I was drunk, one of the times – maybe all of the times – Lily arrived home. Mostly she’d mumble a hello, flash me a smile, and head right for the bathroom as I stay sprawled out on the living room couch, staring at the muted television. At some point we’d fall into bed together, and the next morning she’d clean up the empty bottles on the coffee table without a word.
It was over a quiet breakfast one morning that I finally asked her. I was stirring sugar into my coffee and she was reading a magazine, her long hair tied back so I could see one delicate side of her face. She looked as she always did: relaxed, thinking only of a Sunday morning in our kitchen and nothing else. I cleared my throat first but she didn’t look up.
“You know, I’ve always respected your need for privacy,” I started. She looked up now, her face unmoving. She took a sip of her coffee and closed the magazine. “Mmm,” she said. She placed her chin on her fists, ready to listen.
“Well,” I took a napkin from the table and crumpled it in my fist. “I don’t ask. I’ve never asked where you go when you leave. But I really think it’s time you told me.” I tried for soft, yet forceful. I needed to know this time.
She sighed, leaned back in her chair and stretched, preparing for something. She gave me a half smile and folded her hands on the table. “You know I love you, Matt.”
I nodded. I knew this, but did it matter now?
“It depends, really. On how I’m feeling, what’s happening here. I just sort of get in the car and drive.”
I felt a pang of jealousy, maybe anger, pass behind my ribcage. While I was left with nothing but my own guessed scenarios, Lily was flipping a coin to see where she’d most like to gain some new perspective. Suddenly it dawned on me, how damaging her disappearances had become. At first I thought allowing her some distance would bring us closer together, but now, when she came back home she never really came back – some part of her was left out there, wherever she went to reflect, without me.
“Why?” That single, heavy word was all I could muster now. Even at my worst I never imagined a day without Lily in it. So why then was it so easy for her to leave me?
She stared at her hands for a while, then stood up and moved behind me, draping her thin arms around my shoulders, laying her hands on my chest. I felt her lips on my cheek and closed my eyes.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” she whispered. “Can’t that be enough?”
I went limp at the warm touch of her breath, and once again fell into the pit of her vagueness. With her, at best I have always been a pathetic, gullible child.
I ticked off five more days of no Lily that week, and every afternoon I found myself at the bar where I kissed Jamie waiting for her to turn up. I wanted to ask her what she knew, why Lily hadn’t come back this time, if Jamie had told her about our kiss; I wanted to shake her, too, for telling the police that Lily had chosen to disappear before. How would anyone believe that this time was different? This time, the darkness in my chest knew she didn’t choose it.
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I hope you enjoy this (slow moving) series. 🙂
– Nicole Marie