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Moving On *

Warning: The following story contains mature themes and is not suitable for younger readers.

Louisa stared at the screen without seeing it. Not that it mattered; it was exactly the same as it had been for the past hour. The open e-mail window was still blank. Pushing her hair back from her face, she forced her mind to focus. It was almost two in the morning but sleep was the last thing from her mind. For a moment her hands hovered just above the keyboard, then she began to type:

“Dear Joe,
Damn that sounds so formal. But then I guess that fits. It feels like forever since I last spoke to you, and even longer since I last saw you. I guess I just wondered if you think of me at all anymore. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I still think of you. I keep remembering the way things used to be between us, how close we used to be. I used to be able to tell you so much. I keep thinking of things I want to tell you, things I can’t tell anyone else, but you’re not there to hear them. I miss you. I miss having someone to talk to late at night, when it feels as though the whole world is asleep except for you and me. I miss the way it feels to hold you, to kiss you, to touch you.
Did you ever really care about me, or was I just someone to pass the time with until you could win over Emma? I thought we had something. I thought we were friends, but I guess I was wrong. I know you’re happy now, and the last thing I want to do is ruin that but I don’t want to lose you. Though I’m beginning to think I already have. I miss you,
       Louisa xxx”

Blinking back tears, Louisa’s hand hovered over send, but she knew she couldn’t do it. Joe was happy, and her e-mail would just make things a million times worse. Pressing delete, she erased the message before turning off her computer and heading to bed.

It was a long time before she fell asleep. Every time she closed her eyes, her mind would be filled with images of Joe. Joe looking into her eyes across the table in their local coffee shop, Joe pulling her close when no-one else was looking, Joe lying in bed beside her after a night of passion, Joe holding Emma close, kissing her, making love to her. Louisa missed him with a passion she couldn’t begin to explain. Knowing he was out there holding some other girl close cut deep, but it was the complete lack of contact that hurt the most. It wasn’t that she’d deluded herself into believing she meant a lot to him, but they’d been friends before they became lovers. It hurt more than she could describe knowing that he could throw away their friendship as if it meant nothing. For a few weeks she’d told herself she didn’t miss him that much, and besides he was just really into his new girlfriend. Then she’d told herself it didn’t matter anyway, and it would be better if she never spoke to him again, she’d finally be able to move on. But now? Now it was well over a month since she’d last heard from him. Now she just missed him. Now she couldn’t help wondering how much she had really meant to him if he could end their relationship without even a goodbye. Not that they’d ever had a “relationship”. He hadn’t wanted to commit and she’d gone along with it. It had never really bothered her; it had actually seemed pretty cool to be having an affair. Now she supposed that deep down she’d thought it was only a matter of time before Joe got serious about her. How could she have been so wrong?

A couple of nights later, Louisa was at the local pub with some friends when Joe walked in, alone. For a moment he stood in the doorway scanning the room, then his eyes met hers. And when he motioned for her to come over, she was unable to stop herself from obeying. For what felt like hours they stood staring deep into each others eyes, then she was in his arms, his lips pressed hard against hers, his tongue exploring her mouth. The kiss sent shock waves through her entire body. She couldn’t think, couldn’t do anything except feel.
“Let’s get out of here…” Joe murmured against her lips.
“What about…” She couldn’t bring herself to say Emma’s name.
“Forget her.” He said roughly.
She knew she shouldn’t, but how could she pass up the chance to be with him? So she let him lead her out the bar and down the road to her flat, unable to do anything but follow him. When they reached her flat, they didn’t stop until the bedroom door had closed behind them. Pulling her against him Joe kissed her, showing her with his mouth exactly what he planned to do to her. Moaning, Louisa pressed herself against him; desperately wanting everything he was giving her, and more. Pushing her back onto the bed, Joe pulled off his shirt and stepped out of the rest of his clothes before joining her. Oh, but he looked so good naked, she thought dazedly as he started on her clothes. Then his lips were on hers again, his hands exploring her body, and already she was trembling with pleasure. He made love to her mouth as his rough hands grazed the undersides of her breasts, cupping them with a gentleness he rarely used with her. She looked at him, hoping to catch his eye, but they were shut tight. For a moment, her hands stilled on his back, until his fingers caught her nipple and all thoughts of eye contact were pushed from her mind. Louisa was in heaven, wrapped in Joe’s arms once again, making love to him the way she dreamed about every night since she’d last been touched like this. She never wanted him to stop, but somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew this was the end. That after tonight, she would never feel his touch again.

An hour or so later, she was lying by his side, the bed sheets tangled around their bodies. Exhausted, Louisa started to drift off when she heard Joe get up. Opening her eyes she saw him pulling on his trousers.
“Where you going?” She asked sleepily.
“I’ve got to go, I’m seeing Emma early tomorrow…” He trailed off.
For a moment he looked down at her, his eyes glittering with an emotion that looked like regret. Regret for his infidelity, or regret at having to leave her, she couldn’t be sure. Then it was gone. Quickly, he finished dressing, and then without a word, he walked out of her the room. As she watched him go, her eyes prickled with tears, but something inside her held them back. She’d know from the start it would be like this, but at least she’d been able to hold him, kiss him, touch him, one last time.

The following day she had almost finished watching “Pirates of the Caribbean” and had reached the scene she always enjoyed playing over and over again, when the phone rang. She paused the film, freezing Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom on screen, mid kiss. She glanced at the still for a moment before she lifted the receiver. Somehow she knew it was him, but the thrill that usually raced through her at the thought of speaking to him never came.
“Louisa? It’s me… Joe” He added uncertainly as if not sure she would recognise his voice.
“Hey.” She said lightly, leaving it to him to start the conversational ball rolling.
“Umm, listen, about the other night…” he stopped, searching for words. Louisa refused to help him out.
“Look, it should never have happened. I’m with Emma now and I’m crazy about her. I don’t want to lose her.”
“Then why did you sleep with me?” She was half tempted to ask, but she knew it would be pointless. Instead she said “I know.”
“I know this is hard for you… I never meant to hurt you Louisa, I’m sorry.”
“I know.” She said again, not bothering to point out that she knew he wasn’t.
If Joe had thought for even a second before he’d made love to her, he would’ve known that what he was doing was wrong. Louisa knew what he had with Emma wouldn’t last. How could it when it was based on a lie? And if Joe had felt any of the things he claimed to, he would never have cheated on Emma. But that no longer seemed to matter so much. What bothered her was knowing that she’d had an equal part in his infidelity. She’d known he had a girlfriend, yet she hadn’t even tried to stop him. In some ways she was no better than him, and that’s what hurt her.
“Louisa…” His voice on the line brought her out of her thoughts. “I don’t think it would be a good idea if we saw each other again…” He stopped, waiting for her response.
There was something about his tone that told her he thought she would argue, but he was wrong.
“You’re probably right.”
“I am?” His surprise came across loud and clear, before he had the chance to hide it.
Not bothering to answer she gave him a moment to compose himself before she spoke. “Goodbye Joe. It was nice knowing you.”
She put down the phone before he could reply, blinking moisture out of her eyes. She would not cry over him. She had already shed too many tears on his account. Pushing him out of her mind, where he was no longer welcome, she hit the play button and resumed watching her film.

As she watched the scene play out in front of her once more, she realised it was not so much the kiss as the look that she missed. The expression on his face, the moment before his lips met hers, when she felt as though she was the only woman in the world. It was the look, rather than the physical contact that she missed most of all. Because that look had told her he cared for her, even though he had never said it. Depressing the rewind button on the remote, she watched as Orlando took Keira once more in his arms, watched the look on his face as his hand lifted to her face, and watched as finally his lips met hers. Louisa sighed longingly, imagining how it would feel to be loved the way Will loved Elizabeth. Joe had never loved her like that, and never would. She deserved better than that, she knew it and always had done, but now? Now she wanted better than that. The realisation shocked her. Louisa had cared about Joe for so long she could hardly remember a time when she hadn’t made excuses for his actions or defended him, to herself as well as her friends. But there were no more excuses. She deserved better than that, better than him. She had finally moved on, moved beyond everything that had held her back or hurt her in the past. She was free to dream again and it was only now she had found her freedom that she realised the lack of it in the past. She had dreamed only of Joe, praying simply that he would care for her, as she had cared for him. That would have been enough once, but not anymore. Now she dreamed of love, of passion... of Orlando. And why shouldn’t she? To dream is to reach for the stars, to search for things that may be beyond our reach. But if we simply stretch that little bit further, we might just be able to find what we’ve been looking for

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