*This is a vignette I wrote several years ago. I deliberately wrote my characters to be vague, so that anyone can be imagined in the story.
I knew he was leaving. That I would never see him again. I could feel it in the core of bones, in the fibers of my tendons, in the roots of my scalp. I could feel my body lock down for the impact of his finite words.
I have to go.
I laid back against the cobalt sheets. I breathed in the musty smell of the attic and watched the dust motes dance in the one sliver of light that peaked through the grey blanket of clouds and streamed through the wide bay window. The peeling beige paint seemed to cling to the wood paneled walls like it was on its last breath. Just as I knew I would feel in a few short hours. But for now, I let the fiery heat from his skin burn into my back and his scorching hand leave a trail of flames across my face. I leaned my cheek into his palm, and he cradled my face against his chest. I would remember his scent for as long as I lived. It was the sea waves crashing against the rain-soaked pavement of the Shore Highway. It was the evergreen trees bending and dancing in the unrelenting ocean winds. It was the sun warming up the damp earth after 165 days of rain and cold. It was a cup of boiling chamomile tea and the heavy, sweet cream that was stirred into it. He shifted slightly and brought his face down to meet mine. We lay parallel on the wide bed, surrounded by the thick comforter and all the words we didn’t want to say.
His arms encircled my back and he pulled me flush against him. I nuzzled my face into his neck and sighed, letting my breath wash over his heart. His fingers kneaded circles into the small of my back, attempting to rub out the brick of anxiety that resided there. I wove my legs between his calves in a futile attempt to fuse my body with his. I could feel our hearts beating against our skin, a steady, omnipresent reminder of the futility of forever. The salt of my tears had long since dried on my face, forming a soluble mask. My nails dug into my palms, forming silver crescent scars.
Don’t go. Don’t leave me.
Two hours passed. My heart beat faster, my salt mask still in place. My skin burning, my limbs were iron around him. One breath, two breaths. The weight in the bed was gone. He stood above me, looking at me like he was seeing daylight for the last time. I knew it was too painful for him to openly acknowledge what was happening. It was for both of us. He brushed his hand across my face, lingering on my lips. And then the sea waves ceased to crash, the sun went dark, the tea stopped boiling –
and the evergreens were still.
~Kate Cummings, 2016