A twig snaps under my foot, and we both jump. Anticipation tingles my skin, and his hand is cold as it rests in mine. The shadows of the forest dance on his troubled face. Moonlight eerily bounces off the pond. The moonlight reflects the cold beads of sweat that have built up on his neck.
We come to a clearning in the woods, our clearning. It's the place where he first told me that he loved me. It's the first place we ever kissed. It's where "we" started, and it's where "we" will end.
The winter darkness has turned his blue eyes into pools of black. A cold shiver runs though my body. The cold's not from the outisde, but the inside.
We both involuntarily sit on a rock, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, leg to leg. Unconsciously, he brushes a stray strand of blond hair off my face. Silence has become normal between us. Not the nice kind of silence, or the comfortable kind of silence, but the awkward silence of strangers. Our silence is and avoidence of the truth.
For two years, this guy has been my world. He's been my best friend, my boyfriend, my comfort, my strength. Now I've come to brak this pact, this bond. And I know that once I've said what I need to say nothing will ever be the same again. I want to sit here and hold him. I want to know that everything will be okay.
If we talk about the truth, everything will be over. So we choose silence. In this place of beginnings, it is so ironic that now it is the place for endings. Everyting in my world is changing, and there is nothing I can do about it. Suddenly, my shivering stops as his jacket surrounds my shaking body.
HOw can I live without him? The owl's hooting above reflects the lonely song in my heart. My heart is slowly being torn to pieces. I look up into his eyes. He turns away at my tears.
"Don't. I can't handle that," he says. His voice is quiet and filled with pain. He wipes my tears away with his thumbs. His mouth is so close to mine that my lips reach for his, but he turns away. The sting of rejection is more pain than I can handle. I wish that I could fall asleep and wake up when this nightmare is over and all the pain is gone.
"I love you." My words are a peace offering, sent out cautiously and carefully. They are meant to stop further missles from coming my way.
"Don't. You're just making it worse."
"How could it be worse?" My voice is pleading and desperate. My whole world is crumbling around me, and he's worried that it could be worse.
All aroudn me the stars are shining their heavenly light. How can they stay so brillant and bright while all the lights in my world are cut off?
Instinctively, I reach for my ring and twirl it around my finger. I've been wearing this ring for two years now. He gave it to me for our first Valentine's Day together. Out here in the cold, the gold of the mooonlight looks pale and its luminosity has lost its sparkle. Out here the world looks bleak and dismal.
If the sun were shining and sending its happy rays everywhere, would we be happy, too? Or would our hearts still be dark and cold like the atmostphere now?
"Do you feel like this is unreal? Do you feel like this should never have happened to us?" I ask. "This was not supposed to happen to us!" He puts his head in his hands, as if he is trying to avoid my quesitns. Slowly, he rubs his hands back and forth like he's trying to wipe away a bad dream.
"We can work this out. I nkow we can. This is us we are talking about," he says, laughing.
What about this could be funny? I wonder. "Are you laughing at me?" I ask. The look in his eyes tells me no. It tells me that his laughter is to prevent sobbing. I can't resist the urge to touch his face. He grabs my hand, and for a moment we freeze. We are stopped in a moment of time that in our minds will last forever.
He leans in to kiss me. HIs lips seek reconcilation. The moonlight bathes us in a luminous light, but it's just dark enough to see only silhouettes. The frogs on the pond sing a lovely melody. And for one brief shining moment I know that life will go on, with or without him. So, I disentangle myself from his arms and start the lonely walk to the car, and somehow I know I will find myself again.
- Jennifer Gearhart