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I am standing in the doorway.  I held her close to me here, just here, during the earthquake three years ago, when I finally decided I loved her.  I am standing here in the doorway, and she is standing by the bed, staring at an antique lampshade; I know she is remembering the day I brought it home from Brunei.  She kissed me on the mouth for the first time since our wedding.  Just in the corner, just there, but it was enough.

A suitcase is on the bed, the zipper half open; she stops every few seconds to stare at a piece of our life together and remember.  The lampshade.  Ring stains on the bedside table.  The pattern the light makes on the bedspread through the window.  Me, standing in the doorway, wishing I were holding her close.  She shakes her head, just a little shake, and goes back to unzipping the suitcase, begins tossing clothes into it, helter-skelter.  I stumble into the room after the mess, and attack it.

“You don’t need to fold those,” she tells me, ripping a crumpled polo from my fingers and stashing it under some wadded up waist-high panties.
I don’t say anything.  I am incapable of saying anything.

She notices me shaking after a few seconds of staring at the music box on the armoire.  She inherited it from her mother two years ago.  I was the one who held her as she cried.  It was me.  Not him.  He wouldn’t have stayed with her; I know that. “Oh, Derrick,” she says.   “I’m not angry with you.”

“I know,” I tell her.

“I’m just impatient to get on the road.”  A grin creeps over her face, lifts her cheekbones so the sunlight bounces off them, makes her freckles beautiful.  “I never thought this would happen for me.  Did you?”

I want to tell her that I’d thought it already had, but I don’t.

“I think you’d like him, Derrick.  If you got to know him like I have.  You really would.”

I imagine them spending nights together.  She claimed she had night classes; she was going to become a nurse finally, she told me.  I imagine them breaking off long, tender kisses so she could answer my clueless phone call asking her how her class went and what time she’d be home.  I imagine her making excuses for me in front of him, saying, sorry, I have to take this.  He gets needy if I’m gone too long.  I am her burden, her embarrassment.  And she is finally shrugging me off.

“Do you think you’ll find someone one day, too, Derrick?”  Her face is still glowing, ethereal against her premature-silver hair and still-water eyes.  “I do.  I think one day she’ll be there and you’ll forget all about me.  All you’ll think about is her, how she looks after her morning jog, how she smells after her shower before work, how she tastes when you kiss her goodbye.  But I hope that sometimes you’ll look at a memory in this house and think of me.  But only sometimes.”

The earthquake struck at breakfast.  She wanted to get under the table but I pulled her into the doorway of our bedroom and hugged her to my chest.  She clung to my blue night shirt and left tear stains as she wiped her eyes on it, sobbing every time the house rocked with another tremor, wondering aloud about our daughter, Cathleen, if she was okay, if she were feeling this, too.  I told her that Cathleen lived in New York now, that she wouldn’t feel it there.  And she kissed me.  It wasn’t sweet like when I returned from Brunei; she dug her uneven fingernails into my shoulders and pressed flush against me, sucked the breath from my lungs.  But for the first time I felt like she loved me, and realized that I loved her, too.  That the promise we made our wedding day, that if either of us fell in love, we could leave, that the marriage wouldn’t be an end-all for love, didn’t matter.  Because I had married the love of my life, and she was all I needed.

Years passed and I would find little excuses to touch her every day.  Passing her orange juice at breakfast, I would let our fingers brush, and something inside me would stir, something I hadn’t felt since my mouth-breathing adolescence.  I would grasp her shoulder if she hit her shin on the coffee table, or missed a stair.  I would give her tastes of my chamomile with milk in front of the fire in the evening, and ask for a sip of her homemade cider.

Now she stands with her back to the bed and the packed suitcase, staring out the window at our birdfeeders that hang from the ancient oaks that looked exactly the same when we bought the house two decades ago.  I know she is crying but I can’t comfort her anymore; I know this too.  That’s his job now.

When we got married, I promised I would be happy for her if she left me for love.  I promised, but I can’t be.  But I’m letting her leave, and that has to be enough.
Giving me a last look, a smile, she passes me.  It’s what we always wished for, she says with her eyes.  She doesn’t close the door behind her.
Thoughts?
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:iconposhlost:
poshlost Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Holy shit. You are amazing.
That is all.
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:iconwaltz-with-me:
Waltz-With-Me Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2009
Eee, you made me smile. You get the award for *most anxiously anticipated opinion.*
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:iconhospital-affliction:
Hospital-affliction Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2009
Oh this was so so beautiful it almost hurt. Thank you for it.
Reply
:iconwaltz-with-me:
Waltz-With-Me Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2009
Aww, you're quite welcome. Thank you for reading. :heart:
Reply
:iconmooney-bo-booney:
mooney-bo-booney Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2009
I am very confused. I'll come back and reread later when I've got my head on straight. [:
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:iconwaltz-with-me:
Waltz-With-Me Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2009
Hahaha. Fair enough. :D
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:iconhappymo:
happymo Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2009
how sad...
I want to add more, but.. that is what ths left with with. A Bitter sadness
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:iconwaltz-with-me:
Waltz-With-Me Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2009
:( I know it. Poor guy. Thanks for reading. :aww:
Reply
:iconhappymo:
happymo Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2009
of course, I always enjoy your work
Reply
:iconwaltz-with-me:
Waltz-With-Me Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2009
:heart:
Reply
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