It was when Luke was leaving the bathroom that he saw Mr. Perfect. At first Luke merely sneered as he noticed all of the attention Mr. Perfect was getting from the ladies, but he was soon forced to focus on Mr. Perfect as he realized that Mr. Perfect was not paying attention to his adoring fans, rather, his eyes were locked on the one woman in the bar who was too immersed in talking to the bar keeper to notice him, which just happened to be Milina. Luke could spy Mr. Perfect as he looked Milina up and down and straightened a bit, obviously weighing whether or not he should go and introduce himself.
Luke couldn’t let them meet!
Luke rushed back to Milina’s side, noticing that as he walked Mr. Perfect had gotten up and was heading their way! “Hey, this place sucks, let’s go look at the beach.”
She looked at him like he was the mud on her boots, “I’m having fun here.”
“You’re free to leave.” She said coldly as the bar keeper set a drink in front of her.
“But I want you to come to the sea with me! It’ll be beautiful and romantic! Come on, Milina, I’ll pay for your drinks when we get back.”
“I can buy my own drinks.” She snapped, as Luke observed with a sense of panic that Mr. Perfect was getting even closer. The situation changed from bad to worse as Milina turned and laid eyes on him. Luke’s breath caught in his throat as he worried that at any moment she would start to smile at Mr. Perfect encouragingly. Instead she got up, “Fine, let’s go.”
Luke felt a rush of relief as they hurried out of the bar and onto the beach, where the fresh sea air greeted them, driving away the smells of beer and sweat. Luke smiled at her victoriously as they walked to the shore. “I knew you loved me.”
Her eyes flashed as she made a disgusted face, “Idiot! How could I possibly love you? I just know trouble when I see it. He’s no one to get involved with. But don’t think that just because I left with you it means anything.”
For some reason, her words stung more than usual. And then it hit him that he should never have doubted their love in the first place by thinking that another man, no matter how handsome, could possibly threaten it! What a fool he could be! Still, perhaps he could salvage the evening? “It means I’m good, though, right?”
She rolled her eyes as she folded her arms across her chest, but didn’t say anything as they walked along the shore, which in many ways was worse than shooting him down. Now she couldn’t even be bothered to talk to him. He wasn’t even worth her breath.
Looking at her became too painful, so he turned his attention to the sea. It was a beautiful night lit by a majestic full moon that was reflected in the waves that crashed along the beach. That it made for a romantic scene was undeniable. Yet as he walked beside Milina, the woman he loved, he felt so empty and lonely.
He was with her, but not. Sometimes he just couldn’t fool himself. It was times like these when he felt the depths of her coldness instead of love, and the romantic scene just made the contrast even sharper. But then, why should he be surprised? After all, since when had anyone loved him?
“I should have let the sea swallow me up.” He said bitterly.
“Huh?” she asked.
Why had he said that? It was stupid of him! He shoved his hands in his pockets and told himself that for once he was going to be silent. But then she asked, “Did you nearly drown?”
“No,” he said, and then to his alarm, he found himself saying more, “My mom took me to the sea one day and left me there, and never came back for me. Turns out I wasn’t her favorite. Still, I couldn’t blame her.”
Milina looked mildly surprised as she said, “Why not?”
Luke sighed, “I was just too much to handle. I mean, you’ve seen it. The rage I get. It’s always been that way and it scared her and my little brothers. For the longest time I couldn’t see why they got so mad at me because I had good reasons for getting angry, you know? If someone was being mean or stealing someone’s toy or something they deserved my rage I felt. But then I hurt my youngest brother very badly. He was only two, you know. He didn’t know he was doing anything wrong, and it was lucky that there was a priest who could heal him so there wasn’t any lasting damage. After that I saw it was a problem, but my mom had had enough. So she took me to the sea and left me there. I couldn’t blame her. She had to protect everyone else.”
Idiot! Why did I tell her this, he wondered as fear took hold of him, she’s never going to love me now! She’ll leave me, just like my mother did.
“What’d you do then?” Milina asked.
Luke looked out at the sea, “Well, I thought about jumping from the docks to be honest, it seemed like it would be for the best. I don’t think anyone would have missed me. If anything they would be glad that me and the rage was gone. But I ran into that gang I was involved with when we met and they took me in. I tried to control it, but it scared them even. I mean, these were hardened criminals and they were scared of it. But I was good at what I did for them, so they tolerated it and used me.”
Milina looked uneasily out at the sea and said nothing, and Luke panicked as he worried that he had just blown his chance with her. This was why he always had to act so stupid and ridiculous. You can’t let people know what you really feel, can’t let people see your vulnerabilities, you always have to keep your emotional armor on because humans will just take your weaknesses and use them to trample on you.
“It’s why I was glad when you got away from them.” Milina finally said. “It put you on a better path.”
It took Luke a moment to comprehend what she said. There was no judgment or condemnation. And no rejection. But there was no love either. And he desperately needed for there to be love. Before he could think better of it he said, “You’re the only one who can talk me down from it. The rage. You can get through to me, make me see reason. No one else has ever been able to do it.”
Milina’s eyes widened, and Luke spoke even more quickly, “I’d given up when I was with the gang at controlling it. But meeting you, you showed me that I can control it! And it reminded me that I want to be better, and stronger. I want to control it. I want to be better for you.”
Milina exhaled, but didn’t say anything. He felt as though he had stripped himself naked before her and was waiting for her to laugh. This was no way to make someone love you. It only created the tools which others could use to crush you with. He started cursing himself for saying as much as he did. But then he glanced at her and noticed that the corners of her mouth were turned up slightly in a small smile. “Milina, you’re smiling!” he exclaimed.
“Stop imagining things.” She snapped as the smile vanished as her face resume its more typical stone cold nature.
But he felt a warmth grow within him as he thought that maybe he hadn’t turned her away and that, even better, he was finally reaching her! A smile today, and manifestations of love would surely follow tomorrow. He looked to the sea and felt sure that it would soon, like the tide, it would come in.