never been quite the same after the Jessica debacle.
How many times had I wished that I could go back and redo that one night? I would never have gotten so drunk and never would have made the mistake that led to me losing everything that was dear to me. Of course, I would lose every cent I had again if it meant that I could have Roman back.
My phone rang. It was Vanessa.
“Where are you?”
“At the Essen train station, getting ready to get into a taxi.”
“Stop. Don’t. Stay where you are. I’ll be there in two minutes.” She sounded frantic, which was unusual for Vanessa who was usually calm under pressure. She had been my rock in the months after Roman and I had split up. I honestly couldn’t have held it together if it hadn’t been for her support.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, trying to sound calmer than I felt.
“I’ll explain when I get there,” she responded in a clipped tone and hung up before I could ask anything more.
My mind started whirring with possibilities.
Was it my dad? No, someone from the family would have called me.
Annette and the baby? Annette was pregnant after years of trying.
Before my mind even had time to spin out of control in a parade of horribles, Vanessa pulled in on two wheels and came to a screeching halt right in front of me. She popped the trunk and yelled, “Get in. We’ve got to go.”
I threw my bags in the back and had barely slid into the passenger seat before she gunned it.
“Okay, Vanessa, what the fuck is going on?” I said, unable to contain the worry, which was bordering on panic, in my voice.
“It’s Roman,” she said somberly.
The weight of those two words hit me so hard that I couldn’t breathe or form any words to ask what was wrong with Roman. Vanessa glanced over and must have seen the sweat pooling on my forehead and my white face as all the blood had drained to the aching pit in my stomach. “Nothing is physically wrong with Roman. He is safe in Hamburg,” she said, grabbing my arm to reassure me.
I exhaled the breath I had been holding and my face fell into my hands as relief washed over me. “Oh, thank God. You scared the piss out of me, Vanessa!”
“Physically, he is fine, but emotionally he is a wreck. Marc was killed in a car crash yesterday afternoon.”
My head sank back into the leather headrest of Vanessa’s BMW Z4. “Fuck!” was all I could say. “Fuck! Oh, shit! No, not Marc. Roman… How? He’ll be a total fucking wreck.”
“Annette got there last night, but she can’t stay. Ingo is in the hospital. She has to get back to him. She said that—“ Vanessa was interrupted by her phone ringing.
“Hello. Yes, I’ve got him. Yes, we’re on our way. Less than that the way I drive. Okay,” she said to the person on the other end of the phone. Then, she handed me the phone. “Here, Annette wants to talk to you.”
I took the phone hesitantly. “Hello, Annette,” I said, my voice shaking.
“Deniz, I don’t have much time. I just stepped out on the patio for a minute. I don’t want to leave him for too long. I know this is asking a lot of you, but I need you here. I have to get back home as soon as possible. Ingo is in the hospital and has to have surgery in the morning. Roman is a mess. He is pretty much catatonic. He has been staring off into space since the police came to tell him about the accident. You know about that, right? And that Marc is dead?” she asked, finally drawing a breath.
“Y-y-yes,” I stuttered.
“Good. The police found my number in his phone and called me. Thank goodness mine was the first name in his address book. He won’t respond to my voice. He won’t look at me,” she said, her voice trailing off in a sob.
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t have said anything in that moment if the words had formed in my brain. The lump in my throat was too big.
After a few seconds, which felt like an eternity, she continued, “Deniz, the only thing that he has said since I got here besides Marc’s name is ‘Deniz, where is Deniz?’”
“Why would he ask for me? I haven’t seen or spoken to him in five years, Annette. I am probably the last person he wants to see right now.”
“Now, listen to me, Deniz Oeztuerk,” Annette said in her take-no-prisoners tone of voice, “I have no fucking idea why, but he wants you here. I need someone to look after him while I go take care of Ingo. I am big and fat and pregnant and do not have the energy to deal with any of this. I need you here.”
There was a long pause while I tried to clear the lump out of my throat. All I could manage to squeak out was, “Okay.”
“Deniz, I wouldn’t trust anyone but you to take care of him right now. I know that you love him as much as I do.”
I nodded my head as if she could see me agreeing with her.
“I need to get back inside. I’ll see you when you get here,” she said and hung up.
I stared at the phone wishing that it would ring again with Annette saying that Roman was fine and she didn’t need me to come after all.
“Deniz?” The sound of Vanessa’s voice brought me back to reality. I turned to look at her. “Are you going to be able to handle this? I mean, going into the place where he and Marc shared their lives together?”
I swallowed hard, the thought of it making me sick to my stomach. “No. No, I’m not sure I can do it,” I said honestly. “Why didn’t Annette call Flo? He could take care of Roman.”
“Flo is playing hockey in Canada.”
“What about his parents? Surely, his mom….”
Before I could get the last part of that sentence out, Vanessa turned to me and raised one eyebrow as if to say, “Have you lost your mind.”
“Deniz, Roman’s dad may have been warming up to the idea of you and Roman being together. But after you split and he moved in with Marc, Roman’s father stopped speaking to him. He lost contact with his mom too. It seems that Mr. Wild blamed Marc for “turning” Roman gay and for breaking the two of you up. I think that the reports from Florian had a lot to do with that.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, confused by this revelation.
“Florian was not happy about the break up. He still blamed Marc for the last break up. When Roman went back to Marc, he let Roman know that he thought that it was a huge mistake.”
I didn’t know what to think about that news. I had no idea that Flo felt that way. I had always liked Flo, but I also knew that he and Roman were close. Why would Marc be a problem if he was who made Roman happy?
“So what is wrong with Ingo?” I asked, turning to Vanessa and trying to shake the sickening feeling from my stomach at the thought of having to walk into Marc’s house.
“He fell from a ladder. He has a concussion, a punctured lung, and a broken vertebra.”
“Shit! Is he going to be okay?”
“The doctors think that he will be fine, but the surgery on his back is a little touchy. I am driving Annette back after I drop you off.” I just nodded, once again overwhelmed at the situation I had walked into, and stared out the window watching the landscape fly by.