“You keep me alive,” she wants to whisper, as his tongue licks over his lips in concentration. “You forgot your camera again,” she says instead, heart panging in regret from all these secrets. His lips stretch in a smile before he laughs, turning his head sheepishly.
“I know,” he grimaces, but the laughter remains shining in his eyes. “I had to use the spare at work,” he shrugs cutely, attention going back to his application in front of him. She forces herself to look away when a lump forms inside her throat, her pulse racing faster and faster by the second.
“I cannot imagine a world where your smile does not exist,” she wants to breathe against his lips, imagining the taste of his tongue against hers. “I’m sure Derek wasn’t very happy,” she manages instead, head turning back to his direction. “Livid, he must have been,” she tries to giggle, but it’s faint, barely a sound in the air. He hears her though. He always hears her.
“A bit, but he lightened up when I promised him a couple of pints.” He laughs. Turning his body towards her completely, he gives another shrug. Her heart throbs at the sound of his happy laughter. Oh, the things she will do if it means being the reason for his laugh.
“Let me feel your touch,” she wants to beg, but her mouth never opens. Things are better left unsaid, is what she tells herself, pushing away the disagreeing thoughts in her mind. “So you’re going out tonight?” She makes her voice sound impassive, giving him a brief smile. Please don’t go out.
“Yeah, but not with Derek. Jessy wants to go out to eat.” He explains, his smile growing at the mention of his girlfriend’s name. Her heart plummets to her stomach at his grin, clearing her throat.
“How is she?” She forces out, faking a yawn so she can rub her burning, tearful eyes. She knows she shouldn’t have asked, because the minute the words leave her mouth, he jumps right into a long story that is just so funny and ridiculous that he must tell her. And what does she do? She listens, of course. She listens and waits for him to finish, ignoring the sound of her heart shattering as his voice bleeds with love that isn’t for her.
“Anyway,” he says after ten minutes, blushing at the babbling he’s doing when he sees the light now absent from her eyes.
“No, please keep talking. Just not about her. Never about her.” She wants to plead, but a fake smile places itself onto her lips, already knowing the routine. Fake a smile, fake a laugh, and fake the platonic feelings. “I assume she’s doing well then?” She fakes another giggle, but like last time, it’s barely audible; and last time, he hears her.
“Yeah,” he blushes once more, not continuing the conversation as he finally turns back to the paper on his desk. She knows he’s leaving soon. She knows that the moment he gets into that car, trunk full of his boxes and furniture, that he won’t look back. She knows her life will change, and that he’ll eventually move her lower down his list of priorities, probably even forgetting about her all together when someone mentions her name. He won’t be rushing home to her side, unknowingly tugging her from the dark abyss in her mind. He won’t be there, and neither will she.
He’s what completes her soul, painting it with bright colors and washing away the grimy ones. He’s the right part of her brain, shoving the left when it needs to be shoved. He’s her lungs, giving her air when he walks into the room. He’s her other leg, keeping her balanced when she stumbles. He’s the smile on her lips, and the crinkle in her eyes. He’s the thrum rushing through her veins, the butterflies in her stomach, and the skipping of her heart. He is her existence. He’s everything that makes her…her.
“Are you and Jessy excited to be moving in together?” She asks quietly, energy gone, but she still manages to keep her smile. He grins in response and she’d be lying if she says it didn’t hurt. Why can’t you smile like that about me? She pushes the thought away, but it already did its damage. Her heart is heavy, her eyes are dim, and her smile falters.
“So excited,” he gushes, jumping into the plan she’s heard plenty of times. She’s listens, though. She always listens, because she’d only feel even worse if she sees the happiness fall from his face. I just wish it was me that made you happy, she closes her eyes as she listens.
“—and then she wants to paint the bathroom yellow, but I was kind of going for blue because blue is a more calming color than yellow right?” She nods her head. Her smile’s weak, but it was an actual smile because she knows why he likes blue. She knows why he’s always preferred blue.
“Hey! Look at the water!” The boy cries, hands clapping in joy when the sun shimmers against the sea. “Look how blue it is! Daddy, is it always this blue?” He asks before looking up at the man smiling fondly beside him.
“Nope,” the father teases. “It’s blue just for you.” The boy giggles, leaning over the side of the boat in curiosity while stating a soft “that rhymed, daddy”. Feigning an exasperated sigh, the crinkles in his eyes completely giving him away, the father laughs. “Be careful, son. The side’s a bit slippery.”
The boy only huffs. “I’m always careful!” He then looks to the girl next to him and grins. “Right?” She gives a giggle similar to his own, hair blowing around her as the boat flies across the water.
“You do always fall when we play football,” she betrays him with one more giggle, covering it with her hand. After crying out, “Traitor!” the little boy leans back anyway, receiving a pat on his head from the father.
“When we stop, I’ll let you dip your feet in. Deal, or no deal?” The father bargains, sticking out his hand with mocked seriousness, because who doesn’t love Deal or no Deal? The boy pretends to think it over, thumb and pointer finger fitting against his chin, as he hums loudly for effect.
“Deal,” he simpers wide, turning to the girl with his tongue poking out. “See, he knows I can be careful.” He sneers, crossing his slightly chubby arms with a smug grin.
“He’s the one who said to be careful!” She protests, pouting while she huffs. The boy then grumbles, but sits next to her and swings his short legs.
“Look how blue,” he points out to the ocean, argument long forgotten. “Look how pretty,” he coos, and the girl giggles into her palm. “Cade said I would be scared when I came here, but I’m not scared!” He throws his hands out, squealing softly. After a few seconds he lowers his arms, a content smile staying on his face. “Do you feel that?” He asks her suddenly, eyes closed as he breathes in deeply and out slowly. “Still,” he nods, “everything feels still and calm.” The girl gives him a funny look, because his uncle was driving the boat at least 45 miles per hour across the sea, and yet he says everything’s still?
“No,” he giggles as if he could read her mind. “Everything feels still. I know everything isn’t still, that’s why I said it feels still.” He explains, toothy grin on full display. The girl nods even though she doesn’t understand.
She spent a while trying to figure out what he meant when he said everything felt still, but she never could. And she’ll never forget the day when he told her.
“Remember when we were little, and we went on that boat trip with your dad and uncle? It was like seven years ago…” She asks him on the day of his father’s funeral. She knows he’s mourning, because he’s thirteen and just lost his father, but she blurted it out before she could think.
“Yeah,” he replies quietly, eyes on the raised casket in the middle of the cemetery.
“What did you mean when you told me ‘everything feels still’? Because everything was clearly not still, so I doubt it could feel still.” She frowns, looking at him just as his bottom lip quivers.
“You know when you sit in a place that makes you feel safe and secure? Like, everything around you is calm and quiet and just…peaceful.” He murmurs, closing his eyes when the soldiers begin to lower the casket. They could hear his mother weeping against the uncle’s chest, clinging to him as if holding him would bring her husband back.
“That’s why I said everything felt still. There weren’t yelling teachers, angry bullies, annoying siblings.” He laughs pitifully, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. “I felt good. I felt so good. I was only six, but I felt so happy.” He then whimpers, which causes more tears to fall from his eyes. “He always told me to be careful, and I always was. How come when I tell him to be careful he comes back dead?” He cries into his hands.
She’s quick to hush him, pulling him into her arms while she feels tears of her own make their way down her cheeks.
After that day, blue was his favorite color. Whenever she asked him what color she should paint her nails next, he’d always tell her blue. When his mother decided to redecorate the house, she let him pick his room color, and he picked blue. When they moved in together two years ago, she let him decorate, and every room that wasn’t hers was blue. She’d laugh when she knew she didn’t have to ever ask him what color because she knew, but she always did because it’s almost as if even saying the word calms him.
“—and she told me I couldn’t paint every room blue, but I convinced her to let me paint two.” He finishes, smile bigger than she remembers it being. She feels guilty for zoning out, but her guilt leaves the minute he lets out one of his rare giggles. “I’ve been thinking about it, you know?” He murmurs, playing with his fingers as his grin grows slowly.
“About moving in?” She asks in confusion after opening her eyes, but winces when he gives her his I-knew-you-weren’t-paying-attention-to-me look. He lips are still in a smile, so she knows she’s okay and closes her eyes again.
“No,” he then swallows nervously, “about proposing.”
She finds it funny how in the beginning of his and Jessy’s relationship, she didn’t think they’d last. Jessy just isn’t his type. She keeps to herself and never shows her emotions, while he does nothing but share his emotions. She a complete neat freak, while he’s an unorganized oaf (she says that fondly). Jessy’s always serious, while he’s always silly. They just don’t fit. She never has believed in the “opposites always attract” saying because it wasn’t true. Two opposites only attract in a magnetic force, and people aren’t magnets. Just being the opposite shouldn’t attract someone. Not to mention Jessy has poor social skills. She can’t say she’s any better, but when she’s with him she’s fine. When Jessy’s with him, she still only talks to him, never opening her mouth when someone walks up to them and converses.
His words suddenly settle into her head, her eyes snapping open. Proposing, her mind repeats, the word on replay and echoing against the walls of her skull. The room begins to shrink, and so do her lungs, and she can’t breathe, is the thing. She can always breathe with him around, but now it’s like a vacuum continues to suck the oxygen from her body.
“Y-You want to propose?” She squeaks, her heart slamming against her ribcage with such force that she’s feels like it could break through the brittle bones. Everything feels numb, and all she can hear is the ringing silence that roars through her brain.
“Yeah,” he breathes, “I do. She’s the one, I know it.” He laughs happily, looking up at her. “She makes me so happy, you know? Every time I pass a jewelry store I find myself looking at the rings. I never really realize it until someone asks me if I need help, and then I just stand there and take in what I’m doing. No one knows her like I do. She may seem boring, and introverted, but she is so much more than that! She’s beautiful and smart and kind. She’s so selfless and thinks about everyone but herself. And she doesn’t see how great she is, doesn’t see what I see. And all I want is to wake up beside her and tell her what I see. Tell her how amazing she is and how much I love her. She’s…she’s my entire world.” He rambles, and with each word her heart sinks just a little bit deeper.
“Why can’t you love me like I love you?” She almost shouts at him, tears gathering in her eyes. He frowns immediately, but she forces a watery laugh. “Oh my god,” she sniffles, wiping her eyes. “Finally,” she speaks again, “I’d thought you’d never propose.” She then lies. She had hoped he’d never propose.
“I haven’t actually proposed, silly,” he grins. He’s so, so happy, and she’s so, so sad. “I got…” he starts, but pauses quickly before going again. “I got the ring yesterday.” He says firmly. “I got it, and…and next week I’m going to propose on her birthday.” He’s so sure, and she’s so heartbroken.
“I’m so happy for you,” she whispers, more tears filling her eyes. “It’s feels like just yesterday you were droning on and on about this pretty, little waitress all day long.” She adds, blinking the tears away and smiling weakly.
“Two years later and I’m still so happy.” He beams, looking down at the application in his hands. I’ll wait, she almost voices, this breaks my heart, but I’ll wait for you even after I’m long gone. “It’s weird, yeah? How time just flies?” He asks, smiling at the picture of him and Jessy cheesing at the camera, his eyes covered by goofy, jumbo party sunglasses. Jessy was curled against his side with a party hat on while holding up the number twenty-four. The picture is probably eight months old, but the minute their mutual friend developed all the pictures from the party, he was quick to take and frame it.
Time doesn’t fly for me. I feel like you’ve been hers for an eternity. She nods instead, faking a grin. “Time passes when you’re happy,” she agrees. Maybe that’s why time is so slow. She thinks quietly, her fake grin falling only slightly.
“You approve of her right?”
No, I don’t. “Of course I do.”
“Do you approve of me marrying her?”
No, I want you to marry me. “I’ve already welcomed her to the family.”
Nothing is more painful than fixing the tie attached to the love of your life when he’s about to marry someone who isn’t you.
“You’re shaking,” she murmurs as her fingers work around the tie. “A right mess, you look,” she forces a giggle. She sounds breathless and she hates it.
“Well,” he huffs, “I’m about to make my fiancé the woman I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. You can’t blame me for the nerves, now can you?” He snorts. Yes, I can, because you’re the one who proposed.
“I guess not,” she chortles. “But I know you’ll do great.” She whispers after a moment of silence. “You’ll say your vows, and then she’ll say hers, and then you kiss and…” She swallows as tears fill her eyes. “And then you leave with her and start a family,” she keeps her gaze on his tie (her fingers are shaking just as bad as he is, she can barely pull the tie into a knot at the top). “You’ll be a great husband and father.” She pushes back a whimper, but the emotion clogs her throat when she says the words.
“You’ll be the godmother,” he says immediately after she finishes. “Our first kid is going to be your godchild.” She lets out a sob because she doesn’t want to be the godmother. She wants to be the actual mother.
“Why me?” She asks, laughing weakly before dabbing under her eyes with a tissue. “I’m sure Jessy would want to pick one of her friends or family.” He shrugs, smiling confidently.
“We’ve agreed,” he laughs softly. “She loves you just as much as I do, so it wasn’t hard for her to agree.”
If only you loved me like I love you, she wants to blurt out, but she refrains and forces herself to feel happy that he even wants her in his life still.
“You always gave me too much credit,” she admits, sniffling one last time. “Made me seem better than I ever was.” He scoffs fondly, nudging her side gently.
“You are one of the greatest women I’ve ever met in my life. And I’ve never told anything but the truth, y’know?” He teases, eyes so bright with happiness and nerves.
“You’re biased,” she argues, but can’t help the twitch of her lips. After a short pause, she wipes her face for the final time, smiling weakly up at him.
“Feels like I’m giving up my whole world,” she whispers honestly. His big grin softens before he cups her cheeks and presses a soft kiss to her forehead.
“You’ll always be my number one,” he promises quietly. “And don’t you ever forget it.” He adds sternly as he pulls away.
He then gives a secret smile, looking out the window at the ocean. “Think it’s always this blue?” He asks her, eyes glossy in a distant memory.
“Nope,” she recites verbatim, “it’s blue just for you.”
His smile grows, eyes never leaving the waves crashing into the shore. “That rhymed,” he breathes. He finally tilts his head down to look at her, expression fond and happy.
I’ll say hundreds to thousands of rhymes if it keeps that smile on your face, her mind breathes back. Her mouth almost repeats it, but she restrains it and keeps quiet.
“D’you think he’s watching from wherever he is?” He looks back at the water. “Think he’s proud?” She exhales softly, watching as his eyes glisten with the soft sunset.
“There isn’t a doubt in my mind that he is,” she asserts. “He’s looking down at you and he is so proud.” She swears weakly, breath hitching. And so am I. I am so proud of you. “Always was and always will be.”
“Promise?” He whispers. She smiles faintly, holding out her pinkie. He huffs out a small laugh, curling his pinkie around hers without hesitation. I will do anything to make you happy. Even if it means watching you marry someone that isn’t me.
The maid of honor suddenly sticks her head in the door, announcing that it’s time for him to stand at the altar. He gives the woman a smile, saying he’ll be out in a second. Turning his gaze back to her, he slowly untangles their pinkies.
“It feels still,” he smiles at her. “Do you want to know why?” She almost shakes her head, knowing that it’s because of Jessy; she nods, despite herself.
“Because everything always feels still when I’m with you.” He presses the words into her forehead. Her heart races as she closes her eyes, not opening them even when he pulls away and walks out the room.
And as he leaves, she feels her heart leave too.