She buried her head in her hands, fighting the thoughts gnawing at her conscience. She wasn’t sure why she kept running back to him time and time again, why the insatiable urge to involve him in her life had resurfaced once more. Yet here he was. He looked at her pleadingly, almost sadly, with a face that read simultaneously of desperation and hope. He needed salvation. She was his second chance.
She was denying him the opportunity to start anew.
“I don’t mean to hurt you,” she said. “This just wouldn’t be right.”
Though true, the words felt ironic out loud – all their relationship had ever been was a series of unintentional hurt. Beside her was the boy in whom she had once sought wholeness. He had used her emotionally, physically, and when the time came, she felt it only necessary to return the favor. A year silently passed, months of empty promises and half-hearted commitments, and this was the inevitable impasse that had resulted.
“Please. Just one night. You keep saying we wouldn’t be good together, but why is it never the reasons why we would?”
The heartbreak was audible. For two years, she had been his constant – a girl who, to his amazement, had always given him a safe haven from his demons, for which he would never truly be able to repay. Past transgressions ran tauntingly through his mind, telling him he’d never deserve her. The drugs. The alcohol. The sex. All were part of their story, and all gave him more reason to try to win her back.
He didn’t know what he wanted with his life, but he knew he wanted her. She knew it would be emotional suicide to try.
Somewhere between the first infatuation and the last one-night stand, she had lost her ability to feel anything but a simple platonic lust. To keep her from falling in love, each relapse of intimacy brought a muting of emotion, subconsciously saving her from the eventual pain of loss. And now, when it mattered, she couldn’t see him as anything more than a sometimes friend who knew her sheets almost as well as she did. The switch of romantic interest was forever off. He’d never understand, and she’d never explain.
Their hands found each other, and they sat in silence for several painful moments, her wishing the conversation would end, him praying for her to relent. Finally, she spoke.
“We have to be just friends. It’s better this way. I promise.”
“But why? How do you know?”
“I just do, okay? It’s our history. We’re not good for each other. Trust me, leave it be.”
“Let me prove I can be good for you. Just once. I’m different. This is different.”
He wasn’t different at all, but he feared if he lost her, he would lose the chance to change as well. Surely he wasn’t good for her – his prior decisions proved that – but she was good for him, and he depended on her to retain his sanity. He could be a better man, would be a better man, if only she would see him through.
He stared at her, hoping to see any positive sign. Her brown eyes betrayed confusion, her struggle between easy trust, quick forgiveness and common sense, and he felt the overwhelming urge to comfort her in the situation he himself had created.
“Please. Be with me,” he implored quietly, leaning in to kiss her.
This – this was so comfortable and so forbidden. This was the source of her torture and the source of her safety, and she couldn’t bring herself to pull away. This was how it had started, but she’d be damned if it ended as such. There had to be a resolution.
“Come on, stop,” she said. “It’s late and I don’t want to talk about it anymore. We’ll sleep on it.”
He dropped his gaze from her face, finally giving in. He knew it was wise to stop fighting if he wanted to hold her longer.
They fell asleep in the same bed for what she hoped was the last time, his arm around her waist in their old familiar way.
She couldn’t let go, not yet, not him, and as had happened so often before, the resolution would wait until dawn.
He needed the second chance to move on.
But so did she.