From the start, Matt and Lily bonded over their mutual inability to leave things the way they were.
It started on their first date, when Matt accidentally flicked a straw into the hibachi grill. Within seconds, the fragrant miso aroma of the beef they were searing fused together with the off-putting scent of burning plastic. Their server, jovial to this point, glared at them as he scraped the gooey gel off the table-top grill.
Embarrassed, Matt quipped, “Well, I sure know how to leave my mark.”
Lily hoped to put him at ease. “Hey, this just means it’s one less grill-your-own-meat option for us. Besides, it’s only a straw.”
She rolled up her left sleeve and pointed to her arm, mottled with scar tissue, garishly red against her pale skin.
“Wow,” he said in a near whisper. “We better get out of here before they think I did that, too.”
Lily grinned as she grabbed her purse. “I’ve never wanted anything more.”
They didn’t make it far before they were tangled up in a messy, warm kiss. Matt held Lily firmly against the side of his car, his strong, thin arms like a frame, the rubber of the window sealing making an imprint on her back. He had always wanted to enclose someone.
Lily’s spine twinged from the pressure, but she stayed put, only ever moving to stand on the balls of her feet. He was taller than she expected, and she liked the challenge.
Soon they progressed to firm, deliberate grasping, and then they parted ways. After all, they decided, it was a Monday night, and they both had to be up early the next day.
On the way home, as he rolled slowly into a light turning yellow, Matt sent her at text that expressed what he hoped was her sentiment, too.
The night ended way too quickly. You sure I didn’t just imagine that we spent five straight hours together? Clearly the soju went to my head…
When Lily arrived home, she hadn’t responded yet, although she knew exactly what she would say if she did.
Tell me about it. I miss you already. This is crazy.
Instead, she gripped her phone in her left hand, keeping her right fingers free to trace the scars on her clenched arm. Unlike last time, she had to be smart about this.
When the cab pulled up to her apartment building, she scanned the seat to ensure she hadn’t left anything. She walked up the stairs to the third floor slowly. The late summer air was beginning to thin, and she was breathless by the time she turned the key in her door. Her phone buzzed just minutes later.
Hey. I’m downstairs. Sorry…I needed to see you again.
Even at the end, Matt and Lily didn’t know how to let well enough alone.
Crouched on a stoop in the stuffy late summer air, Lily dragged on a cigarette she didn’t even want. She always swore she’d quit after when started hurting herself after a very messy pre-Matt breakup, but somehow that didn’t stick. So, she sat, streaming wisps of smoke, checking her phone as if the sequence of texts would change somehow.
I just don’t know why this is happening.
Lily. I was drunk last night
So it didn’t mean anything. It’s over. For real this time.
No. Come on, you know we’re different.
No further response had come through. It had been 35 minutes since Matt had sent his last text, and Lily still didn’t accept it as truth. Matt always came back.
After three more cigarettes, strewn across the ground with ashy tails behind them, she did something she never did.
Why aren’t you responding? I’m dying here. Please don’t do this.
When Matt arrived at her apartment, Lily had already wiped away the tears that had blanketed her face, puddles forming around her ashy lips. Her hair was repined, and her newly applied lipstick made her whole face glow. It didn’t feel comfortable to stay sad for so long.
She opened the door to find him standing solemn, eyes to the ground.
“Come on, why the long face?” Lily quipped. “You look like someone died.”
Matt grabbed her at the waist and drew her lips closer. His breath was hot, and his voice was assertive. “Stop joking around. This really is the last time. I swear.”