Once upon a time, there was a girl. She was a beautiful girl, with laughs on her lips and possessing more knowledge than I could ever hope to, even though she was young at the time. I will admit, wholeheartedly and without shame, that I loved this girl. We were young and experienced; neither of us knew what to do with the other, so we just kissed and pretended as though we did. To this day, I can feel her hand in mine, smell her perfume, and I can call every insignificant detail of her to my mind at a moment's thought.

Then something happened to us. Our lives began to chance. I uncovered the monster in her (rather, I believed, I forced it out; made her see the demons that drove her to the edge) and unleashed the truth within myself. I tried to deny it for as long as possible. After all, how could be that be the truth when I loved her? I held her hand as she raged like the tornado I had discovered and I tried to convince myself my arm still felt the same around her shoulders and when we lay together we still fit, rather than our limbs tying in knots and her breath feeling too hot on my collarbone.

It ended, as everything must.

I moved on though. I held other hands – hands of my (my truth) that fit like hers had ceased to. That's not to say I didn't think of her, I did. She had been my whole life; there was nothing I wouldn't have told her. it was hard to let go of that closeness, the knowledge that someone would always be there. Yet, I had my new life, and I wouldn't have traded that for anything – not even the infinitely beautiful, ever elusive, phantom of first love.

It's a funny thing, I say to myself over and over again, to know you could only ever be with a man, yet are still in love with a woman.

I'll always consider myself in love with her. She occupies a part of my heart that can never be touched by anyone else. I still think of her, every second of every day. I can still feel her memory burning in my mind; sweet and smiling, an innocent teenager forever.

It was three years later in the same town we'd once walked together, I was tripping down the street, the tang of fall on my tongue. I stopped at a crosswalk and happened to look across the street, over along the shops.

And once again, I was fifteen and confused. I was sweaty palms and asking a girl to dance. I was flying high on the love of a girl whom I loved in return. I was an endless parade of tears as we broke our own hearts, knowing it was for the best, though it never made it any easier to walk away.

Somehow, I was throwing off by how she looked older. I had always pictured her as I knew her. I never imagined she would grow and change, living her life without me as I lived mine without her. I watched as she tucked a strand of red hair behind her ear, inspecting jewelry from a street vendor.

I almost walked across the street – opposite my direction. I almost tapped her on the shoulder (something in my wanted to know if she would still look at me the same). The muscle in my leg twitched and I took that shaky step.

I was stopped. A man, broad shouldered and freckled, pushed passed me. I caught the lamppost for balance. When I looked up, she was reaching for the man, face glowing with a light that had nothing to do with the sun.

Their fingers wound together.

She was looking at him like she had never looked at me.

I stood on the street until they disappeared. It was only then I was able to move my wooden feet. I thought of her as I moved; reflected on her happiness. For the first time a pang of regret I had felt piercing my heart since our last encounter was gone. I had known she wouldn't be the one, no matter how hard we tried, but I had still worried that even though it was the right decision for me, it wasn't the right decision for her. I wanted to be happy, and long had I questioned if I should have sacrificed myself for her (something I was tempted to do – had done in those last few months together – despite my selfish ways).

Now I could see she was happy without me – happier than she ever could have been with me. It was bittersweet, knowing my first love loved again; was happier than I had ever made her.

I pushed open the door of my home. My fiancé was cooking dinner; I could smell it. I smiled at the thought of him. How I loved him. As I kicked off my shoes, I thought of the girl on the street and the girl that I had once held dear to my heart. I thought of all the time that had passed since our last conversation and I wondered if we would ever speak again. Silently, I wished her well and hoped that she would extend the same sentiments toward me. She deserved the best, and I hoped that she had found it for herself. As I padded toward the love of my life, I knew that I had found it for myself.

Yes, once upon a time there was a girl.

But she was not my girl.

©The Last Letter