It was the sound of a bird outside the window that caught her attention. For a moment, she stopped breathing to listen, and in that moment, her heart finally stopped hurting,
But the moment passed, as moments do, and the ripping in her chest returned.
She knew what she had to do. The empty bags were already in her car, in a single box. Her mom had said it best the night before:
"The second your stories of surprises, smiles, and joy turned into frowns of frustration and building moments of unhappiness, that is when he stopped making you feel like sunshine."
She hated it when her mom was right.
But still - why was it so hard. Why did she not, knowing her value, get in the car, and go over there? Why did she still not want it to be over when all he did was make her feel worthless and sad?
There were still the moments of sweetness, but they had grown distantly spaced. He still made her smile and laugh. He still hugged her so tight all the pain would disappear. It was when they weren't together that the anxiety would blossom. No matter how many times she explained to him how to fix it, he just didn't. He actively put her second. He chose not to care.
So she knew, when she went over there to end it, to pack up her stuff and leave one last time, that seeing him, hugging him, would make it impossible. She needed to steel herself a little more.
Really, though, she just wanted to live in the fantasy of hope for a little longer before she let her world crash down.
Still, she grabbed her keys and slid on her sandals, checking her makeup. Her skin was so tan from a day on the boat and her sundress practically glowed neon blue next to her skin. Looking in the mirror, she knew how beautiful she was.
Maybe he would finally see her. Maybe he would finally realize.
She sighed and locked the door behind her, walking to her car. The engine turned over, the radio blared, and she slowly began the drive to his house.
Every mile closer, her chest tightened. She could feel her heart pounding as she pulled into his driveway, unannounced. It was so unlike her, to just show up.
Instead of letting herself in, like she normally did, she knocked. She knocked again. And again. Finally, she turned the knob and walked in.
He wasn't there. Maybe he had gone for a run or was out with friends and left his car.
She paused. Should she leave and come back later when he was there? She should just wait?
She set the bags and the box down, and slowly began to gather her things. She cleared out the drawers of her stuff in the bedroom, found her slippers and the earrings she left on his nightstand the other night.
The toothbrush just went in the trash.
She went from room to room, finding the bits of their lives that had someone gotten intertwined. Her heart calmed a little with each removal. She was slowly making herself disappear from his world.
Any little noise made her stop and her heart skip a beat, thinking he had appeared. But he never did. He really never ever showed up. Not then, not ever. Showing up was what she craved. Effort is what she begged for from him. Even in her leaving he couldn't give her any reason to stay.
All of her things packed neatly in her car, she went back in to his kitchen, and found the pad of paper and pen he kept next to the fridge for grocery lists. She tore a sheet off, and lifted the pen.
Anger flooded her hand and the words wanted to explode, but she couldn't. Frustration and pain filled her eyes, but it wouldn't spill out. She sighed.
No matter what, even though she never told him, she loved him. She always had, from the moment they met, and maybe, in some way, she always would. Even worse - she knew he loved her, too. That is what killed her. All the unspoken potential of happiness, ruined by an invisible barrier that neither of them could ever ignore, and that would never go away.
Quickly, she scribbled on the paper, took it to his bedroom, and left it on his pillow.
As she backed her car up, her phone lit up. It was him. She let it go. She was busy. It was okay. He said he didn't want to see her that day anyway. She wanted to answer. She wanted to turn around, take the note back, and call him. She wanted to tell him she was packing up her stuff. She wanted him to come and realize, to finally see her.
Deep down, though, she knew it would just happen again. A month, maybe two from now, she would be back, packing up her stuff. And who knew how many times the cycle would repeat?
So she gripped the wheel and kept going. She let his calls go through. She knew, as she kept going, and his calls became more frequent, that they had just missed each other. Bad timing, they just missed each other. She missed him.
He found the note. One simple phrase.
I'll always love you.
That was all that mattered, in the end. It was all she ever had.