The Moment

Half asleep, he rolled over on to his right side and wrapped his arm around her. Perhaps by reflex, she pressed her body back into his. Was she awake? Or had it been an unconscious reaction to his nearness? It wasn’t obvious.

He was suddenly very much awake, however. Tracing invisible lines with his fingertips, he idly ran his hand over her arm. The caress was gentle without being so light as to tickle. There was a contented murmur, almost a purr, as she ground her hips against him. His body responded. She twisted around in his embrace and, without opening her eyes, kissed him.

The moment lasted. But not forever.

He found himself on his back, her head resting on his chest. Without lifting her head, she turned to look at him. He had to push his chin to his chest to see her.

“There are worse ways to wake up.”

He chuckled his agreement. She relaxed against him, turning her back to rest more comfortably.

“He comes back tomorrow?”

Her entire body tensed at his words. Now she did lift her head, this time to glare at him. “Don’t.”

“I was just wondering.”

“No. You weren’t.”

“Stay with me.”

Avoiding the pleading in his eyes, she put her head back on his chest, harder this time. Involuntarily, he let out an “uff.”

“I can’t. Can we please not talk about it? Just enjoy the moment?”

He clamped his mouth shut. The arguments wanted to come flooding out, the entreaties. Instead, he stayed silent, running his hand through her hair and trying to enjoy now even while he thought about its inevitable ending.

The anger she showed belied her feelings, he knew. This wasn’t just an idle affair, but she needed to pretend it was, for her sake as much as for his. He wanted to push, but he didn’t want to push her away, and he didn’t want to make it harder for her.

“I love you.” He mumbled the apology.

At first he thought she wouldn’t react, but after a few moments, she said, “No. You don’t. You just say that because it’s what you think you’re supposed to say.” She still avoided his gaze.

She was wrong. He knew she knew that, but he didn’t bother to contradict her, to insist on his feelings. She needed to believe he didn’t love her, and he couldn’t overcome that need. He longed to hear the words echoed back. He was certain she felt them. To say them, however, was to unmake her life, and she wasn’t ready to do that. Maybe she never would be. He was determined to stay, to give her the chance to become ready.

So he didn’t push. He lay there unable to sleep, enjoying her presence for as long as it might last. Her breathing told him that she did sleep, for a little while anyway.

After a time – too short a time – she woke. Without saying a word, without even looking at him, she dressed. Her only concession before leaving was to come back to the bed, lay on top of him, and kiss him for many seconds.

Then she was up and gone. Her kiss had to say everything because she couldn’t find the words. He continued to lay in bed, longing for the next moment they might have together, hoping there would be one.

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