That Which Sets Us Free

[freewrite — no prompt]

She counted the buttons on her shirt with the right thumb and forefinger. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 — she wanted to be sure she still existed. He slowly brought the cup to his lips, steam floating up towards his nostrils. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 she counted again silently, in her head — where she spent too much time. He lowered the cup and placed the plastic lid on top, pressing down firmly, signaling his intent to depart. 12345678 she counted more quickly now, her breath becoming more shallow, throat tightening — she wanted to say something that would make him stay but all she could hear was the buzz of the barista grinding espresso beans, someone laughing on the other side of the coffee shop. What a dumb laugh she thought, looking down at the woodgrain of the table, someonr had carved JAX WUZ HERE into the table she traced the letters with her left hand.

“Look, I know this probably isn’t what you wanted to hear but I really think it’s best this way.” 12367 — shit! she lost count. “Can you say something? Or at least look at me?”

Her eyes fluttered up from the table but head did not follow. His eyebrows came into focus and she remembered how she would trace them with her thumbs after biting his bottom lip sometimes, often even. They always had a way of looking a little untamed, just like him. She counted the buttons on her shirt while he counted conquests. She tried to be wild for him, less severe, softer, more nonchalant. But the truth is this facade was exhausting. She much preferred everything in it’s place including her heart — back in the little mosaic-covered safety-pin box tucked away in a drawer between her nice underwear and the ones she wore for one week out of the month.

She wanted him to stay because that’s what you’re supposed to want, right? Companionship even if it hurts, love even if its incomplete, someone to call your own even if they belong to others. What happens to the unchosen ones, do they dry out like so many flowers unsent only to be blown away in a strong breeze. Ashes to Ashes.

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