The Return

“How long has it been?”

“Just over a year”

“I can’t believe you’re here”

“Neither can I…”

We stand apart, a charged tension electrifying the air. Once, I had scripted the words I’d unleash upon her when we next met, a meticulously planned assault to convey the depths of my pain. But now, words seemed futile.

Instead, we just hug.

Who was this woman in my arms? The question echoed in the silence that enveloped us. How should I touch her? As a stranger, a friend, a lover? I recoil from her embrace as if jolted by an electric shock. She looks startled. “What? What? Are you OK?”

“You’re hugging me like we are still lovers.”

Her eyes reveal hurt. “I’m sorry. This is so weird.”

“You haven’t written to me for months, and now you just show up…”

“I was in town. I’ve been here for days. Over a week, actually. I tried to visit sooner, but I was afraid.”

“Is he here too?”

“No… I’m no longer with him. And I’ve left Christchurch – I’m living in Wellington now.”


She’s beginning to cry. “I’ve missed you…”

It feels like a scene ripped from a Mills & Boon novel. I giggle. She sees the smile, and trickling tears burst into sobs. She’s howling, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…”

I’m in a juxtaposition. I’m the one who’s supposed to be hurting, and now I’m comforting her. She’s reduced to a sobbing heap on the floor. I stroke her hair and look out towards the window. For a minute, I release the floodgate of emotion, finding solace in the sensation of giving her my caress. It’s been at least a year since I’ve shared intimacy with anyone.

I feel the light tickle of a single tear flowing down my face. It forms a dew, then falls upon her dress. The stain spreads to form a dark patch on the silk. My finger touches the spot – I recognize the dress. I look at her properly for the first time since her arrival. She wore garments I once loved to touch her through, perfume I could inhale as if it were air, and free-flowing hair allowing my fingers to stroke the lengths of its waves.

I then knew.

She was intending to stay.