There Was Love
by Michelle K.

There was a time you let me know
What's real and going on below,
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you,
The holy dark was moving, too,
And every breath we drew was hallelujah

Maybe there's a God above
And all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
And it's not a cry you can hear at night,
It's not somebody who's seen the light,
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

"Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen

There was love, once. This is what he thinks as he lies in bed, staring at her back.

There was love, once. But now, here he is, trying to remember when it was that she started sleeping turned away from him. Two months? Two years? Three years? He doesn't know.

But, there was a time when she would curl up into his arms. A time when she'd drift to sleep whispering of how much she loved him.

There was love, once. Somehow, though, it slowly died over the years. It withered until there was nothing but a few memories.

If he catches her in the right light, he can still see the girl he fell in love with. The girl who fell in love with him. The girl who would smile devilishly before she'd run up on the roof to flash the traffic helicopter.

There had been such life in her back then. In both of them. Lester was sure that their love would last. Sure, he had seen his parents' marriage fail. But his parents hadn't ever been in love like this.

They were different.

They were in love.

They would last.

Lester can almost laugh at the foolish optimism of that sentiment. But it's not really that funny.

It's not funny because he's dying. Not in the normal way. He'd prefer the normal death to this one, actually. When you die, there's a promise of happiness. A promise of heaven. Not that he really believes in that so much - promises don't usually hold up. But still, it's a promise.

The way he's dying, there's no faint promise of a better day.

He's dying inside and soon he'll just be left with this crushingly empty feeling.

She's dying, too, but she won't let anyone see it. She smiles at the parties, at the house showings. She's dying, but everyone on the outside thinks she's the model of perfection. That's what she likes to think, anyway.

He's dying, and he knows that he can't pretend nearly as well as her. Nor does he even want to.

He'll be empty, and he just wants to blame her. But he can't quite. Because he's not perfect. Because he's done things. He's pulled away, too. He may have hurt her in ways he doesn't even realize.

He can't quite blame her now because he's partly responsible for it.

And because he still remembers how they loved each other.

He remembers it too well. It makes him ache, because those days are gone.

But he still remembers.

He still remembers.

She had looked so beautiful on their wedding day. It hadn't been a fancy affair - just a few friends. They didn't really have the money to go on a honeymoon, so they sated themselves with a bottle of wine and some decorations she bought from a party store a few blocks away. They had made love that night - it certainly hadn't been their first time together, but Lester still thought it was special. Because she was his wife now. His forever.

Back then, having Carolyn as his wife had seemed like a blessing; now it feels like a burden.

Things change so suddenly. And it's the suddenness of it that has made him bitter.

God, how he loved her then.

He remembers making love to her; the way her muscles would clench against him; the way she'd grab onto his flesh. He can still hear her muttering his name in between ragged breaths. How she had moved her lips over his skin; how she let him into her mouth. He still remembers tasting her; clamping his mouth around her until she'd spasm against him. Letting his mouth roam around her body, trying to find her most sensitive spots. Every part of her had tasted so sweet to him. He had fit inside her so perfectly, he even imagined that she was meant for him. There had been such intensity in every touch.

Now, she looks at him with disgust. He doesn't know what he did to sicken her. He asked her once - he wanted to know what had happened to him. To them. And she had replied with "Lester, you don't sicken me." The response had been so perfunctory - she was barely trying to pretend. But he didn't have the energy to challenge her.

There is so much he doesn't have energy for.

But, God, there were those fleeting moments way back when.

When he had gotten his job at Media Monthly, he thought it was the beginning of his big career. He was 'upwardly mobile' - or so his father had declared. Carolyn had been so proud of him. And he had been proud of her when, a few years later, she decided to get her real estate license.

They had both been so proud. But, now, he's stuck in a cubicle working for people he hates, talking to people who don't even know who he is. Who don't even care who he is. She's cursing people who do better than her and killing herself to sell a two bedroom house. He hates his job; she hates hers too, although it's grown more important to her than breathing.

They're suffering every day, trying to buy more useless possessions.

But there was a time when they thought they could conquer the world.

The first time she held Janie in her arms, her face had shone. She looked so happy - so proud of what they had created. And he had been the beaming father, cooing over what a beautiful baby she was. Even through the middle of the night feedings and days spent tired out of their minds, they were happy.

But Jane now...he doesn't have a clue about how to talk to her. He doesn't even try anymore. And Carolyn berates her. Jane isn't perfect, after all. She's sullen and depressed. Carolyn can see quite a bit of Lester in Jane now, and that's probably what upsets her most.

Jane was their angel; now she hates them both.

There is the present; there is the past. He can only live in the present when he lets his mind drift to the past.

Memories. That's all he has.

But he knows that these memories will fade. They will fade with every angry word, every awkward silence. With every night spent without a kiss or a touch. Those memories of what they had will be replaced by the present.

He'll be completely dead soon. Completely empty.

He knows he'll blame her. He knows that he'll hate her.

But, he doesn't want to. He wants to love her again, but he doesn't know quite what to do.

So, he simply reaches out to her. He lets his hand slowly move down her back. God, he can't remember the last time she let him touch her like this. "Carolyn?" he says softly.

She's awake, but she pretends she's sleeping. She pretends she's sleeping as he says her name over and over. She pretends she's sleeping as she feels his fingertips move over her bare arm.

There was a time when this touch would've sent a rush of heat through her body. But, now, she just feels cold.

"Carolyn?" he says again as he grasps her arm.

There is something in his voice that makes her want to answer him. Maybe it's need. Maybe it's a faint hint of the love they once shared. But, whatever it is, it reminds her of the past. She remembers, too, even if she doesn't show it. She remembers, and part of her longs for what they had then. When it was simple and when there was love.

She remembers and she wants to answer him. But she doesn't. She continues to pretend to be asleep. Because she doesn't know how to fix this. She might as well let it continue this way. This is the way they've lived for...months? Weeks? Years? She doesn't know exactly, but she knows that this is the way it's been. She wouldn't know how to recapture the old times. This is how it's been, and she's decided that it'll stay this way.

He knows she's not asleep. He knows that it's an act. He releases her arm from his grip. If only he knew what went wrong - when she became more concerned with appearances then the reality. If only he could reverse that. If only they could love each other like they once did.

If only...

But he can't do any of these things. This is what he thinks as he rolls over on his side, letting his back face hers.

They're dying, little by little, with every night spent like this.

They're dying, and they can't even fall together.

They'll hate each other. This will all get worse. Their pain will fester until that's all they have between them.

It's over, what they had.

But, there was love, once.

There was love.


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