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Do Us Part (3)
Fall had just begun, and the trees were weeping brown, gold, and red leaves unto the streets. I wanted to sketch them all, all these beautiful oak trees with their strong, aged beauty. The cemetery on our block was always something of a controversy in the neighborhood, the graves were very old and no one had been buried in over fifty years. There were people who longed to knock it down, turn it into something else, but it stayed on because others thought it to be something historical and anyway, the mayor Terrabella was a direct descendant of a family buried there. I liked sketching the old trees there, the amazing monuments that watched over the dead. No one was buried like that anymore. One died and they received a square slab with a name, birth and death date and maybe a beloved something depending on whether one was a husband, wife, son or daughter.
I liked the peacefulness of the cemetery, everything was hushed and gentle. My favorite tree was right at the end of the large place, it was a quarter of a mile to walk. But, it provided the best shade and the best view of all the different monuments erupted for the dead. It was right next to my favorite, a beyond large statue of an angel with a bow and arrow pointed down at his face. The face of this marble angel was so perfect, so stunning in its sadness, it could have been a real man frozen in stone. I loved it and my sketchbook held different images of it from all sorts of angles and lights.
I remember it was a Sunday. I desperately to sketch and paint the place at sunset with the bright colors beaming down on marble, ebony, and limestone. I worked furiously using my fingers to smear the paint and get the effect I wanted. I dropped tubes of paint in the soft grass, not wanting to waste a second. I was done before the sun sank. But, with the slight light of a nearby streetlight I tried to add in a few extra shadows here and there for an extra contrast.
A few moments into this, I felt the tree trunk at my back shiver, just a little. Just a small, simple tremble I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t been leaning on it. I looked up, startled. Against the large, angel monument, sat a young man. I tossed my bangs back from my face and stared. He was looking right at me. In the faint, faint light, I made out his waving dark hair and the fact that he wore nothing but a pair of very tattered, black shorts. I frowned for an instant; it was getting quite cold out. It was a bit strange but not unusual since I still saw different skateboarders around the block skating around shirtless, showing off the abs they’d developed in the summer and would have to hide or lose for the winter. The young man stood and gracefully, executed the smallest of bows. I giggled and he made a gesture with his hands as to ask if he could come over. I nodded. He walked over, his steps so fluid and elegant, I wondered for a second if he were a sort of model. The thought came to me again in full force when I saw those sliver eyes, framed by long, dark lashes-the amazing symmetry of his face that developed high cheekbones, a slim perfect nose and red lips as full and tempting as a paradise fruit. He had no deep cuts of muscle, but there was not an ounce of flab on his body. His arms were well defined, his stomach was flat and looked tighter than a drum.
“Hello…” He seemed to struggle for a moment. “I am…Henry…Denton.”
“Christine,” I smiled.
His eyes lit up. “I’ve always liked that name…”
Encouraged I started babbling. “It’s not my only name, my grandparents wanted me named after their grandparents and stuff so they called me Christine Elizabeth Leigh Amarelle Johnston,” I laughed a little too high. “Kindergarten was kind of miserable for me.”
He smiled and gestured to my sketching. “That’s truly very…amazing.”
“I am not an artist, I wish I could be though, so I always admire it in other people.” He reddened a little. “I’m more of a writer.”
“I thought you were a model,” I blurted out.
“A model?” He frowned. “Of what?”
He looked down at himself and his lips twitched with a smile.
He laughed. “It’s ok…Christine.” Oh my God! His lips forming my name…the sound of my name in a voice like pure honey. “I know I’m not dressed well.”
“I didn’t mean that.” Crap. Crap. Crap.
“Oh I know you don’t mean to insult me,” he looked down at himself. “I’ve been…working in the ground all day.”
“Are you a gardener or something?”
His eyes flashed. “Something like that. Some days, I feel more like compost.”
“Ouch. Tough day?”
He smiled tightly but gave no answer. Instead his eyes wandered again to my sketch. “May I see your book? Please?”
I blushed but sat up a bit more and handed it to him. Henry’s fingers brushed mine gently as the book passed between us and pleasant shivers jumped up and down my body.
“Oh,” his voice was disappointed.
“It’s not dry yet, I can’t flip through.”
“Oh,” I said, relieved it wasn’t something else. “I can show it to you some other time then.”
Those silver eyes lit up. “Really?”
“Sure, I com-“ I stopped myself just in time, no way was I going to say I hung out here often.
“You promise?” he said with a teasing grin.
“Of course- if you’re ever at the Blue Bowl, I can just show you.” The Blue Bowl was a popular hangout in Terrabella, it had everything, video games, ice-cream, pizza, and a skating rink.
“I...don’t go there.” His face became expressionless.
“You’re not coming back here?”
“I’m here a lot,” he said with sheepish glance at his feet.
“Really? I never see you.” I blurted. Oh damn my mouth!
“I avoid people some people.”
We exchanged smiles.
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” I said, maybe a little too eagerly.
“So will I.”
“Do you mind if I sit with you? My legs are a little tired.”
I nodded and moved over a little so he could lean on the trunk too. He sat down and I swear I almost exploded out of my skin. My hands itched to draw him and capture some of that stunning beauty.
He turned to face me fully, my lungs shrunk a little. “May I ask you something personal?”
I shrugged. “Go ahead.”
“It’s just that...you seemed so…happy today. What makes you feel like that?”
I blinked, surprised. I was hoping for, “Do you have a boyfriend?” But, I thought about his question. Sketching made me happy, but I couldn’t say I was “happy” overall. I had always felt a certain sort of sadness, mostly when home. My parents weren’t bad people, but they only needed each other to be happy. I didn’t hate them, I really couldn’t. They did try at times but they were not meant to have children. I was an accident they tried to make the best of. But, I tried not to take that road. I didn’t want to blame everything I felt and did on others, especially not my parents.
“I’m not a miserable person.” I held up my book for a second. “But, this makes me feel more than just…ok.”
Henry nodded; his dark hair fell over his face. “It’s so strange...Today, I dreamt of a lovely girl and she made such...promises to me that I woke up wanting to find her. It was all so real, so incredible, I somehow imagined that the dream meant something. And then, I see you here...” Suddenly, he tensed and his face hardened. “I’m sorry, this must sound...bad.”
“No,” I assured him, “It doesn’t.
Those glowing silver eyes set warmly on me and I felt him relax. “Isn’t strange how something so fleeting, so small, can change your course so much?”
My heart sped up as he inched closer.
“I think,” He said softly, “that seeing you here means something, Christine.”
I couldn’t say anything. On the one hand, I felt a wild, ridiculous sort of joy. But, on the other, a very small part of me was shouting out warnings that there was something VERY wrong. Joy or caution? Henry brushed the back of my hand ever so tenderly with the tips of his fingers and joy, wrapped within a bunch of crazy, teenage hormones won out over caution. He then pulled away, and leaned back casually against the tree trunk. It was getting darker and his fair skin seemed to light from within, such beauty.
“You haven’t once said my name, Christine.” His voice was a whisper. I felt myself tremble, just a little. Saying his name seemed to be something magical, the last word needed for a powerful spell to begin. I cleared my throat, cleared my hectic thoughts, and I said it:
He sighed contently. “Do you promise to come tomorrow?”
Henry nodded. “I believe you.”
We sat in silence for a long time and it was a gentle, comfortable sort of silence that needed nothing. Occasionally, he’d ask me a question and I’d answer. Or else, he’d point out different things around us, birds, squirrels, and other little things. I felt sleepy, almost dreamy and could have drifted off right then and there it seemed. But soon, he sat up and said, “It’s time for you to go home now, Christine.”
I glanced down at my watch. Oh my God. Almost midnight. How had time passed so quickly? He seemed to have read my thoughts because lightly he recited,
“But at my back I always hear.
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
I gasped. “Andrew Marvell.”
He smiled widely. “I love his work.”
“That’s the only poem I know by him,” I admitted sheepishly, “But, I love it too.”
I stood up, my parents would soon check on me. They were in town for a few days. He stood too and held out his hand. I took it and he gently squeezed.
“Good-bye, Christine, I will see you tomorrow.” His silver eyes bored into mine.
I felt his gaze on me as I walked away and debated on maybe trying out a sexy walk or something. But, with my luck, I’d probably fall and break my teeth. I dared look back as I reached my street and I saw him, a lone shadow leaning against the closed cemetery gates. Beautiful. It was to be like that for many nights. Every time I left, he’d lean by the gates, watching me until I reached home and me leaving, always leaving before midnight. After he became my boyfriend, he’d joke about sometimes, calling me his Cinderella.
“Except,” he’d add with a sweet smile, “you remain a princess even after you leave the ball.”
“But, then, my prince won’t come looking for me,” I’d retort.
“Oh but my princess,” he’d take my hand and whirl me around, “why would I look for you when you are already, such a part of me?”
He kissed me for the first time, during such a moment. Already, three months had passed of us meeting in the graveyard. We talked for the most part, but after such time, I began to feel frustrated. We never saw each other anywhere else-was he embarrassed by me? I wasn’t a knock-out, I knew that. I only ever got compliments on my eyes; they were almond-shaped and almond-brown in color with thick eyelashes. But, everything else was ordinary in my thinking. I didn’t hate my body, but I tried to be realistic. Henry was stunning, amazing and this made me insecure. Eleven was approaching and I knew he’d nicely tell me to leave again. I heard his voice:
“What?” I snapped at him, and immediately I was sorry. His face filled with hurt. “I’m sorry, Henry.” I reached for his hand and firmly, he dodged my touch.
“No, you meant to do that,” he said, his jaw set stubbornly. “Why?”
There were no hiding things with Henry. I sighed, “I’m just…confused.”
His face was expressionless. “What’s so confusing about me?”
It all spilled out. “We meet here, almost everyday. You never want to go anywhere else. I know I’m not that beautiful or anything, but you flirt with me all the time and make me think you like me as more than a friend. But then, you never even tried to kiss me. If you’re playing games with me, I wish you’d stop! It’s not fair to do this to me!” My voice cracked at the last word and embarrassed suddenly, I kept my eyes to the ground. Henry didn’t say anything for a time, but then, I saw his bare feet coming towards me.
I didn’t look up. He sighed and then, I felt his hands wrap themselves around my waist. I jumped and my head jerked up to look up at him. He was so tall my head could fit right below his chin. Those silver eyes gleamed like ocean waves caressed by glistening moonlight. He pulled me close to him and with one hand he stroked my face sweetly as his lips met mine. My arms came around his neck and he sighed before deepening the kiss into a mind-blowing, electric meeting of my mouth and his. When we pulled away for breath, he held me tighter.
“Christine…I’d never play games with you.” His face looked pained. “But, I have no place to go, horrible as it sounds, this is sort of my home…Don’t you think I want to be elsewhere? Take you out for rides, bring you to a home where you can sit and be comfortable?”
“Why is it like that for you?”
“I couldn’t tell you, not now.” He hugged me to him. “Ah, but Christine, if you can be patient with me, if you can simply accept what I can offer you, I’d be all that you needed.”
I stared up into that handsome face. Was he saying what I thought he was?
He brushed my lips with another kiss. “I’d love for you to be…my lady…my girlfriend.”
My heart screamed. yes! But, I hesitated-though how often I had dreamed of this, I couldn’t even say anymore.
A laugh, nervous and small came from me. “Oh gosh, Henry there’s still so much I don’t know about you.”
“I don’t know everything about you either,” he chuckled. “But, we’ll learn.”
I went on, “I don’t know your middle name, your favorite food-or even your age!”
“My full name is Henry Nathaniel Denton, my favorite food: pancakes, and I’m…" He hesitated for a moment. "Twenty.”
“When is your birthday?”
I expelled a breath. “November 15th and yours?”
He smiled wryly, “November 14th.”
“Yes, I’m not pulling your leg,” he grinned. “Although…” He lifted me into arms, one arm under the back of my knees and the other around my back. I squealed and laughed.
“Put me down,” I laughed.
“Not until you agree to be mine,” his voice was light, but his face was serious.
“Put me down and we’ll talk,” I teased.
He lifted me higher up in his arms surprising me with his strength. “Nope, agree first, down later.” I reached out to touch that handsome face with my hand, this seemed so…unreal. The night air made his skin glacier-cold.
He asked again, “Will you be mine, Christine Elizabeth Leigh Amarelle Johnston?”
I laughed out loud. “A guy who remembers all my names, how can I resist?”
“Is that a yes?” His lips were an inch away from mine.
“Yes.” Another earth-shattering kiss and when he put me down, my legs were weak and unsteady.
“I hate to have you leave but…”
“I know, I have to go.” He sighed and then, something occurred to me. “Where do you live, Henry?”
His voice was careful. “I don’t live too far from here.”
I eyed his tattered black shirts and the new addition to his wardrobe, a gray sweatshirt and faded but clean tennis shoes. My heart broke.
“Yes?” His voice was cool and I could tell by the clenching of his jaw that he was defensive.
“OK. Will I see you tomorrow?” He asked, his eyes hopeful.
He hugged me close and then, together, we walked to the graveyard gates. He gave me another lingering kiss. "Good-bye, my very own Cinderella."
"Farewell Prince Charming," I smiled. "I won't be leaving you a shoe tonight."
"Why not?" He asked with mock disappointment.
"They're not glass," I say pointing to my beat-up sneakers.
"Oh? Well, leave it anyway." He grinned. "The old smell will remind me of you."
"I smell old?"
"I really didn't mean to to tell you this way but..." He laughed as he dodged my fist. I tried to kiss him again but, he stopped me, explaining, "If I kiss you again, I won't let you leave."
"That's a bad thing?"
I sighed and settled for a hug. I began to walk the short blocks home. As always, Henry watched me make my way home. I dreamed that night of long, tender kisses, entwining hands, and Henry's arms around me as I slept. I held on to that memory as we both fell into the caving ground, and Henry's smeared face gazed down at mine.