“How are things?” she had asked when the two of them stepped away for a smoke.
I merely smiled, not wanting to reveal anything. In that moment, I had contemplated telling her everything. But would she understand? Would she be able to see him through my eyes and understand what I have done?
It was as if she had read my mind.
“I know what it must be like, being in love with someone like him.”
I turned to her in astonishment. She smiled at me and put a hand lightly on my thigh. A few years older than I am, she suddenly felt more like an older sister than a friend.
“I once dated a musician. You know them creative types. Moody, cranky. Sometimes they just crawl into their shells and leave you out there alone. But when they love, there’s nothing you can do to stop yourself from running into their arms. I was with that guy for nine years. And I actually let him cheat on me again and again. Can you imagine that?”
“Then what happened? What got you out?” I stuttered.
“Well, there comes a point when you just know that enough is enough, and when you pack your things and leave, there’s no turning back, no matter what he says to get you back,” she replied lightheartedly, unaware of the turmoil that was festering like a pus-filled sore within me. “So I understand what it must be like. But, you know, you are so much better than the ones before.”
I gulped. I knew she was about to tell me something, something I did not know yet if I wanted to hear. Not that I could have stopped her.
“The previous ones were so stormy. Before, when we used to meet up for drinks, we would ask among ourselves if we knew what the ‘weather’ was like. It was bad. They were nice girls, of course. Something was just wrong. We were so worried for him.”
“So when I came along, I had big shoes to fill, huh.”
She laughed. “I admit we were whispering behind your backs, you know, ‘Oh no, is she gonna be like the ones before?'” Then she squeezed my wrist. “We could see the changes in him. He is laughing all the time now, and we see the way the both of you love each other. I thought to myself: this could be it. And B agrees. I really like you a lot. All of us are so happy for him, especially after being there with him through his failed relationships, and with all of us getting married one by one. Finally, he has got it right this time. I think you’re good for him. We love him, you know. If there are any difficult times at all, hold on. It’s worth it.”
And right there, in that awkward position we were in, sitting side by side on stone chairs, we turned and hugged. She must not have known how much those words mean to me. To have his friends’ support was like winning the lottery, something really not expected but something really wonderful to have. And in these trying times, their confidence in me only made me stronger.
Barely a second later, B and him returned to the table. There was a twinkle in his eye from the laugh they were both sharing, and his cheeks were flushed from the beer. He sat down across from me and promptly put his hand over mine. He raised his eyebrows at me, and I smiled back, holding back my emotions.
That night, he fell asleep quickly in my arms, tired from being out and about the whole day. My eyes were dry, but my heart was crying out in pain. Perhaps he may have dreamed it and forgotten about it the next morning, but I had whispered into his ears while he slept: Do you see me the way they do?