I am infatuated, wistful and I long so much for freedom, so bear with me.

***

"You're shaking," he said, standing up. She folded her arms tightly and gazed up at him with watery eyes. She said nothing. He continued to stare at her in disbelief.

"You're crying. What are you crying for? What are you shaking for?"

She turned away then. She couldn't look at him. His eyes were her knees' weakness. His voice made her sway. His laughter sent butterflies wild in her chest and stomach. But all she could think of now was what she was going to make happen next, and all she could do was tremble.

Then, as if he had just gone through a tunnel leading to her mind, her thoughts, her doubts, he sat down again, buried his face in his strong-looking hands and said, "you don't have to do this, you know. Not if you aren't sure."

She looked at him and threw her arms around his neck in the swiftest motion, catching him off-guard. He was shaking, too. She found it comforting. His white cotton t-shirt smelt faintly of Dove. His arms were strong around her waist and his shoulders were broad. Her admiration grew. She wanted to stay in his arms forever.

She knew she couldn't. She heard his gold wristwatch, ticking away, terrifying her. She tightened her grip around his neck, and he did the same. She relaxed.

"Do you love me?" she breathed.

"Yes."

"Then, I have to."

She could sense a look of puzzlement creasing the lines of his perfectly featured face. She almost shuddered at the thought.

"Have to what?"

"Have to do this. I have to do it," she sighed. It sounded to her like a tearful sigh, sounded familiar to her in the way that some things did. Broken chords. Drops of rain on hot sand. She didn't know why.

She let go. And she didn't feel the slightest tinge of regret at doing so. At this, she was surprised. I'm going to hold him again, she thought. And for as long as I please.

She stood. She could feel him watching her. She held out her hand for him to reach. He touched it, held it, and pulled her back down to her chair. She bounced.

"I want you to be sure," he told her. He looked as serious as she'd ever seen him, but his voice wasn't raised at all. It was still warm, still soft. It's just the way calm wind makes me feel, she thought.

His voice made her sway.

"I'm sure," she said, aware of the pronounced annoyance in her words. She pulled her hand away from him and started to cross the room. She stopped at his bedroom door.

"Are you going to come with me?"

"What for?"

"Me to have someone to hug."

***

I'm sure of this now, she thought as they walked down the empty sidewalk together. I want this.

They both had their hands in their pockets, his in his khaki knee-length shorts, hers in her old, gray, hooded Guess jacket. She hadn't expected the air to be so cold in the streets. She took her hands out, only to feel that the wind was raw against her skin. She slid them back in her pockets. He kicked a stray soda can off of the sidewalk and onto the pavement, where it was crushed and flattened by a car speeding by. The picture was a blur, but she was sure it was colored red.

She shivered.

I want this, she continued to think. This is what I want.

I want this.

But was she merely trying to convince herself she wanted it by telling herself she did? The thought frightened her. She looked at the man with whom she had walked all these blocks. He was squinting. The sun was in his eyes. He looked handsomer than ever. It affirmed her fears.

And he  loves me, she thought.

They turned their last corner. She stopped him. He looked at her, a loving and questioning look unfurling his chiseled features.

"Wait here, okay?"

He nodded, staring after her, looking lost. As if an animal in the rain. Unfinished food on a plate. As if he were unsure about the agreement. She had never seen him looking so vulnerable, so at a loss for confidence. She felt as though she were abandoning him.

"I'll only be a minute," she found herself saying, and crossed the pavement faster than she'd ever crossed any pavement her entire life, tugging at her soft, straight, brown hair and pulling at her worn-out, black t-shirt every half second. She had her arms folded across her chest this time, hoping that could protect her, for she knew there were only two men in the universe who could, one of whom she had left behind, the other she was only about to.

***

"Ahergh."

She cleared her throat, loud enough so she could be heard from a table three and a half feet away. She'd stopped outside the new Star Bucks café in West Avenue, where she stood staring at the back of a boy in a khaki jacket and dark blue jeans. He stirred.

At the sight of her, he let the biggest smile she'd seen in months, it felt, part his lips. They were blue-tinted. From the cold, she suspected.

"Hi there," he said through gritted teeth. They were clutching the green straw of his mocha frap. He was still grinning. More widely than ever. Panging guilt struck her like lightning.

And I'm about to break his heart.

She averted her eyes, frowning. She'd forgotten how much he loved her.

"It's been a while," he said, searching her face. He was still grinning. And she was trembling again.

She sat down in the chair beside him, then stood up again, realizing it'd be too difficult if she had to look so closely into his eyes again. His eyes that had once made her fall into an ocean of him. She took a step backwards, away from him, knowing it would only make it harder to hear his voice so clearly. His voice that had once made her want to lose herself.

He looked confused.

"Turn around."

While he continued to looked at her in utter confusion, she wore a pleading look on her face. He hesitated a little, then put his plastic cup down on the table's smooth, cold surface, and turned his chair away from her.

"Thank you," she said softly.

"Why am I facing this way?" he asked, a coruscation of amusement in his words.

"Because I'm stupid."

"You aren't stupid."

"I am."

"How?"

"I'm stupid for thinking that if you face away from me, it might make this easier."

After a moment of silence, he grew motionless. She could tell that he knew what was coming. He'd always been smart.

"I don't think it would be fair," she said, unable to keep her mouth from quivering. "fair to you, if we continued to go on this way."

There was a silence. He remained motionless. She could tell he was trying painfully to understand. He'd always been the analyzer.

Then,

"Those words again."

She didn't know what to respond with. She had done this to him once before, when she grew tired of being in a relationship, when she grew tired of him, and she had taken him back the next day. The day he confessed his love to her.

"I'm sorry," she said, her voice louder, stronger.

"It's alright," he said, shocking her to her very core. It was her turn to feel confused. She forced herself to sound nonchalant, just as he did.

"Is it?"

He didn't answer.

He's lying, she told herself. I know he's lying to me.

Why?

"Tell me why this is happening," he said. Now, his voice was breaking.

"Being in a relationship… It's too much for me. I feel suffocated," she said warily. "I miss the freedom."

She imagined he would have that look on his face, the one he had on when he was trying to understand something unfathomable. It was a look of torture, of painful contemplation. It was the look he had on when he'd just been humiliated, when he was trying to hide the pain, the confusion. When he was trying to save his dignity. Only this time she knew it was different. It was his heart at risk, rather than his dignity.

His back was stiff. The tension emanating from him was so tangible she felt she might be able to touch it in the air around her.

"That isn't it. Tell me the real reason," he said.

She stared at the back of his neck. His neck that always smelled strongly of men's cologne. She stared at his shoulders. His shoulders that her mother had told her she loved. She stared at his hair. His hair through which she had run her fingers while she gazed deep into his dark brown eyes. His dark brown eyes that used to hypnotize her.

Her mind filled with images of the past. Two thirteen-year-old girls, laughing, giggling, talking of boys. A king-sized bed. A white, cordless phone. A silly prank call in the middle of the night. It was ten months ago. She was crazy about him then, then when she believed in perfection, then we she didn't think he was aware of her existence, then when she was just a little girl with a crush, the big crush everyone seemed to know about.

Flash. Another image.

Four young ladies, three of whom seemed to have collapsed into helpless fits of giggles. Three teenage boys, two of whom were smirking and scoffing. The third boy was in a white shirt, lined red. He was tall, taller than the fourth girl. And she was the tallest of the girls. She was giddy with excitement, just as he. And they were both trying not to let it show.

The first time we hugged, she thought, nostalgia sinking in, beginning to swim nastily inside of her.

She snapped back to the present.

"How do you know that wasn't already it?" she said, feeling suddenly defensive.

"You've always felt suffocated. It's always been too much for you. I know how long you've been missing your freedom. Don't talk to me like I'm blind."

But she wasn't listening to him. She was only hearing his voice, the way she always had. She let it ring in her ears. What am I doing, she heard herself say inside her head. She knew she would miss it all so much. She also knew, though, that it was wrong.

I don't love him anymore.

Between them, the nothingness was so thick, so tangible, it was almost solid. As though the world were in front of her, behind him, separating them.

"There's someone else," a voice said. She knew it was his, that it was the same deep voice that had made her fall in love with him many, many moons ago. But it sounded far away and disconnected. As if someone else, someone stronger, more in control of his emotions, were speaking through him.

She persisted with her speechlessness, and he turned to face her, his eyes no longer filled with confusion and contemplation, as she imagined they would be. His eyes were painful, and it made her hurt with pity inside. She was a girl, a fourteen-year-old girl, and she was doing it all to herself. The guilt, the sorrow, even the regret. She was a girl, a helpless little girl, standing outside a newly opened branch of her favorite café, her hands cold and wilting at her sides, her body trembling, her eyes fixed on the visibly breaking heart of fourteen-year-old boy sitting four and half feet away from her, and she was about the break down and cry.

"Why are you crying?" he said, wiping the liquid from his eyes with his right jacket sleeve.

"Because you don't deserve this."

"You're right, I don't."

"Sorry," she repeated. "I really am."

"I know," he said, and looked away.

She forced her eyes away from him, and followed his unswerving gaze. Together they listened to the muffled chattering of people through the glass walls, the sound of cars speeding past them. Together they endured the cold of the air, and breathed in the scent of coffee and strong-smelling sweets. Together they went through a quietness that lasted fifteen minutes. The longest fifteen minutes either of them had ever been through.

She turned to him and watched the familiar way his eyebrows formed a crease in the middle of his forehead. She had always hated when he did that, but she never told him.

 "Go," he said finally, not looking at her, but continuing to stare out at the street.

There they were. She was standing there, watching him. He was sitting there, watching the city go on with their lives. There they were. Two teenagers. Once so blissfully in love. Two strangers. She didn't know what he was thinking anymore. He didn't know who she was anymore.

"Right," she said, soft enough for only herself to hear, and turned around.

And then, it was so. With and like the wind, it was gone. The magic of first love.

And only when she began walking away, only when the sound of her sneakers against the paved ground began to drown out the honking of the city cars, did she know he was out of her life.

The cold air made her shiver.

She continued down the sidewalk, passing closed store after closed store. She put her hands in her jacket pockets and turned to cross the road. She looked up, looked for her favorite star, like she always did when she wished to seek comfort. It was nine in the morning, too late for the sun to be hiding, too early for it to be setting, and yet she cast her eye over the sky and found clouds of dark, dark gray concealing every inch of the clear blue blanket that was her beloved sky. Not a flicker of light. She wished they wouldn't always cover up it up that way. She wished it the way she wished the moon wouldn't always veil itself with clouds at night. She wished it the way she wished that he, too, had fallen out of love with her, that it wasn't merely the other way around.

She went down another sidewalk. The air was warmer. It felt humid. Like it had just rained. That was impossible, though, because it had been weeks since the city last saw any rainfall, but she felt like it rained, anyway. She walked along, feeling as empty as the sidewalk was. Like she had just thrown away ten months of the rarest and greatest love she had ever known. And when she turned her last corner, when there was no longer a West Avenue Star Bucks café in view, she knew that was just what she had done.

***

The unlit streetlamps at the corner of every sidewalk were her guide to the city streets. She spent a lot of time outside in the city, and knew how to tell each one from the other. She stopped at one. This one in particular, she was sure, was the same, tall dark-green one she had had to make her way around this morning. This morning when she had told a handsome seventeen year old boy to wait for her at the corner. It was the same streetlamp, with its chipped, dark-green paint and its foggy, broken glass.

She saw the boy before she was close enough for him to hear the squeaking and tapping of her rubber sneakers against the ground. She saw him, and her heart fluttered as if it had had wings all this time and was anticipating this particular sight. She had to admit it was a stunning sight. He was leaning against a brick wall, his lips hardly blue from the cold, his hands still tucked in his shorts' pockets, and his hair falling across his forehead, covering his eyes, his dark features.

She came closer. He looked up, flung his head back, and she could see how his eyes had brightened when he saw her.

"Sorry if I was a while."

"Don't worry about it," he said, shaking his head and smiling a little.

God, he's cute, she couldn't stop thinking.

"So… What happened?" he asked, moving toward her.

"Nothing," she said nonchalantly. "I just did it."

"It went well?"

"Pretty well," she lied, raising her eyebrows, parting her freezing, purple lips and clenching her teeth at what she thought might look like a smile.

"You're shaking again," he said, frowning.

"No," she said, trying to look distracted. "I'm still shaking. I never stopped." She waved her arm in the air.

"You know, you aren't very good at lying."

"No," she said, and giggled.

"Ugh, finally!" he said, rolling his eyes and grinning. "A real smile."

She said nothing. She was happy. She was really, truly happy for the first time in months.

"Where are we going, mademoiselle?" he said, putting an arm around her shoulders and turning her from left to right, as if asking her to decide which way .

And because she wasn't sure where to go or what to do next, she didn't stop shaking, even if the air was warmer than ever. And because she was sure that everything was going to be fine, she laughed and slid her hands in her jacket pockets once more.

"Hmm," she started, smiling. "I have… absolutely no idea."

***