When She Told Me


A Romance Story by Alexis Feynman

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I didn't understand the fear that shot through me, twisting itself around my heart and binding my body to my seat, when she told me the truth. I mean, I had already known. Well, suspected. She was from that neighborhood, the one we barely glanced at from safely across the street, the one our parents warned us repeatedly to never, ever to walk through at night.

And I'd known in the way she looked at me – with love, yes, but sometimes there was a thoughtful, desperate need that you didn't see on a normal person. A moment where, if I could read her thoughts, I knew I would hear her thinking about my body – breaking my skin, tasting my life force, consuming me. I'd felt this same fear then, an agitated tension, my body torn between the urge to run and the urge to embrace her in my arms.

How could I tell her about the fear? She probably knew about it already – I've heard that it makes an obvious smell. But that didn't mean I could tell her, to her face, that I was afraid. I respected her too much for that. Loved her too much. She didn't deserve that from me.

But what could I say? That I already knew? That seemed stupid. Too obvious. That I loved her? I did, but they weren't the right words. Hers still hung between us, and I felt like mine would scrub them out of the air, dismissing her confession in an effort to wipe away her anxiety.

Then I remembered a similar scene. Four months ago, not long after we'd met, when we were sitting at this same table and I'd had something just as important, just as terrifying to say to her. Afraid that she'd laugh at me, or tell me she was only interested in boys, or that we couldn't be friends. When our positions had been reversed, she'd known exactly what to do, without words, to tell me that it was all right.

My hand felt cold as I snaked it across the table, but hers was colder, like the plastic below us. I squeezed her tight, one finger tracing over her wrist, feeling her smooth skin like she had felt my bracelet. I smiled, and looked her in the eyes, and let her know without a word that I knew and I loved her and that everything would be okay.