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“John, I’m in love with you.”
He froze just as the last word left her lips. He remained planted on the spot, back turned to her.
“What?” he whispered.
She repeated, “I love you. I’m-I’m in love with you.”
He closed his eyes briefly, wishing desperately for the ground to open up and swallow him whole.
“You don’t mean that, Abigail,” he said tersely.
She blinked hard. “Yes I do, John.” Suddenly, she was grateful for his turned back, knowing what she had to tell him would never come out if she met his steel blue eyes for even a second. “It’s been two years of this back and forth. I’ve tried to hide it, for both of our sakes. I’ve tried to ignore it. You think I liked being lectured by you, Mr. Big Wig from Harvard?! It was really hard, but I did it because I knew I needed your help and I-“ Her words caught in her throat, tears threatening to spill over.
She sighed, “I wanted to spend time with you. When you asked me to start editing your papers, I knew I could help you too. Then things started to shift, and I started to hope that you wanted things to change just as much as I did.”
Just as she finished her thought, he turned around with wild eyes and clenched fists.
“Abigail, I can’t-“ He fought against himself. Finally, his arrogance won out.
He began harshly, “This isn’t in the cards for us. I’m going to law school in the Fall. You’re still young, a third year with so much to learn. I don’t have time for this, much less any other sort of relationship. I have to focus on my career, getting my writing up to par, and making a name for myself.”
His eyes softened visibly at the sight of her stunned expression. “This isn’t in the cards for us, Abigail. It’s just a schoolgirl crush. You’ll be better for it if we just stop now.”
His words, well intentioned as they may have been in his mind, dealt her a heavy blow. To hear from the singular person she admired, encouraged, and adored that her feelings were as close to nothing as a child’s infatuation with their teacher was disheartening, to say the least. Her own interpretation of their long, two year tutorship-turned-friendship was seemingly much different than his. Their conversations broached topics beyond a simple friendship. They expressed their fears, their dreams, and their shared worries about their families. Lingering glances and awkward silences had befallen them for months. Their friendship, while born out of frustration and indifference, was intimate, challenging, and fulfilling. Her love for him was, in her mind and heart, profoundly justified and deeply felt.
John’s interpretation differed in one very distinct way. While their conversations did mean a great deal to him, he had always viewed them in a strictly platonic sense. He had shared other bits of those same conversations with others more on his level, at least in his mind. Yet, in his own denial, he found himself reeling at the implication that his behavior and his very being were, to this young woman, so comforting and intriguing as to produce within her feelings of love. His own shortcomings and relationship insecurity were secondary in this, as his conclusion about her perceived infatuation seemed entirely true, given the facts of their dynamic and contents of their conversations.
At his words, she found herself feeling heavier than she had before. Rather than feeling the relief one typically feels after expressing a declaration of love to another person, Abigail felt as though weights had been tied to her ankles and wrists. She suddenly felt very silly in her short summer dress and converse sneakers, standing outside his favorite bar. The "Under 21" stamp on her hand silently mocked her. His indifference to her feelings left a gaping wound, just between the eyes.
She looked up just then to meet his blue eyes. For a few precious seconds, her face displayed pure desperation. She hoped, with all her heart, he could sense her pain and give her some of the understanding she knew him to be capable of providing. Yet, his blue eyes remained fixed on her, reading like pity and possibly even shame.
Her face hardened at this silent confession. Suddenly, she felt nothing but resolve. She stared willingly back at him, daring him to say more, to embarrass her more than he already had.
Finally, she spoke. “I know there’s something here, John, between us. Call it what you want, but I’m not afraid of it and how it makes me feel.”
She paused, turning to leave.
“There’s something here, but it’s not my job to make you see that. Goodnight, John. Congratulations on your graduation.” With that, she turned away from him, tears once again threatening to spill over. She continued walking away from the bar, pacing herself so she wouldn’t run away like the scared little girl he had made her out to be.
John remained, motionless. Her final words replayed in his head over and over. He wished desperately that she’d just thrown her hair over her shoulder, laughing and rolling her eyes as she always did when he’d said something to annoy her. The fact that she’d behaved as the woman she actually was, rather than the girl he perceived her to be, stunned him. All at once, he realized his special brand of charm that too often read as arrogance did nothing to help him. Rather than feeling in control and in the right (as he so often did), he felt wrong. He had been wrong of course, but he never felt wrong. The fact that this woman had made him feel as though he was actually wrong about the way he’d handled things was difficult to accept.
As he watched her figure retreat into the night, his slight drunken haze all but vanished, replaced by the sobering feeling of humility and a distant wish for her to return.
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Written as a tribute to those with the worst timing, but the most love.


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