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crying on the inside because i am so in love with you

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She was staring at the painting, the strokes standing out to her. Did Miles see the strokes whenever he visited and saw these paintings? Did Miles love that painting? Did he like that statue?

She slowly moved over to the next piece of art, scrunching her face trying to understand it. As she pondered the meaning behind a single brush stroke on a canvas that was otherwise just black, a mass of a person thudded into her legs.

Michiko almost doubled over in surprise but quickly balanced herself out. In front of her was a little boy, no older than seven, crying.

"Woah! Woah! Are you okay?" She asked.

He wiped away tears from his eyes, clutching what seemed to be a tablet close to his overalls.

"I can't find my Mom. Can you help me?”

Looking around, Michiko was privy to only other visitors to the museum. Hm. None seemed to be looking for a little boy.

“Do you remember what she was wearing? Where was she last?” Michiko was now kneeling in front of the boy, trying to make sure he wasn't going to burst out in tears again.

“S-she’s wearing a hat a-and-” Before he could finish, a loud “Robbie!” was shouted from the entrance to this particular exhibit. A woman with pale blonde hair was now rushing towards the boy, and she scooped him up into her arms. She sank to the floor, the boy practically being crushed in the hug.

“Robbie, darling! Where did you go? What have I told you about going far from Mama?”

Michiko watched in mild wonder as she got up from her kneeling position. Miles and her were never able to get to the conversation about children, but she thinks he would’ve been a great father.

“I wanted to charge my tab-a-let. But, but.” The woman looked down at the electronic in her son's hand and sighed in what Michiko could guess was a mother’s exasperation.

The woman stood up, wiping her hands on her slacks.

“I am so thankful you found him before some, I dunno, creep.” She had a bright smile that matched her equally bright blonde hair.

Michiko smiled but eternally cringed. She knew she wasn’t some weirdo, but this woman didn’t know that. And then she berated herself. Her therapist said she needed to be less doubtful of the world, to be less cynical.

“My name is Mary, and this little guy is Robbie.” She stuck her hand out, and Michiko noticed the dark red nails on the woman’s fingers.

“Michiko.” She responded and shook the other woman's hand. It was... soft. Like extraordinary soft.

“Well, Michiko!” She clapped her hands together. “ I want to buy you a treat from the gift shop to thank you for finding my little rascal of a son, it's the least I could do.”

“I- I don’t think that's needed. You were practically here a minute after he found me, so-”

“No, no! I insist!”

And that is how Michiko sat opposite of this woman, drinking a coffee and picking at a scone. Mary talked a lot. Her sentences were filled with passion, hands moving at a pace like no other, her red nails catching the light from the window. The little boy was stuffing his face with chips and the cake pops his mom got him at the gift shop, and Michiko smiled. It has been a while since she had, but these two, this mom and son, made her see light for the first time in what seemed like ages.

“And then I tell him, the homeowners are desperate for a chic and modern look and that couch just so isn’t modern! You’d think working for me, for how many years would he get it by now.” Mary continued. “Oh sweetie, please wipe your hands!” The little boy's hands were covered in chip dust. She grabbed napkins and started to wipe him down. This little pause let her check her watch.

“It has been uh, great talking to you, but I think I need to go.” Michiko quietly said. The woman looked up at her and made a small little pouting face.

“Oh really? That's okay. Wait! Here, call me soon okay?” She handed Michiko a business card that read ‘Mary Antionette, Interior Decorator.’

Michiko nodded and left feeling like the world was a bit brighter.

 

`

She texted Mary a week later. She didn’t know how to talk to her since she only knew the woman for about twenty minutes but she got the feeling that Mary was genuine about these kinds of things.

And she was a bit correct since Mary responded so quickly to her message of ‘Hello, this is Michiko’. The other woman shared her Instagram, where Michiko found pictures upon pictures of Robbie posed for the world to see. If the pictures weren’t of Robbie, it was pictures of rooms decorated with a keen eye. Michiko felt her ears grow red when Mary requested her account, private and only filled with posts of food and family events.

Mary liked her newest post regardless.

They continued to talk through text, even had a phone call when Mary wanted to have a heated conversation but her hands were too busy doing laundry to text.

All in all, it felt like Michiko was gaining a wonderful friend.

So wonderful in fact, that they planned a second little coffee ‘date’. After she thought that, Michiko felt a little bit of internal guilt. It felt like yesterday Miles left her, left the world. How would he look at her now? Smiling at a random woman's texts? She felt her hands start to shake and accidentally looked at herself in the mirror. There were tears in her eyes, and it burned to look at her reflection. Should she cancel?

Michiko stood up, walking so robot-like it felt like her feet were filled with lead to the library, and sat down. Her face fell into her hands as sobs rang out. Hiccups filled the quiet room until a phone’s ringtone broke through.

She gingerly reached out and grabbed the phone.

Mary. Mary who just confirmed a get-together an hour before. Mary who posts her son on her Instagram every single day.

“Hello?”

And just like that, the woman picked up on the emotions in the air.

“Darling are you okay? You sound a bit poor. I know from Robbie’s school a bug is going around and if it-”

“No, no, I am not sick. Just a bit of emotion came up suddenly.” And almost like a light switch, and Mary’s tone went from neutral to the most worried Michiko had heard.

“Dear, if you want to cancel or- I would completely understand.”

“No! No, I don’t want to cancel. I enjoy talking to you, Mary.”

A giggle was heard on the other end, and it made her feel better.

“Okay, I just wanted to tell you the cafe I think we should go to. It is around that bookstore near the gym? Do you know where that is?”

When they hung up, she felt a bit better. Miles would like Mary. He would.

`

The cafe was quaint, with charming colors and books and plants everywhere. Mary was sitting in a corner, tea in her right hand and a phone in the other. She was yelling rapidly into it. When her blue eyes caught onto the fact Michiko arrived, she barked one final thing into the receiver and promptly hung up.

“I am so sorry darling, my employees decided to be idiotic today. Nevertheless, how are you? Are you feeling a bit better?”

“I am, thank you.”

Mary clapped her hands together, and stood up, and grabbed Michiko’s. Her nails today were white.

“The reason I wanted to go out together was that I believe our friendship could be wonderful and, for this I apologize, I fear I’ve only spoken about myself. I want to get to know you, like what makes you sad and happy.” Mary guided her to sit in the booth, and Michiko sat down gingerly. “Like if it's not overstepping, why were you sad earlier? These are the things I would love to know about you.”

She was reaching to grab at the tray of baked goods, but that made her hand still.

“Mary. Before I tell you about myself, I have to ask something. Is this, is this a date? A romantic one?”

This paused the other woman. “I- Have I made you uncomfortable?”

That confirmed that.

“No, no. I just, Well you see I uh, am no longer with my husband and sometimes it’s difficult for me. I haven’t dated since and I-” Michiko was now kind of regretting opening herself up in such a public place. “I am so sorry but can we go somewhere more private?”

Michiko stared at the food on the table, and the tea in her companion's hand, and she started to feel terrible. Awful. She was ruining her chance of being friends. Of being liked.

“Yes, yes, that would be perfectly okay. My place is just around the block. This is my local cafe, that's why I chose it. Oh god, I am rambling now, aren’t I?”

They left the table and walked out onto the sidewalk, no more words coming out of either lips. As they came in front of Mary’s home, Michiko noticed it was dark. It was only around six...shouldn’t her son be home?

Mary searched her purse for her keys, the quiet rustling the only sound in the air. She opened her door to complete darkness. The woman beckoned Michiko inside with a quick little wave.

“Robbie? Joseph?”

Joseph? Who the hell was Joseph?

"You can sit on the couch, I need to find where my idiot brother is."

Oh... Michiko could feel a blush heat up on her cheeks. Jealousy...that is something to discuss with her therapist later.

Mary left her to her own devices and she gingerly sat down. This home was filled wall to wall with photographs. Portraits of Robbie and his mother together, beautiful beach landscapes and other places. In fact, as she looked around evidence of a photographer's existence was scattered around. A tripod was in the corner of the living room next to a box of toy cars. Camera lenses were on the kitchen island and a vintage camera sat in parts on the table.

Right after she stood to look around a bit more, a man and Mary walked into the room arguing in what Michiko thought was French. Mary turned to where she was sitting and said,

“Michiko, I am so sorry, I have to deal with this.” And then continued to yell at the man in French.

Behind them, Michiko noticed a flash of blue. Looking a bit behind she saw Robbie rubbing his eyes with a knitted blue blanket. He seemed to be semi-confused as he was looking up to the two adults bleary-eyed.

“Mama?”

Mary turned around and rubbed his hair.

“Darling, where were you? Uncle Joseph didn’t know where you were.”

"I was sleeping in my bag."

Michiko just stared owl-eyed.

"Joseph, how the hell did you know that he was sleeping?”

The man rubbed his forehead. And just turned and left. Mary clenched her fists, and then slowly let go. She mussed her son’s hair, and then asked him to go back to sleep.

Michiko watched as Mary walked over to the couch she was sitting at, and just saw the woman sigh deeply.

“I am going to be very real with you. This is not how I planned for this day to go. I sincerely apologize if I have made you feel awkward or uncomfortable, I just- I really liked you. But I realized I have barely talked to you. And now you have seen that I live with my brother.”

Michiko didn’t know what to say.

“My husband is dead.”

Mary stared at her. Michiko stared back.

“I loved him so much, and for a while I felt like I could not go on without him. His family was awful to me before and after he passed. I felt alone and tired and then, all of a sudden I am happy around you.” Her breath hitched in her throat. “I know rationally he would want me to move on. But I feel awful for doing so.”

Mary just continued to stare at her.

“Is that crazy? That I want to move on when I still love him with my entire being?”

“I- Loss is something that sticks with us. I agree.” Mary was looking at her hands. “Shortly after I came out, I met who I would consider to be the love of my life. She took over the role of being Robbie’s parent, he was just a baby then, and she loved me. She loved me more than my former husband ever would. It was just a week after Robbie’s first birthday when she got into the crash.”

Michiko nodded.

“I knew she would want me to love again. Hell, she taught me to. So, no. I do not think it's insane. But if it's not something you want to do, don’t force yourself.”

Before she knew it, she was engulfed in a hug.

“If you are up to it we can have a redo on whatever this cafe excursion was later.” Mary whispered in her ear. Michiko smilied.

`

And they did do a redo. And then they had another. And another. By the time they knew each other for four months, Joseph sat them down and explained to them that, ‘Why, yes, what you are doing is in fact dating.’

He and Robbie burst into a fit of giggles as the two women stared at each other shell shocked.

“We thought….we thought we were going slow?” Mary pondered out loud.

Joseph stared at them.

“Mary, please tell me when you ever went slow? Or even like medium? I once saw you drink an entire cup of coffee in four seconds. Look, you are even holding hands! On the sofa no less!”

Michiko then realized they were holding each other's hands.

“I guess we are dating aren’t we?” Michiko said. “If that is fine with you.”

Mary stared at her grinning from ear to ear.

“Finally! I can finally introduce you guys to my partner, Antonio.” Joseph had his hands up in the air.

Michiko watched as Mary slowly turned around to look at Joseph.

“You. Are. Dating?” He gulped. “You didn’t tell me? You’re sister?”

Michiko giggled to herself as they broke off into angry french. A mass thudded into her side on the couch, and a tired Robbie was snuggling into her side. She bent down and kissed his head. He just snuggled in further.