Do you ever imagine the end, even when everything is sweet and new and feels as if this lightheaded happiness will last forever?
Sometimes it’s a dream, or the fragment of a thought or a feeling. Sometimes it’s just a story that shows up like this:
She swept in with a cool gust of rain, the boisterous wind hurrying her forward as the heavy door whooshed shut behind. Even from across the room, he imagined he could smell her perfume–jasmine, it had always been jasmine.
With a little laugh she shook her damp, wild curls and stepped forward to the counter. She had the kind of smile that invited others to smile back; he could see its effect on the barista, a reed-thin redhead who was working hard on his cool hipster vibe. Yet even he was not immune to those dimples, and a deep rose blushed from his ears to his cheeks.
He fancied he could hear her order–mocha, the biggest ever, please, thank you so much–though that was impossible with the steady hum of white noise, the clickety-clack of laptop keyboards and intimate murmurs, the crisp snap of a newspaper and the steady hum of machines in the back of the shop creating caffeine, minting business as usual.
She saw him as she turned, shifting her red umbrella to her right hand as she scanned for a place to sit down. Her face brightened with recognition, a small half-wave with her free hand, and then she chose a seat at the long bar flanking the picture window.
It was all over so quickly; he wasn’t sure he had smiled back. He wasn’t sure what expression was on his face at all, really. Too late he looked down, at his lap, his papers, his coffee and his tablet. But it didn’t matter, for her back was turned, and he could not even make out her reflection from the rain-streaked glass.
Her face flickered in his mind’s eye, the sweet impersonal friendliness of that look, a look he had seen her give strangers on the street, tourists asking for directions, the cashier just now as he handed her change.
It was not a look for someone who had seen her sweating with ecstasy, whispering his name as he delved deep inside her, wet and wanton and waiting for him to bring her to the brink of orgasm one more time.
It was not a look for someone who had watched her sleeping, artless as a snow angel spread out in the middle of their shared bed.
But in all fairness, he had been the one to leave. He remembered her face in that moment, the dark eyes brimming with tears that splashed down the curve of her cheeks, the hurt and confusion with her soft lips firmly closed against asking the impossible question, “Why?”
Suddenly the bell above the door chimed once more; a tall man with a firm grip against the gale entered with the wind whirling in rebellious eddies around the edges of his long coat.
This time he did hear her gasp, the giggle in her throat as she called the man’s name:
“Edward, there you are! I thought perhaps you had been blown off to Oz.”
“No, but I was just in the nick of time to keep a house from being dropped upon my mother,” the gentleman answered with a droll, dry taste of humor. She wrapped her arm through the tall man’s and tilted her face up for a kiss.
Abruptly aware that he was staring, he dropped his gaze to his empty lap, his spreadsheets, his now cold coffee and blank-screened, sleeping tablet. He did not look up when the bell rang as they withdrew, as her lilting voice left the room.
At the time, it had seemed like the right decision.
At the time, the reasons seemed sound.
And now it felt like saying goodbye, all over again, and all those reasons were worthless.