"I love you."
My smile fades, my lips curl into a grimace as the colour drains from my faces. His features mirror my own and I smooth myself over, forcing my lips to tug upwards.
"Are you trying to make me laugh?" I chuckle awkwardly, unable to meet his piercing gaze. His hand strokes over my stomach. It feels uncomfortable.
"No. I mean it." He insists. I know then that he isn't joking. I sit up and look away from him. No. He can't. I won't. This isn't happening. Why can't he just say it's a joke? This isn't how it was meant to be, now how I want it to be.
"Take it back." The words pass my lips before I can stop them. I can feel the burn of frustration, the heat of shame on my cheeks. He sits up to meet me, his hands tracing my body. I shy away from him and he retreats, but his hands never leave me. They linger, yearning, wanting.
"What?" He didn't hear me. Or maybe he did, and doesn't want what I said to be true. He leans closer again and I push away from him, feeling the frustration trust within me, clenching around my organs. It threatens to suffocate me, to swallow me whole.
"Just...take it back." I speak with more ferocity, more courage behind my words. In an instant, his hands remove themselves from my hips and he withdraws them, holding his arms up as if he were held at gunpoint. I cast a brief glance back to him. I wish I hadn't. I can see the hurt in his eyes. The sadness sits around him like a thick fog.
"Josiah..." He calls my name and I press my hands over my ears, pulling my knees up. I wish I could curl into a tight ball, tighter and tighter, until I could vanish completely. I want to escape. I don't want to have this conversation.
What did the hell did I do? Was I too simple, too easy to love? Was the mask I put on too friendly, did I come across as too interested? This was meant to be simple. There was meant to be no strings attached. A quick hookup, once or twice a week. Maybe I let this go on too long. I didn't want to not be friends. It felt wrong to ghost him when things got heavy, but now I wish I had.
"Josiah." He had let me stew for long enough, so he thinks, so I wrongfully assume. My innards scream at me. 'You're a fool', they scream. 'Why did you think this would not be complicated?'
I don't know.
I feel his touch again. The warmth spreads through me like wildfire. I can feel his love even from the tips of his fingers as they meet my body. I shake my head and groan. No. No. I can't.
"Talk to me, babe." He's never used that word. Why did he use it then? Why give me a nickname? Already, the dynamic has changed. Already, he sees me differently. The anger wells up within me, threatening to burst, but I don't scream. Instead, the anger forced itself up into my eyes. They burn. I blink back the tears and his hands seek deeper against me I let out a small sniffle.
"I...I didn't mean to make you cry." He sounds so small and quiet. I've hurt him. The guilt clasps its deathly grip around my stomach and squeezes until all I can feel is pain. I force it back, force everything back.
"Why don't we just lie? Say you never said it. We just go back to normal." I sound delusional. Shut the fuck up. Why am I saying these things? This is only going to make him feel worse. Why can't I just think about what I say, before I say it? Fuck, fuck, fuck.
He stares at me. He doesn't need to say he's hurt. I can see it in his face, and that upsets me, too. I look away from him. I can't even meet his gaze, can't even man up enough to look him in the eye. I glance back at him again, after a few moments. He's smiling. He's smiling, even when he probably feels like dying.
"Don't be stupid." The three words pass across his lips, but I almost don't hear them. I grit my teeth and clasp my head again. This is too much. I don't need this. I don't want this. A groan escapes my lips and he puts his arms around me. He knows my pain. At least, he thinks he does. He knows what I've been through, knows what I've lost.
"Let go." The words are hollow in my mouth, an empty threat, and he sees right through me. He always sees right through me.
"Pan, let go." I tell him again, but he still clings to me. I thrash against him, trying to push him off of me. He forces me down against the bed and my chest feels tight. But he doesn't do anything. He just lays there and holds me. Holds me like I'm just a fragile, broken toy. His hands are pressed tight against my body, his muscles rigid and tense, but he never forces me against his own toned frame.
The bitter anger within me bids me to cry, and I sob, uncontrollably. It was then that he pulls me to him, and I bury myself in his chest. It's warm. Inviting. His body is so beautiful. I clutch my hands around him, my face pressed against his neck.
"I know," He mutters, and I hear his voice crack and choke. "It's hard. I know."
It comes flooding back. The pain. The torment. The way I was held down. The way it hurt. The words echo in my mind, and I brace against them. Every time, they hit me like a ton of bricks, and I feel winded. Those three words.
"I love you."
The words slip out of me and he parts from me, blinking down at me through teary eyes. He doesn't say anything.
"I love you," I say again through my quiet sobs. "And I don't want to."
He holds me there, and we cry into the dark night.