They sat next to each other on the airplane. She rested her head on his shoulder. He stroked her hair. Neither one spoke, though he knew that there was something she wanted to say. He had felt it all week, this heavy thing that lay between them and pushed down on his body as if he were wearing wet clothes. One night he had felt a cold tear dampen his chest as they lay together, falling asleep intertwined, as new lovers tend to do. He knew what she wanted to say, but he was afraid to hear it.
It had been four months since their introduction. In that time they unpacked all of their baggage and laid everything bare for examination and inspection. If it was a test, they had both passed. But he was scarred from his recent past. Having almost veered in the wrong direction, he had only just navigated back on course. He felt unsteady and vulnerable, not wanting to get lost again. As a result, he had uncharacteristically built a small wall around himself, just big enough so that some distance could be kept. He wasn’t sure how long or what it would take to knock it down, but most likely more time than they had invested so far.
It was evening and the inside of the plane was tranquil. Outside of the window the sky was inky black. The couple sat together in silence, ruminating about the week spent with his family. How beautiful and easy it was, like a scene from a movie.
When she could no longer bear the stillness, she looked up at him, eyes wet and red. “I have something I need to tell you. But I’m afraid.”
“I know,” he said quietly. He did know. Even though their time together had been brief, he could read her intuitively. He knew that these feelings had been welling up and he knew that he would need to confront them. He knew how she felt, but he wasn’t sure if he could trust his own feelings. He needed to hear it from her.
His heart beating faster, he whispered to her, “It’s okay. Tell me.”
It was quiet for a moment. He stroked her hair and gazed out the window, straining to see the clouds through the dark. She looked up at him.
“I love you,” she said.
He didn’t hesitate to answer. The words flowed freely from within him.
“I love you too,” he said. He meant it. The wall had come down.
Happy anniversary, Baby Doll.