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It's been years since I've seen him – too many years – and I guess I have to admit that it's my own fault. I was the one who broke things off. I was the one who left town.
My heartbreak is my own fault.
Sitting here at the red light across from the parking lot, watching him the way I am, my eyes roaming over him in just the way they’ve longed to for so many years, I'm not even sure anymore why I did it. I can chalk it up to wanderlust, desperation to see more than our small town had to offer, or any number of small things – but in the end I'll still have to admit that I was simply terrified of him, terrified of giving myself to him.
I knew even then, even as a teenager with stars in her eyes and a head full of dreams, that if I loved him as completely as I wanted to – as completely as he begged me to – I would never be the same. I knew he'd be forever. I knew that if we stayed together, we'd stay together. He was the only person who had that kind of power – the power to hurt me, to shatter my heart, to change the entire meaning of who I am in ways that would never be able to change back. He was the only boy I’d ever wanted. And he's still the only man I've ever loved. And despite all the excuses, Luke was why I had to run.
I gave him every reason I could think of, told him that we liked too many different things, told him that he was too experienced, that I wasn’t experienced enough. I emphasized the differences in our childhoods, our ages, our religions. I played on our politics. Nothing held him back, and he had an answer for everything. Finally, desperate to get away before I gave in, I told him that I wasn’t willing to risk the monotony of the small-town life he loved, that I didn’t want the predictability of a life where day after day stretched out in exactly the same way as the one before it. I told him that I didn’t want a small-town man, that I couldn’t be asked to settle for a life of boredom.
It broke his heart – and watching the pain light in his eyes broke my own. He gave up then, and I applied to every far-off college I could find. I avoided him, pretended he didn’t exist, and every accidental encounter on the streets of our town hit me like a dagger to the soul. I accepted a scholarship as far from home as I could get, I packed my bags, and as much as it hurt, I never allowed myself to look back.
But now I'm home.
Edited to add: Distance has now been edited and revised, and has more than doubled in length. The above is only a small snippet of the 2000-word story, the whole of which is now available exclusively to my Patreon supporters. To view this story and others like it, please support my writing here. (October 2016)