Her skin smells of the morning, and tastes like freshly cut grass.
His fingers brush her hair to one side, and stroke, barely touching. He feels her shudder, and a moan escapes her lips.
“You know we can’t stay like this forever,” she says.
“We can make it seem like forever, though.”
The tiny lines around her eyes crinkle, and her lips curl into a smile, glistening. “You know that makes no sense at all, right?”
“Does it have to?”
Her shoulders shift with the breath she pulls in, and the fabric of her shirt rubs against his body. When she breathes out, his arm pulls her tighter, his fingers hooked into the waistband of her trousers. The black ones with the silver lines running down the side. The ones that highlight every sinuous step she takes.
“You think it’s going to rain?”
Her cheek is warm as she moves in to him. He follows her eyes to the window.
Trees sway in a lingering dance, and now that he concentrates he can hear their sibilant rustling. Like the ocean, he thinks, or a lullaby. Like the soft sounds to help a child sleep. A baby in her arms, rocking gently back and forth. She breathes out, lips parted, her face almost touching milky skin, and those young eyes can hardly stay open. Tiny fingers clasp round one of hers, so delicate, keeping that grip even as sleep comes.
And then, she puts the baby down, and pulls the blankets up, the ones that forever smell of powder and warmth. She stands for a moment, a silent guardian looking down at the baby, at the arms raised up by its head, fingers still curled round, and that face, so calm, so carefree. She smiles, and there’s a hint of sadness, and he wants to hold her, to let her know that she is incredible.
The trees fill the window, silhouettes against the dawn sky. Lighter patches show through the cloud, but it is not yet light enough to make out branches. The grass is a dark shadow still. The clouds roll, tumbling like waves.
“Does it matter?” he asks. And he almost hopes it does rain. He wants to hear the rapid-fire pounding as the heavens open. He wants to see those trees whipping back and forth in the squall. He wants the view to be distorted by water racing down the glass. He wants to see puddles forming on the grass, growing into a stream, its surface in constant motion. He wants this to be a huge storm.
Because then, he will have no excuse not to stay.
“I have things to do today,” she says.
“Nothing that can’t wait.” He moves his head, slowly, because he has not yet shaved. But he needs to put his lips on her forehead, just above her eyes. Her skin is cool there, and he warms it with his breath.
She moves in closer. Her fingers reach for his own, down by her waist, and he thinks of that baby as they entwine with his. He shifts his hand, and brings his thumb up to caress her wrist. There’s a small scar, just to one side. She says it’s from an old accident, but doesn’t give him any details, like it’s not important. He never hears the story.
It’s a tiny imperfection, but it makes her even more real. And he brushes it, back and forth, because it’s a part of her. As much as the laugh-lines and the slight bulge around her midriff, and the way her elbow bends back sometimes, and a thousand other things that make her unique. He wants to touch every one of them, with his fingers, then with his lips. He wants to taste her, to draw in her aroma, and to be with her forever.
“You know this can’t last,” she says, but her voice is soft, so far away, and he wants to believe she doesn’t mean this. He wants to believe this is one of her games, teasing so that he holds her closer.
Her hand moves out, and he feels his arm shifting, away from her body. There is a distance between them now, and he can see her face clearly.
He doesn’t need to be with her for that. He can see her in perfect clarity every time he closes his eyes.
“You need to go,” she says, and he cannot answer with words. She holds both his hands now, and his skin is cold.
He nods, once, and swallows.
Outside, it is starting to rain, and he shivers. She stands in the doorway, arms wrapped around herself, and he wants to run back and give her his warmth. But he knows that moment has passed.
She shuts the door before he’s half-way down the street. He forces himself to walk on, never looking back. He doesn’t want to be reminded of the grey stonework, and the patchy, yellowing grass. He doesn’t want to see a row of identical buildings, all so lifeless and bland. He doesn’t want to be reminded of his life.
He knows he should stop, that he should fight this addiction. But he closes his eyes, just for a moment, and he sees her face.
He’ll be back. When the time is right. When he cannot take any more.
Because, even though this perfection is only fleeting, what else does he have?
Never Only One Side
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