Chapter One

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It's six o'clock in the morning and I'm all fucked up. As I look back at you sleeping, curled on your side the way I remember from so long ago, I know that I should leave. I believe all the things you told me, I believe you believe them. But I should go. It should be like I was never here, just a ghost in the night. Then you could go back to your life without interruption and I can go back home where I belong.

I feel like I haven't slept in years. The weight of a life unlived bears down on me with every step I take. And as much as I try to toe the line, do right, smile and not make a fuss, all I want to do is run away with the top down so I can feel the wind.

Yesterday when you kissed me I was sixteen again and you held me so tightly, the heartbreak faded away and I fell in love with you again. But it's only the echo of love. Now in the early morning light lying next to you, the memory of the life we didn't live dies. It's a life I can hardly imagine. Shadows crisscross your face and your skin glows with the kiss of dawn.

You twitch slightly in your sleep and roll toward me. A warm arm snakes around my naked waist and pulls me close. I fit against you easily, my curves soft against the hardness of your body. Your chest is broad and warm against my back, a heavy weight pins me in place. You moan contentedly without waking and my heart breaks a little more with every breath.

I breathe you in, the smell in your small room filled with last night's passion. I know as surely as my heart beats that I should go, but I don't know if I can take it. How, then, do I expect this to end? I don't know if I can mask my feelings enough from you...from him...from myself.

Here you are, open and alive, the past forgotten or washed away with the landslide of time and I am sliced in half. I should tell you all of the things I have done since we last spoke. I should tell you of the life I've led, but when you asked last night, I merely smiled and told you truths that did not convey the whole story. I never lied to you. I never will.

Always there was a shadow across my heart that was shaped like you. A voice in the back of my mind—calling to me—that sounded like you.

My heart aches to cry as I disentangle myself from your arm and quietly climb off of the bed. My underwear in the corner, my jeans lying on the floor, pulled inside out in your haste to remove them from my body. Looking at you the weight of my life traps me, telling me to go, to leave you to your life, that I can only make things worse. I know I need to let you live your life but the thought of another woman in this bed kills me. I should be alright with the thought of another body beneath you, I have no right to stake a claim here.

I sit down on the un-upholstered chair in the corner and close my eyes. I can feel the sun as it rises outside, my legs and soon my whole body warmed with its light. Time passes and I can't bring myself to move. My life hasn't been all that bad and there's no reason for me to wish to escape it, but here in love's limbo I wish for impossibilities.

I hear when you roll over and sigh heavily, your peace so complete. I pull my phone out of the bag next to me on the floor and see I have no messages, no texts, no one wondering where I am. Why should they? No one was expecting me tonight. The guilt of my relief is tangible and looking at you again I swear that this is all we have.

Standing up I grab my underwear and stuff it in my purse, all evidence of last night safely hidden from the light of day. Pulling my shirt over my head I smell your cologne in the fabric.

You kissed me softly in the doorway

You held my hand and asked if I was sure

I allowed myself to forget the world

As you put your hand on my waist and leaned downto me again

There were no words spoken then

Your eyes were dark when you looked at me

Your lips soft and achingly perfect

I knew I hadn't had enough to drink to pretend

I hadn't made this decision willingly

You led me to your room kissing me again at the threshold

I pulled you inside and left my life in the hall

wanting only to feel you and forget

as your hand reached under my shirt...

Shaking my hair out I don't know who I am and I don't know if I care. I will go and this will end because it should. I will step back out into my real life, I will go back to my hotel room, in a few days I will go back to my life and this will be a fantasy, a creation of the mind. You will move on and fall in love, find someone who deserves to stand by you.

I will exist in that world of black and white, right and wrong; a place where love is simple and uncomplicated. But you will always mean more to me than anyone I could ever love. Pulling my jeans on I hear you sitting up. I close my eyes, wanting nothing more than to dive into your arms, but knowing that from where I stand the only choice is to leave.

"Tina?" You say sleepily. "Are you leaving?" the hurt in your voice is tangible and I hate that I'm the one who put it there.

You stand quickly and walk across the room to me as I stand up and look at your bookshelf, unable to meet your eyes.

"Why are you dressed?" You demand, angry and hurt, and I can't say out loud all of the things I hold inside. I want to tell you that I'm not who you think I am, that I can't be who you need me to be, that you deserve so much more. My eyes fill with tears and I think back on the years we should have had together, the short time we shared. The salt begins to stain my cheeks as I wish I could be your friend again.

"Dave..." I begin, "I didn't mean to..."

You stand there staring at me as I struggle to find the words to say. Reality permeates the room and it's clear we can never be, no matter how great we might be, we just...can't.

"You're leaving." You step away as I nod and finish buttoning my jeans. "I'll walk you," you say, reaching past me to pull out your drawer. I watch as you pull on a pair of jeans and thinning t-shirt before giving me a strained smile.

Dressed and silent we exit your row house. As we walk toward the light rail so that I can get home you reach out and take my hand. We don't speak, we don't cry, we don't apologize. We take the moment we have and let it exist in the air around us. I breathe it in and fill my heart to the brink, hoping that it will be enough to keep me above water this time.

We stop at the station and you turn to me, your eyes older than they were last night. You smile and then you kiss me, pulling me to you with strong arms. The fire of our love swells and breaks me but when the kiss is over you turn and walk away.

I don't watch you go; I enter the station and wait for the train and I will myself to forget.

It seems finally we're growing up.

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