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The Audacity of Love

“Do you love him?”

The question rang in my ears. It was a delicate question, a complicated one. Love wasn’t simple. I knew that it could bring joy, satisfaction, and laughter. Not for me, however. Love had only brought me loss.

I carefully reached for some sugar across the old coffee table as the gears in my mind churned. I had fallen into what could really only be considered love with every guy that I had ever been with. My best friend, Ana, didn’t really believe this. She didn’t think that it was possible for one person to love that much.

For some reason, I did. I used to love like it was my dying breath. I had love leaking out of my pores, and flowing through my veins. I was completely, utterly, irreversibly consumed by the emotion. The gears in my mind came to a halt.

“Well, define love,” I asked. Ana gaped at me.

“Uh, Olive? You’re literally the last person who should be asking that,” she responded, pouring an exorbitant amount of fat-free sweetener into her homemade cappuccino. I smiled, and meticulously stirred some sugar into my own dark roast. She was right.

Love used to be simple for me. My natural affinity for it drew many people in. Particularly, men.

The lips of my past partners had stuck to me like leeches, carelessly sucking away at the adoration I offered. Some were more akin to parasites, gnawing away at my insides until they got bored, eventually finding a way out. Every last bit of love was drained from me until I was left with nothing.

“You already know how I feel,” I said, taking a nibble of a carrot muffin. Ana’s hazel eyes flickered downwards.

“Right. Sorry.” I had no love left to give, but that hadn’t deterred me from entering new relationships; I just had no means of keeping them going. Until I met him. The one Ana was asking me about.

“Well, is it anywhere close to love?”

He told me that he loved me. He told me that he’d never cared for someone as deeply as he cared for me. It felt like I was free again; like I could finally love without the inevitable pain that seemed to sneak up behind me, and stab me in the back. I was his everything. He made me laugh, he made me smile—he did everything right, except…

“I think that it used to be pretty close.” The words “close to love” danced around the front of my mind. When I met him, it felt as if my luck had finally turned. A piece of me glowed around him, and he reignited my ability to appreciate love again.

Except ruined everything. It ruined me. It ruined my life. Except what? What could have possibly destroyed all those intense feelings?

Except the assault.

“You know, sometimes I just feel like you have trouble accepting things.” Ana’s voice was barely a whisper. She tends to get quiet when she’s worried about me. I’d never really had a problem with accepting things. In fact, I was actually pretty good at it. I held the ability to keep moving, and to try and learn as new experiences came my way. But, I had a very hard time accepting this. Accepting what happened to me. What he did to me. How he violated me, along with every single possible boundary that I had set.

I took another bite, feeling the nutmeg and cinnamon mixing with my saliva. Ana always made excellent muffins. The nutty aftertaste lingered long enough to suppress the harsh bile rising in my throat.

“I don’t really know about that,” I replied.

He played me like I was an elaborate game of chess, planning every move, and every phrase. He spun an intricate web of apologies and lies. He calculated the way his hands would roam my body, well-aware of the fact that he would never face a single consequence.

“Don’t you ever feel stuck, Olive?” My gears struck a cog.

She had caught me there. The lack of acceptance had opposed my innate ability to move on. Instead, I was stuck in a timeless, never-ending loop. I spent everyday reliving how each piece of my body, my life, my soul, and my love had all been stripped away.

“I guess sometimes, but honestly? I’m used to it.” I didn’t have a complete answer for her, but I suppose that's answer enough anyway. Ana thoughtfully sipped some vanilla foam from the top of her drink.

“Are you sure you don’t love him?”

I glanced at myself in the bay window, observing a blurry image of who I used to be. I watched my hands wander up to my collarbone, and felt my chest sting as my fingernails traced the hidden black and purple reminders that stained my chest. Then I said the words that had become my reality ever since that day.

“I don’t think that I’ll ever love again.”

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