"Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
in the wind of change"
"I love you," he says without warning, his head resting gently in my lap, eyes a greenish-blue hazel staring up into mine.
Don't say that, interjects my inner monologue. You can't say that. You don't have the right to throw those words around, as if you know. As if they mean something. As if they could ever, ever be true again. Words are wind - meaningless, and soon forgotten.
"You can't know that," I say instead. "You've only known me for a few weeks, how could you know that so soon?"
Solemn expression. Hazel-green eyes. He blinks, once, slowly. "I just do." He sits up straight, hands clasping mine. He raises my fingers to his lips and kisses each one tenderly. "After Michelle, I haven't seen anyone at all for so long. Haven't felt anything for so long. Then I met you, dear heart. I know love when I feel it."
"But..." (That's just hormones talking, not real emotions. Those don't exist. And even if they do, they can't possibly be aimed at me. Just look at me. Shattered. Broken. Wounded beyond recovery. And not even a whole, complete woman at that. If I were a horse they'd take me out to the pasture and put me down.) "...why?" I conclude, feebly.
"Oh, dear heart..." he says, stroking one cheek as if wiping away tears that aren't there. "Someone hurt you so very badly. He made it difficult for you to trust anyone again."
He is silent for a time, a time, and a half a time. I let the silence linger, and it fills the empty space between us, in my one-room basement apartment.
"That makes me angry." He said, simply. I look and there are the beginnings of tears in his sad, hazel eyes. "But, I guess I just need to prove it to you. It's ok, I can be patient. I can wait until you're ready." His hands covering mine. Solid. Dependable. Protective. A thought flits through my brain that in this man, at least, is someone who genuinely respects me, and would always do his best to keep me from harm. The thought frightens me, a little. "Why do you think I surround you with so many things I know you like? I want them to remind you of me."
It was true, I realize, as I glance around the room. There on the wall: the picture with the quotation "Lord, let all I do today be done in Love." Under it: the tiny cobalt-blue blown glass dragonfly. Over by the window: a pot of Aftrican Daisies, their blood-red blooms the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. On my dresser: a glass plaque with the inscription "If ever a day goes by that I don't say 'I love you', know that I always do", given to me just today. And next to it: the hand-etched delicate goose egg cunningly crafted with a dragonfly in bas-relief, its base encrusted with crystals to catch the light, and mother-of-pearl wings outstretched in flight - seen one day in the shop window as we passed by. Gifted three days later. A thing of such exquisite beauty that I could barely even now believe I have in my possession. Even my car was a reminder of him: new parts, new pieces, new tune-up which it had so badly needed. I no longer felt unsure about driving my own vehicle. Instead, I now feel... safe.
Is that such a bad thing?
Yes, if it's not real. And love isn't real. It can't be. Because if it's real, and it can just... end...
"I don't love you, Steve. I'm sorry, but I don't." I brush a piece of hair out of his eyes which had fallen loose. "I'm... I'm just healing. I'm not ready."
"I know, dear heart." There was that phrase again. "And it's ok. I understand. You just make me happy."
"You make me happy too." We embrace, and I am surprised by how tightly I hold him. I feel him tremble a little. He pulls back but keeps his arms around my waist. Slowly, as if afraid I might bolt and run like a frightened deer, he wipes away a tear from my cheek - a real one this time - and then kisses the spot on my cheek where it had been.
"Good night, get some sleep, dear heart," he says, turning to go. I watch him as he leads the way up the stairs, strong back muscles bunching and flexing, and my traitor body suddenly wants nothing more than to hold him close, closer, closest. He is out the door now and turning the corner, but before he goes he turns to me and signs: three gestures. Universal words. Words without wind. Words made into action. I. Love. You.