Delusion of Romance

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
He's been hurt and he needs to move forward. Only thing is, he's in love with the one woman he shouldn't be and there's nothing he can do about it.

Submitted: July 09, 2010

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Submitted: July 09, 2010

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Her foot splashes in a puddle of melted snow as she steps off the curb. It startles her a little and she clings tighter to my arm to keep from losing her balance. I love how she holds on to me as we walk down the street, with both her arms wrapped around one of mine as if she’s hugging a pillow. The snow is still falling lightly, as it’s been all night, but it’s not collecting on the street or the sidewalk. It never collects in the city like I remember it did when I was a kid, but the powder blowing through the yellow light of the street lamps give the scene an ephemeral quality that makes it all seem more dreamlike, like a memory in realtime. I’ve always liked weather like this- warm enough to be outdoors, but cold enough to snow; cold enough to color her cheeks cherry blossom pink. Sparkles of light reflect off the buildings, the streets, her eyes. Small white flakes of snow stick in waves of dark hair that spill from beneath her wool hat and linger there like tiny flowers before melting away. Her features seem larger- the brightness of her eyes, the width of her smile, her rosy red cheeks. I have no idea why she goes through all this trouble for somebody like me and I fight the urge to ask her in spite of my curiosity.

“Did you enjoy dinner?”

“It was wonderful, I told you that. I still feel a little light headed from the wine,” she giggles.

“I just wanted this night to be special for you.”

“You always make our time special,” she consoles me. I want to believe her so badly.

“I’m not going to see you for a while, so I suppose I wanted to give you a night to remember...” and I wave my free arm in front of myself as if to present her with the city itself. She giggles that tipsy giggle again and snuggles her face against my shoulder for a second. I love when she does that.

“You know I’ll be back in a little over a week.” She says apologetically but with an air of optimism, as if the time away is nothing I should worry about.

“I know. I’ll see you after the New Year. I’m sure you two will have fun together.” I say sarcastically.

She slides her hands down my arm and presses one of her warm hands in mine, interlocking our fingers and squeezing tightly. She looks up at me frustrated and beautiful, with flakes of snow landing in her eyelashes, but I only glance down at her for a second before looking away so she knows I'm upset, or at least pretending to be.

There’s a long awkward pause while she contemplates how to respond. Will she change the subject or take the bait? I tend to pick fights at exactly the wrong times, like right now, which is something I’m not proud of but not something I can help either. I spent an hour looking for the perfect restaurant for us, planning the perfect evening, and now I’ve just set the stage to ruin the entire thing. If you knew me, that wouldn’t surprise you at all. My anticipation isn’t exactly killing me, but I am curious to see how she responds.

“Do you have any plans for the week?” She asks, taking the high road, avoiding the argument we’ve had a million times before and although I’m boiling with frustration this is exactly what I love about her- she forces me to actually enjoy myself whether I want to or not.

“I’m working, covering for guys that have kids.” I say, again sarcastically but I’m hoping this time she doesn’t notice.

“You are a guy that has kids,” she says, trying to combat the sarcasm that I obviously didn’t hide very well.

“Not this Christmas I’m not.”

“Stop it. I hate it when you talk like that. Just because they’re not with you this year doesn’t mean you don’t have kids. You have almost the whole day with them before they go back to her, don’t you?”

“Yeah I do,” I tell her. “They’re with me at 10 and I have until 6 to get them back and then she’s got them for the rest of the week. I very much preferred it last year when it was the other way around.”

“I know you did but that’s not the situation now and you know it. Things change. It’s time to adjust. Focus on the positive!” She says… again. She’s been telling me to be positive for the last two and a half years; longer if you include all the times she said it to me while I was still married, going through my divorce and watching my wife half try to hide the relationship she was in with her "friend" from work.

“C’mon!” She yells. The buildings part and she grabs my upper arm and pulls me hard to the right and we stumble down the sloping sidewalk of the Channel Garden and instantly the worries are gone and her face lights up like a child. She’s smiling from ear to ear and I can see all 18,000 lights on the tree reflect in her eyes as the snow swirls around her. She reminds me of an Angel.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” She asks me rhetorically, staring up at the twinkling lights as if trying to count each one.

“Beautiful,” I say, never taking my eyes off of her.

We just stand there together silently. Every so often she’ll twist a little, hug my arm tighter to her chest or tip her head to rest on my shoulder and let the snow fall on her pink cheek and melt away and all the other things disappear too. All the reasons why we’re wrong for each other, all the reasons why this can’t work, all the hurdles that life threw between us- they all go away if just for a few minutes and we pretend. We pretend that the ring on her finger is mine and that the kids waiting home belong to us. We pretend that we share 20 years of memories, good and bad, and we pretend that has only made our relationship stronger over the years. We pretend we’re going home together at the end of the night and that later we’ll make love and fall asleep in our own bed, in our own home. I look at her and I imagine what she must look like in the morning when she doesn’t have to rush home; her long hair spilling over her face and breasts, her bare body twisted in the white linen sheets, one open hand still reaching out to me across the bed as she sleeps.

In time the fantasies, like the snow swirling around our heads, blow away. I can feel her shiver for the first time. I put my arm around her and she slips beneath it, tucking her head to my chest. I look down to smile at her but her eyes are closed and I feel her take in a deep breath, drawing as much of me into her as she can in the short time we have left.

“Lauren?” I whisper.

“Yes?” She whispers back, her eyes still closed.

“You’ll miss your train again. He’ll wonder where you are. You’ve got to go.”

“I know,” she says stubbornly, like a little girl. She doesn’t move a muscle.

I shake her a little, give her a nudge. I know she’s praying, asking God for the power to stop time; to have the ability for just this once to stop the seconds from ticking away, to bring the taxi cabs to a halt exactly where they are and leave the snow flakes hanging in mid-air while we stand here together wrapped in each other arms. I know she’s praying for this because it’s what I’m praying for too.

“C’mon baby, you really have to go.” I’m not whispering anymore.

“One more minute?”

“No, not one more minute. It’s December 23rd and the trains are going to be packed. You want to stand the whole way home?”

“Can’t we just go to your place?”

This question makes me nuts because she knows the answer I want to give is different from the answer I have to give but she askes anyway, as if rubbing my face in it.

“No.”

“Why not?” She says sounding more childlike than ever. I know she's teasing me, of course I can’t pass up the opportunity to vent while I have the chance.

“Because you’re married.” I emphasize the last word to make it thick with sarcasm.

“But someday I won’t be.” She says far too matter-of-factly for me, as if she's filed papers already, and I begin to feel the agitation in my gut. It’s amazing how similar love and anger feel.

“And when is someday?”

“I don’t know… just someday. Someday, someday, someday.” She sings.

She starts to walk in the direction of the train station, but my feet don’t budge. I know as well as she does she can’t give me the answers I want to hear, but I want to hear what she has to say anyway because, I guess, I'm a glutton for punishment and that same question pops back into my head- why is she going through all this trouble for a guy like me? I refuse to move one inch until I get answers to my questions, or at least this one question, but just because I want answers doesn’t mean she has any intention of justifying herself to me.

She has a firm grip on my left hand with both of hers and she tugs at me twice softly, playfully, before giving me a third tug that’s hard enough to tip me off my feet, if not pull my arm out of its socket. If I let her, she’ll pull me right down to the ground and drag me to 6th Avenue if she has to to make her train and avoid this topic of conversation. I take two large, stumbling steps toward her to keep from falling on my face and I end up standing right in front of her again, my left hand still gripped in hers, looking down at her face with my teeth clenched and my jaw set. This is my serious look.

“You gonna move or what?” She says as if daring me to do anything else.

“Someday? You won’t be married… someday?”

“Yeah. You know, Someday.”

I raise my glance and look over the top of her head, sending a blank stare down a dark, lifeless side-street shaded from the lights wrapped around every inch of the 80 foot Norway Spruce behind us, I think its 48th Street. As beautiful as she is, I can’t look at her. The typical things are swarming in my head- I’m tired of torturing myself, chasing a woman that belongs to somebody else. I spent the last years of my marriage married to a woman in love with another man and now, after going through all that, here I am, finally single, and again in love with a woman that is with somebody else. Why do I do this to myself? I stand there, my hands in my pockets, torn between being unhappy or being somebody’s affair- damned if I do, damed if I don't- and I cringe at the thought of being yet another woman's second choice.

Without a word, she pulls off her hat, takes one small step forward and tucks her head up under my chin. She rests her hands and head against my chest and presses herself against me. I hold her tight, my arms wrapped around her small shoulders, the smell of her hair driving me crazy. Again I ask God to stop time. He still isn’t listening.

“Are you OK?” She asks.

“I’m the same as I always am.”

“Which is?” She sounds genuinely curious.

“Livin' the dream, baby.” I mumble and I rub her back.

“I worry about you, you know? What about next week? What are you going to do? You should plan stuff to do, call Rob or Eric. Go out. Don’t just sit home.” She's worried about what I might do if left to my own devices alone in my apartment all week with a kitchen drawer full of cutlery.

"You know what you could do, Single Guy? God forbid… you could actually go on a date!”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because it pisses off my girlfriend when I date. She doesn’t like it. She calls me all upset then blocks my emails for a week. It’s too much trouble,” I say and I glance back down 48th Street arrogantly, biting my tongue to keep from smiling. She lifts her head and bangs her fists against my chest hard enough to convince me she’s actually offended.

“I don’t do that! Just the one time!”

“One time?”

“OK, maybe like twice or something... Whatever…But that girl was a skank and you know it.” She says with a look of fury on her face before breaking down and bursting into laughter.

We keep laughing, holding one another. She looks up at me with her glassy blue eyes and although she stops laughing she holds the smile. I lean forward and she tilts her head, her eyes begin to close and I press my lips against hers as hard as I can; my hands beneath her twisted locks of damp hair pressed firm against her back. As cold as it is, her lips feel warm and I can feel every inch of her body against mine, from her chest down to her knees. Her hands slide up beneath my chin and rest on my cheeks as she pulls her lips away long before it seems appropriate to do so, at least to me.

“What am I gonna do with you?” She whispers. I don’t answer. I just want to kiss her again but when my head moves forward hers tilts back.

“No,” she says firmly.“ I have to go home. I already missed that first train, I can’t miss the next one and if I keep looking at you I’ll end up following you to a hotel somewhere around here or something.”

“And what would be wrong with that?”

“Walk me to the subway station,” she says after her feet have already started moving, pulling me along, again ignoring my question, not taking the bait.

“You know what, Lauren?”

“What?”

“I'm going to marry you someday.”

“You aaaaare?” She says in a mocking tone. “And when would that be happening?”

“Years from now, when your marriage finally ends, legally I mean. I’ll still be single just like I am now, and we’ll go on teasing each other for the next 40 years or so and after you get completely sick of me asking you you’ll finally break down and say yes and we’ll spend two or three beautiful, sexless years together before I die.”

“Is that all I get? Two years?”

“That’s it. But you get to keep the last name if you want it. It'd be nice to find at least one woman who wants it.” I say and she rolls her eyes and shakes her head at me.

“OK, I’ll take it. I’ll take ten minutes with you if that’s all I can have,” she says spinning around, holding my hands and walking backwards down the street looking up into my eyes and again I want so badly to believe what she just said. We arrive at the corner and she cranes her neck up and kisses me lightly on the lips.

“Thank you for dinner. I’ll write you next week when I get back. Please don’t just sit home sulking about the boys, OK?”

“I told you, I’ll be fine. Go.”

She smiles and bounces down the stairway and through the turnstile before turning out of view.

"I love you." I whisper, maybe out loud.

The snow has stopped. It stopped a while ago I guess, I just didn’t notice,and now it's just cold. I can still taste her on my mouth and smell her perfume on my coat and I fight off the urge to chase after her and steal a few more minutes together. It's time she goes back to her real life, back to her husband and kids where she belongs. No need to waste anymore time with me. The breeze has picked up and I feel a chill run through my body and that space between my arms and my body feels awkwardly empty now. I turn up the collar of my coat and stand facing north about to take the long walk home alone, again. Nothing ever seems to change.


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