Two hours north of Boston, the creaking walls of a cottage hold the secret to love. The guestbook on the coffee table repeats our names on multiple entries, each one ending with “Can't wait to be back soon.” The kitchen, barely big enough for the two of us, but especially not big enough when there's red wine and dancing, our hips bumping and laughter colliding. In the morning, the countertops crowd with coffee he brewed while I scrambled the eggs, the sink overflowing with dishes that I'll scrub while he tidies up the living room. We called it a writing retreat, but it quickly became more than that. We became more than that. We were both writers, using words to get through every bump in our lives, connecting phrases to emotions and plot lines to heart lines, parachuting into the unchartered territory of companionship. Very quickly, and dangerously, everyone noticed a change in me. Friends and co-workers made comments, how I spoke more freely, showed more patience. A heaviness that had been weighing on me looked like it was lifting. So, naturally, I fell in love with him. “I shouldn't write this yet,” I told him one day as we sat on the beach, his back burning slowly because of my inability to properly apply sunscreen. We don't know how it ends. I was in a bathing suit I'd bought on the clearance rack twenty minutes earlier, a perfect example of how we lived life together on the fly. Where we were both careful and methodical in our everyday life, together, we could throw caution to the wind and do things like leave work early on a Friday and drive to Cape Cod for the weekend. “We don't know how it ends,” something we both said too often, both of us prepared to act like that didn't terrify us. His track record of love that had left him, something I couldn't understand. I'd seen his flaws, sure, his temper in traffic or his words of honesty that sometimes came laced with cruelty, but I'd never understood why anyone would leave. Where he had documented years of love, I'd fake a smile as I said I'd had a very loveless life, with love at the wrong time and usually for the wrong person. Years after love had failed us, we were here. Still, we always joked about leaving. He said that I'd hate him by the end of the winter while he sat on his hands and watched me fall for someone else. This theoretical live-in boyfriend would come to my graduation from the same program that had united the two of us. Some nights, I go to sleep thinking of the mornings in our future where we'll cook breakfast together, retreat to the opposite ends of our house to write, and meet back up for lunch- sleepy eyes from creativity coursing through our veins to our pens all morning. But then there are the nights I go to sleep hoping that the next day, I'd meet someone new. Someone who doesn't walk the fine line of uncertainty, someone who can look at me and know that we are each other's future. Someone who plays the lyrics to “For the Longest Time” and relates them to me, not to the physical fling of attention from someone else. It made sense to leave him, but it made even more sense to stay. I had spent my entire life in the doorway with every person I encountered, mapping out their exit route for them- pinpointed road maps of events that would lead them to the quickest way out, not even a glance over the shoulder as they became another name etched into the passenger side window. But with him, I couldn't find one. Every route on our map led us back to each other.
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