Puzzle Box

He opened his chest to show her his heart. She did not react as he expected. Among the line of people to whom he had revealed this part of himself, none had reacted in a positive manner. He was used to polite grimaces, or blank stares, or even disgust and irritation. Most of his partners had left, having seen his heart. He couldn’t say he blamed them.

When they’d first started dating, he thought she might be different. It was a glimmer of a hope, and one he quickly tamped down like a nascent flame taking root in a dangerous location. After all, he’d had no reason to suspect, so early on, that she would be different with any of the others with whom he’d shared his heart.

Like them, he hid it from her for as long as he possibly could. Even when he knew the time had come, he dreaded it. His fingers resisted him even as he swung the doors of his chest open. He could not meet her eyes, as she first looked inside him to see it.

The sound that came to him felt new and shocking, though it was one he had heard many times before, in different contexts. She laughed. She was not one to laugh out of cruelty, so the sound did not bring him pain. Instead, he smiled.

She said, “It’s beautiful!”

The words were so unexpected that at first he did not understand her. “Pardon?”

“Your heart!” she said. “It’s lovely. I’ve never seen one quite like it.”

“I’ve heard as much,” he said, in regards to her second statement. Nobody had ever called it lovely before. Though he saw no signs of fear or hate in her eyes, he still felt the old trepidations rise once more at such a familiar phrase.

“It’s like a puzzle box,” she said. She reached out to touch it, and he gasped at the coolness of her fingers, exploring such a sensitive space. “Do you know how to solve it?”

He can only shake his head, brought to silence by the feeling of her hand on his heart. It feels good, if shocking. It has taken the breath right out of his lungs.

“Well, if you did, you wouldn’t need me.” She looked up at him with a full smile on her face. “Right?”

She took her hand away, but he had to close his chest once more before he could speak again. “I guess so.”

She wanted to solve his heart? Nobody had wanted to do that before. He had given up on it himself. It was a hopelessly twisted system of pieces all wrapped around each other. Even with a mirror, he couldn’t get a good view of it. His past partners hadn’t even offered to try. They had simply asked him why it wasn’t as simple as their own, or that of others that they had known. He hadn’t given them a good answer, and so they had left, and his heart, though exposed, had remained unopened.

She hadn’t left yet. That was a good sign. Perhaps she truly would attempt to solve his heart. Perhaps she would succeed. To even try would be more than he could ever have hoped to ask for.

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