Tag Archive | Phoenix Forever

Goodbye Girl

“Why are you giving me a feather?” she asked.

“Not just any feather, that’s a phoenix feather.” When she laughed, he hastened to explain. “It’s disguised like it’s from a boring old chicken, but that’s a phoenix feather, trust me.”

“Okay,” she agreed easily. Her imagination was capable. Besides, it was the first conversation they’d had in weeks, and she wanted to keep talking. She missed him. The razor-sharp loss of their easy friendship pierced her chest, but she ignored it. “Why are you giving me a phoenix feather?”

“Because I’m letting you walk away from me.”

Just like that, the tears in her throat rushed into her eyes. She knew it, had known that it would come to this, but had childishly kept wishing they could go back to the way they’d been for four years: high school friends, misfits fitting in perfectly together. Then he admitted his love, asking her to stay in the town she’d wanted to escape all her life.

His apology was in the hand brushing her tears away. The first touch between them in three weeks, five days, and 18 hours. Since when had she started counting the times he touched her?

“You know I’m in love with you,” he said gently. “But I’m no longer asking you to stay, or holding you back. I’m letting you go. We’ll let each other go.  Completely.”

“But…but,” she was really crying now,  sobbing like a child, knowing she was being hideously unfair, but too stricken to stop. “I don’t want to lose you. I don’t, Jay, I can’t. Please….”

He gripped her hand, crushing the feather, betraying how she was tearing him apart. But dammit, she loved him, too. She loved him, enough to hurt them both, but not enough to stay. The selfishness of it silenced her, while a dim, pathetic part of her mind registered his hands touching hers. That’s twice today.

“That’s where this phoenix feather comes in,” he soothed, smoothing it out on her palm. “You’ll return someday, or maybe I’ll find you. When the things we want no longer stand between us, we’ll start again.”

“A new beginning from the ashes?” It should’ve been corny, but she couldn’t laugh.

“Yes. Someday.”

“Don’t hate me.” Her greatest fear slipped out, and the look on his face told her he heard.

Oh, baby. Never,” he cried, pulling her close. “We have someday,” he promised, but the only important thing was that he was finally holding her, and his arms were tight, so tight that it was suddenly alright, it was perfect, but just for a moment, just enough to remember until someday. So she held on, carefully holding the feather, and believed him.

I wrote this in response to the “phoenixRed Writing Hood prompt from Write on Edge. It’s my first time to join this challenge, and the prompt was just too perfect to resist. This is a fictionalized account following the 450-word limit, but there really was a boy, a promise, and a feather that even now is tucked inside my wallet. It’s been almost ten years, and the promise has been kept, perhaps not in the manner of a Hollywood happy ending, but it’s our story, and we like our ever after the way it turned out. 🙂

You and the things you say

Your words are intoxicating. But wait. Before this goes somewhere it’s not supposed to go, we need a disclaimer of sorts. I’m not in love with you. You’re not in love with me. And even if, once upon a time, that possibility might have existed, it no longer does. So nobody’s dreaming of wedding vows here.

And yet. The things that you said, all those years ago in that past lifetime of possibilities, they are still as clear to me, as vivid and as captivating, as they were on the day that you said them, even after the memory of that day itself has faded with time. And the things that you say to me now, when you’re in one of your moods, they go straight to that place in my heart where I keep all my what-ifs and what-might-have-beens. We’re each other’s “the one that got away”, and if we’re honest, we can admit that the two foolish romantics that we are have found a certain appeal in that. There’s something fascinating about roads not taken.

And so last night, when you said what you said, when you asked me, “Do you remember what we promised when we met?” –— my sentimental heart lured me into another daydream walk down that untraveled path. And of course it was beautiful and breathtaking and sweet, daydreams always are. But eventually I had to go back to the messy reality of our choices, the one where the ever-after versions of our fictional selves are unrecognizable to the faces we see in the mirror every day. Because in real life, people say things, and people feel things, but in the end it’s what they do that counts. And what we did was we let each other go.

 

Day 22 — Someone you want to give a second chance to

Maybe some paths are meant to be untraveled. But for every beckoning horizon unheeded, another destination is reached. ~from Reunion

Dearest you,

“I know I can’t make you mine. I just wonder how it feels to be loved by you.”

You wrote this to me, in that letter that came out of the blue and took me by surprise. You said you were thinking about our almost-love story, the one that ended before it began, ended because I needed to be free. You remember letting me go. I remember, too. Of course I remember.

I smiled as I thought of how far we’ve come — from that agonizing, bittersweet connection to this comfortable friendship between two people who have loved each other in so many different ways. As I typed out my reply to you, I took a risk and said, “I’ve been wondering,  too.”

When I wrote that, I was thinking of the boy you were and the girl I was, two mere children who had never known real heartbreak. Sure, we talked about it, we even wrote songs and poetry about it, but our hearts were whole. Not any longer. We’re not that boy and girl anymore, we’ve learned something, if not everything, about the fragility of joy and the riskiness of trust. And so now I wonder: How would it be between us today, between the people that we have become? Will we end up hurting each other with the defenses that we have built? Or will it be a healing bond, a return to the innocence that we lost? The possibilities are beautiful and dangerous at the same time.

You wrote something else in that letter, something about imagining the two of us together for a day. It’s a captivating image — just one day, 24 perfect hours.  One chance to finally open that yellowed envelope of our might-have-been, to find out how the unwritten part of our story ends. It’s tempting.

But we both know we won’t do it. We are too aware of each other’s grief to play games with our hearts like that. It would be a mistake, and I don’t want any part of our story to be a mistake. So in the end, despite the sweetness of the possibilities, we both know that this will be another chance not taken, another page left blank because it’s too late now to change the plot.  But in my mind, I’ll live those 24 hours with you, and when I return to reality, you’ll also be there, in a friendship that’s better than any daydream.

I’ve never told you this before, but I know that this time it won’t confuse us both:

I love you. You have to know that by now.

Always,

G

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Reunion

There’s something poignant and exquisite about love affairs that never happen. You know, those stories that are never written, those “what ifs” and “almosts” that remain unresolved. What if they dared, what if they gave it a shot? The possibilities linger, in the sad, sweet way of fading dreams. They’re like old love letters, yellowed and unopened, hidden in the most secret drawers of memory. Once in a while you take one out and touch the flap, but you never actually open the envelope. To do so would end the delicious freedom to wonder, to imagine.

He looked at her. She seemed different, yet somehow still the same. “Do you still remember?”

“How can I possibly forget?”

They’ve always been drawn to each other. She, an old soul with the eyes of a child. He, a dreamer with an intensity that has never failed to move her. Seven years later, the fascination is as potent as ever.


“You knew, didn’t you?”

“I think I always did,” she replied softly.

It startled him a little that she admitted it. “Then why didn’t you say anything?”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

Seven years ago, he realized that he loved her. Some people speak of falling in love as a homecoming — warm, joyful and familiar. Others describe it as a lightning display — explosive, stunning and magnificent. For him it was a dream — powerful, alluring and heartbreakingly impossible. She belonged to someone else. So he left the words unsaid. It was the one thing he could not tell her in all their years of friendship.

Slowly, he moved away. She could never be his, and he tried to learn how to live with that. So when an opportunity came to work in another city after graduation, he left. Then he heard through the grapevine that she broke off her engagement. Nobody knew why. Looking at her now after all those years, he knew she wouldn’t let him ask.


“You still have too many secrets.”

She smiled at him, that familiar, teasing smile. “And you still have none. Tell me about her.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Everything that matters.”

He considered that. “Her name is Catherine. I love her.”

And he did. Not with the burning ache and the unbearable longing that came with his love for her, not with the wistfulness and nostalgia that rushed into him when he first saw her again. This had a sense of rightness, a sense of being comforted and thrilled at the same time. Like watching a storm from the shelter of one’s own home. Like having a dream come true in a completely unforeseen way. Loving Cathy made him feel like he had hit a mark he didn’t even know he was aiming for.

She would always be his might-have-been, a symbol of all the forfeited hopes of youth. What he would always be to her, that he didn’t know. He might never find out. But he found something else, something entirely different and unexpectedly satisfying. Maybe some paths are meant to be untraveled. But for every beckoning horizon unheeded, another destination is reached. And he knew, instinctively, with the sudden clarity of hindsight, that she has learned this as well. Seven years, perhaps, before he did.

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Crossroads

Shall I leave now?
The glitter of promises
lead me away from the hope in your eyes.

I am reluctant, though, and afraid
to leave the safety and the shelter
of the song in your arms
where l am seen, and heard, and known.

My dreams, my immortality
are just beyond the horizon.
I can reach them now, if I dare
if I hurt you.

But I want to linger a lifetime
in the depths of your words
to turn to your voice,
to surrender
to everything you are.

Oh, to be numb
and able to turn my back.
Dreams have a price, I know.

Help me.
Help me to give you up.

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