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Obsessed by Jill K. Sayre
Jill K. Sayre
Pearl takes the trolley to the sculpture garden every Tuesday afternoon. Sometimes she stops and gets a cone of sorbet along the way. She always sits in the same silver metallic chair, across from the giant bronze sculpture. And she always wears a red rose behind her ear.
The trolley stops with a hiss! Pearl steps onto the sidewalk, her feet crunching the thick leaves that cover the ground like scales. The taut muscles in her shoulders relax the second she sees the opening between the stacked concrete block walls—once she’s inside, she’ll have reached her haven, the sculpture garden.
Stepping inside the gray walls, she looks around and smiles. She comes here when the world wraps itself around her so tightly she can hardly breathe. She listens to the soothing trickle of water that falls from the walls of the fountain in a glassy tableau. Her frantic heartbeat begins to slow.
Unlike the sculptures inside the museum across the street, she can touch the statuary of the garden, the rough cement, smooth-shaved wood, shiny metal, and lumpy bronze. She glides her palms all over them, around curves and corners, into cracks, fissures, and holes.
She approaches her favorite sitting place. The shiny metallic chair screeches as she pulls it up beneath her. She begins to think about what she wants, wishes for, needs to shed.
Her concentration is broken by a giant bronze pod, beckoning to her to come and caress its organic curves. She leaves her seat, looks around, and sees that she’s alone. Stepping to the back of the pod, she slips her small, pillowy body inside, leaning into the shapes, wriggling her thighs and arms into the crevices that match her every part. Snug in this cool metallic cocoon, she bends her neck forward, sliding her face into the highest opening—a perfect fit.
She closes her eyes.
Something brushes gently across the tops of her feet.
The tiny hairs on her neck and arms prickle.
She springs out of the sculpture.
Searching the ground for a creature— something to explain the feeling of a leather rope brushing across her insteps—she frantically rushes toward the edge of the closest patch of mondo grass, trying to spot something moving.
She crosses her arms, turns around tersely and smacksright into a very tall, thin man.
Pearl’s face is bright red. She’s not accustomed to talking to men and avoids them whenever she can. Being an only child, and having a father who passed away when she was a baby, Pearl had no men in her life. They make her nervous, anyway, with their big builds and booming voices. She shrinks and loses her voice around them; they make her quiver. But here she is, toe to toe with a strange man.
“Salutations,” he says with a grin. He has squared-off teeth, but his secondary incisors are strangely pointy. His head is oblong, bald, and glossy. He is wearing an olive-green business suit with a matching button-down shirt beneath it, and polished cordovan loafers.
She winces. “I’m so sorry. I thought there was a. . . I thought I felt a s—”
He interrupts with, “Such a stunningly lovely day. So much better than Saturday when it stormed.” He looks up at the sky and squints his beady blue eyes.
“I like the rain,” slips from her lips. He is staring at her now, so she looks down at her feet, fidgeting with the string of beads around her neck, but then allows herself a quick glance at his face. His twinkling blue eyes are still fixed upon her. She shudders, rushing back to her silver chair. She sits, eyes fixed on her feet.
He follows her, sauntering, a hand in each pocket. “Seems I’d like precipitation too, if I had a sweetheart to snuggle with.” He winks, reaching into his coat pocket, pulling out a single red rose. “Something lovely for someone lovely,” he says, bowing and offering the flower with an outstretched arm.
Her hand shakes. She holds the soft, red petals against her nose, taking in their sweet scent.
“Sure don’t want to harass you any longer, but it was sublime meeting you. Have a super day,” he says.
She lifts her face to give him a grateful smile, but he’s gone.
Suddenly, the wind picks up, flapping a receipt out of her unzipped purse and into the air above her head. She gives chase, but it goes high into the trees. She sighs as the branches unleash their oldest parts, filling the sky with debris. It’s too windy to enjoy her silent space any longer, so she sticks the rose in the pocket of her white sweater and heads back to the trolley stop. She hurries down the sidewalk, pelted by spiky seedpods and loose leaves that zigzag from the liquid amber trees and barely dodge her face. Squinting through the dust, she sees the trolley, so she runs, climbs on, and quickly sits upon the wooden bench seat.
The trolley lurches as it leaves, and as she catches her breath, she becomes aware of eyes boring into the back of her head. Looking over her shoulder as nonchalantly as possible, she sees the tall bald man sitting three rows away. He smiles and waves. She looks away, but at the next stop, he moves across the aisle from her.
“So, may I buy you some ice cream? The parlor at the second stop has a simply superlative sorbet.” He smiles and leans in toward her.
“I’m sorry but I’ve got an appointment,” she says, looking at the watch on her wrist, “and I’m already late.” Their eyes meet and she is intensely latched with his gaze. His round pupils thin to vertical slits in pools of gold-flecked blue. A feeling of rapture washes over her.
“All right,” she says slumping in her seat, still fixed upon his face.
“Super! We are just seconds away from our stop now. My, this is turning into a sublime day!” The trolley hisses to a stop as the man stands, motioning for her to go ahead. “Scurry off first, for gentlemen should be subsequent to beauty.”
He walks beside her along a row of shops, his hand hovering over the small of her back. She catches their reflection in the store windows. He looks extra lanky next to her short, voluptuous frame, and in the sun, the silver highlights in her long, blond hair complement the iridescence of his pale, lustrous skin.
“Sugar,” he calls her, stopping just outside of the ice cream shop. “What shall tickle your fancy? Sweet blood orange sorbet is stupendous, but you may long for something else.”
She takes the rose out of her pocket and admires it. There is a bright green worm in the center of the flower and the worm has eaten half of the crimson petals.
“Eew!” she squeaks with a start, throwing the rose to the ground. She looks all around. “How did I get here?” Her eyes blink rapidly. “When did I leave the sculpture garden?”
The man promptly puts a hand on her left shoulder, gently lifting her chin with his other hand. Again they lock eyes. The atmosphere becomes sparkly and euphoria fills her.
“Sure, I’ll try the blood orange,” she announces, sitting at a nearby table. He disappears inside while she feels the sun growing warm on her face, her body going slightly limp.
Before long, the tall man returns with a cone in each hand, and he slides into the chair across from her. “So glad the wind stopped. The sun feels marvelous,” he remarks.
He hands her a scoop of scarlet ice. “It’s so much more luscious to lick it from a cone than to use a spoon, don’t you think?” he asks, flicking his tongue quickly across the frosty surface.
“Yes,” she replies, licking hers.
A dab of sticky coldness lands on her nose. He notices and smiles, his eyes almost closing. Something flies at her face but is gone in a flash. She touches her nose and finds it clean and dry.
Tilting her head, she asks, “Did you wipe the sorbet away?”
“But how?” She shakes her head, opening her eyes wide. “What is happening to me?” she demands, her nose twitching.
“Shhh!” he whispers, but her heart begins to beat rapidly.
“Excuse me, but I’ve gotta go. . .” she mutters, sliding backward in her chair. He taps on the table in rhythm with her frantic heart. Suddenly she cannot move. He continues to rap on the metal top while he slides into the chair next to her. She follows him with fixated eyes. The meter takes over his whole body now and he starts to move his shoulders to the beat. As the tempo he keeps slows, her heart calms as well.
“Ah. . .” slips from her throat.
He laughs from deep within his belly, stops tapping, and resumes licking his sorbet. She enjoys hers too, feeling serene and content.
“So, where do you live?” he asks, running a finger softly down her cheek, his eyes on hers.
She smiles. “Uptown. And you?”
“Somewhere in the vicinity of Fair Park.”
“And what do you do for a living?” She wonders what kind of job allows him to buy a girl ice cream in the middle of a Tuesday.
“I study specimens—I have my PhD in herpetology.” He grins and it seems like the edges of his mouth nearly touch his ears.
“Hmmm. . .” she says, shifting comfortably in her chair.
“Shall we go, Sweetness?” he asks, standing, ready to help her with her chair.
“Sure. Thanks for the sorbet.”
“Sincerely my pleasure,” he bows slightly. “I see the trolley coming, right on schedule.”
He offers his arm to her and she takes it, gazing into his eyes as they stroll back along the street. He sits next to her on the trolley this time, pressing his leg against hers.
“Well, this is my stop,” she says once they reach Uptown. She stands, grabbing onto the high horizontal bar. Hiss! goes the trolley. “Maybe we’ll meet again.” She gives him a gracious smile and turns to go, but he grabs her, and she feels as though his fingers are wrapped around her wrist several times.
“Yes?” she says serenely.
He yanks her downward onto a seat so they are eye to eye. “S-s-stay.” His glimmering eyes bore into hers as he quickly flicks his tongue several times.
Suddenly she is even more relaxed and lethargic. “All right.”
“Sweetness, put your head on my shoulder,” he says and she willingly does. They sit silently that way through the next three stops.
He gently touches a curved finger beneath her chin, and they are face to face once more. “Sweetheart, let’s get off here. I’d like to show you something.”
“Where are we going?”
“Straight over there, to my place of work in Fair Park. Step carefully now.” He reaches for her hand and leads her off the trolley like Price Charming escorting Cinderella. Extending his left arm toward the reptile house, he announces, “After you, my Sweet,” and the automatic doors open with a whoosh!
She walks inside, stopping in the darkness. She is surrounded, floor to ceiling, by a patchwork of illuminated rectangular glass.
The tall man steps in front of her, lifting his arms straight up as he yells, “So, this is my world!”
His eyes are luminescent in the blackness as he begins to shimmy from side to side, like a dancer. He wriggles to the left and then flows in a wave to the right. He slithers sideways, then zigzags toward her. She sees his teeth glow, and as he nears, she notices how they drip with golden treacle. Her feet are glued to the floor and she is paralyzed, watching the ripples run through his body in a hypnotic rhythm. He presses up against her now, starting low, shaking and vibrating, gliding up her body, extending, pulsing . . .
Whoosh! The doors of the reptile house open and music fills the room. A street performer playing the flute just outside, has stepped in front of the electronic automated eye that opens the doors. Strings of melody wrap around the room and the tall, green man is captivated by the music. She notices that his arms have disappeared, his suit lies in a pile on the floor, and he is covered with thick, glossy scales. He rears up on a long, green tail, his black, forked tongue flicking continuously from between his now thin, scaly lips.
And in that instant, he looks to her like a beautiful sculpture, stretching, twisting, looming over her. She longs to run her fingers along the smooth segments of his shiny, scaled body, to feel his cool body pressed alongside hers . . .
But the blissful fog has lifted and terror seeps in. Pearl breathes in sharply, as if she’d just surfaced after nearly drowning. She gasps painfully again, blanching at the giant snake hovering in front of her. Her body quivers and shakes, and—able to move now—she screams.
The music stops, and the musician calls, “Hey, is everything alright in there?”
The snake man drops to the ground with a horrific hiss, then slips and slithers around a corner into the blackness.
by Alyssa Irby
An ant crawls across the table. The boy looks at it for a while, and then turns a cup upside down over it. The boy looks at the cracks in the wall. The house is falling apart. The bed barely fits in the room, and the sheets have holes. The pillows lost all their fluff years ago, and the mattress, he found in the alley behind the school. His girlfriend comes over and tries to clean the place up. She’s really good at that stuff, cleaning. Messes make her nervous. “What if someone important comes over, and all you have are dirty dishes and ants crawling around on the windowsill?” she likes to ask him.
“Then I’ll tell them to step into my office…on the porch,” he replies with a smile. She loves his smile. She can’t help but laugh as she goes on washing the dishes and ironing his sheets. He lets her do it.
Their life isn’t perfect, but he doesn’t know how he would change it if he could. His dad left years ago, and his mom…well, she might as well be gone. She’s not around much, and when she is, she’s not really there. His brother got a new job, driving trucks for companies that ship paper all over the country. When he’s back in town, he sleeps a lot and hangs with the kids he knew in high school. The boy’s girlfriend is from another life than the boy leads. Sometimes when he’s with her, he feels like he’s in a dream. He reaches out to touch her arm to make sure she isn’t a mirage. She always thinks it’s an endearing touch, a love pat or something. She smiles and kisses his cheek. He doesn’t have the heart to tell her that he wants to break up.
It’s time, he decides. I’m holding her back. She is destined for more, and that’s what she deserves. He knows these are lies he’s telling himself, but he can’t accept anything else. She’s been around too long, she knows us too well…and she’s already changing us. We are fine. He goes in and takes the iron from her. She kisses his mouth, but he doesn’t kiss back.
“I think you should go,” he says.
She doesn’t understand. “Is your mom home? I can make her some lunch.”
He shakes his head and takes her out to the front porch. He pats her on the shoulder and closes the door. He stands there for a while, staring at the door, listening to her move on the other side. Then he goes to the cup on the counter and releases the ant.
The girl came back a few days later. He could tell she had been crying. He didn’t want to see her. His brother was home, and he lied and told her the boy was at work. She knew it was a lie; the boy didn’t have a job. The boy stayed in his room for days. He used the pens the girl got him for Christmas to write another letter to his dad. He hadn’t seen the guy in years. He didn’t know how long to be exact. He didn’t remember time well; all he knew was that his father was there one day, and the next thing he remembered was the house with the ants and the cracks. The girl used to tell him to ask his mom about him, or his brother, but the boy knew they wouldn’t tell him.
There had been a bonfire at the high school one night. It was soon after they had moved to the house. His mom took a whole box of things from the old house and threw it on the fire. One of the pictures from the box flew out and landed at the boy’s feet. It was of him and his dad at the state fair, each holding a corny dog in one hand and a pop in the other. The boy picked the picture up and held it next to the fire, close enough that the corner caught fire. He watched the orange flame as it erased the man and then caught his own face. He watched himself disappear; then he dropped the remains in the fire, brushed off his hands, and went to ride the carousel with his brother.
He had been writing the letters for sometime, because he wanted someone to find them. He always addressed them to his dad because he thought someone might think they were important. He left them wherever he was when he finished writing. That’s how he had met the girl. He had been sitting in the park, writing. He had he finished, dropped the letter, and gone on.
The girl had run after him and returned the letter, saying something cute like, “You don’t want your dad to think you don’t love him. I’m sure he wants to know about your cigarette habits.” He had thanked her, and she had smiled and gone back to her friends across the street. He had made sure she wasn’t looking when he threw it away in the next trashcan.
Dear Dad, he wrote, and then he scratched it out. He looked down at the paper and then at his hands. His wrists were swollen from the handcuffs he’d worn a couple days ago. The cops had found him stuffing his backpack full of oranges at the mini-mart near the house. The only resident in his wallet was a picture the girl had given him, and his stomach was just as vacant. The cop was one he knew from an earlier incident. He thought the boy was trouble. He pushed him hard against the wall and cinched the cuffs too tightly. Later that night, when the girl picked him up, his eyebrow was scratched, and his hands were slightly purple. The girl paid for the oranges and the boy’s bail. She wanted to speak with an authority about the treatment of the boy, but he walked out of the office while she was yelling at an officer. The system wouldn’t change—why try to make it? The officer would get a raise at the end of the year for “Helping to Keep the Streets Safe.” In the founder’s parade, the residents of the town would cheer when the police department float drove by. The boy didn’t go to those things, but afterward he would walk the parade route to see if anyone had left something of worth. Once he found a ten-dollar bill and a baby stroller. He put the money in a pocket in the stroller and set it on a busy street corner. Someone would find it. He looked back at his letter and realized he had nothing to say.
He was lying on his bed; at least the girl had ironed his sheets before she left. He smiled to himself. His brother was gone again, and his mom was staring at the wall in her room. He looked back over to the paper where he had crossed out those insignificant words. He thought about his dad again. Then he stopped. The man was dead. No letters would change that. So the boy got up and went to the park. He loved the park. It was probably the only thing he did love. He thought about it. He wasn’t sure whether he loved his mom or his brother, and he knew he didn’t love the girl. They were all just there. He watched the dust blow around in a small whirlwind under the streetlight. That dust was just there. He wanted to change that. He wanted to matter to something. The boy bought a dog.
FRANK AND ERNST
Dr. Frank opened the door and found his old nemesis, Dr. Ernst, standing in the hall, looking grim and much more serious than usual. Dr. Ernst’s umbrella was closed but dripping, as was his trench coat.
“Miserable night,” Ernst said, his statement punctuated by a bright flash of lightning followed immediately by a clap of thunder.
“As usual,” Frank muttered, “you arrive like the devil. What do you want?”
“Oh,” Ernst mumbled, looking a bit lost for words, “well, I should’ve thought you’d know.”
“I’m a doctor,” Frank said. “I know a lot of things, but God forbid I should know what you’re thinking.”
“Do you mind if I come in?”
“I suppose you’ll want a cup of tea.”
“If it’s not a bother.”
“Of course not. I was only sitting alone, comfortable, reading, enjoying the quiet . . .” Dr. Frank grumbled his way into his kitchen to prepare a pot of tea.
The two men were professors at the same university. It was well known among the staff, faculty, and student body that they despised each other. They both taught philosophy, but their theories differed so much that they could barely stand to look at each other, let alone speak to one another. Both men were in their sixties, and yet they behaved like squabbling children when they were together. The student body, of course, took great delight in watching the old men argue, referring to them as “Mutt and Jeff,” for Dr. Frank was a skinny old bag of bones with long, gray straggly hair, while Dr. Ernst was a portly gentleman with salt-and-pepper hair and a neatly groomed walrus moustache.
Frank came back with the tea and set it on the coffee table. Then he eased himself into his comfortable leather chair by the crackling fire in his dimly lit apartment, leaving Ernst to pour his own tea, which the portly professor did without complaint. Ernst lowered himself in the plush loveseat and leaned back to enjoy the warmth of the fire.
“Are you ready to explain your visit?” Frank sneered.
“I’m sorry, Dr. Frank. I realize you and I have never really seen eye to eye, but we have worked in the same department here for the last thirty years, and . . . well, I just assumed that, on this particular evening, I was as good as anyone to be with you.”
“And what, pray tell, makes this particular evening more worthy of that inconvenience than any other, Dr. Ernst?”
“It’s the night of your death, of course,” said Ernst.
Frank spit a bit of tea into his saucer. “I beg your pardon?” he said, his eyes narrowing more than would seem possible.
“I simply used your own theory,” Ernst explained. “You know, it’s my theory that no man can foretell the time or place of his own death, unless he pre-designs it, of course, as in a suicide.”
“Nonsense,” Frank scoffed. “The length of a man’s life is predestined to the second. It’s merely a matter of using mathematics to figure it out.”
“Exactly,” Ernst said. “Bear in mind, I don’t agree with you. But, nonetheless, I did the math and . . . well . . . this is your night.”
“Oh, this is rich!” Frank laughed, his reedy voice cackling like an old witch’s.
“I’m not joking,” Ernst continued, solemn as an undertaker. “I’ve been working with you for thirty years. I know your theory. I used the equation you outlined in your syllabus. I used your birth date—day, week, month, and year—time of day, leap year/ non-leap year, full moon, you’re a Libra . . . I calculated the exact number of points for twenty full years of heavy smoking—that’s how long you said you smoked before you quit, right?”
“Yes . . .”
“You’ve no family, a sour attitude, you’re a conservative, you sleep no more than five hours a night . . . put it all together, and your number comes up tonight.”
“You’re insane!” Frank shouted.
“Only if you are. I followed your equation explicitly. Added when I was supposed to, divided when necessary, subtracted properly . . . multiplication doesn’t enter into it, of course. If your theory is correct, you should be popping off before midnight.”
“That can’t be right,” Frank wailed. “I’m healthy as a horse!”
“Go ahead and figure it out for yourself. I’m surprised you haven’t already, but go ahead . . . I can wait. I certainly have time enough. According to your theory, I have twenty-seven more years. That’s a bit more like it, if you ask me. Clean living.”
Dr. Ernst sat patiently, sipping his tea, while Dr. Frank performed the equation, which took over forty-five minutes to complete when done properly, even by the fastest, most intelligent mind.
“Damn it!” Frank spat as he reached the end of the equation.
“Told you,” Ernst said, helping himself to another cup of tea. “Any last words? Anything you’d like me to tell your distant cousins?”
“Oh, shut up!” Frank said, agitated. “You know damn well I’m not going to die.”
“So you’d rather live and discredit your whole life’s work?”
“I wrote that theory when I was young. It was part of my doctoral thesis.”
“And you’ve stood by it for forty years.”
“What do you want me to do? Kill myself just to prove a theory?”
“I don’t think that’ll be necessary. We’ve four hours to midnight, and you don’t look that well.”
“I look as well as I ever have!”
“I agree, but you still don’t look that well.”
Dr. Frank glared at Dr. Ernst.
“I can’t believe you never figured this out yourself,” Ernst reiterated.
“I did,” Frank said. “Once. When I first came up with the theory. Of course, the date I came up with would have changed, now, after the twenty years of smoking. Nevertheless, I did come up with a date. Then I quickly put that date out of my head. I repressed the memory of it. Just because I proved it could be done, doesn’t mean I approved of it. Knowing well ahead of time the exact date of one’s own death can be very damaging to a person.”
“Of course it can,” Ernst agreed. “Almost as bad as the extraordinary amount of public ridicule a highly educated man would have to endure after foretelling the day of his own death, then having the bad fortune to live right through it. Think of it, ol’ boy. Everything you’ve ever said or written will be discredited. You’ll most likely be fired. And what reputable university will hire you? None that I know of. Good heavens, I hope you have savings.”
“Huh?” Frank said, preoccupied, beginning to take the matter a little more seriously. “Uh, no . . . no. I mean, I’ve saved some, but . . . not nearly enough. There were some bad investments . . .” his voice trailed off.
The two men sat in silence for a moment.
“I realize we’ve never been on good terms,” Ernst said, “but I’ve always respected you and, though we disagree, I’ve never considered you anything less than a worthy adversary. That’s why I’m going to help you.”
Dr. Ernst produced, from his suit coat, a .38 caliber revolver.
“What—what is that?” Frank sputtered. “What are you doing?”
“Suicide is out of the question, of course. It wouldn’t help prove your theory at all. Murder, on the other hand, though stretching your theory, does not fall outside its bounds. Your constant sour disposition and altogether egotistical and self-centered attitude plays right into an unnaturally shortened lifespan, when you think about it.”
“But wait—” Dr. Frank said, his eyes wide, his skin going whiter than usual. “I’ve plans! I can renounce! I can still save my career . . .”
“No. The loss of respect would ruin you. You know it would. I’m sorry, old man. I’m only doing this for your own good.”
Dr. Ernst rose, pointing the gun at Dr. Frank. Frank, shaking visibly (more nervous about his own impending death than he had ever been about anything) stood on unsteady feet that were already going numb and tried to step away, tripping on an end-table. The feeble, frail man fell to the floor. He looked up at Dr. Ernst, who stood above him, looking down.
“You’ll thank me for this,” was all Ernst said. He pulled the trigger. A loud explosion burst from the revolver, followed immediately by a bright flash of lightning and a loud clap of thunder.
Dr. Frank grabbed at his own shoulder . . . the shooting pain . . . he gasped . . . he reached out toward Dr. Ernst as the pain shot down his arm. He gasped again . . . he couldn’t breathe. The pain in his arm . . . his chest . . . he looked at Ernst.
Ernst raised the gun and looked at it. “Blanks, ol’ boy. Just a wad of paper. Bounced off your chest. I saw it. What you’re having is a major heart attack. I knew you didn’t look well.”
Ernst put the gun back in his pocket, took his teacup to the kitchen, cleaned it up, and put it away. “There.” he said. “Tea for one. As usual.”
He gathered his coat, hat, and umbrella and gave his adversary one last long look as the man lay on the floor, dying. “Your death couldn’t have come at a more opportune time,” Ernst said, smiling. “You’ll be considered a much better man for it . . . you know, proving your theory, and all. You’ll be hailed as a genius—until you’re discredited, of course.” Dr. Ernst headed for the door. Then he turned back to the gasping Dr. Frank, remembering something.
“Oh, by the way, Dean Wentworth’s retiring. It was between you and me for his position. Good bump in pay. Beautiful office. Looks right over the graveyard behind the chapel.” He chuckled. “I suppose I’ll be seeing you there.”
Dr. Ernst turned and let himself out of the dreary apartment, humming a cheerful tune.
Dr. Frank died, of course, and was indeed hailed as a genius . . . until he was discredited.
And now, submitted for your enjoyment:
by Tori Stone
A strong breeze tumbled through the streets of McShaw’s Point, searching for a victim. Unfortunately, it found the streets of the city completely abandoned by any human inhabitants, as it was the bitter end of December, nearly midnight at that. It blew up stray papers and stirred the dust gathered in otherwise undisturbed corners aimlessly. It slipped into partially opened doorways, just to be driven right back out again by the radiating heat of the building. It gently carried small snowflakes down to Earth before sending them violently hurtling into innocent blades of grass, which bent heavily in response to their sudden burden. The frigid air wrestled with the branches of the trees, swirling angrily through the leaves in an attempt to rip them away from the safety that was the bark. It rolled up a particularly tall hill in search of a new victim to assault, before briefly coming to a stop. A girl most stunning was standing at the top of the hill, her arms outstretched. Her pale face was turned heavenward, her thin eyelids lightly closed over her eyes. A smile turned her pink lips upward, her flushed cheeks dimpling. She was breathing deeply, slowly, savoring the taste of the snow settling in her raven-black locks of hair.
The wind approached her slowly, investigating the child. She could not have been more than seventeen years old, and yet, she appeared to be utterly alone. It slipped long, slender fingers into her chin-length hair and lightly brushed the back of her neck, pausing when she shivered. It shifted the dark jacket she wore, insisting on slipping into the pockets situated above each of her hips to search for any treasure the girl may have hidden there. It blew around her legs, which were protected from the onslaught of freezing assaults by thick black skiing pants, slipping easily through the space between her knees and wondering why someone so beautiful was out on a night like tonight. It danced across her face, molding itself to the contours of her mouth as she slid her tongue between her lips, trying to catch a snowflake. Her eyelids fluttered open when a freezing white flake landed cautiously on the pink surface, melting almost immediately upon feeling the warmth.
A quiet sigh escaped her. She blinked, looking fairly surprised at the noise that had escaped her throat; it was quite unlike her to make noise when she was alone. All of her thinking was done internally; the girl rarely spoke aloud to herself. She smiled, though; after all, she rarely took time to indulge in her romantic side, as she was doing on this December evening.
For once the town was peaceful; the only attacks being made at that hour were made by the wind. No ominous dark figures who made their living on thieving stalked the streets that night. It was perfect, really. The wind blew her hair around her face playfully, challenging her to try to beat the shiny black locks away. But she took no notice.
Her violet eyes were scanning the sky, reflecting the twinkling stars. She appeared to be searching for someone. A slight crease appeared between her eyebrows as she searched, which the wind immediately set off to uncrease. It hammered away at that crease, leaving the skin on the rest of her face pink and raw. She paid no notice, much to the wind’s dismay. Her diligent gaze into the galaxy was not one that could be broken so easily.
In a desperate attempt to reclaim her attention, the wind blew fallen leaves up off the grassy ground and swirled them in front of her face, forcing them into a bizarre spinning dance in which they chased each other around spiraling circles. The girl appeared to notice for a moment; she blinked and glanced at them, a small look of wonder forming on her sweet face, but she was quickly reclaimed by the search she had started previously. Frustrated, the wind began nipping at her face, taking care to force her hair up and over her head, concealing her gaze. It tore at her clothes, making them cling to her body in an attempt to not be torn away. She closed her eyes and shivered, goose bumps racing down her skin. But she was determined.
Finally, whatever she was searching for appeared. The crease in her brow vanished as her face fell into that previous contented expression. The wind slowed and twirled the grass around her ankles, searching for whomever it was that this determined girl had spotted. A boy had appeared. He appeared to be riding the wind effortlessly, gliding as smoothly and silently as a summer breeze up the hill. His hair, which was so blonde it was nearly white as the snow below him, swirled around his face, making his bright green eyes appear to glow. His eyes widened for a moment when they rested on the girl, but a look of recognition lit the green orbs.
His gaze was full of concern when he stopped before the girl; concern that she would be exhausted, or freezing, or both. They did not speak. It was not necessary. They could communicate wordlessly, almost as easily as thinking internally to oneself. They merely stood and gazed at each other, ignoring the way the wind gusted up between them in an attempt to drive them apart. After all, that’s what wind does: it separates. It pulls leaves from branches, it pushes objects into a tumble if given enough strength, it rips entire buildings out of the ground. It was wind’s natural state.
But it seemed that the wind could not drive those two apart. The wind paused, waiting for them to speak so that it could rush forward, seizing those words and tossing them aside, never to be heard by the listener. But they did not speak. Words were useless to them, really.
The girl moved forward, squinting slightly when the wind made a brave, albeit fruitless attempt to push her back. She glanced up at the boy, who was watching her through half-lidded eyes in affectionate silence. They melted together instantly, their arms snaking around the other’s body, fitting together in a way more perfect than puzzle pieces. Because not all puzzle pieces are perfect. Some have chipped edges, or have been broken, or appear to fit perfectly, when in reality they were forced together by an authority higher than their own. No, it was destiny. They were soul mates.
And then, the wind was swirling around them, pressing against their limbs, urging them to move closer. Quite out of the usual nature of wind, admittedly; but even nature bows down to those in the arms of true love. And so the wind aided the boy when he gently tucked a strand of loose hair behind the girl’s ear, and steadied the girl’s shaking hand as she raised it to touch his face. When their lips met in a soft, passionate kiss, it brought a flurry of snow dancing across their faces, cooling their suddenly burning skin.
The wind danced around the boy as he walked his girl home. It softly petted the girl’s hair out of her face, allowing her to gaze dreamily at the boy on whom she leaned. It cleared the porch of the young girl’s house as the couple trotted up the stairs. It aided the boy rather clumsily in hugging her shivering form. It urged him forward as he planted a soft kiss on her brow, her eyelids fluttering shut.
And, when the door shut behind the girl he loved more than life itself, it carried his three small words to her, allowing them to lightly skim across her face and turn her lips upward in a small smile:
I love you.