Background: This is a companion to my last piece. I’ve taken a little liking the anonymous couple I have here. :)
Author’s Note: Thank you to everyone who read that story and commented. I’ve missed hearing from all of you! It’s been so long since I’ve talked with most of you, and it was really, really nice to hear your opinions again. :) I hope you enjoy this one as well!
He slept later than usual that next morning.
It was odd for her, to be awake earlier than him, to even have to wait for him to wake up. Usually she was the one that slept late, and more often than not, he was the one who had to shake her awake so she wouldn’t sleep the day away and ruin whatever plans they might’ve concocted together for the daylight hours.
And though they were wasting what appeared to be a beautiful, sunny day—the rain seemed to have stopped sometime last night, after they’d gone to bed—she couldn’t bring herself to wake him right away. Instead she laid there and stared at him, and repeated the words he’d whispered to her should-have-been sleeping self last night over and over again in her mind.
She’d memorized his little speech—his confession of faults and feelings and his list of worries—and so she had no trouble running through it now. Strangely enough, the more she replayed his words in her head, the less concrete they became.
Now, as she laid in his bed and watched him sleep—so soundly, so peacefully—she wondered if he’d even said it at all. What if she’d made up the whole thing? What if her brain and heart had conspired to fool her, to trick her? She couldn’t get what she’d wanted in real life, clearly, so had her subconscious given it to her in a dream instead?
She thought on that, curious. As foolish as it sounded at first… Maybe such a fantasy was better than reality, even if it never came true. Even if it did nothing but haunt her later, she could at least live with it for a moment—live with the idea that he secretly loved her—for just a few minutes, a few hours, a few days more?
She shook her head at her wild thoughts, forcing her mind to more productive circles. Last night hadn’t been a dream. It just hadn’t. He’d said what he’d said and she’d heard it but pretended not to and now she had to deal with it.
The only problem was figuring out exactly how she could—and would—go about this.
Scenarios ran through her mind, but each one that came was less helpful than the one that preceded it. It seemed that her mind couldn’t steer anywhere except a straight course for humiliation and disaster, and while she did have to have this conversation, she knew she couldn’t have it like that.
But just like him, she, too, was running out of ways to postpone the inevitable. She’d have to tell him soon, because she knew she couldn’t keep it a secret for much longer—and even if she didn’t say a word, he would know. He always knew when she was lying, or hiding something, or telling the truth. She used to think of it as a superpower, but now it seemed more like a thankless burden. Whether it was heavier on his back or hers was still up for debate.
By the time ten o’clock rolled around, she’d decided enough was enough. If she let him sleep any longer, he’d be annoyed and drowsy the rest of the day—not an ideal mood to start such a conversation in—and if she didn’t wake him up soon, she’d go crazy sitting here in silence.
So she nudged him, lightly pressing her elbow against his arm. His breathing hitched for a moment.
She repeated the action, and then took his hand in hers, and shook him awake as she called his name.
She tried to smile when his eyes blinked open to find hers, but she couldn’t quite manage it for some reason. She wanted to say ‘Good morning,’ but somehow felt too nervous even for that, so, with the sun in her eyes, she blurted the first thing that came to mind: “The rain stopped.”
It took his sleepy brain a few seconds to process what she’d said, but by then she’d put a smile on her face and turned her head to gesture towards the windows. “See? The sun’s finally out.”
On their way to the window, his eyes caught the clock by the bed and he frowned. “You let me sleep.” The words would’ve made an accusation if he hadn’t yawned halfway through.
“You were tired,” she excused, sitting up in bed, and hugging her knees to her chest. “You were up late.” Beneath where her hands held them, the skin of her legs went white.
“So were you,” he replied morosely, and she felt her heart start to sink in her chest. Were they really back to this again? Back to square one, already? As if last night hadn’t even happened?
She opened her mouth to question him on the matter—to finally put a definitive end to it all—but stopped herself at the last moment, too frightened to be the first one to speak about it. And so she pressed her lips together, privately humiliated in herself, and struggled to think of a way to get him to start the conversation. Once he began, she knew she could follow. She could, and she would.
She thought in silence for so long that he, the ever quiet one, was finally forced to speak.
“About last night…” He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, propping himself up on an elbow, and she tried desperately to remain calm—at least on the outside. She could feel her pulse pick up inside; she could even feel her heart begin to pound beneath her breastbone. Was he actually going to say it? She couldn’t believe it. She felt so excited and so scared, all at the same time, and it made her almost sick.
“I wanted to apologize for…” He closed his eyes to gather his thoughts, and for the briefest moment, his hidden tortured soul rose to the surface for her to take in. “For how I’ve been acting.” He paused, looking over to her—giving her a window to speak—but she had nothing to say. His soul had disappeared again, camouflaging itself behind the green of his eyes, and she couldn’t help but wonder what hers looked like, and what moments it chose to bare itself for him to see.
His whispered words from the night before ran through her head again: It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It doesn’t mean that at all. She knew for a fact that—if he’d been looking her in the eye last night and not just over her shoulder—he would’ve seen the truth in her face. In her soul.
She tried out the words, silently, in her mind. I love you too.
The knots in her stomach relaxed fort he shortest moment before tightening up again, more firmly than before.
“I haven’t wanted to push you away; I haven’t meant to do that these past couple of weeks. I know…” His brow furrowed in concentration as he searched for the right words. “I know it probably seems like that. And I know—” he sighed shortly “Hell, it is that. But…” He tilted his head to meet her eyes from a different angle, and when her eyes looked into his, it felt like she was staring into the sun.
“But what?” She wished the question didn’t come out in a whisper, but she didn’t have enough air—or confidence—to speak much louder.
“But I just want you to know that I don’t really feel like that. I don’t want to push you away. I don’t…” His eyes finally fell away from hers as he murmured, shame lowering his tone, “I don’t want to break up, and I hope you haven’t been thinking that.”
Her eyes widened as she stared at him, and she was relieved he was no longer meeting then. Truthfully, she had been thinking that. For the past week, she’d been steadily preparing herself for the end. It had been hard, but necessary, because there were only two reasons a man acted so quiet and distant: either he was gearing himself up to end a relationship, or to take a current one to the next level. And though she’d been betting on the former for days, what she’d heard last night had turned her entire worldview around.
“Have you been?”
His question jolted her back to the present. “Have I been…?” Her brain was scattered, and she was too nervous of outing herself to speak candidly. “Have I…”
“Have you been thinking I’ve wanted to break up? Are you—worried?”
“I… was,” she answered slowly, not quite knowing where the sudden honesty came from after such careful deception. “But I’m not anymore,” she added, catching his eye. She tried to smile at him as well, but she knew it wasn’t convincing enough.
“Good,” he murmured anyway. She watched him attempt to smile as well, but didn’t feel comforted when he, too, failed to make it look genuine. She wondered how much longer they could go on like this, trading almost-but-not-quite loaded words and swapping smiles she felt would be more convincing if they’d been painted on.
And maybe that’s what made her ask the question she’d told herself was off-limits—maybe she just wanted one genuine moment from him: “Was there anything else you wanted to tell me?”
Or maybe she just wanted to incite the beginning of the end. Maybe she wanted to seize that last little bit of control before letting everything fall into chaos.
“Anything else?” he repeated, and she watched in silence as he struggled to hold onto his previous calm. She wondered if she’d looked just as fake earlier.
She could see the words, hidden and humming just behind his face like the engine in a car, and she knew all at once that he wanted to say it. She could see it in the way he looked at her now, and she had heard it in the way he’d spoken to her last night.
He wanted to say it.
She stared back at him, her previously blank face now expectant because she knew—she knew—that he’d say it. He’d say it and be free, free from all the worry and the troubled thoughts and the sleeplessness. He’d say it and free himself and, in turn, free her as well. He’d say it and then she’d say it back and then—
“No. There’s nothing else.”
She had a smile on her face as she listened to him say that because she could swear he was joking. He was, wasn’t he? He had to be.
But then she digested his words and realized what he was really saying—and what he wasn’t saying. What he was refusing to say. She felt her heart sink like a stone in her chest, still beating, still pulsing, as it crashed through her stomach and dragged them both down as far, as deep as they could go. It felt like her body was being eviscerated by itself; using her heart as a weapon against her.
So she had been right about last night, before. It hadn’t been a dream. But she wished to god now that it had been. It was easy to shake off dreams. Reality, not so much. You had to keep that chained to you at all times if you wanted to survive.
“So, uh…” He cleared his throat softly, disrupting up the air between them. She wondered, when they inevitably broke up, if that would be just as anticlimactic. As easy as clearing the air with a cough. “We’re on the same page here, right? You and me?”
“Yeah.” She nodded at once, not wanting to drag this out any further. She had her answers now, and though she wanted so much more, it had been made clear that there was nothing left to take. “You’re right; we’re on the exact same page.”
Author’s Note: Thank you all for reading. :) Comments would be greatly appreciated below!