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by Helen Dring
Years from now, we will press our foreheads together and smile sadly about how two people could think the same thing for so long and never tell each other. You will remind me how I used to slam your bedroom door as I left, and how you stared at the empty space I left wishing I would talk to you. In times that are happier, you will kiss the corner of my mouth and tell me you are proud of me, that you never thought we would arrive here. I will smile against your kiss and pull you further in towards me by your belt loops.
Today it is just as it always is. I find myself at your door without meaning to, my feet leading me here as if they know something I haven’t yet realised. You are smiling at me before I’m even across the threshold, my hair wet and sticking to my face from my three mile run to get here. I tell you it’s easier to run if I know there’s something nice at the end of it. I don’t tell you that when I leave you I will run the route again three times over, watching you at your window as I pass your house on my way back.
You are careful not to sit too close. You edge around me, your homework spread out between us like a safety barrier. I move it to one side after I pretend to read it, and lean into your shoulder, the cool skin comforting against my forehead. I stay there for what feels like hours, listening to the whirring in my head finally calm down. With you, I feel like I can breathe more easily, as if my brain stops conspiring against me.
Your hands are smooth as they stroke my collar bones, and I feel you shaking as your lips hover near my ear before they move towards me and kiss me. The skin on your lips is rough, and dry, and I like the way that it makes the kiss slightly imperfect, as if it is only with you that I can allow the notion of ordinariness to exist. You smooth your hands along my stomach, and they rest on the waistband of my skirt. You are a gentleman, you would never take it so far without asking me. Your thumb rests against my hip bone, and I notice you try not to widen your eyes at its jutting. These are the times I see your glances rest on me, and it tugs at me to know that you are surveying my bones.
I want to tell you. There are times I hover on the edge of it, my mouth slightly open before I change my mind, closing the door on my chances. They are the times my brain screams at me: what are you doing? You’re nowhere near thin enough for him yet. What would he want with an ugly, fat pig like you? The moment vanishes until the next time, each time taken away by the lurking, vengeful demon in my head that tells me you’ll never love me.
Years from now, you will tell me that you’re sorry. That you should have done more to stop me. I will shake my head and tell you for the millionth time that there was nothing that you could have done, no part of me that would have listened. I will share my favourite memory of you, the day that you lay down and curled yourself up next to me. I was open to you then, peeling away my clothes as well as yours as our bodies mingled in the heat of a Californian summer. You have forgotten this, but you snaked your body around mine, your hands cupping my face and whispered softly to me, so softly I almost missed it, “you are beautiful”.
In ten years time, you will tell me this every day on waking, but it will never sound the same to me as that afternoon. It will never be the same as the time your words reached into my head and strangled the voice that lingered there. It will never beat the first time: the first time I believed you.