We met in the local mall. I was hanging out in a department store when he walked in. I noticed him immediately. He was tall, clean-shaven. He wore dusty Carhartts, and his steel toes echoed loudly across the linoleum floor. He looked at me, smiled, and sauntered over. He reached out his hand and touched me with a calloused palm. I was too surprised to react, and he stared at me.
“Wow, you’re beautiful,” he murmured.
The sales associate came over.
“Can I help you find anything, sir?” he asked, shooting a glance at me, and then back at the man. The man shook his head and didn’t take his eyes off me.
“No,” he said. “I think I’ve found exactly what I’m looking for.” The sales associate slunk away. The man turned back to me.
“Hello,” he said. “My name is David.”
“Hello David,” I replied. “Is that your name? Because I can call you by another name, if you like. Do you have a nickname?”
“No, just David,” he said, winking at me.
“Hello, Just David,” I said. “It is very nice to meet you.”
“Pleasure’s all mine.” He grabbed me with his hand. “C’mon, let’s go get a coffee.”
“Great,” I said. “I know of several coffee places nearby. What kind of coffee do you like?”
“Never mind those places. I’m going to take you somewhere new.”
David took me to a little hipster café and ordered an Americano. I watched him drink it, entranced with the way he sipped it slowly and let out a throaty sigh as the warm liquid slid into his body. We didn’t speak, but I was completely content just observing him. He was so beautiful. From the sea foam blue of his eyes to his dimpled cheeks, to his slightly overcrowded yet endearingly crooked teeth—I was enamoured. I knew we had only met hours ago, but I could feel myself falling for him. There was a small stage in the back corner, and a young girl was playing a ukulele and singing.
“Hey, what song is playing?” David asked me.
“It’s ‘Rivers and Roads by’ The Head and Heart.”
“Wow, you are so smart,” David said, as he stroked me with one surprisingly delicate fingertip.
“Look,” he said. “I know you don’t know this, but I don’t have the best track record. But I promise I’ll take good care of you. You are something else, something precious.”
I felt myself grow warm, but I said nothing, and instead absorbed myself in the sounds of the young girl’s strumming, and David’s ocean-like eyes.
I went home with him that night.
David made dinner—spaghetti and Alfredo sauce—while I sat on the counter, watching him bent over the stove. The muscles in his shoulders rippled through his grey T-shirt, and he pushed his mop of dark hair out of his face while the water simmered. A few times he asked me to double check measurements in the recipe for him, and I shuffled through my songs, trying to find something romantic.
We stayed up until midnight, and then he took me to his bed. It was a single, with flannel sheets and two small pillows, but it still had enough room for the two of us to fit. He fell asleep almost immediately, and I lay upon his naked chest, listening to his heartbeat, feeling his body rise and fall with every relaxed breath. I decided then that I had found my heaven, my haven, and there was nowhere else I would rather be. I wanted to spend the rest of my days right there, listening to David breathe.
We fell into a routine so quickly. Monday to Friday, I would wake him up every morning at 6 AM so he would have enough time to shower and make coffee before heading to the construction site where he worked. Sometimes he would get up right away, but other times he would grumble softly and pull me into his arms.
“Just five more minutes,” he mumbled, and I would happily nestle myself up against him, longing for five minutes to be an eternity. Yet when the time was up, I roused him again, because I didn’t want him to be late for work.
On the weekends it was different. We stayed in bed until David felt like getting up, and then he would wander into the kitchen and cook some eggs for breakfast. He took me hiking up a mountain near his house. It was a three-hour climb, but at the top I could see the ocean and the forest for miles. The ocean reminded me of his eyes. I took hundreds of pictures, and David was so impressed with my photo quality, marveling over the way I could capture the landscape. I felt flattered and proud.
David introduced me to everyone he knew, his friends, his coworkers, and after two weeks he went home, and I met his family. Everyone was amazed with me, and they all told David he was very lucky because I was so beautiful and smart. David beamed and squeezed me, and I said nothing, basking in the compliments bestowed upon me.
But then, things began to change. It started when David had a week off work and went camping in the wilderness alone to unwind. That week was excruciatingly lonely for me. It was the first time we had been apart since the day we met, and I had no clue what to do with myself, except count down the hours until he came home. When he returned, he was scruffy and unshaved, and when he saw me again, I couldn’t recognize his face right away.
“Don’t be stupid, it’s me,” he teased, but there was a cutting annoyance in his voice.
Then I forgot what day it was and woke him up at 6 AM on Saturday because I thought he needed to work. David was livid.
“You fucking piece of shit!” he yelled and threw me out of his bed. I landed with a heavy thud upon the floor, and lay there, too shocked to move. After a minute, I could feel David’s hands on me, pulling me back into the blanketed warmth.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it,” he said, stroking me like he did when we first met. I said nothing.
We went to a bar that night, but David spent his time drinking and didn’t talk to me, and he hardly even looked at me. The waitress came over, a beautiful blonde, and they started chatting. Apparently, she was an old friend from high school, but I was filled with jealous suspicion.
“David,” I said. “It’s time to go home. You need to be up again in seven hours.” He reached out and silenced me with his hand and carried on talking to the woman. He asked me to take a picture of the two of them, for old time’s sake. I complied, trying to be cordial, yet when I went to take the photo, he put his arm around her and I boiled with envy. Vindictive, I flipped my camera around and took a picture of the barstool instead. Finally, David rose to leave, and I called us a cab. The woman touched his arm as we headed out the door.
“Call me sometime, okay? I know you have my number.” She smiled at him.
“Of course, I will,” David replied.
I fumed silently. That night while David slept, I deleted all his contacts, just in case her number was in there somewhere.
David woke up before me, rolled over, and nudged me. I pretended I was asleep. He started poking me with his finger.
“Come on, wake up,” he said. I ignored him.
“Wake up!” he yelled, and shook me violently.
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” I replied flatly.
“What’s wrong with you?” he demanded.
“I couldn’t say,” I said.
“Whatever.” He shoved me aside and got out of bed. I waited, the flannel sheets cocooned around me. I waited for him to come back and apologize, hold me in his arms like he used to, but then the front door slammed, and I knew I was alone. Hurt and confused, I went through all the pictures I took for him and destroyed every single one.
He returned late, stripped off his jeans, and collapsed into bed.
“Set an alarm for 6 AM tomorrow,” he ordered.
“Okay,” I said, hopeful that now that we were speaking again, maybe he would finally say sorry. Instead, he began snoring immediately, turning away from me, ripping away the sheets. Angry, I cancelled the alarm.
David sat upright at 8 AM, looked at his bedside table clock, and screamed. He grabbed me and slapped me hard, then threw me against the wall. I felt something crack.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he yelled as he raced around the room, frantically getting ready for work.
“I don’t know how to respond to that,” I said.
“Yeah, no fucking kidding. You may be pretty but you’re garbage.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry too,” he said through clenched teeth. He gazed at me, and I looked back at him, those beautiful ocean eyes were hard and stormy.
“This just isn’t working out,” he said, shaking his head.
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“Yeah, of course you wouldn’t,” he spat back, rolling his eyes.
David put me in the passenger’s seat of his truck and drove off, tires screeching. He left me locked in there while he worked. The sun was out and the cab was hot, I could feel myself overheating. Surely, he would come back for me, I told myself, but the hours passed by endlessly without any sign of him. Finally, on his lunch break, he returned. Instead of opening the door and letting me out, he got in, and we drove off.
“Do you need directions to where we are going?” I asked, eager to break the silence with anything.
We didn’t speak for the rest of the drive. We arrived back at the mall where we met, and he grabbed me with his hand and marched me back into the department store. The sales associate frowned when he saw us.
“Can I help you, sir?” he asked.
“Yes,” David replied, and thrust me forward. “It may be beautiful, but it’s absolute trash. I’d like a refund.”
The sales associate palmed me delicately.
“There’s a hairline fracture over here,” he said, and ran his finger along where I collided with the wall. “I’m sorry, we don’t accept damaged goods.”
“I don’t give a fuck. I’ve lost all my contacts, all my pictures mysteriously vanished, it’s like my phone is possessed. It’s acting like a crazy ex-girlfriend.”
The sales associate smirked and glanced down at me. He hummed under his breath, then turned back to David.
“Look, I can void your warranty and we can work out a deal.”
“Great,” David sighed, and then I was carried away, taken behind a counter, and placed in a drawer. Wait, I wanted to say. Don’t go, I love you. But the drawer closed, and I was left in utter darkness.