He couldn’t know what you knew then.
That the two of you were finite.
Doomed from the start.
He was young. Untested. Pure. Foolish.
And so handsome.
It was painfully endearing. The way he stumbled over himself to get closer to you. It gripped your heart with both hands to see him try. To be noticed. To stand out. But he didn’t need to try.
He consumed you from the moment he entered your life.
The mere possibility of running into him every day was enough to lift your heels off the ground, as you danced around your bedroom, imagining his eyes on your bare skin. Feeling his hungry gaze on your perfected self. The one you dressed and polished in front of the mirror for him.
It wasn’t so hard then. To reach perfection.
You were young, too. Smooth, firm, flexible.
And ten years seemed like nothing between you.
Twenty-two and thirty-two was nothing.
He was an old soul and a romantic. You were a free spirit, brimming with heat and energy. You glowed then. From the inside out. And he was entranced by you.
You didn’t pursue him.
You waited for him. Patiently.
He was inexperienced. He told you so, and he was ashamed.
But that just made you want him more. His humbleness. His need to be shown. His desire to prove himself to you.
You dated. In a way that felt beautifully old fashioned. You talked on the phone. He opened doors for you. He let you order dinner first. He couldn’t always pay, and it upset him. But your hand over his was enough to send grateful blood rushing to his cheeks. And anywhere else it pleased to rush.
His kisses were fire starters. Each one building on the next until the flames seemed to lick incessantly at your skin long after you’d said goodnight.
After several such goodnights, he wrote you a letter. On paper. In his beautifully slanted handwriting. One that told you how much he thought about you. How ready he was to be closer. How much he wanted it.
How much he wanted you.
You must have read it fifty times and each time made you ache for him to touch you.
You wrote him back, sincerely, and told him yes.
You added a few things for him to think about. Warm things. Sensual things. Things he could look forward to.
Things you were looking forward to.
You didn’t have time to make yourself perfect for him that night. He showed up unannounced, disheveled, and ravenous. You led him to your room, where he undressed you. Slowly. He stopped to absorb every exposed inch of you. Your curves. Your angles. Your flaws. Your triggers.
He admitted he was nervous, and it took your breath away. His honesty was more than you could stand. You kissed fire into him and gave him some of the courage you’d earned. Some of your fight. Your glow. Your power.
You drew him against you, over you, and into you.
He didn’t falter. His instincts were immaculate.
And in the moment you came together, whatever was left of your heart became his.
He wept against your cheek and thanked you. Over and over again.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
For months after it was thank you. After every touch of your hand. Thank you. After every kiss. Thank you. After every immaculate joining of your bodies.
His gratitude was boundless, and it fed a need in you. One you didn’t want to admit you had. A need to be wanted. And it made you afraid. That he couldn’t see what was coming. The crack in his lens. The foil in his plan. The villain in his fairy tale.
But then thank you became I love you.
And there was no going back.
Twenty-seven and thirty-seven was something.
His friends were all getting married. He brought you to their weddings, and you felt imperfect among the people who knew him best. Because it was harder now, to reach perfection for him. You were less smooth. Less firm. Less flexible. You were ashamed. But the press of his hand on the small of your back and the brush of his lips against your cheek was enough to convince you.
You still had time.
But then I love you became marry me.
And the clock stopped.
You said no.
He laughed because he thought you were joking.
He asked why not, and you tried to explain. That what he wanted now was going to change—that you were going to change—in ways he wasn’t prepared for. That you didn’t want to hold him back or make him feel trapped into wanting you, all because he made a promise to want you when he was too young to know what that meant.
He got angry, and he left.
He wrote you an email. You could tell he wrote it hastily. It was riddled with typos, and it was hurtful. You resisted writing hurtful things back.
You didn’t chase him.
You waited for him. Patiently.
He showed up unannounced, brimming with heat and energy. Glowing from the inside out.
Marry me became I want you. Just you. And now.
He drew you against him, over him, and onto him. It lifted your heart right out of your chest to feel his gaze on you. It perfected you. Made you young and smooth and firm again under his hands.
You came apart in a flash of fire and need, and you wept against each other’s shoulders as he held you.
Thank you. I love you. I want you.
Thirty-two and forty-two was everything.
His friends were starting families, and his heart was breaking. You felt it. Every time he held a baby. Every time he saw a father on the street. Every time your bodies came together with something between them. Something that wouldn’t let you create the thing he wanted more than anything in the world.
His gaze started to wander. You couldn’t blame him. You’d lost the ability to perfect yourself. Or maybe you’d just lost the desire.
You wrote him a letter, but you didn’t send it. It was hurtful. And selfish.
I’m sorry became I told you so.
You showed up unannounced. Tired, brittle, void of light.
He stepped outside to meet you and closed the door. Because he wasn’t alone.
You couldn’t wait for him.
You pulled him into your arms, and you kissed him. With all the fire and energy you could drag up from the smoldering ashes within you. He kissed you back and you tasted everything you’d denied yourself. Every promise he’d been willing to make. Every gift he might have given you.
You wept against his chest and let his rushing heartbeat fill you with some of the courage you’d lost. The fight that had gone out of you. The glow that time had stolen.
It lifted your spirit to feel his gaze on you again. It warmed you from the inside out. There were words you wanted to say, but you didn’t say them.
They were selfish.
But they were everything.
I wanted you. And I loved you. And for that I’ll never be sorry.
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