He knocked against her with his shoulder, moving gently enough, but she pulled out of his way apologetically all the same.
When they had met, his broad shoulders and his bulk had been so welcome. He was built of warm muscle and she had liked to tuck her shoulder into the curve of his, had enjoyed finding the match in their fingers and the right way to fold herself against him. In the last year though, since he had come back for her, she had simply felt as if all her angles intruded. There were always three breaths between them, always a jarring when he accidentally closed the gap.
She hated it, quietly. She didn’t have the words to demand the return of something she had thrown away.
Leonathan let her take her single step back. He didn’t look at her. The city was dark, lit with distant lanterns that pricked through the black, flickering white and yellow. His face was a shadow, while the light from the room behind them spilled over his tan coat, his dark hair. She didn’t allow herself to watch him for more than a moment.
Leaning forward on the rail, she crossed her arms over each other. She traced the lines of the lights below until she was charting familiar streets by the string of them. She breathed slow. And then he leaned against the rail as well, leaned his shoulder into hers, and the purpose in it made her freeze.
The day before, they had walked through the family halls, her arm looped through his. Where his mother, his sisters, his brother – his aunts and uncles, cousins and grand-aunts, second cousins and family members she had yet to memorize the names of – could see, and judge, and murmur. They walked like that every day, and didn’t look at each other. It just kept her in mind of the heat of him, the smell of him, the line of his arm against hers. Glancing over her shoulder, she looked back through the glass and lead doors, sure they were alone, and also that they must not be. Their apartments stood empty, padded chairs set in a quiet ring around a low, wooden table. His book lay open, one corner haphazardly off the edge of the table as if he had just put it down. Nothing moved.
When he finally turned to look at her, she was staring at him.
Leonathan paused. If he meant to say something, it stuttered on his lips, and he took a breath instead. Close enough that she could feel him breathing, he looked her in the eye, glanced down at her mouth, and up again.
She would have liked to break the silence, and she had nothing to say. Watching him, she tried to remember the last time she had seen his eyes this well, even while the dark hid their exact color from her. When he leaned closer, she leaned back, and wasn’t sure why.
He gave her a hesitant, questioning look. One more slide toward her, and his lips were on hers.
Awkward as a first kiss, she paused in the first moment, neck bent wrong, shoulder in the way, unsure of the shape of him and not certain how to breathe. She turned toward him, just to escape the ache in her spine that hadn’t come yet. It broke the kiss, for a moment, and she blinked down at their hands. He had grasped her wrist, gently, halfway to pulling her closer.
There was a jumble inside her head, a dozen questions, each of them imperative, unordered and immediate. She took a deep, uneven breath, certain she needed to ask every one of them. They all danced around the same desperation.
“Why?” she asked, too rough to be a whisper, but barely louder.
He seemed to struggle with the same clatter of thoughts, the same tumble that ordered and reordered itself in moments. “I said I forgave you,” he said. His voice was softer than hers, steadier, but he paused as soon as it was out of his mouth. He looked her in the eye and she felt it through to her spine. Settling another breath in his chest, he continued just as evenly. “It would have been better if I actually had.”
She stared at him a little harder, all the more desperate. Every question still seemed important, and suddenly too dangerous to ask.
So she reached for him, pulled him down, kissed him fiercely. She fit herself against him, leaned into his chest while his arms wrapped around her. Her skin thrilled to the touch of him, while her bones tried to remember their old match. Shutting her eyes tight, she begged the world to right itself.
My friends are thieves! They ran off with the first line of this piece and wrote fictions of their own. Aren’t they clever? Check them all out here.