"just 'cause"

"Am I touching your face?" he asked the darkness.

"Yes," she replied.

His long, slender fingers touched both sides of her face and worked their way up until they hit something hard.

"I'm glad," he said.

"Why?" she asked, although she already knew.

"Just 'cause. You didn't switch to contacts," he said softly, as he slowly removed her glasses.

"I did," she said. Then she lowered her voice, so that it was as soft as his. "But I switched back because I wanted you to find me."

His hand bumped into hers, and in it she found her glasses. She pocketed them. Blurry or not, darkness was darkness. She couldn't even make out the outline of his face, but she never could during moments like these.

She shivered. He felt it. She didn't get cold easily. He knew it, too.

"Are you cold?" he asked.

"Yes," she lied quickly and easily, and he just as quickly and easily drew her closer.

She placed her hand over his heart. It was beating very fast.

"I broke up with her," he said finally.

"Why?" she asked, although she already knew. "For me?"

"For you," he said. Somehow it sounded even more surreal when he said it out loud. She fought the urge to look up at him in surprise, but did it anyway. She was glad that he couldn't see her face.

"Oh," she said, careful to mask the joy she felt. He pretended not to have noticed the movements of her head.

"It wasn't working out," he said, as he stroked her hair, his chin against her forehead. His lips were so close that she could feel them move in her hair. "I kept thinking of you instead."

"Oh," she said again.

He moved away, so that he was facing her, even though he still couldn't see her. "Is that all you have to say?"

"What else can I say?" she asked the darkness.

He resumed his former position and began running his fingers in her hair again. "Are you happy with him?"

"He proposed to me last week," she said carefully. "He had wanted to do it the week before, but I was busy that day."

She had pretended to be sick and headed to his place instead. It had been her birthday.

"What did you say?" he asked, just as carefully.

"I said I would think about it," she said, after a long pause. "We haven't had a real conversation since."

"Do you love him?"

"He loves me a lot. More than I love him. He's still waiting for my answer," she said, as if he hadn't spoken.

"What is your answer?" he asked.

"I don't know," she said. "It depends."

"On what?"

"Yours," she said. "Is this enough? For you? Sneaking away, seeing each other only during moments like these?"

"I live for moments like these with you," he said.

"But are they enough?"

There seemed to be a right answer and a wrong answer, but he didn't know which was which, nor did he know which answer she wanted to hear. But he did know that his answer would mean the world.

"Before, yes. Now, no," he said honestly. "I had hoped it would be. But it will never be. Especially not after..."

They had fallen in love. It hadn't been just a fling, like they had hoped.

There was a long pause, during which they just held each other in the darkness.

"No," she finally said.

"What?" he asked, although he already knew.

"That's my answer," she said.

"For who?" He didn't notice, but he was suddenly very tense. His protective embrace became stifling.

"Not you," she said very softly.

"Good," he said, just as softly. He then dipped his head to meet her lips. They kissed for the first time that night.

"He'll be devastated," she said thoughtfully, as if she was genuinely considering her could-have-been fiancé's feelings for the first time. "He's been thinking about marrying me for a long time."

"Will your family be devastated if you said no to him?"


"And if you said yes to me?"

"Yes. But they don't know that we are still together. That they failed to keep us apart."

"Would you be sad if you said yes to him?"


"And if you said no to me?"


"Are you only saying it to make me happy?"

"No," she said and paused. "I want to make me happy, too."

They kissed again. She wondered whether his eyes were closed. He wondered if he messed up her hair from his constant stroking. They never saw what the other looked like during moments like these.

When they next paused for air, he reluctantly let go of her. "They're going to start looking for us soon."

She turned on the light for the Room of Darkness just as one of the other haunted house employees walked by. She was at the other side of the room now. Her glasses were on. Her hair was tied back in a neat ponytail.

"How come you're only turning on the light now?" The employee asked. "It's been ten minutes, and you only have forty to clean up the room."

"Forgot where the light switch is hidden," he lied easily. "It's a good thing this room's hardest to find, so it's the cleanest, too, huh?"

"Yeah," the employee agreed. "You're lucky no one leaves their drinks and food in your room. They've already gone by then! Anyway, today's our last day, so make it count."

She grabbed a broom. Eight minutes before their shift ended, she flicked off the light switch, and the room became dark once again.

"What are you going to tell him?" he asked, as they walked away from the haunted house. It was two in the morning. The tourist trap was finally closed for the summer season.

She shrugged. "I don't know."

"When are you going to tell him?" he asked.

She shrugged again. "Maybe tonight."

They knew her could-have-been fiancé always waited up for her on these nights.

"Oh," he said.

"What?" She asked, although she already knew.

"I was wondering if you wanted to do something tonight," he said quietly. They avoided eye contact. "I don't want to go home just yet."

"I can't be in two places at once," she said.

"Right," he said.

"Today's the day," she said. "I can't keep not going home and leaving him hanging."

"Why tonight?" he asked, although he already knew. "What changed?"

"Your answer. You said no tonight," she said. Then she looked around. Seeing no one else but him, she leaned up and kissed him softly. "See you soon."

He stopped her just as she was about to leave his grasp. "But we can't be together here."

"I know," she said, "but remember France? Belgium? Vietnam?"

"Yes," he said. "We were finally a real couple."

"No," she said. "We were pretending to be."

"What do we do?"

Her eyes were bright. "Let's go there. Live for real."

They sat on the curb and continued to talk. When it hit three-thirty, they parted ways. Both hoped and knew it would be for the last time. She went to her could-have-been fiancé's, and he went home.

When he reached the door, he palmed his pockets, only to find that he did not have his keys. With a sigh, he rang the doorbell.

His mother opened the door. She looked sleepy and confused. "Who were you with? Why did you get home so late?"

He shrugged. "Just 'cause."

With that, he went upstairs to his room and began to pack. After some time, he heard pebbles hitting his window. He opened it to find her in his backyard with two suitcases.

Then he went outside.