Love and Other Words

Page 40

I close my eyes, and for a second I give in to the fantasy: the glide of his hands up my shirt along my waist, the way it would feel for him to lift me, put me on the counter, step between my legs and press closer.

So I move back, shaking with the restraint. “Remember what I said at Tilden,” I begin, “about feeling so much with you?”

He nods, his gaze fixed on my mouth, breathing jagged.

“I don’t want to rush into anything blindly.” I swallow, wincing. “Especially not with you. We messed this up once.”

Blinking up to my eyes, his expression clears a little. “We did.”

There’s an intensity between us that has always been there. It used to make me trust that he’s my person, and I’m his. And now, he’s left his girlfriend for it, I’ve left my fiancé, but in truth, we’ve been back in touch for a single month after eleven years in the wilderness. His best friend in the other room is a stranger to me, and the woman who just left knows more about Elliot’s heartbreak than I do. We are still so messy.

“Let’s eat some turkey,” I say, gently prying his finger from my jeans. “It’s going to take some work for me to put my words together, okay?”

Elliot slides his hand to my hip, murmuring, “Okay. Of course. Whatever you need.”

I allow myself one intimate touch and use it to press my hand over his wildly beating heart.


eleven years ago

From: Macy Lea Sorensen <[email protected]>

Date: September 1, 6:23 AM

To: Elliot P. <[email protected]>

Subject: Miss you

Like crazy.

From: Elliot P. <[email protected]>

Date: September 1, 6:52 AM

To: Macy Lea Sorensen <[email protected]>

Subject: re: Miss you

It’s only been a few days, but I’m already wondering when you’re coming back.

From: Macy Lea Sorensen <[email protected]>

Date: September 1, 8:07 PM

To: Elliot P. <[email protected]>

Subject: re: Miss you

I think this weekend. I went over to Nikki’s this afternoon, and Danny was there. They were playing video games, and were having so much fun, and all I could think was that I wanted you to be there.

From: Macy Lea Sorensen <[email protected]>

Date: September 1, 8:12 PM

To: Elliot P. <[email protected]>

Subject: re: Miss you

Crap. Dad says we can’t this weekend, but maybe the weekend after. School starts on Tuesday and he wants to get a few things done here this weekend.

From: Elliot P. <[email protected]>

Date: September 1, 9:18 PM

To: Macy Lea Sorensen <[email protected]>

Subject: re: Miss you

I think it’s probably a good idea if we just try to keep our heads down during the week. It’s going to be too hard, otherwise. I’m going crazy.

From: Macy Lea Sorensen <[email protected]>

Date: September 1, 9:22 PM

To: Elliot P. <[email protected]>

Subject: re: Miss you

Do you think this is a bad idea? Being together?

My phone rang in my hand, Elliot’s picture popping up on the screen. I had taken it only a week prior, when he was standing on a mossy rock in the woods behind our houses and staring up at the trees, trying to identify a bird he’d seen. In the photo, the sun caught him in profile, accentuating his jaw and the definition of his chest beneath his shirt.

My heart was pounding so hard, and when I answered, my voice came out thick. “Hello?”

“Macy, no,” he said immediately. “That’s not what I mean.”

I nodded, staring at my wall, and the glossy poster of a unicorn there, which I’d had since I was eight and never bothered to take down. “Okay.”

“I just mean,” he said quietly, “that we’ll drive ourselves nuts emailing every ten minutes every day of the week.”

I sat down on my bed, kicking off my sneakers. “You’re right, of course. It just feels different now. Scarier to be apart.”

“It’s not different.” He seemed out of breath, like he was jogging upstairs. “We’ve always felt this way. I’m here. You’re there. Just like before, we still belong to each other.”


“And when you come up,” he said, and I heard a door close in the background, “we’ll spend as much time together as we can.”

I curled into my pillow, cupping the phone close. “I just want to kiss you tonight,” I whispered. “I just want you here, beside me, kissing me.”

He groaned and then went quiet, and my heart felt twisted inside my chest, aching.

“Mace,” he said. “It’s all I want to do, too.”

We fell into silence then, and I wondered if he would let me fall asleep with him on the phone, later. My hand slid beneath my shirt, feeling the warmth of my stomach, imagining his palm there.

“It’s only one more year that it has to be like this,” he said, finally. “Think about that. We’re graduating in the spring. Our lives won’t be separate anymore. It will go by so fast, and then we can be together, for real.”


sunday, december 31


step out of my room at the modest L&M Motel and into the sharp glare of the winter sun on asphalt. Shielding my eyes with a hand, I manage to see Elliot only ten feet away, leaning against the driver’s-side door and holding a small bouquet of scraggly wildflowers. I’m immediately reminded of every teen romance hero at the sight of him straightening, staring.

After thirty-seven days, my eyes are thirsty, too, chugging down every inch of what he looks like in a tux, his hair neatly combed, face smooth with a close shave.

We’ve texted a few times since Thanksgiving, and talked on the phone a little bit here and there when I had a question about the attire for the wedding, or when he wanted to check to see where to pick me up today, but I haven’t seen him since he bent to kiss my cheek at his front door, our bellies full of turkey and wine, and looked at me meaningfully for three quiet breaths.

“Give me a chance,” he’d said.

I’d promised I would. The question was whether he’d still want one, once he heard what I had to say.

I celebrated my Christmas on December 22 with Sabrina, Dave, and Viv. Just watching them from a kitchen stool, sipping my wine, it was easy to see their rituals taking shape: the Canadian Brass Christmas album played on a loop; Dave baked up a store’s worth of Christmas cookies; Sabrina went to the living room, stringing tiny white lights all around their enormous tree. It was just one more tiny stab of awareness like those I’d been having all month, listening to colleagues share what they’d planned to do in their off-hours: parties, reunions, baking, flights out of town.

After I lost Elliot, and – of course – after I lost Dad, I’d also lost every tether to tradition. I’m ravenous to get them back. I want to make blueberry muffins on Christmas morning and light the kalenderlys at night. I want aebleskivers and books on birthdays, and hot dogs on the beach on New Year’s. But I also want Thanksgiving to be the day Elliot and I sit on the floor, just the two of us in our underwear, eating turkey off the bone. I want to celebrate an anniversary in bed all day, having conversations with our mouths only an inch apart.

I’m ready.

So, I step out onto the cracked parking lot, unsteady in heels, trying to walk gracefully toward him. What I really want to do is jump into his arms, but I manage to keep it together, coming to a stop a foot away. He smells so good, and when he pushes his sunglasses up, his eyes seem nearly amber in the sun. The opening words I’ve been rehearsing over and over for the past month – When I left Christian’s house, I went to the cabin. I fell asleep on the floor, and that’s where Dad found me – fade away into a distant echo.

Elliot presses the flowers into my hand and bends, kissing me just below my jaw, right where my pulse is the wildest.

I bend and inhale the flowers – they don’t actually smell like anything, but they are so brightly colored, they’re nearly fluorescent. “Flowers. Aren’t you the perfect wedding date?”    

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