by Louise Charles
His smile made my heart ache. The first time he asked me out for a date. His head lowered, kicking at a spot on the ground. He looked up, his eyes fixed on mine and I was his. He took me ice-skating. I was hopeless, like a new born fawn with legs that wouldn’t hold me, too nervous to ask for help. He caught me and captured my heart.
He brings me tea, steaming hot.
‘Wait a while,’ he says. ‘It will soon cool down. What would you like for breakfast?’
I don’t care. What’s the point in eating?
He blows on the cup, tiny droplets of tea spatter my face.
‘Sip,’ he says. I keep my lips shut. He places a tender kiss on my neck.
I can hear him humming in the bathroom, tap running, lathering his face and the rasp of the blade as it crosses his skin. I once went everywhere he did. I urge myself to move, to lift myself up. I would give anything to go to him, wrap my arms around his waist, lay my cheek against his warm shoulder and breathe him in. Minty toothpaste and sandalwood smells. Fresh. Clean.
He is dressed. He wears blue jeans, a tangerine coloured shirt and a cream, cotton jacket. A passionflower tucked in the buttonhole.
He’s still humming.
‘My Heart Will Always Go On.’ Our wedding song – words that have represented our love until now.
My gaze is drawn to the deep plum satin that falls from his hands like a soft curtain.
‘Do you know what day it is?’
I blink. Yes, I remember.
‘It’s our anniversary.’ He smiles. My heart aches.
Ten years. Just me, him, and two strangers for witnesses. I wore a simple satin shift the colour of aubergine. The one that he has now placed across the bed.
It won’t fit.
‘It will fit you perfectly.’ He slips my nightgown off and I yearn for his touch, but we don’t - not anymore. The soft, cool material caresses my skin as he lifts me up for a fleeting moment so that the skirt falls and wraps around my ankles.
I wore no shoes.
‘You were barefoot. And beautiful.’
He moves a strand of hair from my face and a single tear falls onto my cheek.
‘Me. You. Us.’ He holds up three fingers, like the three cream candles we lit to symbolise our union. They had fluttered with life, with hope, with our future.
But that’s all gone. Extinguished like a flame.
He grabs my shoulders as he lowers me back against the pillows. ‘Don’t go.’
I have to. There is nothing here for me now. Nothing for you now. No ‘us’ now.
‘We can see this thing through,’ he pleads, ‘together we can beat this.’
No, we cannot. I cannot. Trapped in a body that no longer works. I have to let you go. You don’t know how much I want to stay. How much I long to tell you. How much I long for you to hear me. But you can’t. I’m shouting but you can’t hear me.
He lies by my side, gathering me towards him and holds my gaze.
I close my eyes, listen to my heartbeat, and feel his breath on my lips.
One. Two. Three. Stop.
No more smiles. No more heartache.
Louise Charles (aka Jo Lamb)
Website: Louise Charles (www.louisecharles.com)
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