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He had hand-picked the crimson roses and arranged them carefully in a bouquet. Extensive planning had gone into this moment, but sweat prickled underneath his collar; he should have thought to bring an extra dress shirt. The porch stood just a few yards away, taunting him. Daisies sprout in the front garden, sprinkles of white against the house’s baseboards. In a tree somewhere, a songbird whistles a tune.
He studies the spiral of the roses and picks at one of the stems with a clean-cut fingernail. The pad of his index finger catches on a thorn; a trickle of blood runs down his finger, and he cusses. He dabs at the blood with a kleenex, splotching the sterile white with drops of red. He does not even hear the footsteps approach. When she gently raps her knuckles against the driver side window, he feels his heart leap into his throat, thumping wildly. Her quiet chuckle is kindhearted and amused; he lets himself giggle slightly at his jumpiness. He steels himself, and leads her to the passenger door of his car with as much courage as he can muster, roses in hand.
The crags turns a soft orange as the sun dipped below the smooth plane of the ocean’s surface. The fading sunlight casts long shadows on the sand of the beach. The gulls caw softly, teasing the rampant Border Collie sprinting in the soft sand. His muscles are pleasantly sore, his fur damp with ocean water. He leaves behind shallow pawprints in the sand that the salty tide washes away almost instantly. He tastes the ocean air on his tongue, along with the stench of the seagulls above him. From the crags, a melodic voice calls to him, and any interest that the Border Collie had in the gulls is nullified.
Sharp stones cut into her calloused heels, but she has learned to pay them no mind. The Border Collie comes to her, his tongue lolling. She cradles his face, brushes the stray sand off of his snout. He leans into her touch, familiar and comforting, and licks at her tanned face with enthusiasm. She sits, cross-legged, on the crags, overlooking the still sea, her dog against her side, as the last light of the Saturday slips away.
Her yellow rain boots glow against the rainy backdrop. The muddy ground sticks to the soles, splashes up onto her candy-striped leggings, spirals of pink and yellow. Rain strikes the roofs in a steady rhythm, ending in miniature waterfalls that drizzle down from gutters. The scent of rain hangs in the air, accompanied by the earthy smell of mud. Tree branches bend under the weight of the water. She splashes through shallow puddles that spit water up to dirty the hem of her dress.
On the corner, the school bus idles, surrounded by students who are trying desperately to properly fold down their umbrellas. One of the windows cracks open slightly, enough to reveal a toothy grin that calls her name, and she gleefully yells back, first-day anxiety bubbling in her throat.
The sapling huddled amongst the other towering emerald pines. Snow weighted down its branches; some feeble icicles sagged off its needles. Near its trunk, a squirrel rests momentarily, its bushy tail flickering with its every movement. The wind rustles the sapling’s branches in a display of dominance; the squirrel shudders in the icy cold, content to stay underneath the roof of the sapling’s branches, at least until the snow crunches under the weight of a snow boot; the squirrel then very quickly decides that he’d rather brave winter’s icy fingers.
Unaware, she loops a length of stringed popcorn around the midsection of the tree, humming some unknown tune to herself. The snowflakes stick to her eyelashes and hair, but she doesn’t seem to mind. She brushes the snow off the sapling’s branches, stringing more popcorn as she goes. When she’s finished, she stands for a brief moment to admire her work, and disappears as quickly as she appeared. The squirrel stalks closer, curiously sniffing the popcorn before nibbling a little. When he’s eaten his fill, he scrambles back to shelter, overtaken by a sense of stillness among the now gentle drifts of snow.
The aquamarine water swallows him whole, leaving only ripples on the ocean’s surface; he opens his eyes, ignoring the sting of seawater. The sandy floor stretches out below him, dotted with the occasional beige seashell. Fish flit about, hovering occasionally to search for food. He sinks deeper, feeling his ears pop under the water pressure. Plant life spots the rocks, swaying in the gentle current; a young barracuda shifts slightly, giving away his position. His underbite snaps in warning, but he shivers in his seaweed fortress, timid and naive. The swimmer pays him no mind, his eyes intent on the ocean floor.
A glint of silver catches his attention, and he stirs the sand. Among the flurry of tan clouds, he spots the sparkle again; he snatches the item, closing his hand around it. The watch, despite the circumstances, gives off the faintest of ticks and tocks, its pale face glinting occasionally in the meager rays of sunlight. The swimmer grins internally, kicking to the surface. When he breaks the surface, gasping for breath, he eagerly waves the watch at a man in a suit, who clutches his chest in obvious relief.
In the early hours of the morning, the violet moonlight casts over everything. The woodland hums with the calls of crickets, the occasional fluttering bat overhead. She tiptoes over the underbrush, her hair messily done up in a ponytail. Her breaths seem so loud in her ears, without the drum of life to cover the sound. The strap around her neck cuts into her skin ever so slightly, and she stops occasionally to adjust it. The moon stares down at her, a silver coin against the deep purple of the sky. On a tree stump, an elderly owl surveys its territory, its head swiveling.
She’s nearly silent as she kneels, raising her camera to eye level. In the low light, the owl’s features are indistinct, but its silhouette contrasts crisply with the moonlight; she snaps the photo quickly, fingers twitching with excitement.The shutter disturbs the owl, and he promptly takes flight, leaving her alone to gasp excitedly at the snapshot she’s captured.