All she’d said was, “I love you.” He didn’t say it back. She hadn’t expected that he would. She knew it was a one-sided relationship – if you could call it that. He was in it for one thing, she was in it hoping for another. She couldn’t always help saying what she felt. But those three little words sent him scurrying like a cockroach when the lights came on. He said he was running up the street for some cigarettes. But she’d bought him an entire case a few days ago. He’d have to come back for his stuff. She’d find a box to put everything in, later. Maybe she’d rearrange the room, so her heart would forget that he was ever there. Right now, she was trying to deal with the reality of rejection. How do you spend so much time with somebody, get to know each other’s likes and dislikes, show each other affection, get intimate with them, only to have the rug yanked from under you when you put what you’re feeling into words?
Maybe she should just burn his stuff, pawn his horn and give his fancy alligator shoes to Goodwill. He was treating her like a groupie. Groupies don’t care that you like lemon merengue pie. They certainly don’t make it from scratch. She leaned out of the bedroom window, smoking one of the cigarettes from the case she bought, and promised herself that she would never let a man into her life like this again. She finished smoking and turned back to the room. It looked like a tornado came through the place. That’s the kind of love they made. Wild, passionate, tear-down-the-walls kind of love. The record on the player still turned, the needle making that rhythmic static sound, begging to be turned over to the B side. She would deal with setting the room and her life back to right in the morning. She was about to crawl back into the empty bed to have a good cry until she fell asleep, when he returned. He walked eight blocks to the 24-hour market and bought her the last bunch of flowers they had and a candy ring. He kissed her forehead and said he loved her, too. He said it like he meant it. She cried tears of relief. Maybe she could give love another chance, just one more time.