Lurking in my shadow, it follows me. A black thing, amorphous, and ghastly. Having such a thing follow you, one might think, isn’t ideal. But it is. The shadow-lurker has always protected me.
It caught me in a wide net of shadows when I fell from the roof of my house. It spooked the mad street dogs away when they chased me. And now it lurks in my shadows, rising to form a ring of shadows around me whenever Ben’s around.
And that to me, doesn’t make any sense. Ben is my friend. Has been for a long time. I haven’t ever felt threatened around him.
In fact, I’m sitting in a cafe right now, waiting for him. Sometimes I wish I could talk to the shadow-lurker. I want to ask so many things. Why does it protect me? And why is it wary of Ben?
Meanwhile, Ben arrives, in a black leather jacket, with his hair slicked back. I get up to greet him. He takes my hand and kisses it gently.
“Stop it, Ben,” I say, giggling.
“You look beautiful today,” he says.
“Of course, I always do,” I say with fake bravado.
He smiles, and we sit. The silence is uncomfortable. It chokes my throat. There’s a water bottle on the table, I open it, and take a sip. Ben smiles at me.
Shadows, shadows crawl from under the table, and they flood my side of the table. A black divide sits between Ben and me. It isn’t very high, it’s about an inch high, but he sees it.
We order coffee, two cups, one for each, none for the shadow-lurker. There’s not much to talk about. It’s been years since I last saw Ben. We had drifted apart, and our lives have nothing in common.
Awkward silences punctuate our conversation. I notice Ben’s roving eyes travel all over my shirtfront. And it hits me, at once, like a splash of cold water. I know now, why he called me after all these years. I know now, why the shadow-lurker sits between us. I can see it in his eyes, his disturbed hazel eyes. He wants more, and I’m not sure if I get to have a say.