The following short story is fiction, but based on actual events. The names have been changed or omitted to protect the guilty...
The air was thick with smoke. The place smelled of cigarettes, stale beer, and a hint of pot. I wondered to myself if this was what all parties were like after high school. The apartment was tiny and it seemed impossible to have so many people in it. I worked my way through the crowd and started to wonder how Tyler talked me into this. What if he’s not happy to see me? What if he’s not here? How will I get home? I don’t even know where I am!
And then I saw him. He was standing tucked in the corner with a pretty blond girl. The sight of their close proximity made my heart drop. Is this what Tyler had in mind when he dropped me off? I wanted to step between them and state my claim, but I couldn’t move. My feet stayed rooted to the spot and all I could do was stand there and watch. He put his face close to hers and for an instant, I thought he’d kiss her, but instead he leaned in to say something over the music. She laughed and I could see he was pleased with himself. She flicked her hair and I couldn’t help rolling my eyes. She leaned into him and responded. He smiled that familiar smile and I could feel the tears start to sting my eyes. I did my best to blink them away. I told myself not to cry. He was looking at her in a way I’d never seen. I wondered for a second who he was. I thought, ‘Do I even know you? Please look this way. See me and end this moment. Please, look this way.’
She leaned in to say something else and touched the hair on the back of his neck as she did. He looked at her, smiled, and slightly licked his lips. It was an unconscious kind of action and it made me feel a bit sick because he’d done that with me. He leaned in and responded and all I could think was, ‘Please don’t kiss her; please look this way. See me and end this moment.’ She laughed again. He kept his face close to her’s as they spoke. She smiled and laughed and flicked her hair again. She touched his hand as she spoke to him and then he brushed her hair from her face and tucked it behind her ear. He was gentle when he did it. They were eye to eye he kept his hand to her face. ‘Please don’t kiss her. Look this way.’ He bit his lip – another action I’d seen before. I tried searching his face for something that told me it wasn’t as it seemed. Is this always the way it was when he was away? Has he never been mine?
And that’s when I realized there was something missing in this whole exchange. When he was with me he was different. There was a look in his eyes when he was with me that wasn’t there as he spoke to her. What’s missing? Is it tenderness? Maybe. Is it love? Yes, but there was something else. I watched him with her and tried find what was different. He was so confident so… smooth. And that’s when it hit me. It was fear that was missing. When he looked at me I saw love, I saw tenderness and I saw a little bit of fear that was just beneath the surface. He always looked slightly scared of me or us or what we had. When I watched him with her there was no love or tenderness and absolutely no fear. I wanted to scream for him to see me. Don’t do this to me. Don’t do this to us. I know you love me. You may be there with her, but it’s me you love! My feet became free and when I started to move, I found myself walking toward the door. Away from him and away from that party. No-one would have to know. I’ll tell Tyler he wasn’t there. I’ll find a way home.