A gentle breeze blows past the open window and rustles some papers on the desk. I turn away to face the wall. The town is noisy tonight and once again I can't sleep. Since I've been back, sleeping has become a growing problem. Every time I'm here, every time I'm so close to her, I keep turning in my sheets night after night, hoping beyond hope to finally find a tiny kind of relief. But I'm fooling myself. There's no absolution for the sins of my tormented soul.
I'm barely aware of what I'm doing while I get up and start to get dressed. I walk out the door and down the stairs. I hear the hotel clerk greet me and I nod in response but my mind is miles away. My mind is already there, there where my feet are carrying me. To my wife. To Lou.
I walk in the crowded street. There's a magic show tonight in Sweetwater and I can't help but go back through the years to that night in Willow Springs. She looked so beautiful in that blue dress, I couldn't take my eyes off of her. The same dress she wore the day she became my wife. The day I promised to love her and honor her from that day forward, till death do us part. But there are no promises I can keep.
As I remember all the things I did wrong, I feel my heart get heavier with every step I make. A magician conjures stars beneath my feet but I don't care, I've lost my path. I've lost myself.
When I look up again I'm there. I'm staring at our house. Lou's house now. I don't belong to this place anymore. She doesn't belong to me anymore. I know I have no right to be here tonight but I can't help but hope she's still awake. I want to see her. I need to see her.
I feel weak at the knees as I step on the porch, headed for the illuminated window. Lou is reading by the fire. I stare at her face where the flame's reflections are dancing, making her even more beautiful. I might stay out there all night long just watching her. I can't tell what I'm feeling; probably words will fail me.
I raise a hand to knock but she turns before I can do it. I know from her expression she knew I was there. She had sensed me.
She slowly gets up and walks towards the door. I move as well. I don't see her but I can hear her coming closer behind the door. I need to touch her skin, to smell her scent. I know I didn't come to ask for a second chance but…
"Jimmy, what do you want? It's late."
She doesn't open the door. I feel my heart sink.
"I… I ain't gonna force you to talk, but let me just… just see you, Lou. Please."
"Jimmy, go away. We've been down this road before, and I have no time for this again. Goodnight."
I feel all my being falling apart.
"Lou, please. Please, I need to see you. Please." I find myself begging to her, pounding desperately on the door. "Lou, please. Please."
"I'm not asking for a second chance, I just want to see you. I want… I need you, Lou. Please."
Now I'm screaming at the top of my voice. I can barely recognize myself, but the pain is too much to bear. I know she's still there; I can feel the conflict raging on inside of her. She loves me. She wishes she didn't but she can't help it.
I back off a bit as Lou slowly opens the door. She slips outside, closing it behind her. She keeps her body still, and her hand never leaves the doorknob.
"Why do we have to go through all that again, Jimmy?"
"I'm sorry. I'm…" I don't know what to say. No words can justify what I've done to her.
"You're sorry." Her voice laced with sarcasm. "We haven't seen each other for two years and that's all you have to say."
My gaze drops to the floor for a moment. She's right. When I look at her again I can see her eyes silently begging me, waiting for a reason. The reason I left her, the reason she's closed her heart to me, the reason I'm here right now. But I don't have the answer she deserves. I'm not here for a second chance. She doesn't have to give me another choice because I know I'm going to make the same mistake again. Even so, I can't help hoping.
"I miss you, Lou. I've never stopped loving you."
"It doesn't make any difference, Jimmy."
Her voice is steady, but I can see from the look in her eyes that she's struggling with emotion.
"Why? I mean… I know you still love me and…"
But she doesn't make me go any further. Her eyes are burning into mine, and the growing tension in her body is almost palpable.
"Why? Are you asking me why, Jimmy?"
She's shaking, and her eyes fill with tears of frustration and pain.
"Why don't you do us both a favor and start to be a little honest with yourself for a change. You're a gambler, Jimmy. You're constantly playing a game with your life as the stakes."
"But you promised…" I start tentatively, "you promised we'd face my ghosts together. You always told me you weren't afraid of what I was, you could love me whether I was Wild Bill or just a pony express rider!" I'm yelling at her right now, I've lost any scrap of dignity and control. The only thing I want is her forgiveness, her love.
"Oh for God's sake, Jimmy, don't! Don't even try to put the blame on me."
She's yelling me back now, all her being completely overwhelmed by emotion. I try to touch her, to hold her, but she pushes me away.
"It's over. It's time you understand that's something you have to deal with."
She stops me again, her eyes boring into mine with an indescribable intensity.
"How many men have you shot lately, Jimmy?" Her voice is sharp as a knife. "You know, people in town like to talk."
I open my mouth to reply but I know there is nothing I can say. I can't deny what I am -- or maybe not what I am but what I've become. I raise my hand to caress her face. She keeps her body still, one hand still tight on the doorknob, and the other by her side. She's trembling visibly, her eyes closed as I touch her skin. I can see how hard she's fighting against her own feelings, to keep her world from crashing down.
"It's time for you to go, Jimmy. Goodnight."
Her voice is so low that I can barely hear her words. I turn, stepping down off the porch and into the street. I look at the stars but there ain't any left for me tonight; they all fell down long time ago.
I walk in the street, soon surrounded by people, and I wonder where I went wrong.
So while I'm turning in my sheets
Same Mistake - James Blunt
Author's Note: Thanks to Liz for her hints and encouragement.