Just a glimpse

I stood on the deserted beach watching jagged, angry shards of ice, deposited by the waves, stack up on each other.

Like brittle, living panes of glass just waiting for a pair of feet to shred.

It was brutally cold and every breath hurt to take in. The thick velour scarf my mother had given me before she died sat frozen at my lips. My fingers inside my wool mittens had gotten too stiff to feel.

I worried for a moment that I might not make it back inside.

But I had to see.

His ship broke open the cove just as the sun made a sliver of fire on the horizon. The ice cover on the bay wasn’t thick, so I knew they would only make one pass.

He stood, behind the rail, alone. A lantern hung by his side. His breath sent plumes of vapor up into the first light of morning. And the breaking sun made the sliver of skin visible around his eyes glow.

My heart pummeled against the inside of my breast.

He lifted a gloved hand to his mouth, pulling the fabric loose so that I might see his smile. It was too far to see properly, really. But my memory colored his lips and made the silver in his whiskers glimmer.

I waved and giggled. I wonder if the sound made it to his ear. I imagined it could, somehow, and whispered my love into the wind.

I watched until I thought I might break.

But I knew I would do it again tomorrow, if it wasn’t too cold. A glimpse was better than nothing. It was enough to stoke the fire in my belly.

Enough to warm me through another day.

Was it was the same for him?

I wonder.

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A dance in time

Rain Dance 03 by fbuk via DeviantArt.com

For me, it was just another day. A wonderful, exciting, beautiful new day.

Mav woke up at 5:45. As he slathered his cheeks in preparation for a shave, humming a tune that heated my cheeks, I made my way down to the kitchen smiling.

Mabel had stayed with a friend the night before, but she would be home for breakfast that mid summer morning and I was excited to make my little announcement. I hoped the kids would respond as well as Mav.

I started the percolator and was pulling out my frying pan when Marcus’ feet slapped hastily down the polished oak steps.

“Ma, what happened? What’s going on?”

His voice was too high and when I turned, his face was as white as porcelain. We’d just celebrated his fourteenth birthday a few days before, but his wide eyes and trembling lips made him look much younger.

“What’s wrong, dear?”

The sun was rising behind him, and it startled me to see sunshine in my kitchen so early in the day.

He grabbed my wrist and pulled me to the side door. As he flung it open, we both froze staring out at a sight I still cannot explain.

Maverick’s parents had bought us the property as a wedding present. It was a slice of a pie shaped meadow in the center of a beautiful ancient forest with trees topping out 40′ above the grass. We’d built our home alongside 13 other young couples, unknowingly creating what we would later call ‘Pinedale Oasis’. A sweet little neighbourhood that grew to the north and west, out of the trees and toward the city.

But ours had remained the last house, butting up to the woods to the south and east. Our kitchen door and window were always shaded from the sun by a thick copse of pine trees less than ten feet away.

Staring out at a hill filled with homes behind white fences and punctuated with tall oak trees, my mind couldn’t quite make sense of the landscape.

“What happened to the trees?”

I couldn’t tear my eyes away. The backs of twenty houses stood in my line of vision, all with tiered wooden porches supporting big tables with umbrellas and massive shiny metal boxes that must be for cooking because they all had knobs that looked like the ones on the front of my new six burner stovetop.

A couple of them had pools with Caribbean blue water sparkling in the rising sun. I watched a woman doing laps in one of them until she spotted me. She climbed out of the water in a bright pink bikini and stared at me with the same expression that I must’ve been wearing.

Mav’s voice broke through the haze. “What in heaven-”

“Dad, where did they- What is- How?”

Marcus’ hysterics brought me back to myself. I turned and told him to go put on clothes as I dashed up the steps to dress myself.

“We’ll just have to go ask them.”

The early morning heat loomed over us as old neighbors hugged each other and tried, noisily to make sense of this. The crowd from the new neighborhood was larger, but quiet. Most of them held shiny and strange flat boxes, some put them to their cheek and spoke into them while others jabbed or slid over them with fingers or thumbs. I even saw some of them holding them up at us like cameras, they even had what looked like a flat lense on the back.

Maverick kept his hand on me protectively all morning. It was comforting, even as it added a bit to the fear.

The blonde woman who had been swimming had walked over first. She had what looked like a rhinestone in the crease of her nose and several tattoos down each arm. It was unsettling until I realized many of the others did as well.

“Where did you come from?”

It was the question of the day. One I couldn’t answer.

Our phones hadn’t worked. But the electricity did. Dan Bradbury had turned on his television to static, but the radios all revealed we were no longer in 1967.

When the police arrived, they brought medics and firemen with them, which I thought was strange until Marcus whispered in my ear. “Maybe they think we’re aliens?”

When I could finally speak to tell an officer my name, his wizened eyes were filled with fear and pity and something else.

Understanding? Recognition?

Mav wrapped both arms around me as we listened. Marcus sat on the other side of the hospital room with his head in his hands. My tears wouldn’t stop, and neither could my mind.

Fifty years prior to that day, our beautiful, quiet neighborhood had vanished. Without a trace.

The site was studied for decades. Scientists from all over the planet ran tests and studies. They searched for us.

My daughter searched for us. For decades.

She was living in southern California with her second husband. Twin girls from the first had both gone to Stanford and were now pursuing doctorates in different fields in different parts of the country. She also had a son with the second who has Down Syndrome and is named after his grandfather, but with an easier nickname for him so say.

Her voice sounds just like mine.

But older.

She’s about to celebrate her sixtieth birthday. But, as she told us she and Pete would come up with Rick on Saturday, I felt my sweet little girl bursting through the speaker. She wanted her mommy.

“Oh, Mabel. I’m so sorry.”

The tears caught, and her restrained demeanor broke into hiccuping sobs and the muffled questions of a young man who didn’t want to see his mother cry.

Marcus raised his head, his eyes reflecting his sister’s pain.

He stood and came closer. “Maby, it’s Marcus.” He cleared his throat and sat on the edge of the mattress. “I’m glad you’re ok.”

A tremor in his voice that vibrated through the fabric of time made her stop crying.

“You’ll be ok too, Marcus. I promise.”

They released me from the hospital late that night. We left stunned by the medical advancements of the past fifty years.

Three of us were brought in for observation. Mr Winstead had a heart attack when they told us it was 2017. Franny Gilson fainted and needed two stitches. And me.

Mabel is a gorgeous woman who doesn’t seem old enough to have grown children, except for the tiny wrinkles that flank her eyes and the grooves that frame her mouth. Rick is kind and sweet, his speech is nearly perfect and he loves to talk. He works at a store called Walmart and recently moved into a full time position which he loves.

His father could not stop staring at me. My daughter and I look very similar. Twenty years apart, instead of 30, and in the wrong direction. I can’t even imagine what it was like to meet us.

I couldn’t find a way to tell her about the baby. We talked for hours about everything. Just not that.

Mav had spent the four days before her visit sorting legal and financial stuff. He was exhausted, but was positively fascinated by Rick. He and Pete worked to explain modern sports, satellite television and something called Fantasy Football.

Marcus was lost to it all. Swiping his finger over the glass of his sister’s Smart Phone, he seemed to be absorbing all of this new technology much faster than me. As they sat, hunched over the device, I felt my heart break for all the years she lived without us.

And then he said it.

“Our brother will grow up with all of this. He’ll never know life without it.”

My doctor in 1967 called it a change of life baby. But fifty years later, it wasn’t unusual to have a baby at 40.

That night in the hospital, we got to see his little face, his perfect little body of 10 weeks, his amazingly tiny heart thrumming along as if nothing had ever happened. As if he hadn’t just vanished and reappeared 5 decades later.

The rain started just as she looked up at me.

He chased her outside, shouting for her to wait. It was like watching a film. The sound distorted by the rain as she cried out and fell to her knees. The way he looked back at me.

He picked her up. Held her to his chest.

There was no age between them as I watched her collapse against him. They just stood there, hanging onto each other.

And then, she laughed.

The sky above them brightened despite the downpour.

It was magic.

I won’t deny it’s been hard. On all of us.

Mav had to train for a new job. Marcus had to adjust to modern schooling which took tutors and counseling. We were paid for interviews, but not a lot, and for the next year, it seemed everyone wanted a piece of us. Sometimes, it still does today.

But when it is hard, I look at that photograph.

A picture I took, on a weird device that I didn’t know how to use, of my children.

Dancing in the rain.

And it’s magic, still.

Christina

https://www.deviantart.com/art/the-box-326060573

1.

On a morning in January that was cold enough to hurt your lungs with each breath, I left my mother’s house and planned to never return. Despite the fact the I was only fifteen, I managed to cut her out of my life like a surgeon removing a cancerous growth.

As I sat in the judge’s chambers six months later and watched him sign my freedom onto a seemingly ordinary piece of paper, I was surprised. It had been a little too easy.

Unless you took into account the medical records and hundreds of abuses missing from them.

All she had done was glare at me that day. She hated me, which used to terrify me. But that day, I was glad of it. No one could mistake that rage, and no way would a judge let her argue her way back into my world.

The lawyer watched my mother leave, then stood and wrapped me in a hug that forced the judge’s gaze away.

“I don’t know how you brought yourself up out of that, child.”

Her voice was damp and heavy with emotion, which is what had drawn me to her in the beginning of it all. An advocate for women and children, I’d seen her speak at a school assembly when I was 11. And that day, Nancy lit a spark inside me. Every trip to the emergency room and night without dinner just fanned that flame.

I knew I would eventually be rid of that life. And this angel would be my salvation.

She pulled back but laid her palm against my cheek. “Now, are you sure you’re all set, baby? You don’t need any help with the apartment or getting to school and work?”

I smiled at her. If she knew how many times I’d wished she was my mother, she would’ve probably invited me right into her home, forcing her five boys share two rooms instead of three and telling her husband to get ready for a daughter.

But the goal had always been emancipation. Independence. Freedom. So I closed that book before it was opened.

I shook my head, pulling myself away and picking up the paper the judge had just stamped and signed.

“I’ve been doing it for months now, Nancy. I’ve got this, I promise.” I couldn’t help the teenage petulance in my voice, but it was gone before the promise, and so was the pity behind her eyes.

“Ok then. You’ll come have lunch with us again next Sunday, won’t you?”

I didn’t.

We lost track of each other as the years folded over me, giving me a diploma, a different name, a bachelors degree, an amazing job in informational engineering that let me work from home and maintain a safe, steady new life.

It had made me sad, but she was part of the old life. A life I had to leave behind.

2.

Her name flashed across my phone screen one Monday afternoon as I was prepping a code report for a client. It took me almost two minutes to stop shaking.

I hadn’t looked over my shoulder in years, but the association Nancy held within the cold, damp basement of my memory dragged everything right back up those steps.

CALL ME, TONIGHT, JENNA. I’VE GOT SOME NEWS.

I didn’t want any news but knowing there was news twisted in my stomach until I thought I was going to be sick.

I’d chosen to be Jenna Jacobs. I thought it was fun, the perfect, anonymous name for a freshman at the University of Illinois. I hadn’t really thought about how it would work for the rest of my life. But, just like your given name, you don’t think about it. It is simply an extension of you.

But imagining what news Nancy might have to share, I felt my given name burrowing up through my skin. Like something alive that had simply been sleeping for the past 13 years.

I could hear her growling it as she trailed the buckle of my dead father’s belt against the tiled floor. I could taste the blood where I would bite my tongue to keep from screaming. If I shouted or moaned from the pain, it was like pouring lighter fluid on dying embers. I could feel the change when the rage would break open and she would throw down the belt to beat with her fists. I could smell the sickness that would ooze from her when her body could not handle the adrenaline any longer.

Or maybe, that was my own.

Brian found me when he came home at 5:15. I’d cleaned up, but blacked out in the shower. The memories hadn’t come up in a long time, not like that. But the fear creasing his beautiful face helped me put them back away.

“I’m not her.”

He wrapped me in my pink terry cloth robe, a laundry accident when I was 16 that had become the only possession I could never let go of. And it was just the thing I needed. The perfect symbol of how far I had come.

“No, you’re you, Jenna. But who are we talking about here?”

I explained what had happened after I received the text. He knew more than anyone about my past, but no one would ever know just how much the woman who gave me life had also taken from me.

He pulled me into his lap as he sat on the commode, his lips pressed to my forehead and his arms offering me a kind of safety I didn’t allow myself to imagine was even possible for a very long time.

“I could call her, Jenna. You don’t have to talk to her.”

But I did. Or my old name was just going to creep out and swallow me up all over again.

He cooked macaroni with hot dogs while I stared at the screen in my hands. I loved him for knowing, without even asking, just what I needed in every moment. And after he served me a golden heap of comfort and sat next to me with a bowl of his own, I used it as fuel. Every bite and smile and touch making me a little bit stronger.

Until I dialed.

3.

She was dead.

Maybe some part of me knew, but I think I’d always expected her to haunt me. I’d imagined it so many times as a girl that I’d actually prayed she would live forever.

She didn’t.

Nancy sounded exactly the same. Her voice had lowered a tiny bit and she didn’t hover within the niceties as long as I’d expected. She just sighed and said it.

“She’s gone, now, Jenna.”

I didn’t feel anything except the odd awareness of her using my new name. I had her on speakerphone and stared at Brian as she repeated herself.

“She’s dead, your… mother. She died last week in hospice and the police contacted me because… Oh, child. She left you that God forsaken house.”

I laughed, and the sound startled all of us. But I couldn’t stop. I giggled again, a feeling I couldn’t describe with a poets tongue bubbled up from within me. “You’re joking.”

I shook my head trying to free myself of the hysteria, but it ballooned and my laughs turned into sobs and back into laughs. Brian tried to shush me, stroking my hair and eventually pulling me into his arms. His murmurs in my ear settled my voice, but not my heart.

Was it celebrating? I thought it might be leaping out of my chest. But at the same time, my throat was closing and my eyes were leaking.

My mother who never loved me was gone.

And now, she never could.

Nancy had given Brian the details. Who to call and what to do next. I could handle the sale completely from here without ever having to step foot in that house again. There was no funeral to arrange, no family or friends to contact. That had all already happened. And the judge only opened my records to my lawyer, so no one from Evanston would ever know.

But the house was worth a decent amount of money.

A lot more if it was empty.

I took the phone from him and listened as Nancy sighed again. “Baby, I would handle it all for you, you know I would. But I’ve got grandbabies now. I’m retired and I just don’t think I-”

“No, Nancy. I would never ask that of you. I just-” my voice left. My head throbbed with the weight of the day.

“You think on it, darlin’. Darnell could help you if you decide to clean it out. He runs a moving company, so he knows a couple auction houses. We could just have them come in and take it all.”

Brian’s arms came around me from behind, holding me together when I felt like I might literally fall apart. I didn’t answer for long enough that he took the phone from my fingers and ended the conversation for the night.

I heard her tell him to give me a squeeze from her, and watched him lay the phone on the island in front of me.

“There’s something there, isn’t there?” His voice was soft, full of longing to erase this for me. To solve it.

I turned to look up at him. My arms were too heavy to lift, but I wanted so desperately to be normal. For him.

Sane.

But as I nodded, she leaked out again.

And as much as I didn’t want to set foot on that house ever again, Christina wanted to go home.

4.

Brian brushed my forehead against his lips, his fingers wrapping sweetly around the back of my neck as he held me tightly to his chest.

“You don’t need to go in. Just tell me what it is that you want out of there.”

If I’d only known.

But I pulled my hands up between us, slipping my fingertips into the curly bristles of his beard and looking up to meet his misty gaze. I shook my head.

“I have to do this. I have to put it away for good.”

He didn’t know what I meant, he couldn’t have because I didn’t. Not really.

But the house seemed to know.

It wasn’t the place I’d left. She had changed almost everything and it was something of a relief. Until I saw the first photo. And, then, all of them.

School pictures, candid shots of us on Dad’s boat, sweet poses of him twirling me or tossing me into the air, angelic smiles and tiny, toddler kisses on his cheeks.

Every single one with a thick black mark over my eyes.

I don’t remember him like I should. I’m not even sure what happened, but I know he died.

And that she hated me the very next day.

I touched each photo and felt the anger build. Brian’s, not mine. But when he pulled one off the wall, I grabbed it from him before he could smash it.

“Don’t look at what she’s done. That’s not why we are here.” I hung it back on its nail and ran my finger over the glass, pointing to my father’s gorgeous smile. “Don’t you see it?”

Brian’s fury crumpled into confusion.

“No, Jenna. All I see is cruelty and devastation.”

I walked through the hatred and felt it fall away like cobwebs. I touched another photo of him and her, no daughters eyes to blacken. Just his broad, brilliant confidence, and my mother’s sweet, doting grin as she stared up at him.

He’d been fiddling with the boiler in the basement that day. The cold bit into my fingers and toes the night before. I remember how proud he’d been to have fixed it.

But he kept going back down there.

I turned to Brian and he raised his brows at my expression.

“The basement.”

5.

It was covered with a tarp. She’d written on it, “Do not touch! Never open!” And as we unwound the plastic cloth from around it, Brian thought out loud that perhaps we should heed the warning.

But she wouldn’t have let me walk away.

The box was far too old. Like it had been there for centuries. It was a wooden crate, nailed shut and left to disintegrate, but somehow remaining, year after year.

My father had obsessed over this. It was what had killed him, I was sure.

It was warm to the touch, and got hot when I laid both hands on it. It was magnetic and electric, and I sat down, pulling it into my lap.

“Jenna, I don’t think you should open-”

But it opened.

And he was gone.

6.

She stood in front of me. A six year old with patents that loved each other and her. A child with a beautiful bright future, unmarked by the scars of death and abuse.

I saw what she could’ve been, should’ve been. I saw her grow into a stunning woman. The picture of feminine wealth. She was so beautiful, and I saw her celebrate and explore her beauty. I watched her become a lover then a mother. I saw her learning from her mother’s lessons, and it became too difficult to watch.

It could drive someone crazy. It probably had.

She made me watch, made me see wicked things and wonderful things. Some where so exciting I almost lost myself to them. The pleasure was sickening, and amazing, and excruciating, and delicious.

But it wasn’t mine.

I pushed the box away, and stood up fast as I stared at it.

It was still closed. “Didn’t I open it?”

Brian moved toward it, but I stopped him, putting my foot on top of it.

She appeared again.

“Don’t you want to know? There’s so much more. You could’ve been so much more!”

I shook my head. Slowly at first, then with something akin to confidence.

“No, Christina. You could’ve been so much more.”

I stepped back and took Brian’s hand.

“I’m exactly who I should be.”

7.

There was a long wait before the auction. I went back a few weeks later to destroy the crate, but it wouldn’t break or burn. I couldn’t bury it or sink it.

I couldn’t let anyone else touch it, I was sure it would turn them as it did my parents.

I don’t know what my mother saw that made her hate me so much. I’m not sure I want to. But I know I don’t want another soul crushed by it’s prophacy.

So I moved it. I had to.

And there’s only one other person in the world who knows where it is.

Fortunately, she’s trapped under my skin.

And inside that awfully wonderful little box.

Bubble

Pop Pending. by amie-faerie via DeviantArt.com

Waiting is a game best left to the protagonists. They are methodical in their introspection, which of course is fascinating. But only in small doses for those in the world stripped of will and purpose.

The good guys can tolerate the doldrums of time wasted. For the rest of us, the ambling majority, the true posture of patience is pretty much impossible.

But give us something sweet to suck on while we wait, and that is a whole different story.

I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last. It started with a ride on a bus. I sat two rows behind them, sweating and cursing under my breath when the bus overheated one Wednesday in August.

Her laugh gave me something to absorb besides the sweltering heat. I was drawn in by her luscious disregard for her surroundings, and I listened as he told a story about punching a brute at the top of a hill, one summer day just like that one, then watching him stumble down the rocky face, crying for his mommy.

I could almost hear the little bully’s wails in between her giggles and sighs.

And that first drink led me to follow them off the bus. All the way to her home.

He kissed her against an elm tree growing thick and full next to her front steps. The branches cradled their shoulders, hiding their lips from view. But I watched from a tree away as her leg wrapped around his, drawing him closer and closer until there was nothing between them but heat.

Guilt and embarrassment took me right past them at a pace that left me breathless when I turned the corner.

But weeks, then months passed, and I found myself there. Again and again. Waiting for another sip, another taste. One more glimpse of someone else’s delicious world.

I stood at the gate to the tiny alley that ran beside her building, the angry bite of late autumn making my cheeks and fingers red and raw, and I watched. He scraped a thick layer of frost from her windshield while she teetered on the stoop, sucking on one of those horrid skinny cigarettes and touching her bare throat.

She never dressed appropriately for the weather. But I suppose some people just carry too much heat inside their beautiful bodies to be bothered by the chill in the air.

They did this often, and despite my every attempt to give up this deplorable addiction, I continued to ogle them nearly every morning. My alarm went off at 5 and I was perched in my spot at the edge of the alley by 6:20.

Unless I’d fallen asleep in her back garden.

He would finish with the scraper and slide it into his back pocket. She’d toss her filter in the street. He’d bend to pluck it out of the gutter, shaking his index finger at her until she stepped off the curb and stuck her tongue out at him. Giggling. Cheeks rosy from more than just the temperature.

She was as predictable as ever. But not him.

He shook his head this time and stooped down so that his eyes were level with hers. He whispered to her, I could never hear what he said, even as the depth of his voice rumbled through my belly, but she cupped her hands in front of her and lowered her eyes. So obedient.

His gaze skimmed the street, forcing me back into the shadow of the alley, as he slipped the butt into her palms, drawing them together and lifting them into the air above her lowered head.

Like a magician’s assistant in a turn-of-the-century sideshow, holding up an invisible apple for the blade or bullets first strike. Trembling with something I felt in the pit of my own belly.

I imagined what he might be saying into her ear. “Don’t drop it again, little girl.” I didn’t need to see his face. It was branded into the backs of my eyelids. I could never be free from it.

His long, slender fingers played in her hair while he slipped his other hand beneath the hem of her skirt.

I’d never seen her protest, but there was a first time for everything. She whimpered and said something that brought his eyes back to hers, as his fingers tightened in her hair, tugging her head up to meet his glare.

My own thighs trembled and I used every ounce of my willpower to hold back a groan.

I knew it was wrong, this sick fascination with him. And her. I’m not insane, after all. Just a lonely voyeur with too much time on my hands.

But I had gotten more brazen, watching their windows and sitting on her back stoop to listen to them make love as I touched myself in the dark. I could envision the actions that went with each sound, I could imagine his expression in the amber light they always left on, as his fingers squeezed the sides of her throat and his body pressed against, inside, and around her.

I could even feel his fingers just then, as I watched them in this stolen moment, half a dozen yards in front of me.

He bent forward and kissed her on the cheek as he pulled her arms down and plucked the cigarette from her palm.

The look on her face made me whimper.

“Have a good morning, Lil. Don’t be late for work.”

He always was so fucking frustrating with his exit.

She saw me that morning. I’m sure she had a thousand times, but that day, she locked eyes with me. And I felt something inside me break.

I tried to turn and go, but I was frozen. Locked in the gaze of this woman I wanted to be. Coveting everything about her, down to the smooth, olive skin she got to live inside of. She stared at me long enough that I thought she might scream, or call to him. But she only stood there.

It was the first time I’d ever seen him turn back to her after saying goodbye. His exit was final, always. But this time he turned, walked back to her, and dropped his forehead to hers. And I heard him as if his head was bent to my own.

“I need you.”

Her eyes found mine again as that tiny, mischievous smile played on her lips. She slipped her fingers into his beard, kissed him in a performance worthy of an ‘R’ rating, then broke away breathless.

“Let’s call in sick.”

And from that day on, that wicked woman became my dealer in a drug that I’m not sure I’ll ever be strong enough to kick.

I’d never hurt either of them. After all, if they were gone, what would I wish for?

Nothing is quite as colorful and vibrant and real as someone else’s bubble. Even if you have everything you could ever want, there’s someone, somewhere, with more.

Fault

Devon Smoking by hatemypoisonedkiss his DeviantArt.com

I watched her face glow behind the red embers of her cigarette as she pulled the smoke deep into her lungs. Exhaling a smooth stream into the darkness, her skin returned to a shade of porcelain reflecting the moonlight.

She licked her lips as she stared at the smoke floating away from us. Her mouth twisted as she caught me staring.

“No lectures today about my health?”

Kelly’s eyes were soft, a shade of maple syrup with flecks that sparkled like the stars. But the night made them gray.

I let my gaze fall to the beer in my hands, picking and peeling the golden paper, revealing a slippery, green glass bottle beneath. I held it up between us.

“Who am I to lecture anyone about their vice?”

I tipped it back to my lips and let the bitter, crisp tang wash over my tongue before swallowing several times until my head swam and the bottle was empty.

I cracked another open before looking at her again. Her hair was parted with a zigzag and twisted into two haphazard knots. She’d tucked the wispy strands of pale blue that had escaped behind her ears. It made her look younger. Vulnerable. Sexy.

She lit another cigarette.

“We don’t have to do this right now.”

Her voice was tight and crinkly, like a Mylar balloon being filled too full. I winced and tried to turn away, but her fingers slipped around my jaw as she scooted closer to me.

The concrete felt like an ice cold promise beneath me.

“You don’t have to decide anything, Will.” She swallowed, tracing her thumb over my lip, then lowered herself to her knees on the sidewalk beneath my feet. Shifting between my legs and tossing her cigarette in the grass, she took my face in her hands. Her voice went up like it always did before she cried. “I don’t need anything from you. Just let me love you.”

A tear slipped down her cheek.

I closed my eyes from the weight of everything. I could pull her against me and lose myself in the dog-eared comfort of us, our story written on pages too fragile to be erased and rewritten. I could…

I opened my eyes as she dropped her fingers to my chest. “I can’t, baby. It would be like-”

She pushed me, rising to her feet. Glaring down at me, her nostrils flared. “It would be like it should be. It would give us more time. It would-” her voice broke and with it, something in my chest burst.

I sagged forward, staring down at hands that had crushed her heart without even holding it. Fingers that had skimmed over another woman’s body, held another woman’s face, made another woman shudder with ecstasy.

“I’ll forgive you!” The volume of her voice made my head snap up and my eyes dart around the empty street. “I will change. I’ll do whatever you need me to do.”

Her sobs cut her pleas into confetti. She fell again to her knees, wincing this time, but grabbing my shirt and pulling herself against me. “Please, William, please. You can’t do this! You just can’t do this to me!”

I’m not a cruel man. I never was. I could have stayed that night, chosen to do the “right” thing. And maybe we could’ve made it work.

But as I pulled her up and held her tightly, I saw my life, my future pass before me. Months or maybe years of mistrust. And the quicksand my infidelity had trapped me in would eventually suffocate me.

She sobbed into my chest as i tried to find purchase on solid ground. It was the first night of many that I would hold her and will her to be ok. Without me.

But the one thing I didn’t think about that night was loving her.

And that was all I should’ve thought about.

Her hair is dark violet now. Straight and sleek, framing her beautiful face like a piece of art. She stopped smoking and started running.

With him.

For him.

I watch her now, every evening, pass by the park where I proposed.

Sometimes, I can’t breath, her happiness hurts so bad. But that’s my fault.

It’s still my fault today.

It will be. Forever.

Come home soon

'Sunrise at the lake', via SkitterPhoto.com

a fiery sky greets me
warm and soft
against my eyelids
beckoning me to wake
hot breath on my neck
long fingers kneading flesh
squeezing, pulling, demanding
the flame of need
urging a dance from
within
a choreography
my hips know
by heart

but
my fingers twist in
cold, empty sheets
the silence of this
empty room
burns away the beauty
of my dream
eyes open to a
dim, damp dawn
skin still hungry
for you
heart aching
for yours
bereft of all that I
take for granted

I can not wait
to tell you

so, come home
soon

Let my kiss speak for me