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At the edge of the woods, he had said. By the big field where you could see the stars so clearly…
She remembered their first time there. He was a stranger then, but he had taught her the names of the constellations and said they were even brighter when she was there.
“Ever wondered what it’s really like up there?”
Dark and mysterious, strange and beautiful. Just like him. Both of them. Their orbits in the far reaches of space, moving away from the others, somehow came close together, collided, and became one.
That night she dreamt of the stars, and he dreamt of her.
Every night after that was as unreal and oddly perfect as the first. Something was growing in them, a spark, fiery and vivid and powerful, that betrayed their thoughts in the sparkle of an eye, the soft, accidental brush of a hand. He didn’t know why, but she didn’t know at all.
He promised her that one day he would take her to the seaside to watch the sun rise and set over the ocean, and the sky and surf change colors, for it was one of the most beautiful things in the world. And so she dreamt of waves crashing on the shore, and still he dreamt of her.
The little spark in him grew into a great fire that he could no longer control. It told him to act the way he did toward her and say the things he said.
“Will you marry me?”
His face was filled with affection and hope and tenderness that she had never noticed before. The stars overhead gave no guidance, and the fire inside her flickered. She sent a black hole to swallow him and his heart. And that was the end.
After that she could only wish that things had been different. She always thought of him and wondered where he had gone, and so the tiny flame began to grow again. This time, though, she realized it. It burned so that it was painful, as it had for him.
She no longer made the nightly trips to the field. It would be silly to go alone. But each night as she lay in bed and gazed out her window, she was comforted by the thought that somewhere under those very stars was her other half.
And now she was making her way through the darkness to that field once more, reliving all these memories. She breathed in the cold, fresh air and tried to remember how long it had been since she had last seen him.
"Meet me at the edge of the woods tonight."
Words spoken in a hurry, in a hushed tone as he had appeared beside her on the street for a moment and then disappeared into the bustling crowd – a meeting so quick and sudden, after so long a separation.
She tried to decide what she would say to him now. But what could she say? What was left unspoken between them that was still worth saying
"Meet me…tonight…" The bright stars in the sky blurred before her eyes, and tears streaked down her cheeks as she thought of her uncertain future. Did he still love her as he loved her then, as she loved him now?
As the big field came into view, she began to run more quickly, her shoes slapping the road with empty sounds. There was a car parked on the side of the road, beside the field. She wondered why he had driven here. He had always walked. So he had changed. What else had changed? Too much for them to go back, she was sure, to the way things used to be.
It seemed she was standing on a cliff, taking a faltering step forward. Of course it took courage to jump, but she was so terribly afraid of disappointment and afraid of what she might leave behind.
She was walking in the field now toward the woods. The stars shone a light on the path, and she saw the trees – tall, still, black figures. When she was close enough to the trees that she could see a slight movement beneath them, she stopped walking and stood still, the tall grass gently tickling her legs. It was chillier now. The breeze had picked up, and it carried the scent of the flowers in bloom in the woods. She heard the crackle of twigs and dry leaves beneath feet coming her way. He walked quickly, excitedly, caring about nothing but being with her again. The sight of her quickened his heart. She took a few steps forward and met him there by the dark line of trees. She smiled shyly at him, and he pulled her into a warm embrace and held her close.
They broke apart and sat down on the grass.
In a quiet voice she said, “When did you come back?”
“Last night.” When she did not say anything, he continued, “I just felt as if I had been away long enough –”
“I wanted to come back, and I tried – but – well, one time I had my train ticket and all my things and I just turned back around. I couldn’t do it, you know, but I missed you, you know that.”
“You might have written.”
He looked so defeated. “I wasn’t sure how you felt. How was I supposed to know? Things were strange as they were, and I thought I would just make it worse.”
“Oh, but it was my fault, really. I was stupid…I didn’t even know how I felt, so how could I expect you to?”
“You weren’t stupid; you were just a little in love.”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
He ventured carefully, “So…you’ve changed your mind?”
She gave him a look that told him everything.
“I’ve always wanted to tell you this…from the first moment I saw you, I loved you.”
She laughed. “Do you think you’re the first to tell me what?”
“And where are they all now? They’re gone. They left. I’m the only one who came back. Because I meant it, and I still do.”
“You loved me before you knew me?”
“I knew I would love you.”
This made her smile. “Well, after you were gone I realized how much I missed you…and that it must mean something – more than what I had thought. And it’s been so long…”
She could say nothing more, for he had put his arm around her and was now drawing her into their first kiss, deep, passionate, and real. She relaxed her body against his, and their heavy breathing joined the sounds of the night.
Then, as they lay there on the grass beneath the stars in delirious passion, in the same field where they had lain so many times before, this field of dreams and memories and promises, he propped himself up on one elbow, pulled his car keys out of his pocket, and said, “Now, let’s go see that ocean sunrise…”