She slid out of the driver’s side of her plain SUV, not noticing the dark colored sports coupe parked just on the other side of her.

Head down and trying desperately to avoid the evidence of autumn’s chill, she sprinted to her rear passenger side door to retrieve her gym bag. With a quick turn she dashed onto the sidewalk toward the entrance of the fitness center.

“Hey.” An attractive male voice spoke out from behind.

Without another step she froze dead in her tracks. With both hands in her pockets she lifted her head and drew in two short breaths followed by a long deep sigh. Her eyelids fluttered as she turned to face the person who owned the voiced she instantly recognized; the only person she wanted nothing more in the world than to see, to hold, to love.

And it was him.

Standing at the edge of the sidewalk, halfway between her and total freedom.

With the stature of everything she loved in a man and a stance that could make her go weak at the knees. She felt her stomach tremble and took yet another deep breath.

He just stood there, watching her in silence.

She ironed him up and down carefully with her eyes. He was still completely beautiful to her. Dressed in jeans and a plaid button down shirt, neatly tucked at the waistline, bound together with a broad dark belt. A solid colored baseball cap nestled on his head like the cherry on top of a rich, smooth, creamy caramel sundae.

He always looked good like this.

She closed her eyes as she remembered the last time she saw him, when he held her so close that she became lost in the smell his cologne.

Inhale, exhale, she felt her toes curl and her knees buckle but managed to keep her footing. Realizing she had become lost in the moment, her eyes swung open. He was still there.

Up until this point all they exchanged were quiet stares and deep sighs that escaped into the autumn evening air like puffs of smoke spouting from smoldering chimney tops.

She tilted her head to the side warning him of her growing anxiety and possible frustration. Their last conversation, albeit in text format, hadn’t ended so well. In fact, it ended the way they always had for the last 8 years, her bleeding her feelings to him, and him…not responding.

Afraid he would lose her interest for the moment, he spoke up. “How are you?” he said timidly.

She could hear the concern in his voice. She wasn’t use to this side of him. Timid? That wasn’t like him at all. Her anxiety loosened as she began to let her guard down but she was still hurt by his rejection so she answered sarcastically.

“Oh, me? I’m livin the dream! You?” Those were his words to her in an awkward conversation they had months before.

He could detect frustration from every angle of her face, every word from her mouth but he answered upbeat.

“I’m doing well actually.”

He approached her slowly extending his right hand to meet her left. He gently touched her hand and softly lifted it from the pocket it had been hiding in. He pushed back the rim of her cuffed running jacket to expose her ring finger.

He caressed the spot where rings used to be. Rings that had been placed there by another man, that he had failed to put there himself. He smiled a small smile.

“You don’t wear your wedding rings when you work out?” He said, puzzled, yet fascinated by the lack of tan lines. She must have stopped wearing them months ago, he thought.

With just as much sarcasm as before, she spouted, “I don’t wear wedding rings when the marriage doesn’t WORK OUT! Anymore questions?” She watched him with daggers in her eyes, seething with anger. She wanted him more than she could express, but he never would let her love him the way she needed to.

He shook his head dropping it slightly and mouthed “No” as he backed away.

He returned her hand to the pocket he had retrieved it from and looked up to meet her eyes one last time before turning to go to his car.

She glared at him intently. But those eyes, she thought. Sad, beautiful eyes, so deep she willingly drowned herself in their fullness.

They always seemed to quietly call out for her to rescue them.

Skin flawlessly smooth like the surface of a marble. Lips drawn perfectly across his face, arched and dipped in all the right places. Full and ripe and framed by perfectly sculpted facial hair. They were begging for her to lean in and taste them.

She resisted. He walked away.

Fighting back the tears she tossed her gym bag to the ground and yelled. “Yes I still love you! I always will, you know that.”

And love him, she had. For her whole life she loved him. At an age long before either of them knew what love like this was. Four years old the first time she saw him and somehow she knew he belonged to her.

He stopped in his tracks, arrested by her words as they rang out into the cold evening air. Like pin pricks on soft skin, the words invaded, first, his mind and then his heart. His stance softened, his head lifted. She had said it. And, this time, he knew she meant it. He turned to look at her as her anger lashed out at him in a waterfall of tears.

“Why did you come here? Huh? What made you move here in the first place? To give me a daily reminder of what you’ll never let me have? Why… did …you come?!” She screamed.

Out of breath, with tears cascading down and trembling from her sobs she shielded her face with both hands.

He didn’t give her an answer, he never did. Maybe because he didn’t know why he had come. Maybe because he had come for her but was too afraid to be loved by her. But that didn’t stop her from loving the life out of him.

He made a move toward her to comfort her but stopped, watching her break down in front of him. He had never seen this before. She was always so poised and calm. This frantic shell of a woman that stood before him was a different creature. One that loved him unconditionally, and he had failed to return even a fraction of that love to her time and time again.

After all she was a married woman, off limits to him. She had made her decision years before, even though he left her little to no choice at all.

“I…” He started. “I just needed to…” He moved closer. Then, Silence. “You…wouldn’t really understand.” With that he backed away to his car, jumped in and pulled off just as inconspicuously as he pulled up.

She watched as his car whizzed out of sight, taillights faded. Then… nothing.

She searched for her phone, hidden away in her bag and began to text. Even though she knew she wouldn’t get a response, she continued:

I’m not saying that you ever will. But if the day ever comes where you need something deeper than a physical connection; maybe just to talk, or to rest or to lay down everything that gets too heavy you know where to find me. And I’ll always answer. I was never meant to be just be your lover. That’s why it never seemed to work out. That’s why the frustration still remains. I allowed myself to be carried away by how I feel instead of completing the work that needed to be done.

I’ve seen it in you for as long as I can remember and I know it’s still there. I don’t know what it is but maybe it’s not for me to know. I pray for you to be at peace and live exactly how you choose to live. And I know you will.

Forgive me for not being what you needed me to be, and thank you for being who you are. It’s helped me to see a lot of things in me that I’d never been brave enough to look at on my own.

Thank you for letting me love the little boy in you that I fell in love with a long time ago. A part of me will always be there with him because that’s where that part of me belongs. And starting today…it’s perfectly ok with me.

Send…message delivered…no response.

She looked out into the darkness hoping to see his car turnaround and come racing back towards her…but instead…nothing.

Inhale…exhale…release.

So there it is, she thought to herself.

He’s…gone.

“Him” © Chanthany Derico. All Rights Reserved. Published with permission.

RELATED ARTICLE: Short Story: “Let It Be Me” by Christian Loriel

————————————————–
Like this story? Check out more short fiction on NiaHave your own story to share? Submit HERE.