Short Story Saturday
A soft summer breeze blew across the city, bringing with it the sounds and smells of an average day. Alone on a bridge over a calm river stood a man. Arik leaned against the rusted railing and stared off into the distance as cars passed behind him. A woman walked past him on the bike lane, talking loudly into her cell phone about her car insurance bill. Arik didn’t even hear her. He was too lost in his own thoughts. Memories replayed before him, increasing the pain in his heart. He vividly remembered the events of nearly three weeks before as a lump grew in his throat.
Leo had come back to their apartment looking rather upset. His neat chocolate-brown hair had been disheveled, his chestnut eyes piercing.
“Where were you the other night?” he demanded.
Arik was taken aback. “I told you I was running an errand,” he replied calmly. “I had told you the day before that I had something to do.”
Leo wasn’t looking any more relaxed. “What were you doing?”
“I can’t tell you yet.”
“I just can’t.”
Leo slammed his fist against the wall. “Some guy at work says you were with him.”
Arik’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Who?”
“I don’t know his name!” Leo practically shouted. “All I know is that he claims you were with him while you were running your ‘errand’.”
Anguish began to rise in Arik. “Leo, do you really think I’d cheat on you?” He reached out to touch him, to try to calm him.
Leo smacked his hand away. “He showed me a card you’d given him! Do you know what it said? It was a Valentine’s day card! It was signed ‘love Arik’! You gave it to him this year! He said so, and I know your handwriting!”
Arik shook his head desperately. “No, Leo. I could never cheat on you!”
“Get the hell out of my apartment!” Leo yelled as he pushed him roughly.
Arik tried to defend himself. “Leo, whoever this idiot is, he’s trying to hurt us. You know I’d never do anything like this.”
Leo pushed him again, harder. “Liar!” he bellowed. “Get out!”
Three weeks later Arik was living with his mother again, trying to fight off depression, and no closer to finding out who’d destroyed the greatest thing he’d ever know. He’d been with Leo for sixteen months, and had been living with him since their one-year anniversary.
Arik dropped his dark blue gaze to his hand and stared at the silver ring on his palm. He’d tried so hard to hold on to Leo that night, but all his lover seemed able to do was command him to pack. In the two weeks that followed he had tried calling and catching Leo anywhere he could. But now, as they closed in on three weeks, he’d given up all hope of ever being happy again.
He closed his fist around the ring tightly, fighting back the tears that were building. It would be impossible for him to find someone else; he’d never cared for any of his exes as much as he had for Leo. He’d really felt like he was in love.
All time seemed to vanish as he stood on that bridge, reliving the happiest times of his life. His light blond hair rippled in the breeze and he closed his eyes, breathing deeply. There had to be something to make him happy again. Maybe when his sister’s baby was born he could lose himself in spoiling the kid like any decent uncle. Maybe then life would seem worth living, and maybe Leo would just be another name on his list of exes.
His eyes suddenly flew open. It had been one of them, one of the others he’d dated before, who’d broken up him and Leo. One of them obviously wanted some sort of revenge, so he’d used an old card to trick Leo, a card that had to be over two years old. Arik kicked the railing in frustration. Why hadn’t Leo even considered this?
He fought back another large lump in his throat and bowed his head. It was over, he knew it, and some jealous ex had ruined his life.
It was then that a car swerved to the shoulder, not far from where Arik stood. He only half acknowledged it, until someone called out his name. He looked up slowly, and to his shock he saw Leo walking toward him. Emotion overpowered him and he had to look back out over the river to keep himself under control.
“Arik, what are you doing?”
He didn’t move, just stared out into the distance. Yet, he couldn’t help but wonder why Leo actually sounded concerned. He managed to ask in a hoarse, choked voice, “Why do you care?”
“Why shouldn’t I?” Leo questioned, his voice strangely quiet.
Arik gave a snort that was half a sob. “Because you broke up with me over a lie, for one thing.”
Leo said nothing, but Arik could hear him shift awkwardly.
“You knew then I’d never hurt you by doing anything,” Arik said quietly. “Since the day we first started dating I was faithful to you. I don’t understand why you’d take something a stranger said as truth, just because he showed you a Valentine I’d given him more than two years ago.”
“I… I know,” Leo replied, almost too quietly to be heard over the passing cars. “I know what I did was stupid. I’ve known for the last two weeks. I was just stressed and overworked that day… and that guy had been dropping hints about us. He works in my office, and as soon as he saw a picture of you on my desk… he starting going at it. I let him play me too much. I’ve been trying to call you, but every time I do your mom says you’re out or working a new shift. And you never answered your cell when I tried that.”
Arik tensed when he gripped his arm.
“Arik, I’m really sorry for what I’ve done,” Leo told him, his own voice tight with emotion. “I wish I hadn’t been so stupid. And I know it’s probably unfair to ask, but could you possibly come back to me?”
Looking up, Arik saw tears in Leo’s chestnut eyes. He didn’t say a word as he turned and wrapped his arms around his lover, not caring in the least who saw them. Leo’s arms slipped around him, and Arik could feel him trembling as he cried into the shoulder of his tee-shirt. Arik finally let his own tears fall as they held each other tightly.
Several minutes passed before they pulled away and dried their eyes. Arik smiled at Leo and whispered, “I love you so much, Leo. Thank you for coming back.”
Leo just nodded, smiling. “I love you, too. Now, please tell me you weren’t going to jump.”
“Jump?” Arik repeated, confused.
His lover motioned to the railing. “You know…”
Arik had to laugh. “No. I’ve been depressed since you broke up with me, but I’m not close to suicide. No, I was going to get rid of this.”
He lifted his hand and opened his fist, revealing the silver ring. Leo just stared at it.
“I was going to give it to you that night,” Arik explained, “to tell you I really wanted to finalize the ‘forever’ thing. I know we can’t get married, but I wanted to have the emotional aspect of it.”
Leo looked up into his eyes, his own wide. “Oh God,” he breathed.
“I was having it engraved when I was running ‘that errand’,” Arik added.
Leo’s hand traveled slowly to his gaping mouth as he looked back down to the ring. “Oh God,” he repeated. “I feel so horrible.”
Arik could see the irony that Leo had to see. He changed his hold on the ring to grasp it between his fingers. “This isn’t exactly the way I was planning on doing it, but…”
Leo hesitated briefly before taking the ring that was being offered to him. He examined it, found the inscription inside, and read it softly, “‘You, me, and love forever.’ Yes, forever.” He slipped the ring on and shared a fierce hug with Arik. “I missed you.”
Arik smiled. “I missed you, too.”
Leo pulled away and gripped Arik’s arms. “Come on. We’re going out to dinner.”
“We are?” Arik asked, smiling still. It felt so odd to smile again after three weeks.
His lover nodded. “Then you’re coming back to our place, where you belong. We can move your stuff back in tomorrow.”
Arik had to kiss him, and he didn’t care about the people driving by. He was just too happy to be back with Leo that none of that mattered.
When the tender kiss ended they both got into Leo’s car and headed toward their favorite restaurant. It sent a jolt to Arik’s heart when he saw the ring on Leo’s hand that held the steering wheel. They came to a red light and Leo caught him staring. With a smile, he rested a hand on Arik’s thigh.
“I won’t listen to that guy at work again,” he assured him.
Arik gripped his hand. “I know. I love you, Leo.”
Leo gave him a loving smile as the light turned green. “I love you, too, Arik. I really do.”
No comments yet.