The Flip Side – A Short Story

I knew the minute I heard him call out her name. Elizabeth. I knew in that instant she was no longer mine, even though I had made it very clear that I was going to protect her from a man such as myself. She was never mine. It was just a fantasy.

Maybe it was in his voice – his tone dripped like honey and spilled onto the barroom floor as her back faced this curious young man slowly encroaching the space we shared for months – the only space in my life where time flew too fast. And time was up. And my body weakened and my heart sunk.

Maybe it was in the way she froze and how her eyes smiled and teared up, simultaneously – without even a glance in his direction. Maybe it was written in her sigh – the release of pain so great she didn’t have the time to even scratch the surface of it in our time together.

It was a release. Something of which I knew little because, unlike her, I never allowed myself to heal … until I met her. I could feel the warmth from her exhale and I could taste the sweetness on my tongue,  and I could feel the dampness saturate my skin. There was residue in that sigh – thick as quicksand and as black as tar. I had to swallow it. Not just because she meant to rid herself of it, but because I was the man standing before her. I swallowed it because, despite my attempts to rid myself of untamed emotions … despite my attempts to steer clear … despite my attempts to look away from the astonishing light radiating from her being- I fell for her. Her charm. Her raw beauty. Her untamed heart. Her brazen fight. Her words. The way she spoke backwards until I was so twisted in her voice and mind, I had little choice but to unravel the mystery that was her. Every day. At all hours. Even in my dreams, but not mine alone.

But she never knew. Because I could not tell her. She sensed it, I know. Her intuition tried to push through. But I was a faithful man. A loyal man. And I was otherwise engaged. My heart bled before her and my head collapsed on the floor everytime she walked through those doors … every tear I cried before her was deep and raw. She had that ability to move me and stir pain into a myriad of color and truths I was forced to look at through her eyes. Somehow she was able to silently witness my sorrow and hurt and turn into a sweet release that I haven’t felt for decades. Not only was it a release, it was an immediate filling of the void where the hell resided. She filled it with hope. Desire. Courage. Faith. Inspiration. Love. Trust. Honor. And Laughter. Oh sweet laughter.

She is one to search out pain. She can see it on your poker face and she can taste it in your choice of words. She is addicted to it, but for good reason. The minute it’s brought to the surface, she has a way of dissolving it in light. She absorbed mine for months, even the first day we met, and somehow transformed it into her own. I don’t know her tricks – how she hides it or how she manifests a smile after taking on our burdens. No one has figured it out. But her presence is enough for us all to fall into her embrace and cry until we laugh through the tears. This much I know is true. She shares the feathers from her wings so we may always walk out of those doors feeling lighter than when we walked in.

She is magic.

And she was gone in that moment the honey slipped between her toes.

I knew there was a piece of her that she held sacred.

And I knew he had the key.

He was crying and held a bouquet of dead roses in his hands.

There were many instances where I told her to stop. Stop teasing. Stop flirting. Stop writing. Stop looking at me the way she did. Stop gething close. Stop speaking. I told her to stop because I was afraid to fall. But like quicksand, the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. And I knew in that moment. I should have never told her to stop.

They say you reach a decision not by seeing what side the coin lands on when you flip it and it finally lands. You make it while the coin is still in the air. Because between the flick of your thumb and it’s descent, you already know what you’re hoping for. This moment felt like that. A suspended hope. A wish frozen in midair.

And a deep regret as tails disappeared beneath heads.

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