“Has he ever said, ‘I love you?’”

“No.” An indifferent shrug. That question seemed to nag at everyone else; it wasn’t the first time it had come up in conversation. “But, he doesn’t have to.”

“It doesn’t bother you?”

Again: “No.” And, again, a shrug. “They’re just words.”

“But they’re words you’re supposed to say, when you feel that way.”

A chuckle, but without mirth. “The last time he said those words were to his wife.” A quick shake of the head loosed the congealing doubts, like marbles startled in a jar. “I don’t think he’ll ever say them to anyone again.”

“What about you? Have you ever told him?”

A pause, now, to consider that: the step not taken, for both their fears. Then, another, slower shake. “It wouldn’t change anything. He’d still be who he is. We’d still be where we are.”

“Lovestruck?”

It was a guess. A good one, more accurate than not, come through a witting, impish smile.

It would have been nice to smile back. But it wouldn’t have been true. So, with a stilted, breaking breath, the muttered honest answer:

“Lost.”

My brain is such a mess at the moment, this sort of melancholy piece is all I can get out, right now.

I hope you all are doing all right, out there!

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