The Best Man
I walk behind her wordlessly, until we get to the door of her building. I’m a gentleman, and she knows it. I’ve always walked her to her door – something her brothers have always taken the piss out of me for – because I want to be sure that she gets home okay, and that nothing happens to her. I don’t do it now because of everything that’s just happened; I’ve always done it, and I always will. I’m not ashamed of that. If there’s one thing my mother taught me, it’s that I should never be ashamed of who I am and what I feel, and I’m not going to start feeling shameful tonight. So I walk up to the top floor with her without being asked why. Once we get to her front door, Ellie sticks her key into the lock and opens it, then stands, unmoving, with her forehead against the wood, trying to work out what should happen next.
“Don’t ask me,” I say, helping her.
Ellie turns slowly to face me.
“Now’s not the right moment,” I say, because it’s true. Even though the only thing I want right now is to push her inside, lock us into her apartment, and make love to her until we can’t walk anymore.
She smiles and nods; she knows this is for the best, too. I step closer to her and stroke her face, before gently pressing my lips to hers. Then I say it, because I can feel her fear pulsing into my chest.
“I’ll never ask you, Ellie.”
I’m an idiot, but I carry on anyway, because I love her more than I love the idea of the two of us together.
“I’ll never ask you to come back.”
I let go of her face and take a few steps back.
“You know why,” I say; and from the way her eyes grow wide, I realise that she already knew my answer all along.