He taught me how to read people’s eyes. He, a student of non-verbal cues, became my teacher. Without him, I might not have noticed the visual embrace of lovers’ extended stare, the broken contact guarding a secret, or the lie harbored in a sideways glance.
As I pinned his laundered shirt on the clothesline, I hoped I had been a good student. But could the student interpret the teacher?
“You know how to tell if someone is into you?” He’d asked on our first date over twenty years ago. He twirled spaghetti around his fork, never shifting his gaze from me.
“Not really.” I glanced away, unwilling to surrender to vulnerability. I focused an inordinate amount of attention on my iced tea, poking the lemon wedge with my straw and swirling sugar sediment to watch it settle like flakes in a shaken snow globe.
He leaned forward, elbows on the table. “Eye contact.”
“Hmmm. “ Realizing my preoccupation with the straw, I let go.
“Aren’t you going to ask how much?”
I shrugged. “I presume the look would be longer than one given to a panhandler and less than a rush hour car crash.”
He laughed. “Eight seconds.”
“Is that a fact?” I tied knots in the paper straw wrapper. I couldn’t let my eyes betray me.
He leaned back in his chair. “From my experience.”
I lifted my gaze to him. “And what do you surmise from our eye contact?” My boldness surprised me.
“If I told you right now, you’d run and never turn back.”
His lopsided grin made my stomach quiver. I tilted my head to the side, wordlessly asking for elaboration.
His hand covered my fidgety hands. “I’ll wait. I know what I want, but I sense you’re scared.”
He had me at I’ll wait.
Over the clothesline, I spied him leaning on the wall of a nearby terrace. Uncertainty crept over me. I feared he’d become bored, or worse, had already found comfort in another’s arms. Until a few months ago, he would tend to laundry with me. He’d shake the clothes and hand them to me to pin, our hands brushing in the exchange. Maybe I should have said how much the intimacy of an ordinary moment meant to me? I thought he knew.
He rubbed his chin stubble with his right hand, thoughts obviously absent from the action. He shook his head. I knew frustration when I saw it. Then he ducked out of sight.
I stared, hoping he would sense my need. He didn’t. I clipped the last white shirt to the line and grabbed the empty basket. I contemplated heading to the garden to read; to avoid him because my fears might be confirmed. Instead, I took to the stairs, following the labyrinth that led to the other terrace.
Before I crossed the threshold, I took a deep breath and imagined courage inflating my lungs. “We need to talk.”
He jerked his head up, obviously startled. “Addy, I didn’t expect you…”
I wanted to cry. Everyone called me Adele. The familiar, intimate ‘Addy’ was reserved only for him. He rose to his feet, standing in front of what he’d been fiddling with. I tried to peek around him, but his legs blocked my view. “Do you still love me?”
His eyes widened, as if my words had lashed him across the cheek. “More than ever. Why do you ask?” He moved toward me.
I averted my gaze to the ground. “You’ve been distant lately and I worried you’d found someone else.”
With his index finger, he nudged my chin. I focused on the flecks of amber amongst the green. “I only love you. Come here.” He took my hand and led me further onto the terrace. “We’ll be married twenty-one years…”
“Tomorrow,” I finished.
He smiled. “Yes. I’ve been working on something special. It’s not quite done, but I think it’s time you see it.” He stopped in front of a stone structure, about two feet tall.
“Oh. It’s nice.”
He knelt. “Look closer.” He pulled me beside him.
I took in the peaks and valleys as my fingertips brushed the intricate details. I gasped when I realized the sculpture was of us in an embrace. “It’s beautiful,” I managed through threatened tears.
“As are you, my dear.”
Our visual connection held for much longer than eight seconds. In his eyes, I read everything I needed to know.
He loves me.
This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (I’m at 740) and (1) use the sentence ““He taught me how to read people’s eyes.” as the first sentence, AND (2) make some sort of reference to the art prompt, Waterfall, a lithograph by the master of impossible constructions, M.C. Escher.
If you’re diabetic, I hope you have insulin handy. It’s funny, but I find it much easier to write fear, tragedy and heartbreak than to write a sweet and sentimental love story. I’m not sure what that says about me! At any rate, I resisted the urge to twist this into a sad ending and left it on a high note (you know, to really throw you off 🙂 )
The prompt is open to anyone, so if you’re interested in joining the fun, click the badge below!