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The moment was beautiful. Eddie and Stacey were sitting next to each other on the bench near the river bank. The sun had just set, creating an exuberant display of colors on the canvas that was the sky and an equally aesthetic reflection on the river. A cool breeze blew, causing the leaves on the trees nearby to rustle, taking away the tense nature of the ambiance caused by the overwhelming silence. A cuckoo’s call could be heard at a distant. It couldn’t have been any more perfect. Eddie slowly slid his hand into Stacey’s. She turned her head to look at him. He was already looking at her. Their eyes met. They looked straight into each other’s eyes. The feeling was running down both of their spines. Even before they knew it their heads had started to lean in and their eyes had closed shut. Then the lips met.
"YUCK," shouted Eddie as he jumped off his bed with a mouthful of fine cotton threads.
It took him a few seconds to realize what had happened. While he was dreaming about kissing Stacey, he had given one of the most passionate smooches to his side pillow. Disheartened, he sat on the bed and covered his face with his palms.
Realizing that he wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep he rubbed his eyes and got up. He folded the blanket, straightened out the bed sheet and set the pillow as neatly as possible. Scratching the back of his head he put his phone in his pocket. On his way to the bathroom he took a look at the mirror, murmuring to himself, "Somebody looks equally dead on the outside today."
He checked his phone for texts, but all he found was memes sent by his friend who unfailing did so every day. Letting out a huge sigh he kept the phone on the counter next to the sink and walked into the shower cubicle.
As the cold water began to flow down Eddie thought to himself about the dream. He wondered why this dream kept taking place at the location of their first date. It had been 5 years since that day. In fact, they’re even wearing the same clothes they wore from their first date in the dream. It's ironic since they never kissed on their first date. Eddie always wanted to take Stacey back over there, but for some reason, he hadn’t been able to yet.
A lot had changed since then Eddie wondered. They were in their final year of college at that time. Now they both had jobs and a barrage of professional commitments around which their lives revolved.
Stacey was a biologist. Eddie was the marketing manager of an MNC. There were various periods of time when either of them was stressed out with work. What was worse was the fact that Eddie had to go on frequent long business tours. As much as he wanted, he couldn’t take Stacey along with him since she didn’t have time to abruptly stop her research midway.
Coming out of the cubicle all wet, Eddie stretched his hand for the towel on the counter which read, "Lotte Hotel Samara." Wiping his hands, he looked at his phone. It was 10:23 AM. Figuring that back home Stacey would be preparing to go to sleep or wrapping up for the day he decided to call her. While the phone rang he let his thoughts lose.
He realized thinking to himself that if everything went well with the clients, this trip could last for about 4 - 6 months. He warned Stacey about this before leaving. Initially, Stacey didn’t like it much. Now she’d just gotten used to it.
Eddie loved reminiscing about their times spent together. They both met at a friend’s party. He’ll never forget the way she looked that day or any other day for that matter. He felt an instant attraction towards her as he laid his eyes on her. She is everything he ever wanted. Beautiful, intelligent, straightforward, understanding, and interesting. He is even attracted to her mysterious side that comes out at times. He couldn’t have asked for more. He feels grateful to have Stacey in his life. However, he can’t say that when it came to Stacey. Eddie isn’t the conventional kind of a guy one would expect a girl like Stacey to date and he knows this. Nevertheless, she is dating him. In fact, they are in love. It isn’t surprising that Eddie fell for her first and his persistence eventually won Stacey’s heart.
As the phone rang Eddie came out of the bathroom and wore a pair of trousers and a t-shirt. He looked at the calendar on the study desk. It had already been a fortnight since Eddie landed in Samara. The time difference between Samara and California was 11 hours. As difficult as it was to adjust to the time difference, they both had good enough experience from Eddie’s previous trips. Eddie without fail called Stacey at least twice a day—once in the morning and once at night. Sometimes he would call her at odd hours; however, those seldom got answered.
However, when the calls would get answered Eddie noticed something. Whenever Eddie went on business trips, more often than not Stacey came off as uninterested or distracted over the phone. That made Eddie miss her a lot more because when they were together, half of Eddie’s conversations were with Stacey’s eyes which would talk to him more than Stacey did. Even if her voice sounded mellow, Eddie knew when she was really feeling low and when she’s just tired based on the look in her eyes. He missed that more than anything else.
"How are you? How was your day?"
"Eddie, you ask me how I am every day. How will I be? The same as yesterday, right?"
"Well, yeah I guess. Still, just wanted to know what you’ve been up to."
"Every time you go out for your trips you bombard me with calls. It’s funny since you make very few when you’re in town working at the office. I am the one who has to call you to ask what time you’ll be home."
"I know. I’m guilty of that. The thing is when I’m in town I feel like you’re easily accessible. I’ll see you at home anyway. Sometimes, I even come over to your lab. However, when I leave for my tours I get all worked up since you’re not clos—," Eddie paused to stop himself from getting too emotional. He could hear his voice getting heavy. "Bunk that. What have you been up to?"
"Nothing much. After coming back home in the evening I was pretty tired. Found this new intriguing show on Netflix. I’ll talk to you later. I’ll watch it now."
"Oh… well, what’s the name of the show? I could watch it too in my free time."
"It’s some Romani show. I watch it with subtitles. I’ll text you the name. Ok then. Bye."
The call ended before Eddie could finish the sentence. He thought he’d say "I love you" to her, but he missed the chance. He’d been wanting to say those three words to her a lot lately. He didn’t know why. He just wanted to. What was funny was they already knew that they love each other. They had said it each other many times before. Then what was so special about saying it this time? Eddie didn’t know.
"How does that even make sense? She knows how much I love her. Why do I want to say it to her so bad?"
It occurred to Eddie that for some time now both he and Stacey hadn’t said I love you to each other much.
"But we know we love each other. Why do I want to say it so bad? Even if I do, why am I hesitating so much? I love her so much. She loves me so mu—"
Now, that’s the real conundrum here. Eddie wasn’t afraid of saying I love you. He was afraid of the reply. He didn’t want Stacey to say, "I know," like she almost always did when he said it over a call. He wanted her to say, "I love you too." For some reason, he felt if Stacey said "I know" again, it would break him. He knew that his insecurities were a huge reason behind this. Nevertheless, he really wanted her to tell him how much she loves him. He already knew how much she does. He also knew that Stacey’s way of expressing love was different. Yet, he really wanted to hear it from her mouth.
He took out his phone and texted her.
"Hey, in case you’re not asleep yet, I just wanted to talk to you. I know it's late, but it's been awhile since we’ve talked over the phone for long hours like we used to." *Sent*
He wanted to add "I really miss you. Love you." However, he didn’t want to come off as desperate. "For fuck’s sake, this is my girlfriend. I’m supposed to be desperate for her. Why am I getting over conscious with her?" Nevertheless, he didn’t send her the text saying, "I miss you. Love you."
No matter what may have happened, Eddie considered these five years with Stacey his happiest. For his entire life, he had never felt so much love and care coming out of him for another person. He felt a lot happier or at ease just on seeing their photos together or even when he’s just texting her. At times he asks himself, "From where is all this love coming from?" Needless to say, he doesn’t know the answer.
He spent the rest of the day sending out emails and preparing for meetings with clients in the upcoming days. He called Stacey again at night thinking that she might have more energy to talk. She didn’t pick up. He told himself that she must be busy with lab work.
New day. New morning. Same routine. Eddie was once again dreaming about kissing Stacey at the location of their first date. Unfortunately, as he kissed Stacey in his dream, he kissed his side pillow in reality. Instead of morning breath, it was thin cotton threads coming out of his mouth nowadays.
After taking a shower he quickly picked up his phone (filled with memes sent by his friend) and called Stacey. The phone kept ringing. Eddie thought she might not pick it up this time as well, but then she did, eventually.
"Hey. I watched the show you were talking about. It’s really good."
"You did. Wow. It's good, isn’t it?" Eddie couldn’t help but notice the sudden change in her tone. She seemed interested. "How do you like the lead actor? Oh my god, I just love him. His acting is killing me," she continued.
Feeling nice about the cheerfulness in Stacey’s voice Eddie replied, "Yeah… it’s really good. The main actor is good too. I like it."
"I know right. That guy is just so amazing. I can’t stop thinking about him."
"Oh, really? Somebody seems to have a celebrity crush," Eddie giggled.
Not shying away from giggling either, Stacey replied, "Stop it. I can’t get him out of my head. I’m gonna watch another episode. I’ll talk to you later."
"Okay okay. Before that, how’s work? Everything’s good?"
"Yeah. Work’s going well. Ok. Bye."
That was that. Once again Eddie failed to say those three golden words to his own girlfriend. He was delighted to hear Stacey talk with so much enthusiasm, but cursed himself for not telling her, "I love you." If only he had some vodka on him at that moment. He would’ve chugged the entire bottle and opened his heart out to Stacey. He would’ve poured all his love on her with his words and made her feel the most loved girl out there. He wouldn’t have held anything back, if only he had some vodka. However, Eddie soon realized that as much as the vodka would help him empty his heart out, it wouldn’t guarantee Stacey’s reply to be, "I love you too."
Love is such a funny thing Eddie wondered. In these fifteen days he’s closed multiple business deals, started heading over an international project and won new tenders for the company he works for, but he can’t come up with the courage or get the chance to say "I love you" to the girl he’s been with for five years now.
"If only I knew that she’ll say the words as well. If only I knew, it would be so much easier to say it," he wondered. He couldn’t stop his mind from thinking about what her response would be. His head started to ache from all the overthinking. He told himself that unconditional love doesn’t ask for reciprocation. That calmed him down. However, he couldn’t help but wish—if only he knew.
If only he knew.