I knew when I opened my eyes he’d be gone. And he was. I just didn’t want to believe it. I was hoping the footsteps across the room were simply him pacing the floor. Contemplating. He had to know this would be a hard decision. The creak of the screened porch door? Oh, that was just ol’ Boxer, our dog, coming back inside from the heat. He did it all the time, you know. Trot in and out that back framed door. He was a big dog, actually a Boxer, and he could do almost anything we could. He was one of us.

But then I heard the engine. Boxer couldn’t do that.

Then the silence. In the house. In the yard. In the air, mine alone to inhale.

The noise.

What came next was the noise. The ringing between my ears. The thudding of my heart, too heavy for my chest to bear. The soles of my bare feet pounding the floor. The knock of the wooden picture frame hitting the wall. The shattering of its glass colliding with the tile floor. Whimpers turned shrieks escape me — clambering up my gut to my throat and erupting from my mouth.

There in that frame, he held me. Our toes buried in the sand. His thigh brushing mine. His fingers, still wet from the ocean, pressed against the side of my waist. Arms embraced. The frame, it boxed us in a moment I carried till this very day. I was at home in the frame’s confines. Its borders provided security. I didn’t need to be anywhere else. Didn’t want to be.

We drove down to the beach — the morning we took that picture — not even listening to music. Still asking questions, still exploring, and giddy with wonder at what the other would say. Our conversation flowing with the morning breeze. I wore a yellow bikini underneath my tank dress. I should’ve gotten a size down, I thought tugging at myself in the mirror at the local diner bathroom. We had made a quick stop for breakfast. The bottom fit perfect, but my boobs weren’t exactly filling out the cups. I hoped he wouldn’t notice.

The beach was lazy under the heat. We didn’t have chairs, so we laid out our towels, the cooler sitting between our heads. Mostly, we waded in the water flirting with each other. It was too hot to lay out for long. But when we did, he only talked to me. I only heard him. We only saw each other.

That was what was captured in this frame.

I reach down into the spray of broken glass and lift the picture, peering into him. There was something else. I narrow my eyes, bringing the picture closer. I notice some dried…what was that just above his upper lip? Why am I just now noticing? Did I see it that day? I stare. I pull back. It was froth. We were walking up the shore, headed to get milkshakes. Just across the road from the beach was this wooded shack with a white splintered sign that read Milky Way in swiped, blue letters. I got chocolate; he couldn’t decide. I remember now — he couldn’t make up his mind. He just kept sampling flavors until the girl behind the counter decided for him. “Here, just get The Collision, it’s got a bit of everything.” He grinned. I thought it was cute. I actually thought it was cute. I hear the crumple of the picture in my fist.

Then the silence.

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