thirty. Unrequited

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We built our own morning routine over the following couple of weeks.

Usually, it went much like it went this morning.

Gabe's alarm clock would ring at some ridiculous hour –usually around 4:30 AM. I would try to drown out the shrill sound of it by burying my head underneath my pillow while he rose from bed with an alarming amount of energy. He would then try to coax me into getting up with him and engaging into some overly vigorous physical activity, such as running, to which I would reply only in muted groans.

He then proceeded to call me "grandma" and go downstairs. Once in his kitchen, he would continue his morning racket by preparing one of his green smoothies –with protein powder added –and then he would be back in his room to change into his workout clothes while I tried to watch him from beneath the covers as discreetly as I could.

More often than not, he caught me looking and would smirk at me, flex his muscles playfully, not aware of the effect his little display had on me. He would then once again try to convince me to get up and tag along. I would hide under the covers and he would scoff, and then proceeded to leave and go do something nonsensical, like jog a couple of miles to the 24-hour gym.

This morning, I got up before he came back and prepared breakfast for him, which consisted of eggs, sausages, a small heap of fruit which he bought at the local farmer's market, and black, unsweetened coffee.

His face lit up like a kid's on Christmas when he came home to his breakfast already sitting on the table and his crisp white shirt ironed and hanging on a coatrack on his closet's door.

"The only way this could get any better would be if I walked in on you making my breakfast completely naked. Maybe with an apron, just to leave something to the imagination."

He then sat down at the table and proceeded to inhale his breakfast in about three forkfuls.

It was strange, how I vacillated between absolute happiness and the darkest, most abysmal despair over the next few weeks. There was a sharp contrast between those nearly perfect mornings, and the moments right after, once I left his apartment and was left to ruminate over the same doubts time and time again. Perhaps even more astonishing was how well I managed to convince myself that I could actually keep doing this, all the while pretending that I wasn't slowly losing another piece of myself whenever I saw Gabriel.

We toed a dangerous line –there was no denying that we'd crossed well into relationship territory. We did everything a couple would do, except for one thing. We never said "I love you". It was the one boundary I knew he would never cross, no matter how much each one of his actions communicated the sentiment.

There was something thrillingly illicit about the whole thing. The way he would nearly always say that we had to stop, that we couldn't keep doing this, that it was wrong, only to then proceed to take me to bed and make me scream his name time and time again gave me a sick sort of satisfaction.

Maybe the whole arrangement wouldn't have been quite as difficult on my mental state if he didn't act so very... loving. There was no other way to put it. The way he would lay next to me after we were done, his fingers gently tracing patterns over my freckles, the way he looked at me, his eyes tender and soft, the way he kissed my shoulder first thing in the morning, no matter whether he thought I was awake or asleep, the way he held my hand when we went out together–it all played with my head, made me feel as though we could someday be more than this.

And yet every time I thought I'd amassed enough courage to broach the subject of our future with him, he would say something that shot me down immediately.

"I really enjoy this friendship of ours."

"That's what friends are for, right?"

But it wasn't all bad –at home, things between T&T had quieted down. Now that Amanda was going through chemotherapy, they'd united in order to support her. Tyler drove her to and from her treatments, Tina did her best to cook, I cleaned and bought the groceries, and my dad worked double shifts nearly every two days to support us financially. We'd become a recomposed family of sorts, and it no longer felt as though we were all in a storm, holding on to our own little piece of raft, barely alive. Somehow, we'd managed to get through the worst of it, and now that there was a clear plan established, we felt as though we at least had some sort of path traced for us, a guideline to follow. There were steps to take, a protocol, and we put all our faith in the miracles of modern medicine. Nobody dared to think of what would happen if it all failed. For now, we refused to think of failure as a possibility.

Robin des Bois ✓Where stories live. Discover now