Between Friends

He had no love left after breaking his fixation.  
He spent months tripping over the past and falling for the present. The last thing he expected was an invitation.

‘Got my PhD, celebrate with me’
The postcard quivered between his fingers.
There’s no way he’d fly across the country for that. Most of the burning in his gut still lingered.

His phone rang a week later. Just guess.
“It’s kinda short notice,” he lied, “I have something going on.”
“Don’t lie,” she always knew. “It’d mean the world to me if you’d come.”

The loudest plane engine couldn’t drown out the thoughts screaming through his head. Like,
‘Just be polite and for Christ’s sake, don’t say anything embarrassing.’
And,
‘Don’t do this to yourself.’
‘What a fool.’
‘You’re making a mistake.’
 
He almost talked himself out of going into the party. How easy it’d be to just take off running.
But if he wasn’t such a sap, he wouldn’t have come.
Fuck it. Here goes nothing.

The party was full of unfamiliar faces; the type of people they used to make fun of together.
“Enjoy the party!” she toasted the crowd with fake enthusiasm, as she knocked back her glass for good measure.

A couple at the bar asked if he lived around here. He told them he moved to the east coast.
“Well then what brought you back?” they imposed.
He smirked. He sipped. He used to be in love with the host.

He got drunk. Then decided he shouldn’t be there anymore and hoped nobody told her he showed up. Where’s the door?

He had burnt off his cool trying to ignore the elephant in the room.
But as Murphy’s Law was about to fail, she caught him by the coat rack.
“Leaving so soon?”

He eyed her from the top down. She hadn’t changed a bit, despite her new lifestyle.
Funny how he used to get lost in the curve of her cheek and the structure of her well-timed smile.

She laid a hand on his arm. “I didn’t think you’d make it.”
“Neither did I,” he said, reminded of her touches effect.
“I’m glad you did. It feels like it’s been ages,” she took a half step closer.
“Congratulations on your doctorate,” he had to change the subject.

“Thank you. It means so much coming from you,” her eyes went misty.
“I mean, I do know how bad you wanted it,” he responded. Big mistake.
Her face softened. She gripped his arm like she used to.
“I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and I have something to say.”

“We used to talk about how we’d be something someday,” she choked out.
“And I know life with you would be so much better than this.”
“I really shouldn’t be here,” he scrambled, “And if I don’t leave now, I’ll lose my wits.”

She pulled him close, one last attempt to remind him what it used to be.
“Please don’t go. I fucked up,” she said through tears.
He couldn’t hold her back, so he told her, “We’re finally free.”

He knew exactly why he was invited. Moving on is easier said than done.
And before she turned around, she confessed.
“Don’t ever forget. You are loved.”