Title: The Truth
Word Count: 652
“Hey,” he says, brows furrowing just above the bridge of his nose. “Are you o–”
“Fine,” she says. Her smile is too wide (the edges shaky and brittle), shows too many teeth for polite society. “I’m fine.”
She can predict the patterns of this conversation. Here comes the full-shoulder-sigh, the quick intake of breath as he launches into his next line.
“Right,” he says. “Of course, I guess I was just worried and–”
“Don’t be.” She doesn’t mean to keep cutting him off… she’s just not ready to hear another weak excuse. Weak words make strong pain. Maybe Confucius said that, or maybe nobody did and it was her own heart trying to cast a balm over the ache of rejection.
He starts to lift a hand towards her, letting it hover in the space between them (she watches his fingers twitch) before finally aborting the motion, raising the hand fully to run through his hair.
Oh, she thinks. He has nice hair. I’m going to miss his hair.
After another moment she decides that yes, this is okay, she’ll let herself miss his hair and nothing more.
The conversation hangs stagnant between them, and she’s left watching him, how the fading light caresses the familiar angle of his jaw, his shoulder.
“Has it always been this dark in here?” she blurts, staring around the hallway. She doesn’t remember the lights ever being off, could have sworn that it had always been the same florescent hell…now the only illumination comes from the open door behind her. She can hear society’s faint hum on the other side, wonders how long she has to stand here. Her feet itch – but he’s still there in front of her, now with a politely puzzled expression.
“Sorry,” she says. “This is the part where we’re supposed to say cliched niceties and move on with our existence, isn’t it?”
He’s talking, like she hasn’t said anything at all (and maybe she realizes, she never had.) “I just hope we can still, you know, be friends after all this.”
The line makes her smile again, a twitchy little pull of the lips. “That probably can’t happen, and you know it. I could just imagine what you’d say to your girlfriend… Oh, this is my ex, but it’s cool, we’re just friends now.” She means it flippantly, but he seems to miss the point.
“We never dated.” He winces at his own words, but whether from shame of the fact or shame of letting it end like this, she doesn’t know. She finds it hard to care.
“No,” she agrees, “of course not. We only fucked a few times, hardly grounds for a relationship at all.” The sun is warm on her back, even from this far away. She can’t give herself a good reason to stay here anymore. “Now’s when you’ll say something trite, like, for what it’s worth, I did love you or something.” She takes a step backwards, then another, and another. They’re steady steps, no wavering or faltering – and then she’s turning neatly on one heel, her shoe making an abrupt squeak against the linoleum.
He’s at her back, the sun washing against her face. She finds she likes it like this.
“It’s true you know,” he calls after her, “I did love you, at least a little.”
Her feet never stop moving. “That’s nice.”
“Where are you going?”
She pauses to take a deep breath, arms lifting away from her sides, then rises to her toes before settling herself solidly on the ground.
“Out,” she says. “Wherever the sun takes me.”
She pushes through the doors, face upturned like a flower, drinking in the sun; he’s saying something else, but his voice is lost to the wind. She smiles, a real smile, one that doesn’t hurt, and takes her first step forward.
This is an older piece, originally written in 2010, reprinted here for your viewing pleasure.