Rain drops danced on the window sill, running their fingers gently against the glass with longing sighs as they settled into seas of water only to be disturbed again by the next drop. The tulips wilting on the inside of the window breathed in the warm air of the house, yet still could not bloom as they watched with drooping faces the disturbance on the window sill. All was quiet in the house except for the gentle tapping of the rain on the window pane like a young lover throwing rocks to awaken his sleeping beauty. Across the white walls of the small apartment lay splashes of life that were too wild and untamed to be contained to a single wall let alone one skinny apartment space. The solitary apartment stood isolated on the ground floor of a building centered in New York’s sprawling system of roads, where it alone seemed vibrant and alive. Roads like the pathways of a body filled with the ever awake but seemingly never living people of the city that never sleeps. Separated by thin capillary walls from the bustle of the dark and dirty streets lay the hidden white walls of her home. The macabre symphony of art was pinned to the walls in a random yet insistently purposeful manner that blossomed from a young and wild heart. The Van Gogh imitations to the typography, and the old photographs of people she had never known filled the spaces of the white wall with color and life that she mastered and owned but still was not her own. The very walls jittered with a peaceful happiness where her fingers had traced along the walls as she had run through the tight hallways and rooms. Every window, every space had been filled by her loving hands so no spot would feel alone or empty. She was kind.
Curled in a sea of billowy white comforters, she lay like a goddess who held the fiery force of life in her chest. Silent and still but very much alive. Her red wavy hair lay around her head like a sunset framing her face. Gnarled and twisted it lay like the warriors of fallen battles, stained by their own blood and those of their enemies. She breathed peacefully with her eyes gently closed. Her eyelashes fluttered like butterfly wings and opened. Noses almost touching she gazed into his eyes and he right back. He hadn’t stopped looking. He reached out with a hand and ran it along her cheek, tracing the contours of her face with his thumb until he reached her ear and ran his fingers through her wild hair. She smiled and scrunched her face, twisting her nose to the side slightly as she always did. He laughed. She smiled. They lay there in the sea of clouds built by human hands facing each other, watching each other, listening to the rain as it danced outside.
“We should probably move at some point.” He whispered playfully
She smiled and looked at him with green eyes and watched as the rain danced in his blue eyes. He smiled slightly, the way he always did, as if he was afraid to laugh out loud or widen his face with a smile.
“Why would we move, when we could stay right here and listen to the rain until it stops. We can’t let the rain outlast us can we now?” she smiled as she propped herself up on an elbow to look at him from above.
“Oh ok, I guess we don’t have to move. I was just going to say I would make breakfast… or lunch I guess,” he said looking down at his watch and the hours, which had been thrown to the wind. “Suit yourself then, I am good here.”
He rolled onto his back with his hands clasped behind his head, smiling playfully and closing his eyes. She pounced on him, throwing herself across his stomach. He let out a grunt and a laugh that made his eyes crinkle at the corners.
“You can’t do that!” she howled with mock tragedy.
“It was your choice, not mine.” He shrugged as he grabbed her arms, which assaulted his chest. Holding both of her wrists in one of his large palms he held her tight and she struggled even though she didn’t care if she never escaped.
“Well I changed my mind” she whispered right in his face as she leaned in only inches from his face. It escaped her almost as a snarl as her hair hung in front of her determined fiery eyes.
Just like that she sprang away, dancing out of his reach like a whirlwind of red hair and laughter. Her feet carried her across the wooden floor to the window where the tulips sat sadly waning against the glass. She frowned for a faint moment but it was chased across her face by the noise of the pattering rain. She threw open the window with a surge of motion that shook the tulips and the puddles on the windowsill. She leaned on the windowsill over her flowers staring into the rain. She felt her face so close to it, but it was just beyond her, beyond the window, beyond the tulips, but almost there. She breathed in deeply. Petrichor.
Propped up on his elbows, he surveyed her in the window’s soft light, which cast her hair like fire down her back. He smiled softly to himself watching her as she busied herself among her flowers and things. He shook his head with a soft chuckle, “Every time I get you flowers they just wilt and die, you have to learn to share some of that life that you have or else no one else will get any.”
“That’s not fair, I share everything I have, most of all with my flowers.” She cast him a glance and a wayward smile without turning to face him. With only that sideways glance she let out a less than phased grunt and cast herself down the hallway with a ballerina’s grace away from the billowy comforters and into another room cast with light. Again, he shook his head incredulously at the sprite that flitted around the house.
“Oh! Shoot, I am sorry I totally forgot to tell you, you got some mail yesterday. I didn’t recognize who it was from, I think it was a bank or something. ”
She bent backwards into his view from the room down the hall so he could barely see her outline in the soft light split against the shadow of the hallway. “Really?” there was a note of some sort of expression in her voice he did not recognize. He sat up fully to try and see her face but she was too far. With his head slightly cocked he waited for her to say something else, but nothing else came.
“You alright?” he asked warily.
Her silhouette had disappeared from the hallway now, he leaned in to try and spot her but she was curiously absent.
“Everything is fine, I will be right back.” He watched as he figure passed across the hallway as she went towards the back door where their mailman of five years now still did not understand that that was not their front door. Every day he left their mail at the wrong door for them to discover in a small but haphazard pile.
She walked with lithe and light footsteps a smile on her face and a suppressed shriek of joy that she hid in fear of ruining her surprise. She tried to be normal, she tried to remain calm but she knew that the wedding invitations along with a surprise trip for them to take before they finally got married after almost six years of being together. Her chest felt full to bursting with a joy that could almost not be contained. She picked up the mail that she had disguised as a bank note so he wouldn’t look into it and ripped it open with savage excitement. Two tickets for Paris for their honeymoon six months from now.
Peaking down the hallway to make sure he wasn’t looking she retreated into the corner of the back room and danced wildly in a circle her red hair flying around her as she bit her knuckle to keep from screaming in excitement. She was about to empty the vase of flowers to hide the tickets under the red roses from their date last week when she noticed the other letter. Pausing for an unsure moment she contemplated her next course of action. Holding the flower vase in the crook of her arm still she picked up the remaining letter which must have just arrived and wondered if she should leave it for later and go display the wedding invites. After a brief moment she tore open the new letter without even looking at the return address.
Tapping his foot against the hard wood floor as his bare feet hung over the edge of the mattress of comforters they had built on the floor, he waited. Humming a soft song he had known his entire life he watched from his seated position as the rain fell into the house from the open window above the flower, which gently swayed in the wind. Shaking his head with a chuckle and that little smile of his he pushed himself to his feet shaking off the clouds of comforter to go close the window. She had such life but because of it she seemed to underestimate the fragility of the life of the things around her. That was why her flowers died, it wasn’t a lack of love or life, it was an abundance of it. She was his warrior with her wild hair and fiery eyes. He smiled as he thought of her leaning on the open windowsill as she had done. He wondered what it was like to be her, to be invincible to the world. He placed his hands on the windowsill where hers had rested pushing his face out towards the rain. But he saw nothing, nothing of what she saw even in her place. He tried, he really did try to live more like her but no matter how hard he tried to stop and live a life of carefree joy he would always be the shy boy with too much reservation for his own good. He was a quiet man.
He started to shut the window when the loud crash of the clay vase shattering on the hard wood floor startled him enough to make him jump. That loud crack shattered the tranquility of the house in a matter of seconds, the uninterrupted serenity of their house had never before been disturbed as it was now and it shook his entire being. Then the terrible silence. A silence never before heard or seen. Frozen, the house and its inhabitants, human and plant alike, even the art seemed to leer from the walls, waited on the edge of that vast chasm of silence as the sound of that terrifying silence grew and grew filling every corner of the house until it rang in all of their ears even louder than a scream. The sound that interrupted it was not a bang but the feather soft sound of paper gently floating to the ground to settle as a dandelion on the wind comes to rest on the blade of a serene grass meadow where no human foot has ever graced. That soft but perceivably sound ended the terrible silence but not the horror. With perked ears he listened with a mute tongue but frantic eyes as he heard her soft footsteps coming down the hallway. She was not walking but running very lightly down the hallway, her silhouetted figure eventually blotting out the backlight until she stood before him. She paused for only one moment as they both looked at each other across the room from each other.
He opened his arms for her as he had done so many times before when something was wrong welcoming her into the sheltered harbor of his arms but even as he did so he could see this was different. He never got to finish that question in that moment as she eyed him as if she was a hunted animal and he the vicious predator. That guarded and hurt look in her eyes shut his mouth in one moment. She had never looked at him like that and he felt it like a stake in his heart. He moved in to try to embrace her but in one deft movement she leapt out of his reach towards the bathroom where she slammed and locked the door.
“What are you doing?” he yelled not out of anger but a fear that was slowly welling in his chest. “Please open the door and talk to me! Tell me what is wrong!” He banged on the door with his huge open faced palm. There was no reply. He pressed his ear against the door and listened. All he could hear was the soft rustling of her movements. “Please” he whispered into the door with his eyes closed. The fear had grown inside of him filling every part of his body like a terrible poison feasting on his veins burning them while his blood still pumped. The sickening feeling that something was horribly wrong drew down the corners of his mouth bringing back the lines of frowns that he had almost forgotten and resurfacing the unsure and reserved fear within him.
The rustling stopped for a brief moment and he heard the soft and barely audible sound of a moan that sounded too wounded to be entirely human. That pitiful noise ripped his heart apart and he pounded on the door anew, yelling for her to open the door.
She sat in the bathtub hugging her knees to her chest as she rocked back and forth. She had madly thrown on new clothing and shoes but then lost the strength and seemingly the ability to move at all. So she lay curled in the tub with her knees hugged and one fist held against her horribly contorted mouth as she held back the sobs of a dying animal. Her wild red hair lay wilted against her face, wetted by her tears and fallen in its glory. A dull ringing in her ears muted the sound of the banging on the door and the screams of the man that loved her and she him. Her whole being was numb, that numbness spread like a poison throughout her body until she felt absolutely nothing. The rocking ceased and she lay there in the tub, listless and empty. With the numbness came resolution, not bothering to wipe her face she slowly stood and faced the door.
“Please, just leave me alone. I don’t love you.”
The knocking stopped and the second terrible silence struck like a clap of thunder. Stumbling back a few steps, he stared with wide eyes at the bathroom door. The soft voice which had whispered I love you so many times was now hollowed and coarse. He blinked in shock as he replayed that voice in his mind, the hollow voice with nothing in it at all, no joy, no love, and no life. Looking over his shoulder he took in every moment they had ever shared in this house together, five years of experiences, of life in every ounce of the house that screamed to be remembered.
“I don’t believe you.” He whispered in a voice weak and drained.
The bathroom door flung open and she burst forth like a fire behind closed doors running for the front door. He jumped and intersected her, engulfing her in his broad arms. Grabbing onto her as if he would never let her go she fought like a caged animal. Viciously she kicked and squirmed against him, trying desperately to be free of his grasp.
“Please stop, just talk to me!” He yelled spinning her in his arms until her tear stained face looked right into his just inches apart. He looked into her fiery eyes that had been extinguished with tears and her face sunken not from a few moments of horror but a life time of them.
“Please just let me go.” She whispered in a desperate and heartbreaking voice as she breathlessly beat her hands against his chest. She fought like a rabid animal and refused to stop. “Let me go!” she howled in a voice filled with the pain of a dying animal. The shock of her scream shattered his resolution; he had never heard her raise her soft voice before. She landed a solid hit on his chest and with a loud pained grunt he released her and she fell onto the ground in a distraught heap. She sprang back to her feet and raced to the front door, throwing it open as the rain poured behind her she stopped for one moment. He looked at her with eyes that swam with pain and saw in her nothing.
“Please, don’t ever follow me, and don’t ever look for me.” She whispered as she looked at him, her fiery eyes glinting in the house’s light. Her wild red hair blowing in the stormy wind which gusted in from the noisy street outside, filling the house with noise and chaos.
And she was gone, she ran out of the house, down the steps and out into the middle of the street. He rushed to the door just in time to see her dart across the street to the sound of screaming taxi horns and the yells of motorists as she ran without a care of being hit across the road and away. Her red hair being tossed carelessly by the wind, her shoelaces untied and scrambled around her feet and her shirt left carelessly untucked and wild in the breeze. She disappeared down the street into the thick throng of black umbrellas covering blank faces, swallowed by the throngs of people bustling to nowhere but always hungry for another life to drag into its clutches and never be released. Standing in the doorway, in the rain he stood with his heart in his hand and its slowing beat.
The shattered flower vase lay in pieces on the floor of the back room, the water running from its broken contents like blood. Its path only interrupted by the letter laying on the floor that slowly absorbed the liquid, blurring and spreading the ink of the words into an incoherent chaos never to be deciphered by another humans’ eyes. The last sentence to be swallowed by the blood water of the vase as the ink spread like a plague on its surface: terminal cancer, 4 months to live. He would never see the letter, and its damning words as he walked numbly back into the empty house devoid of life and love. He fell to his knees on the sea of comforters, gathering them into his arms to fill the hole in his heart, curling into a ball in the sea of white, he was left alone with no explanation just the devastating hole in his chest and the rain drifting through the open window and door, and the smell of petrichor.