"You look sad," he said.
And it must have been the understatement that defined their relationship because she could feel the tears forming and had no energy left to fight them. She couldn't see the mirror that hung on the wall above the sink from her position on his bed but she knew an adjective like 'sad' did not even begin to describe her appearance. If he couldn't tell how heartbreaking it was for her to be there with him, what hope did they have?
From where he was sitting, a good few inches further away from her than he usually chose to sit, he slipped his arms around her and held her in the awkward kind of hug you would give a stranger.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered.
"No," she said. He face had become a mess with tears but she made little effort to do anything about it, simply brushed her fingertips under one eye and twisted out of the hug to look at him. "I always knew I would be the one who got hurt and I did it anyway."
"I don't see why anyone has to get hurt," he said, his voice almost pleading with her not to be.
"You don't understand why I am, do you?" she asked and, not expecting an answer continued, "You hurt me all the time. You don't even know you're doing it, but you do. And I can't keep putting myself through that but I can't let you go either. What am I supposed to do?"
"I don't mean to hurt you," he said, sounding child-like and innocent. "I never wanted that. I just want to be friends."
"And that's how you've always felt about me…but not her?"
He didn't reply straight away and she knew him well enough to know he was taking the time to choose his words carefully so not to hurt her anymore than was necessary.
"I can't explain it," he said finally. "It's just different."
"What's wrong with me?" she blurted out desperately, something she had promised herself she wouldn't do but couldn't help it.
"Nothing!" he reached for her again, kissing her eyelids as though an attempt to stop her from crying. "You're beautiful and funny and interesting and someone would be lucky to have you."
"But not you. And I think you have always known that so then why did you sleep with me?"
He was still holding her and she felt him sigh. "We agreed that it was just fun between friends. You said that was all you wanted."
"It was….it is! But you said you didn't want anything serious. I didn't realise you meant just not with me."
"I didn't know either. But then I met her and it just felt…different. I'm sorry."
"Does she know about me?"
He pulled back a little, his face a mask of panic as he realised that the girl he was holding loosely in his arms had the power to destroy his happiness. "You're not going to tell her, are you?"
"I wish I was spiteful enough but I want you to be happy more than anything. I really mean that."
"But now you're unhappy."
She let go of him for a moment and studied his face. He was so beautiful she found it hard to believe he had even wanted her. But he was right, they had only ever been friends.
"You don't want me to be," she said, forcing a smile, "so I won't be."
And he looked confused as she pulled him back into a clumsy embrace but he would get over it just as she would him. Because she didn't love him, but she had wanted to once.