“YOU OKAY? YOU LOOK A LITTLE DAZED.”
Kai peered over at me from the counter, resting his face in his hand. He looked concerned, with his brows pulled in to a tightly knitted frown. He wasn’t wrong, however. My head was going a hundred miles per hour with thoughts and I couldn’t even slow them down enough to give me time to think about them rationally. My phone was staring right at me, almost egging me to send the first message and I wanted to -- I really did. My hands were itching to reach over and simply do it.
But there was something holding me back.
Perhaps it was the nervousness of it all. He seemed to be doing well with his life and he looked happy. What if I screwed that up for him? I thought I had been doing the right thing by leaving. I wanted him to be able to experience life without my constant trail of darkness always holding him back. He had a family now, a daughter to look after and care for. But then again, we were only ever friends. A simple friendship couldn’t hurt him or his daughter.
The thought of him having a daughter was strange. It didn’t weird me out, but it made me realise just how much the both of us had matured and moved on with our lives. It was jarring, but seeing the amount of love he seemed to display for her, I had no doubt he was an incredible father figure for her.
Étienne had the face of someone you only had to look at once and you would forever remember - he was the same man I had met when I all-but a child, and even now, as an adult, he hadn’t changed. It felt like I had been zapped into the past and I wasn’t twenty-seven anymore -- I was back in college, thinking I was about to go through the funnest years of my life.
What a joke that had been.
“Sorry, my head is a little frazzled right now,” I apologized, “A lot going on up here.”
Kai nodded in understanding, “That’s okay. If you want to talk about it though. . . I’m here.”
He was always there and I didn’t think I would ever be able to express to him just how much I appreciated him. He wasn’t one to tell me what I wanted to hear, rather, what I needed to. Sometimes, I wondered if I was under-appreciating him. He didn’t like to talk about himself so much as he liked talking about me. I wanted him to be able to come to me with anything too, but I couldn’t force him either. I had been lucky enough to meet Kai, and our friendship was something I’d never sacrifice for anything.
“Right, well. . . I ran into someone yesterday,” I started, carefully choosing my words, “An old friend, if you will.”
An old friend was a bit of an understatement to describe us. We were more than friends. On some level, romantically or platonically, we were soulmates. There was something that simply clicked with us. We just made sense. I didn’t have to sit around and question his intentions, ever. He was, and probably would be, the only man who I would trust to walk me home at night and never have to even worry about anything happening. The sense of comfort, knowing he knew everything about me and I knew everything about him was something I hadn’t experienced with anyone else.
“Okay,” he said, “Were you two close or something?”
“You could say that, yeah,” I smiled, “But it’s been five years since I last saw them.”
Kai kept his face impassive as he thought. His eyes would always glance downwards when he was in thought and a small crinkle would appear between his brows before he would press his lips together and speak.
“Right. . . Well, did you find it weird to see them after that long?”
“Kind of?” I questioned with a frown, “I don’t know. On one hand, it felt strange, you know? But then, it also felt right?”
He nodded in agreement, “I mean, I’d say it’s pretty normal to feel that way, especially if you haven’t seen them in that long. But I’m not sure what the problem is? You look like you’re conflicted about something.”
“Well, I. . . I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do to let them back into my life,” I heaved a sigh, “I think we’ve both come so far and aren’t some things better left in the past?”
“It depends,” he mused, “Whether you two are able to move past whatever happened and not let it affect your current relationship. If either of you can’t, then it’s probably better to leave it behind.”
“You think?” I gnawed on my bottom lip.
I had already left the friendship in the past, but it somehow still found a way into my present. My brain was trying to trick me into believing that this was somehow fate -- that it meant something. But I didn’t want to read into simple coincidences as destiny. We just happened to run into one another and said hi. There was no need to make a bigger deal out of a tiny interaction.
Kai watched me carefully, “I guess that wasn’t the answer you wanted?”
“No, no,” I shook my head, “It’s not like that. I don’t know. I’m just a bit confused.”
“Don’t rush into it if you’re not comfortable,” he advised, “Take your time. I take it they’re not going anywhere anytime soon, right?”
“Right,” I agreed, “No, you’re right.”
When Kai excused himself to use the bathroom, I stared at my phone. The dark screen of the phone was basically screaming at me to use it and send the message. To distract myself, I crossed my arms together and tried to count the number of tiles on the floor while my leg bounced up and down.
I wasn’t going to message him. I was going to wait until at least another day or two when I could think with a clearer head. It was only fair to him that way. It was my choice to say goodbye to him, but I didn’t want to be selfish and play with his emotions like that. To hear his name, hurt a little. To feel our eyes lock left a strange twist in my heart because what even were we anymore? What right did I even have to think about him?
We had all heard the story of how if we threw a coin into a fountain and made a wish, it would come true. Admittedly, I had tried that. I tried, countless times, in fact. But my wishes never seemed to come true.
I wished that we had stayed friends.
I wished that we didn’t have to part ways.
I wished that I could give him the love he deserved.
I wished I could be happy.
I wished that my memory of the past could be erased somehow.
He watched as I cried, my mascara trailing down my cheeks. He saw the tears leave my eyes and my heart shatter – and he stayed. He saw all of my sides, the dark and the light. And it didn’t bother him. Was that love? In my early teenage years, I was desperate to be one of those girls. The ones that were naturally beautiful, bodies curved, voices delicate and soft and doe-like eyes that would melt even the coldest of hearts. I wanted to be that girl that every guy wanted. But now, looking back, I was foolish. I thought giving myself away was how to make a man fall in love with you. I thought if I did, it would make them want to stay with me, and perhaps keep loving me. But, that wasn’t love. I knew that now. I realized, I wasn’t being loved, I was being used and all those years I wasted meant nothing.
At least now, I understood the true beauty of life, but in that truth, laid terrifying shadows. Yet somehow, he made those shadows seem not-so terrifying.
And so, with a few clicks, I sent the first message.
15.32 LOUELLA: hi.
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