“Truth or dare?” The boy slips down next to his girlfriend, pulling his knees close to him while mirroring her stance. He ruffles his blonde hair and tugs at it. She had asked him to play a game, something to engage with each other after several fights, the two had had tension for the past two weeks. Usually ending in a squabble, with one of them being upset with the other. This was supposed to be a reckoning, an olive branch. Would it work though?
“Dare.” The girl rolls over, her large eyes peering into him. She smiles at him with all the adoration in the world, this causes him to swallow and close his eyes. His head hits back against the wall. He would do anything for her, within reason, this felt like a curse rather than a gift.
“Throw that loose shingle.” The boy meant this as a joke, he assumed his small petite girlfriend would not take that seriously. ”No! Not like that!” He stands up and runs to grab her hand as she is about to throw it off the roof and into the street. He catches her small hand pulling it towards him. The two briefly lock eyes during the warm skin-to-skin contact. It’s a quiet moment between the two. Moments that used to be so common in the first few months of the relationship but now were rare and hard to find. He pulls his hand away awkwardly, disjointed by the closeness.
“Ooh, sorry.” The girl's soft voice carries to his ears. She doesn’t seem put off, but instead reprimanded, hurt. She looked as if she touched an electric fence or entered a room she wasn’t supposed to. They had been together for months, why were they acting like this? The disagreements had added chains of pride and awkwardness to the relationship. This caused affection to drag and become an unreachable goal. “Uhm, truth or dare?”
The boy shrugged, trying to keep the situation relaxed. He had no idea how to fix this. They both lacked honesty with each other and it was making the relationship more difficult. “Truth, because I don’t want to get hit with a piece of the siding.” Gentle laughter was elicited from both of them at this comment.
“What happened with your parents?” As she spoke this, his expression changed from relaxed to petrified. This was the room he had not wanted her to enter, furniture shrouded in sheets with the lights off. If she knew what was good for her, she would close the door and never enter it again.
He was sad, no, infuriated. If he probed into her past relationships she had the license to break down and lose control. His entire life, he had never been given that grace, his hands firmly held control over his story and who was able to know it. He would have to remain strong for himself, his foster siblings, his adoptive parents. The weight of the world was on him and he was atlas. “That’s none of your business”, he growled in a solemn tone. As he became more restrained, she became emotional and explosive.
“We’re dating though, why won’t you tell me?” Her eyes widened, her voice growing shrill as more words poured out. It was both a plea from petulance and concern. The tone of voice cut through him like a knife. There was a pull between not wanting to owe her anything and feeling like she deserved everything, including to know him. If for no other reason than she asked and wanted to.
“Because It’s not necessary.” The boy's tone is flat and unsympathetic. A cold breeze hit them both on the rooftop.
“Yeah it is, I love you, I want to know you!” Tears are forming by the end of this sentence. There is an abyss-like silence between them.
His mind and thoughts have halted, unable to react, “You what?”
She runs her hands through her hair, fear creeps into her chest, and anxiety riddles her mind, “I’m sorry, that slipped.”
The boy is unable to make eye contact, let alone look at her. “I have to go.” He stands up and slides back into the house. He couldn’t tell her, not after what had happened. He hated to revisit his parents' death as a child, it wasn’t a silent introduction like most children had. It was loud, profane, and invasive.
“Come back! I’m sorry!” She ducked in the window behind him. It was painful to do this, trying to get away from her was like trying to crawl out of a swamp with your feet stuck. His thoughts wandered as she slammed into him and grabbed his arm. Her grip was like a soft chain or rosary beads, praying for his companionship.
He jerks his arm away in agitation, trying not to look at her. If his eyes caught hers, the guilt would cut him to the core. “You don’t need to know”, his voice still empty and avoidant.
He felt her hand grasp his face and pull him in. Her parted lips pressed into his. A brief gasp left him as the air traveled from his chest to open mouth, creating a shared warmth. A small space for them as they were briefly in their own reality, that no one could interrupt. When they pulled away from each other, she pressed her head into his chest. He loomed over her, looking down, feeling like a useless comforter.
There were several moments of silence. This was different from the cold one from only minutes ago.
“Please tell me”, her voice was a gentle plea now. Her hand pressed into his chest as her eyes peered up at him.
He loved her. Truly, there was no doubt in that. Her persistence would be in vain though, he loved her enough to not let her be involved. He loved her enough to not be a burden. He loved her enough to let her go.
“I’m sorry...”, with that, he releases her and backs away. Making his way down the narrow steps of the loft. As he stands at the door on the lower level of the building, he can hear sobs from the attic. Whether she prayed for him or cursed his name, he had to cover that part of his life. He would not allow her to try and fix him, no person should renovate another like a house. Trauma was like a room, with a closed-door, that you turn your back on. He never planned on opening it for anyone.