Loneliness by Darcia Helle


“What do you see?” Rick asked.

“Loneliness,” I replied.

I hadn’t meant to say the word aloud. I’d been sitting here by the window, watching the palm trees sway and the occasional car pass by, thinking it should feel peaceful but all it felt was lonely.

Rick reached for my hand. I pulled away and said, “No,” in a weary voice I hardly recognized as my own.

His fingers grazed my arm. His touch left a trail of electrical current. I remembered how good his arms felt, how safe I felt there.

But that was before.

Rick always asked what I saw when I looked outside, as if my world was somehow different than his. I’d give him silly answers, like purple unicorns and talking trees. Sometimes I’d weave elaborate tales of a fantasy world outside our windows. He’d pretend to take me seriously, looking through the glass for the passing chariot. It had been a game between us.

We shared many types of intimacy.

We knew everything about each other.

Or so I’d thought.

“Kelly, please talk to me.”

His voice held a quiet plea. I shook my head. Talking was pointless. Words could never fix this.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

I heard the honesty in his voice. Apologies, even the sincere ones, came too late. Apologies couldn’t undo the damage.

“I know,” I said on a sigh.

“She didn’t mean anything to me,” he said. “I don’t even know why I did it.”

“She meant enough for you to do it more than once.”

Rick reached out to touch me, but thought better of it and let his hand fall by his side. “I’m so sorry,” he said.

I thought we had the perfect relationship. We were best friends. Lovers. Partners. I trusted Rick completely.

All that was before.

Now when he touched me, I imagined his hands running over her bare skin. His touch no longer belonged to me alone.

Each time his cell phone rang, I watched his face and wondered if she was the person bringing that smile to his eyes.

Each time he walked out the door, I felt the betrayal to my core. How many times had he lied with ease, telling me he was going one place while he was really going to rendezvous with her? How many times had I rushed into his arms at the end of the day, not knowing those arms had been holding her just hours before?

His lies broke the honesty anchoring us together.

I was weightless now.

“I love you,” he said.

Despite everything, I didn’t doubt those words. And I would love him forever. But our love was now tangled in lies. Love doesn’t work without trust.

I used to love who I was when we were together. I didn’t like who I’d have to be if I stayed. That woman whose husband cheated. That woman who doesn’t have enough self-respect to walk away.

Rick sat across from me. I didn’t look at him. I couldn’t bear to see my anguish reflected in his eyes.

“It’ll never happen again,” he said. “I swear to you.”

“With her?” I asked. “Or with anyone?”

“I only want you,” he said softly.

His voice held the weight of unshed tears.

I felt the loss of something profound. Our love had become like a priceless vase that shattered. We could glue it back together, but it would never be the same.

This would be easier if I could hate him for what he did. But all I felt was deep despair.

The world outside my window hadn’t changed, yet it all looked different. I had a crack running through me that distorted my view.

“The world is a crowded but lonely place,” I said.

I’d never truly understood the feeling of loneliness.

But that was before.




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