Forever By D.I. Jolly

Barbara bit down hard on her bottom lip, trying to stop her tears. Knowing full well it wasn’t going to work. While Rick just sat there, staring at her across the table.

“Look, I’m sorry I’m hurting you, but I just… I’m just not that guy, I… I don’t have the feeling you’re hoping for.”

“How would you know! You’re not even willing to try. We have so much fun together, we like all the same things. We don’t even have sex every night but still sleep together and now you think we can just be friends! What’s wrong with you?”

Her voice was sharp with no attempt to hide her pain. Rick’s heart was beating so hard in his chest you could see his shirt move. His mind split into two voices. One lying, telling him that it was better to do it now to save her greater heart break later, the other told the truth and called him a coward, said he knew exactly how she’d felt, and how he felt and that he was simply running away.

“I don’t know what else to say.”

The tears were running freely down her face, as he got up and headed for the door. She wanted to run after him and beg him to just try, tell him she’d be there with him and it wasn’t as scary to fall in love as he thought. But she was so angry and so hurt that all she could do was sit there and cry. Then all at once she knew exactly what she was going to do, she knew exactly how she could get her message across to him, and in a way that he wouldn’t be able to deny or ignore. She looked into herself, gathered up the shattered pieces of her heart, paid for the coffee and left.

Rick continued to berate himself all the way to his favourite bar where his friends were waiting. He’d managed to spin the story that she come across as irrational and unstable, and they’d all been joking about him ending up in her basement. It was funny during the day but as the night had set in he’d started to lose his sense of humour. He wasn’t about to admit that to his friends though. In his mind, that would mean that he did actually have feeling for her, and it was far too soon for that thought.

“So how did it go?”

“Well, I didn’t die so that’s a win. Shame though, poor girl, oh well… Next!”

“Ha, nice!”

“Yeah man, she was nuts it’s better for all of us now that that’s over.”

As the night went on Rick managed to drink and flirt his way past his feelings and into a fun night out. Meanwhile Barbara taped a letter to his front door, and let herself in.

Rick put his arm around a girl whose name he couldn’t remember, and smiled as he tried to tell himself that this made much more sense than getting into a relationship. He glanced at his friends who nodded in approval and slight envy. Which he both loved and hated. Suddenly the voices in his head started to wonder if he sacrificed relationships just to remain ‘cool’ in the eyes of his drinking buddies and, what the fuck he was actually doing with his life. He often joked about dying alone but happy in the bed of a pretty girl, but had always hoped it was just a joke. Now it suddenly felt too real. He looked at the girl and saw another broken heart he’d tell his friends was crazy and it sobered him up. Barbara’s words rushed back to his mind causing him to physically shudder.

“Hey honey what’s wrong? You don’t look so well?”

“Me? Yeah I’m fiiiiine.”

“Yes you are.”

Rick looked at her and wondered what kind of arsehole he really was, and what kind he wanted to be. He let his eyes run over the girl and realised he was physically capable. ‘Kiss her, then fuck her. Everything will be fine in the morning.’ The standard plan. He downed the rest of his beer and started making out with her, but it still didn’t seem like a good idea. So he had a shot and tried again. Barbara again appeared in his mind and again he physically recoiled, as if he could pull his head away from the memory.

“Fuck it I’m going home.”

“What? Man what’s going on?”

“I don’t know, I’m just… tired, and too in my head, sorry I’ve got to go home I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Without another word he grabbed his jacket and left, leaving the nameless girl sitting on the couch, wondering what she’d done wrong. Rick was the dangerous combination of smart, charming and handsome, and knew how to use it to his advantage. As he walked home he started to hate himself for not saying goodbye to the girl he’d been making out with, on top of thinking about how Barbara had looked when he’d just left her in the coffee shop.

He stopped and stared for a minute at the envelope on his door before taking it down. He knew who it was from, she wasn’t the first woman to write him a letter. He always hated reading them and really, really didn’t want to deal with one now, but decided it would be better to just get it out of the way. He sat with his back against the door and started reading.

Rick. I don’t know what I did that made you run away so fast. I want to be sorry but I’m not sure I actually did anything wrong. I thought we were on a path together and apparently we weren’t, but until you turned and ran away you hadn’t given me any clues that that’s how you felt and that’s a dangerous way to play with a woman’s heart. But, I guess, that’s also who you are and it would be equally short sighted of me to hope you could just be different for my sake. You said you wanted to be friends but we both know that’s just what someone says, we’re not going to be friends. I don’t hate you but that’s not the same as I forgive you. But I have a present for you. I’ve put it inside along with you key…

Rick rolled his eyes and blinked a few times,

“God damn this letter I might be too drunk for this.”

He turned the page over in his hands to see how much there still was to read and decided to just finish it.

…I do want you to be better though, for your sake not mine. If you let fear like this continue to drive your actions then you are going to end up alone and you’re much too nice a guy to end up like that. So I hope my little gift will act as a reminder to you to open up your heart and take a risk on people. I don’t mean fall in love with the first person who comes along, but next time, when you say you’re open to the idea, to really honestly mean it, and not just say it because it’s the correct answer.

I don’t know if I loved you yet, but I really was open to the idea.

Goodbye.

Barbara.

He sighed again feeling even more like an arsehole, but also cringed at the thought of a present, hoping it wasn’t some cliché teddy bear, or god awful piece of art he’d have to hide or deal with. He opened his door and there she was waiting for him, totally naked, hanging from the back of his bedroom door. The world stopped spinning as he stared at her, rejecting the reality in front of him. It wasn’t true, it wasn’t happening, it was a nightmare. He waited a few moments longer to wake up. Then as suddenly as it had stopped the world shatter. He ran forward towards her, unhooked her from the door, tear streaming from his eyes.

“No, no nono, please fuck God no.”

He stupidly put his fingers against her neck hoping he could feel something or that it might help. Her head fell back and saw the words ‘remember me’ written on her forehead in lipstick. Her face was blue and her eyes milky. He stared at her for a few seconds frozen by fear then quickly crawled away to vomit into a flower pot.

“No, we joked that you were crazy, you weren’t crazy, it was me, not you…”

He looked back at her and a shiver erupted from the base of his neck sending goose bumps over his whole body, turning it numb. He reached into his pocket to pull out his phone to call an ambulance, then opened a bottle of wine and sat down next to her drinking from it, waiting for them to arrive. Forcing himself to study her face. He never wanted to forget it. It had all started when she’d admitted that after spending two weeks almost constantly together she was really started to fall for him, and he let the fear push away someone who he actually liked, and he was never going to forget her, never let himself forget her. He would never love anyone the way he loved her.

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