Echo

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The sun hangs low over the waters of the ocean, the sands of the beach sparkling their bright tan beneath the fading light. The sky is tinged with brilliant oranges, pinks, lavenders, all in precise and equivalent amounts, almost as though they have been painted there with an expert hand. Brushstroke by careful brushstroke, the colors swarm the heavens. It seems more peaceful than it has in an immeasurable time, there without you; the only sounds are that of my own steady heartbeat and the calls of the gulls that rise overhead, white wings fluttering frantically against the soft breeze as the day winds into night.

It is perfect there, as it has always been; beach empty, the depthless waters seem somehow more prominent, deep azure and cobalt bleeding seamlessly together, washing up upon the sand. The air is warm and damp with the moisture from the water, swathing me in tender comfort, holding me as carefully as I remember your arms doing so often before. Chin on my arms, knees to my chest, barefoot and smiling; you would have loved me like this. Wind nuzzling up against me, sifting through my hair, I can't help but surrender to the memories of all of the times we spent here. I can't help but drown in the ghost of your crystalline eyes, the echo of your gentle, rough voice, your touch, always so careful and loving.

It is difficult.

It is all I have.

A breath of a sigh escapes my throat, a whisper, an exhale on the wind, barely audible even to my own ears. You would notice this with your small frown, you would ask me what was wrong; yet when asked, I would only tilt my head up to yours, our eyes meeting, warm with electricity, and murmur: nothing.

There was never anything wrong; why now, when there truly is, are you missing from my side? Why now is there no one to ask that question?

Why now is there no one to care?

The sky's bright blue is darkening in fractions, fading by pigments as the seconds tick slowly by. One by one, I remember, you had memorized each shade of blue, from Alice to Yale; you used to whisper in my ear as the world deepened around us, murmuring precisely which shade the sky was at that exact moment, if only because it made me smile. I remember how much you loved my smile, how often you would remind me of the fact, calloused fingers brushing against my cheeks as your own soft grin formed, eyes seeing directly through mine. "Your smile is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. It's like someone captured the sun and put it inside you, and it shines every time your lips turn up like that?"

Tears crawl from the corners of my eyes, forcing themselves out and sliding their way slowly down my cheeks. There is no one to wipe them away now, no one to brush their lips against mine and murmur with their soft voice that it will always be okay, that there's no reason to cry. The wind attempts to take your place, warm and soothing against my face, fluttering against the trail of tears that is cascading steadily now; the wind cannot hold me like you did, cannot kiss me, cannot pick me up and carry me back to our house on the edge of the beach, cannot keep me warm at night. Only you can do that.

Only you.

There's every reason to cry. Nothing is okay any more.

My heart aches persistently somewhere deep within me, not so much beating as pounding now; fluttering, struggling, fighting, desperate to break free of the bone cage in which it is trapped. It yearns for you, misses your subtle hints of kisses and touches; it wrestles against me in its desperate attempt to burst out of my chest and join you within the sky, the air, the water. Sobs break free from my lips, disturbing the gentle silence. Shoulders trembling and quivering with the effort of fighting against my own body, I dig long nails into the flesh of my own arms, a failing endeavor to hold myself together.

I have taken pride in the fact that I have not broken. Perhaps breaking is what I need.

The air is cooling now, the sky fading swiftly into a deep shade that I remember as Ultramarine. The rising moon is full and bright, holding its powerful sway over the tides with little effort as the water ebbs and flows nearer and nearer to my ankles; stars begin to twinkle into view, half-formed constellations barely visible to the naked eye. Tears are plentiful now, the stains no sooner drying on my face than they are retraced once more, fresh and shining in the dull shadow of moonlight. The night before you were murdered is replaying in my mind, soft sighs and whispers in the back of my thoughts.

"I'd like to think that we'll die here together, you know? Perhaps when we're old, we'll just come down here and get carried away by the water. By the waves. Into the horizon. Sinking forever. Painless. Wouldn't that be beautiful?"

Wouldn't that be beautiful?

My bones are stiff, sliding together, cracking and grinding as I slowly rise to my feet. Skin shivers, crawls, yet I feel no fear. There is no anticipation; only the calm before the storm, the build-up before the great fall, the deep breath before the jump. I can almost hear the chords of music building to a suspenseful pitch sliding through my mind as I leave footprints behind me in the sand, slow and even, calculated. The roll and crash of waves tumbling over one another is a mantra in the night, repeating like a familiar lullaby. I have become so used to the sounds of the ocean that they do not faze me now, do not affect me; only welcome me home. Those noises are the reminder of where I belong, where we once belonged together.

Where we will always belong together.

The wind seems to dance with me as I move, playful and light, darting and breezing through my fingers, my arms, my hair, encouraging. It is truly a beautiful night, one of the most beautiful I have ever had the privilege to witness. You would have compared it to me, compared my eyes to the stars and my laugh to the sounds of the water lapping against the shore. So predictable yet so sweet, your words linger on the air, almost as though the ocean has not forgotten who you used to be, who we used to be. The burden of memories weighs on me less and less as this place, our home, takes control of them. The ocean, the stars, the beach; they will never forget. They will make sure our legend lives on forever, in the way the wind sighs, in the way the water splashes, in the way the sand is carried in small swirls off into the sky.

The water is more frigid than I remember when it touches my skin, cold yet welcoming, like a precious winter's snowfall. I smile as my footsteps are submerged within its depths, as the liquid pulls at the denim of my jeans, swathing me, dragging me down gently. It whispers that everything will be alright, it swirls around me as it engulfs me to my waist, my elbows, my shoulders. Filled with such freedom, such elation, I am tempted to laugh out loud for the first time since you left those many weeks ago; and so I do. The sound is loud and long, carried across the beach with a quality almost like an echo, a last reminder of who I once was.

The water reaches my jaw now, my nose, the top of my head. My eyes slip closed and I am floating in darkness, embracing the warmth that tingles through my bones.

I take one last breath.

Finally, I am home.





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