He kissed her back but suddenly paused and asked a question. “Jessica... do you love me?” She smirked and pressed her nose closely against his with a tender rubbing motion. “Madly” she whispered back. He sat against the bed's head-post and absorbed a sense of personal fulfillment. For so long he had craved that someone provide him the feeling of real compassion. The young couple spent the night together held within in one another's arms. Dylan quietly watched Jessica as she slept. He pondered on how he had come to be so fortunate as to finally have found the love of his life. Before meeting her, years went by where he would doubt if such a thing even existed. Several months passed and it was not too long before trouble developed among their new relationship. Ever since their first night of sleeping together, Dylan had became obsessively paranoid, overbearing, and generally self-conscious about himself. Jessica was beyond weary of Dylan's concerning personality change. She reached her breaking point when his day to day actions progressed to the level of it being irrational. There was an incident where Dylan had ragefully stormed into Jessica's workplace after she “ignored” his numerous texts and calls throughout the day. She had simply left the phone at home by mistake, but the event did enough damage to convince her that he needed to be confronted immediately. On one cold afternoon, Jessica asked him to meet her at the same coffee shop they had traveled to for their first date. She arrived 10 minutes ahead of time and waited nervously in the front corner booth. There was an enormous amount of uncertainty as to what type of response he would have. Dylan arrived 5 minutes early. She could see him approaching from the window and noted that he was in a visibly cheerful mood. The young man was clueless of the heartbreak that would shortly ensue. He entered the coffee shop and scanned its contents seeking an image of the girl's silhouette. She quickly stood up and waved him over towards her. He casually strolled to the end of table and she motioned forward to embrace him with a sincere hug. Jessica only gave him a kiss on the check. Dylan took his seat and was surprised to find that she had already ordered him a plain cup of lemon tea. She went right into the point of their encounter, before he could even start out with friendly small talk. “I asked you to come here and talk today because I honestly need some space from you right now Dylan” she suddenly proclaimed. He was taken aback by her straightforward approach. The statement tremendously upset him, he looked to her with genuine confusion and stumbled out a reply. “Why would you possibly 'need to get some space' if you truly love me?” he asked. She was as equally confused by his answer. “Wa..What?!” she replied. He slammed his right fist in frustration on the table top below. “After that first night at your place, when I asked you if you loved me and you said yes!” explained Dylan. “What are you talking about, I never said--” she said but stopped abruptly mid sentence. In that instant, it finally dawned on Jessica that he had taken her initial answer that night as a serious statement. She stared at the young man nearly crying in front of her and felt a deep pain of regret. She had never meant to mislead him in such a way. “Dylan I understand now and I'm so sorry for all of this” she said. He had started to gaze out the window with a blank expression. His eyes displayed an unbearable anguish for all of the world to witness. Jessica reached for his outstretched hand, but he pulled it away once she had gotten close enough to touch him. She tried to continue on with the discussion with every ounce of empathy held in her being. “I care about you Dylan, really I do but that's not what I meant when I sa--” he coldly interrupted her plea. “So what the hell is wrong with me then, huh Jessica?” he asked through clinched teeth. Jessica felt her body go numb. The man in front of her was completely unrecognizable. He had never once before spoken to her with such anger. She was growing more fearful by the second and started to consider if the situation could actually turn violent. She melted back into the booth's seat with a feeling of disbelief and tried to continue. “Dylan... please listen to me when I say it's not like that at all, I'm still happy that I am with you, this has just been a misunderst--” she was again interrupted by an enraged Dylan. “Tell me then, why are we even dating if you don't love me too?” he asked. His words viciously ripped deeply into her chest. She held her hand against her heart and resisted the tears that were overflowing in her eyes. “Don't do that to me Dylan, I'm sorry you're upset but I do not deserve that...” she said. He kept his disenchanted fixation on the cars and bystanders that passed their booth's window view. He sat silently for a few minutes before he addressed her once more. “Then tell me, what it is you find so wrong with me please?” he asked. She stared at him with a stern expression. Jessica's own sadness and pain from their conversation had eventually turned into anger. She could not believe Dylan's inconsiderate reaction to her honest mistake and wondered why he continued to insist that the actual problem was him. “Listen, I still care about you the same way, but I'm not in love with you” she yelled out. His expression remained unchanged. “Dylan seriously please, I'm just not trying to get into something so heavy at this point in my life, we've talked about my plans after school...” she cried. Dylan sat there motionless and wondered if everything he had believed about love was actually a lie. Here he was with the absolute perfect “girl of his dreams” but she was far from interested in having a happily ever after. He questioned if the TV shows, the books, and movies had all been wrong. He questioned if his friends and family had purposely filled his head with stories of romance and intimacy just so that he would wander out ignorantly into the real world and be crushed. Love was nothing close to what he had originally imagined and he was not quite sure how to handle that reality. Jessica sat across from Dylan tense and flustered, while she waited for any sort of further rebuttal out of him. Instead he somberly rose from the booth seat, grabbed his jacket, and headed towards the building's nearest exit. She stared ahead at the empty space that he had left before her. The coffee shop's back door crept shut behind him, and Dylan made his way out into the cold to join the sea of pedestrians. His face burned bright red as scorching tears crashed into the pavement below him. He went against the logic of getting a cab and decided to walk the 45 blocks back home all alone. He finally reached his apartment after a few hours, unlocked the front door, and collapsed on his bed still fully clothed. Dylan laid there suffering from excruciating physical and mental agony. He watched as the ceiling fan above his head rapidly rotated in endless circles. “What will I do now?” he thought to himself. The young man closed his eyes in defeat and slept for the remainder of the day. He awoke in the middle of the night and rushed to check his phone for any notifications Jessica may have sent him. Dylan waited for the remainder of that week to hear from her but she never attempted to contact him. More time passed and depression began to sink in. After awhile he hardly ate, bathed, or left his apartment for more than a few hours. He stopped attending lectures, missed several newspaper assignments, and had even accidentally broke his camera in a drunken rage one evening. Jessica noticed his absences and became excessively worried about Dylan's well being. From time to time she would have mutual friends call or text his phone, but each of their attempts to reach him would go unanswered. She wanted to make sure that he wasn't in need of help or that he had not done something foolish like hurt himself, but she did not want to be around him by herself. The stress became too much for her conscious and she eventually decided to ask a few close friends to accompany her over to his apartment.