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His fingertips trace the epidermis of my upper arm, sending shiver bumps up the canvas the shade of creamed coffee entirely. I roll over in the soft white bed sheets and let unevenly dispersed sunlight momentarily blind me. When my vision comes back into focus, my eyes settle on a smile slowly spreading across his lips. I prop myself up with my back to the headboard. He follows suit. Our legs become intertwined, as do our fingers.
My head leans on his shoulder, but my lips can't help but to stretch a bit and kiss the spot right underneath the angle of his jaw bone. The slight whistle of air from his mouth reminds me that that is his favorite spot to be kissed. He closes his eyes. "Please tell me that tomorrow is not the last day of holiday," he says so quietly that if we were in a room packed wall to wall with people, I would be the only one that could hear him.
"I could say that tomorrow is not, but then I'd be lying," I reply. Why did I say that? Why did I have to use that word? That was such a stupid thing of me to say. I mean, I'm lying to both him and Josh right now. While Josh is away visiting relatives a few kilometers away, I am here with one of his best mates. I am a liar. No getting around that. I am a spider spinning a web of lies, and the two guys that I love more than words written by any Bronte could even begin to describe, are the helpless flies stuck in my sticky trap.
The room is silent, except for the hum of our low breathing. My hand slides under a pillow next to me. The coolness makes my fingers tingle. Absentmindedly, my palm slides back and forth, my fingers move around in circles, until they touch upon a small, metal, spherical object. The ring. I have yet to tell Mathias about the ring Josh gave me two and a half weeks ago right before we went on fall holiday. I play around with the thing in my palm, hand still between the sheet and pillowcase.
Two and a half weeks ago I was proposed to by Josh Durant, the man of any girl's dreams. He is by far the best drummer at London Arts and Music University, and an all-around charming guy. His grades are fantastic, his family is beautiful, and he is undoubtedly attractive. He is, in one word, perfect. We met three days after I arrived in London from Chicago. It was during one of the orientation sessions that he noticed me.
When session was over, Josh chased me down to the dining hall, chatted me up, got rejected
twice, but still somehow ended up going on a date with me. We started going out soon after that. The relationship has had its ups and downs, and this past spring things looked to be at the ultimate down. A huge fight ended in our agreement to take an indefinite break from one another.
Mathias. The boy who filled that newfound void for me in more ways than one. The boy who kept me from falling down the stairs with a boxed bookshelf in my hands on the first day of college. It was in that moment that my eyes met his. They were a brilliant green, irises outlined in a beautiful black. We stood there for what to an outsider might've been three whole minutes. To me, the world around us fell away. The commotion of the residence hallway was muted. Neither of us said a word, let alone introduced ourselves. We parted ways, silently vowing to see each other again.
And that, we did. The break with Josh was our golden opportunity. My time with Mathias during the break up was an experience that I will never forget. He showed me how to pay attention to the world around me that heightened my sensibilities, things I never knew existed. He taught me how to live my life for me. He taught me how to be happy.
Pushing seven months into our relationship, Josh was back, and everything changed. For the worst, I might add.
"I really love it here. It’s so beautiful in the city around this time," Mathias says in his slow, meticulous way. His Yorkshire accent dances in the air like blunt raindrops falling in a rainy spring storm. My ears are those all-too-eager May flowers.
The ring moves along in my palm rapidly now. I have to tell him. Mathias deserves the truth. Then why am I not giving it to him? My heart beats faster in response.
"Babe, what are you thinking? Your sudden quietness is scaring me a bit."
"Things... just... things. Mathias, I think we need to talk."
"Okay. Not in trouble am I, love?" he asks jokingly. I guess the serious expression plastered on my face gives him a million dollar clue because the half smile beckoning his lips drops.
"No... Not exactly. There are some things I need to get off my chest, and I think now is the time to do it," I sputter out hesitantly. My body untangles itself from the mass of cotton bedding and the warmth radiating from his body. A dizzying feeling overcomes me. Words, memories, emotions, experiences intoxicate my brain, making it harder to breathe or form coherent speech. At this rate, I feel like I might throw up or pass out from the pressure.
With a 180 degree spin, I am making eye contact with him, looking into expressionless green orbs. They are too much for my cowardice and queasiness to endure, so I make a big show of pacing the room while dressing.
"We can't... I can't do this anymore. We both know that Josh and I are a little bit more serious this time around, and this just isn't fair to him. He has asked me to marry him. I love him just as much as you and I care about you both a lot. I'm so sorry, this isn't fair to anyone." I end my spiel with a shoulder racking sigh. He is on his feet now, alert, eyes questioning my seemingly random confession.
"He--wait. He what?" Mathias asks in open-mouthed confusion.
"Asked me to marry him, and I took the ring," I retort matter of factly. My own tone disgusts me. As soon as those words are out of my mouth, I wish to retract them; to redigest the awful word vomit.
Mathias stands slightly deflated in the shoulders and upper back, but never loses his ever-present air of commanding confidence. His hand finds itself on the top right side of his head, gently gliding through his messy brown quasi-curls. I watch his muscles flex when he does it. Deep black ink of many tattoos traipses up and down and around Mathias's sensual boughs. With a pang of guilt and desire all rolled into one, I look away while biting my bottom lip.
"Well what did you say?" Mathias questions softly. I say nothing. For a long moment the now stale air settles between us. "What did you say?" he repeats. This time his teeth are clenched and his voice is raised, causing me to jump in bewilderment.
"I said 'yes' okay," I answer, never breaking eye contact. No words escape his lips. Mathias steps a few feet forward, thus closing the gap between us. I hold out the ring in my palm. His hand graces my cheek. His other one wistfully plays in the loose strands of my hair. I cannot believe I am here in this hour, in this minute, breaking the heart of the man I love the most for such reasons not true to who I am. The thesis question guiding an unwritten essay: Should it be Mathias and his guitar and dreams and a wild life in Technicolor, or Josh and his comfort and stability and perfectly perfect life in a perfectly perfect hue?
Embracing turns to kissing, but even then I fail to forget the two knotted ropes pulling my brain and heart in opposite directions. He is kissing me like he never wants me to forget this moment, which is something he won’t necessarily have to worry about. After I have tasted every drop, we step apart, knowing that this is the end: the end of an era, the end of us.
“I’m so-,” I begin, but am cutoff.
“Save it. You know what? I thought we understood each other, but I guess I thought wrong,” he remarks while throwing on trousers and leather jacket.
“No, you didn’t-”
“I love you, and I will for a very, very long time… no matter what. Just do me a favor, the both of you alright,” his eyes are shiny now. “Be good to one another, and have a happy life.”
I do not say anything, but step out of the way when he reaches for his black guitar case. The hotel door knob is in his hand. My pupils drink him in for what I feel like is the last time. I know he feels it too, I can sense it. Before I know it the door is shut, returned to its unperturbed state.
I am left completely alone. The space is empty, antithetical of my cluttered brain. Both feet detach themselves from the floor and move through the cinder-block like air, and carry me to the window. Mathias appears from underneath a mint green awning, his hair blowing a little in the breeze. In a matter of milliseconds, he disappears, with a vital organ of mine sitting snugly within his guitar case.