Mick slept only fitfully beside Fran, who lay like a warm little bandsaw beside him.
Nothing had worked the way he expected. He thought he could avoid bolting by being aware of the urge to bolt, but then when he didn’t bolt he found himself in deeper love than he knew he was still capable of. And so then he thought he could ease into loving Frannie gradually, that if he just waited, gave her what she needed, and let her heal in her own time, the oblique approach to loving would fool his heart into feeling safe. But nothing had been gradual, it has been intense and immediate and full on. Too much, too fast. He gave her what she needed, and it had broken him. Now he lay beside her with his heart already out the door, wanting nothing but a long run and a cold shower.
They had made love off and on all day and most of the night, barely speaking. Fran would sleep in bursts and wake hungry again, insatiable. Each time she crawled into his lap or whispered into the darkness, “Take me again” or guided his head to her breast, he had given her everything. And he had taken, too, waking her with urgent kisses or with the softest stroke along her inner thigh. In quiet moments, he would brush her hair or they simply laid together, curled around each other like ribbons until their hands began to wander and they could not be still.
With each orgasm he gave her, Mick had felt his love expand more and more until he scarcely felt large enough to hold it all. It permeated his cells. And the last time, when they had reached for each other in the darkness, every barrier came down, he placed his heart in her hands and she made it safe. She had ridden him, her breasts pressed against his chest, her hands in his hair as she kissed him, their two bodies rocking and pushing and rising in accord. It was the way she kissed him, it was her tenderness amidst the darkness, it was the quiet of their broken breathing and the light touch of her feet against his calves. When his jaw had tightened and his eyes stung, she kissed his damp lashes and whispered his name. And he had held her tight, tight to him, brought her to a shuddering orgasm with her head against his chest, tucked under his chin. He had almost said it then, the words hovered at his lips like the fog of his breath on a fall morning. “I love you.” And his love expanded out to tangle them up together, their two bodies made one by the alchemy of his heart.
But then he had woken before dawn to find his heart condensed within his chest, withdrawn, and he recognized the old fear, the permanent fissure in a heart that had seemed last night almost – almost, almost – to be whole. It was not whole. He was not.
So when the morning showed gray through the windows, Mick slipped from the bed and into his clothes. He stopped to leave a note on the kitchen table, then got in his car and left. It was Monday morning and he was driving alone in the humid darkness away from the woman he loved, away from his best friend – maybe his only friend – because he simply would not survive having his heart taken from him a third time. It was a simple choice, really: hold on to his cracked and battered heart, and survive, or leave his heart in Fran’s hands – Fran’s trusty but human and grieving hands – and succumb to the agony of loss. His heart and his life: to give one was to abandon hope of the other.