‘We need to break up.’
I said it instead of ‘hello’ to maximise the shock. I needn’t have bothered, he reacted as if I’d just informed him the soup of the day was chicken, the same response he gave to everything. He still hadn’t spoken by the time I sat down.
‘Why do you think I want to break up with you?’
He gave a soundless shrug.
‘How do you feel about it?’ I pushed.
‘I feel sad,’ he didn’t sound it.
‘Have you considered telling your face?’
‘I don’t underst…’
‘It’s like going out with a mannequin, Michael!’ I was losing it. ‘That’s why I need to break up with you. You don’t feel anything, you don’t show anything!’
‘I do feel,’ there was nothing in his voice except words.
‘And how am I supposed to fucking know that?!’ I looked down to discover I’d stood up. ‘How am I supposed to know if you don’t show it?’
They were words of confusion rather than apology, at least I thought so. I lowered myself sheepishly back into the seat.
‘Do you know why they called you Killer Mike at school?’
He shrugged again. ‘It sounded cool?’
‘No,’ I reached my hands across the table and rested them on his, I don’t know why. ‘It was because you creeped everyone out. You know the thing they say when murderers are caught. How neighbours always say “He was so quiet, kept himself to himself”. That’s you. If we were American they’d have voted you ‘most likely to become a serial killer’ for the yearbook. When you keep everything inside, it’s… it’s just weird.
A flash of hurt appeared in his eyes and I felt a surge of victory in my chest, quickly flushed away by guilt.
‘I’m sorry,’ I said, looking down at the pile of our hands. ‘Mike, how do you feel about me?’
‘I love you,’ he said without hesitation or intonation.
My heart paused. He hadn’t said it before.
‘Why have you never told me?’ I looked back into the blankness of his eyes.
‘I thought you knew.’
‘How would I know?’
‘We’ve been together two years.’
‘So I’m just supposed to assume?’
He seemed like he was going to shrug again and I didn’t think I could handle it so I looked away.
‘What were you thinking about?’ I tried. ‘Before I got here.’
He pointed across to another table in the cafe. A couple were sat either side and had leant in to kiss. Two dogs mirrored their actions beneath the table.
‘I was thinking about how adorable that was,’ he said. ‘The dogs.’
‘Would you have mentioned it?’ I looked back to him.
‘Well, first, because obviously, I want to see that. It’s fucking cute,’ I couldn’t lie. ‘But also to show me there’s something actually going in inside you. To show it on the outside. You could even fucking smile if you wanted to!’
He blinked at me before forcing the most uncomfortable half-smile I’d ever seen.
‘Do you know what you want to eat?’ he said ‘I’ll go order.’
I pointed at something on the menu and let him go.
Looking at the dogs, I tried to decide if I’d still be there when he got back.