MWBB, 2-23


Kelly hadn’t said no. She hadn’t said yes, either. She hadn’t said much of anything, actually, but had merely picked up her fork and resumed eating her Cobb salad. I stirred my bisque, afraid to lift it lest I spill pureed tomato on my only suit. And we both ignored the shiny ring in the center of the table.

We didn’t talk the remainder of the meal, other than muttered pleases and thank yous to the wait staff. The champagne sat unsipped, though there was a part of me which desperately wanted nothing more than to pass out and hope this was some sort of a dream. And then without so much as a throat-clearing or deep sigh, she spoke.

“Five years ago, I would have said yes in a heartbeat. I was younger then, and I still believed in miracles. Five years from now, I might say the same thing. There will come a point when it won’t matter anymore.” She stopped, tightening her lips. “That’s not what I mean. It matters. You matter. I matter. But I don’t know how much I matter to you.”

“A lot. You matter a lot.” I spoke because it was my turn, not because I was expecting my words to change anything. But there was a rhythm to this kind of conversation.

“I know you think I do, or you want me to, but I’m not sure. There’s too much of you locked away in that cabin in your mind for me to really know what I mean. I’ve always hoped you would let me in, but I don’t think that will happen, not now. Do you?”

And now I paused. Too long, and she’d think I was stuck in that cabin. Too little, and she’d think I wasn’t being serious. The thing was, she thought she knew what she was asking. We’d talked about honesty, intimacy, all the things loving couples shared, early in our relationship. And that was when I’d told her about the cabin.

There was too much in the world that shouldn’t be shared. We each had those thoughts – the things that were best left alone inside our heads. The fantasies about coworkers. The nightmares about our deaths. The hate. The loneliness. The lust. The fear. Those weren’t things that good people shared. But too many people let those things out, and that led to misery, and heartbreak. My parents told me that complete honesty was crucial in relationships, but they’d died on opposite coasts, surrounded by no one.

So I’d made this place for me to store my demons, far from the vulnerable bonds between people which, when severed, could never be repaired. I could visit the cabin when I needed, or when the demons needed, to release the dark when the pressure got too much. My parents were interred there. And my first girlfriend. And Marlene, who I’d thought I might marry but who hadn’t been able to keep her darkness to herself. And over the years, I’d perfected it, so that I could love and be loved without the risk of letting things out, and no one had been the wiser.

But once I began to think that Kelly might really be the one – someone who didn’t share her dark places, as I did not, I told her about how I was able to be the man I was. And she tried to steal that from me.

She wanted into the cabin, to walk through the pines and the birch, past the willows, and to feel the heavy oaks surrounding her. She wanted to walk barefoot on the rough-hewn floor, and to smell the decay that never left old-growth forests like this.

It had been a mistake to let her know about the cabin, I knew. And I’d hoped she’d forget about it, or decide that she loved me enough to not know all my secrets. But that wouldn’t happen.

I didn’t really have a choice anymore – I would have to let her in.

It was a shame, I thought as I hefted the shovel into the loamy soil. I did so love her. But at least this way she’d always be with me.


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