“I wish you were going with me,” Michelle sighed, looking at Connie as she lay on the sofa with her injured leg elevated on a couple of cushions.
“Even if I weren’t laid up here with a bad leg, I wouldn’t go with you,” she told her.
Michelle’s eyes widened in surprise. “Why not?”
“You’re running away.”
“Running away from what?”
“You mean, from whom. You’re running away from Paul. No matter where you go, you can’t run away from your feelings for him.”
Michelle got up in agitation and went over to the window, looking out at the quiet street outside. “He’s so young—”
“Michelle, he’s ten years younger than you, not twenty!”
Michelle shook her head. “I should never have gotten involved with him. I should have followed my mind and kept our relationship platonic but…”
“…You love him and he loves you. Don’t let your age difference prevent you from being happy. Besides, you don’t look your age at all. You look younger.”
“I’m thirty-five years old and in love with a guy who graduated from university just three years ago.”
“So what? He’s very mature for his age.”
Connie was right. Paul was very mature for his age. Still, she wished he were older. “I wish he were older.”
“So, you are going to throw away your happiness because of his age? Would you feel better if he were to date a girl his age?”
The thought of him with someone else filled her with jealousy. “No, I won’t,” she admitted. “I don’t want him to be with someone else.”
“You can’t have it both ways, Michelle. Either you hold on to him or you let him go.”
“That’s why I think I need to go away for a while.”
“Have you told him that you’re going away?”
“Not yet. I’m going to tell him tonight.”
“Well, I hope you know what you’re doing. He’s a terrific guy and he loves you.”
Michelle went over to the sofa, “I’ve got to go now,” she said. She reached down and kissed the top of her friend’s head. “Thanks for everything.”
“Call me and let me know how things turned out.”
“I will,” Michelle promised before she left.
It was around eight that night when Paul went over to her place. He smiled when she opened the door. After she closed it, he was about to pull her into his arms and kiss her when she pulled away. “I need to talk to you,” she said, turning away. For a brief moment, she closed her eyes as her feelings for him enveloped her. I must do this, she told herself. Her back was stiff, her hands were clenched and her heart was pounding as she walked toward the living-room. He followed her. She sat down on the sofa and he sat beside her, his expression troubled when he saw her face.
“What’s wrong, Michelle?” he asked. He reached for her hand and was startled when she moved it away.
“I’m going away,” she said, not looking at him. She was afraid to. She knew that if she did, her resolve would weaken.
“Where?” he asked. “For how long?”
“New York and for two weeks.”
“Are your parents all right?” he asked. “Did you get bad news? Is that why you’re going? Let me come with you, Michelle–”
“No, Paul” she cried, getting up hastily from the sofa then and hurrying over to the window, wanting to put as much distance between them as possible. “I’m going alone. Paul, I don’t think we should see each other anymore.” There, she had said the words that had been playing over and over in her mind but the pain they invoked was unbearable.
In a flash he was beside her and turning her round to face him. Tears were running down her face. She tried to pull away but he refused to let go. “Why must we stop seeing each other?” he demanded. His face was pale and his eyes were filled with anguish and confusion. “I love you, Michelle and I know that you love me. Why do you want to end our relationship?”
“I’m much older than you,” she muttered. “You should be with someone your own age.”
A muscle throbbed along his jawline. “I don’t want to be with someone my own age,” he retorted. “I want to be with you.”
Michelle closed her eyes as she felt her resolve crumbling. “Paul, please…” her voice trailed off when she felt his lips on hers and unable to help herself, she responded wildly and the hands that had been about to push him away were pulling him closer.
When at length, he raised his head to look down into her face, his own flushed, he asked, “Do you still want to end what we have?”
She shook her head at once. “No, Paul,” she cried. “I won’t let my age come between us anymore.”
An expression of relief came over Paul’s face. “So, no trip to New York?”
She shook her head. “I’ll cancel it first thing in the morning,” she promised.
“Good.” He swept her up into his arms. “We belong together, Michelle.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck as he carried her out of the room.