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Good Old Pretense

'You want me to rewind the clocks?'
I close my eyes and rest my head against the leather of the couch, it's cold. I shiver. But the sound of his voice helps me calm down. And the perfect things that he says. Rewind the clocks? Oh, how I wish such a thing were possible.
I smile, despite myself.
The tick of the hands bring me back to reality. I tell him it's late, he responds with a yawn. We hang up and I walk to the window. It was a spring morning. The birds have already started their day, I stand on my toes to look over the skyscrapers far in the distance. The first ray of the golden sun crawls its way over the city. I inhale, a sudden rush of the cold air ignites my senses. I let the fog, reminder that winter has only just gone, condense on my face. I have never felt more alive in the last few days. And with everything that's been going down, this seemed nice, easy. The grip on the grills tighten, the cool metal feels good against my warm hands. I breathe out.
I turn around to face my bed, waiting for me to fall into yet another long dreamless sleep. I walk right into its open arms.
I sit on the topmost floor of the Astronomy tower, playing with a pen on the table. I'm sitting on the little indoor balcony that overlooks the library downstairs. I gaze out into the distance. It's well after midday, the fog had long since subsided. Tall coniferous trees greet the lazy clouds. And the lake below shimmers in the golden sun. I look back at the letter on the table. My pocket buzzes.
One New Message
And I know exactly who it's from. I open it.
"Meet me downstairs in 5."
I feel the blood rushing to my face, warming the path it takes. I lock my phone and stare at my weak reflection on the screen.
Hair looks good. But my face... Hmn, I need some sleep.
Oh well, I heave a sigh, pick up the letter and skip down the stairs, cardigan and hair flying behind me. I press the letter to my chest.
He is waiting at the foot of the Tower stairs. I stop to catch my breath, one hand on the brick wall to support my weight. I'm panting, how gross. He looks up and smiles. I am flustered, speechless. Oh God, it looks so beautiful when the boy smiles. I feel the ends of my lips picking up. It's a reflex now, can't help it. His eyes roam over me, pausing at the letter and then in a second, meeting mine. Concern replaces the usual joy in his eyes.
"Is that..?" He begins to question.
I run down the last few steps, falling into his warm chest.
"Yes, " I reply before he completes his question.
He is silent, impossible to read.
"So you really are going?"
"It's just a few months really. I'll be back before you know it!" I attempt to console him. But I can tell he's not even listening to what I'm saying anymore, eyes distant.
My right hand slides down his and I hold him there. He looks up, 'No.'
'What?'
'You can't go.'
I look down at our hands. I pucker my lips into a pout. I feel the tears stinging the back of my eyes, I'll miss him.
" I leave on the 14th." I tell him.
And we stand there, in silence. No students are seen anywhere near, I remember a poster from the homeroom bulletin. The annual charity carnival, right. I volunteer there every year but this year, I didn't. This year, I didn't do many things I would. And did many things I never even had imagined. All for this man in front of me. He tugs on my hand, I look up.
His eyes tell me it's okay. And I know immediately it is. He leads me out the back exit. And we step into the wet grass. The residue of the morning fog caress my feet. I take my sandals into my hands. I like the wet grass around my feet. We walk to the big lake that surrounds the university campus. On the other side of the lake, tents were put up, stalls placed. A ferris wheel stood tall against the trees. Children ran around like how they always do, screaming frantically, pausing for breath, then returning to the process.
Zuhayr lets go of my hand. I glance at him, he shoves his hands into his khaki pockets. I bite my lower lip, fearing I already know what's to come.
He had always told me to never take up that job in New York. He said that's where we would end and the minute I did, it was as good as over. I had succumbed to pretense that he did not mean it when I knew deep down, he actually did. He always told me he doesn't believe in long distance. Called it crap and ruled it over. I chose to ignore. After all, ignorance is bliss. Our eyes meet for a second, he looks away.
We are quiet, both recognizing what this means.
It was a silent understanding, words are overrated. I attempted a smile. A feeble attempt.
I look at him. His eyebrows are raised and his lips parted, I have a sudden urge to kiss him. He notices. I look away, embarrassed.
I sense him smile, "What do you say we go to the carnival?"
Relief washes over me, he always knew what to say and when.
I blink back the tears that now threatened to spill.
'Hell yes.' I laugh.
And we run to cross the small wooden bridge over the lake on the far east side of the lake.
To the other side, full of life. Something that felt absent within us for the last couple of days. We rushed to the screaming children, loud men, middle-aged women deep in gossip, the song the ice cream truck played and the folksy music. All was good in losing to pretense. All was good for the immature.




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