They were playing the game of Truth or Dare, where you take turns answering a question truthfully, or fulfilling a dare.
She was the unrequited love of his young life. Unconventional, curious, passionate, not like the girls he met at school or dance class. He couldn’t understand why she found him interesting— it would remain a mystery until he died, thirty years later. He felt like he was walking a tightrope with her, that at any moment she would discover he was a fraud, a bore, an imposter.
“Truth,” she said when it was her turn. “Go ahead, ask me anything.”
“Truth. Why do you like me?” he asked.
She had the grace to laugh, and then to think about it. “You are not very nice,” she said. “But I think you have such a great heart that you could do anything. Don’t ask me how I know, I am very intuitive.”
He had the grace to blush. He had no idea what she meant. Then, in a moment of reckless courage, or reckless cowardice, he said, “For my turn, I pick dare.”
“Wow, you are brave,” she said. “But I want to know something, so I dare you to tell me the truth.”
She took a sip of her lemonade, and he found himself staring at her. Her thin blonde hair, long to her shoulder blades, and her dark eyelashes surrounding pale grey eyes.
“Tell me,” she said. “Why did your mother leave your father?”
“What? That is your question?”
“It is. Tell me the truth, double truth, since this is actually a dare.”
“Nothing to tell,” he said. “They lost interest, got divorced.”
“Liar,” she said. She held his gaze. “I need to talk to someone. Tell me why she left.”
He stood and fetched his jacket, and put it on as if to leave, but then sat down beside her on the couch. “He was an asshole,” he said. “He belittled and humiliated my mother, and hit her sometimes.” He looked at his hands in shame. “She tried to protect me, and I did nothing. I didn’t help her at all.”
“You were a child,” she said. “And chances are, she left because of you. Which is good, right?”
“I don’t know. My stepfather is ok,” he said. He felt he didn’t deserve this almost peaceful life with this new family. He was the one who had provoked his father, made him angry, made him lash out. So how was it a good thing, really, that his mother was forced to escape because of him?
She said, “My father hit my mom. He assaulted me. I have never told anyone.”
“Me either,” he said.
“That’s why I asked,” she said. “It’s time I said it out loud. You too.”
“It will be hard,” said Harrison.
“Dares are the hardest,” she said.