Romance

In her head, they’d met cute. They took the train together every day without realizing it, letting the occasional glance bob to the surface but mostly keeping their gaze sunk in their laps or books. It built a slow and lovely sense of anticipation, hovering in their throats, tasting of honey. After they’d been spinning smiles at one another across the aisle for a month, he’d slid into the seat next to her. They’d been inseparable ever since.

In real life, they’d met online. They’d exchanged a couple of messages over the dating site, and then they’d met for coffee at a shop neither had been to, nearly exactly equidistant between their places. They’d liked each other well enough, so they’d gone on another date a week later, and then another. Eventually they’d become part of each other without even realizing it, melting together until they looked up in surprise to see that they couldn’t part without tearing.

In her head, their relationship was dramatic. He brought her a dozen roses, and she took him to her favorite restaurant and wrote a note on his napkin while he wasn’t looking. When he turned and saw it, he swept her onto her feet and bent her back into a kiss, right there in the restaurant. They only stopped clinging to one another when they noticed a waitress, patiently tapping her foot and waiting to get past.

In real life, their relationship was comfortable. They watched football games on weekends, her head on his shoulder and the bowl of popcorn balanced between them, precarious and teetering but never quite falling. They went to a movie maybe once a month, sharing a large soda and a box of candy. They always slept touching, his arm splayed over her, facing the same direction.

In her head, their breakup was tragic. They’d been fighting for a month, maybe more. Their voices rose and plunged and sometimes they threw things. Plates shattered against the wall with a crash. Then he’d gotten a promotion, one in another city. He was going to take it, he told her. She was shocked. He knew she wouldn’t come with him. She felt as though they were torn apart, the twists of fate keeping them separated. They could have made it work, she knew it. If only he hadn’t been transferred, they could have had something perfect. When he was gone, she ached for him.

In real life – she glanced over at him, on the couch with the crossword, smiling to himself. In real life everything was just fine.

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