I stand by the waterside, staring at my feet.
I chose his shirt today. I used to sleep with it when I missed him, but it no longer smells like him. It smells like laundry.
If it means making me feel alone again, I now despise laundry soap.
It's probably before twelve, when he finally makes his way through the bushes to my side.
"It's been awhile." He whispers, and I can't hold it back anymore.
"I missed you so fucking much." I throw my arms around him. Words can't explain what I feel. Relief. Anger at myself for leaving him. Nobody else has the same tightness of grip when they hug. Nobody else in this whole damn earth, universe even, can compare to him.
"Hi." He says something with it, but my ears aren't functioning. All I can think of is his breath on my ear, and that's fine with me. For the main reason that I'd rather fling my body off a cliff than experience his pain. I want to take all of his bad emotions, and take them for my own, rather than feel his tears touch my cheek.
"It was awful. I missed you so fucking much. It was like I went into a depressive state when I found out you left. All I could think about.....fuck, I need you." He murmurs, and I smile sadly.
After a few seconds, I pull back, and look him in the eyes. The pale grey-green is glossy from the droplets of feelings he should not be feeling gather.
"Okay, sorry, but I'm not feeling up to an awful recap moment of my depressive, haunted life without you right now." I focus my gaze on the stream, just in case he took that wrongly. There's only really one way to take that, but it's been so long I feel I barely know him. I can't trust anybody. That's what I've learned. Maybe beneath his current appearance is the boy I knew, never to come out again. Maybe I was wrong about him being the only one. Maybe there is no one.
"You have no idea." He places his hand on my hip, but doesn't add anything. He looks down, and I want to start crying. Maybe even just shrivel up and cease to exist. I have no idea about what? I know what it feels like to spend every day dreading your very life. I know what it's like to feel like a failure, like the biggest disappointment in the world because you let one person down. But it doesn't matter if it's only one person, if it's the person you cared about the most.
"Yesterday was our last day on tour. We get a break for the Christmas holidays. Want to join me and mum for dinner?" He smiles, in the shy-but-confident way only he can. I was wrong to assume he changed. He could never change. The thought of it makes me sick to my stomach. I can see what little happiness he has gathered falter in his eyes when he doesn't mention his dad. My conscience reminds me that I'm not the only one who suffers, but it sure as hell feels like it. I wish I was the only one who felt pain. Then everyone could be happy. Namely him.
"Is no really an option?" I slowly create an unsure grin, and he rewards me with a half-attempt at a smile.
"I missed you."
"You already said that."
"Because I do. You're even wearing my shirt. God damn you're a tease."
"In what way?" I look down at my shirt, genuinely confused.
"Because you literally look so beautiful in it, and I really want to take it off of you." He looks away, face slightly going red. It feels so weird, being like this when we haven't so much as seen each others faces for three years. And yet, I feel comfortable with it.
"Sorry I kind of like...hooked up and left you. But I really do think I did the right thing. Somewhere in my brain. I think." I kiss his cheek, but when I try to move back, he redirects my lips to his, holding my chin to keep me against him. One of his thumbs rub my collarbone, giving me the oh-so-familiar chills only his touch could give me.
"It's light out." I poke his side when he finally lets me go.
"I don't care." He whines, but stops anyways. We look at each other, and his hand closes around mine.
It turns out, he brought his Harley instead of getting driven. Not that I'm surprised, but it's like a sweet taste of the way things were. The way I want them to be again. The best thing that has, and ever will happen to me.
He drives me home, since I walked, trying to be a little less lazy. Not saying I don't love sleeping on the couch for three days straight and eating chips. That's the best. But I'm trying to not get obese before I turn 30.
He follows me to my door, kisses me, and is about to open the door, but my mum makes it there first. She looks at him in complete confusion. She doesn't remember him. I think that's good. But I wouldn't put it past her to pretend, just to make me happy.
"Erika, who's this?" Her eyes go from me, to the six-foot-tall, bright red-haired boy beside me.
"My boyfriend." I say, instantly, and I feel Michael touch my back.
"Oh! But I thought you were with Ronald still."
"Ronnie, Mum, and I broke up with him last year." I roll my eyes, and I know Michael is looking at me. He didn't know that. And I wasn't planning on telling him. Oh well I guess.
"Well, why didn't you tell me? Um..."
"Michael! Why don't you come in for a bit? I'm just finishing making lunch."
A perk of living with my mum- she always makes enough food for 8 people. That's where the 'I'd better do something active or I'll become obese before I get enough money for college' thing comes from. If I even go to college, that is.
"Oh, um, sure I guess." He shrugs, and we glance at each other. I can't tell if he is giving me those weird eyes because my mum doesn't remember him, or because of Ronnie.
"We'll be in my room." I say, and pull him into the house. I close my bedroom door behind him, and we sit on the bed.
"Ronnie? Who the hell is that?"
"I tried to date someone because I wasn't sure we'd be together again, it had been so long. You promised, but I was still scared. So I tried it out. He liked me, I liked him. But I couldn't do anything - even kiss him because I thought of you. Once he tried to get into my pants, and I started crying hysterically, and ran out of his house. The day after that I broke up with him because I couldn't take it. I have officially sold myself to you, Clifford."
"For what uses?" He whispers in my ear, and I giggle.
"Careful there, my mum is in the other room, and lunch is almost done." I smack his arm gently. He sticks his tongue out like a five-year-old.
"Can I at least kiss you?"
"Why not?" He pokes me, and I smile.
"Because when you leave I won't be able to sleep without crying for three hours first."
"I'm not leaving. I promised you I'd come back, and here I am. Now stop." He kisses my jaw, and my mum calls us from the kitchen.
"Get your asses out here!"
I laugh, and we obey, sitting at the kitchen table. She brings out a giant pot of chili, and it smells heavenly.
Once we are all dished up and eating, my mother decides it is a great time to learn about me and Michael. I decide not to mention our relationship before he left, in case it triggers her 'lost memory'. For once I'm thanking her minor dementia issues.
"So, Michael, do you have a job?"
"Well, um...I play guitar in a band."
"Well I guess? Sorta maybe." He eats a spoonful, and I watch his tattoos. It makes me wish I was there when he got them.
"Good job, Erika. But he reminds me of this no good, useless trouble-maker you used to like. About three years back."
I almost choke on my food. There it is.
"What?" My Mum turns her full attention to me.
"U-uh...nothing. He's old news, I'd rather not speak of him." I try to recover as best as I can, and throw Michael a relieved glance.
"As you wish, sweetie. I hope this is the only one you bring home for a while. He seems sweet." She smiles warmly.
"Um..thanks." Michael is being shy, and I can't tell if it's to make her like him or because he remembers how cold she was towards him before.
I finish my third bowl, and stand up. My mum never lets me do the dishes or cook, so the least I can do is put my own dishes away. I'm 19, not 5.
We stand awkwardly in the doorway.
"So..are you like... coming over to visit my mum? Even though yours kind of forced us to eat." He rocks back and forth on his heels.
"Yeah I guess." I lean against the doorframe.
"Let's go then." I close the door and we go.
And then I realize something. We don't know how to act around each other. We only know what we used to be like.
He goes to the busier part of the city, just to check out what changed before going home.
"Michael, stop here." I shake his shoulder, and he hesitates, but parks. He looks up at the building.
"Tell your mum you'll be back tomorrow, we need to do some catching up."
"What do you mean?"
"We went from....from...whatever we had, and now it feels like I barely know you." I pull him through the doors, and he gets us a nice room. Not that we needed the extra privileges, but if it makes him feel better spoiling me then so be it.
"So what now?"
We sit on the floor.
"We could make out and pretend we're pornstars?" I giggle.
I pick at the rug.
"Well you've rejected me every time so far."
He raises an eyebrow.
"What'll make you more comfortable?"
A small smile.
"I don't know."
Two inches away.