it starts at the end

The red lipstick like a period at the end of the sentence. Signed her name like a signature. Wrapped things up and she said goodbye without turning to look back.

He hugged her frame made of strong but delicate shoulders and wished they’d never pull away but knew they would. When they did, he gazed into the empty air that once occupied the scent of her hair and the freckles on her nose and the hurt look on her face. Her lips, always red, forming words he didn’t want to hear. Now it was just the ghost of her silhouette…replaced by particles drifting in the wind.

She bit her lip and cried hot and silent tears onto the pillow. This was the third time. She’d been buying herself time — months of excuses and broken promises and each time she’d say the next time would be different. But it was finally the third time. And that meant it had to be this time.

Things were rosy. Except when they weren’t. He liked to shut out that second part — pretend not to hear that part. That maybe she had forgotten she said the d word last night. Depressed. And ‘marriage’ the week before. He ignored the question. Bottle this and it will go away. Look, she’s already on with the day humming a song in her head and playing its imaginary notes with her fingers.

She liked waking up in his set of sheets. This here and now had started to become home for her. She liked the way his hair looked in the morning. The way his face looked perplexed by whatever dream still carried him. She kissed him gently without waking, and she smiled thinking about a kiss that was all his when he didn’t know it. For she was careful where she placed her lips and always had been. She hoped they’d always land on his.

He couldn’t wait for her to get here. He paced by the door, checking and rechecking his hair and feeling silly for doing so. He thought of everything — her favorite meal for dinner, and the candles, is this trying too hard? Will she like this? Relax. Headlights pull up. He looks outside the window and catches her reapplying her makeup in the car mirror. She’s nervous too. But soon she’s in his arms. And as the night develops, red wine paints her lips and he’s drunk with desire.

After months of exchanging letters and talking on the phone, some inner voice she’d been silencing finally got the last word — go see the boy. She lied to her mother — said she was visiting a friend, and asked to borrow the car. Driving into Chicago traffic with a stomach twisted into millions of recoiling knots, she rehearsed scenarios in her head of how it might go or things she might say.

They met in a tiny bar. She was coy, shy even. He was intrigued and not shy. In fact quite the opposite — relentless. Her red lips drew him in, and every time he dare get close, she’d offer her cheek instead. He wanted to know so much more. When her friends began to take her away at the end of the night, he begged for her number. She seemed pensive, perhaps mulling the idea over and just enough whiskey deemed it acceptable. She left the bar but tossed him a signature red lip smile. And he felt as though life had only just begun.

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