It hurts for a little, smarts even, when someone throws away your heart. It screams in its ribcage and slams against it, again and again. Raw and bloody it bleeds, over and over, till it feels like no blood is left. Everything has been drained. Then miraculously, it heals. Scab-covered and beaten it resumes, with heartbeats resolute. The ribcage that restrained it becomes its protector…forever keeping it safe…as long as it remembers not to care.
Fear and insecurity might just be all in your head, but then again so is the whole world.
He checked his phone for the 5th time, waiting to see if she had messaged him. It was the third Friday straight she would be missing their weekly meet up and so far no message. She had messaged the last two times saying she was either ill or busy. But in class she seemed neither sick nor stressed. Well she seemed sad though. He just didn’t get it. Last time they met she seemed fine. Granted she left quickly, but she didn’t seem mad. So then: why give him the cold shoulder in class? Was she avoiding him? Why would she? It made no sense. He sat at their bench hands under his chin, elbows on his thighs.
He remembered the first time he meet her, she was coming towards the classroom door he was lounging around. She was literally bouncing on her heels, her ridiculous layered skirt flouncing with her. She looked so fucking cute he had said hi.
She was walking with Judy and Twigs. “Hey?”
“I like that skirt you’re wearing.” What the fuck? WHAT. THE. FUCK? Did he just say what he thought he said? She was going to think he’s a pervert for sure.
He could see her eyes narrow infinitesimally, but she was nice. “Thank you, it was gift.”
“You’re welcome.” He grappled for something else to say, but found nothing.
She saved him the trouble. Looking at his mortified face, she smiled. “Are you in Prasad’s class also?” Then blushed, obliviously finding her question just as moronic since he WAS standing by the door. Her discomfort had made him more comfortable.
“Yeah, I heard he was the best.”
The classroom had opened and as the students began to file in, he looked at her. She smiled, “Why don’t you sit with us?”
And he did. They had been friends ever since. The beautiful girl with the flouncy skirt had become a part of his life that he couldn’t do without.
And now she’s nowhere to be found.
He flashed back to reality, checking his phone again. Nada. Zilch.
If he were to admit to himself, there were times he wanted to be more than friends, tell her what he really thought. But he could never do it. He wasn’t wired that way. Girls came to him, that’s how His Keeper-uh-Stacey came into his life… and stayed there. He rubbed the back of his neck. Stacey was whole another issue that he would rather not think about.
He thought about texting her again, but wasn’t in the mood for a terse reply that grated his nerve. He checked his phone again and got up to leave. As he walked, he reasoned, maybe she just needs time and would contact him when whatever was bothering her was sorted out. She was private that way. He would wait.
But no reasoning in the world could rid him of the nagging feeling that something had changed, and his fear that he would someday lose her friendship (which is the main reason he kept his feelings to himself) began to gnaw at him.
Marielle sat at her desk and rubbed her temples. It was the weekend and she was at her office perfecting the client’s presentation for Monday. She didn’t mind working the weekends as long as Norman, the head of marketing, wasn’t here. He had taken a liking to her and she didn’t like it one bit. He reeked of creepiness. But, since he wasn’t here, she was content with her current situation. Although…her sister kept accusing her of being a workaholic and it had stayed with her, echoing. It disturbed her that her own flesh and blood thought she was running away from life while clearly she wasn’t. This WAS her life and she loved it.
Suddenly, the phone rang, jarring her. “Hey Leo, where are you?”
Her assistant was late and it was unlike him; he loved his job as much as she enjoyed hers.
“Hey Mar, an emergency came up. I have to take my nephew to the hospital. I am sorry, I won’t make it.” She heard a honk and an expletive.
“Oh no, is he going to be okay?”
“Yeah, he will be fine. He just swallowed an eraser whole…one of those big Staedtler ones? How he managed to swallow the whole thing is beyond me. But I am taking him to the hospital to try to get it out. I have a feeling there is going to be laxative in his future.”
“Ew,” Marielle laughed and wrinkled her nose, “Well, I am glad it isn’t anything too serious. Don’t worry about work, I can handle one day without you.”
“Thanks Mar, you’re the best! Ian! I swear if you don’t settle down…”
She heard the phone click and her smile began to disappear. She had lied to Leo, she wasn’t sure she could handle one day alone at the office…the silence was a breeding ground for thoughts she rather not relive. Where was creepy Norman when you actually needed a distraction?
The room began to lose focus as she heard the familiar male laughter that usually bought out her own and grainy smiles; flashes of another time flickered in her mind’s vision. Images of piggyback rides, morning races and fighting about the mundane, began to bombard her in rapid succession. The good and the bad all began to mix into one seamless thought flow that abruptly ended as it reached a dead end in the form of the ultimatum that changed everything.
A generic, yet flowery, ringtone set her out of her reverie. She checked the time. It was 2 pm on the dot and her thoughts turned happier as she looked at the caller ID.
“Hey Missy,” she answered her sister’s call, “You’re calling again!”
“After the little debacle last week, with that friendtervention bullshit, I was afraid of what would have happened IF I DIDN’T call,” her sister said grumpily.
“Language Missy!” But she relaxed when she heard her sister’s voice because it reminded her of a saying that they both believed in whole heartedly. One that got them through some pretty tough spots: everything happens for a reason, sometimes we just don’t see the bigger picture.
The first time August met Chase was at the gym. Curious to a fault, August had tagged along with Her to meet the mysterious gym partner. She took an immediate liking to him. He was nerdy, but seemed friendly enough without any immediate flaws. She wasn’t shallow; she just believed people should present themselves to the best of their ability as a respect to others. She thought about the first day as Chase walked her home to her apartment.
“Do you remember the first day we met?” She questioned.
“At the gym right?”
“Yeah, I remember being curious about you.”
“You’re always curious.”
“Aren’t you glad I was, or else we might have never met,” She flipped her dreds at the idea of never having met Chase. It made her heart hurt.
“Of course I am. But we would have met regardless.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do. If not then, then later…it’s only logical. Once you became friends with her, you were bound to meet me.”
She sighed; he was as romantic as a bag of peanuts on Valentines Day.
“Aren’t you worried about her? Even a bit?”
“Of course I am, but she will get over it. Besides picking at her wounds won’t solve anything. Just give her time.”
“What about us?
“You are going to pretend there is nothing between us?” Seeing her friend in pain made her realize, she had to address this thing between them before it was too late. She couldn’t imagine a life avoiding Chase, like her friend was her crush.
“No, I am not pretending. I just didn’t realize you were ready to talk about it.”
“Well I am.”
“What do you want to talk about?”
“You’re really going to make me start? Fine, I really like you Chase, so much it bothers me sometimes, but you’re right I don’t know if I am ready for the type of relationship we deserve.”
“Of course, I know I don’t say it much. But I do get it. We are at different points in life, you want to get established, and I want to explore the world. You want to make your name; I want to scratch my name into every continent. And I really like you too…if that wasn’t obvious”
She gave him a genuine smile and then continued, “And you’re okay with that? Us not being together?”
“No, I am not. But sometimes it’s better to wait for the right moment to start something, than to rush in and ruin it forever. “
“I don’t want to do that,” she whispered.
“August,” he held her hands in his and stopped walking, “look at me.” He waited till she did. “I promise you my feelings and I aren’t going anywhere, we will be right here until we, me AND you, are both ready.”
“What if that takes decades?”
“Then it will take decades. For now take it one day at a time. Think of it this way, there are worse things in life than waiting for the right moment.”
“Like realizing there never will be one?” She thought back to Her.
“Precisely,” he let go as he pushed up his glasses and his frown deepened.
As they resumed walking, she reached for his hand again and together they walked the familiar path to her place, not knowing where their relationship was heading but taking comfort that it had a future, however far in the distance.
Judy couldn’t give two shits about people she didn’t care about. But the ones she cared about, she was a like a mama bear, notoriously protective. That’s why the whole Her and Him situation worried her. It also hit close to home because she was in a similar situation.
A paper ball landed on her desk, right next to her monitor, dispelling her thoughts.
“What the fuck Anthony? What is this?”
She opened the paper and a crude drawing stared back at her.
“You’re pathetic. Antonio, my lover is so much better at talking dirty.” She smiled sweetly. Antonio was Judy’s infamous and totally imaginary boyfriend. He was a running gag between them.
“Oh yeah? You really think so?” Anthony, her colleague was enjoying this.
“I know so, he’s a-MAZ-ing.”
“Shuddup Juju, no one can be as good to you as I am.” He winked and looked back at his computer screen; she could see him from her cubicle. They were working late. Again.
“Are you really?”
“Good to me?”
“Hey…Juju, what’s this about?”
“He broke her heart.” Anthony knew who she was, there were only a handful of people that got to Judy. He came to sit by her.
“Is that what’s going to happen to us? This flirting, all the tension and then one day you will up and decide I am not worth it?”
“You messing with me, right? You wouldn’t admit there was an “us”. You all but forced me to date Tonya so you could be sure I wasn’t gay.”
She laughed, “Yeah, I am a bit fucked up.”
“That you are, but I still love you for it.”
For once, Judy shut up and let her self enjoy the moment and not worry about getting hurt or self-sabotaging the situation. She moved closer to him, touching his face.
He stopped her hand, “If we do this though, there are some ground rules: First, I tell Tonya the truth because she deserves it. Second once you’re on board you CANNOT dip out when you’re scared and third, you will finally tell me you love me…deal?”
He walked back to his table, a big smile on his face.
“I fucking love you.”
“Best deal I ever made.”