The Return

“How long has it been?”

“Just over a year”

“I can’t believe you’re here”

“Neither can I…”

We stand apart. Each too nervous to move. I’d once imagined what I’d say to her the next time we met. But now all that seemed irrelevant. Logic told me to make her know the full-force of the pain I’d suffered.

Instead we just hug.

Who was this woman I held in my arms? I no longer knew. How should I touch her? As a stranger, a friend, a lover? I step back from her arms like an electric shock. She looks startled. “What? What? Are you OK?”

“You’re hugging me like we are still lovers”

Her eyes show hurt. “I’m sorry. This is so weird.”

“You haven’t written to me for months, and now you just show up…”

“I was in town. I’ve been here for days. Over a week actually. I’d tried to visit sooner, but I was afraid.”

“Is he here too?”

“No…  I’m no longer with him. And I’ve left Christchurch – I’m living in Wellington now.”

Silence.

She’s beginning to cry. “I’ve missed you…”

I feel as though I’m in a scene from a Mills & Boon novel. I giggle… She sees the smile, and trickling tears burst into sobs. She’s howling “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…”

I’m in a juxtaposition. I’m the one who’s supposed to be hurting here, and now I’m comforting her. She’s reduced to a sobbing heap on the floor. I stroke her hair and look out towards the window. For a minute I let go of all the emotion and feel comfort in the sensation of giving her my caress. It’d been at least a year since I’d shared intimacy with anyone.

I feel the light tickle of a single tear flowing the length of my face. It forms a dew then falls upon her dress. The stain spreads to form a dark patch on the material. My finger touches the spot – she’s wearing silk – I recognise the dress. I look at her properly for the first time since her arrival. She wore garments I once loved to touch her through, perfume I could inhale as if it were air, and free flowing hair allowing my fingers to stroke the lengths of its waves.

I then knew.

She was intending to stay.