The Stranger that I Loved

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the story of Aria, a young girl who falls madly in love with a man named Michael. Although she loves him, the two spend most of their relationship unhappy. This story highlights the struggles of being in love with someone you're not happy with.

Submitted: February 24, 2014

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 24, 2014



The Stranger that I Loved

“Can I buy you a drink?” He asked me.

He was the kind of guy that my dad had warned me to stay away from; he possessed an element of mystery. I looked deep into his sea green eyes expecting to find danger, but I felt safety. I had promised myself that my first year of University would go towards my school work; my High School years were ruined by boyfriends and dramatics. This year I would succeed because I would have nothing to do with them.

“No thank you” I responded.

“Alright, I’m sorry to bother you.”

What? Where was the badgering? Every guy I’ve turned down replied with, “What? Come on babe?” “Just one drink” or “wow buzz kill.” This guy planned on leaving me alone? I realize that it had to be the fact that he was the most handsome guy in the bar; he’d have no problem finding another girl to take home. But maybe he was just a nice guy looking to converse and get to know me.

“Wait” I stopped him as he turned to leave. “I would love a drink.”

“You would?” He asked with a cute uncertainty.

“I would, I’m Aria.”

“Michael” he shook my hand.

As he ordered our drinks, I couldn’t help but stare at his face, it was so defined; you could sharpen a knife on it. His hair was slicked behind his ears, the black shade of it added to his mysterious character.  He was absolutely exquisite.

“So what are you studying?” He brought my concentration back.

“Psychology, you?”

“English” he told me.

“A writer?” I asked.

“Attempting to be one” he smiled.

His smile was captivating; it was the kind of smile every girl wishes she could wake up to each morning.

“So why did you go into psychology?” He questioned.

I didn’t have a good answer to this question. It was the least boring class; I didn’t take to anything else. I was the type to get sick of familiarity very quickly.

“The brain interests me” I told him.

We spent the next few hours getting to know each other, after a few more drinks we were getting to know more than we should. He was an unrealistically good guy; he always served soup at the community soup kitchen, he donated blood a few times a year and he tutored underprivileged kids in his spare time. He was amazing.

“I just got out of a two year relationship” he told me.

Who could be stupid enough to get out of a relationship with him? The girl must be all kinds of crazy.

“What happened?” I asked.

“We just grew apart; sometimes people change so much that they become strangers to one another. I don’t even know her anymore.”

I could see the pain in his eyes; this breakup had taken a toll on him. What do you say to someone who’s heart was as heavy as his was? I decided to try humour.

“Deep” I smiled.

He laughed at this, his eyes sparkled once again.

“It sure is, do you have any breakup stories?” He asked.

“I sure do, but it’ll have to wait until a later date. I have class tomorrow” I said, pointing to the clock that read “11:30 p.m.”

“Well I’ll meet you here tomorrow night at seven” he smiled.

“Oh you will? You think you did enough to earn a second date?”

“Well I know that you did enough to earn a second!” He replied.

We laughed and in this moment I could slowly feel myself falling for him. It was early but he was special; nothing else in the world mattered when we spoke. I was definitely going to meet him tomorrow night.

“It’s a date” I said, looking him in his green eyes once more.

“It’s a date” he agreed.

I left the bar feeling wonderful. This was the first guy I had spoken to that made me feel like an intelligent woman, as opposed to another girl to have sex with. This was the start of something new in my life, something special. What began as a sad girl getting a drink before going to bed, ended in that same girl possibly meeting her future husband, it’s crazy how life works.

I walked back to my dorm which was only a few blocks away from the bar, when I got inside the phone started ringing.

“Hello?” I picked up.

“Aria, its dad” the familiar voice of my father said.

“Hi dad, I miss you!”

“I miss you too princess. I know it’s late but I didn’t hear from you all week so I had to call and check in! How’s school going?” He asked.

My dad was the most important person in my life. He did everything for me without expectation of anything in return. I was the only thing he had after my mother passed; we got through it together. When I told him I wanted to go to Minnesota for school he objected at first; he couldn’t take the idea of me moving away from him, even if it was only a few miles away from North Dakota. I wanted something new and eventually I could persuade him but he was still getting used to not having me near.

“Schools good, I’ve been studying for midterms all week!” I told him.

“That’s my girl, have you made many friends?”

This question was difficult to answer. I hadn’t made many friends, not only because it was only October but also because I wasn’t very social. I much preferred staying home with a good book than going out to a party. The only reason I was at that bar was because I needed a quick drink to relieve some stress. My dad wouldn’t like it if he knew I wasn’t making friends, he’d worry that I was lonely or depressed. He’d worry even more if I told him about Michael. Boys were always trouble.

“Tons dad, I just got back from the bar with some of my classmates” I lied.

“That’s great to hear! Okay well I’ll let you get some sleep sweetheart, I love you.”

“I love you dad” I said, hanging up the phone.

After the phone call I went straight to sleep, when I woke up the only thing on my mind was seeing Michael later. I sat through class daydreaming about kissing him; I envisioned his bright eyes and his smile. I was embarrassed about my schoolgirl obsession but I couldn’t help it. Michael was incredible.

I decided to skip my last class so that I could go shower and get cleaned up before my date... even though I would have three hours to do so after class. It didn’t matter, the only thing that mattered was impressing Michael.

Finally, it was seven and I decided to arrive a few minutes late; I read somewhere that it would make me more desirable. When I finally showed up, I saw him. He spotted me the moment I entered; he smiled at the sight of me. I quickly made my way over to the booth that he had picked out; he stood up when I reached him.

“You look-“

Before he could finish I pulled him in by the collar of his dress shirt and kissed him; I couldn’t help myself.

“Exquisite” he finished, gasping for air.

“Thank you” I smiled.

He was stunning; his white dress shirt and black tie made him look so masculine. A pretty boy with masculine qualities; just what I liked.

We ordered drinks and got to talking. Everything he said was great; I loved every word that came out of his mouth. I was so comfortable; I told him everything about my past. I talked about my previous boyfriends and how I struggled to stay in a committed relationship back then and I talked about my mother.

“Aria that’s awful, I’m so sorry. Your mother sounds like an amazing person” he said to me. He meant what he said, I could tell because I spent so many years hearing fake apologies from people who knew nothing about me or my mother; Michael was truly sorry for my loss.

The conversation went elsewhere and over time I realized that we hadn’t spoken much about his family. I decided to ask about them.

“I don’t talk about them too much” he said.

“Why’s that?” I questioned.

“Well my father is Daniel Arkland” he began.

“Daniel Arkland, the owner of the Arkland hotel chain?”

“Yes mam” he responded.

“You’re rich?” I couldn’t help asking.

“I was, my parents wanted me to be a businessman as well.” He sat in silence for a moment, the same look of pain that he possessed last night returned. “Imagine their distaste when I told them I wanted to be a writer.”

“Well screw them” I smiled, “you’re going to be an incredible writer.

Once again, the pain disappeared. I could tell that I was helping him, that I was getting rid of the pain. This made me feel purposeful; he needed me as much as I needed him. It was too early to tell, but I couldn’t help but feel that we were meant to be together.

The night concluded and he walked me to my dorm room. When we got to the door, I feared that he might want to come inside; something I wasn’t ready to do. I think that he could tell that I was nervous about it, because he gave me a smile that said that he understood.

“Goodnight Aria” he kissed me on the cheek and walked away.

I felt my cheek as he disappeared down the street, I was so happy. When I went inside I texted him immediately, we had exchanged numbers at the bar. I spent the entire night texting him, I felt like I could talk to him forever.

I woke up the next morning feeling just as good as the morning before and just as obsessed with Michael. The days that followed consisted of the same obsession, numerous texts and more getting to know each other. We made arrangements to meet at the bar again one Friday night, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

This time, it was me who arrived early. I wasn’t left waiting long, as just a few minutes later Michael entered. He was still ravishing in all his beauty. Every girl looked at him; they probably couldn’t believe that he was with me. I was decent looking, my straight black hair was an asset but aside from that I didn’t have any other noteworthy features. I was nothing in his presence, yet he wanted to be with me.

“Hello beautiful” he said, as he sat down in the booth.

“You should come over tonight” I blurted out.

He looked at me with hesitation; I’m not sure if it was because he wasn’t expecting me to want him over so soon, or because of the fact that the first thing I said to him was that. Either way, he agreed.

We drank for a few hours before walking back to my dorm. I had a bit too much to drink so Michael carried me most of the way, when we arrived home I was only half conscious. He laid me down on the bed and kissed my forehead.

“Goodnight Aria.”

I woke up the next morning to find him sleeping on the chair next to my bed; he looked so handsome in his sleep. I wondered if he was dreaming, if maybe I was in his dreams. He was so amazing, how could anybody be so perfect? I walked over to the chair and touched his arm to wake him up. He opened his left eye first and then the other one. He smiled when he saw me.

“Good morning beautiful.”

I pulled his head close to mine and started kissing him. I sat on his lap and began unbuttoning his shirt.

“Are you sure?” He asked me.

I was. We made our way over to the bed and by this point we only had our underwear on. I quickly tore his off and he did the same to me, gently he began to thrust. It was incredible, he looked deep into my eyes and I looked into his. I was in love. We made love for what felt like hours; magnificent hours. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t known each other long; I knew how he felt about me and how I felt about him. We were meant to be together.

When we finished, I laid my head on his shoulder. I wanted to say something, something of magnitude. Something that would make him stay with me, but I couldn’t conjure up the words. Then, he did it for me.

“Be with me” he said.

I looked up into his eyes once more and kissed him gently in agreement. We were together and it was right. He and I were supposed to be together.

After that, things were natural. We spent almost every day together, continuing to grow with one another. I would often accompany him to class and he would accompany me. When I told him I hadn’t made many friends yet, he introduced me to some of his and I became part of their group. I was so happy and so in love, it was perfect.

“So what are you doing for thanksgiving?” Lisa asked me, she was one of Michael’s friends that I had gotten particularly close with.

“I’m going back to North Dakota to see my dad” I answered.

“Does he know about Michael?”

“Not yet” I admitted.

“You should bring Michael with you!” She suggested. “Then your dad could see how amazing he is.”

She was right, my dad wasn’t a fan of me having a boyfriend but if he saw how good the boy that I was with was; well he’d just have to be okay with it. I decided to go ahead with Lisa’s plan and invite Michael to my house for Thanksgiving.

“That sounds great babe, if your dad is okay with it” he responded.

So with that, we made our way to North Dakota at the end of November. Michael offered to drive, so we decided to leave two days prior to Thanksgiving so that we could arrive the night before it. Michael didn’t know that my dad had no idea that he was coming, I was yet to see him handle a surprising situation but I hoped that it wouldn’t anger him that I didn’t tell my dad. The drive didn’t take long, it was seventeen hours and we did spend one night in the jeep but when I was with him time flew by. When we finally arrived to my dad’s old, brown bungalow; I found myself wishing that the drive could have been longer.

I quickly got out of the car ahead of Michael and ran over to the front door, as I knocked I could feel a nervous sickness swarming my stomach.

“There’s my girl!” My dad said excitedly as he opened the door.

“Dad!” I screamed, wrapping my arms around his neck.

Before I could say anything about the friend that I had brought, my dad asked a question over my shoulder.

“Who’s this?” He looked over at Michael.

I quickly backed away from him and tried to explain Michael being here.

“I’m Michael.” He introduced himself before I could speak.

My dad possessed a look of confusion; I backed over to Michael and held his hand.

“He’s my boyfriend.”

My dad looked at me in what I thought was disbelief, but his expression soon turned into a smile.

“Nice to meet you son” he reached out his hand.

Michael walked over to him quickly and shook his hand politely.

“Nice to meet you sir.”

I was amazed at how well the introductions went. My dad brought us in and the three of us spent the night talking about work and school and our lives. My dad asked Michael tons of questions, not to be a pestering father but to really get to know him. Michael was happy to answer and I could tell that they both liked each other. When it was time to sleep, I went into my old bed while Michael slept in the living room; I was fine with this arrangement, it was way better than my dad killing my boyfriend.

The next morning I woke up to find the house empty, I wasn’t alone for long because my dad soon arrived home laughing with Michael.

“Where were you two?” I questioned.

“Your dad took me out to play a few games of golf” Michael answered.

“The boys a natural” my dad laughed.

The day went by smoothly; I sat on the couch and read while Michael helped my dad with the dinner. Finally, when it was time to eat, the three of us sat around the table and spoke about the things they were thankful for. I said that I was thankful for both of them and they each said how thankful they were for me. Once again I found myself falling even more in love with Michael; he was too good to be true.

The next morning we had to go back to school, I shared a long embrace with my dad and as I did he whispered to me.

“Hold on to that boy.”

I pulled away from him and nodded, he kissed me on the cheek, shook Michael’s hand and we were off. As we drove back, I held Michael’s hand and I finally said something that I had felt for a long while.

“I love you.”

He stopped the car, looked at me and smiled.

“I love you” he kissed me. “I love you, Aria.”

We got back to school and my life was incredible. I was doing well in all of my courses, while seeing Michael enough to satisfy me. Things truly couldn’t have been better. December meant that we would have to write mid terms. This scared me but Michael helped me study. He was always there for me, he made me feel okay. Everything was perfect.

It was December ninth, I had asked Michael to meet me at the library so that we could finish studying for my midterm that I had the next day. He didn’t show up. I waited and waited but he didn’t show up. I decided to go over to his dorm and see if he had overslept or something. I knocked on the door and called into him, he told me to wait one second. He unlocked the door and opened it.

“I’m sorry I didn’t show up, I got caught up with –“

He stopped when he saw my eyes shift over to the girl standing behind him.

“With her?” I asked.

“I’m Chloe” she introduced herself.

Chloe? I had heard that name. We spoke about a girl named Chloe at the bar once... His ex. The girl he had recently broken up with. She was stunning. Her eyes were as blue as the sky, her brunette hair trickled down to her waist and her lips were blood red. She was more beautiful than I could have imagined.

“I know who you are” I spoke.

“Aria, she just dropped by. I wasn’t expecting her and she’s just on her way out” Michael looked back at her.

Chloe seemed surprised by this, but she listened to him and brushed past me in the doorway. My anger fizzled out and I decided not to put too much thought into it, if he wanted to be with her he would be. He was with me, so there for he wanted to be with me.

“We better start studying” I said.

He agreed and we exited the room. It wasn’t until after my exam the next day that I decided to ask what she wanted; he then told me that she wanted to get back together but he rejected her proposal.

The next few days with him were different, he was distant. I asked him if he was okay but he assured me that he was, that everything was. On December sixteenth, he asked me to come to his dorm after his exam and I did. When I showed up, he was sitting in his chair with the same look of pain on his face that he had when speaking about Chloe the first time.

“Aria” he began.

I knew what this was. This was the whole, I’m meant to be with her speech. She was my first love and I can’t change that. He was going to tell me that he wanted to be with her and not me. Who would want to be with me over her? She was perfect.

“I know” I said.

He looked at me in confusion, before he could speak I continued.

“I hope it works out for you guys” I smiled, holding back the pain.

He didn’t say anything; he just looked at me with a shameful expression. I felt stupid for thinking he could love me more than a girl like Chloe. I loved him but he loved her. I turned to leave and he didn’t stop me, I closed the door as I left his dorm. Then I started crying, I couldn’t contain it. I collapsed on the floor and let out my tears. As people passed me sitting on the floor, some of them asked if I was okay. I decided to go with honesty and tell them I wasn’t, I was heartbroken. I returned to my dorm and shut the light off. Fortunately, I was going back home to my dad for the winter break.

When I returned home my dad comforted me.

“I never liked him” he lied.

Nothing helped the pain though; I was doomed to weep over a guy that probably never cared about me. I hated the idea of returning to school, I absolutely hated it. All of the friends that I had made because of Michael were no longer my friends, I had no one there. What was I going to do? I wasn’t angry over it. After my mom died I was given an enlightening sense of realism. I know that in the real world, mothers die; just as much as I know that in the real world, men like Michael don’t end up with women like me. I thought he was the one, how could I be so foolish.

December was cold, the weather only made me feel worse. When Christmas came, all I could think about was what Michael got Chloe. When New Years came, all I could focus on was the fact that they shared a kiss at twelve o’clock. In a few days I would have to return and pretend like I wasn’t ruined by this breakup. Like my heart wasn’t heavier than my backpack. No one could help me, not even my dad; who attempted to on countless occasions. I knew that the only thing that could help me was time; sooner or later, I would forget Michael Arkland.

I returned to school and my studies kept me busy. I wasn’t happy but I was busy, which kept me from thinking too much about the pain I was feeling. Some days I missed Michael so much that I considered going to his dorm and begging for him to come back and some days I felt like I might actually be over him; then I would wake up the next day and feel different. After a few weeks, I was able to go through a full day without feeling the need to contact him.

I returned to my dorm after class, it was February third and I was feeling quite nauseous about Valentine’s Day being so near; I had made quite a few plans when I was with Michael. When I opened my door, I was shocked to find Michael sitting at my writing desk. He rose to his feet the moment I walked in.

“Aria, I made a mistake” he said.

I didn’t know how to react; I never expected this to happen.

“When Chloe came to me I was overwhelmed with emotion, but I realize now that it’s you that I want. I love you Aria, I love you so much.”

“I love you” I whispered.

He walked over to me and held my face in his warm hands, he leaned in and kissed me gently and it felt just like before.

“You can’t do that to me ever again” I told him.

“I’ll never hurt you again.”

My life was back together again, no more heartache. I loved Michael so much and he loved me, it was confirmed. Valentine’s Day came and we spent the day watching romantic movies in his dorm. February felt just like before, I was overwhelmed with love and when I told my dad that we had worked things out, I could tell that he too was excited.

“I love you Aria Colton, I always will” Michael whispered to me as we lay in my bed.

“I love you” I responded.

March came and the two of us continued with our great love; my first year of University was going well, I was with the most amazing guy and I had a fine number of friends. Nothing could ruin this year for me. That was until I passed Chloe in the hallway at the end of the month. There was nothing sinister about it, I passed her and she didn’t even notice me. But seeing her initiated something... It brought back the memories of pain. Michael left me for her once; surely he could do it again.

At night I would lie in bed and feel empty. He just left me and even though I loved him so much, he could easily do it again. When we were together, I would often be less interested in him. I wasn’t happy and I spent most of April acknowledging the emptiness that I felt. How could I love him so much but be this unhappy? Was I always going to hold the Chloe thing against him?

“Do you still have feelings for Chloe?” I asked Michael one night, as we ate at a restaurant on campus.

The question took him by surprise. I could tell by the way that he choked down his spaghetti.

“No I don’t” he replied.

Liar. He was lying to me and I knew it. Feelings don’t disappear that quickly, she must have broken up with him and that’s why he came to me.

I was distant for most of April and he could tell; sometimes when he asked me to come to his dorm or go out for something to eat I would tell him I wasn’t in the mood or I was studying for finals.

“You don’t have to be in this relationship” he told me.

“What are you talking about? Do you want to break up?” I would reply.

Conversation like this happened regularly, we would fight about breaking up and it was all because of my lack of interest. I couldn’t leave him though because I was so in love with him. Although I was taking him for granted, I could never let him go. He was still mine.

We finished school at the end of April and I went home to my dad in May. Michael and I texted and we stayed in a relationship over the phone, I actually preferred it to before because now I just had to text him things about my feelings rather than say them in person. This distance was exactly what I needed, but I could tell that he didn’t like it.

“I’ll come see you at the beginning of June” he told me over the phone.

I didn’t want to see him, I was enjoying my freedom. But there was no way of telling him that I didn’t want him here without hurting him, so I agreed.

When he came, my dad was excited. The two of them got along wonderfully, but that didn’t mean anything to me. I’m sure Chloe’s parents loved him just the same. Whenever we kissed, I didn’t feel the passion. I loved him though, I’m sure of it. I loved him because he was constantly in my heart. I realized that I was unhappy though and this visit from him really showed me just how unhappy I was. I was empty and Michael was no longer the guy I wanted to be with. The day he was leaving was the day I decided to tell him.

“I don’t feel happy anymore Michael, I haven’t for a long time.”

“I thought you were happy. I thought we were happy. I know we fight but all couples fight.” He responded.

“We fight over the fact that I don’t usually want to spend time together, isn’t there something wrong with that?”

He thought about that for a while, his face was even more pained than any time I had seen it before. He was devastated; I could see tears forming in his green eyes.

“I love you” he said.

“I love you Michael, but I’m not happy.”

He looked at me again and smiled.

“I understand.” He got into his jeep and drove away, I didn’t hear from him again for the rest of the summer.

I spent the summer becoming a little more extroverted, Michael didn’t enter my head. I went to parties around my city and spent much of my time with other guys. I loved the alcohol, the drugs, the dancing. I loved the random hookups. I was missing out before. My dad was worried about me but I assured him that I was okay. I needed to experiment; I needed to get this phase over with. When it was time for me to go back to school, I could tell that my dad was happy about it. It was strange, a year ago he couldn’t bear the idea of me leaving and now he wanted me gone. I had changed.

When I got back to school I continued with my studies in psychology and I went back to my introverted self. I focused more on school and that was the only thing that mattered to me. I wasn’t happy but I wasn’t necessarily unhappy either. I was content with how my life was. A year without boys is what I needed.

September and October were easy, they flew by because I lived and breathed school. When your focus is purely on one thing, you get through the days quicker. No thoughts of Michael entered my head until one day while passing the library; I saw an advertisement for a book by Michael Arkland. I decided to check it out and what I read was profound. I only read a few pages, but it told the story of a young man who falls madly in love with a princess who doesn’t love him back. It was depressing but uplifting because this man never stops loving her, even though she’ll never return his love.

I texted Michael saying congratulations on the book, he didn’t respond. I didn’t think much of this at first, but after a few days it started to really bother me. Why wouldn’t he respond? Was he angry? I slowly started to feel for him again. My love never really stopped I suppose. I texted him again, asking if we could meet up but he didn’t respond. I decided to search around campus for him and after hours of asking around I finally found his new dorm. As I walked up to it, I felt nervous. He wouldn’t want to see me. I turned away from the door with plans to leave but I an impulse made me knock. When he opened it, I could tell that he was shocked to see me; he was still as handsome as ever.

“Aria, what are you doing here?”

“I know you’re angry, but I was hoping you and I could talk.” I explained.

He looked at me with hesitation, but finally agreed and opened the door to let me in.

When I got inside, I was at a loss for words. He was still so beautiful; I could see that when he looked at me he was hurt. I wanted to make him feel better. I loved him.

“I’m sorry for what happened back in June, I just wanted to try new things and I thought that I needed to be alone to do that” I began.

He flashed me an unconvinced look, he was angry.

“I did everything for you and you broke my heart” he responded.

“I was afraid that you would leave me for Chloe or someone else who’s up to your standards.”

He sighed and his expression changed from anger to apprehensible. He understood that most people didn’t think I was deserving of him.

“Aria none of them matter. They can say whatever, but the only thing that should matter is that you know that to me, no other girl compared to you. You’re the most beautiful girl in the world.”

“Their words will always make me feel lesser” I explained.

He looked at me with deep disappointment. His facial expression suggested that I was clueless and that’s how I felt when he said his next words.

“If only you could see yourself through my eyes, only then would you see how perfect you are. It’s such a shame” he sighed.

I sat back after hearing this, how could he care about me so deeply? I was the problem; my own insecurities were preventing me from being with someone who truly loved me. He walked over to me and held my face in his hands, he whispered gently.

“No one can take away how I see you.”

He kissed me and I fell head over heels in love once again. We were back to where we were supposed to be. I would be truly happy.

Whenever I was with Michael, no thoughts of Chloe or anyone else entered my head. He would always tell me how deserving of him I was, how he was the lucky one. We spent the next few weeks so in love. He would give me his books to edit and I was happy to because most of his writing was beautiful. His first published book was titled, “Endless Love.” I inspired him to write it when I broke up with him in the summer; he said that the princess was supposed to be me. In the story, the princess never returns the protagonists love. That wasn’t the case with Michael, I loved him more than he could image.

Soon enough, it was December and it was time to write midterms. I studied a lot with Lisa; Michael was often at different bookstores signing the novel he had written. Sales were slowly picking up, Michael wasn’t confident that he would become a big novelist yet but I knew that this book would take him to the top. It was slowly gaining the recognition it deserved, I never really thought about what would happen when he became a star. I probably should have feared that he would outgrow me, but I didn’t think about it.

After midterms I went back home to my dad’s for the Christmas break; Michael was going to meet me there on the twenty third of December. When it was time for him to come, he didn’t show up. I figured maybe he got caught up in traffic with the poor road conditions; he never answered the phone when I called. The morning of Christmas Eve was when I finally got a call from him.

“Hey babe, I’m sorry I was asked to be interviewed on the news here in Michigan and I won’t be able to make it out!” He said with no disappointment in his voice.

“That’s alright” I replied.

He wished me a Merry Christmas and hung up the phone without saying that he loved me. I immediately started crying when I hung up the phone.

“What’s wrong, princess?” My dad questioned.

“Michael’s not coming” I answered. “He has to do some interview over his book.”

My dad put his arm around me and rubbed my back, his comfort made me feel a bit better but I knew that things were different with Michael. The two of us were constantly changing, when would we meet in the middle? Would we ever?

I got through the holidays, Michael and I spoke a few times over the phone and texted but he seemed to be distant. Not like when he was with Chloe; this time his distance seemed more selfish. He was going on to do great things and eventually I would become nothing to him. Any time that we spoke he would tell me about the success of his book, it was doing so well and I was happy for him but not as happy as he was for himself. He was changing and it was too fast for me to change with him.

When I returned to school, he greeted me the moment I walked into the building.

“Aria, did you see my interview on the news?” He questioned

“I missed it, sorry” I responded.

“That’s fine; I taped it so I’ll bring it by your dorm later.”

With that, he left. He didn’t ask about how my break was or tell me that he missed me. All he cared about was his book. The weeks that followed consisted of girls swooning over him, his ego becoming even more inflated and his book selling nearly ten thousand copies. The one thing that held us together was that nothing else in the world compared to me in Michaels mind; apparently to himself, he was far more important.

It wasn’t until the beginning of March that I decided to tell him that I felt that things were different since he started finding success in writing. I invited him over to my dorm.

“What’s this about?” He questioned.

“I miss you; I don’t like how things have been since the success of your book.”

“Aria not this again, you love me but you’re unhappy? Is that what this is?”

I was surprised at how offended he was; so quick to become enraged, I never saw that in him before.

“I’m unhappy because we never see each other” I protested.

“You used to want that! You didn’t like spending time with me.”

“And it was a mistake that I acknowledged.”

He looked at me with utter distaste; he couldn’t believe that I would speak to him like we were equal. To him now, I was lucky to be his girlfriend.

“Aria this is my life now-“

“I thought it was our life?” I cut him off.

For the first time in my life, I saw Michael struggle to find words. He finally uttered one horrible sentence.

“If you don’t like it, you don’t have to be here.”

He was right. I told him to leave and he did without protest. He was a changed man and nothing I did could bring back the selfless guy he once was. I spent the night crying in my bed, I felt like I was going to die. I loved him so much, how could he have changed so drastically and so quickly. He was like a completely different person. I thought about old memories, how things used to be and I cried more at the thought of our happiness. I was supposed to be with him.

The next couple of weeks didn’t make me feel any better. When I tried to speak to Lisa, she wasn’t willing. I was completely alone and there was nothing I could do about it. Michael didn’t know who I was anymore, he was far too happy with his new life. I decided that I could no longer stay here; I couldn’t survive the next two months.

“Daddy” I cried when my dad answered the phone.

“Princess what’s wrong?!”

“I’m all alone here, can I please come home? I can’t do it” I told him.

My dad came and got me immediately. He worked out an agreement with the school that said I could do my exams online. I didn’t care, as long as I was out of there and away from Michael.

When I first got home, I was in pieces. I would cry each night and my dad would often have to wake me from nightmares about Michael leaving me. I loved him so much, yet we were always unhappy. It didn’t make sense to me but I didn’t care about making sense of it, I just wanted the pain to stop. My dad comforted me and he would often tell me stories about his heartbreaks before he met my mom; it was good to know that I wasn’t alone. After my exams I was happy that I had no more ties to Michigan, I would never have to go there again. It wasn’t until the beginning of July that I started to feel somewhat okay again. I started working at my dad’s coffee shop; the quality time with him was great. I wasn’t over Michael, perhaps I never would be. But I had other things to be thankful for.

I thought about Michael every day but I never expected to see him again. That was until August twenty second. I was working at the counter at the coffee shop when a familiar voice made an order.

“Medium double- double please.”

I looked up to see Michael’s green eyes fixated upon me.

“What are you doing here?” I questioned.

“Can we talk somewhere more private?”

I took Michael to the back of the shop where we kept supplies. I loved him so much, I was so hopeful that he would be here to ask for me back. But then a thought hit me; where would it end? We were two very in love people who were incapable of being happy together. I wasn’t wrong when I said that we were meant to be together, but maybe we weren’t meant to stay together.

“I made a mistake” he began but I stopped him.

“You didn’t. Michael, I will always love you. I will always wish that we could be together but we can’t.”

“Of course we can” he protested.

“There’s always going to be another Chloe.”

“Another girl you mean?” He questioned. “No there won’t, it’s you that I want.”

“Not another girl, another problem. We may be the most in love couple in the world, but that doesn’t compensate for the lack of happiness here.”

He searched for words so that he could form a rebuttal but he knew I was right. We both hated that I was right. I pulled him in by his collar and kissed him one last time, a kiss to set him free.

“Goodbye Aria” he smiled at me.

“Goodbye Michael.”

With that he left and I was sure that he would be gone forever. Michael said that people grow apart and become strangers, but he wasn’t a stranger to me. He was the love of my life that couldn’t be. The guy I’ll compare every other guy to. I was finally ready to move on with my life and that’s what I did. I started dating a co-worker at the coffee shop. His name was Craig and he was so kind. We spent month’s getting to know each other and it was incredible but it wasn’t love. He lacked the confidence that Michael had and it prevented me from falling for him. I broke up with him in October and there were no tears shed, I was thankful for the time we spent together and so was he.

My new school in North Dakota required transcripts from Michigan. They offered to send them but I told them that I would come and pick them up; one last time in that school and I would definitely be able to let go of my old life.

“You’re sure you want to go?” My dad asked.

“I’m sure dad; I’ll be back in a few days.”

I kissed my dad on the cheek and left for Michigan, when I arrived to the school it was the exact same as I remembered. I found myself thankful for the times I had there; though lots of them were painful, they made me a stronger person. I picked up my transcripts and as I left, I passed my old dorm. Memories of Michael flooded my mind as I peered into the room. I could see all of the wonderful memories of Michael in this room; all of the bad ones had disappeared. He would always be remembered as a positive aspect of my life.

I left the school and decided to pay one last visit to the bar before I left. As I ordered a drink, I turned to see Michael sitting in the same booth he used to pick out when we were dating. Was this a sign? I looked at his face, he looked happy. He was still so handsome, so elegant in his beauty. I hadn’t seen him for such a long time, what were the chances that we would both be at this bar once again? I decided that I had to talk to him, just to see if he thought it was as strange as I did.

“It’s you” I smiled as I sat across from him.

He looked at in confusion, as though he didn’t recognize me. He opened his mouth to speak but I spoke before him.

“It’s been a while, how weird is it that-“

“Do I know you?” He asked.

“It’s Aria” I smiled, thinking he was joking.

“I’m sorry Aria, you seem like a wonderful but I don’t know you. A few months ago I got into a car accident and I have no recollection of the last two years of my life.”

I was shocked. Two years ago he met me at this bar in October. It wasn’t strange that he was here; he came here regularly two years ago. He didn’t know who I was; I had become a stranger to him.

“Did I know you?” He asked.

I could do it all over again, but this time correctly. This was my chance to have the guy I loved back without the memory of all of the bad that had occurred. But it was also an opportunity to give him the sadness he had when we were together; he was given the chance to start again. Maybe it was time to let go, just like he had done. Forget him like he had forgotten me.

“No I’m sorry, I got you confused with someone else” I responded, getting out of the booth. “Have a wonderful night” I said to him, looking into his green eyes for what surely was the last time.

I left the bar in tears, tears of joy. Michael was given the opportunity to live life without me. He would continue writing and he would succeed without me weighing him down. It was just like he had said when we first met; people can change so much that you don’t even know them anymore. He didn’t know me and I guess I didn’t know him. I would go on to do wonderful things as well, I would find someone else to live and I would always remember the time I shared with Michael. He was now happy and he would find another girl to love who would cause him less heartache. He had let me go and although I knew it would take some time, I too would be able to let him go for good. I would always remember Michael Arkland as the stranger that I loved.

© Copyright 2018 Luke Miller. All rights reserved.

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