When it first started, and as it continued, she wouldn’t even let herself think it. Unlike her flights of fancy of early dates past, no imaginary future was going to ruin the present, her present, because for the first time, she wondered whether there might be more of a future than just the one in her head.
So she didn’t say it, not ever – not in her head, not to herself at night when she thought about the way that he made her feel, one-sided conversations into her pillow. And certainly not to him. She didn’t imagine that it was him in her bed with her, she just smiled as she thought about the fact that sometimes, these days, it was.
She thought of it in the abstract. When she saw a bride waiting to walk down the aisle as she drove past a church, she thought of marriage, and what it entailed. She was an observer, an anthropologist – even at the wedding of two friends, when champagne was consumed and the relationship futures of all at her table weighed against each other, she simply laughed, shrugged, and as the next round was poured, excused herself to the buffet. By the time she returned they were all deconstructing the paisley design of the groom’s tie, and her ‘secret’ remained safe. No fortune-telling from herself or others.
Nothing, until it could truly happen. She told herself she believed in these things happening organically. But ‘organically’ meant waiting until the ‘time was right’. And that meant waiting for him to say it first. Against the pillow, his hair fanned out, fell across his face, into his eyes; he blinked, swept it away. Then he reaches across to her face, and did the same. Tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, touched the earring she’d forgotten to take out, smiled.
And he said it, and she smiled, and said it too, even as her breath caught in her throat. As she fell asleep, she closed her eyes, and mouthed these new words to the ceiling. I love you. I love you. I love you.