‘Don’t make me laugh!’ she says trying to keep her most serious face even though her eyes are glistening with happiness and her expression says ‘keep going.’

And so he does. Telling a funny story of false glories with stacked exaggerations that have her twisting in giggles. And he thinks she is so beautiful.

He knows she won’t ask him to stay but offers all the same. She touches his cheek, knowing he keeps a clean shave because it’s what she likes, before saying ‘Not tonight.’

When she closes the door he stands on the step with crossed fingers like yesterday and wishes to the first star he sees she might have second thoughts. When that wish doesn’t come true he cheats his own game and makes one more on the same star. He wishes he’ll have the courage tomorrow to tell her he gets it, that it doesn’t matter. He’s thought about saying he understands but knows she would cringe at the sound of that.

She leans against the door smiling until she hears his engine start. Saddened by the sound but so proud for letting him go. Too scared to ask anyone to stay. That would involve more explaining than syllables permit for.

Twenty minutes later a different feeling takes over. The familiar one. And even though she likes the one he brings so much better, she doesn’t like his ability to take it away. This one he can’t touch.

Can’t control.

Something leads her outside to the same star and she makes the same wish as every night.

Tomorrow she’ll let him stay.