“Don’t call me that,” I muttered under my breath.

“What did you say?”  You grabbed me by the forearm as I turned to walk away.  Strands of hair stuck to my face in the drizzle as I stood there with my mouth open.

“I said don’t call me that,” softer this time, defeated.

You didn’t get it.  You didn’t realize that you only ever called her by that pet name, and that she should be the only person you use it on.  But you slipped up.  You were sympathetic, empathetic, a good friend who knew when I was hiding pain.  You reached out to hug me, there in the near-empty parking lot in the wet dusk, and I accepted, leaning into you a little too hard as I thanked you.  And then, into my neck and damp strands of hair, you said it.

You just shook your head, baffled.  You didn’t even hear yourself.

“Don’t call me that unless you mean it,” I warned, my voice shaky.  It was fight or flight.  I chose the latter.

I sat in my car and watched you as you stood alone, hands turned up at your sides, confused.  You wiped the rain off your face and fumbled for your keys, dropping them once.  I followed you out of the parking lot.  We went in different directions on the same road.

I watched the wipers leave streaks on the windshield and regretted you just a little.


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