Unexpected Love (500Words Round 2, Week 3, Day 3, 1/31/18)
“I think I love you.”
The five words hung in the air between them and Yuri wasn’t sure what to do next. He chose to look at the small mole just under Steve’s left eye and to grip the edge of the park bench with both hands. Both seemed equally important in that moment and helped him stay calm while he waited for a response. He hadn’t imagined saying those words today or, if he was honest with himself, ever. He had always been a responder, not an initiator. It was completely out of character for him to be so bold.
It was all Steve’s fault. That man distracted him. This wasn’t the first unexpected thing Yuri had done under the influence of Steve. Before they’d met, Yuri stayed within his routines and led a quiet life. He worked. He watched TV. He ate one of the same three meals each evening. He went to bed on time and woke up with the sun. Meeting Steve had changed Yuri’s life for the better. Before Steve was a timeline marker used by Yuri’s friends, always with a smile, whenever a new story was shared. Steve had suggested the camping trip, for example, and Yuri had gone with a smile and a backpack full of gear hastily purchased from the local sporting goods store. Yuri had signed up for ballroom dancing classes even though he’d never even considered dancing beyond enjoying the scenes in Dirty Dancing. When Steve found a drink-and-paint place Yuri went along for the ride. Steve was a doer and had inspired Yuri to do more in the last three months than he had in the previous three years. All of it was new. All of it was exciting. Yuri had felt so alive with Steve, and so different, it made sense that he would dive headfirst into this unknown ocean of sharing.
How long had it been since he dropped his love proclamation into the conversation? He pressed his middle finger of his right hand harder into the bench, just to be sure time hadn’t stopped. He felt the firmness of the bench and knew he was still here, in real time, waiting. He had no idea how long it had been. He would have believed 5 hours as equally as 5 seconds. It took a lot of bravery to adjust his gaze to take in Steve’s whole face. What if it had been too soon? What if those five words were the last ones he got to say to Steve? Yuri steeled himself and looked.
Steve was smiling. The smile played around his lips and reached his eyes. The smile activated the wrinkles around his mouth, eyes, and forehead, giving his face extra texture and interest. Steve’s brown eyes sparkled and Yuri felt himself melting into them as his hands loosened their grip on the bench. In this moment, it didn’t matter what happened next. Yuri was sure that, despite everything, he had fallen in love with this man.
* All 500Words are fiction. Any resemblance to people or events is strictly coincidental. *