once upon a time, a boy leaves twelve orange and lavender roses on a girl's doorstep. there's a little blue index card attached. it's crumpled and the pen is fading. like he's kept it in his pocket for a while. she throws the roses in the trash and keeps the card for herself.

/

when they fuck for the sixthnofifteenthno twenty-third time, he whispers it overandoveragain. three words and eight letters and two spaces and one meaning. she ignores every little breath and kiss and word he leaves along her jaw line and her stomach and her lips and thighs. he says it once more, so she pushes him off of her and gets dressed.

"you don't mean it," her words mesh together.

"i do," he says instantly.

she stares at him for a while and it's blue eyes and brown eyes and forbidden nights and whispers all over again.

"no," she repeats and leaves in a hurry, making sure to slam the door as hard as she can.

he glances around the room and something shiny catches his eye. it's the necklace he gave her a few years back , so he tucks it under his pillow.

/

she leaves him five times in three years. he knows because he writes it down whenever she does.

he shows her one day. simply tosses the notebook in her lap.

"this is...?" she questions.

"i wrote down every time you left," he says calmly.

"why?"

"so i wouldn't forget you if you never came back."

she skims through the pages, the words written in pencil smudging against the white and blue lines.

"i don't want this," she pushes it back into his arms and stands up.

"why not?" he looks up at her.

she doesn't answer him. she just walks away, knowing that she took a tiny piece of him with her.

/

they're at it again. she's yelling and he's yelling and the obscenities are echoechoechoing off the walls. he presses her up against a wall by her shoulders. she tries to run away, but he pushes her back harder and jesus when did he get so strong and agressive?

"why do you hate me so much?" he's screaming and he's red and how did they get like this?

"i hate you because-," she's spitting back just as much venom as he is.

"why do you hate me so much?"

"i hate you because-"

"why do you hate me so much?"

"i hate you because i don't want you to figure it out."

"figure what out?"

"that i love you."

his grip on her gets looser and looser until he completely lets go and his arms drop to his sides. she watches him, but he does not watch her. she's ready to leave, to let him write something else in his little notebook when she feels his mouth pressed against hers.

/

she starts to get up in the middle of the night, she starts to run away again, give him more words to write down, but his arms pull her closer to him and his breath tickles her forehead. he mutters, don't go. she feels a lump swelling in her throat and then his lips press against her forehead and cheek and lips and jaw line and all she can hear is him begging her not to go this time. she pushes away from him and quietly tells him she's staying, and he pulls her closer to him and if she feels a pang in her chest that carly sometimes refers to as guilt, but she pushes it to the back of her mind. she waits until his breathing slows down and his for his limbs to get heavy before she grabs her clothes and hurries out the room, getting dressed in the hallway and sneaking away in the night.

she buys a plane ticket to tacoma because it only takes twenty minutes to get there by plane instead of the one hour and thirty minutes it takes by car in which she would drown in her thoughts.

/

he leaves one message for her every day and so far, if you count them all, he's left her fifty-eight messages. she listens to the first ten or fifteen, but they become so frequent, so nagging that she deletes them all without listening to them. all they do is remind her that she left thirty-two days ago and that thirty-two days ago he found out her secret and that she can't go back to seattle because thirty-two days isn't long enough for him to forget her taste and smell and voice and name. so she stays in tacoma and reminisces and reminisces and reminisces and he stays in seattle and slowly forgets.

/

she goes back to seattle two years, three months and sixteen days later. the first place she visits is his apartment. when she knocks on the door, a young woman answers the door and for a moment, she feels a tiny tinge of jealousy in her veins. "freddie," her voice wavers a bit, "where's freddie?" the young woman at the door just stands there confused until she realizes what she means. "if you mean the guy that lived here before me, he moved." and the words echo in her head and they poundpoundpound and she feels like crying and she wonders when she became such a girl.

/

she sees him two days later at fat burger. he's with some pretty brunette and they're laughing and the brunette's laugh is so obnoxious and loud and his is like an old song that she knows all the words to. she laughs at how fucked up this situation is and it comes out scratchy and distant until it just kind of fades away and you can't hear it anymore. she watches the two stand up to leave and she realizes that she's right beside the door and she silently prays that he doesn't notice her when he walks by. she breaths a sigh of relief when her prayers are answered.

/

she sees him again a few weeks later at a job interview. she's applying for a job and he's interviewing her and she curses her life when she sits down across from him.

"sam," he says her name quietly having just seen in her 2 years.

she is silent.

"sam," he repeats. "when'd you get back? where were you?"

"the job," she says, ignoring his questions.

"i tried to leave you a voicemail for every day you were gone. but you never responded so i just gave up."

"i would like this job because-"

"sam," he shouts.

"i saw you," she says quickly. "at fat burger with some girl. i was by the door."

"and you didn't say anything?"

"say what? oh, i know i left you two years ago but i was wondering if you could drop everything and come do me in a supply closet."

he's silent and she takes this as her cue leave. he doesn't try to stop her this time.

/

she gets the job.

/

on her first day at work, he follows her everywhere. when she's counting inventory, he drops the bomb.

"i love her," he says.

silence.

"i'm marrying her."

she storms out of the storage room and slams the door as hard as she can.

/

he doesn't know how, but he does remember them arguing and now all he can feel and see is sticky sweaty skin and blonde curls. he looks at her sleeping and feels his blood boil. she left him six times and now he's asleep in her bed and he feels guilty so he scribbles some words on a blue index card he finds lying around and gets dressed. he tries to tuck the card under her hand, but she stirs and grips onto his arm and mutters something that he just barely hears. he feels a lump form in his throat and his brain tells him to leave, to do to her what she had done to him for so many years, but his heart tells him otherwise. so he lays down next to her and she mutters it again. he pulls the necklace from his pocket and slips it carefully around her neck. she repeats it once more and falls asleep.

"don't go."

/

they're back to their usual deeds. in the storage room, in the supply closet, at her apartment, in bathrooms, wherever. he's just glad she stays this time and she's just glad that something in her life has meaning, is important.

/

"i lied to you," he says one day after a long night.

"about what?"

"we're not getting married-" she sighs happily. "we are married." she sucks it back in. her face falls as he tells her how his wife is two months pregnant and they're so hap-hap-happy. she punches him in the gut and pushes him into the corner of the counter in her kitchen.

"leave," she says bitterly. and when he looks into her eyes this time, he notices that they're not bright bright blue anymore. they've faded and become bloodshot now. she shouts at him to leave and never come back. so he does.

/

she knocks on the pristine white door early on a saturday morning. she waits for someone to answer and looks around. it's a yellow little house and the grass is green and there's a white picket fence and she hears the little kids laughing and running and he finally got his picture-perfect life. when the door opens, she sees the pretty brunette smiling at her. "may i help you?" the pretty brunette says happily. her hair is neat and she's wearing a pretty, frilly, lacy blue dress with a clean white apron and a pearl necklace. she wants to push the pretty brunette down, kick her a few times and scream at her for taking her happiness. for taking it and soiling it with her perfection, but she can't bring herself to do it. the pretty brunette is like the porcelain doll her mother bought her and melanie when they were really young. she opens her mouth to speak, when he comes to the door. "who's at the-" he begins, "sam?" the pretty brunette is confused as to how he knows her name, but brushes it off anyways. he steps outside and closes the door on the pretty brunette's face. he notices the necklace framing her collarbones.

"sam, what are you doing here?" he asks.

she shrugs, "i don't know."

"i thought you were done with me."

"i am."

"then why-"

"i wanna quit. my job, i wanna quit it."

"why?"

"i'm leaving. i'm going to california with carly."

"i love you."

"i can't stay."

"i know."

he writes it down in his notebook as the seventh time she's left him.

/

the day before she leaves, he leaves twelve orange and lavender roses on her doorstep. there's a little blue index card attached. it's crumpled and the pen is fading. like he's kept it in his pocket for a while. she throws the roses in the trash and keeps the card for herself.

sorry it's like this. but it's always gonna be you and me no matter what. forever.