It's a mild R. Since there are younger people here on the site, I thought I'd rate it R.
Part Three: Clarity
It has been ten years since the night of the wedding. The night she came with me timidly out to my car, and climbed into the passenger seat where we spoke civilly and distantly. She followed me inside my apartment, up three flights of steps. Even though that was a nicer apartment than the house I used live in, the elevator was still broken. We didn’t hold hands going up the stairs, but we did talk a little. Like we knew each other as friendly acquaintances, neighbors maybe. If anyone had followed us up those stairs and then saw that she was coming into my room, they probably would have been surprised.
I laid her down on my bed, still unmade from that morning, but she didn’t seem to mind. She never minded the fact that I wasn’t all that clean, because she wasn’t either. The sheets were the flannel sheets of a bachelor –unwashed, sheets that had seen many wet dreams and the bodies of many naked girls.
The dress was over her head in very little time, and in our rush it got caught in her hair. I had to calm myself enough to strategically pull each thread of long, dark hair out of the zipper. My hands were shaking, partly because I was so excited and partly because I was so nervous, because after all that time, all the time we were together and all the time we were apart, the one girl in my life who ever meant anything to me, who was still just a girl, was sitting still as a board in her underwear letting me pull her hair out of a zipper.
She was still so small, and when I kissed her shoulders, they were warm from the sunburn she got standing outside all day. When I climbed on top of her, inching her legs apart with my knees, I looked straight down into her eyes, dark and wide with excitement or fear, I couldn’t tell. My arms were planted on either side of her, and her fingernails dug into my back. Everything she did to me was gentle and timid, and I never imagined she would be a tiger in the bedroom, but I didn’t realize with what ease she would take to this. I was more than surprised to find that she wasn’t a virgin, because in only a year and a half who could she had lost her virginity to? Jealousy welled in my chest, but the thought was lost in the heat of the moment. Her dark lashes were splayed against her pale cheek, newly freckled from the sunny day, and even when she came and I came, she wasn’t loud, she didn’t say my name, she just did this short series of breaths, and then finally a long, slow release. I couldn’t help it, I moaned and groaned, and nearly screamed, and fell on top of her, unable to keep myself up.
She slept away from me that night, on the other side of the bed altogether, curled in a little ball. I was suddenly taken back a year and a half ago, remembering her in her tank top and jeans and the way she breathed so slowly and quietly. The way her face was washed with a peace I had never seen on her while she was awake.
Again I could barely sleep. I studied her naked back, the crevices of her backbone, her sharp shoulder blades. At one point I was about ready to take her again, and if it had been any other girl in the world, I would have. But I let her sleep.
It’s been ten years since that night. Ten years since I’ve last seen her. Ten years since I last spoke to her, and we’ve run into each other again, this time in the grocery store of all places, for what I know will be the last time. Her hair is short again and she is balancing a child on her hip. His hair is as blonde as corn silk and I look at her, a gothic picture of dark hair and light winter skin. My eyes fall to her hand and I see the gold band. Her husband is blonde.
My ring finger feels suddenly intensely bare, and I remember that I have taken off my wedding ring because I usually do this when I am at the grocery store. I hope she doesn’t notice as I slide my hand deep into my pockets and put the ring back on.
She looks exactly like I remember her looking: young, without make up, in a sweatshirt and jeans that are too big for her. She talks about her son, Gabe, and mentions in passing her husband, Caleb. The beautiful blonde baby on her hip wraps his tiny fingers around her left ring finger and holds onto it, covering her rings.
“Damon,” she says, and the way my name leaves her lips with such familiarity and ease runs like electricity through me. Why, after all these years and with a wife much more beautiful than she, am I still haunted by this ghost of a girl? “Are you doing well?” She is genuinely concerned, because she stops glancing lovingly at her child, and turns her focus to me, her left ring finger still in Gabe’s tiny fist.
“I am,” I say, and it is partially true, and partially a lie. I want to tell her that the morning we woke up together I knew we were going to get married, and when she left me and never came back, she broke my heart into so many pieces that I lost most of them, and was her heart broken at all?
“That’s good,” she says.
“We can’t do this to ourselves,” she had said that day in the garden. Standing in this grocery store after all these years, I finally know what she means.
“I wanted to know,” she said that morning, pouring me a cup of coffee, dressed again in that yellow dress, riding up her leg and exposing the soft white skin of her thigh, her hair still stringing from the zipper. “I had to know.” She turned to look at me, the sun pouring in from the window, embracing her in a halo of light. She looked straight into my eyes and burst into tears. I had never seen her cry before. I was taken aback, and didn’t know what she wanted me to do, but I stood up and held her anyway. I felt her fingers riding up my back and grasping my shoulders, clinging to me desperately, still sobbing.
I knew that she had finally figured it out and that I had finally figured it out, but we had come to different conclusions.
I look into her eyes all of the sudden, surrounded by people pushing red plastic carts, and I know exactly what I’m looking for. I’m looking for that barely suppressed sadness that she always carried with her in those dark eyes of hers; the look that broke the heart of a drug addict, and when I was becoming increasingly indifferent to the world around me, made me a better man. I am intently staring into her eyes, desperately searching for any piece of that sadness that maybe I have left in her. It is not there.
And so I finally let my smile fade. I run my finger across her brow because they are furrowed with concern, and then I turn around and don’t look back. After six years of marriage, thirty-three years of loneliness, and ten years of clinging to the past I am ready to go home.
It's short, I know. I like it though. Can't think of a way making it longer would make it better. I could always kill one of them off, I guess. You've read, now review, it'd be greatly appreciated.