"Huh.. I don't know. The girl I fell in love with carried the stars in her eyes, the moonlight in her smile..."
She snorted so derisively I was almost taken aback. "Yeah, well that girl also dreamed about unicorns and shat rainbows!"
"She was full of hopes and dreams."
"And then life showed her how idiotic she had been."
She said this so matter-of-factly, setting her jaw and raising an eyebrow with a no-nonsense tilt of her head, that I was momentarily at a loss for words.
"But... viewing life through rosy eyes... there's nothing idiotic about that."
She laughed, one large huff of air, and looked at me incredulously. "If you go around with rose-colored glasses every day then you are more foolish than I thought!"
I felt my spine stiffen, that reactive defense to insult, and I opened my mouth to argue back before I noticed the way she was crossing her arms across her chest protectively.
I felt my chest tighten as I wondered who had hurt this woman so much she felt the need to hide under an armor built of sarcasm.
Suddenly our tense departure from years ago came front and center to my mind, the pang of hurt and guilt reverberated in my chest anew as if it had not been eons since it happened.
My voice was quiet, my throat dry, and I wrung my hands together because I knew not what else to do with them.
"You know... Back then... I would have stayed. If you had asked me to, I would have stayed."
"Why did I have to ask you?!" She snapped, her eyes going wide as she took a step back. I wasn't sure if it was the words, or the outburst itself, that surprised her most.
I could see her breath had caught. Deep inside she was fighting for control, her eyes scanning rapidly left and right, avoiding my face.
"You were so dismissive and nonchalant about the news that I'd be leaving that I didn't - I thought - I figured maybe you felt we had run our course..."
My voice ended in a whisper and I suddenly felt so small my eyes drifted to the ground and I drew into myself.
She scoffed. "Yeah, well, you figured-" Her voice was so forceful that when she stopped I had to look up to see why.
She was staring at me in shock, the angry contours of her face slowly dissolving into compassion.
For a moment she looked like my young love once again, until her features hardened and she looked away.
"You figured wrong," her voice softer now. Her arms inched up on her shoulders, looking more like she was hugging herself. "I was... devastated."
"I was too," tears had made their way to the corner of my eyes.
"God, I was so wrecked by the idea that you no longer wanted me, running away toward that opportunity seemed like my only salvation!
I thought getting away from you was the only way I could let you go." How wrong I was indeed, my heart reminded me.
"At least you had a way to move on! When you left, for a long time I felt like I was unsure which way was up and which was down.
Even now," she hesitated for a moment before continuing in a frail voice. "There are pieces I haven't found again."
There were so many questions stampeding around my head; I grappled the first one that I could and allowed it to tumble from my lips without a second thought: "You pushed me away- why did you push me away?"
Her face contorted in incredulity once again. "I didn't push you away! But how could I beg you to stay when you had such an incredible opportunity ahead of you?
I was so terrified that you'd leave me behind as nothing more than a memory; closing myself from you seemed easier than watching you waltz away with my heart."
Her arms had dropped to gesticulate with her emotions and now hung helplessly at her side as her fingers clenched into fists.
Unexpectedly, my shock bubbled out into a fit of laughter that dissolved into sobs. She softened with concern and I noticed her take a step closer to me before stopping herself.
She remained quiet as I tried to compose myself.
"What a pair we are!" I shuddered.
"Both of us so afraid the other would let go that we ended up letting each other go. And for what? To end up these shallow duplicates of our old selves, still too stuck in the past to actually grow."
I gestured between us to prove the point; she looked weakened and worn. And I was a sniveling mess.
"You seem to be doing just fine," she was becoming dismissive again.
"Trust me... it's a well crafted facade that took me years to create." And there was the shock, and disbelief.
"There's no way," she shook her head, taking a step away from me. I could feel a wall building around her again.
-God, I hate this. All of this fear and distrust. This isn't her. This isn't us.- I thought, and was suddenly filled with such an overwhelming mass of emotion.
I stepped into her space and reached for her hands, holding them tighter when she flinched away. When I felt her relax in the slightest, I brought both of her hands to rest palms over my heart.
"I have been a numb carcass since I left you all those years ago. And now- " I laughed. "God, now I feel the whole range of human emotion. I honestly don't know what to do with it!"
I don't know if it was my laughing, if she sensed my sincerity, or if perhaps she could feel my heartbeat fast and intense under her fingers, but she finally looked away from her hands, eyes wide, and met my gaze.
I felt her body tremble seconds before she threw her arms around me and held close, the tears finally breaking free.
She sobbed "Me too! Oh, God, me too!"
----- © SabrinaS, 2020