Her I Love You's
The full moon hanging heavily in the ink-black sky illuminated her face as she gazed back at him. He fumbled for a few seconds, sending her into giggles. She settled next to him in the grass, their backs against the tree and eyes on the stars above. He glanced over at her anxiously, wondering if she was still as hopelessly in love with him as she had said months ago.
They were dating for only a short while at the time- about half a year. Too short, he often thought as time passed, to let those three words slip out. It was completely an accident on his part, something he never wanted to rush, but it was too late to take any of those words back. And it would probably do more harm than good for him to make a joke out of it.
She had looked surprised at his slip of the tongue, fingers wrapped around the handle of the wooden spoon she was using to stir the soup for dinner. He remembered the way his face felt like it was on fire, cursing under his breath and practically running from the room, absolutely sure he screwed up everything for them. Back then, there hadn't been any indication from her that she was ready for that, instead keeping things rather slow and steady between them. A flickering candle rather than a roaring campfire. Then there was the fact that they were so young, just about to venture into the real world for the first time, and they both had so much to figure out about their lives, their futures, and their dreams.
As he scrambled for his keys in his pockets, her quiet voice called to him from the porch.
“I love you too, you know.”
Their relationship after that was absolutely perfect – at least in his eyes. Dates on the beach and trips to the fair while they both struggled through school, making time for each other whenever they could.
She never let on that there were issues between them, that they were nearing a breaking point, though he probably should have seen it coming when she burst into the flat he barely was able to afford and confronted him about keeping things from her, about lying to her constantly, and how he could never pick up his phone. She accused him of not really loving her anymore, which was absolutely insane. Still, he remembered pulling away from their relationship after that, putting all his time and effort into perfecting his experiments and improving his aim with a football instead.
Her final words to him, accented with her tear-stained face and fragile voice, haunted him for a long time.
“I thought you said you loved me?”
Now, he sat with her under a blanket of stars, years of regret and wasted time stretching between them. She tried valiantly to save their relationship back then, inviting him out with her friends and offering to tutor him in the classes he struggled in, but he had the suspicion, looking back, that his younger self didn't want to be tied down just yet. The love was there, but he was young and maybe afraid of that commitment. So, he purposefully pushed her away until she had broke.
Thankfully, the stars were aligned for them.
After failing spectacularly in relationship after relationship. He ran into her again, stuck in a relationship with a piece of crap guy who took advantage of her love and kindness. He fought tooth and nail to convince her he'd changed, that he'd be better this time around, and she finally left the other guy.
This time, he waited over a year before letting those three little words slip out, and it was with purpose and certainty that he said them to her. They were in a little Italian place in the city, white table cloths and candlelight because he really wanted this moment to be special. He wanted it to stick in their memories long after the moment passed. For when things got hard for them. He pulled out her chair, kissing her gently on the cheek before hurrying to his side to take his seat.
Timing apparently wasn't his thing, even when he was trying to do it all so perfect, because when he finally said those three words, words that weighed on him for far too long, she had just taken a bit of her pasta dish, humming with approval. Her crystalline eyes shot up, wide in surprise while her mouth was still full of food. Not one of their finest moments, but it was certainly very them.
She didn't say it back right away this time, as he sort of expected. He deserved that for how he acted back in college. She made him work for it, prove to her that he was very serious about his words and their relationship, before she finally said it between tangy kisses on his back porch months later. His heart practically tore out of his chest and performed flying leaps across the yard.
“I've always loved you. I never really stopped.”
Her words rang out in his memory as he searched the sky for the constellations she was so fond of. He was never good at tracing them out in the sky, never quite able to see the fascinating images painted by a galaxy of twinkling stars. But he always tried his hardest with her because he did love her. Her head rested on his shoulder, fingers laced between his as she pointed out all the stars she'd learned about in school and from her work. She was so smart, and he couldn't help the fond smile that crept up on him. He was content to just sit out there for hours and examine the sky with her, but he had a reason for bringing her out to that small park.
He turned to her, breath freezing suddenly as she looked up at him with those always-knowing eyes of hers, lips tilted up in a kind smile. His heart thundered in his chest and he knew this was it; this was when he would do what he'd wanted to do so long ago, but had been too stubborn and afraid to do. Before he could utter a word, unscramble the rehearsed speech he'd made a few days ago, she pressed a finger to his lips.
“Before you say anything, I just want you to know something. I love you, and I will love you until the end of time. And I do mean that. There is no other person in this universe I'd want to be with, through the good and the bad. No, not even that barista in town you always narrow your eyes at. I just want forever, and then some, with you. I don't think I've ever said that to you before, and I want to be open and clear with you about how I feel from here on out. I hope you will do the same with me.” He felt his mouth open and close over and over, shocked and elated all at once. Sure, he hadn't been able to spit out his little speech that wasn't nearly as nice as hers, but he was still able to pop the actual question.
She said 'yes, of course you dummy. That's what I was saying.' Which was pretty fitting for them.
“I couldn't love anyone else. Ever.”
© 2019 Caitlyn Booth