March 10, 2008
His hand slid into hers as they walked down the beach, toes bumping every few steps. They continued on as they had for at least the last hour. The long day faded into a serene and quiet night of just the two of them gliding side by side along the crashing waves. “You look beautiful tonight.”

A cold spell shot up her spine. She leaned into his warmth. “You sound tired.” she whispered, putting her lips next to his ear as if she knew that he would not want anyone else to know. They had walked the night away. Her head fell softly on his shoulder half because she was tired and half to tell him that he was not alone.

He stopped and turned his head letting hers fall gently onto his chest. “You smell like summertime.” he whispered back, nose in her silky hair. This was not a surprise as they had been to the carnival the evening before and discovered that summer smelled of fresh cut grass and flowers, french fries and melting ice cream, hairspray and beach mist right off the sea. He felt her breath catch when he moved to press his lips against her neck. At her exhale, he decided to try again, going for her lips this time. He held his breath and aimed. Upon contact, he felt her thinking and could tell she liked it as she always did. He felt the sand melt from under them, and they began to fall into a black velvet curtain of stars sewn into the night sky. After a few all too short seconds, he opened his eyes and was back into reality.

“You taste like hot dogs.” She giggled into his warm smile. Her eyes twinkled when she remembered their evening. They had skipped like grade school lovers, spending all their quarters on games of luck rigged to snatch any money in a 5 foot radius. She loved it. He reminded her of her brother and of what her life was like before his was taken by foolish doctors who caught the cancer too late, ending his life too early. She shook her head to erase the memory.

“You feel” he kissed her softly again, “like the only one who should know.”

At this, she stopped. Wonders radiating, her eyes raced over every inch of his body. Hands now on his chest, she mumbled, “Know what, sweetheart?”

He backed away, his turn to stop. Hand resting on the small of her back, he walked her to the bench where the sand met the sidewalk. Sitting down on the peeling green paint, he turned to her and smiled the smile she had fallen in love with. He looked at the purple plastic ring on her right pointer finger and then to the cotton candy wisps that had escaped into her shiny black hair floating freely over the pink jacket they bought at Target a few months back. He moved his left hand to her right thigh at his inhale and her hand followed. Their other hands then stacked on top in alternating order. He slowly breathed in the moment. “I have...” he paused, turning both hands to hold hers upright. “I have Pancreatic cancer.” He blew his breath out. A grand total of three people knew this fact about him. His own deep dark secret like the ones that thirteen-year-olds share around popcorn and candles on Friday night sleep overs with movies softly going unwatched in the background. “I have about eighteen months.” That’s a year and a half. One more birthday, six more oil changes. Only one more summer to feel the beach breeze and ocean mist. “I love you.”

After a sharp inhale, she pulled away and stood back. She blinked once, twice, and a third time letting tears fall. They made a crooked line down her face, smearing the butterfly softly painted on her cheek. She touched it, and strangely felt that her face was warm when inside she felt so cold. She lifted her chin to look at the full moon, arms dangling lifelessly at her sides. Her breathing quickened and she started shaking, unsteady. He stood and grabbed her between her elbows and shoulders. He slowly spun her around and softly kissed her beautiful moonlit face. He backed her up to place her gently back down on the cold, hard bench. Hands on her knees, he got down on his right knee. He kissed her hand and let his lips linger there for a second to collect his thoughts. He gazed into her blue eyes, still wet with tears. Fishing in his jacket pocket, he pulled out a purple ring box containing her great aunt’s diamond.

“Will you marry me?” He questioned, looking only at the unopened box.

Her senses galloped free in the wind that blew her hair away from the small grin now painted on her flawless face and she forgot for a second her entire life, littered with cancer stories. With a slow nod, she watched him slide the familiar ring onto her still shaking finger. He took back her hand and they continued down the beach into the moon light, their senses silently dancing in perfect harmony.

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