I had met Daniel in the after-hours club I worked at one summer. He was a regular; I'd seen him around a few times. Curt nods and polite smiles were the extent of our initial relationship. Things picked up when I joined him and a few others for poker one night. I had been into the cups, which somehow contributed to an incredibly lucky streak. I won all his money that night; I also won his attention.
"What's your name, lass?" His voice was butterscotch and smoke. Raspy. I noticed he was making pains to hide his accent. I told him my name and he smiled. "Well, Grace, I'd offer you a drink, but you seem to have relieved me of the means to do so." A wink and a smile drew me in. He was charming. We talked a while, and eventually, he offered to drive me home. It was raining outside, and I had walked to work that night, so I accepted gladly.
. . .
"Grace." Low timber of a soulful voice speaking directly in my ear. The effect left a pleasant twinge in my belly. Fire, it made me think of fire.
"Hmm?" Non-committal mumbles and the raising of an eyebrow. I kept my eyes closed to the dawn and concentrated on soaking up the cool air from the fan blowing across the bed.
"Time to get up, m'dear. Rise and shine, and all that rot." His voice, oh I could take it up and wrap it around me, like a coat, like a blanket. Safe and fiery and wondrous. Impish. Scottish rogue. Mine.
I lazily opened one eye and peeked at the clock. Six o'clock! I shut it tight and grumbled something incoherent, slamming a pillow over my head. Too damn early. Damn early risers. Don't want any worms. Leave it for the early birds.
"Now, now, love. Is that any way to greet the day?" Strong hands wrested the pillow from me before I could protest. I scowled up at him and threw the thin sheet covering me over my head. He chuckled. "Don't make me come in there after you!"
Laughter and sunlight and cool breezes. He made me greedy for it; for him. I dared him. The dawn didn't matter. He was there and warm and ready.
. . .
Light slipped in through the cracks of the window blinds. The sun was up, why wasn't I? I lay lazily in bed, breathing in the cool summer morning air. There were lilacs arranged in a deep bowl beside the bed. I took a deep breath and gulped down their fragrance. Daniel...
I closed my eyes and lay there quietly. The sun was burning through them; I ignored it and sighed. Heard sounds in the kitchen, then smelled dark rich coffee smells. Sounds of spoons clinking in glasses and footsteps drawing nearer. I felt the bed contour to his sitting down beside my mock-sleeping form. "Grace." A warm hand reached over and stroked my cheek. "Wake up, trouble." I smiled with my eyes closed and shook my head. Nuh-uh. "Don't make me tickle you."
Rumble and tumble. The weeks had passed quickly. I was getting used to the idea of having him around, and it scared me. He stopped in mid-tussle and stared me in the eye. Saw sadness there and was gentler. How could someone be so kind? I didn't know. He took a lilac from the bowl and brushed it gently across my torso. Whisper of petals and smells that caused an ache all over. Flutter of petals across my lips. "Shh. Don't say it."
Fingers tracing patterns on my back. My favorite game. A tree, a bee, a cat, a ring. A ring. A ring. Flutters of panic quivering in my stomach. I sat up quickly. "Oh shit, I'm going to be late for work." Scrambling up and scooping up clothes, running just out of his reach into the shower. My heart pounded and the blood rushed in my ears. I knew what he wanted to say and couldn't face it. And felt so bad, because it wasn't his fault, no, not at all. It was me and it was wrong. But it was also true.
. . .
I played the avoidance game for a few days. Missed work on purpose, didn’t return any calls. Willed myself not to call him. Drank too much and ate too little. Woke up one morning next to someone else. Cried because it wasn’t him and I had done this on purpose, to hurt him. He found out of course and wasn’t furious. Just disappointed.
“I know what you’re doing, Grace.” Sad eyes staring out at nothing. Sitting on my couch smelling of whiskey and tobacco and man. “And I refuse to let you do this.”
I sat silent. Due to past events, I only ever saw love as giving someone an opportunity to hurt you. A wild card of sorts. My doing what I did was my way of driving the point home to him. It was wrong and it was hurtful. But you can’t undo what’s been done.
When he couldn’t stand the silence any longer, he pulled me to him. Fierce and hungry.
. . .
Later, as darkness approached, my head rested on his lap as we listened to some music and the sounds that came with nightfall. City sounds dwindling outside and then picking up. Footsteps pounding on the sidewalk. Voices of nobodies encroaching on our reverie.
“Grace.” He was stroking my hair absently, soothing. “I have to go home soon.”
I yawned sleepily and gave him a small smile. “Er, aren’t you already home?”
“No, Grace. I mean I have to go home.” It dawned on me then.
“Oh.” I closed my eyes and tried not to think about that. “When?”
“In a couple of weeks.”
“Grace.” Hands pulling my face towards him. “Come with me.”
“I…” The phone rang and saved me from having to answer. He let the machine pick it up.
“Hi, this is Tina. I think I left my watch on your dresser the other night. Call me and let me know, ok?”
I laughed and sat up and hid my own disappointment. “I guess we are even now, huh.” I got up and walked toward the door.
“Grace.” I paused at the door, coat and keys in hand. Looked back at him and felt my heart sink to the floor. Oh God, I couldn’t handle this. “You didn’t answer my question.”
I stared down at my keys. I took his key off the ring and placed it on the table beside the door. I looked up at him with tears in my eyes and gave him all the answer he needed. “I’m sorry, Daniel.”
. . .
I ended up quitting my job just to avoid him. I did my best to stay out of his way for the next while. I did my best to stop thinking about him, but he was everywhere. Smell of his cologne on my pillow, sound of his laughter in the streets. Why was I doing this to us? My mind knew it was stupid but my heart was too afraid.
I came home one day to lilacs on my table and a small card beside the key I’d given him. All the card said was all I did and didn’t want to see. Let me love you.
Moments later, there was a knock at the door. Daniel. I slowly opened it and shyly looked at him. “Hi.” That was all I managed to get out before he closed the door behind him and made me forget everything for a while.
Later: “I am leaving tonight.”
“Won’t you reconsider?”
“Then tell me. Just once. Even if you don’t mean it.”
I looked him in the eyes and he knew I meant it. “I love you, Daniel, but not enough to do this.”
The hurt in his eyes was too much. I rushed him out the door. One last long kiss and he was gone.
. . .
A few months later, I received a letter in the mail. It was full of all the things he wanted to say to me but couldn’t bring himself to, knowing I would reject them. I would have asked you to marry me, if I thought you would say yes. I cried a good long while and then put it away.
Some things just aren’t meant to be. This was one of them.
Yeah, sure I'll admit there are times when I miss you
Especially like now when I need someone to hold me
but there are some things that can never be forgiven
and I just gotta tell you
that I kinda like this extra few feet in my bed
(Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning - Cowboy Junkies)