A story I wrote that's more symbolic than factual. For those who have had moments of being left, letting go and moving on.
The leaves crunched as a newcomer walked along the path hoping to sit on the bench at the father side of the park. It was there on that seat that a lone young man was reclining, taking in the careful change of weather and fighting emotions he was keeping in check. He stiffened slightly as the figure sat adjacent him but relaxed noticeably when said stranger opted not to have a conversation.
The peace settled between them but inner turmoil was raging against him. He should have stayed home that day.
“Hey.” The newcomer’s soft voice called out to him after over twenty minutes of silence. He almost felt like running away from that voice. He thought he could have escaped the exchange of words had he not felt so lousy. He knew that person was bound to talk but he did not need to acquiesce. Any other time, he could have talked but not with his situation at hand. Not to her and especially not at that moment. But he couldn’t take the calm that followed. To him, it didn’t seem fair.
“Hey yourself.” He answered reluctantly after taking in a deep breath.
“How are you?” How does one give the right answer to a question like that? Anything he said could turn the topic into something he didn’t want to discuss. He shouldn’t have opened his mouth in the first place. He didn’t want to be asked how he felt because he knew there would be no word deep enough to convey his aggravation.
“You’re looking better than the last time I saw you.” He said instead of answering the question. She would understand. Even if she didn’t, she would have to. She could tell he wanted to change the subject, but she also knew that they had a lot to talk about. She bit her lip in anxiety. He looked over at her for the first time since she sat down and had to force himself to look away. She looked the same in ways, but she had a different air around her.
She had changed.
“Well, I feel better than before too.” He didn’t know if he should have been happy or angry to hear that because something inside him made it hard to decide: a stab that went to his heart.
“Are you…happy?” Okay, he asked for it. It seemed he was going to be a masochist for the day especially. Okay, so if he was going to open up all sorts of wounds inside of himself, he might as well do so soon. When he glanced over and saw her with a thoughtful smile, he wished he hadn’t asked her anything at all.
“Yes.” She said carefully. “Yes I am quite happy. Thank you for asking.” This time, he couldn’t stop himself from reacting. He looked at her with a dumbfounded expression. If he weren’t in such a clash of clear emotions, he would have found himself ridiculous. The response wasn’t smug or meant to injure him further but it was like a pointed blade. And it hurt when it struck him.
Regardless of his idiotic moment of masochism, nothing took the pain away. He quickly decided blunt was the only way to go.
“How could you do it? How could you possibly be happy?”
She paused enough to consider his question as he continued to stare at her. He’s still the same, she thought fondly with a slight smile playing on her lips.
“I just had to move on. It wasn’t like I had to give mountains to get happy.” She laughed at her own answer not knowing that a shiver went down his spine at the sound of her carefree tone. He undoubtedly missed hearing that laugh.
He was quiet for a longer period this time, and it worried her to think that he would ignore her completely now that she had given him an answer he wasn’t looking forward to hearing.
He wanted to run away. He wanted to jump off a cliff. He wanted a freak accident to happen to him at that instant. He wanted to do so many things that would end his misery.
“It was easy to let go? To leave everybody behind you?” His voice didn’t betray his expression: stoic and cold. Her own heart started to ache. This wasn’t what she wanted to talk to him about. It would only leave scars they wouldn’t be able to hide.
“I didn’t have much of a choice.” She answered simply and looked away. He closed his eyes and leaned back on the support of the bench.
“You could have held on a little longer.” He responded. It was something simple, and somewhat childish to throw in her face, but he just needed to say it. He knew in his heart that if she had, they’d have been a happy couple still. Nothing would have changed for them and they would have been together.
“That’s not fair.” She could feel a stinging behind her eyes and knew that the longer they would dwell on this, the sooner the tears would pour. She didn’t come to cry; she just wanted to talk to him like before.
“Only because you know I’m right.” He continued. “You could have.” He tried to talk as if he didn’t care but it seemed that his charade could only go for so long before starting to crack.
“You’re right.” She paused and took a breath. “I could have.” She felt ashamed at admitting it but it was true. She could have held on and saved them both the trouble.
“But you chose not to.” He echoed out to her. This was the decision she went with, and he would feel like a jerk for being so tactless later but he thought he was allowed to be cynical if he wanted to be. He wanted to know that he wasn’t the only one suffering.
“Yes, I chose not to.” Her voice broke at the end of her sentence and the tears that had been threatening to fall had fallen.
He swallowed what seemed to be a lot of sand and thought of his victory. Only, he didn’t feel so triumphant. There were still things that nagged at him.
“So why didn’t you?”
She should not have been surprised at the way he spoke his question. He was distancing himself and she only had herself to blame.
“I’m sorry.” She whispered.
“That doesn’t answer the question does it?” He said with a sigh. He was doing his best not to feel anything, to be as numb as he possibly could, but she was making it hard for him. Could it have been possible that she was trying not to hurt him any more than he already did?
He scoffed at the idea. It seemed more like she was prolonging the pain he’d have to live with.
“No. It doesn’t.” She felt the cool air touch her skin. It was funny that the mood matched the weather completely. “Do we have to talk about this?” She was pleading to him to give up the mask and talk to her like he used to.
“I didn’t ask for this.” He said coldly as she felt her heart breaking all over again. “You did.”
“Maybe I deserved that. But I didn’t come here to drown myself in the pain.” She said trying her best to be strong. She just needed a little more time with him. “I had to let go. It hurt too much to see what I was making you go through.” She finished sadly.
“We would have been able to overcome everything!” He snapped at her. She winced as he raised his voice. He rarely shouted and the immediate emotion she felt was fear. “I didn’t care about what everyone else was saying; I was going to be happy with you!” Tears continued to make their way down her cheek to her lap.
He took a big breath. He was shouting at her. He’d never done that before but he couldn’t stop the anger inside him. “Then you decided to quit.”Bitterness seeped into his voice and he hated it. He hated what he was doing and what he had done. “To let it go. You decided everything by yourself. That wasn’t fair.” His own tears started making their race down his face and he rubbed furiously at his eyes to make them stop.
He said it. The things he had wanted to say to her personally since they fell apart. Silence was between them all over again and each wanted to say something to make the situation better, only, it was too difficult.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” She sobbed. His heart clenched at the tears he had made her shed. Was it really alright for him to do this to her? To make sure she was in the same kind of hell he was in?
No, he decided sadly. She didn’t deserve what he was doing to her. Even if she had practically taken his heart, spat on it and returned it to him, he still really did care for her.
“I think it would have been best if you hadn’t talked to me.” He was back to playing numb. He had to force his emotions out of the conversation because he at least wanted her to leave with the impression that he was still the same, even if she wasn’t.
What he said however was not true. They would have still had some sort of void if she hadn’t had the nerve to sit beside him and said anything. He’d have still been a bomb just ticking away and he knew it. He also didn’t want to bear the burden of making her cry; what he was going through was too much already. Besides, He’d done making her shed tears enough while they were still together. After a few minutes of silence, her sobbing quieted down enough to hear the blows of the wind.
“I missed you, you know.” He said so quietly that she almost didn’t hear it. She gasped and felt a new batch of tears waiting to fall.
“I missed you too.” She responded hoarsely. Time was ticking away. She only had a few precious moments left before she had to leave again.
“I’ll be okay.” Her heart got caught in her throat. She whipped her head to look at him; to see if he was serious and found that he was keeping up that mask all over again. She felt sick. She was the one who came to talk to him, caused him more pain, had the nerve to cry and HE was the one who was trying to be strong.
“I hope you’re not lying to me. You know I wouldn’t be able to handle it if you were.” If he was going to continue being cold, she was going to have to do her best to be brave. He had already given up so much for her; she could do this. For his sake.
Was he lying? He wondered quietly to himself. What in the world possessed him to say that? How was he supposed to be sure that he was going to be fine? He wanted to laugh at himself. He felt like he only said it to stop her from feeling bad. Even after she left him, he was still looking out for her.
Good lord, he was still in love with her and he said he would be okay? His heart continued to fall into more fragments as he battled with himself.
“I will. If you will too.” That wasn’t going to help much. He was trying to compromise what he felt to justify what she’d feel. But somehow, he knew he would be able to do it. He could give up the cold and take the opportunity he had to talk to her one last time. He wasn’t about to waste it on acting like an ass and being a drunkard later. He had to assure her to assure himself.
He was keeping silent and she was hurt with the patience she was trying so hard to have. Why did she keep hurting him? Wasn’t it enough that she left him? Had she not broken him to pieces already? Didn’t she love him?
More importantly, what was the point?
The cold statements mocked her. It was true. She had hurt him enough. She could even tell that he was still trying to protect her! The fresh batch began to fall from her orbs. She did love him. She was just selfish about it.
But she had to hear him say it. Just a few more sentences that made her feel he was really going to be fine.
“I’m sorry.” She repeated in a sincere voice. He glanced at her and saw that she saw right through what he did: he always had to protect her.
“I’ll be okay, I promise.” He said softly as he looked right back at her. Somehow, after the chat that didn’t really include a lot of talking, he meant what he said. His eyes didn’t hide anything anymore. She could see the pain etched into them, but a little of something else as well.
He had made up his mind: he was going to be okay.
She wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. This was what she wanted to hear. This was why she talked to him. This was the same man she fell for years ago.
“You’ll be able to find someone else.” She whispered. She didn’t want to say it and maybe even hoped for a second that he wouldn’t, but that would have meant a life of loneliness for him. She wouldn’t do that, not after everything she’d made him endure. She would give him the chance to be happy.
Even if it were with someone who wasn’t her.
A ghost of a smile rested on his lips. No, he thought sadly, I don’t even think I’ll try.
“Okay.” He said with a decision in his tone.
It took that one word, just one, and their burdens lifted from their shoulders. They would give up on dwelling with the way things happened and finally move on.
“Take care of yourself okay?” He said softly. A lone tear went down her cheek and she gave a shaky nod.
“I love you.” She whispered one last time as she gave in to the smile that would hide her tears. He returned it with the same gargantuan effort she was making.
With those last three words, she got up and bent to his level to kiss his forehead. He closed his eyes and leaned in to her touch. He wanted to tell her not to go, to not leave all over again but he couldn’t. He made his decision. He had to let her go.
She witnessed firsthand that he was letting her go the same way she let him go, except that they could both go on in better terms with each other. Nothing would hold them back anymore.
As she began walking away, he kept his eyes closed and focused on the sounds of the wind around him. When he opened them again, she was gone and all that was left was the warmth that her kiss had given him.
He got up from his seat and walked for hours before ending up at the fresh site with bouquets on the ground. He gave a long look at the heavens and grasped the bunch of white roses in his hands before settling them on the earth as well.
“I love you too.” Then, he walked away.
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