N and I laid in bed, allowing the quiet desert setting to envelop us. Thankfully, our silly vodka-induced argument had passed. He slowly turned to me. “You know, the reason I get so upset and protective is because I love you so much,” N confessed, words still slightly slurred.
It was the first time that N had ever told me that he loved me. It wasn’t a huge revelation (we had been dating for over a year, after all), but I had never actually heard him utter those words aloud. Now they suddenly hung in the air, suspended.
He continued to speak. “I’ve been wanting to tell you for a while, ever since your birthday trip in Palm Springs.” He paused, as if trying to recall a deeply buried memory. “And it feels really weird not to say it when you leave on the weekends.”
I thought back to that magical Palm Springs getaway when we were enclosed on our private balcony, fingers intertwined, staring up at the stars. N was right about the weekends too. Every Sunday when it came time to part ways, he’d walk me to my car. Although we’d kiss and embrace, it always felt like something was missing. Like our goodbye was incomplete. Now he peered at me, anticipating my response.
“Did you think I wouldn’t say it back?” I inquired gently.
“No, I knew you would,” he replied. “I was just…scared.” His voice trailed off on the last word, but instinctively I knew what he meant. Those three little words held weight. When it comes to relationships, N is careful. Hesitant even. This admission would signal that the two of us had reached a new, deeper level.
After taking it all in, I finally asked, “Well, are you still scared?”
“No,” he responded confidently. “I love you.”
Without hesitation, the words that had always been there, waiting, fell from my lips.
“I love you, too.”