I took a quick stock check. She looked wonderful in a smart blue dress. She looked professional, yet playful. I quickly noticed the ring, of course. How could I not? A rock that immediately told me she had expensive taste, and a man who could satisfy it.
So why was she looking at me?
I approached her cautiously. I was scared, but I didn’t show it. I swallowed the lump in my throat and puffed my chest with faux bravado. I don’t really remember what I said, but I remember that my opening line was a triumph. She smiled, and looked to the floor. She brushed her perfectly cut hair behind her ear. Her nose wrinkled as she looked back up at me. She began to blush.
The next hours were a blur. We talked relentlessly. I was flirtatious, and she reciprocated. It moved quickly. We trusted each other right away, and we shared our secrets. I suppose I was more open than she was to begin. She seemed guarded, somehow. But it didn’t take long for her to scale her own walls and show me herself.
It’s a bizarre feeling to know someone intimately after a matter of moments. When it’s been a fraction of time but it feels like forever. That was what we had, almost instantly. I guess it was love. Not at first sight, but after an almost insignificant amount of time. She didn’t want to admit it as quickly as I did, but I knew she felt it too.
Days passed, and our discussions continued. We had a seemingly endless bank of conversation to draw on. She told me the stories that made her laugh; the things that made her scared; the times she’d cried. We bore our souls to one another. We lay ourselves naked and vulnerable for scrutiny and judgement, and we accepted each other for who we truly were with a loving embrace.
Eventually we had to cross the bridge we’d been avoiding. I’d noticed her wedding band within seconds of scanning her body that first time my eyes discovered her. I had to know. Who was this man who had beaten me to it? Who was this man who had stolen my dreams, my life, my wife?
She didn’t want to discuss him. She was happy. At least, she said she was. But I knew that happy eyes didn’t look like hers. Deep down she wanted to run, not generally, but with me. You know, she probably was happy. But she could be happier with me. I knew it, and I knew that she did too.
After some days, I dared ask the question I had wanted to ask since the moment I saw her teeth playfully nibble her lip the first time we met. I had been scared to ask, out of fear of rejection. What if this was all she wanted? What if all she needed from me was the conversation, the shoulder, the confidant? But I had to ask.
“We should run away”, I ventured.
She was quiet. She looked unsure. Her eyes slowly looked to the ground. I was nervous. She seemed to be looking down for an eternity, though it was probably just a second, if that. Her eyes darted up to meet mine. Her pupils sat in a pool of beautiful, deep, dark brown. The flecks of colour within sparkled and winked at me. I looked to her lips. Oh, her lips. They were pressed together, revealing nothing.
Slowly her lips parted, and those two glorious syllables whispered out: “okay”.
And we ran. We didn’t pack bags, we just ran. I think we both knew that if we stopped running we might not start again. We didn’t have a place to go, and we didn’t care. Eventually we stopped. I don’t know where we were, but we had arrived. We settled down and lived a life of Riley. We talked, constantly. There was never a lull in conversation, and we never came close to running out of things to say to each other.
Our life was like a Hollywood montage for a while. Think walks on the beach, think ice cream in the park, think riding a horse together. The works. I would read to her. I played her music. She introduced me to worlds I never knew existed. It was bliss, it was happiness. It was love, in its purest form.
We lived in a blissful bubble for that time. We both know it wouldn’t last how we wanted it to, we knew tragedy must strike. Let’s be honest here, what sort of story would this be if there wasn’t tragedy? If everything worked out fine, why would I bother telling you?
Her husband came looking for her, for us. I hated him for it, but could I blame him? I mean, I’d have looked for her if I was him. Who wouldn’t? She was a precious jewel, an exotic flower, something to fight for. Hundreds of years ago wars would have been waged in her name. Kingdoms won and lost.
I discovered his search when I found her red-eyed on a chair. I entered the room and saw the water clouding her eyes. Her cheeks were wet, and her face looked fragile. It only made me love her more. But I knew what had happened. I noticed that the rings from her hand were no longer there. They sat delicately in the palm of her hand. She had never removed them when we ran. She didn’t feel the need to. We were secure in our adventure. To see them off her finger was like a dagger to me.
“He’s here”, she breathed.
Sure enough, he entered through a side door. I thought to myself that he looked like a villain entering the stage in a play or a film. I could almost hear the audience booing his arrival. Though when I turned to face them in my mind’s eye, I wondered who the hero of this piece was really. I was the burglar, the criminal, stealing what wasn’t mine in the dead of night. But then, he was the fool who let her slip. Could I be blamed? Should I be?
He was an older man than I, and he came at me with some force. I suppose the frustration and despair he felt at the situation came out as a kind of animalistic aggression. He flew at me. Before I knew what had happened I was crumpled to the ground. I remember her screaming. He beat me mercilessly. Again, I can’t blame him. I would have done the same.
I remember lying on the ground taking the punishment I clearly deserved, and I just looked at her from across the room. For a moment, we caught each other’s gaze. Our eyes met, and I could see the beginnings of a smile forming in the corners of her lips. I could feel my mouth mirroring hers. I may have been bruised and bloodied, but a simple smile and a flash of the eyes made me feel tall.
I don’t know how long I lay there, but eventually he left. He offered her his hand, and she hesitated. So he took her by the arm and they left the room together. I knew this would be the last time I saw her. I would never again see the hair on her arms stand up when we touched. My eyes would never linger over her protruding collar bones. My hands would never touch her waist.
I think it’s fair to say I died that day. There was no certificate, but my soul had been taken. I’d made a deal with the devil, and I had paid the price. You don’t act how I did and expect a happy ending. You might dream of one, but you know you won’t get it.
They say it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.
They clearly never loved her.