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Jessie's hand felt cold as he gently helped her onto the boat. Was the blood already beginning to slow? Was she leaving him this early, this sudden, before they even got the chance to be alone and laugh and let their worries stay firmly planted on shore as they floated away?
Then she looked up at him and smiled. There was a sparkle in her eye, and it reassured him. She wasn't leaving him. Not yet, anyway.
“It's so beautiful, Layne.” she spoke softly. “So perfect. Thank you.” Her eyes swept out across the wide expanse of sea- nothing but ocean in every direction other than behind. The wind played with her bangs and caused little ripples in the dark water, like dimples.
He stepped into the boat after her and pushed off. They began to float, in thoughtful silence, away from their homeland and families. The night air filled their lungs and cooled their skin, relaxed their fluttering hearts and massaged their shoulders. For moments they could only soak up everything around them. They were really doing this. They were leaving. And neither of them was the slightest bit regretful.
And then he was reminded of why they were doing this. They weren't going to simply leave their troubles behind them. That wasn't possible. Suddenly, the cold, fresh air Layne breathed in felt like needles on the back of his throat. He coughed, a loud noise which jarred Jessie out of her daze and shook the boat the slightest bit. Layne silenced for only a minute when his throat closed up. He looked at Jessie and the agony in his eyes caused hers to fill with tears.
Layne fell to his knees. He cried out as he hit the floor of the boat. It began to sway back and forth, causing loud splashes in the still atmosphere. Layne's head swam with leeches, sucking the beauty from his brain and then leaving his mouth with a scream of triumph that intermingled with his own anguish.
Jessie knelt beside him, grasping his face between her palms. The eyes he met now were no longer tear-filled. They were hard, and when she looked at him it was like a slap in the face. It jolted him out of his agonized state.
He took a deep breath.
“You need to stop thinking about it.” she begged. Her words began to hasten but her eyes never left his. “I only have a few days left. I'm not afraid. I just want to have the best last days of my life. With you. And no one else. It hurts me just as much to see you with that look in your eyes. Please, Layne. For me. Please stop thinking about it.”
There was stillness as she searched his face for understanding, for agreement. Her sweet, beautiful face. The moonlight illuminating her cheekbones and causing striped shadows above her eyes from her long eyelashes. Her full, red lips. Her dark hair framing her face and falling in thick waves onto her shoulders. So beautiful.
He nodded. And he rose with her.
They sailed across the expanse of the ocean and eventually lost sight of any land. Jessie was beginning to look weary. She couldn't stand for more than a few minutes, and there were bags forming underneath her big brown eyes; yet she claimed she had never felt better. Layne blocked any thoughts of her health from his mind and saw only her youthful magnificence.
Then one day, she tried to stand and her legs gave out underneath her. He watched those beautiful brown eyes roll back into her head and turn completely white. Her head hit the floor of the boat and began to bleed, pouring out under Layne's feet. He knelt beside her, and slowly lifted her head onto his lap. He stroked her hair, and he sang her sweet songs. Her breathing began to slow until he had to struggle to hear it at all. And then there was nothing. No air escaping her lungs, none finding its way in. Just her beautiful face.
Now he knew what it really felt like when her blood refused to flow through to her hands. He sat there for a while, just staring. And that's when he let himself think. He had promised her he wouldn't for the few days she had left to live, but now those days were over, and the thoughts flowed in. He leaned over her dead body and screamed. His scream curled over the sea and rose up to the clouds. His body clenched into one big knot and his breath and tears and screams shook as they fought to leave his body. His face contorted with pain. He lifted his hands from underneath her head and brought them up to his eyes, trying to focus through the film of tears.
All went silent. He saw the dried blood on his hands. And then he felt the boat rock just for a moment, and then stop suddenly. He looked up over the edge, and saw that he had approached land. A single island, seemingly unoccupied.
He rose to his feet, hands still outspread. Slowly, he slid himself over the edge of the boat and onto solid ground. He didn't sway as he walked. And he didn't look back.