Maggie stared into his deep chocolate eyes, innocent hope filling them, momentarily forcing her to forget about Zach. She instantly broke the gaze, fear freezing all of the blissful butterflies in her stomach. I have a boyfriend, I have a boyfriend. Despite her attempts to keep it hidden, Ari, as always, easily read the distress in her eyes as if they were an open book. What are you thinking?” he asked softly, keeping his distance. Maggie spoke the truth. It was always the truth with Ari. Always.
“I wish we could have a moment that, when it’s over, it would have never happened,” she glanced at him. Odds were he didn’t understand. She wished he didn’t . But what doesn’t Ari understand?
“What would you do in that moment?” His eyes were intense, filling Maggie with a feeling of doubt towards everything she believed in; he shouldn’t make her feel so… wanted. Maggie gulped, the butterflies resurrecting in her gut. Once again, she told him to effortful truth. She needed to. If it didn’t leave her lips, it would have been bottled up in her chest, gathering the stray emotions until it explodes and blows more holes in her heart. “I’d kiss you.”
She refused to meet his eyes, but, being Ari, he caught them anyway. “I would too,” he chuckled, running his fingers through his thick, beautiful hair. Maggie didn’t exactly find the humor in the situation, considering she had a perfectly good boyfriend waiting for her in America, and she was falling for Ari all over again. Why did he have that effect on her? Anger suddenly surged through Maggie’s pure soul, an emotion as foreign, as alien, as anything. It was fair. It wasn’t fair! Why did she have a boyfriend? Why did the world have to be cruel enough to separate Ari and Maggie across oceans? And why did Ari make her ask all of those questions??
Maggie turned her book to him, unable to meet his kind eyes. She knew she would melt into them; all of her restraints, any standing barriers, would come tumbling to the floor from those eyes. “What are you thinking?” He asked again. She could feel the heat radiating off of his body as he stepped even closer to her neglectful stance. They were practically touching. “You know you can tell me anything.”
His soft voice drained the rage from Maggie’s heart, filtering it to mere sadness. Almost to herself, she whispered from the truth of her heart, “This is the moment”. After she realized she’d said it out loud, if only a mere breath, she mentally punched herself in the gut. Though she knew she didn’t elaborate, she also knew that Gal understood the recognition. This is the moment that she wished she could forget when it’s finished. She wished with such a strong urge that she could stretch on her toes and brush his lips with hers, learning if they felt as soft as they looked. Maggie sighed and shut her eyes, knowing that she’d have to say goodbye sooner or later. Her flight back to America was a few hours, and her mom called her twice from her cousin’s house. She turned around, opened her eyes, and for the first time, she looked at him. Meaning, she really looked at him. She soaked up every aspect and feature about this man only a year older than she, but clearly a man nonetheless. His smooth, dark brown hair fell just about his eyes, causing his big hands to, every few moments, brush it back from his face. My God, those hands. Those hands that fit perfectly with Maggie’s when they danced to “Fall For You”, by Secondhand Serenade. Just them, trying to figure out the next steps under the setting sun and in the shadows casted by the towering trees. Awkward, but perfect.
His lean but think arms bulged out from under his T-Shirt, the light blue accenting his olive skin. Maggie wanted so badly for Ari to take her into his arms and just hold her forever. And then his eyes. His chocolate eyes that seemed to grip her, capture her in a cage of beautiful weakness. It was as if she could fall into his warm gaze, drowning in thick waves of lovely perfection. He was perfect. He was perfect.
He noticed her staring.
He ran his fingers through his hair, once again tousling up his hair in a cute, boyish way. He met her gaze again with such seriousness she was taken aback. “I guess this is goodbye,” Maggie said softly, before he could say something that could, if possible, break her heart even more. His lips opened, paused, then closed again, as if he was about to say something but decided against it. He seemed so sad, so broken, Maggie could feel that distress radiating from his body. “I guess so,” he sighed.
They stood there, wasting several precious moments to simply look at each other, breathing in each other’s presences before they really had to say goodbye. “Do I at least get a hug?” Ari half smiled and she joined in easily. Maggie nodded and retreated to a place she wished she could call home. He seemed to have gathered her in his arms and she let him; Maggie simply gave into him. By this point, every trace of Zach had left her mind, and she rested her head on his shoulder. Maggie felt his lips in her hair and she closed her eyes, enjoying the moment. After far too soon, he broke the amazing embrace and she stepped away. “Goodbye,” he whispered.
Before tears had a chance to fall from her eyes, Maggie made an attempt to crack a joke. “Wow, this is super depressing. I feel like we’re on some kind of soap opera,” she forced a giggle, and his lips quirked up, but he remained as solemn as before.
“Maybe one more hug?” Ari smiled and Maggie grinned at this, nodding and mumbling an “alright”. He closed the space between them and folded her in his arms, engulfing her, become one. She breathed in his scent, a delicious mixture between mint and jasmine. Maggie held onto him tightly, and he returned the intensity, even bringing more, if possible. “You know,” he whispered softly in Maggie’s ear, “we can have that moment”.
She froze and stepped away from him, her heart skipping a beat and freezing over all at once. Oh my God, I have a boyfriend. I have a boyfriend! A great, amazing, respectful boyfriend! But why do I feel like I need Ari so much? Because I do need him. But I can never have him.
“No, we can’t,” Maggie replied, attempting to apply false strength to her words. So much for strength; her voice cracked. He took a step towards her and cupped a hand on her cheek. Maggie slightly gasped, feeling electric shocks at his touch.
“I think we can.” Ari stared into her eyes, captivated, hypnotized by his intense yet gentle glare. She stared back helplessly, physically and emotionally unable to move her feet. “Can you forget?”
She couldn’t speak. All she could manage was looking into his wide eyes, waiting for his next move.
They were silent for what seemed like infinity until he slowly started lowering his face to hers, like gravity pulling them together. Maggie’s eyes automatically closed, and she felt his breath warm on her cheek. His nose skimmed hers and, as odd as it sounds, Maggie resisted the urge to giggle from both the strange gesture and the butterflies in her gut. When Ari’s lips brushed hers, she practically unwillingly let all guards left crumble to the ground. Ari kissed her then. As in, he really kissed her. Some distant part of Maggie screamed out how wrong it was and yet the other part, the majority of her heart and mind, didn’t care. She was always the one to live for today. And if this wasn’t living, she honestly didn’t know the meaning of life.
His lips left hers far too soon, and when Maggie opened her eyes, she found him staring at her. Her lips tingled from the aftershock of the kiss, causing her body to erupt with the strongest emotional bliss it had ever experienced. She was on the verge of grinning at Ari and telling him all of the wonderful feelings she felt right then, but, as she slowly faded back into reality, she remembered. Oh my God; I have a boyfriend. I have a boyfriend and I just kissed another guy!! Oh my God, technically, I just cheated! Before Maggie could start hyperventilating, she closed her eyes and breathed out deeply, as if everything, all the sins she had just committed, could fly away as easily as that single breath.
“What are you thinking?” She heard Ari ask. She opened her eyes and melted at the purity, sincerity, and mere innocence in his eyes. Maggie didn’t know how she couldn’t be angry with him; he just pushed passed everything she believed in, and he still emitted a heart-breaking display of innocence. “How to you feel?”
“Confused,” Maggie remarked, fidgeting with her necklace. “One thing I’m sure of is I won’t forget that.” Ari shut his eyes and let his head fall, something she realized he did whenever he was either distressed or in pain. “Me too,” he chuckled wryly.
“Well,” Maggie breathed after a second. “I guess this is goodbye?”
He ran his fingers through his hair. “I guess so.”
“Until next year, Ari,” Maggie made the attempt to smile, desperate to find that crack of light in the nauseating grey coursing through her veins. He smiled softly in reply and put up his hand, marking the farewell he failed to say with words. Her smile in return was, like his, masking the unbelievable amount of pain clenching her heart, and they started to back away slowly from each other. Maggie turned and began stepping towards her aunt’s house, glancing back only once to notice Ari glance back at the same time.
Maggie pivoted back around and breathed, trying to untangle the knot of confusing emotions forming in her soul. With each step, the emotions grew and tore her heart open even more.
Glimpsing at the sky, Maggie noticed one stray bird soaring behind the crowd, the flock. And, as she made her way to her destination, she wondered if that bird felt as alone as she felt right then.