The day after school got out you surprised me with a picnic, writing cheddar cheese love letters on thick white bread and sealing away promises in a Ziploc baggie.
You had brought along microwavable enchiladas as a joke and the cinnamon sugar popcorn which I had eaten so frequently I now hated, but I ate the whole damn thing, and we sat with your arm slung over my shoulder as we ticked off the number of days we had of freedom on our intertwined fingers.
"Thank you for the picnic, love."
And there was a gap, a silence, a skip of a heartbeat as we breathed in the crisp oxygen of the day. The cold inhale cut like knives on the inside, because something inside me knew we couldn't last.
The thought settled like a mosquito bite in my brain, trying to deny its presence by constantly touching it. I somehow had a premonition that the picnic basket was a sort of time capsule, a summary of what had been, and that it would be over soon.
I rolled over and dug my face into your stomach, wanting to drown out this sickening feeling of end, when you shifted under me. "Babe, move your face. That's weird."
Later that night I wrapped myself, face and all, beneath my down comforter and would not move, willing my cells to rearrange and become a soft, stupid, brainless down comforter.
My dad sat on the bedside and rolled the comforter off of my face, holding a steaming teacup in his hand. "I saw your light was still on, so I made you some tea."
"I don't want any."
I only looked to her when I heard a sniffle, saw the cup rattling. "Dad, what's wrong?"
"I don't want to lose you. Your mother and I lost our child for a few months and we feel like it's our fault." He put the tea on my bedside table, and suddenly looked angry. "It better not be because of---"
"No," I shouted, more at the idea in my head then the actual reality of his question. "Not every relationship I have is going to ruin me."
"We don't think that," Dad said, wiping tears off his face with the back of his hand. "But if you feel like this relationship is bringing you back to a bad place, then please break it off. And if it is and you're not doing anything about it, I'll do it for you."
"No you won't."
He sighed, slumped over a little. I saw for a moment what he'd look like as an old man, when this night would be a distant memory.
"It's only because I love you." He patted my head and left with the light on. I let the tea go cold, staying up late, staring at a wall.
I wouldn't let you go cold. I would fight and protect you to the end.
It's only because I love you.