I Knew Him Well – Alex S. French

Such certitude was admirable. And infuriating. Jane knew it was more complicated than that. That this thing they managed to call love was more work than merely believing it to be. Not that she was worried she’d be blown aloft with lust and wander from the home they had created or anything—though those impulses flared every once in a while. She was human. And no stranger to imbibing in them herself, even if such urges always brought about their own particular guilty hangovers. However, rather than binging and seeing some mistake come to fruition, she chose to thin her fantasies with a tonic of hope—keep them merely fantasy—and gulp it all down until the feelings eventually metabolized and passed. Successful monogamy, for Jane, required such honesty and strength. She attacked would-be obstacles with earnestness. Overcame them with shameless, conscientious, all-encompassing trust. Love was about handing over the glass sculpture that holds your fragile self, and having faith that your partner would never drop it. And that was tough.

Really tough.

She hadn’t made it this far in life by walking around with a cuckoo clock heart. And sometimes Rick’s apparent peace—apparent absence of such issues—made it feel all the more trying. The more lonely.

But maybe that was just a veneer. Those rings weren’t the only jewelry he forged. A wooden cabinet, nondescript in every way but the attached lock, was filled with his creations. Silver-cabled spectral arrangements of gems and stones he had hand-collected from the Earth. Giger-esque organwork compressed into pendants no bigger than a coin. Latticed orbs arranged from fractal math she doubted she would ever even attempt to understand. The rings were just the pieces he allowed others to see. Utilitarian, cold and replaceable.

How could a man so seemingly open have such deep reserves of concealment in his life? She had repeatedly asked him to reveal his exceptional skills. Praised his work and offered to help him find ways to sell it. Display it. In the light of day he always demurred. It was only when she was able to stay up during those deep, dark nights of drunken melancholy that she thought she saw the cracks of ambition begin to shine through. Or maybe she was projecting. He seemed content. And yet, she couldn’t help but wonder. Who really knew how far glacial lakes extended if you were forever kept at water’s edge? He had at least allowed her to wade in, but she wanted others to truly see him, too, and couldn’t decide if that was selfish of her or not.

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