Title: Stronger Stuff
Word Count: 1328
Genre: Realistic Fiction
This is a semiautobiographical piece that I started writing about 3 years ago. In going through my files this summer, I found it and finished it up. I'm curious as to who you sympathize with more, the man or the woman. Both had their problems and difficulties, but one of them has to be the victim, right?
Meet me by the bridge at dusk.
That's all the note had said. No signature, no address, nothing except the single sentence. But, she didn't need to wonder who it was from. The sharp letters were as familiar to her as her own sloping handwriting. She sighed and folded the note back up, placing it carefully in her purse.
He wouldn't have sent that note to her if it wasn't important. Despite her reservations about seeing him again, she knew she would end up going. There was no way she could deny the tug the note had over her. She sipped on the last of her afternoon tea, her one pleasure after a long day at work. It was the only thing that seemed to calm her down these days, now that he had left and taken his calming presence with him.
A quick peek out the window told her that she had to get ready. The sun was dipping low in the sky, and if she didn't leave soon, she would miss the appointment. She made her way into the kitchen and washed out her cup, thinking about what he could possibly want to meet her for. Making her way to her hall closet, she pulled out a long pink scarf, her long coat, and an umbrella. She didn't particularly want to leave the warmth of her house to go out in the drizzling cold, but she couldn't leave him waiting for her.
It was a fifteen minute walk to the stone bridge in the park. There was little foot traffic so late in the afternoon; just a few people walking their dogs before turning in for the night. She looked down at the river flowing freely under the bridge. The water seemed so calm, but she knew it ran strong. An orange leaf floating by showed the current moving along quickly, while the few raindrops falling from the sky left ripples in the surface.
It was starting to get dark. He'd be here soon, if he wasn't already waiting nearby. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. She heard a few leaves crunch behind her, but she continued to look out over the water.
“Hello again.” His voice was soft, sweet, just as she remembered it. “Thanks for coming.”
She turned to him and melted at the sight of him. He stood there, proud and confident as ever, save for the small blue circles under his eyes. He smiled brightly, making her stomach flutter.
“What do you want from me?” she asked, confused as ever. Her heart ached a little, knowing she would never fully recover from the loss of him.
“I needed someone to talk to. You're the only one who would understand.” He looked at her, his eyes pleading. Her gaze dropped to her hands, fighting the urge to bound into his arms.
She heard him sigh and lean against the railing next to her. “You know, this is where I first told you I loved you.” He paused and placed a warm hand over hers. “It's still true, you know.”
She pulled her hand away and closed her eyes, urging the tears to stay at bay. “I am well aware of what has happened here. If you love me so much, why do you keep pushing me away, only to draw me close again?”
He shrugged. “I need you. I just can't... be with you.” He shifted his weight.
She turned to him quickly, her eyes flashing with anger. “You can't be with me, and yet you won't leave me alone long enough for me to move on. To try to scrape together some semblance of my former life, before you took me by storm.” Her breathing became erratic, and lightening flashed overhead. He held his hands up in surrender and took a step back.
“Calm down now. I just wanted to talk....”
“Of course you just wanted to talk. And as soon as you have whatever it is you're worried about off your chest, you'll leave again until you need me again. You don't care about me, certainly not to the degree I care about you.” She turned her back to him, closing her eyes tightly against the onslaught of emotions.
“If this is about me and Brian...”
She wanted to scream in frustration. “Of course this isn't about you and Brian. This is about me. This is about my need to be human again, not some shade of my former self. If you actually cared about me, you would be able to see that. I'm miserable, and you're just keeping me there while you go and move on with someone else. I don't care who it is you move on with; I love you enough to wish you happiness, but I want to be happy as well.”
She could hear him breathing quietly behind her and held her breath for his reaction. She couldn't imagine it would be a good one. There was entirely too much tension in the air and his temper would flare worse than hers had. Their tempers matched so well, it always made for explosive arguments when either was stressed.
He brushed his fingers along her shoulder and sighed. She stiffened beneath his touch, her nerves on edge. “You're right,” he said softly. “I should let you go. But I find myself craving your company at the strangest of times. I'm not strong enough.” He lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles softly.
Her knees shook beneath her and she used her other hand to steady herself against the stone wall. “What did you need to talk to me about?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
“It's my dad. He still won't talk to me.” He tugged on her hand pulled her into his arms. “I'm not sure what to do about it,” he mumbled into her hair.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Just give him time. You're his only son. He'll come around. You just shocked him.”
“It wouldn't take much to shock him,” he chuckled. “He's lived the straight and narrow his whole life.”
She nodded, but remained silent. He continued to talk, letting the weight of the world off his chest, it seemed. She listened, savoring the feel of his arms around her, the feeling of safety she felt. She reluctantly pulled away as he finished his catharsis. The rain had stopped, leaving a crisp chill in the air.
“Thank you,” he whispered in her ear. “I don't know what I'd do without you.”
“I didn't do anything,” she muttered.
“You listened. You gave me hope again.” He leaned down and softly kissed her cheek. “You make everything seem better.”
She shrugged and smiled weakly. “I should be getting back.”
He glanced at his watch and nodded. “Let me walk you back.”
“No, that won't be necessary,” she said forcefully, placing her hand on his chest. “I could use the quiet time,” she added.
He nodded and gave her one last hug, then set off for his home once again. As she stood there, watching him leave, a tear rolled down her cheek. “Goodbye. I'll miss you.”
Turning on her heel, she started the stroll back to her own house, making a mental list of the loose ends she'd need to tie up before she left town. It was a cowardly move, she knew, but a necessary one. He needed to find someone else to confide in, and she just needed to find herself again. Three long years she had spent in his company, becoming absorbed in his world. Now, it was over, and she had to become her own person again, not half of a couple.
What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.