As we walked through the quiet of the intramural fields, I found myself questioning everything.
I’ve never approved of being the “other woman”, and yet, here I was. Sure, nothing had happened…yet. But would it? I stared at the outline of his back as we made our way back to the dorms. The broad shoulders and smooth neckline I had held so many times were illuminated by the spotlights of the soccer field. His palm was calloused and worn, just as I remembered. Not a trace of sweat or nerves could be seen anywhere. Who was this man? And how did I not have the same effect on him that he had on me?
He turned and smiled. Nervously. There is was. The sign that yes, he was scared. He wasn’t sure where this was going or if this was the right thing. I wasn’t alone in this moment, and I felt slightly comforted in knowing that his mind must be racing. We made some small talk.
“How are classes going?”
“How are your brother and sister-in-law doing as newlyweds?”
Simple questions to ease the tension and fill the gap between us. As we arrived to my dorm, I pointed out Anna’s car in the parking lot. We had to go somewhere else. I knew Anna was friends with his current girlfriend, and I didn’t want to make her feel awkward. She would be kind and loving, but she wouldn’t appreciate being put in the position of being my secret keeper. So, we dodged the front entrance and set out towards the Georgia Dorm. He shared a suite with three other guys, and we hoped they would be gone. Or at least asleep. We skipped over the broken sidewalk, ducking between trees, laughing at our own private joke. Two forbidden lovers trying not to be caught. No. Not lovers. Just friends. Only friends. Nothing more.
So wrong. So perfect.
When we arrived at Georgia, he pulled the door open and the familiar scent of laundry sheets, cologne, and that indescribable smell known only as the “Georgia Funk” hit us like a wall. I couldn’t help but smile. I had spent many an evening in this dorm with this boy. I could feel a rush of adrenaline and my cheeks flushed pink. He turned to look at me and said, “Are you okay? I mean, I can take you back to your dorm if you’re uncomfortable. I just want to talk. That’s all. Really.” I smiled up at him, “No. I’m okay, I promise. I want to talk, too.”
I wanted to do more than talk. I always wanted more with him, but talking would do for now.
We raced up the stairs to the fourth floor and tip-toed into his room. One roommate asleep. Two roommates still out at the houses. We were safe.
He walked over to the door between the rooms and locked it, keeping out any prying eyes and ears. I pulled up a chair at his computer and picked out a playlist. Our old, familiar songs filled his “Recently Played” category, and I knew I wasn’t the only one having a hard time moving on with life since the break-up. I picked some favorites. Say Good-Bye. Shimmer. Lightning Crashes. Alabama. I Will.
I turned shyly around, praying he wouldn’t say something to embarrass me for being nostalgic. “I hope you don’t mind,” I whispered. “I’ve avoided most of these songs for a couple weeks. I thought it would be nice to hear them.”
Expecting a chuckle and maybe even an eye roll, I was surprised to see his face turn serious. He grabbed my hands and pulled me onto his lap. “Sally, I’ve really missed you. Really missed you. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not proud of who I am when I look in the mirror.” I just stared. What is there to say? Deep down my mind screamed, “ME EITHER! I’M MISERABLE!” but I couldn’t seem to choke out the words. My eyes filled with tears, and I knew I was going to lose it.
“Please don’t say these things if you don’t mean them. I can’t take it again, really.”
“I mean them. I love you, Sally. I’ve always loved you.”
I felt it coming, the waves of sobs and heartache I held in for the past weeks. I took one wretched breath and felt my entire body give into the emotional angst I hadn’t been able to shake. Once I started, I couldn’t seem to stop. He held me close, whispering, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I just am so scared and confused. I’m struggling too. I love you. I love you. I love you….”
He pushed my shoulders back away from his chest. My tears had soaked his shirt, and I felt so pathetic and small. Why couldn’t I be strong and bold? Why couldn’t I be the woman I wanted to be, who demanded answers and action? He held my face in his hands, brushes the wetness from my cheeks, staring into my eyes. And he leaned in and kissed me. Hard. Passionately. For the first time since that horrible night we said, “It’s over.” In that one second, everything changed. I decided right then, I would not let this boy go. We would make this work. Somehow. Somehow. He would be mine.
We fell asleep on the worn couch. A tired, tangled heap of denim and cowboy boots. Wrapped in each other’s arms, in the dark of the night, the world felt whole again. I slept soundly, free of the nightmares and constant wakings that had plagued me since he left. But with the break of the morning, our perfect world was shattered. As the light crept into the room, I awoke with a start.
“What the hell am I doing?” I thought. “This isn’t me. I don’t do these things.”
I made my way as quietly as possible into the bathroom only to be met with one of his roommates. Pat looked at me and gave that half-smile he is famous for using. “I guess someone made up last night?” he laughed. “Pat, please don’t mention this to anyone…I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t want people to talk.” He smiled again. “Sally, I never tell secrets.” I thanked him with a quick hug, wiped the mascara from under my eyes, and splashed my face with cold water. I stared at my face in the mirror and knew that I had only set myself up for my heartbreak. I had to get home. I had to leave. Nothing had been solved. He hadn’t promised anything. He had only spoken his fears, the same fears I had. What had changed?
I leaned over and kissed his forehead. He sighed groggily and said, “I meant it. I’ll call you tonight.”
I could feel my eyes well up again, and I just said, “Okay…see you,” before rushing out of his room and down the stairs with the hopes of making it back to my dorm unseen. I walked quickly across campus with my head down, my hands shaking from the memory of last night. When I got to my room, Anna was still asleep, softly breathing and still. I knew I had escaped any questions for now, except for the ones nagging me to come to terms with the reality of our relationship and where we were headed. The guilt of what I had done battled with the deep feeling that we were right together. It was just kissing, after all…and words of love spoken. We were meant to be together. Surely that justified it?
Together or apart. Together or apart. I was terrified to know what the answer would be.
This is Part Two of our Love Story series. To read Part One, click here.
More from love