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“Hey,” Troy said when he saw me walk up in the mall. It was a Friday afternoon and yet there were hardly any people here. It had been almost two years since I had seen Troy. We used to be an item until he turned eighteen and decided to ship himself off into the military. I had prepared myself for a lot of awkward conversation and distance.
“Hi,” I said. The hug I received was warm and not at all like I expected it to be. It reminded me of how much I had missed him and some part of me wanted to just stand there with him forever but I knew there was a reason why he had asked me to come. I stepped back. “So, what is it that you want?” I asked, trying to sound as if I had better things to do.
“Huh? I just came back from war. You know, I have been gone for two years.” He said and I stared at him. “Why would you think I would want anything from you? I just missed you, that’s all.”
“Look, I missed you, too.” I admitted. “But I’m not going to just run into your arms.
I said. Even to me, it came out sounding rude. I sighed. The look on Troy’s handsome face broke my heart. “Sorry, I just—“
“No. I get it,” he said. “I mean, why would you? I did leave you without even giving you a head’s up. And of course you hate me after all I said and then just left.” I opened my mouth to say something but he shushed me. He sat down on the bench and gestured for me to do the same. So I did.
“Troy, I’m not upset with you. I said I missed you. And you know what, I was pretty pissed at first when you left because I loved you, and…” I had to stop because before I came I had promised myself I wouldn’t cry. It would be pretty dumb to cry over someone like him when he obviously didn’t even care about me. If he did, why would he just leave like that? Why would he tell me not to write to him when I finally found out how to get a letter to him?
“I know,” he said but how could he? How could he know? He wasn’t in my position. “Naomi. I am so sorry about leaving like that but you can’t—I was going to say ‘you can’t hate me for it’ but you can. What I mean, is I don’t want you to hate me. I care about you. That’s why I’m here. Naomi, I love you, ok?”
All the emotions I had planned to hide were too strong for my walls. I couldn’t help the tears that flowed now. “Troy,” I started but before I could finish my sentence, I was somehow in his arms and he was just holding me. All my memories came running through my wind like water in a dam. I could see them all clearly even though they were in fast ford. Troy kissing me for the first time at my house, us walking through the halls of Queen Hallow, everything we had ever done together. And then I was mad all over again because if he could just leave like that, then what we had was never real to begin with. So I started to pull away but Troy’s arms just tightened around me.
“Naomi, stop it, alright? Stop fighting me. I love you, ok?” he said. At first I wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly. He had never said that even before he left for the army.
“What?” I asked, as I tilted my head back to look at his face. “What did you say?”
“I said I love you, Naomi. That’s why I came back.” He frowned a little. My silence he believed to be skepticism. “I’m serious. You want me to say it again?”
“No,” I said even though I would have loved to hear him say it again. I tried pulling back this time and he let me. Some of the stores around us were already closing. “Look, I can’t do this right now.” I stood up. He followed suit.
“Do what? Don’t go yet. Please?” Troy steeped forward and I backed up. He looked down at his shoes.
“I am sorry,” I say. “I want to just believe you and trust you again but I still love you. And I can’t put myself through this again. When you go back in the service--”
“I’m not going back.” He said and I frowned, confused. “It’s a long story,” he told me. “I’d love to explain if you just stay a little longer….”
“No, I can’t.” I lied. “Look, maybe I’ll call you, but right now I gotta go and I really just….”
“Well, can I at least give you another hug before you leave?” and how could I say no. I stepped closer and let him hug me, wrapping my arms around him like I used to. Then I hurried away out the door so he wouldn’t see me break down the way I did.