‘I’m going to do something stupid, and I want you to go with it, okay?’
He looked at her with desperate resolution. Leaned in.
Nudging her against the living room wall was a classic Max manoeuvre. He liked to find places to pin and kiss her: against a car door, or a tree trunk; a lamppost, the flat side of an art sculpture, or the side of a bookcase. In the past he’d find a spot to push against her and they would kiss, melt into each other. But today he’d taken soft steps to edge her backwards, and stood with his hands resting lightly on her waist, instead of tightening his arms around her as though he’d never let go.
‘Max, I don’t want you to.’
‘Just one more.’
He sounded like a child begging her to reread a bedtime story. She understood the desire to become immersed in the familiar and relive its magic, even if you knew how the tale ended. ‘I can’t.’
His eyes implored her. She saw guilt, remorse and pain. And longing. She thought of all the times she’d wanted to reach for him.
‘I miss you,’ he breathed. ‘I’ve missed you so much. Please, one last time.’
She shook her head. ‘I can’t handle that.’ It wouldn’t be the last time if they started. Max didn’t want a final kiss: he wanted her – and part of her ached for him.
‘I can’t fix this, can I?’
He laughed; the sound was harsh. ‘Don’t be. It’s my fault. If I hadn’t fucked up then we’d still be together.’
She said nothing; fought the urge to smooth his creased brow, brush her fingers lightly through his thick, coarsely-soft hair. Wondered if what he said was true. She’d thought about a lot of ‘what ifs’. If he hadn’t pushed her into a corner – practically demanded that she end things – then what would have happened? Maybe it would have taken another month or so, but eventually she would have admitted that their differences were irreconcilable.
Or maybe not. Maybe they’d still be fighting every day or two, and kissing for moments of infinite worth in-between arguments. Maybe they’d decide all the pain was worth the payoff. Maybe they’d stay soaked in sun-drenched moments until they stretched into days – and find a way to actually get along.
His hands dropped; he turned quickly so her gaze could not linger on tears starting. As he walked down the hallway – and the front door clattered shut behind him – she closed her eyes and leant against the wall, held there by the weight of his memory.