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Run Away from Love – A Short Story

Feb 14, 2021

” Brenda!”

I heard him, but I kept running. I ran through the market—stalls filled to the brim with trinkets, rugs, souvenirs, and fruits. I ran through the street, causing cars to halt and honk. I ran through the alley—the stink of cat urine and poop poisoning my nose.

I kept running. I couldn’t stop. If I did, it would get me. You know, it, love.

The man who yelled stop, that was Charlie, the one I wasn’t supposed to fall for.

***

I met Charlie on an island getaway for singles. There was promise of romance and the chance to find “the one.” I knew who “the one” was. It wasn’t Charlie. I didn’t know Charlie. It was Rick, my best friend since third grade. I knew we were supposed to be together, but Rick couldn’t see it. He was blind to it. And I planned to open his eyes.

He laughed when I first told him about the retreat. But he agreed to go. “We’ll make it fun,” he said. “And, who knows, maybe we’ll both find our match.”

I smiled inwardly and continued to plan the getaway.

***

When we docked on the island, the retreat employees quickly whisked us away to our private rooms and pampered us for a dinner with a potential match. I was excited. I was sure my date would be Rick.

I showed up to dinner in a red sparkly number and waited, watching for Rick to enter, smile, and saunter to our table. “What a surprise,” he would mutter. “But not really. I always knew it would be you.” And then he would kiss me. Oh, how I have yearned for those lips.

Ten minutes past the arrival time, I cringed. This wasn’t like Rick. He was scary punctual. I was sure he had a perfectly good excuse.

And then, I saw someone, but it wasn’t Rick. The man walked in, looked at me, smiled, and casually took a seat at the table.

“I’m Charlie,” he greeted.

Tears welled in my eyes. I wanted to run and hide and cry. I almost did. But then Rick walked by the door with his date. And he was happy. Delighted. His eyes twinkled for the girl he was with.

Jealousy surged inside and I decided to play a new game.

“I’m Brenda,” I smiled back at Charlie, while watching Rick out of the corner of my eye. He didn’t see me and continued down the hall.

I scowled.

“Are you okay?” Charlie asked.

I tried to hide my disappointment with another smile. “Yes,” I replied. “Just dandy.”

***

“Surf ‘n Turf for the gentleman and fillet mignon for the lady.” A server placed plates in front of us. The food looked and smelled delightful.

I took a bite and let a satisfied sigh escape my lips.

Charlie laughed. “Good?”

My face flushed with embarrassment. “Oh, yes. It’s incredible.”

“May I try?”

I scooted my plate toward Charlie. As he reached over, a pleasant aroma of musky sandalwood infiltrated my nose. I couldn’t help but succumb to the enchantment.

“No!” I silently berated myself. “Don’t do it. Don’t fall for this guy. You’re here for Rick.”

And then Charlie snorted. I’m not sure where it came from. I was too busy paying attention to my yearnings for Rick. But the sound made me guffaw. And then Charlie snorted again. And we broke down in laughter, unable to get over the odd noises we’d just produced in our romantic scenery.

The rest of the date was a dream. We laughed. We talked and talked and talked. It was easy, like talking to an old friend.

“Charlie could be a great friend,” I thought at the end of the night. “But not a boyfriend. Not the one. That’s Rick. I’m sure of it.”

But when my thoughts turned to Rick, my heart ached. Would he ever look at me the way he looked at that girl tonight?

***

The next day, we met as one big retreat group with our matches. Charlie greeted me with a bigger smile than the night before, if that were possible. Rick whispered to me, “He’s definitely your type.”

My face flushed. “But you’re my type,” I wanted to say.

Charlie took my hand and led me to a boat. I looked back at Rick to see his reaction. But there wasn’t one. He had eyes only for his girl.

“In?”

I turned to Charlie. He held out a hand to help me in the boat. I took it and sat down. He sat in front, facing me, with that smile. And that smell. It was intoxicating.

“Snap out of it!” I yelled at myself.

“Huh?” Charlie questioned.

“Oh,” I said, my skin burning red. “I, uh, was thinking of something else. Sorry. Not you.”

Charlie smiled and gestured for me to take up my oars. We rowed out to the middle of the lake and stopped.

I looked around for Rick, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Charlie tried to make small talk. My mind was somewhere else.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yes. Why?”

He didn’t answer but stared at me silently, a frustrated look on his face. I was ruining this retreat for him. I scowled at myself and looked around for Rick again. He was nowhere in sight. Gone. Eyes only for another girl. Always for another girl. I guess the retreat was a bad idea. He would not see me the way he was supposed to, not here.

I looked to Charlie. He was watching me. Maybe trying to figure me out.

“New plan,” I thought to myself. “Enjoy time with Charlie. At least have fun here. Get Rick on the way back from the retreat. The thing with this girl won’t last. It never does. I’ll be his rebound. Then he’ll see. I’m no rebound. I’m ‘the one.'”

I touched Charlie’s arm. “I’m sorry,” I apologized. “Just distracted, I guess. I’m okay. Let’s get some fish.”

Charlie seemed unsure, but he pulled out the fishing polls and gear. In ten minutes, Charlie’s disappointment was gone and we were fishing, laughing, talking about all the things, actually enjoying our time together.

***

The rest of the day was filled with scavenger hunts, cooking class, and a romantic picnic for dinner.

It was the romantic picnic that made me run.

It was fine at first. It was just a picnic. With Charlie. I’d already established in my mind that he was a friend, just a friend.

We sat on the blanket together and smiled at the glowing trees and basket filled to the brim. Charlie pulled out the food one by one: Cheese, crackers, pasta salad, deli meats, spreads, fruit. It looked incredible and we dug in immediately.

The conversation was just as it had been all day. It was easy, fun, friendly. He talked a little deeper about ourselves—our hopes, our dreams, our desires for the future, our families, our childhood stories.

I found myself smiling as Charlie talked about his dog. I hurt for him as he talked about failing law school. I saw his eyes twinkle when I told him about my dream to open a cake shop.

And then, he did it, he leaned in and kissed me. And I let him. And it was fireworks, everything I dreamed that a kiss from “the one” could be.

He broke away, smiling. I smiled back.

And then I remembered Rick. “No,” I stated. Without saying a word, I stood and walked away.

Charlie followed.

I ran.

***

I ran away from the private retreat and to the public shopping area. I ran. And Charlie followed.

“Brenda!” Charlie yelled. “Brenda, please.”

But I kept running. I ran past the shopping, past the restaurants, past the pier. I ran to a beach crowded with people. I squeezed in the crowd of dancers and just stood, letting everyone move around me.

“Brenda!” I heard Charlie yell.

But I didn’t move. I stared at the sky. “This wasn’t supposed to happen,” I said aloud. “It was supposed to be Rick.”

And that’s when I saw him, Rick, with his girl. He held her close and slow danced. He looked happy. He looked relaxed. He looked like he had eyes only for her. Always for another girl.

He didn’t see me staring. He didn’t see me yearning for him. He never saw me.

But Charlie saw me. Charlie saw me and he was looking for me.

I looked around. I couldn’t hear Charlie anymore. Maybe he gave up?

Did I want Charlie to give up? If I stood there for long enough, maybe I wouldn’t have to see Charlie again. But did I want that? Did I want to never see that smile? Or hear that laugh? Or hear his stories? Or feel the joy he feels or the pain he feels?

“No,” I said. “No.”

I squeezed back through the crowd of dancers and ran, this time in circles, not away, but to, looking for Charlie. I didn’t see him, at first. But then, at the edge of the ocean, there he was, watching the waves, sadness in his shoulders.

“Charlie!” I called.

He looked around in surprise. He saw me, confusion and hurt on his face. He stood, unsure what to do.

I ran to him and paused a foot away. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I…” I wasn’t sure how to say all the things I needed to say. “I’m just sorry,” I said again.

Charlie took a step closer, a serious look on his face. “Do you want this?” he asked.

A simple question. The right question.

I nodded.

And he placed a hand under my chin and gently brought my lips to his. The kiss was gentle, soft, understanding.

He looked at me, sighed, and said, “This is what I’ve been searching for.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “I didn’t know it, but this is exactly what I’ve been searching for as well.”

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