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The quiet of the night lingers all around. It hangs in the coldness of dark. It seems even the cicadas remain silent in sadness. The silence is a constant reminder that Serah is gone. It has been two weeks and every fiber in my being aches from missing her. I lie down on the cool sheets and scratch at my unshaven cheek. Minutes or hours pass by; I cannot keep track anymore. Thinking of Serah, I slowly close my eyes.
When I open them again, I’m in my car, as if I had just reached home from work. It feels like early evening; the light outside the window is a golden ivory. There is moisture in the warm sky and life throughout the street. The leaves in the trees rustle in the slight wind while the birds nest and settle. They chatter among themselves as if in an important meeting. The analog clock on the dashboard reads 5:37 pm. Strolling into the house, I am instantly greeted by the smell of gingerbread. Warm and brown. Freshly baked, or baking. It smells wonderful. Christmas is six days away, but the smell makes it feel like it’s tomorrow morning. I walk towards the oven to take a peek at the cookies still basking in the glorious heat. If this is real, Serah would be sitting on our bed reading some novel or watching the latest series on television. I get the crazy idea to surprise her, and give her a good laugh.
I race through the living room, towards our bedroom in the hallway. Right before the hallway is our newly bought Christmas tree, fresh with the scent of pine needles. The lights are on, though the ornaments have yet to come out of the attic. I’m in such a rush I have no time to notice the two legs sticking out from under the tree. Immediately, I trip over them, fall onto my face, and hear the tree yelp.
Rolling over, I exclaim, “What is going on?”
I see the whole upper half of her body under the tree and her two eyes straining out to see me. She’s laughing.
I scoff, “What’s so funny?”
She giggles, “… snuffle… you.”
“You’re the odd sight! What are you doing?”
She exasperatedly repeats, “Lights, Will, I’m looking at the lights.”
I sit up, crawl over to the tree, and lay down next to her. She inhales and says, “Hey you.”
I look at her, for the first time since I lost her. The feeling is inexplicable. It’s the same Serah, every curve of her face. My memory doesn’t do her justice.
Serah can sense that I seem to be pondering something. She asks, “A penny for your thoughts?”
“They’re not worth so much.”
“Tell me anyway.” She brushes the back of her fingers against my scruffy cheek and asks, “How are things going down there?”
She scrutinizes my face, “You look like you’ve been having a hard time.”
Turning back to look at the lights I say, “I miss you.”
She purses her lips, ruffles my hair, and says, “Everything is going to be okay. You know that, right?”
I nod. The lights are warm and soothing. The blinking colors intertwine throughout the branches as if they belong there. They spiral to the top of the tree and trustingly rest upon the braches. Each take its turn to glow for a few seconds before vanishing to let the other lights glisten. I am content lying next to her as we had done so many times before. I silently wish this moment could last forever.
Serah turns to me after a minute and says, “Why were you running?”
I think for a second and say, “You know what…. I don’t know.”
We both laugh there under the lit tree. I take a good look at her and then kiss her on her forehead.
And just like that, she’s gone. I jerk awake atop my blanket and instinctively reach over to the space next to me where Serah had just been lying. My hand rests over the spot and I can swear I feel a little warmth.