He stood there, staring at her name on the door, imagined their names next to each other. Unlocking the phone and dialling her number, he heard her voice for the first time in months.
It was just a few seconds, but it felt like days had passed when she opened the door. She smiled and invited him to come inside. He kissed her lightly on the cheek and the memories flooded his mind. He remembered her skin, knew again how it felt against his, her smell, the long nights, how she had been his. How they were one, were supposed to be one.
She showed him to the living room. Coffee? Thanks. She went to the kitchen, he followed her. His wife, his companion, soulmate, his everything. Imagined everything she should have been. And never would be.
She gestured and they sat down at the opposite sides of the table. Sipping the hot coffee, trying not to get burned. Shyly looking at each other, then away. Saying nothing. How could you be shy with a person you had been so intimate with? The late afternoon sun shone through the window, lighting up her face and making her look even more beautiful than he had remembered. His most beautiful memory had nothing on reality. This whole thing hadn’t been a problem before today. They had gone their separate ways, and he had been fine with it. He’d been able to live with it. The things in life, circumstances that made it impossible for them to be lovers. Nothing you could do about it. They’d made a decision that it was best to call it a day, that it would be easier to move one, find someone else. But here she was, flesh and blood, the most beautiful flesh and blood he could have imagined. There was nobody else. How could there be?
‘So, how are you doing,’ she asked?
‘Good.’ She smiled.
‘Work is going well and I have a few projects going and it’s really going well.’
‘That’s nice. Keeping yourself busy?’
‘Very. Drowning myself in work, I guess.’
‘Yeah, I know what you mean.’ She looked out the window at the naked trees, shivering in the February cold. ‘I love this apartment.’
‘I can imagine. It’s great.’ He imagined what it would be like to share it with her. Share the world with her. But he wasn’t here for that. ‘How are you doing?’
‘Good. I’m taking care of myself. Good diet, eating healthy, working out, working a lot.’
‘Good.’ It showed. She looked stunning. Should he tell her? Tell her that she was ripping his heart out, that she looked more beautiful than ever? No, that’s not what he was here to do. This was a curtesy visit. Just a casual meeting to catch up, to see each other. It was over. Had been over for months. He would not comment on her looks, do anything that might tip the balance. They could not afford to do something stupid. It would only make things harder to deal with.
The last rays of the sun were illuminating the face he longed to touch. Pulling out all the textures he knew so well, giving her skin a golden colour. She was glowing like an angel. There had been so much he’d wanted to say. He had rambled on in the car, had a long and intelligent conversation. He’d known exactly what he was going to say, but he couldn’t think of anything now.
Maybe it didn’t matter. The silence was clear. The glances. They had talked for hours, disappear into their own world. Their minds and bodies in perfect harmony. Soul mates. From the very beginning, they had never had a moment of awkward silence. Until now. He looked around. The pictures on the wall he knew so well, her little things and objects that had been so fascinating when they met and so familiar as they became lovers. The world that had almost been his so long ago. The world he had so desperately wanted to be a part of. He wanted to break the silence, but he was afraid that it would speed up their goodbye. He was close to her now, and he never wanted that to end. Opening his mouth would break the stalemate. But then, he would not keep her like this all day. It was time to face the inevitable. It was over and he would have to let her go.
They started talking at the same time, but stopped and smiled.
‘You go first,’ he said.
‘I should show you the apartment. It’s not big.’
‘Yeah.’ They both stood up, hesitated, and looked at each other. ‘You first.’
She walked into the hall, the hair falling over her shoulders, begging him to touch. ‘Here is a small spare room. I’m thinking of using it as an office, but it’s full of boxes now. I work from home quite a bit now, so that would be good.’ He looked past her, but before he could enter, she was off, opening another door. ‘The bathroom.’
‘Nice,’ he said and looked over her shoulder again, breathing slowly, taking in the smell of her hair.
‘And here, the bedroom.’ She entered, and he followed. ‘That’s all. It’s a small apartment.’
‘It’s beautiful.’ He looked at the glamorous black and white photo of Marlene Dietrich on the wall. ‘You moved old Marlene with you.’
‘Yeah, I try to make it homely. She belongs above my bed.’ He felt the electricity in the air, the unbearable tension, looked into her eyes and she looked into his. They sat down on the edge of the bed and he moved his hand closer to her, without touching. She moved closer, he felt her breath on his lips. He put his hand on her knee, his cheek gently touching hers. Her heavy breathing so warm on his neck. They almost kissed. ‘I need to change. Going out with the girls tonight.’ She almost whispered, then looked out the window, away from him.
‘I know. You told me.’
‘Sorry. Would have been nice to have more time.’ She looked into his eyes again.
‘It’s fine.’ He slowly stood up, went into the living room and picked up his jacket from the sofa. She followed him to the door. He turned and faced her. For a second, time stood still. This was really it. Their last goodbye. He wasn’t sure how it had happened, but they were in each other’s arms. The smell, the way she felt. So familiar, so out of reach. They were locked in each other’s arms, they were one. Alone in the universe. He was going to let loose, but she held on. They hugged like two people that never want to be parted. She was so warm, so soft. So perfect. He kissed her on the cheek and she returned it. They kissed, they held each other. They were one. The world, once again, was irrelevant. It was just them. Like it had always been.
But the moment passed, and he was outside again. The frozen leaves covering the path like a loosely woven carpet made a crushing sound under his feet. He walked away from the house, down the street. The look in her eyes still fresh in his mind. He looked up at her window, but she wasn’t there. She would never be there again. Last time, they had left the door ajar, now it was shut.
A single leaf fell down from a tree in front of him. The world was falling asleep, winter was taking over.
This story is the sixth installment in the Moments series.