following days he began to miss life pre-injury. All these bandages held him hostage to the bed. He began to regret kissing Iris. Now his life was paused in this hospital. But then, as painful as the injury, due to not having anything to do but roam around in his thoughts, he realized that what happened between him and Iris, him kissing her and telling her he loves her, was caused by desperation and lust; far from being love. 

Edward never had a girlfriend. He always wanted one but never got the urge to even approach the ugliest of girls, to at least console himself from being seen as always single and scared of girls. However, in the eleventh grade there was a girl named Tebogo who showed interest in him; really one of a few people – the only girl – who acknowledged him at school. She always greeted him, gave him some of her food when he had no lunch money, studied with him sometimes. She treated him with a kind of courteousness which shocked him. There was a potential for a relationship. When Edward acted on it, one day as they walked home after school, she laughed at his face and walked away, simultaneously walking away with that little bit of courage he had stored in himself.

Since then he never got it back. 

Over the years, Edward had reconciled to the thought that love is not for him; he’ll never find a woman. This other gender, they were creatures he couldn’t quite comprehend. Being near them gave him shivers and sometimes he didn’t know how to act when he was around them; he’d swear he’s doing something wrong or weird, and the lisp and the gap in his front teeth made things worse. He’d interact with one girl but feel like he’s presenting a speech in front of thousands of people whose silence await his words. One tiny mistake would lead to total humiliation. It seemed whatever he did in front of the girls, they’ll always laugh at him the same way Tebogo had sneered at him. 

That moment of her laughter had broken him, to the point where even the reminder of that sound would revive that hurt he felt no matter how many years had passed.

Only the females in his family he was comfortable to be around with, like mom Jacobeth and cousin Nelly for instance. But of course, when she introduced him to Ashanti, the bachelor mindset dropped from him. In Ashanti’s facial glow that day – the glow he would never forget – he saw a light of chance. Somehow that same glow he’d seen on her face emittedthe same level of beauty which intimidated him from speaking his true feelings. That Tebogo laugh. He could almost imagine a similar laugh coming from Ashanti. “Wow, you 

seriously think that you and I can–”Edward breaks off from sleep.

A drop of wetness slides down under his left ear. Had he been crying? With those thoughts, he was just in there’d be no surprise.

The strawberry smell still lingered around, he could smell it more clearly now. The smell reminded him: if he could tell Iris that he loves her – a girl whom he hadn’t known for a week – why couldn’t he then tell the same thing to Ashanti after all those years, after all those dates? Now awake, Edward saw it clearly again. It was lust. And desperation at most. He had grown from that teenager who couldn’t approach the ugliest of girls, he couldn’t take it no more. 

He had become so in need of love, something he long gave up on but the heart never allowed, that his inability to tell Ashanti he loves her made him more than willing to settle for someone lower than her: Iris. Who would date a prostitute? He, Edward, would, even love her at some point. But even she, Iris, a prostitute, rejected him and it was more painful than the rejection he may have gotten from Ashanti, emotional and physically so. 

More painful than the borders of restrictions caused by his self-doubt, more painful than Tebogo’s laughter. He felt another tear roll out and slowly, and more morosely, his eyes close for the night’s sleep. 

Next day Edward woke up sniffing. Both his eyes were open and he could move his neck to turn his head, but he needed to do so slowly or else the pain would return. That strawberry smell. He felt like he was lying on Iris’ bed right now. He was still in her room. Or was someone else in the ward using the same perfume and spray? Edward couldn’t tell. Something told him to turn his head and look at the door. When he did, he saw a short haired blonde girl leaving the room with the swiftness of someone in hurry. “Iris! Iris!” His voice croaked out, it hurt the throat. Was it really her?

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