The damp southern air slid over her skin creating a slick layer of ocean mixed with sweat on her arms. She looked out the car window for the distant breeze rustling the palms across the way and wondered at the idea that she was finally there or here, if she wanted to get technical. The pieces fell together with a delicacy only gods could have designed, and now she was here, in his car, his house, his arms. She could see herself reflected in his eyes, and it was all so much that she wasn’t sure how she’d ever be able to give it up. She didn’t know if she’d ever be able to live knowing what loving him felt like.
“So, just get a twelve pack.” His voice tore through her thoughts making them that much more real. He put the money in her hand, his fingers sending little tendrils of heat through her limbs, and started the car.
The wind fluttered in through the open window easing her discomfort from the muggy afternoon. They were on their way to pick up some beer and movies. Such an ordinary night stood in front of her, but she knew every moment would feel extraordinary because it was Johnny beside her, with her, finally, and she could taste the minutes sliding away, falling through her open hands. She didn’t want to cry, but she could feel the tears sitting on the edges of her eyes every time she imagined leaving him, being away from him again.
“We’re here. You okay?” he asked.
She turned to look at him and watched as he placed his hand on her knee with concern at her silence. “I’m fine,” she said, trying to smile through the impending pain.
“No you’re not. I can see it. What’s wrong?”
“I love you more than I thought possible.” She closed her eyes, stitching this moment into her memory so she wouldn’t forget his soft voice, his gentle fingers on her skin. “I’m not sure how I’m supposed to leave knowing what I know now that I’m with you. I thought being without you was terrible before. I don’t know what will happen to me now.”
He stared at her for a minute and then turned to take in the Florida view. They sat in front of a beachside store surrounded by towering palms. She could smell the sea floating on the rare warm breeze, and when he spoke, she closed her eyes again.
“I love you beyond words. That’s fucking cliché, but it’s also true. I don’t know how to tell you how I love you, so I’m just going to ask you to stay. If you’re afraid to leave, don’t. Stay here. Stay with me.”
She let his words sink into her skin, lie in her ears before she muddied them with her own, for how was she supposed to match them? How could she possibly tell him how much she wanted to be with him every day from now until the end, so she just said, “Okay.”
And she stayed. They stayed and none of the rest ever happened because they were together, and that’s all that ever mattered.
This is a story that happened. Except for the ending. This is the way it should have ended.