Be a Mistake

(author’s note: flash fiction from a friend’s prompt about giving compliments and how they help the giver more than the given).

“It would be a mistake,” she said, crossing her legs and looking out over the water, not at him. Never at him. “To say I didn’t care.”

“No?” He stood looking over her head at the sunlight glimmers from the rippled water. Her hair caught the light and glowed like a halo.

“I care too much.” Her voice was so soft it was almost lost in the breeze. “It’s all too much.”

“So you push them away.” He wasn’t sure if he was being cruel, but it didn’t matter at the moment. He looked down at the crown of her head.

“I’m afraid I’ll hurt them. Make them upset, because I care too much.” She tilted her head back and looked straight up at him. “That I’ll be clingy. When I just want them to fly and be happy.”

“You’re too nice.” He admired the way the setting sun painted her skin in tones Vermeer would have killed for. “You think too much about this. Just love, and stop overthinking that.”

She blinked, and looked back over the water and away from him. “You pay compliments badly.”

“You take them badly.” He lowered himself slowly onto the edge of the dock, letting his legs dangle. He couldn’t manage the crossed leg pose she had wound herself into. Even this would hurt before too long. But he wanted to give her the time she needed, even while he invaded the space she wanted. “You’re a good friend.”

“I’m not.”

Silence fell between them, and around them in the golden light of the sinking sun, the birds sang without taking a breath.