Title: Love Me Again
Note: The twisting and shaping of a long-ago memory.
The interior of the bar was smoky, filled with the yells of drunken men. But none of that mattered. He was looking for her.
He had finally found her in a small town somewhere off the beaten past, after months of looking. Somewhere along the way, she had disappeared from the Internet. All social media sites no longer bore her name, her face. No phone books held her number. She was simply…gone. But he had found her.
Slowly, he moved through the crowded room toward the bar. He knew her body anywhere, the way her hair curled and waved down her back, the way her shoulders were held at a slight angle as if she was constantly shying away. She turned her head on her neck, and he watched as her painted lips twist into a fake smile. That smile made his heart flinch and curl in his chest.
She hadn't changed a bit.
Her fingers gripped tightly at the glass like an anchor, and he watched as her gaze moved slowly over the faces of the sharply dressed men just outside of her personal space. She turned away from them, and he watched as the men tried to recapture her attention. Once they realized she was gone, they drifted away, and suddenly there was space for him.
The amber liquid in her glass, he could smell it clearly…just like her perfume , her shampoo, her skin. Moving slowly, he watched her lips press and contort to fit perfectly against the rim of her glass, the amber rushing up to kiss her. The last time he'd had that drink, she had been there; she had cried on his shoulder, her fingers curled so tightly around his, her dark eyes imploring and searching his heart and soul. He would have promised her anything, everything. He should have.
He stepped up into the empty space, his fingers touching lightly on the shined bar top and sat down on the empty stool. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched her. The set of her shoulders told him she knew he was there. Finally, she turned her head just slightly and regarded him. A dark eyebrow cocked upward.
"I've been looking for you," he said softly after a moment of those dark eyes staring at him unwaveringly. She made a soft, noncommittal sound in her throat before looking away from him, taking yet another deep drink from her glass.
He waited for a moment. Internally, he was begging with her to say something. To acknowledge him. A heartbeat filled with awkward silence passed, and he knew she was going to continue pretending he hadn't walked into her small town, into her favorite bar, to her side.
Tentatively, he lifted a hand and reached out toward her. His fingertips brushed her elbow, and she pulled it in tighter to her side. "Don't touch me," she said, her voice unwavering and steely. He remembered every time she had said that him while she had been his, he had always just stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her tightly, crushing her to his chest until she had finally given in and let her anger roll away.
He knew that if he tried that now, she would crush him. She would turn on him with rage like he had never known outside of her and tear his heart out.
But it didn't stop him from wanting to reach out and wrap an arm around her shoulders. To bury his face against her sweet smelling hair while she curled against his chest. But she had put all those motions behind her, and he had no-one to blame but himself.
"I…I've been looking for you," he started, looking straight ahead but watching her in the long mirror behind the bar. She watched him back in the mirror, her eyes dark and unfathomable. He could lose himself in that gaze, but he knew that was dangerous. "It's taken longer than I would have expected, but you're nothing but a memory on the Internet these days…" Still nothing.
Her mouth was a tight line, her jaw tense. He knew that look. It was the one that said she was mere moments away from lashing out, that she was drawing every last bit of her control tight against her anger. Her lips formed the words slowly, shaping deliberately around each syllable. "Why are you looking for me. I told you we were done. You told me there was no chance of reconciliation. " Just as easy as could be, those words crushed him.
He had forgotten her penchant for using words as weapons.
She glanced his way, peering at him with those dark, dark eyes through errant strands of her dark hair. He knew she was waiting for a rebuttal, but he couldn't think of any. So he looked down, his gaze roaming the shined bar top only to be caught on the thin band of diamonds around her left ring finger. The knowledge that she was married smothered everything in him.
"You're married," he whispered aloud, as if afraid to say it any louder. As if saying it any louder would make it infinitely more real. She didn't respond, but rather beckoned to the bartender with a crooked finger. The young man filled her glass while she rubbed at her forehead, as if in agitation.
He reached out towards her again, but she pulled away. Her dark eyes pinned him to the spot. "After you left me, I picked the easiest guy to live with and tore him away. I ran as far and as fast as I could, dragging him with me, until your memory was just that…some wisp of a thought in the back of my mind." With easy practice, she swallowed the remains of her glass before getting to her feet.
"Are you happy," he asked her softly, so afraid of her answer that he couldn't even look at her in the mirror. For a moment, she didn't answer. Instead, she left crumpled bills on the bar top. "Happiness has nothing to do with it. It never has. You should know that." Her words tore at the walls of his heart, clawing deeply at his emotions and psyche.
She drained the tiny spider from her glass and set the tumbler down heavily. She swept the coat around herself and tilted her head toward him. "Everything worked out for the best, I would wager," she said softly before turning on her heel and striding away from him. He watched her body move, slowly swaying as if rocked by the world.
He had come so far only to lose her. Just like always. Except…not this time.
Slowly, he got to his feet and followed her.
He was so tired of watching her walk away from him.
Outside, the air was cold, almost to the point of choking the breath from his lungs. She was pressed against an outside wall, her head back and her chest heaving in deep breaths as if he had affected her more than she would ever admit. Slowly, he moved forward, closing in on her like an elusive dream. Because honestly, he had been dreaming of this for months.
Carefully, he reached out and brushed his bent knuckles against her jaw. Her dark eyes leapt open and pinned him with a glare. In that instance, she reminded him of a trapped leopard, her gaze taking inventory of him, calculating risks and weaknesses.
Then her lips were against his.
And it stole away his breath.
When she pulled away, he remembered to breathe again. She gave him a cool, indifferent look, and ran her fingers through her hair.
"What was that," he asked, desperately wishing for her to tell him she still loved him. But instead, her mouth smoothed out in a smirk and one of her eyebrows quirked upward. "That was me establishing that I feel no feelings for you."
And again she was crushing him.
With an almost gentle smile, she turned and strode away from him. And he was helpless but to watch her go. He tried to ignore the feeling of something collapsing in his chest as he watched her stride away, but it was hard, as he was fairly certain it was his heart.
Letting out a deep sigh, he watched her disappear around a corner and let his head fall forward. Honestly, she had tried to keep him; he just hadn't let her.
And he had no one to blame but himself for his lack of her in his life.