A Short Story (Chapter Two)

“You’re just agreeing so you can get in my pants.”

Summer leaves swayed in the sun-soaked background of this reunion, the leaves being more certain of their direction.

She giggled, and it contained more certainty than doubt that I was joking in my remark.

“Maybe,” she flirted. “You always knew how to make me laugh.”

“My mistake. I thought you were just looking for sex.”

Awkward. That’s become my modus operandi in situations such as these, and inflicting hurt through words has become my weapon. There’s no weapon more lethal than one with which you’re intimately familiar.

But what really hurts is the conflict. The real hurt comes when it’s your reactions, not your feelings, that are conflicted. It’s when all you want to say is, “I love you,” but something inside chokes on those three little words and forces you to wait out the symptoms that only have time, or distance, as a cure.

“Jake.” Seems my response had hit the mark. “Why?”

We both knew I had never answered that question, no matter the subject. We both knew that I had bolted when things were trending toward serious, that I had been unwilling to give an answer that wasn’t cloaked in emotional unavailability. And even now, in what could be a Hollywood ending, I still found myself fighting what shouldn’t be putting up a fight.

“Say something. You decided to meet me. Not the other way around.”

This was true. She was the one who had asked for this meeting, not me. And since I agreed, because I took time out of my busy schedule to do so, does that make me masochistic? Maybe.

“Say something?,” I asked.

“Yes. Please. Anything of substance will do.”

“I love you. Always.”

Few things inflict more hurt than the truth. What Mya saw then was that I had really been playing nice all along, careful to not have chosen her last for the team, considerate of her feelings (or, reactions) even though I was the one who had been left on the ground.

She walked away, crying.

It was the first time I’d ever seen her cry.

I hadn’t exactly planned this trip, I’d simply hopped on the first flight because I needed to see her. The pictures, you know, the ones I couldn’t get rid of, simply weren’t a substitution any longer. Not that they ever were. I needed to see her, and not having a hotel room for the night was a technicality.

Just three months earlier, my accommodations were a given. I knew where to find the light switches, the cabinet that hid the cereal bowls, and the drawer that housed the toothpaste needed to refresh a morning breath consisting of wine, food, sex, and sleep. I knew my side of the bed, and I knew hers. Not that there were any proper sides of the bed when we were together.

But now, standing alone on a sidewalk, my options were simple and unwelcome—either catch a cab to the airport or get a hotel room.

Do something. Just stop standing here, Jake, watching the love of your life walk away crying. 

For all the pictures I could have thrown away to be rid of her, that was one image which would never leave me.

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