"No matter what, I'll always want good things for you. I only want you to be happy and I hope you find what you're looking for." she wrote. Her finger hovered over the send key, and for a second she considered allowing herself the satisfaction of saying what she really felt. Instead, like she had in the past, she saved the truth. She practiced the art of the mature breakup. Smile until it becomes genuine and the glimmer in your eye is not brightened with a tear struggling to hang on.
There wasn't any point. The more she thought about it the more it seemed like there hadn't ever been a point. Of course there had been love, in some strange intangible form, but they were just holding spots for other people. So friends they would be. The conversations would dwindle and they would reach out in moments of sadness, desperation, or obligatory well wishes on special occasions. She knew the game and was well practiced in pretending the hurt wasn't her own doing.
Her mind drifted to a mid-February day from years ago. She had known then what she wanted. There wasn't a single moment of that day that hadn't felt right. In all her years, she had never been more sure of anything. From the way he smiled at her to the way his mere presence settled her and excited her at the same time, she held every moment with him marked with an asterisk. The bar had been set. The spot had been reserved.
There were brief moments in the years that followed when she caught that feeling again, but they were so fleeting that she brushed them aside and chalked them up to nostalgia. Every man she met or toyed with the idea of developing anything more than a surface level friendship with was measured against a level of perfection they would never be able to reach. Deep down she knew it was unfair. How could they compete against an unknown rival?
It would almost be fair if he had been perfect. Even through the gauzy haze of idealistic stylings that memories are prone to, she knew he wasn't perfect. He never had been. His compliments were often marked with inappropriateness and his brief moments of tenderness were carefully layered between jokes and sarcasm. There was only enough visible to make her want to run her fingers over the surface, to make her wonder what else existed beneath.
As much as she had often wished he would lay himself bare, she knew that he was an artwork meant to be taken in slowly. There was depth and texture that deserved appreciation, colors and contrasts that played off each other, and glimpses of movement when looked at from different angles. Yet you could see marks that the artist had attempted to cover up. Perhaps an over aggressive brush mark here and there, and in some places, if you looked closely, there were parts of the canvas that simply didn't hold the paint. Those small imperfections gave the piece feeling.
While the walls of her world held many works of art, the most amazing piece was one that was conspicuously missing. While she had attempted to fill the space with works from other artists, none fit. There was always an outline of where he had been, a slightly different color to the display, a place meant only for him.