The Lover I Never Had

This post is written in response to WordPress’ Weekly Writing Challenge. The details of the challenge can be found here.

He looks at me with a cold glint in his already icy blue eyes.

“You lied to me,” I whisper softly, edging away from the sharpness of his gaze. “You lied.”

Leering closer, he smiles the smile of a thousand empty promises, a thousand heartbreaks. “Believe me now, you ungrateful little bitch.”

He backs off again, retreating with deliberate steps into the storm of dust from whence he came. “No one will ever love you.” The wind carries his words to me like a dagger in the chest.

**

I met him on an airplane that was flying from Chicago to Boston in December. His seat was next to mine; our arms were so close that the slightest turbulence caused us to bump elbows and apologize profusely to each other, too embarrassed to meet each other’s gaze. When I finally gathered the courage to glance at him as he asked the flight attendant for a black coffee, I found myself immediately spellbound by the light, bright blue of his eyes. The corners of his mouth crinkled slightly when he noticed my stare.

“Do you want anything, miss?” I heard the flight attendant ask politely, drawing my attention away from the ocean I was drowning in.

“I’ll take a coffee, too, thanks,” I replied, taking the small napkin she offered me.

“Aren’t you a little young to be drinking coffee?” he asked, those beautiful eyes drifting across my face.

“The life of a college student.” I found myself picking slightly at the corners of my napkin, too shy to really look at him. He laughed, a pleasant and almost musical sound that seemed to soften my nerves and make the stuffy airplane cabin feel quite a bit airier.

“What’s your name?” he asked me curiously, tossing me a packet of peanuts that had just been passed to him from the aisle.

I met his eyes, his hypnotizing eyes, and I trusted him more than I should have. “I’m Gwen,” I told him.

“It’s nice to meet you, Gwen,” he said, resting his head back against his seat and offering me a lopsided grin. “I can already tell you’re somebody special.”

**

I cried and he was there and he stroked my hair with his long, slender fingers. “It’s going to be okay,” he whispered over and over again into my ear. “I promise. I’m going to make it all okay.”

**

I was curled up on the couch, half-studying for my algebra final and half-dozing off into dreamland, when I felt his strong hands on my shoulders. “Don’t fall asleep now,” he said good-naturedly, taking a seat next to me. “Not when you’re so close.”

I moaned and let my face fall forward into my textbook. “But I’ve been staring at this book all day. There’s nothing left in here that isn’t already somewhere in my brain.”

He lifted my chin up and looked at me with sincerity in his glacial eyes, the eyes I loved. “I know you’ve been working hard,” he said, running his index finger along my jawbone. “But you need to work a little harder.”

I sighed and touched the hand that was kissing my skin. “I know.”

As I moved toward the kitchen to brew myself a cup of coffee, he reached for my hand and squeezed it. “I’m only doing this because I love you.”

The Lie.

I believed him. He loved me.

**

I returned, sweating and panting, from my 5:30 am run.

Pouring myself a glass of water and wiping my sweaty hands on a paper towel, I took off my headphones and pressed “stop” on my iPhone. It had been a good workout. I’d beaten the heat and run my fastest five-miler ever. All I wanted to do was collapse onto the couch and celebrate with a giant spoonful of peanut butter.

When I reached into the drawer to pull out a spoon, cold arms pulled mine back. He spun me like a top until I was looking straight into his eyes, never releasing his grip on my biceps.

“Five miles?”

“Fifty-four minutes,” I announced proudly, waiting for him to give me the gorgeous warm smile I’d been lusting after all summer. Waiting for him to say that he was proud of me, that he loved me, that I was strong and capable and lovely.

The smile never came. His face remained as cold as the fingers that were wrapped so tightly around me.

“Not good enough.”

His words echoed through the darkened crevices of my brain as I slammed the drawer shut.

**

“Come get ice cream with me,” pleaded my best friend desperately. “I haven’t seen you since June and I miss you!”

He put his hand over the mouthpiece of my cell phone. “No,” he declared menacingly in a voice so low I could barely hear.

“I can’t, I’m sorry. Some other time.”

I pressed “end” and looked up at the face I loved, at the eyes that had become so unfamiliar. I was angry and scared and yet still I barely moved, holding a state of nothingness until he finally told me what I had to do. I was going mad waiting for something I did to make him love me again, for him to hold my hand and tell me he was going to fix everything. Instead, I got an icy stare, a loveless face, a charming sadist.

He was everything. He made me better than I was. He pushed me to be better than ever. He kept me on track and he oversaw my routines and sometimes when I did something right, I saw a tiny glimpse of the man on the airplane who’d drawn me in so cleverly without a word. I craved those moments, no matter how infrequent and difficult they became. I was special; he’d seen that in me. It was my fault that I couldn’t live up to my potential. It was no wonder he didn’t love me anymore.

**

I throw up violently and silently on the side of the road. Embarrassed, I try to kick some dirt over it, managing only to stir up a dark cloud of hot dust. I cough as the heavy air enters my lungs, so that I do not notice him step out of nowhere until he is standing right in front of me.

I am humiliated. I am red and soaked with sweat, still reeking of vomit and stale air and barely able to stand up on my own. And of course he is there. He is always there when I am at my worst, ready to throw the knives of my inadequacy into my already broken heart.

He is fierce. And I am nothing.

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