The Difference

Weeping Duck

She brushed her blonde hair, eager for the minutes to pass. As usual, every hair on her head was in place, but she kept on brushing, wanting to look perfect for him. Plaid shorts hugged her narrow hips, and her torso was clad in a navy tank top—classic, girly summer clothes. A quick glance at the clock told her that she didn't have to leave her house for another fifteen minutes, so she checked her makeup, finding not a single flaw. Smiling out of pure excitement, she did a happy little dance and spun around in front of her full-length mirror. It was almost time!

Her phone vibrated, signaling that she'd received a text. Casually, she flipped her phone open. An unstoppable smile lit up her face when she saw that it was from him.

When are you getting here?

Her fingers sped across her keypad, informing him that she'd be there by eight-thirty. That was the time that they usually got together, but she refrained from pointing that out.

Hustle up. I'm ready to harass you.

Harassment was how they referred to their hangouts. She wasn't entirely sure how that had originated, but it had stuck. She texted him back quickly, letting him know that she would be there soon.

It was an evening in late July, the July of the summer of perfection. So much time had passed since she'd felt so strongly for a guy. In fact, it was the previous summer when she had been so interested in being with a significant other, and even those feelings did not even begin to compare to what she was feeling now.

Finally, like so many nights before, she deemed it time to leave and migrated to her car. Blasting blissful summertime music, she drove the familiar drive to his house. It was her favorite destination—frequently the only destination of the day. Or, rather, of the night. For the past few weeks, all of her nights had been full of being with him until the early hours of the morning, cuddling and watching movies until they nearly fell asleep.

There was something about him that was different.

It could have been the shine of his eyes that she saw when he looked at her, proving that he cared about her—something she wasn't used to. It may have been the way his arms felt so, so right when he held her close to him. It might have been the long, intense conversations that they had about everything and nothing, letting go of any boundaries and talking as if they trusted each other with everything they thought or felt. But it could have been something as simple as the way she felt so alive when she heard the sound of his voice.

She loved the sound of his voice. Whether he was teasing her, flirting with her, or just talking to her, she loved hearing it. With nothing but honesty, she could profess that she could be entertained for an entire day just by listening to him talk. Having him hold her would be an added bonus.

The drive to his house went by quickly, and she parked comfortably, any semblance of awkwardness during her first visit completely gone. She slipped out of her car, tucked a strand of her shiny blonde hair behind her ear, and went up to his door. Despite that he'd told her continually to just come right in, she knocked and smiled brightly at him when he opened the door slowly.

"What'd I tell you last time?" he asked, feigning annoyance in his navy basketball shorts and white t-shirt. He looked great. "Come on in."

"And what'd I tell you last time?" she asked sassily, socking his bicep lightly with her balled fist. He grinned and hugged her in return. "I prefer to announce my arrival."

"As if your presence doesn't announce itself."

She laughed and rolled her eyes. "Are you calling me loud? I know I'm loud. Be grateful that I prefer to give you a warning when I get here." A coy grin went in his direction. "What if you weren't decent?" She made her way over to the futon they shared on a nightly basis. "Get yourself over here. I'm dying to make you pick a movie."

He obeyed her command and sat down beside her on the futon. "Oh no, girl. It's your pick." He stretched his arm over and laid four DVDs that they'd rented together in front of her. "I picked last time."

"That's not true!" she protested. "I picked the first one last night, and then you picked Family Guy, and then I picked that we watch the rest of Titanic."

"That doesn't count. We didn't watch it from start to finish. So it's your turn to pick."

She wrinkled her nose at him, but he just smiled cheekily back at her. "Fine." She studied the DVDs in front of her and finally pointed at one. "300. I want to learn some moves to kick your ass."

His laugh was hearty as he placed the DVD into the player. "Hush and lay down with me."

Instantly, he was stretched out on the futon on his side, pulling her down beside him. She lied on her back, resting her head against his outstretched arm. Never had she been more comfortable before in her life.

Both of them let their attention settle on the movie, but after about half an hour, she glanced at him, expecting to see him dozing, as she would have bet he'd seen the movie too many times to sit through it again. Instead, she was surprised to see him looking back at her, his eyes glossed with affection. There was no way to prevent the smile that spread on her face, prompting one to spread on his.

"Sleepy?" she asked softly.

He shook his head. "Are you?"


His arm slipped over her waist, and she snuggled her side into him, happy to be as close to him as possible. He ran his fingers against her side, and she shivered at the tickling sensation. Giggling, she swatted at his hand playfully, but he continued cuddling her as the movie played on.

She hadn't felt this kind of happiness in a long time.

It had started out innocent enough. He'd left his hometown to work in hers for the summer. Being somewhere where he knew nobody, if only for the summer, held a certain kind of appeal. It was his first day of work when he'd met her. Even though he'd met at least a dozen other people that day, she stood out from the moment he saw her, and the impression she left on him after just a few minutes of conversation had him begging for more.

There was something about her that was different.

There was something about her that was so perfect. Whatever it was called to him, and there was nothing in him that could resist responding to the call.

When they'd first met, he'd anticipated that they'd become close friends. He was a few years older than she was, but she had all the maturity that he did. She was addictive with her bubbly personality, outgoing nature, and amusing habits. Being with her made him feel like he was living a better, more satisfying life.

He'd never forget how hard he had laughed when she nearly cried that one rainy Monday. She informed him that Monday was her day to clean the office—and that cleaning the windows was something she took particular delight in. However, with the rain, it just wasn't plausible, and it was going to mess with her entire week.

She had a certain charm about her that he was nowhere near immune to.

The softness of her blonde hair tickled his neck. He glanced down to see her dozing against his chest, clearly having lost interest in the television. Of course, that wasn't surprising, as they'd already watched two full movies, and now an informational was playing on the screen. The time was nearing two o'clock in the morning, and he was feeling quite sleepy himself.

Yet he couldn't take his eyes off of her.

Softly, he kissed her forehead, admiring her beauty. A slow smile blossomed on her face, her eyes fluttering open. Sleepily, she blinked her eyes a few times, and the cuteness of it all made him smile. He was beyond pleased when her expression mirrored his.

It was bliss.

"Hey…" she murmured, yawning and stretching in his arms. He cuddled her closer, and her arm encircled his torso tighter. "I think I fell asleep on you."

He laughed lightly. "You did, did you?"


Very tenderly, he ran his hand over her hair, smoothing her glossy locks. Her chest rising and falling as she breathed could be felt against his body; it was a feeling that he wanted to keep on feeling. His hand swiftly moved from her hair to her cheek, caressing its softness with slow, gentle strokes. She nuzzled against his hand, a look of pure contentment on her face. It was at moments like these that he thought she looked the most beautiful. However, that opinion may have sprung from a bias, as she was there in his arms for him to cuddle and admire.

"Remember when we went swimming last week?" she asked suddenly, amusement peppering her tone.

Of course he remembered. They'd broken into the local swimming pool at one o'clock in the morning. The thrill had been intense.

He laughed softly. "Mmhmm. We should do it again."

"Definitely," she agreed, smiling. "Next time though…let's not leave a calling card." He gave her an inquisitive glance. "One of my lifeguard friends called me today. She recognized my earring that I left there."

The two looked at each other for a moment, and then they both broke into laughter. "You're a nut," he muttered affectionately. "That is awesome."

She grinned and nuzzled against his collarbone. "Mm…what time do you have to be at work tomorrow?"

He made a face. "Ten."

"Sucks to be you," she commented lightly, grinning sassily. "I don't have to be in till noon."

His hand returned to stroking her hair gently. "I'll come by and see you." He smirked. "Make sure you're there on time."

"As if I'm ever late," she scoffed.

"Good point," he admitted. She moved onto her side, shifting her body closer to his. Snuggling into him, she closed her eyes, and he felt contentment settle deep inside of him as he admired her in all of her glory.

"I should leave and let you to go sleep." Her eyes opened, and she looked at him sleepily. "You've gotta get up earlier than me."

He kissed her softly. "I don't want to let you go yet."

The glow of delight lit up her face in the darkness; it couldn't be denied. So he kissed her again, not caring about the time as long as they could spend a lengthier period together.

He hadn't felt this kind of happiness in a long time.

There was something about him that was different.

He wasn't returning her calls. He rarely answered them, although he did occasionally text her—but only if she prompted the communication.

Glancing at the clock, she sighed. It was nearing three o'clock in the morning, but not an ounce of sleepiness existed for her. Restless, she sat up in her bed and flicked on the nearby lamp. Light flooded her bedroom, and her eyes drifted to the picture hanging above her nightstand—him and her. It was the picture that had always been her favorite, taken at her senior prom two years ago. Her brown hair was curled into pretty ringlets, a silky dress hugging each of her curves flatteringly. He looked amazing in his tux, but the smile on his face was what she really loved; they looked so happy together.

She got up from her bed and went to her computer. The previous afternoon, she'd emailed information to him about an upcoming concert for his favorite band. Attached was a short note that she'd secured tickets for them to attend. She knew that he checked his email daily, and she was expecting a jubilant response from him. Really, a phone call was what she thought the appropriate reply was. Yet she hadn't heard a word from him.

Her cell phone sat nearby. She picked it up and glanced through her most recent calls. It had been three days since he'd called her—only to say that he'd been busy and hadn't been able to talk much; in fact, he was on his way to a meeting with his boss and couldn't talk then either—and she had called him twenty-nine times since then. Twenty-nine calls had gone unanswered.

Next, her fingers opened up her text message inbox. Before summer began, when they were attending the same college, he'd texted her sweet things multiple times a week—little wishes of good days or good mornings, afternoons, or nights. However, the texts had tapered off, and she had to scroll down through several days' messages, only to find one from him.

Hey, things are going good. I'm sorry to hear the trip wasn't great. I hope everything gets better!

The trip had been a weekend away for her and her girl friends. They'd gone to the beach, but it had rained most of the time. Had she been with him, they could have spent the rainy days cuddling in the condo, napping and enjoying each other's company. It had been so long since they'd been able to spend time like that together. Thinking about it had made her miss him even more, and even a weekend with her best friends couldn't cheer her up.

She wondered if it was the element of time that had made them change so much. Sure, they'd been dating for three years, but they had always made time for each other before. Before he'd left to go work so far away, they'd promised that they'd keep in close touch. She hadn't doubted it, as there had been a year apart for them when he'd gone to college a year ahead of her. They'd made it through that, and they'd made it through a semester of her studying abroad. She'd thought that nothing could tear them apart.

Yet something had happened. She wasn't sure what. There was little that she knew about the situation, but she did know one thing.

She hadn't felt this kind of sorrow in a long time.