On the boardwalk

She stood at the boardwalk railing, and watched the lights reflected in the water. “Nice night, isn’t it?” she said.

“Yeah. It almost makes you believe the city isn’t a cesspool,” he replied. “Almost.”

“Are you always this cynical?”

He shrugged. “No, but I’ve had better days.”

He leaned on the railing beside her, and stared into the water below. She touched his shoulder, and smiled at him.

“Why did you call me?” he asked suddenly.

She pulled her coat around her, and didn’t meet his gaze. “After everything that’s happened… I just wanted to be sure that you’re okay.”

“Oh really? So what happened to ‘I never want to see you again, you bastard’?” He gave her a lazy look, as if he didn’t care, and went back to watching the lights.

“Really? You’re going with that now?” she said.

“Yeah, I–”

She thumped his arm, and he protested and backed away. “Shut up. I am not doing this… this romantic movie bullshit with you,” she snarled. “It’s not fair and you know it. You acted like an asshole and I was completely justified calling you that at the time. Then you turned out to be more like a good person, someone I could like and talk to and fall in love with and all that good stuff, so I called you, okay? I called you. You don’t get to hold it against me.”

She shoved him again, with her teeth clenched and her eyes angry. He let himself be shoved.

“You know I don’t do subtle,” she said. “And – and I hate the stupid speeches in those movies, and fake characters who can’t say what they’re actually thinking because they’re embarrassed or whatever–”

“I’m going to tell you what I’m thinking,” he said softly. He held out his hand to her. She stared at it for a long moment, then reached out. Her fingers slid into his.

“I’m really, really bad at this,” he said. “I’m glad you called me, because I thought, maybe she doesn’t hate me. Maybe I’ve still got a chance.”

She stared at their hands, clasped together. “A chance for what?” she whispered.

“All that romantic movie bullshit,” he said, with a half-chuckle that quickly left his face. He looked afraid, and hopeful.

She closed her eyes, squeezed them tight, and then gazed out at the city lights shimmering in the night sky. “What if I said no?”

He sighed, and let his hand fall. She didn’t let go. He looked at her hand, and then into her eyes.

“I didn’t say no,” she said. “I’m just asking what if.”

“Then I’d leave and you’d probably never see me again. We’ve got no reason to talk to each other now.” He paused. “Do you want me to stay?”

She suddenly pulled him into a tight hug, and buried her face in his shoulder. He touched her back hesitantly for a moment, then wrapped his arms around her and pressed his nose into her hair. “Yes, I want you to stay,” she whispered.

They stood, unmoving, in the warm glow of the boardwalk lamps. When she lifted her head, he kissed her as if they were the only two people in the world.

“It doesn’t have to be a lot of… romantic movie bullshit,” he said. “Just a little. It’ll be fun.”

She laughed at him, while their faces touched and his grin grew wider. “Just a little,” she said, running her fingers down his cheek. He caught her hand and kissed it. “Just the good bits.”


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