She rarely got to experience him in his world. So often when they were together they were shut up away from the world, in their own universe where the other person was the only one who mattered. When an invitation came to meet him somewhere, keep distance, but be present it was always a rare treat. But it also made her appreciate their time alone that much more. For out in the real world where they didn't exist he was someone else. She could see the shadow of the one she loved lurking behind the actions and the words of this person she didn't know anymore.
Once she had known him as he was around others, but now the person who displayed himself to the world seemed lost to her. Confused and fake. It may only be because she knew him so well, better than anyone, and yet she pitied the face he put on for the world while exulting in the one he kept only for her. Maybe it was selfish to not encourage him to be honest with the world but she was afraid that would mean the end. Maybe he only called her back because she was the one who knew him. She was the one who he could talk openly to without fear of judgment or ridicule. A sensor didn't exist between them when they were together.
One night the phone rang—he was playing at a coffee shop down town if she wanted to stop by. It sounded casual, off hand, but it hadn't been since the almost run in at the park that they had been together in public. It was a big deal and she knew it—that was why she considered not going. Yet she couldn't stay away, not from him and not from his music. Later that night when she walked into the dimly lit room her eyes immediately found his, his eyes were on her as if he'd been waiting. He spared her a sly smile and a wink before turning back to his music. Knowing that was all she acknowledgment she would get she placed herself in a remote corner where she would just be able to see him.
People that she recognized from his school and world came and went during his set, all the while she stayed in her seat watching him. Every once in a while he would look her way and smile or tilt his head to acknowledge that she was still here. As his set wound down she felt herself growing anxious. A group of his friends was still sitting at a table near the front. A girl she didn't know, yet who seemed to know him, was sitting alone near the front as well.
"This will be my last song," he said, and struck a chord she would know anywhere. It had been years ago that she had first heard this song. They'd been locked away in his bedroom while everyone else was downstairs playing games and laughing. The song had changed over the years, it didn't sound exactly as it had that night, but still whenever he played it for her she remembered the feeling that night had brought.
The girl she didn't know was smiling at him; she seemed to really be enjoying the song. This made her want to hit the girl; this girl didn't deserve to hear this song. Before now she'd thought he never played this song for anyone but her, but as comfortably as his fingers where finding the chords, his voice running the melody she began to think maybe she had been stupid for thinking that. Had she not had the original set of lyrics from so many years ago locked away in her room she would doubt that this song was actually hers. But still with that knowledge she suddenly wondered how many others thought that it was theirs. The thought made her stomach churn; she felt ill and couldn't be here any longer.
She didn't try to be quiet as she threw money onto the table and fled quickly from the building allowing the door to slam loudly behind her. She didn't know rather he could come after her but she knew she didn't want him to. She was sick of fighting, sick of the lying, sick of the doubt. It shouldn't take a kiss to remember that he loved her, it shouldn't take a touch to remember that she trusted him—those should all be an absolute given, yet with him they weren't.
She was three blocks away waiting for a traffic light to change before she heard footsteps behind her. She didn't need to turn around to know that it was him; the sound of his ragged breath was all too familiar. He walked up behind her, slipping his arms around her waist, his hands into her front pockets. "Why'd you high-tail it out of there? I was hoping we'd get a moment." His breath was hot on her neck she fought hard to hold onto her anger.
"I didn't need to watch you serenade that girl with a song she obviously thought was for her." She knew her anger was somewhat undermined as she allowed him to softly kiss behind her ear and down her neck.
"It's not like that with that girl," he answered, "she can think what she wants. I changed the ending though, I wanted to know what you thought. You left too soon though." His tone was casual, not like he was trying to convince her to not be angry with him but as if he knew she wasn't.
"I didn't know you played it for other people," she said.
"This was the first time, I wanted you there." He said again kissing her. She felt her resolve melting, her anger slipping away to be found another day for another reason.
"Okay," she said. It was what she always said, the one word that always told him she was letting everything else go and was ready to be there with him.
"Perfect," She could hear the smile in his voice, "come back with me. I've got to say goodbye to some of my friends that were there. Then we'll go somewhere." He let her in the backdoor when they got back and she sat in the storage room made staging area, as he went out front to socialize. Looking around the room she saw his guitar case sitting carefully on the table. Walking over to it she gingerly opened the top to look at the instrument. It was his oldest guitar, the acoustic one with scratches on the face. Carefully she lifted it out of the case. She didn't really play but always loved to strum around with the few chords that she did know. As the turned to take it back to the couch something caught her eye, she reached down to grab a picture she had never seen before, yet she knew exactly when it'd been taken. In the picture she was sitting alone at a small round table, her eyes staring at something beyond the camera. The picture was from the first night she'd ever gone somewhere to watch him play. She'd been nervous knowing his friends would be there, and the girl he was with at the time, but he he's said he wanted her there, so of course she had come. The picture wasn't in perfect focus and a guy in the background was taking an enormous bite of his food but she had a small smile on her face, her eyes fixed upon the stage. He's never told her he had this photo, she hadn't even known it existed. Finding it in the case felt personal though, like she's glimpsed something that he'd been hiding.
"Oh," she looked up to see him standing in the doorway observing the scene. She stood with his guitar in one hand and the picture in the other, "listen, about that. I just, my buddy showing it to me—he thought it was funny with the guy in the background and some random chick watching me. He collects weird photos from stuff like this."
"You don't owe me an explanation," She said carefully putting the picture back and returning the guitar to its guard. "I don't even know what picture you're talking about." She smiled at him, wishing he'd close the distance between them.
"So," he said turning and locking the door through which he'd just come. "Where were you thinking you wanted to go?" he walked towards her, a devious grin on his face.
"I don't care. Whatever you want," she shrugged, watching as his grin grew wider.
"Well, I was thinking," he threw a look at the couch and then turned back to her, his grin wider than ever.
"We can't do that," she gasped, "you could get in trouble."
"Worth it," he said finally closing the distance between them as he caught her laughing mouth with his.
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