The Body Painter
“Um, hi? I’m…eh, here for the interview?” I stepped warily toward the noise.
Another curse followed by a loud thump.
“I heard you the first time.” A man appeared from the darkness.
A man with shaggy dark hair, five o’clock shadow, and eyes so maliciously green they masqueraded as body parts but were really well-honed weapons.
A man who was bleeding from his temple, limping, and holding his elbow as if it needed reattaching.
“Sorry, I didn’t know if—” I gulped as something long ago tugged in remembrance.
It can’t be…
Recognition slammed into me as forcibly as it slammed into him.
I stumbled under the weight.
Punched by the unbelievable.
“Gil? Oh, my God. Gil!”
More gorgeous than he’d ever been.
I fought every instinct to go to him.
Did my best not to grab him, kiss him, shake him, slap him.
A gust of air blasted through the warehouse as if the winds of fate woke up, felt a tug on whatever linked us together, and clapped its hands in glee, saying, ‘Yes, this will be fun. Let’s put these two back together again.’
“Olin? Fuck…it’s you.” His gaze tore over me as hungrily as mine tore over him.
Time stood still. It reversed. It plopped us right back in the past where this boy had held my heart, and I’d captured his, and together we knew it would always be about us.
There is no more us.
I stumbled toward him, desperate to be nearer despite so much pain. “I can’t believe this. What are you doing here?”
“What am I? What are you?” He tripped in my direction, his face etched with lines I hadn’t seen in his youth, his body all angles and threats. As fast as he’d headed toward me, he halted as if yanked back by a rope. His face fell. His shock at seeing me morphed into hardness.
I didn’t understand how he could change so much in a few short seconds.
Goosebumps decorated me as coldness settled like a cloak around his shoulders.
“I’ve been back in Birmingham two years. I—” I stopped talking, unable to share the secrets that followed such a statement. “I…”
He closed his eyes, shutting me out as if battling something deep within him. Deliberately, he took a step back, his chin coming up, his coldness settling into ice.
The silence that’d chased us in our fledgling romance returned, thick and heavy.
My back prickled. My mouth turned dry.
Too much distance existed between us, swelling with memory of how things had ended, why we were strangers now, and just how much heartbreak had been left behind.
Along with silence came shadows, creeping over Gil’s expression, shutting down any remaining signs of his shock and gratefulness at seeing me. Heartbeat by heartbeat, he hid any sign that my visit was a welcome one.
I struggled, not knowing what to say.
His gaze no longer held happiness, just aching emptiness and suspicion. “How did you find me?” He didn’t give me chance to reply. “You can’t be here, Olin. You need to leave. I don’t want you anywhere near me.”