"Can't you feel it?" he said, bringing his fingertips along the skin of her arm, giving her chills. "Isn't it rushing through you, right now?"
"No," she whispered helplessly, barely fighting him now.
"You don't feel-" Her breath hissed as she inhaled sharply, his nails pressing into her upper arms as he pressed their bodies together, his fingertips relentless in their pursuit of warm skin, up, up, up. "-alive?"
She closed her eyes, and leaned backward, into the warmth of his arms and chest. "I feel so alive, I think I might never die," she murmured softly, reluctantly, waiting for his triumphant smirk and laugh. His hands moved, to wrap around her waist, to slide down, to her hips, and tighten.
"I feel it, too."
She stiffened, just for a moment, but he noticed.
She paused, then, "You aren't going to hold this over me?" No reply. "You... you knew that I was going to love this."
"You knew I was going to... love you."
She thought she could feel the amusement in his voice when he said, "I did."
"It isn't right. It isn't fair." She turned in his grasp to look him in the eye, his hands falling to the small of her back. "Do you love me?"
He stared down at her, his face unreadable. She bit her lip, and shifted her feet, without realizing it. How much do I want him to say yes? she wondered briefly, frantically. How much do I need him to tell me-
"I love you."
Her mind went blank. "Oh, good, because if you didn't, that would have been a little awkward."
A grin split his face, and he lifted her up to wrap her legs around his waist, and he caught her lips with his.
She couldn't help but think, What a beautiful night, indeed
It was only later, when their summer had ended, the she realized she did not want him, could never want him, in the way she thought she did. He was in no way anything she wanted to see herself a part of. He was childhood infatuation: a mistake, a blemish, her secret to the grave.
She made herself know that what they'd had was worthless, that every shred of happiness they'd created for themselves away from the reality they both knew they'd have to return to, was for nothing. She'd become what she hated: a frivolous, dream-chasing, love-struck and foolish girl - never the kind of girl, or woman, she'd ever wanted to be. Love-struck as she was, she could not bind herself to that love. She knew it was a love of her childhood, one she would discard because she knew it was only teenage hormones in place of her soul. She knew she would never have him again, and he knew it every time he saw her. So he proposed.
She'd told him no.
He'd begged, pleaded for the comfort of her arms around him, her body and mind to him forever, and she had told him no. When he told her, as if issuing an ultimatum, that if she loved him, she would marry him, and give herself to him beyond what anyone else could do or say, she'd told him no, without the slightest hesitation. And when he asked if she had lied to him, if she truly loved him, she asked him in return, could a woman love a man so far beneath her?
But she knew it, deep in the confines of her mind and her courageous heart. Every time she came back here, just to walk the lines of the pavement, to smell the grass after a heavy rain, to breathe and remember what it was like to be near him, if just for a bare few weeks out of a bare few years, she knew she was torturing herself and she told herself that she deserved it.
It was just one day, each year, when she allowed herself to recognize what her life had become. She fled the office buildings, the hum of the subway, and chatter of people always surrounding her, the endless procession of days and nights, when sleep seemed to evade her even though she spent as much time sleeping as she could, the constant grind of work, the questions everyone assumed she had the answers to, and the lull in her life she knew could never be filled. And she had tried. Oh, God, had she tried.
She hated herself some days. What was passion to her? A memory. Nostalgia, at it's best. Was passion even worth knowing when the knowing only further impressed upon her the knowledge that it was forever out of her reach?
This was a question she could not answer, and she was helpless against the knowing that she could not solve it.
A sudden harsh glow struck her eyes, neon spots flickering across her vision. When she recovered, pulling her arm down from in front of her face, she was embarrassed to realize it was only the glint of the sun on metal. Subconsciously, she realized, she had come here, to this place where the best of her memories always brought her. The slight creaking of the chains welcomed her, invited her, seemed to miss her.
Almost absent-mindedly, she crossed the playground and sat on the swing, slipping out of her sandals and letting her toes drag through the soft sand beneath her. All thought seemed to evaporate and though she clamored to grasp hold of some string of thoughts, it evaded her like smoke. She smiled in the warmth of the setting sun on her face, and in the view of pink and orange clouds like banners of joy on the horizon. A sticky lump began forming at the base of her throat as a tear welled along her lashes. She thought, sadly, that it should have been theirs, together. The whole world for their taking, always; it would have been that way if not for her foolishness. Now it was nothing but wasted time.
Just visible in the afterglow of the sunset were the buildings of the downtown city. She wondered which they'd been atop of. She couldn't remember, and suddenly found that it didn't matter. Every moment they had together was like a burning imprint on her mind, the feel of it, not the sight. Once she thought she could never love him. Now she knew that that thought was the worst mistake of her life.
As the last rays of the sun disappeared, a shadow enveloped the playground, settling upon her in a chill she'd not been expecting. It was oddly cold for a California summer night.
Wrapping her arms around her, she began to walk back to the empty lot where she'd parked her car, where the trailer used to sit. All these years later, most inhabitants of the trailer park had disappeared, including her one-time lover and any sign of his family.
That night, a light was on where she didn't expect it. A voice was asking a question she couldn't answer, for the shock of hearing that voice and how much it hadn't changed in over a decade. It was her own astonished voice that cried out a name, her own trembling body that accepted his embrace and his kiss, and the sudden delirious blankness of her mind that had forgotten her husband and children back home.