Laura – Ellie Cottrell

He walked briskly, upright, and without interest, through the crowded street. He kept his eyes on the ground, and seemed to be intently staring at the tips of his boots as he went. The rain fell in floods about his hat and shoulders, and ran rivers down his back, turning his green jacket into a dark mossy pool. His rusty moustache was folding slowly downwards, in a sad smile. He stepped around the puddles, careful not to ruin his shoes, but not careful with the now sodden paper he clutched at his side.

He came to an abrupt halt at a door at the back of a run down café, and went in without knocking. He climbed the tiny twisted staircase to a top flat with a door swung open off its hinges. He walked across the wooden floor leaving dark wet drips in his wake. He folded into a chair at the side of a kitchen table, and removed his hat to it. Opposite him, she sat; alone and in silence, watching him without speaking. He placed the contents of his hand on the table and took a breath, his hand resting back on his lap, his eyes on nothing. After a pause he spread them hesitantly, and without explanation, allowing the clock to tick its patient melody to the quiet room. With a gentle hand he pushed the images of his past lovers to her. These are just ghosts that broke my heart before I met you, he whispered, presenting her the pictures.

She stared at him. The pools of her clear blue eyes, deepening with every moment, searching their hidden seas for a response. The wind blew softly through the window, loosely waving the curtain and caressing a pale hair across her cheek. She remained, unmoving, mute, watching the man begin to undress before her. Hesitantly, he had removed his jacket, and hung it carefully on the back of his chair; from where it made a pool of tears beneath him as he continued. He unbuttoned his shirt with fumbling fingers, not feeling the chill from the window, but with the tips beating heavily. Leaving the open shirt drifting around his shoulders, he took a small ring with two keys from the breast pocket; one large, the other tiny in his long hands. Measuring with his fingers from his left nipple, he pushed the larger key firmly into the exposed pale skin.

With a small clunk, his chest opened in front of her, baring his small distant heart, covered with a heavy looking padlock. Her face remained passive and unreadable with only faint shadows of the rain falling over it as she watched. Taking the smaller key in his hands, he unlocked the lock and took the piece of cloth that was smothering his heart. Immediately he began to lighten, as he looked at the words on the cloth. As if in warning he read to her. I’m still mourning over ghosts that broke my heart before I met you, his eyes turning glassy as he finally lifted them towards her. He left the small withered cloth on the table and folded himself away, returning his shirt to its place, and never letting his eyes from hers. He stood up jerkily, as if off balance with himself and with shaking hands reached for his hat.

She fell to her feet, and caught him just as his legs began to crumple. She clutched her small hands to his cheeks and looked at him with a voice that caught his breath. She held him there, the heat of her heart holding him up despite his body. Lover, she breathed, pulling her face close to his, please do not fall to your knees.

She held him there, breathing him in. He looked into her eyes, saying nothing, feeling everything. For the first time his eyes begin to melt, the lakes flooding their boundaries and spilling out across his cheeks. She returned him gingerly to his chair and perched herself on the table in front of him, folding her hands in her lap. She didn’t say a word, but watched him intently. His shoulders slumped as the last of his self esteem bled out of him with his tears, and a look of confusion washed across him. He couldn’t understand why he was crying.

He stared at the empty chairs around the small table, seeing as he had many times before, the ghosts that once sat there. Her ghosts, his ghosts: that broke his heart or hers? He wasn’t sure anymore. The silence of the room enveloped him, shrouded him in solitude with her. Had they been here before? He couldn’t tell, had he been following her or she been following him?

Noticing her then, as if for the first time, beautiful before him, a single tear raining down her pink cheek, he says I’m so lost. Taking his face once more in her warm palms, she lowers her head to meet his, and holds it there, as if to share their grief through flesh. With almost no sound, he wonders if he hears it at all, her warm breath in his ear, her heart in his mouth.

It’s not like I believe in everlasting love.

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