Lowell and I were over but not over. That is, I knew we were over, and had said it out loud, and, because he said he agreed, I thought he felt the same way.

We went for ice cream after work. The kids at the next table were making up ice cream songs, bouncing in the booth, and their mom was laughing along. How could you not be happy, sitting next to that?   He wasn't.   I thought if I told him stories, if I told him all the silly things I could remember from my life, he might smile. I talked and talked, making stuff up, knowing he knew I was lying.   Remember my three-legged four-titted half-sister from Utah? WELL. . .   His tired eyes never left mine, as if I were saying something dreadfully important, or he had something large and conclusive to say, but every time I asked, he shook his head.

I'd been ignoring my ice cream, it was running down my wrist. I ran my tongue in a circle, leaving a damp sticky bracelet. Strawberry cool on my lips, sweet between my fingers. He reached across the table and gripped my hand hard, awkwardly, our fingers not weaving together like they used to. Hands not fitting together right are terrible.   "Stop it. Please stop."   He looked as if someone had died right in in the room and I hadn't even been paying attention. He looked ready to vaporize. I hadn't known I could feel that nauseous that quickly.

Worse than seduction is unintentional seduction..

You know, where she looks at you. Your recent ex. She still has the eyes you fell in love with, the lips that kissed yours like no others, that smile that warmed your heart. She tosses her head back and laughs, her hair falling over her shoulders, the ones you used to warm with your lips. Her smooth neck that curves up under her chin, and you remember how she used to like it when you scratched her under that chin like a friendly cat. Worse, you remember how she would playfully purr at you and nuzzle your neck. One look and she has melted your heart all over again, the pain wells up like blood from a fresh wound and spills onto the ground in audible droplets. She left you.. but your heart never understood that. It still aches as if it misses her when she stands right in front of you, and you hold her like an old lover instead of an old friend.

You tell her jokingly, because that's the only way you can force the words out, "Don't be sexy". She laughs and smiles at you winningly and you can hardly stop yourself from trying to kiss her. "I said stop that", you say as your heart melts and runs into a puddle on the floor. You pull her into a hug because she will always let you do that, but you wish, still, that there could be more.

When I told her I wanted to see her again, I really wasn't sure that I did. She had gone away to college, I found that out from a mutual friend. I hadn't spoken to her since we broke up almost a year ago. I hadn't moved on, like I told everyone I had.

It was around Christmas time, she was home for the holidays, and she apparently still remembered my number. She called me up and asked when I'd like to meet up with her. I barely heard through the din of my racing heart. Somehow I managed to stammer out the first thing that came to mind, 'lunch'.

There was this Italian place by the mall that she'd never been to, and so it was decided just that quickly. I picked her up at her house, which I pretended to have trouble finding, and we rode off to the restaurant accompanied by pleasant small-talk chatter.

The meal was nice, and the conversation light. I caught her up on all the happenings of the town and she told me about dorm life and communal restrooms. Pleasant. Empty. All the while alarms screaming inside my head to tell her how I still loved her, how I dreamed of her nightly and woke up with a tear in my eye every single day.

The meal was done, the bill paid, and we strolled back to my car. It had only been an hour, and we had all day to spend together, so I asked her what she wanted to do next. She wanted options. I drew up memories of our times together, times past, and subsequently loaded the twin barrels of possibility. The first option: We go to the park, play some catch with the football that seems to have a permanent place in my car, maybe swing on the swings or climb the jungle gym or something equally pleasant. Option two: We go back to my place, pop in a movie, and watch it together on the couch(which in the past, always lead to a romantic encounter). She agrees to the latter.

We get to my place and I load up the DVD player with Mallrats, a tale which somehow perfectly describes our breakup. I bring out my patented oversized stuffed duckling, Duckbert, to keep us company(and score a few points, I admit). The movie passes forgotten as we pretend to battle furiously over the affections of a stuffed duck. Heavy flirting ensues, hands brush body parts...

She pulls away. We were an inch from a kiss and she pulls away. More than a little confused, I freeze up. My mind is racing with possibilities, the most horrid of which is the origin of that new ring I'd noticed on her finger. The movie was over, the room was dark, and I decided she had better get home as soon as possible.

We drove in silence. It wasn't long back to her house, and for that I was thankful. I didn't know what to say anyway. Out of sight did not lead to out of mind, I realized woefully, and I called her up. I was right about the ring. She had a boyfriend, and she told me she loved him. Several uncomfortable days passed after that. I hadn't eaten a thing, or slept, really. She was always on my mind, my emotions ranging from longing to loathing in the span of a broken heartbeat. I had told her I never wanted to see her again; that it was too painful for me to love someone who loved someone else. She wanted to be friends, like we were before we got together in the first place. I told her that I loved her even then, and that I had always wanted more, and I always would. I yelled at her. I cursed at her. I told her it could never happen. I told her that I couldn't take the pain of being so close to her heart and not having a place in it. Afterwards, we didn't speak...

Two days later, I caved. It's always going to be awkward between us, but I know now that I do have a place in her heart, even if I'm not the main feature right now. Sure, I'm always going to hope she falls back in love with me, but with things as they are now, I'll take what I can get.
For further adventures, see stealing a girlfriend.
This girl shows up the beginning of my Junior year in high school. Gorgeous. That's the only word for her. A warm, passionate laugh, a ready smile, and an adorable little gap between her front teeth. I am instantly smitten. We talk, we enjoy each other's company. We become friends. I yearn for more, but am content with friends.

She is amazing. Truely one of the good people of the world: honest, caring, loyal, and beautiful as the sunrise to boot. A rare find indeed. We go through the romantic trials that all teenagers go through. She helps me through mine, I help her through hers. She needs a shoulder to cry on, I lend her mine. I need a sympathetic ear, she is right there for me. I would do anything for her - her happiness has become an important thing to me. Over the course of a year, she is just a friend to me again, and though we flirt shamelessly, our relationship is strictly platonic.

The summer has come and gone, and she has her first real boyfriend. He is a good kid, and though he and I are not close friends, I like him and approve wholeheartedly. She and I drift apart a little bit, but as we get settled back into our new classes and get used to the routine of school, I call and ask if she'd like to get together. She suggests we watch a play, as 12 Angry Men is being done by a local high school theater group. I agree, and look forward to the night. I have not talked to her in a while.

We have dinner at a Thai resturant. I cannot keep my eyes off of her. Why is she so beautiful tonight? The spark has returned, but no, I must resist. She has a boyfriend. We are still only friends. We finish dinner, drive to the high school, and decide to waste a little time walking around. We walk, and it is a beautiful night, but I am distracted. It is different between us tonight than before. I walk next to her, and wonder why I am not holding her hand. She turns, and asks the question that I have waited a year and a half to hear.

"Did you ever wonder why we are still 'just friends'?" she asks me. It feels right. I shake off the hope that worms its way into my brain. We talk about it. We watch the play in comfortable silence. We drive home listening to music that will forever remind me of her. I want to kiss her goodnight, but I do not. I want to tell her that she is everything I've ever looked for in a girl, but I do not. I want to say that when I am married, I hope it is to someone just like her, because that makes being forever tied to one person seems like a wonderful thing. I do not. She has a boyfriend, I remind myself. He is a good person, and I do not want to ruin their relationship.

I find that she is having trouble in her relationship. She says she wishes her boyfriend were a little more like me. I do not know what to say to this. She says I am wonderful, a great guy, who is deserving of a perfect girl. What do I say? I remain a true friend. I tell her, do not be hasty. I tell her she should talk to her boyfriend, tell him what she thinks. That I am sure he cares and is not intentionally hurting her. Every word, another nail through my heart. Every piece of advice is another inch between us, an inch back towards her boyfriend. She thanks me. She says I am her best friend, and she doesn't know what she'd do without me.

They patch things up. She is happy. My heart is broken, but I put on a happy face. I have come so close, yet remain so far away. I do not wish to burden her with the knowledge that I am crushed by this episode, so I take my pain elsewhere.

Two years has passed since this. The pain is gone, replaced with only a lingering regret of what might have been. We still remain friends, and I realize this is all I need from her. She and I are free to give our hearts to whom we please, with the knowledge that a piece of both of our hearts belongs elsewhere, forever affected by those experiences that we have shared together.

Bad vodka. A taste not unlike kerosene fills her mouth. But this isn't about taste. Another swig and she's detached from her mind, talking with her body. She clamors toward the swing set, a fantastic idea in her addled mind.

Back and Forth.
Back and Forth.

Her stomach protests angrily but she ignores its twisted complaints. After all, tonight is her night. She is immune to pain. He sits over there, holding a whiskey bottle with that crinkly smile on his face she had grown to love. Her expression reveals nothing, her face smooth and content though her heart hammers recklessly in her chest. She falls clumsily off the swing and reaches for him, her pale hand grasping through the heavy darkness.

"C'mon, give me your best shot!" Her glittering eyes dance in front of him like shards of glass. Torturing him. He remembers them well. Taste me, they say. I dare you. He feels the desire pulse through him as he looks at her.

He has sworn never to look at that girl again, but the second his gaze flecks over her form he is stuck. He takes in the soft lips, the hints of summer still lingering in her cobalt eyes. How did a thing so lovely lie to him? He shouldn't look at her. He can't get near her without the conjured images of that boy's hands on her gentle skin seeping in to his vision.

But he is a boy of fifteen, a slave to the invisible physics of testosterone, and she is a beautiful girl. He follows her dutifully, tantalized by the scent she trails. It is one he knows well: the warm, sweet scent of vanilla. Christ, how has he lasted this long without giving in? It is useless, his will is no match for the fascination she offers. She leads him up to the top of the play structure, a tower accessorized by a mock steering wheel and a plastic roof. He feels silly, having erotic notions in a place normally inhabited by children. She turns to face him, and again he is mesmerized, this time by the thick black lashes that frame those captivating eyes.
"Are you sure you want to do this while you're drunk?" He murmurs. Please, say no. Please make the right decision for me.

She doesn't hesitate, because she knows. This girl knows. She knows so much, she doesn't have to think. She just does.

It comes back instantly, like riding a bike. Her lips are on his in a matter of seconds. Melting, like a fallen ice cream on a scalding July sidewalk. Oh, god, this...He remembers this...
Smooth, warm, body against his. The curve of her breast. The velvety waves of her hair underneath his capable fingers. A burning sensation that has no other name but passion. Familiar, like home after a dragged out vacation. Her tongue dances expertly in his mouth. She is his prima ballerina. She executes a perfect arabesque, a flawless grand jeté. Suddenly the Tchaikovsky stops playing and a cashmere voice sighs in his ear;
"I missed you."
"I missed you too." He wishes he didn't. He would be healthier without her eyes and her lips and her insatiable lust.

But everything healthy ends up being dull anyway.

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