Layers of snow covered the entire city of Prague. One of winters biggest storms hit the republic that season, making the country look like an ice land. In the distance, almost hiding behind the gray clouds, were puffs of smoke from the German occupation. On the drive to the café, she stared out the passenger window admiring the scenery. She loved the way the trees looked decorated with snow, the bright green pine leaves standing out against the white flakes. Her eyes shifted to the smoke in the sky, and her mind began to wander.
Every time a shot is fired, another life is lost.
Whenever she thought too much of the war, her mood would sadden. She hated the Nazis, despised the way they pretentiously marched through the city, raiding whoever’s home they felt like, yelling at any citizen who showed any sign of resistance. She wanted her city back; she wanted Prague to return to the peaceful place it used to be. When she would lay at night to sleep, she could sometimes hear the gunshots in the distance, reminding her of dire reality that exists outside.
“Diana,” her boyfriend said to her, “let’s go.” She was focused too much on her thoughts to realize they had arrived at the café. She stepped out of the car, her brown boots immediately covered with inches of snow. She took in a deep breath and released the tension from her shoulders. The soft chime of the bell rang as her boyfriend held the door open. She walked in and inhaled the sweet pastry scent of the café, her favorite place to eat since she was a teen.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Mowler. Where would you and Ms. Bridges like to be seated?”
“The same table as always, the farthest one away.”
“Of course, right this way.”
He always chose the farthest table from the door; he preferred to be out of eyesight from anyone who might know his wife. Although some of the locals were aware of his affair, he still tried to maintain his reputation. His ego couldn’t handle judgment.
Diana enjoyed the intimate ambiance of the café. The red-cushioned seats, the exposed brick on the left wall, the glass candles that provided the coziest dim lighting. For her, it was the only place that hadn’t changed; the only place the occupation hadn’t ruined. She stared dreamy-eyed at her lover sitting across the table while he examined his menu. Lately he had been irritating her with his heartless remarks about the war. But sitting in her safe haven, she couldn’t help but admire him. She noticed strands of gray peeking through his coarse dark hair; a slight feeling of surprise passed through her. She previously hadn’t noticed his hair beginning to gray, of course a man of his mature age is bound to have some, she thought.
“Diana, what’s been occupying your mind?
“What do you mean?”
“Since the drive, you appear to be contemplating something. What has been inspiring your thoughts?”
She let out a heavy sigh. “Ugh, the same personal concern as always. The anger at the Germans, the sympathy for the Jews, the worry about our city.”
“Of course, I should have known. It’s always the same with you. Honey, the war affects us all but as far as we know, this is life now. The Nazis have taken over the city, but we need to get accustomed to it. Besides, the worst thing they can do to people like us is ruin business.”
“Why is that all you think of, Nicholas? The war is more than just some occupation of land that ceases your business. It’s the destruction of society; it ruins people's lives, murders the innocent. It’s the absence of morality. Why do you never seem to care?”
“Like I’ve explained before: if it doesn’t involve us, why should it concern us? It’s not much of a matter. After all Diana, we aren’t the ones prisoned in those camps, it’s those damn Jews.”
The argument was interrupted by the waiter requesting to take their order.
“What would you like to order?” The waiter asked.
“Coffee for two, please. That’s all.” Nicholas said.
The opposing views of the war were just one of many cracks where Diana and Nicholas diverged. She would occasionally be reminded just how unalike they were.
“Those damn Jews.” He always refers to them in that disgusting manner. As if we don’t look anything alike! Why can’t he see we are all the same?
Diana Bridges was a senior university student just a semester away from graduating with her nursing degree. She was passionate about it; she had a natural inclination to care for others and hoped to help people effected by the war. She was a benevolent girl, always searching to find the good in people. Her boyfriend, Nicholas Mowler, was an entrepreneur in his late 40s; one of Prague’s most well-known, and ruthless, financial magnates. He was a married man; his marriage on the verge of divorce due to his infidelity and his wife’s uninterest.
For months he had been promising Diana that eventually he would leave his wife. However his words, and his heart, were empty. His actions showed no intention of divorcing his wife any time soon, and Diana was slowly starting to catch on.
Our nine-month anniversary is next week and he still hasn’t filed the divorce papers. He said they would be signed two months ago, but he continues to make excuses about work taking up his time. It’s always excuses with him, isn’t it?
She knew her and Nicholas weren’t good together. They bickered, had opposing views on almost everything, and were both in very different phases of their lives. She was a young college student who had her entire life ahead of her; a vibrant girl excited to see what the world had to offer. He was a middle-aged man who had already established a life for himself; nothing really changed for him anymore, it was all very static. The only thing that seemed to string them together was their shared love of math and a similar affection for art.
Diana was aware of all their differences, but she didn’t mind. She loved him… and she found it hard to leave him. She was fascinated with him. He was impatient, but caring; passionate, yet possessive; but most of all: he was manipulative. She stayed because she felt there was something “more” to him. She knew deep down he was emotional and possessed fears he had never revealed to anyone before. She wanted to know exactly what those fears were. She wanted to care for him, take all his anxiety and stress away. She wished for Nicholas to open up to her; for them to create a deeper bond between themselves.
I know he can be rough around the edges at times, but during the soft moments, he becomes a bit vulnerable. I know there has to be more to him than what he leads on.
Nicholas caused Diana a great deal of heart ache throughout the months of their relationship, but he also made her happy. She would often think back to when they first met, after one of his guest lectures at her university. She immediately fell for him. An attractive business man who shared the same fondness for Monet and Van Gogh: her dream man. Diana was hesitant to be with him when she discovered he was married, but he promised her that the marriage would end soon and there was nothing to be uneasy about. However, months had passed and he hadn’t opened up; he hadn’t even left his wife. Diana was growing tired.
“Why do you enjoy hurting me?” She asked.
“Why do you enjoy hurting me? You always play with my emotions and get my hopes up.”
A look of irritation flashed across his face.
“Diana, I don’t understand what you’re going on about. I don’t play with your emotions.”
“Yes, you do. When we first got together, you promised me that you would leave your wife. You said you wanted to start a new life together. 8 months have passed and you haven’t left her, Nicholas. Why do you keep dragging me on only to tell me painful lies?”
“Honey, we’ve discussed this before. I told you I’ll leave her when the time is right. Don’t be so upset. Can’t you trust me?”
“I’m not sure if I can anymore.”
She fell silent as she looked down at her hands in her lap, deep in thought. She was hanging on to every single word he had just said. For the past few weeks, she had been considering the pros and cons of their relationship. She was deeply in love, and he was too, sometimes; but she couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe there was something more to love than just the occasional rush of passion Nicholas would provide. Diana was a smart girl, and she knew very well what she brought to the table. She was ambitious, charming, and full of life. She was getting bored of waiting for her middle-aged lover to make up his mind when she could be out on her own, exploring the world and getting to know herself better in the process. Finally, she decided what future she wanted.
“I don’t think I can do this anymore.” She whispered.
“Do what?” He said in annoyance.
“I don’t think I can wait around for you any longer. Whether it be three weeks from now or three months, you’ll still be married to your wife. You’re never going to change. You’re perfectly comfortable with how your life is.”
This time in a different tone of voice, he tried to persuade her to stay.
“Diana, please calm down. You’re overreacting to something that isn’t a big issue. We can talk about this later at the apartment.”
“No. I’m tired of arguing over the same issue when the outcome never changes. I want commitment, and it’s clear you can’t provide that. I want someone who can invest all their time into our relationship, not just half. Why should I settle for an old guy who cheats on his wife and cares more about making a dollar than saving people from war? I’m 22, Nicholas. I graduate this spring, and when I do, I’ll have an entire ocean of opportunities to figure out where I want my life to take me. I want to go, I want to explore outside the city, I want to learn how to be okay with being alone.”
She got up from her seat and grabbed her purse.
“Diana, where do you plan on going? I drove you here, remember? Please stop acting so hasty and sit back down so we can talk things over.”
“I’ll be outside calling a cab. Don’t come looking for me.”
* * *
Eventually the cab arrived. She slid into the back seat and directed the cab driver to her apartment. While on the trip back into the city, she rested her head against the seat and looked out the window with glazed eyes. She focused on her breathing, trying to adjust to everything that had just taken place. Diana was disappointed with how her love story ended, but deep down she knew it was the best decision. She came to the conclusion that although she loved Nicholas, he wasn’t good for her.
They had been together for less than a year, yet he consumed such a big part of her. She knew cutting him out of her life wasn’t going to be an easy transition. She was well aware of the long nights she would have missing him, and the puddles of tears she would cry when she thought too long of him. But he didn’t appreciate her, and she knew the pain she felt was only temporary. His half-love was no longer good enough. Sometime in between the drive to the café and the drive back, she had realized her self-worth. She deserved more than to wait for someone who would never fully love her the way she wished. She stared at the snowy-topped mountains rushing past the car window. She sighed, closed her eyes, and prepared to begin a better life for herself. She was hurt, but she knew she would be okay.