Like the splintering of a thousand pieces of glass at her fingertips. The resounding echo of slammed doors that pierced through her and lodged deep within her mourning heart. To say it hurt was an understatement.
I hate him, her mind whispered with bitterness dripping like poison. It told her to pack up her things, call her family, and slip away before he knew what had happened. But the gravity of that decision held onto her like a vice. It sealed her to the worn spot on the couch as the creeping cold of anxiety started to settle in her bones.
“Where did I go wrong?” her words warbled from her lips, shattering the stillness. It had been four years. Four years of ups and downs and a life woven together with him. All the laughter, the first "I love yous" spilled from their hearts; it all echoed in the plains of her mind, but now—now it was just another day filled with burning regret.
She pulled her phone from her pocket, keying in its code with mind numbing ease. Just message him. Tell him how you're feeling, she could feel her heart creep into the forefront of her brain. It wanted to work things out, bring back the old them.
As she clicked on his name a new wash of anger swept through her. How dare he storm out on her? Yell at her? She was only trying to help him. Her fingers furiously tapped away at the screen as all motivation for soothing the situation flew out the window.
"Fuck you," the message read and she delighted in the small satisfaction that came from hitting the send button.
Her phone chimed almost immediately. Could it be him? Was he ending it? Did she only manage to make things worse? Of course I made things worse. Her anxiety piled on top of itself, coiling like a serpent in the pit of her belly. Why did she do this? Why was her pride so high that she couldn’t take the high road just this once?
With fresh tears burning in her eyes she opened the message.
"I'm sorry. You deserve better. I love you."
And the guilt burned.
Her thumbs brushed over the screen as her vision blurred. It hurt. Every harsh word, every shout and curse; it shattered her a little further each time. Yet, with the simple apology everything bled away. He was still her partner, despite the words she hurled at him. Their short tempers igniting under a sea of stress and miscommunication.
The door groaned as it swung open. His guilt ridden form slumped in the open frame and she yearned to rush to him, wrap him tightly in her arms and apologize. But her pride kept her rooted. Indignation still simmering hot.
“Layla...” his voice trailed off. She watched as he crossed across the threshold and sighed as he sank into the seat beside her. She wanted him to speak, give her an opening to bend and break without losing face, because somewhere are along the way that had become important to her, standing tall even when she was wrong.
But instead of words, he leaned into her side. His dark tousled hair brushing against her cheek. And Layla felt herself melt, all the bitterness, all her pride; it dripped away at his touch.
“I'm sorry,” she whispered.
She felt him stir, rough hands wrapping around her chin as he pulled her face to his. His eyes loomed before her, gentle and sad within those dark depths as he held her attention. The kiss came softly, almost tentative as it sought her reaction and Layla felt herself blossom beneath the affection.
I love you, her mind cried as their kiss deepened. She wanted to press against him, feel her body mold against his as a hunger stirred within. But he broke away, smiling that same crooked smile that made her heart race.
“Me too,” he responded, resting his forehead against hers.
This is why she stayed. Why no matter how hard the doors slammed, or how angry the voices got. These little moments of intimate perfection were intoxicating to her soul.
“We have to do better. I love you Layla, and I don’t want to lose you,” he said.
“You’re right. We do have to do better, for us because I love you too, Jared. And I get so scared that one day you'll just stop.”
“Just stop?” he asked.
"Stop loving me.”
“Impossible. I’m stuck with you whether I like it or not,” Jared teased.
“You’re an ass.” Layla tried to keep a straight face but she could feel her lips curl into a smile.
He wasn’t perfection, but he was home.