“That movie,” I started before slowly trailing off. He knew what I would say next, he always knew.

“Horrific,” he finished, confirming my thoughts. I questioned silently why it couldn’t be like this when we were around other people, why he and I were only this intimate, this close, this real when we were alone. Once he had told me that his feelings for me were too private to show to others, that his affection was meant for me and me alone. And there was something romantic about the secretiveness of it; the late nights, the long phone calls, the glances from across crowded rooms, both saying something to each other no one else could hear.

But sometimes it was scary. He was scary. His guard, his lies—and I knew he told many—his secrets, and her.

He told me it was a game, a ruse. A way to distract others from the truth of us. The truth people would judge, the truth people couldn’t possibly understand. That we were in love, or at least . . . something like that. Because as much as I said “I love you” to him, the same words didn’t seem to be in his vocabulary.

I wanted to believe him, believe that he cared, that the lies and deceit were in my favor as well as his, and on nights like this, the nights we spent alone, I did. The doubt came at daytime, at school and when we hung out with our friends after, when sometimes he wouldn’t even look at me. The doubt came when I watched him hold her hand, watched him kiss her ear. Not mine.

But then, there was nights like tonight. When after the dance, when he could have spent it with her, he chose me. When after the two of us sent our respective dates home, we retreated together, because the night was ours. The moon and the stars, and the dark blue clouds. And he was mine. At least for a moment.

And now I was walking him home, through the dark, as our journey would always be so it seemed. Through darkness. The hard road. He took my hand and I wondered, how many times would he kiss me this time?

The first was soft, as soon as we left my house, on the cheek, slowly grazing the corner of my lip, he squeezed my hand lightly as he did so, pulling me up to his hight, meeting him halfway.

He loves me.

The second was once we were halfway through the park, he pressed me up against a tree, touching me in places only he was allowed. Marking his territory with kisses along my ear, down to my jawline and neck, slowly drawing the neck of my shirt down so he could claim my collar bone for himself.

He loves me not.

The third time he kissed my hand, the back up it. Pulling it up to his mouth with his fingers still locked between mine. He looked at me up from under this thick dark lashes as he did so, the touch of his lips to my skin sending shivers and goosebumps up my arm to my neck where my throat plunged into my stomach, sending a swirl of butterflies throughout my whole body.

He loves me.

The fourth time was halfway home. On a bus bench we stowed away to talk about the night, prolonging the time we had together. It was heated, with tongue and dancing fingers. Hair pulled at the ends and hand in places they’d never roamed before. Neck arched, breath visible in the night air, all that there was to take was taken. And I was his again.

He loves me not.

The rest of the walk home the crisp fall air bit at my neck, nipped at my ankles, kissed my lips.

But he didn’t.

—m.h.

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