She stared into her bowl of soggy salad remains and croutons, stirring the vegetable melody with her fork. She put her glass of water to her lips and hid her eyes behind the plastic cylinder.
Avoid eye contact. Act nonchalant.
She grabbed her fortune cookie and snapped it's crusted exterior. She held her fortune between her index finger and her thumb, paying close attention to making sure her trembling hand went unnoticed.
"This is a good one," she mumbled. Glance up. Eye contact. Dang it.
Sip more water.
"How many times?" he asked, his brow lined with concern--the sparkle of admiration his eyes held just for her just a moment ago, gone. Diminished.
"I don't want to have this discussion right now," she retorted--slowly coating her heart numb.
He turned his face to his tray, deep crevices forming along his forehead. He reached across the table after a few lengthy moments and clasped her hand in his and slowly nodded his head. "Okay..." he whispered glancing away. "Okay."
She slipped her hand from his, ashamed and mortified, and wrapped her fingers around her glass of water. She drank tentatively, methodically; studying him as he opened each one of his fortune cookies, read them, and then crushed them down into a mound of tiny shards.
He shed light onto the secret. He asked what she could not bring herself to answer.
Her lack of response, her silence--it was answer enough. She was breaking his heart.
She kept my eyes diverted, ashamed and furious with herself for causing him grief. She wanted to disappear, to rewind, to cash in her mulligan, to try again. She fought back the sting of tears her heart was hoarding. Just leave, she told herself.
She prepared to rise from her uncomfortable position at the table, but he had beaten her to it. He was leaving. She didn't blame him. She had known it would happen eventually. She deserved it. Why would he want her? He deserved far more than what she felt she could ever offer.
He slipped his frame between the seats and manuevered around the other side of the table. She kept her eyes on her soggy salad mess, and pretended to be okay. He came to her side and sat in the chair beside her. He shifted his chair to face her and despite her resistance, took her hands in his.
Silence had occupied the space between them. Silence spoke in ways that words could not.
Silence is a language all its own.
So she let silence speak. She could not redeem herself. She could not right her wrong. Her secret was naked before him, her disgrace apparent. She felt ugly and stained. Unworthy.
And then he spoke.
"I love you."
She glanced up.
"I love you." Pause. Her face was flat. Perhaps it wasn't registering. Try again. "I. Love. You."
And then words spoke what the silence could not.
Read more articles by Samantha Arroyo or search for articles on the same topic or others.