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Please Don't Say You Love Me

I took pills to forget him.

I wanted to take every last memory of the warmth of his kisses, the rough calluses of his hands on my face, drawing me close, his nose following an invisible line from my neck to my ear, whispering that he loved me—and hurl it all in a bin somewhere, throw it in a trash compactor, send it to a landfill, bury it deep where it could decompose the way it was supposed to. I wanted to forget what it felt like to be held, to be comforted, to be wanted. Because when I thought of those things, I thought of him.

There was so much between us. So much emotion, so much baggage, so much of everything and nothing, all pulsing together like the thready heartbeat of the druggie I’d become. I popped the pills until my eyes were bloodshot, until the world swam and my hands shook. I wanted to forget. I needed to forget.

The sound of his voice hurt. At the divorce proceedings, we’d sit there across from each other, a dead look in both of our eyes because we’d tried, we’d really fucking tried to make it work. It wasn’t that we wanted different things; it’s that we wanted the same thing and couldn’t have it.

“Not pregnant,” I said, hopping off the counter. I flashed the pregnancy test stick in his direction.

“We’ll try again,” he said, walking over and wrapping his arms around me. He pressed a kiss to my forehead and I smiled. Again. It’d be fun to try again.

And again we tried. And again. And again. Weeks became months, months became years. Two years. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.

Seven years we tried. Seven years we explored our options. We couldn’t afford adoption because we’d tried in-vitro. The shots took their toll on me, making me nauseous and irritable, making me snap at him when I should have taken his hand and communicated. Because we’d promised we’d do that. We’d promised to always communicate.

But somehow, seven years down the line, we forgot.

Sex became routine. We only fucked when I was ovulating. We made it quick and then I lifted my legs in the air, hoping it’d take. Hoping and praying that this would be it, that this would give us the baby we so desperately wanted. We had everything we could ask for. Stable enough jobs, a nice, modest house, and all that was missing was the big family we’d planned for. The rugrats running across the carpet, toddling through our living room, teenagers blaring music from their bedrooms. Of course, we only had a three-bedroom house, but we dreamt all the same.

“Why weren’t you picking up your phone? Fuck it, you’re home now. Come on,” I said, pulling him into the house. He hadn’t even taken off his shoes yet.

“Cat,” he said, coming to a stop.

“I’m ovulating,” I said, jerking my head toward the bedroom.

“Cat, stop. We—We can’t, okay?”

I turned to him, my eyes flashing from the pain. I swallowed it down.

“Can’t what, Hudson?”

“Keep doing this. It’s sick. I’m sick. Of this. Of everything.”

I could take a few tears now and then, but the wave that washed over me after those words, I could barely withstand. There was so much left unspoken after that, but I could never hide my sobs. He’d hear them and try to comfort me, but I’d push him away.

As the months passed, I denied him comfort and companionship—and sex. I waited for him to go elsewhere for it. When the day came, I was prepared.

“I’m sorry,” he said, standing at the doorway.

I looked up from my spot on the couch. I took in the sight of him, hair in disarray, and red lipstick smeared on his neck. The pain in my chest was sharp, but I told myself that I was prepared. I could almost believe it.

“So, you finally did it,” I said, clicking the TV off with the remote. I stood up, facing him and facing the pain.

“Nothing happened,” he said, tears falling from the corners of his eyes. “She kissed me and I just… let her.”

I walked over to him and wrapped my arms around him. I would miss him, and I needed to hold him one last time.

“We didn’t have sex, Cat,” he tried explaining, but I couldn’t hear him anymore. I just held on tight, letting the sobs overtake me. He held me and we cried together, grieving the end of our marriage, grieving us. This was it. After years together, after falling in love and exchanging vows and giggling and laughing as we painted the nursery, after dealing with the miscarriages together, after all those tears and all those smiles and all those goddamn memories, this was where we ended.

“I love you, Hudson,” I said one last time.

“God, Cat, I love you. I love you so fucking much.”

The thing was, I just didn’t care anymore.

We divorced just days after our eighth wedding anniversary. On the day the divorce was finalized, Hudson called me.

“I’d like to see you,” Hudson said. “We need to say goodbye. We need closure.”

I wanted to be stubborn and deny him this kindness, but it’d be denying myself a kindness, too, so I agreed. I needed that closure just as much as he did. I was tired of taking those pills to forget him.

We met at the house. He’d let me have it in the divorce and I was planning on selling it. All of our memories were already gone. The house was staged, all of our stuff in storage or in our new homes. My home was now a one-bedroom apartment in the city where I could be close to my workplace. My home used to be Hudson, but I needed to accept that things would never be the same. We’d gotten divorced. It was done and over it.

Hudson knocked instead of walking in. He didn’t have a key, anyway.

“Hi,” I said, opening the door. Looking at him hurt. He was just as handsome as the day I’d met him. “My name’s Hudson. Like the river. Can I convince you to go out with me?” He’d had love in his eyes, even then on that first meeting. Now, it was replaced by an anxiousness.

“I, uh, wanted to thank you for agreeing to this,” Hudson said. “I really need this. I need to say goodbye to you, Cat.”

“Kiss me,” I said, knowing that was what we both wanted. Hudson took a step toward me, and I took a step toward him. We were still so madly in love, but our differences were irreconcilable. We almost kissed, our lips almost met… and then we heard a scream.

I peered over Hudson’s shoulder, looking out onto the street. More screams.

“Hudson,” I said, reaching out and taking his hand. “Something’s happening.”

“I’ll go see,” he said, but I clutched at him, catching hold of his shirt.

“No,” I said. “Stay here. I’ll call.”

I picked up the phone and rang the nearest neighbor.

“Mrs. Smith?” I said into the line.

She was breathing heavily. “We’re all going to die.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Check the news,” she said, and hung up.

I turned around and found Hudson at the TV. He was trying to find the remote.

“Don’t bother,” I said. “It’s not a real TV. Just for staging the house. Come here, we can use my phone.”

We pulled up Twitter, and I dropped my phone.

“Cat,” Hudson said, picking it up. I was shaking.

“Don’t look,” I said, closing my eyes. “Don’t read it.”

“Why?” he asked, confused.

“We’re—we’re gonna die,” I whispered.

Hudson ignored me and read the news on Twitter. A moment later, he cursed under his breath.

“Can’t we take shelter someplace?”

“Where, Hudson?” I asked. “Where the fuck can we possibly hide from a meteor the size of a small town?”

He looked hopeless. I felt hopeless.

“It’s hitting another continent,” Hudson said. “We might survive.”

“It doesn’t matter, Hudson,” I said, trying not to cry. “The world as we know it is ending.”

Hudson reached out, grabbed me by the arm and pulled me against his body. I held on tight, letting out a sigh. My eyes were brimming with tears. God, how I’d missed this. I’d missed him. The pain of losing him had been a pain so consuming that I was still suffering from it. He wasn’t mine and I wasn’t his, but with the world ending, we could pretend.

We could pretend that we were still married.

“I love you,” Hudson said, taking my face in his hands.

“I know,” I said, tears trickling down my face. “I love you, too.”

All those pills I’d taken, and I still couldn’t forget him. Not because I couldn’t, but because deep down I hadn’t wanted to.

We kissed as the meteor hit the earth.

With thanks to MsCherylTerra, Bebop3, pickfiction, and Steve M. for their help in editing and beta reading this short story.

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