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“Don’t lie, Madeleine. Don’t say you’ve forgotten me already. Both of us fell hard; that’s why I still love you.”
He was going to be the death of me–with only his smudgy handwriting as his gun.
In my hands, the letter crumples. I let my lips nuzzle the rough paper and then blow gently across the words my future killer had written so diligently. I wish I could blow the words right off the paper into the air, letting the truth disappear with them, but the words only smirk back.
I was trying to convince myself that crying wasn’t going to help. He wasn’t worth my tears, yet here they came anyhow. I don’t understand anything anymore so I slink against the frosted window. Everything he had been to me was like a touch of sunlight. Burning and tickling at the same time. I can’t dwell on it though. Before I let myself believe anything, I would go see for myself. Breaking down because of a stupid letter was too weak even if it was for a relationship that seemed so strong at first.
Like most relationships, we started off savory and charming. Or maybe it was more of the idea that was so sweetening. I made up my own illusion of him before really seeing who he was and followed the instinct of that. Winking green eyes, marigold-colored hair, and a jaunty grin=sensitive, caring, witty, and overall perfect. Go ahead. Pick out a few of your favorite adjectives. I thought he was hot of the press of a romance novel, really. And, me? I was too complex to fit into one of those fleeting characters. All I knew was that I had a dashing mouth of luck. Better not swallow.
We didn’t meet by accident. It was my damned friend Cammy’s fault for being so thoughtful and snappy. She thought she was doing me a favor since dating wasn’t really a hobby of mine. She was the one who started my illusion, too. She was clever; gushing small juicy hints about him while I was getting ready. By the time our blind date was beginning, my mouth was dry. I wanted to hear more about this “smart, funny gentleman” who would “complete me” and “understand me.”
Maybe it was my impatience that’s really to blame actually. After our first slightly awkward date, I found myself exciting; it was rare and I didn’t know how to react. I couldn’t know his deepest secrets soon enough to I made them up for him. Abused past? Sure, that’s why he was so kind and vulnerable. B****y ex-girlfriend? Why not? After all, he seemed reluctant to talk about his past dating history. Jerky best friends? Well, someone had to keep them in line. Hell, maybe I should’ve been a writer. I had his whole history wrapped up in a gum wrapper. If only gum didn’t lose its flavor so easily.
I scoff, bitterly. The boy wasn’t such a charmer after I hung around him some more. He had been given everything and continued to expect to receive even more. His dependence on people was pathetic. No wonder his friends were always in a bad mood since they were always having to put up with him. His girlfriends either rolled their eyes when he was mentioned or sobbed uncontrollably. See, either he got bored easily or the girls got too exasperated to hold on in his past dating history. Except it was a little different for us.
I’m not sure if it was because I was a little bit more interesting than the past girls or that I was a little bit more stubborn to let go than them. I was determined when our relationship was failing to stay put. He had to be who I thought he was.
And was I the girl he thought he knew? He was always calling me spunky. I told him to shut up, but that ended up finalizing my new pet name. I wasn’t spunky, I insisted. I just outspent my energy on defending myself. Sarcasm quirked the sugar levels, too. Do you know what he did when I told him this? Here, I was as serious as politics and he laughed. He asked me what type of childhood I had too.
(Example: “Were you a ‘swing person’ or a ‘slide person’?”
“During recess, I mean. What did you do?”
I faintly recalling staying in to read in the library. I was horrible at making friends when I was little. I wasn’t shy but I could never be as outgoing and free and most of them. Maybe I should’ve been nicknamed Wendy. I grew up to fast to fit in their silly little Neverlands.)
I never answered him seriously. I think it was because I was afraid he would pity me for never riding a carousel or feeling the wonders of a toy store. Perhaps, he would’ve tried to make me experience those simplicity. The date would be called “Re-experiencing the Inexperienced.”
Okay. I admit it. He was pretty smart. Especially with words and literature. He could quote Shakespeare at the top of his head and made puns as sharp as teeth. He and I had some of the most curious, honest conversations I’ve ever known. Random facts, opinions, and touching secrets. I had trouble keeping up sometimes, or I would forget to remember what we said. The illusion would begin to fade and I would have to smooth it back again.
(Examples: No, of course he’s not that dynamic as he seemed tonight.
He’s too kind to have really called you frigid.
You never admired his flaws. Remember, he has none.)
The gentleman aspects of our relationship was iffy. His insults were like a pitcher’s arm. They curved a sharp angle that caused me to incidently strikeout. None of my friends have seen me cry as many times as he saw. Afterwards, he held me and would stroke my hair. He never told me he was sorry or that everything was alright. Instead his words were more true, soothing, and lyrical. They echoed to me during the next day like the memory of a starry night.
No, I didn’t always let those insults hit me hard though. Taking my chances, I aimed that baseball right back at him. This started when I was beginning to realize what a failure of an illusion he made. He treated the people around him with hardly any respect and his complacency was utterly sickening. Thinking about it now, I wonder why I never asked him about his cruel choices. I only ever accused him. How could someone so brilliant and amazing be such a bastard? That’s what I should have said.
Cammy laughed when I complained to her. She called me too judgmental, but her gentle admonishments backfired. My temper was absurd sometimes. I almost would have lost her as a friend that day if it wasn’t for him. It still is a mystery how he got her to forgive me. It was one of his rare kind moments that later I would mistake for payback.
Oddly though, it was right before our relationship ended when he told me he loved me. My pulse was racing that winter night and the perfect man I wanted disappeared. The only thing I felt was him. His arms holding me so tightly, my hands feeling the contours of his face, the feel of his skin against mine. His voice kissed the nape of my neck, sending shivers all the way to my glittering eyes. I asked him if he ever earnestly had told a girl that. His answer was no and my smile even glittered now too. I kissed him like I was kissing a rainstorm. Passion so keen but almost dangerous. Both breathless, we parted, and I felt his sharp taste linger long enough to know I definitely loved him back.
We stared at each other, taking in every beauty and every disaster our faces were made of till we could see each other’s minds maybe. My heart raced me to say the three–no, four–words back. “I love you, too.” But it never happened. My doubt gulped back in and told me never to say it. Just as quickly as I realized that he was so perfect, I remembered also what made him so reckless. The statistics said it all: there was more chance he would break my heart than fulfill it.
For a while, I thought it must’ve been the biggest mistake I ever made. I cried and re-imagined the scene for weeks. This time, the scene was different. I was braver and more accepting towards his words.
It wasn’t like that, I just now remind myself. I had ran away, not forgetting to tell him we were over. That this wasn’t working and how the hell I could ever love such an a**hole like him? Yeah, it was pretty heartless. You just have to remember though that risking everything you have isn’t easy. Sometimes our choices take ruthless turns.
“Maddy, I never could understand you. Why couldn’t you make up your mind if you wanted me or not? It was pretty obvious I wanted you. Were you scared?”
The honesty in his letter is startling but not unexpected. He wouldn’t write any sentimental crap because he knows I am too cynical to believe that. Nah, he just went straight in for the wound. I was scared. I still I am. Does this mean he wants another chance? Or that I’m getting another chance?
He loves me, Goddamn it. There’s no need for any flower killing to prove it.
(A memory: Killing lilies.
Tear a flower petal. He loves me.
Rip another. He loves me not.
The last petal told me he loved me not also. But thank God, I’m a skeptic.)
It was five months ago in case you were wondering. The letter was sent three days ago. Two questions I wonder are why didn’t he send it earlier and why now? And the question for my conscience is what should I do? Reaction is a must.
Deciding Cammy must have the answer, I call her up and tell her I have an emergency. She comes over with a first-aid kit and facial stuff, makeup, and nail polish.
Her explanation: “You didn’t specify.”
It turns out that we use each others’ words instead. My mascara streaked face and stuttering sentences give away most. I don’t let her read the letter since it’s so personal, but I give her the story. The hardest part is admitting I do still care about him.
Cammy doesn’t even blink. “Of course, you do!” she says.
It’s a curious thing to see a realist realize how oblivious they are. How easily then they lose all their logic and start to panic. “Well, what do I do, then?” I simper.
“Beats me. You should follow your heart. No, don’t give me that look. There is a time for cliches and there is a time for reality. This is most definitely a time for a cliche. You need to learn how to take a risk. I swear, it’s as if you think the world is going to eat you up sometimes. Give a little. Trust a little.”
“How? Darling, there is no how. There is a why and a what. Learn who you can trust and learn why you can trust them, and there you go. Life’s a breeze. Well, some of it is,” Cammy states. It’s almost funny to see how confident she is giving me advice.
“But, it’s so hard. There’s so many buts and what ifs involved.”
Cammy throws up her hands, exasperated. “Duh! Life wouldn’t be so breathtaking if there wasn’t all those in between. That is what makes love so unconditional.”
(Two words: hopeless romantic.)
When Cammy leaves, I’m not a changed woman–just a more confused woman. It takes a little over a week to decide what I must do with this crinkly, essential letter and my crinkly, essential heart.
What really made me make up my mind was that I would have gone insane if I hadn’t found out the truth. If I didn’t ever see what would happen if I acted on my heart, I would always be regretful. And I hate lose threads and the miserable past tense.
It takes me five minutes to get out of my car, two to reach his apartment, and probably eight to knock. He isn’t alone either. A friend–a new one, I note–opens the door and lets me in. I don’t really inform him I’m the “unforgotten” ex-girlfriend.
I don’t know whether to approach him directly or act casual. Our relationship has spun too many turns to have a right answer. Settling for a wave fit more for just acquaintances, I lift my hand up meekly and wiggle my fingers. My nonchalance fools everyone but him.
To embarrass me probably, he runs up to me dramatically and in slow motion to wrap his lean arms around my waist in a tight hug. It’s too intimate, but I don’t say anything. I don’t think I can actually. My chest feels electrocuted by emotion and it’s making me speechless.
“Madeline,” he breathes against my earlobe. “It’s been ages.”
My voice finally finds its way. “And I was planning to keep it that way, but...” Even though he’s much stronger than I am, I’m able to pry him off of me and finally relax somewhat.
“But what?” he asks, but doesn’t let me answer. “I realize you haven’t changed a bit though,” His friends have gathered around share smiles. I hear their whispering thoughts. Who is she?
“Be careful, Casey. First impressions can be a b****,” I answer back.
He nods solemnly before letting up a wolfish grin. He hasn’t changed either. “You know what else is a b****? Awkwardness. Aren’t you going to invite yourself in?”
I mutter, “Do I have a choice?” but let myself in. I can’t back out now. He knows exactly why I’m here. Will he be surprised to hear the reason behind the why?
“Casey, let’s cut to the chase. I need to talk to you,” I say about twenty minutes after meeting a bunch of his new friends and watching them cheer over their video game championships.
“So, can we? Privately, maybe?”
His waggling eyebrows make me want to shave them off. “Anxious, are we? Oh, Maddy, I’m thrilled. But, as you can see, I’m a little busy at the moment. Can it wait?”
My feelings bubble up in my mouth so quickly I throw it up. “You were the one who sent me the damn letter! And, now I’m finally replying to you, and you’re gonna blow me off? What the hell, I should have known not to come, that it was a setup, that-that– ”
He cuts me off, amused. “Keep your voice down. My friends might think we like each other.” Wink. Then, his tone turns serious. “I’m not blowing you off. I do really want to hear what you have to say. Sorry, but it’s just as fun as it was back then to get you riled up.”
“I didn’t come here to get riled up.”
He reaches his hand and puts a finger to my lips. I tense but don’t move. “Shhh. I know, I know. I do want to talk to you. Just wait one second, please?”
I nod, too afraid my voice might come out unsteady. This is so weird.
About another thirty minutes, I find myself pacing in his room. He still has a knack for being messy I see. Laundry, schoolwork, and even food scatter the floor. I have an urge to clean everything up. He said he would be right back but it feels as if I’ve finally reached forever. His new friends seem nicer and more outgoing in a positive way. Why couldn’t they understand that he needs them to leave?
Just as I’m about to leave, he enters. His shoulder brushes against mine. My heart thumps a little faster.
“My, my. You are impatient, today.”
“Why is that trying to hate you makes me love you anymore?” The words are out of my mouth so quickly I wince when I realize what I’ve told him. What is up with my feelings today? I completely ignore his banter.
He is as stunned as I am. I see it in his blinking eyes, gaping mouth, and stiffened shoulders. I can notice so much about him so easily.
“Do you really love me? Be honest,” I whisper again. This time, I know what I’m saying and it feels right. I step over to him so my lips can softly graze over his earlobe and wait for his answer–hoping for the best but knowing also it could just as well be the worst.
“Madeleine,” he says back, his hand also reaching to wrap itself around my hair. “There’s no such thing as a love liar. Of course I love you.”
I bury my head in his neck, knowing there’s a blush beckoning for my face. I believed him in the letter and I believe him now. It makes me giggle. I’ve never been a giggling girl.
He jerks my head back up to him but it’s soft and nervous. “What you said. You meant it, too, right? Sure, you’ve always been a loser for love, but you’re not a liar. Right?”
What’s taken us so far? Five long, exhausting months and now it’s as if this moment is speeding by. I want to hold on to it for forever. So, as best as I can, I do.
For being so stupid and so wonderful, I love you. My words speak in kisses. And my kisses speak in honesty. I love you, I love you, I love you. I’ve never said it being so sure.