Mathew looked at her, smiling a bit. She still looked the same, the red hair and the eyes and the everything that had made him fall in love with her in the first place. He had missed her so much more than he’d realized. “I know,” he said. “You don’t control it. And it’s your job, after all. It’s okay. I just…” He did that almost-laugh again. “I really missed you.”
He studied her face, and his smile grew a bit wider. “So you’re fine, then? Where’ve you been?”
Kathleen smiled a little and moved her hand to his cheek, lightly caressing it with her thumb. “I really, really missed you too…” She glanced at his lips, and for a brief second she almost leaned in to kiss him. And god, how she wanted to. Still, she didn’t, only looked at him and smiled. She locked her hands loosely around his neck again, not really wanting to let go of him.
“I’ve been to a lot of places. We actually went to Mexico last year, and then there was this carnival or something. And there were, like, these really big floats in the streets and everyone was dressed up and…” She shook her head dreamily, laughed. “You should’ve been there. It was amazing.”
She felt awfully lost and empty as she watched him turn, like he had taken with him a vital part of her as he walked away. She covered her face with her hands and allowed herself to cry now, letting out loud sobs as she slid down the wall and seated on the ground. The same question echoed through her head over and over: why couldn’t she be the one he loved?
Mathew didn’t protest. He didn’t ask or beg her to let him stay or try to say anything to maybe make her change her mind. He just nodded, like he understood, and then stepped past her and out of the trailer. Before he walked away he threw a look over his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he said before he turned his back at her.
Kathleen turned her eyes to the floor. “Just… just get out of here,” she said, and was almost surprised by how cold and repellent her voice sounded. She angrily tried to wipe her tears away with the back of her hand, but it was to no good.
“I don’t — I’m not lying,” he said, tempted to walk even closer to her, but stopped when she took a step backwards. “I should have told you earlier. I’m sorry. But it would have made everything so much harder when I’d know that you’d have to leave again.” Part of him just wanted to put his arms around her. Part of him remembered Jenny sleeping in his apartment.
Because I do love you. She looked up at him, her eyes wide with surprise and hurt and anger. Why was he saying that now? Why couldn’t he have told her earlier? She shook her head a bit and swallowed hard. “Please don’t lie to me, Mathew. Don’t…-” She had to interrupt herself and take a deep breath. “You’re only making it worse.” Her legs felt weak beneath her, and she had to take a step back to lean towards the wall, but despite what support the wall gave her, she still felt like her legs would break under her anytime.
She only glared at him, his words echoing in her head over and over. She wanted to believe his words. That that night was real and not something he had just done.
“If it was all about us, why are you doing this? She was gone for three years and now that she’s back…
Mathew couldn’t look back at her. Not with the tears glistening in her eyes and her voice broken like that. Not when every word she spoke made him feel like he was being hung upside-down and stripped and exposed. He looked down at his hands instead and swallowed hard, then moving his eyes around as he tried to find something to say.
“I didn’t expect her to come back, Kathleen,” he said, and with the words came the courage to look back up at her. “I thought she was dead. I didn’t see her before you did. When I… when we… that was all about us. I wasn’t trying to fool you or use you or…” He didn’t know how to finish that sentence, so he let it fade out.
She only glared at him, his words echoing in her head over and over. She wanted to believe him. That that night was real and not something he had just done.
“If it was all about us, why are you doing this? She was gone for three years and now that she’s back you’re just gonna throw me away and forgetting about everything like I’m just some piece of shit!?” The tears stung in her eyes, and her hands clenched into fists. Don’t be ridiculous. Don’t cry, a voice in her head told her, but tears streamed down her face like rivers only a second later.
He didn’t really know what to reply to that. He could almost hear the words he had said to Jenny ringing in his own ears again. I fucking love you, okay? It made it impossible to think.
She understood what he was trying to say. She understood it all too well. The tears pressed on and she closed her eyes, took a deep breath. She silently hoped that this was all a bad dream or even just a terrible joke, that he would walk over and put his arms around her and kiss her and tell her he loved her. But he didn’t, did he? Of course he doesn’t love you. You were just too stupid and naïve to notice.
There was so much she wanted to tell him, so many questions to ask, but she didn’t know what to start with, and her tongue didn’t seem to cooperate with her. What had she done wrong? What had that night meant to him? Did he even care about her?
“I let you take my innocence… I-I trusted you…,” she stuttered at last. Her voice broke and she opened her eyes again to look at him.
“You’re not going to stay here forever.” He looked back and met her gaze and held it this time, even though he kind of wanted to move his eyes away again, like looking at the sun.
She stayed silent for a moment. “I can visit you…”