This story is one of the July Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
It was a day in July. The sun scorched the earth, and us too, while we sat in your tiny garden drinking and listening to slow jazz. The freckles were emerging on your cheeks, and the arch of your shoulders was turning rosy. You looked up, neck craned back with your throat exposed. All the shadows and ripples of it were glaring at me.
The sky was a plaque dedicated to you; even the clouds imitated your archaic smile. You knew this as you watched, I’m sure you did.
You had inherited your button nose from your mother, and it wrinkled as you giggled, the drink going to your head now. You had inherited your black, thick, tight curls from your father. You always said it was funny, having an Ethiopian father and an Irish mother, like belonging to two different worlds. I never got that. I suppose I never will. I never felt split between different worlds.
You used to thrive off talking of death. You called yourself an absurdist, said it was comforting somehow to believe that nothing matters, that we all go about attaching meaning to things that have none. I always thought that was isolating. Thought that I’d rather believe in the illusion like everybody else, liked to ignore death if I could.
So, we sat and we laughed and we drank, and it felt like no one could hear us or see us or care about us. We talked of our plans and of our past, basking in the nostalgia that memory allowed. Moments in our pasts that seemed colourless at the time became golden in the afternoon sun. I felt tears well up in my eyes for some unaccountable reason. I think perhaps I found the moment too moving. It was one of those instances in which you can see everything stretched out in front of you and feel the flames of everything behind you, and you know you must run forward, but the warmth is too enticing.
The sky become a watercolour painting — cyan, gold, white, and magenta — all the colours bleeding into each other and the glow; the glow was so incandescent, so mesmerising. The light was thrown onto your chocolate skin, making you glow too as though you were a firefly — thriving in the dark. Your eyes were opening and closing with the heaviness of impending sleep, but suddenly you focused them on me. Your face became emotionless and cold. My heart collapsed in my chest. I looked back at you and wondered what you saw, hoping it was as beautiful as what I was seeing. You parted your lips slightly, as if about to speak, but a small packet of air escaped instead. You steadied yourself by taking in a stumbling, trembling breath and said to me, “I love you,” for the first time.
The words filled me with golden light, like I had swallowed the sun. I watched you smile at me, and I smiled back, hoping you thought my smile was beautiful. I said the words back to you as though they were the easiest things I had ever said. I blossomed for you, under your touch, and you enjoyed the bloom. We curled up together, with you stroking your slender hands through my hair, and so it began, our eternal summer.