Story:Those Three Words
Those Three Words
Written by Shataivian
Lisa opened the door to her apartment and let Damario in. She jumped up to wrap her arms around him and kissed him, one of the only few times she initiated a kiss. “Hey, babe,” she greeted. “I finally get to see you.” Damario smiled at her but sighed at the same time.
“Yeah. Work’s just been… exhausting to say the least.” Damario tossed his light jacket onto Lisa’s couch and took a seat beside it.
“Is… Is everything okay?” Damario didn’t answer at first. Not for any reason that would suggest a positive response but was lost in thought all the same. When no one started talking again, Damario looked up at Lisa, only just realizing she was talking to him.
“Oh! Yeah! Yeah, everything’s fine. Just wish I didn’t have to work as much.” Lisa gingerly sat beside him.
“Well. You’re not working now.” Damario laughed and then went back to his thoughts. His elbows were resting on his knees and his fingers connected with their opposites. “Are you okay,” Lisa asked with concern in her voice.
“Um. Yeah. So, everything still good after meeting with Jason and his ex-wife?” Lisa nodded. “And your dad already went home?”
“Yeah. He was upset, though. He really wanted to see you again.”
“Aww. Yeah, I wanted to see him, too. That’s too bad. I don’t think I’ve seen him since he first introduced me to you.”
“Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of chances to see him.” Lisa laid her head on Damario’s shoulder.
“So. You’re gonna go through with it,” Damario changed the subject.
“Go through with what?” She sat up to look at Damario who was giving her a look as if she knew exactly what he was talking about. “Oh. Yeah. I think I will.”
“You’re not gonna message her first?” Lisa placed her head back on Damario’s shoulder, this time wrapping her arm around his and hugging it close.
“No. I figured if I try to message her first, that’ll give her an easy chance to say no and turn me away. But if I just show up, she won’t have time to say no, you know? Like, maybe she’ll entertain the thought better than if she had all the time in the world to come up with a way to say, ‘I don’t want you in my life.’”
“So, what’s the plan?”
“I’m thinking show up at her job and talk to her during her lunch break? I donno. Is that too brash?” Damario chuckled.
“You know what I would do?” Lisa just laughed. “You know what I’m going to say, right?”
“Yeah. ‘the thing that’s right for me.’ I know, I know.”
“Last time she saw you, you were an infant. You’re a grown woman now. She may be your mother, but you’re strong enough to take care of yourself.”
Lisa nodded and nestled even more into Damario. The two sat quietly on the couch for a time: Lisa thinking about her mother, and Damario with other thoughts that seemed to be causing his body to go rigid. When Lisa went to hug his arm closer to her, he did not move.
“Damario,” she asked. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Um. I was just wondering.” Lisa sat up to look at Damario. “Are you going home for Thanksgiving?”
“No?” Lisa cocked her head to one side.
“You’re not spending it with your dad?”
“No? Did he say something to you?”
“No. I was just wondering… if you’d like to join me for Thanksgiving.” Damario looked at Lisa the way a child would with their mother, begging her for some sweets.
“Of course! It’s not like I’m doing anything anyway.” She popped up and started to pace as she put together a short grocery list in her head. “Sure. We can do something small for the two of us.”
“Oh.” Damario stayed seated and retreated into himself. “No. I meant, would you like to join me and my family for Thanksgiving?”
“Oh…” Lisa stopped pacing. “Your family? Would they even want me there?”
“Yeah. They would love to meet you. I talk about you all the time. Do… Do you not want to go?”
“No! No, it’s not that.” She sat back down next to him. “You just seem very nervous about it. Is there something I should know, something I should do, say?”
“No. No.” Damario took a deep breath. “I’ve just never brought a girl home with me for the holidays before.” Lisa stared at him, shocked, before starting to giggle.
“What? Really? Never?” Damario shook his head. “I don’t believe that,” Lisa said, crossing her arms. “You’ve been in other relationships before. A lot of them, longer than us, right?”
“Yeah, but I never brought them home with me. This is the first time I’m asking this.”
“How come?” Lisa leaned forward to get a better view of the shelled off Damario.
“Well, I never really felt close enough with any of them. I know it’s childish, but the holidays mean a lot to me and my family. I don’t want to bring just anyone over. It’s a time of being close with the people you love.” He didn’t move, but his eyes shifted over to look at Lisa.
“I understand that,” Lisa nodded. “You don’t have to be afraid of me. I’m not going to mess things up for you. Just tell me what I need to do, and I’ll make sure we have a great Thanksgiving together,” she said in a cheery voice. Damario sighed.
“No. It’s not like that. In fact, all you really need to do to get along with my family is to just be you. They already love you as much as I do.”
“Oh. Then what’s wrong?” Damario rustled his hair in light frustration. “Am I missing something?”
“It’s just… this means a lot to me. This is a big deal to me.” Lisa was trying her best to follow what Damario was saying, but the more he spoke, the more he seemed visibly stressed. “I’ve… just been thinking.”
“Thinking? About what?” Lisa’s voice was soft and full of patience.
“About you. Actually. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. I’ve really been happy with us.”
“Uh huh…?” Lisa’s voice sounded as patient as before, but inside, her body had seized up.
“I know this summer was crazy. And with that lawsuit and all… I’m just looking forward to more time with just the two of us.” Lisa nodded with a forced smile. “You know, I was honestly shocked when you chose me over him. Not that I don’t trust you or anything. It just would have made sense to me if you told me that you wanted to be with him over me.” Lisa’s body soften a little as he spoke about her choice. “It meant a lot to me. It’s just nice… you know… to be loved.” Lisa shot out of her seat, involuntarily.
“Oh! Yeah! Well, you deserve to be cared for, you know! And Jason wasn’t gonna get it!” Damario stood up and squeezed her hands between his.
“I want to be completely honest with you, Lisa. I’ve never felt this way about anyone. I feel like I’ve got something precious with you. When I’m with you I feel safe. I feel listened to. I feel… equal. You… Lisa. I’ve really fallen for you. I love you, Lisa.” Lisa snatched her hands back from him, the force causing her to step backwards.
“I’m. I’m sorry!” She couldn’t believe she reacted so harshly to those three little words, but it was too late. Damario already had his head down and was making his way back down onto the couch.
“You don’t have to be sorry. I thought that might be how you felt.”
“No!” She flopped down onto the couch beside him. “No… I’m just…” She sighed. “You know…”
“Do you really think I’d hurt you like Jason did?” Lisa said nothing. “I’m not him.”
“But you treat me as if I am.”
“No…” Lisa buried her face in her hands. “You know, my dad was just joking about you being his soon-to-be son-in-law… and I panicked. He asked me what the problem was, and I said… I said that you were too perfect, and that Jason was also… perfect… Once…”
“What did Jason do to hurt you?” Damario had his fingers pressed against one another again.
“He… He used me when he was unsure. He lied to me, to himself, took advantage of how I felt for him. He strung me along, making me believe that we could be together.”
“How could I do any of those things?” Lisa sat up straight to listen to what he was saying. “I know exactly how I feel about you. I told you, even though I knew you wouldn’t feel the same for me. I know you care about me and I know you’re still aching. I’m wary of all that. And most importantly, Lisa, we’re together. I can’t ‘string you along as I try to figure out whether or not I want to be with you.’ I’m already with you. You’re afraid of me being Jason when you and I are further along than you and him ever were. I’m past the point where I can turn into him.” Lisa re-buried her face. “But. I get it.” He pulled Lisa in close to him and wrapped one arm around her. “I’m not expecting you to say it back. I’m not pressuring you to. I’m not sour about it. In fact, I’m glad you didn’t just say it back when I did. I know that when you do say it, you’ll mean it. But that’s not going to change how I feel about you now. I love you. I truly do. That’s why I want you to join me and my family this Thanksgiving. You’re the first person I’ve felt this open with. This comfortable with. This… safe.”
“How can you feel safe with someone who can’t even say those three words back to you,” Lisa asked with her voice muffled in his chest. Damario laughed.
“Because I know you’ll tell it like it is. You won’t sugar coat things. You won’t lie to make me feel better. And you don’t try to hurt me. So what, you can’t say those three words? You haven’t taken advantage of me. You haven’t tried to sue me… You haven’t told me that my transplant was a ‘waste of a perfectly good heart…’ You haven’t told me that ‘they should have never resuscitated me.’” Lisa nestled her face further into his chest.
“But… I could be so much better than just that.”
“And you’re the only one who’s ever said that to me!” At this point it was a wonder how Lisa could even breathe with her face that mashed into his chest.
“But…” She finally came up for air and looked him in the eyes. “You deserve so much more. You deserve to feel like a king. You deserve to not wonder whether or not someone is just gonna up and leave you. You deserve to be happy.” Damario smiled back at her.
“What do you think I’ve got with you?” Lisa swatted at him, embarrassed. “It’s fine. It really is. I just want you to know how I feel. That’s it.”
“Even if I’m not on the same page?” Damario nodded back at her. She then sat up and rubbed her face. “You’re too forgiving.”
“Put it this way. Would you be mad at me if you said it and I didn’t?” Lisa took a moment to put herself in his shoes, then shook her head. “There. You see? So, stop worrying about offending me. I wouldn’t still be here if I thought you were a horrible person.” Lisa laughed. She then twisted her body so that she could hug Damario from the side. He twisted back to hug her back.
“Ugh… I feel gross,” Lisa groaned. Damario laughed.
“You should see your hair right now.”
“I’m covered in ick,” she groaned on as she sat up straight.
“Oh, god. You’re right! Ew! Get away!” Lisa tried to rub her face on Damario as he squirmed around to get away from her. But, alas, she caught him, rubbing her face across his arm. “You are disgusting, you know that?”
“Sorry! No take-backs,” Lisa laughed.
Once the laughter died down Lisa got up, hugged, and thanked Damario. She could feel that her face was still a mess and decided to head to the bathroom to wash up. As she stood in front of the mirror, she felt disgusted by what was staring right back at her. She had the perfect man right there and she couldn’t even admit that she felt the same way for him. She was clearly comfortable with him. She clearly felt safe around him. She could open up about anything with him, but not this? She splashed some water on her face and sat down on the edge of the bathtub. With her phone out and opened, she scrolled through photos of the two of them. All the selfies. All the candid shots that friends had sent her. The two of them always looked so happy together. After a few minutes of scrolling, she stood back in front of the mirror and stared herself in the eyes.
“Just tell him the truth,” she whisper-shouted at herself. “Say it! Say the words. You know you feel the same! Don’t be Jason back to him…!” Her eyes widened. “No… No, I can’t do that to him. I won’t do that to him… I can’t… What am I doing?” She threw some more water on her face, fixed her hair, and left the bathroom. Slowly, she shuffled her way back into the living room, her eyes clearly not focused on anything.
“Hey,” Damario called out. “You okay over there?” Lisa looked over at Damario. His brows were furrowed with concern. His body in a position ready to get up and come to her aid. Her lips curled upward allowing her cheeks to catch the tears now streaming from her eyes. Damario stood to his feet, still worried about her. When he got to her, Lisa grabbed his hands.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. Damario quickly pulled her in to hug her. “I’m so worried about you becoming Jason, I didn’t realize that I was.”
“No. No, you’re not doing that,” Damario tried to console her.
“I can’t lose you the way he lost me. I know how I feel. I’ve known how I felt for a long time now.” Damario placed one hand on the back of her head to hold her tighter. “You were honest with me,” she continued. “I haven’t been.” Damario tried to keep her in his embrace as though if he’d let go, so would her feelings. But Lisa finally pushed out of the hug and began to caress his face. “Come,” she whispered. “I have three very important words to tell you.” Damario let out a noise that sounded like he nearly choked on his breath. All he could do was smile and nod at her with tears in his own eyes as she slowly pulled him into her bedroom.