The gravel gives to her gait, spiking huffs of gray into the twilight. Bronzed legs buckle under the weight of the duffel bag on her shoulder. Every step marries the tough black canvas to the bruise under her skirt. Bloodied teeth clench behind broken lips in response. The air is cool. Birds sing in the leafless tree on the side of the road, but the world is caught in the groggy hush of dawn breaking and remains still. She bows her head and a mat of paling blond curls falls against the sweat-lined barrier of her brow, over the salty curves of her cheeks. Exhales reveal the taste of iron on her tongue, and her swallows lock the lump firmly inside her throat. Clammy hands of broken nails grip the strap of her bag as she works to keep her balance, wobbling down the driveway. Her head is still spinning. In the din of her delirium, her hazel eyes succumb to the distant pangs of ravaged times — a memory veiled in blurry visions, weakening with every step she takes away from the house. Away from him.
Summer felt good on her skin then. The grass was soft and cool, ruffling between her fingers like hair as she combed through it. Lying on the thin red blanket, legs crossed and shielding her eyes from the sun, she could see his figure leaning in and setting their lunch down between them. Smiles radiated across the field where they sat. Through the chirping of cicadas and the hollow whistles of the breeze, wine glasses clinked and found two pairs of lips wedding with their mixture. Nubile hands roved in delicate dances over silk and skin. Sighs were gently confessed mere inches from an ear, becoming chills before the vanished into the cloudless cyan spreading endlessly around them.
A taxi hums grumpily up ahead. She extends a weakened arm and waves to the smoking driver, still shadowed in the lightplay of dawn. A painful grunt follows the tentative shutting of the car door, and she feels her aching legs again as she slides into the backseat. The light rattle of a loose muffler and the static gurgles of Sinatra on the radio sober the silence of her scene. Sunlight creeps through the naked branches of the tree behind the car, through the chimes pinging on the neighbor’s front porch, through the window of her bedroom, where he lies sleeping.
Soon the birds will be singing in throngs, and the early bus will growl its way past the block. His alarm will blare and prod him into movement, and he’ll rise refreshed from the tangled satin of his bed. He’ll crack his knuckles and scratch his legs as he lurches into the kitchen, his stomach growling in anticipation. The smell of coming spring will seep through a cracked window, but won’t be tinged with the scent of eggs or bacon. He won’t hear or smell a thing, and his eyes will widen to find her gone.
Originally published in the online magazine Women’s Entertainment Today, 2011.