Moments went by and not a word was spoken, the tension in the air suffocating in its intensity as brown eyes stared unflinchingly into mine. I couldn't do this; cross the gap that had arisen between us, even if it had been of my own making. Life moves forward, not back. She was in my past now; an experience to be treasured, even learnt from but not repeated, at least not with her. My gaze falters, the depths of hurt and sadness in her expressive eyes too much. They had always been too much. I would, at times, have felt consumed by just one look in those smouldering orbs, losing myself in her vision of me, of us. Now there is no us. I took care of that in my own brutal way, put an end to things I had never really let start, at least not totally.
She is looking past me now, perhaps to another future, or just the other side of the park. It must be so new to her, in a long forgotten way, the freedom to walk amongst these trees, without the eyes of imprisonment following your every move. I've felt that look, that censure but nothing in comparison to her, to any of them really, as I always had my nightly escape. I never escaped her though. Hours spent trying to order my life, turned into hours spent thinking of her, worrying about her, cursing her, loving her. All that time she was the only thing on my mind but I never once told her, never let her see just how important she was to me. It made leaving her that much easier, for both of us, I think. It was cowardly, but then I have resigned myself to being a coward where my heart is concerned.
It wasn't always that way. I remember the day I put everything on the line to be with her, to tell her how I felt. Although even then I chickened out. Kissing her was easy, a long held back desire finally realised, but I couldn't give her what she truly needed, a promise of a tomorrow for us both. So even then I was a coward, little surprise I should be one still.
"I should be going."
Her voice is calm, no accusation or longing colours its tone and hearing it, my heart breaks just a little more in my selfishness to keep her love, a love I refuse to return. I know she is waiting for me to say something, probably expecting my usual cowardly response of denial, to pass this off as just a meeting of old, not very close, friends. I can't. I can't deny her again, but neither it seems, can I embrace my courage and take her in my arms. So I say nothing, I wait for her to make the first move, just as I did so long ago.
She wavers, unsure of my silence, of me. I cannot blame her for the confusion; my actions have never been easy to predict, even for me, the reasons behind them even more elusive to the both of us. My desires formed as anger, my uncertainties as blame, my love so deeply buried its effects were random and oblique. I am unsure if even I know my own heart anymore, except that it beats faster for her, more pain-filled but also more alive.
I am paralysed. Fear has overtaken my body to the detriment of everything else. Thought, feelings, even my senses have been overridden by this one emotional response. With fear, comes the choice, fight or flight. It is something passed down from our earliest ancestors, a way to keep us safe from predators and now from a broken heart. She is turning now, out of my life forever, leaving me to safely rejoin the normal existence I once knew.
I remember her once asking me 'what's normal?', her litany of expectations filling in many of my own views. That is perhaps why I never really tried to answer that question for myself, 'what's normal?' Loving her had felt the most normal thing in my life, being loved by her so right it banished all the wrongs society might bombard us with. Returning to my normal life could therefore mean only one thing, returning to her loving arms. If they would still have me.
She doesn't turn, but her footsteps cease. Indecision is written large in the tension of her body and all I can do is wait. For once she is in charge of our future and whether or not we have one. It is perhaps just another sign of my cowardice, but just standing here waiting for her to judge me, feels like the bravest thing I have ever done. I want to open my mouth and bombard her with reasons not to go, reasons that fail to really tell her the one true reason behind them all. I stay silent. I wait for her and my one chance to finally be honest.
One word. Just that one word is the key to all my future happiness, our future together. Why do I want her to wait, to stay?
"Because I love you. Because I don't want to lose you again."
My chest constricts painfully as I watch her stand there, her back still towards me, making it impossible to guess at what she's feeling, what she might decide. I want so much to reach out to her, to hold her and beg that she give me a second chance, a chance I know I don't deserve and didn't even realise was so important to me just mere minutes before. Now that chance is everything, she is everything.
As she turns I search out her eyes, knowing that the truth behind her decision will lie within. They are guarded but hopeful, the eyes of someone who has been lied to so many times they've almost given up believing, but not quite. A part of her, maybe only a very small part of her, still believes in a future together, still has hope that love truly does conquer all. Thank god, she's still a romantic, even if a jaded one.
"Then make sure you don't lose me this time, Helen."
It is a warning but also an acknowledgement of a future together, time to make up for all the mistakes we made. Stepping closer, I reach out a hand to cup her cold cheek, achingly aware this is the first time I've ever dared to touch her outside of closed doors. Unmindful of who might be watching, I bring our lips together in what seems like our first kiss, gentle and warm, with acceptance rather than passion. It is a kiss of forgiveness, of welcome. A sentiment echoed in those brown eyes I love so much, before lashes flutter and those beautiful orbs are hidden, as lips once again touch mine, this time in a kiss of longing and desire, feelings I can easily return, now and forever.
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