Saturday 21 June
I doubt I’ll send this letter when I arrive home Monday. Maybe years from now I’ll show you, and we can laugh at how things were at the beginning.
But I wanted to write it down so I’d never forget that night in the river (and by the river). Six eternal months apart lie before us, but with one glance at this page, I can be with you again.
You stand before me, trembling but unafraid. I stand before you, perfectly still but pure afraid.
Afraid, because without clothes my body feels awkward, my arms too long, my gut too soft. Afraid, because I know I’ll do something stupid. Afraid, because I’ve told you I love you, and you’ve not said it back.
Hands clasped, we step into the mountain river, sucking in breath at the icy shock. It takes all my will not to shriek like a wee lass, or crush the fine bones in your hand. I’m relieved you saw me before the cold water had its effect on—well, you know.
We stop and face each other, joking about shampoo and such, pretending we’re here to get clean. Seeing your bare skin glisten with drops of moonlight-tinged water, I feel the opposite of clean.
I put my hands on your waist, as much to steady myself as anything. The river’s current runs at my back, pushing me towards you and pulling you away. “Do ye trust me?”
“I trust you.”
My heart pounds, keeping blood flowing to parts extreme. But it’s still fear, not passion, pumping this adrenaline.
Because when I look into your eyes, I think of him. A chance squandered, a love lost. Death stalked him even as you lay in his arms. If he were alive, would I be holding you? Are we a tragedy?
“I love you.”
There, you’ve said it, and with those words, changed the course of the river itself, so it pulls us together, and suddenly feels not so cold after all.
Together, we sink underwater. You close your eyes to protect your contact lenses, but I keep mine open, watching your dark hair stream upwards. It looks like you’re falling.
Back at the surface, we kiss hard and fast, trying to forget how in three days, an ocean will come between us. All too soon, we’re interrupted by the distant sound of a DMP search party.
That’s a dreadful bit, so I’ll skip the telling. But it makes us hide close to shore, in water shallow enough to sit in.
I pull you into my lap. Your flesh is warm against me, sliding, pressing, reawakening the heat inside until it’s as if the DMP and this cold water never existed. My thoughts become a long, low howl of static. I fumble for conversation to keep from—I don’t know what.
“Does this remind you of anything?”
You go still in my arms, making me wonder what memories my question has sparked. I hurry to remind you of our first kiss, stolen in a potato bin, during another escape from federal agents.
You remember, and all at once you’re mine again, closer than ever. I hold you tight and press my teeth to the back of your neck, feeling pure animal ache.
Then your hand slips between us, down to where…God.
And I can’t think and I can’t breathe and I speak in tongues and I taste your hair, silky wet, smelling of river but underneath so incredibly, undeniably you. And this is all I ever need. I could die right now.
But somehow I find breath again. You say words, then I say words, I don’t remember which. Then we fall silent, because our would-be captors are closer. This waiting should be torture, but after so many never-holding-you months—in the past and future—I’ll not complain.
When the DMP has moved on, we force our cold, stiff limbs to return us to shore, where we huddle in towels, laughing, kissing each other’s lips from blue to red again.
You stretch out on the towel, and I’m suddenly glad we’ve no condoms, glad we’re saving sex for another time. Tonight, we can explore each other, enjoy each other, with no fear.
First I must know what you want. “Aura, where can I touch you?”
Your arm trembles under my hand. “Anywhere,” you whisper.
“And where can I kiss you?”
Your right foot arches, turning your whole leg taut. “Everywhere.”
I take a deep breath that quakes my lungs. “I’ll start here, aye?”
“Aye,” you say, before my mouth covers yours.
As we kiss, one certainty takes root in my soul: we are no accident, no spawn of tragedy. This was meant to be. This would have forged a million frozen rivers, set the paths of stars and planets, created universe upon universe, to make itself happen.
Later, after we dress, you sleep with your head in my lap, a rolled-up towel for a pillow. I swat away mosquitoes before they can reach your cheeks and your bare arms. The underbrush hides all of you and most of me except my eyes, so I can scan the far shore for searchlights.
The moon sets at last, and through the trees I see patches of sky carpeted with stars. I’ve not been anywhere this dark in ages. I sync my breath with yours, dissolving one more boundary between us.
A flash of violet appears across the river. I rub my eyes, certain I’m half-asleep and dreaming. But there it is again, a ghost on the distant shore. It lingers at the water’s edge, perhaps remembering a fishing holiday or a canoe ride—or a rendezvous like ours.
At this moment, I see the world through your eyes, Aura. The joy and pain of lives loved and lost. And it is beautiful.
Labels: extra scenes, SHADE series