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Her laugh breaks the silence. Bouncing off the trees, echoing across the lake like skipping rocks. one. two. three.
It rings in your ears, making the blood rush through your veins hotter and faster than normal. You look at her. She looks back at you, then out toward the water.
“I’m glad we still have this,” she says softly, “despite everything.”
“Despite everything?” Your eyes haven’t left her, though now you are looking at the back of her hair – long, golden, wavy hair that always seems to be a complete mess yet always looks good, like the rest of her.
“It’s just … everything else has changed so much over the past year. It’s nice to know this didn’t.” She looks back at you, smiling, and you can’t help but return the smile. It’s always been this way. No matter how much she pisses you off, all she has to do is smile. (Or laugh; laughing works the same.) You take her hand and squeeze it. She squeezes back. Every nerve in your body intensifies, swells inside you. “Of course you still have this. I’m not going anywhere.”
She looks back. “I’m not just talking about you, but this,” she says, gesturing to all things around you both. “This lake is still the same. The wind is still too strong. It has always smelled like this, a mix of fresh water and sea water and nature. It’s all still the same.”
You think about that. This place hasn’t changed at all. Your hometown hasn’t changed at all. Ohio hasn’t really ever changed. “I wonder why that is,” you say, wrapping your arms around her. “Everything else changes. Why doesn’t it?”
She is quiet for a long time. The lake’s tide hits the sand and splashes your feet. “I think the earth is saying something to us. Like, ‘Hey there, your world is being flipped and rearranged and I know it must suck, but I am the same. Come home to me.’ It’s the earth’s way of being noticed.”
“You think the earth wants to be noticed? Seems like most of the world ignores it to me.”
“Well, yeah, most of the world does. But who cares about most of the world? If I were the earth, I’d only want the attention of the people worth noticing. And I wouldn’t want their attention to stem from showing off. I’d want to be a friend. A continuity. Something they notice and return to again and again because of everlasting, simple beauty. The people capable of recognizing that continuity are the ones the earth craves attention from.”
“Quality over quantity,” you say softly. She nods. You pull her to you, kissing her forehead, then her nose, making your way down to her lips. “You’ll still always have this. Me. The earth. We’re a package deal. One giant continuity. Even when you’re sick of us.” You smile.
The tide hits the shore again. Her laugh breaks the silence.