I told a boy I loved him, with all my heart – my precious, open heart – and he said nothing in return. The other end of the telephone line was pregnant with silence and then we said goodbye. I was relieved to have said it and I was relieved to have had no reply if it wasn’t matched with his precious, open heart. I told him we’d be friends only when I felt OK with my broken heart. This would be some time from now and he respected that.

Months came and went and I cried myself to sleep knowing my heart would take some time to heal itself. I regretted nothing. I had been courageous. I could ask nothing more of myself. Courage, it would seem, does not cancel pain.

A little while later, a romance blossomed with a new friend. Our first date was dressed up in staged friendliness – a transaction that would result in a reason to spend time in each other’s company without being explicit in our interest. “I’ll show you how to do this in photoshop if you’ll teach me how to cook that meal you made”. We were both unsure if our feelings were mutual but in that ambiguity there was excitement.

On our date, the morning turned into the afternoon. The afternoon turned into the evening. The evening turned into the early hours of the next day. We planned only to be in each other’s company. It was so easy.

“I’ve been wanting to hold you in my arms for some time now” he said when we eventually lay in bed together, physically closer than I thought humanly possible. He stroked my shoulder and I nuzzled that little bit further into the nook of his neck. I heard the words and I took them in but I’m not sure I believed them. I couldn’t see how I was going to be any different to his previous girlfriends (you sneaky insecurity!) but I was happy where I was at that moment – it would be what it would be. I soaked up every little joyous second and in the morning I was shocked when that continued. I wondered when the part would come where it became awkward and we both lose interest.

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. I felt strange using the term ‘boyfriend’. I’d spent so long trying to convince someone that I should be considered their ‘girlfriend’; that our relationship was a relationship; and this man bandied around ‘girlfriend’ and ‘boyfriend’ like it was as obvious as I thought it was with every other. He trusted. He was courageous. He risked.

The other boy texted now and then. I thought about him occasionally and was still sad to not have him in my life. I was not ready to be friends, there was still pain.

One day, out of the blue, he texted to say that he’d appreciated the time we’d had together. Despite both our separate happy lives with our separate happy partners, he took the time to say that he regretted nothing. Any other person might smile when reading this but instead, my heart ached in response. His words were so incongruous with his actions, I simply could not let them in. It seemed random and I am ashamed to note that my first reaction was to think he wanted only to open up my legs, not my heart.

He went on to say that a friend had written about our time together. I asked why he would do such a thing. He replied that I’d had an effect on him that I never would understand and simply could not be forgotten. He sent me a link to a blog. I read the words. My heart broke again on the last sentence: “for what it’s worth, I love you”.

The words I wished for so badly to come from his mouth in that pregnant pause on the telephone, were written right there on the screen. There was relief in the tears I cried this time – to know that I wasn’t meaningless to him.

Days later I pondered whether the words were a consolation at all. Did they make me feel better about not hearing them the night I said them? I considered our relative positions when declaring feelings of love for one another. Mine was heart bared – everything to lose and everything to gain. His was from a place of safety – a girlfriend to go home to, no lonely bed if love wasn’t reciprocated. Did the words mean less because he said them when he had nothing to lose? I considered how courageous my actions were.

My love is courageous. My love risks all. My love does not get written as an after thought. It must be said.