Distance

The night was cold and her heart was heavy. The world was still and silent and somber, illuminated only by the weakly shining stars and the interior lights of the car which faded quickly after the driver's side door slammed shut.

She stood, eyes wide with anticipation as he slowly walked around the car to meet her on the other side.

She felt a hand on her face, and a tip of her chin held her gaze in line with his.

Even in the darkness she saw him; someone soft yet strong, someone who pushed her to her limits and plucked on her heartstrings. His gaze was intense, and she couldn't have looked away if she tried. A slow blink of his eyes severed the line of sight, and he let his eyes fall down her face, taking in every detail; the slight redness of her nose as the cold night air seeped into her skin, the way her lips parted slightly as she breathed, the teeth he would tap teasingly with his fingernail when she would let out long yawns. Her hand found its way to his, and she held him there against her cheek.

She closed her eyes, feeling the warmth of his hand drive the coolness from her skin. She looked as peaceful as she had when she was sleeping, he noted, and he let his other hand find its way into her hair as he took a step closer to her.

She leaned into him, releasing his hand only to wrap her arms around his neck.

He pulled away from her face, the cold air feeling even colder with the absence of his hand. He wrapped his newly free arm around her waist, and they held each other tightly, each wishing that the other would never let hand brushed through her soft, light hair, which reflected and seemed to glow in the starlight. His fingers traced over her scalp, down her neck, over her back. His palm flattened against her and he gripped her sweater tightly. He squeezed the breath from her body and let out a deep sigh, their air meeting and mixing and floating away into the world. As his grip loosened, she inhaled, breathing him in and locking him away within her lungs.

As his scent filled her nose she sighed and buried her face into his jacket. All at once she felt dizzy with grief and tears stung at her eyes. She sniffed and he patted her back. Don't cry, he said, it's a happy day. She nodded, but didn't speak. She felt the clawing at her throat that indicated she would soon cry, so she held her breath and waited for the stinging to subside.

He would miss her, he said, but he would see her soon.

She would miss him too, she told him, and it wasn't soon enough.

He held her, feeling her weight against him and finding comfort. She was his safety, and he dreaded the moment she would let go. He recalled the emptiness he felt when he had lost his first love. It was crippling and confusing and crushing. Losing someone the way he had was like climbing stairs and thinking there's one more step than there really is, and having your foot fall for what feels like miles before it finds ground again. There comes a sickening feeling in your stomach as you try to make sense of what happened, and why the floor was snatched out from under you, and what made you think in the first place that there would ever be a step there at all. He gave her a squeeze and reminded himself that yes, she was real and she was here and she was his, and she wouldn't leave him.

He wouldn't be alone again.

This thought and her body gave him strength, and his hand once again made its way to her hair. He stroked her softly and told her he loved her. She smiled against him.

He knew it was easy now, when he was here and she was with him and they were together. The moment she let go he would be back to fighting the loneliness and fear and herself feared for the day when he would grow tired of her. One day he would realize that she was weak and indecisive and he would find that he didn't want to deal with her incompetence. He was so much greater than she; he was a whole person, and she had been broken and pieced together too many times.

She was inadequate, she could never measure up, she would never be successful or secure as he was. She knew he wanted to feel needed, and she did need him. This was the problem. If she didn't need him, she wouldn't worry she would lose him.

Nestling into him she could hear his heart beating, and she told him so. It beats for you, he said, and she felt at peace. She resolved herself not to worry for things that may never come, but to enjoy the now, for now he was here and she could touch him and feel him and even feel his heartbeat. She wondered if her own heart was thumping as loud as it felt.

They stood embracing in the darkness until he began to feel her trembling. The chilly night air had soaked into her bones now, and not even his embrace could warm her again.

It was time for her to go inside, he told her, but she shook her head. She didn't want to go in, she said, she wanted to be with him. He knew, he said, but she was shivering and she should go warm up. She nodded but didn't let go.

His arms squeezed around her again before he let her go, taking a step back and opening the car door. He handed her her bag and told her once again that he loved her. She loved him too, she told him as he slung the bag over her shoulder. He lowered his face to hers and placed his lips on her cheek. They were wet and soft and warm, and she smiled into his kiss. As he pulled away she tried to kiss his mouth, but her lips only grazed the hair on his chin. She laughed at herself, and he joined her before kissing her lips softly.

She smiled and licked her lips instinctively. She opened her mouth to speak but stopped herself. Don't say goodbye, he had told her, goodbyes are sad and this is a happy day. Just say 'see you soon.' So she did. And he did as well. And with that, she turned and walked up to the door. She turned back to look at him as she moved up the walkway, she saw him move back to the driver's side of the car, though he didn't open the door. Neither did she, once she reached it.

He waved to her, and she waved back before unlocking the door to the house. Once her door was open, he got in the car and she heard the engine start to rumble. She blew him a kiss before going inside. She watched through the window as he drove away.

The house was even more silent and still than the world outside, and she felt the tears she had held back spring to her eyes. She let the roll down her cheeks as she tossed her bag aside and kicked off her shoes. She walked into the bedroom, dropping herself face down on the mattress. She rolled onto her side and curled up under the blanket, bringing the hem of her sweater to her nose and breathing in what little of him lingered on her clothes.

She laid there, alone, awake, and crying. For a while she engulfed herself in pity, knowing it would be weeks if not months, before she could see him again. Once her eyes had emptied themselves of tears, she sat up and dried her face.

She stood slowly and made her way through the darkness to the bathroom. The light was blinding as she flipped the switch on the wall. Staring at herself in the mirror, she splashed some water onto her face, almost feeling guilty for washing away the traces of himself that he had left on her skin.

She ventured back into the darkness, stubbing her toe as she made her way to the bed once again. A familiar sound rang through the air, and the screen of her phone lit up with a message from him.

I love you, I'll see you soon.