The gentle humming of the air conditioner filled the house with a peaceful white noise. The cool air enveloped them in a comforting embrace. Like a cocoon.
She sat beside him on the velvety soft couch, legs barely touching, her eyes like liquidy brown pools of sadness. She wanted to touch him, stroke his hand, run the back of her palm down his stubbly cheek, anything to feel his closeness.
Despite the close proximity, she felt miles away.
He avoided her gaze and leaned his graying head back on the cushion. His sigh was explosive, like cannon fire across a quiet field.
“What is it that you want?” He asked softly and finally he looked at her. Really looked at her. Saw her tear-streaked face, her eyes wide, her chocolate brown pixie-short hair mussed around her long face. He pushed his bare leg, protruding from khaki shorts, against hers as if seeking comfort from the feel of her skin.
“I want what you can’t, or won’t, give me.” She sighed. Strangely composed.
Like the calm before a storm.
She held up her hands helplessly, gestured.
“Do you really wanna know what I want? I want to wake up beside the man I love, every morning. See his face next to mine on the pillow, soft and flushed, eyes crinkled with sleep. I want to come home to him at night, sit down to dinner together, talk about our days. Then I want to follow him to our bedroom and cuddle all night, like spoons. That’s what I want.” And with that final burst of speech, the dam broke. Her tears spilled forth in an unfathomable torrent and he looked away, as if it pained him to see her cry.
It did hurt.
“I can’t give you what you want. I’m not ready for marriage. You know how I feel.” He said, his voice rising defensively. He laughed softly, humorlessly. Laughter was his armor, it shielded him, protected him from displaying real emotion. He said something, attempted to make a joke. Later, she would not remember what it even was.
“Why do you have to make a joke out of everything?” She cried, her voice quaking with restrained emotion. “Why can’t you just feel? Cry?”
“I can’t help it. I laugh out of nervousness.” He replied uneasily. She nodded. She’d heard this all before. Silence blanketed them in its downy softness. He threw his leg over hers. It felt solid, and sort of protective. He covered his eyes with big fingers and his breathing changed, quickened.
She laid her head across the warmth of his soft, round belly. It was a feeling, so comforting, and familiar, and to think she’d never have it again…it induced almost a feeling of panic deep within her gut. Her sobs were quieter this time, but no less emotional, and her body shook with the force of them.
“Feel this.” He said suddenly, and grasping her finger he touched it to his cheek. She felt the wetness before she saw it in the dim room. Twilight had cast its mark upon the room, and his face was in shadows. He smirked, but there was no laugher in his eyes. “See what you do to me?”
Her breath sharpened. She’d never seen him cry. She wanted to see it, wanted to feel his emotion, if for possibly the last time. They cried soundlessly together, his heart beating a somber rhthym beneath her ear.
“This will never be the same.” She sobbed and her breath caught, she couldn’t breath.
“Don’t say that! Please don’t cry!” He begged. “This doesn’t mean it’s the end.” Despite the hope that blossomed in her chest, she continued to cry. She stroked his face.
“This might be the last time—like this.” She whispered. And finally, he understood.
They sat in pools of twilight, goosebumps dancing along bare skin, and breathed as one.