As if waking from a dream, she forcefully let the air enter her lungs.
“I swear I can’t understand how you just forget to breathe sometimes. It’s kind of scary you know?”
There was a ghost of a smile playing in her lips.
“Sometimes I get so deep in my thoughts I don’t remember how to function. It’s a bad habit, I know. Sorry.”
” You worry too much. That’s the problem. “
” Yeah…Sorry. “
” And you say sorry too many times. “
” Sor-… “
She pursed her lips as to forcefully stop the word from leaving her mouth. Her eyes downcast, her fingers playing with the hem of her shirt and silence.
This was not how things were supposed to be, at this point in her life.
She was not supposed to feel lonely, insignificant and impotent.
Right about now life should have been full of opportunities and bliss! These were the years she should be making memories to tell her grandchildren about one day. But so often did her mind wonder through doubts, disappointment and pain.
He kept his gaze on her the whole time, without turning his face in her direction.
Since when had he been watching from the corner of his eye? Days…months…years, maybe?
There she was in her own thoughts once again. Only God knew what she’d been thinking so hard about these days.
Yes, she hadn’t been like that – aloof, moody and self-depreciating – all her life. This was just a phase, for certain. He just didn’t know how to help her get out of it. That’s what frightened him the most.
She had been his light in the dark, his safe port, his home, his shoulder to lean on. And now that she needed the same from him he was incapable of understanding what was missing.
His affection – he dared not call it “love” with the utmost fear of rejection – had been growing for quite some time and, nowadays, it was difficult (if not straight impossible) to imagine life without her subtle smiles, her spontaneous phone calls and the way her hand so delicately touched the line of his jaw whenever she kissed his cheek.
Every movement, every touch, every word of hers was kindness and love and light.
As the moth to the flame, her pull was naturally irresistible. And he found himself trapped in it quite often.
Ironically enough she had always been a free spirit. Never tied to anyone, always in search of something she, herself, couldn’t quite put into words. Many had tried to catch her in their hands – some more delicately than others – but each one of them had failed to understand that she wasn’t supposed to be grounded unless she wanted to. As a result, they had been left confused and empty handed when she slipped right between their fingers.
Perhaps that was the reason he had never tried to close his fingers around her. She was so much more beautiful when she danced freely in his hand. Even when she ultimately confused him by not ever trying to leave his palm.
He looked at her and amused himself with the fact that now she was breathing normally. His words had always somehow had that effect on her. They always triggered an immediate response, be it physical or verbal. Another aspect of her personality that intrigued him. There were so many signs, gestures that assured him of her inclination towards him…but his fear of the consequences and the lack of control over what might happen when he finally approached her, had always frozen him on the spot.
His eyes never left her face and he watched as she quickly turned her gaze to him, looking somehow surprised and confused at the same time.
There was a brief moment of silence, where her eyes kept asking him why he had uttered those same words he had reprimanded her for minutes ago. Her mouth opened as if to finally give voice to the question in her eyes.
“I shouldn’t have said it. At least not like that. You’re not an idiot. It’s just that I really get worried when you stop breathing like that…”
He was fully facing her now.
And there she was, not breathing again.
The warmth and sincerity in his tone catching her by surprise, her mouth involuntarily opening to speak…just to close in the next second and for her head to swiftly return to its previous position – eyes glued to her lap and the fidgeting of her hands resuming.
Overwhelmed by the pure feeling of affection in his own voice, he almost missed her quiet one.
“I know this is going to sound embarrassing, but I want to say it…I don’t do this all the time, you know…? There’s a reason for it…Ah, this is so embarrassing!”
She sighed quite loudly, but before he could reassure it was fine even if she didn’t tell him, she spoke again, still looking at her hands.
“Let’s get this over with! It’s you…I don’t know why but when I think about you being here with me, I get all weird and I stop breathing and I’m sorr-“
“You say sorry too many times, I told you.”
While she had been ranting he had closed the already tiny space between them and his hand had rested on her fidgeting ones.
When she finally looked at him, his face was millimeters away from hers. And when his lips gently touched her own, she stopped breathing all together again.
Afraid he had been too hasty, he reluctantly retracted his face, but couldn’t help the words leaving his mouth.
She gasped for air then.
“I’m sorry if I was too hasty-“
Her forehead suddenly collided with his chest, knocking his breath away. And after a few seconds of silence, her voice rough with emotion, she whispered.
“I’m not an idiot. And you say sorry too many times.”
Surprised, he felt her gently wrap her arms around him and smile.
A few seconds of silence followed.
Finally wrapping his arms around her as well, he smiled and contentedly sighed.