“Alright,” you say and because it bears repeating, you say it again, lean into it a little like it isn’t the detonator of potential heartache. “Alright.”
Fingertips on the back of your neck. Familiar ones that have been there before, rested against your skin and skimmed the tiniest curls of your hairline. Back then, they meant something different, were not gloved with what feels a lot like expectation. For a second you freeze and the fear blooms in your throat. Ahead of you, the pitfalls make themselves known, mock you with their numbers and their capacity for devastation. Then a thumb grazes the nape of your neck and you exhale, your relief fills the space between the two of you and in a moment, you close it completely.
At work, your knee bounces rhythmically against your desk. Two seats away, your boss raises an eyebrow and you press your palm against your leg to keep it still. Your mind, the one responsible for a portfolio of successful projects, the one that houses a neat row of plans for tenancy changes and house improvements and international excursions, turns itself in circles to avoid dwelling. You are not a girl who dwells. Not like this. Still, when your phone buzzes, your stomach turns a cartwheel and your knee slams the desk again. Calm down he texts and you smile in spite of yourself. You smile.
Because you do not know what you are doing, you subconsciously practice sabotage. Calls go unanswered, messages unread. You are sullen in his company. He knows what you are doing and deftly distracts you with conversations about far flung destinations and the things that the two of you hate. He clicks on X Factor and when you groan, he laughs and threads his fingers through yours. You feel his pulse against your wrist. It makes you blush.
You set up rules because since this is something you cannot plan, the least you can do is guard your stone of a heart from being completely shattered. To his credit, he makes no effort to side step them. You surprise yourself by being disappointed.
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