For seven long years I loved her in secret, consoling through her divorce, wearing my happy mask as my heart was breaking at her wedding. She never asked if I loved her, and I never told her.
One night, however, I did tell her. I was missing the lion, and she was disappearing, and we reached out to each other and made love with a passion never felt by two people before us.
Or so I believed.
With perfect hindsight and clarity, it was one sided.
I loved her deeply, undamming seven long years of unrequited unspoken love, letting it pour out of my heart and into hers with a torrential force. She basked in my affection and attention and her newly regained visibilty.
She told me she loved me as much as I hoped she did, simplistic and perfect words. She promised happiness and a life together and undying devotion and love.
She swore these things to me as she clung to me to drag herself from the life she had scratched out of her loveless marriage and malignant residence. She swore them as she banished me to avoid her husband's wrath (I'm sorry, my friend; you were my brother, and I never wanted to do you harm.), promising that she would soon follow. She made these vows daily even as we were separated by an endless stretch of distance.
She swore them even as she told me she could not come to me as promised.
And God help me, I still believed her. Fool that I was.
It was my fault she could not come home to me, it was her husband's fault, it was her ex-husband's fault. The blame was to be placed on her job, on her finances, on her inability to find someone to help move her furniture.
It was everyone's fault but hers that she decided to cast me aside, my purpose to her served.
I think back on her now and I know.
She spoke in nothing but lies.
And God help me, I love her still. I know that all it would take is one smile, one touch of her hand on my cheek and all would be forgiven.