The Sky Was Clear...

March 30, 2008
By Jessica Murphy, Lynnwood, WA

The sky was clear, and everything was still. Not a cloud in the sky, the moon a glistening stone in a river of indigo, blue, and violet. Stars littered the sky like glitter thrown upon a blank sheet of paper, emphasizing the hollow emptiness of the night and the never-ending expansion of the universe. It was nights like this that she would go for a walk to the dock. She liked to sit on the edge, and stare at the reflection of the sky on the clear, smooth, unbroken surface of the lake. The stillness was broken by the occasional fish jumping up to catch a fly. The sound of frogs and crickets filled the summer air, but to her the world seemed silent, and the silence held a promise. Every night she came to the dock, staring at the stars and straining to hear what was being promised.

She would hold her hand centimeters over the surface of the clear, cool lake, unwilling to break the pristine tranquility, yet unable to draw away. Some nights she would fall asleep on the dock, her worn checkered blanket wrapped around her shoulders, face peaceful only in sleep. Her constant frown melted, her sorrow-filled eyes, closed.

Every night he lay still, pretended to breath deeper, steadily, faking sleep. After she was sure he was asleep, he would feel the bed move as she got up. They were too far out for her to be going anywhere far, so the first few times he took no notice. But she started to do it more often. He would watch out the window, making sure she was alright. Every night she would walk to the edge of the dock, either sitting on the edge or laying curled up near it. She found some solace there; something she couldn’t find in their bed. Perhaps it was because the sky and stars and lake knew nothing of her sorrows, knew nothing of the sickness eating her up. The frogs chirped no differently then they had before.

Sometimes she would come back to bed, other nights she would fall asleep on the dock. He always waited and watched out the round window on the second story, in their room. If she fell asleep he would carry her back in, laying her back in bed. Each time he noticed how much lighter, frailer she was. Her bones felt hollow, her cheeks sunken in. Her eyes seemed glazed, duller each day. Her hair was thin; it reached her ear lobes now.

Time was running out. It was the unspoken, forbidden knowledge that edged between them. She was trying to protect him with the distance, ease the passing, but she couldn’t see that he want it all: all the love, all the pain, until the time came when he had nothing.

That night was different. She got up, and this time the bed didn’t move at all; the loss of her weight went unnoted. He knew, rather than saw, that she picked up the old checkered blanket (the first thing they bought together) and wrapped it around her. He heard her slide on her slippers. She seemed to glide out of the house, the only noise made by the door opening with a creak. The spring chill seemed to have left the air, and he felt the beginning of a warm summer breeze caress his cheek. Time, time, time the wind whispered.

This time he followed her out.

He sat beside her on the dock. She looked radiant in the moonlight; her eyes seemed to have gained back their shine. But she was so slight, too frail, her skin stretched too thin over her bones. The cancer had eaten away at her soft thighs, her full hips, her round cheeks, leaving a skeletal shell behind.

He sat beside her, taking her hand in his. Time, time, time. She looked at him, and her eyes held such sorrow he felt his heart shatter. In that sorrow was an apology, was fear, was longing. Easily, too easily, he took her into his lap. He tipped her chin back, and kissed her thin, chapped lips. She sighed against his lips, consuming his essence, his soul for the last time. They ached as one as their soul-bond, their love-bond, their life-bond was cut.

“I love you. Forever.”

It didn’t matter who said it, as their eyes met, it was understood. Neither of them said it; they both said it. They shouted and whispered it. And suddenly it was clear to her again; she heard the frogs croaking and the crickets chirping. Tears slipped down her cheeks, and her bony fingers clutched at his shirt with a sudden desperation. The promise of forever was made; the night emptied its secrets to their broken and dazed hearts. Sobs shook their chests, their tears mingling.

As the sun rose, adding pale pink and orange to the azure sky, he felt her still. And with the last of the stars she fled, leaving behind the shell, the prison that had held her. He felt her still, and the world seemed too bright, too loud as the world awoke.

Gently, for the last time, he picked her up and carried her inside, laying her in bed. The day dawned, and with it, the promise of forever held over the horizon.

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