The moon was glistening tonight, the first time in awhile. I look out onto the water as I sit on the cliff’s edge, the crickets seem to be humming a new tune tonight, faster, more exciting than usual. Behind me, I could hear the rustling of bushes. He’s here, I thought to myself as I turn to see him pushing away a stray branch.
“Fancy seeing you here,” he laughs, his icy hair reflecting the moon’s magnificent glow as he steps towards me. “I thought you wouldn’t show,”
“Why wouldn’t I?” I ask. The question hangs in the air, he sits down next to me.
“I thought it would be nice to catch up,” he starts, disregarding my question. “You know, after everything that’s happened…” he avoids my eyes, running his hands through his hair like I’d seen him do hundreds of times before.
“I mean, yeah, that was a good idea,” I reply. A silence falls between the two of us; both of us left with so many unanswered questions. The tension between us could be cut with a knife, yet the crickets kept humming and the moon still glimmered. I found myself staring out to the lake once more, the moonlight dancing on the water’s calm waves.
“Rachel,” he looks to me now, his azure eyes seemingly shifting to silver. His mouth opens, then shuts again. “God, I’ve always been able to come to you with my problems, but now you’re kinda one of them…”
Ouch. My racing heart dropped to my stomach.
“I’m sorry, Josh, I never wanted to make you feel like that,” suddenly my eyes felt wet. Thankfully, the night sky is only getting darker, the moon slowly fading into the clouds.
“No, no, I didn’t mean it like that,” he says hurriedly. “It’s just, usually all I can do is think about the chaos going on around me, and now I feel like your at the center of it all and…and…” he sighs. “I don’t know.”
I do. I think to myself. You’re scared. I am too: scared of loving you, scared of you getting too close. I’m looking down now, fumbling with the lace of my shoe. I could feel his gaze. Why does he look at me like that? What with my mousy brown hair and practically black eyes. I was nothing compared to the silver perfection that sat before me.
Before he could say anything more, I tilt my head up towards him. I return his stare as I put my hair behind my ear, his gray eyes melting back to blue. My heart beats faster and faster by the minute as I muster up the courage to speak. “Well, why don’t we start with this,” I begin. “What do you know?”
“I know that you’re the one who drove Julie away from me, I know that you purposely sabotaged our relationship.” he replied, his voice sharp. The breeze picked up, along with his tone. I felt a drip of water drop onto my head.
I stopped for a moment, making sure to word what I was about to say perfectly, “Do you even know why I pushed her away from you? Do you understand why I drove you guys away from one another?” The rain was picking up now, each drop heavier than the last.
Josh paused, stunned by my admittance. “I don’t know, Rachel. Did she do something to
you? If she did, I don’t know why you didn’t tell me…” his voice trailed off. By this point, my hair was almost completely soaked, but Josh didn’t seem to care.
“Honestly, I didn’t think it was something I could tell you,” I say, my voice shaky. “I saw you with her, and I just-”
“What, Rachel? What?” he interjected, standing up now. “You just couldn’t believe I could move on from you?! I know you find yourself so irresistible, but just because you broke up with me doesn’t mean I’m still in love with you.” His words hit me harder than rocks. Somehow, the rain is coming down even harder than before.
“Look, Josh, I-”
“Rachel, I gotta go,” he begins to leave.
“But nothing, Rachel. I’m leaving, I’ll see you at Lenny’s” his back is turned to me, he runs his hands through his hair one last time before he disappears behind the trees.
“But I’m still in love with you,” I whisper to no one, by this time he’s already gone. The rain proceeds to fall.
I’d never had much problem working with Josh, even when him and Julie were together. Besides, I usually worked Wednesday and Friday afternoons, days I knew he had basketball. But I guess basketball was cancelled today, because there he was, only a cash register apart, yet he seemed a million miles away. I’d turn and look at him from time to time, but only when I knew he was working with a customer. I couldn’t risk him catching my glance.
Abruptly, a burly man with squinty, umber eyes swaggered up to my register. “Hi, welcome to Lenny’s, how may I help you?” He towered over me.
“Can I get a large soda? No ice, if I get ice I’m sending it back,” he grunts in response. As I punch in his order, he pulls something out of his jean pocket: Marlboro’s.
“I’m sorry sir, you’re not allowed to smoke in here,” I say. As if I hadn’t said anything, he pulls a lighter out of his vibrantly scarlet flannel jacket, flicking the flame up to his cigarette.
“Excuse me, sir,” I start again, louder this time. “there is no smoking here.” The man turns to me now, his eyes set ablaze, but not from the flame.
“Listen, sweetheart,” he said back acerbically, the cigarette wagging in his mouth. “Just get me my soda and there won’t be a problem, alright?” I lean away from the register. I try to say something, anything, but I can’t. I’m frozen.
“Well?” he spit. “Are you gonna get me my soda, or are we gonna have a problem?”
I breathe in, briefly closing my eyes, before responding, “Again, sir, I’m sorry but you’re either going to have to dispose of your cigarette or I’m going to have to ask you to leave,”
I look around now, only to notice everyone in the restaurant watching me, waiting for what would happen next. As much as I knew he was looking at me, like everyone else, I turned to Josh. His eyes were glued to the man. I tried to look into his eyes, find some kind of emotion, but to no avail; his eyes were gray, his irises a frozen moonstone. I turn back to the man. He’s glaring at me. I open my mouth to speak, but before I can get any words out, Josh interjects.
“I’m sorry, sir, but you’re going to have to take your smoking outside,” he stepped closer to my station. I shifted to the right, as if the space between us needed to remain a constant.
At this, the man chuckles, “No, I’m sorry” he responds mockingly. “Because I’m not leaving without my soda.”
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” Josh asserted, his voice is rigid, chilling.
The man leaned over the register, his immense figure making Josh look almost feeble.
“Listen, pipsqueak, if I’m going outside you’re coming with me. So I would suggest stopping trying to defend your girlfriend over here and get me my damn soda before we have a problem.” He spit back.
Girlfriend. The word engraved itself into my mind.
Josh looked him dead in the eyes and thundered through gritted teeth, “Sir, I’m going to ask you one more time to leave before I call security, so I would suggest that you vacate the premise before we have a problem.” The man stared back at Josh, dumbfounded.
“Alright, you know what? Fine,” he finally relented “the food here’s crap anyways.”
All eyes are on the man as he trudged off, one last flash of blazing red as the door slowly shuts behind him.
I turn to Josh, his eyes already on me. Don’t look away. Without breaking our stare, Josh points to me. “We need to talk.”
It’s funny what love can do to you. It twists your tongue right before you speak. It puts a thick mist over reality, just long enough for you to think that everything is perfect. And, worst of all, it makes you do things you forever wish you could take back. For example, me, wishing I could redo every single moment leading up to right now.
After work, Josh texted me saying to meet back at the cliff- our cliff- at four. I agreed, feeling the cliff’s weight in my stomach.
Upon arrival, I brushed off a protruding rock- the usual spot- to sit, my clock reading 3:55; He’d be here soon. Fiddling my laces, my mind began to race. What’s he going to say to me? What will I say to him? How much will I tell him? What if he- the swishing of branches behind me interrupted my train of thought.
“You’re early,” I breathe, turning to see Josh brushing off a stray leaf.
“Ditto,” he grins briefly. “How long have you been waiting”
Well, it’s 3:58 now, so about three minutes and 34 seconds. “Oh, I just got here,” I look up towards him, then quickly away.
He steps towards me and soon enough he was close enough that I could smell his shampoo: musky, but not pungent. My gut told me to move away from him, but I didn’t want to explain to him why, so I stayed put.
“So, Rachel,” He sighed as if digressing from a tangential thought. “I have a lot of questions. Obviously the most important one is why you broke up with me in the first place, but start wherever you want, I just need to know.”
Well, Josh, let’s see. For starters, I’m head over heels in love with you, but I could never ever say that to your face because god forbid you actually know what’s on my mind. I mean, it’s not hard to be; hate to break it to you but you’re pretty easy to love, to hate too. What with your stupid hair and stupid eyes and smile. God, it’s not like I ended things because I was scared you didn’t fall for my smile as hard as I fell for yours. It’s not like I woke up every day in fear that you weren’t interested anymore. Can you not tell, Josh?! I broke up with you because I love you too much!
“Honestly, Josh, I don’t know,” I finally exhaled. I hadn’t realized I was holding my breath.
“Now what am I supposed to do with that?” Josh stepped away from me now, seeing his eyes for the first time tonight; they were frosted bellflowers: delicate but cold. “Rachel, I’m gonna be honest here, I love you, I never stopped loving you, but if you’re not going to tell me how you feel I’m going to walk away.”
The air caught in my throat, I had to tell him now. If I don’t, I’ll lose him forever, and there’s no way I’m living without him.
“Fine,” I choke. “Josh, I was… I was scared you were going to leave me, that you didn’t love me as much as I love you. I mean, I noticed and still do notice everything: the way you run your fingers through your hair when you’re nervous, the way your eyes shift between blue and gray. You’ve got nothing to notice, I’m just… me, why would you love me?”
Josh stepped back once more, “Rachel, why wouldn’t I love you. I know you never see it, but you are so much more than you think. You think I have cool eyes? You have your own sunset: when you go into the sun, the brown flecks in them melt into golden rays of topaz. It’s happening right now! And you’ve got a nervous twitch too, you know. You avoid eye contact, or fumble with your shoe laces. Hell, you were doing it when I got here!”
Wow. I stood, frozen in my spot, unsure of if I should just run over and hug him or stay still to avoid any chance of tears. He does love me.
“Did you drive Julie and I apart because of this?”
I turned away from him, kicking a pebble off the edge, “Kind of,” I whispered, just loud enough for him to hear.
There was a silence. Granted, it was probably only about thirty seconds, but it felt like decades had passed. What is he thinking? Is he going to be mad at me now? Oh god, I screwed it up!
Finally, Josh clears his throat. I turn back to him then, noticing for the first time today the beaming sun peeking out through the trees. It turned Josh’s hair into a sea of liquid diamonds and his eyes to a sea of sapphire.
“Can we un-break up?” He finally poses.
I grin, jumping into his arms and nearly knocking him over. “I thought you’d never ask”