It hasn’t rained for seven days. I am Cloud, and I ache.
They, the two, walk in the long, untended grass by the stream. He takes she-sized steps with swelling calves. She breathes he-sized gulps through curving lips. He’s tall and lean, like maple. She’s short and strong, like pine.
The valley is open. A sycamore tree stands alone, covering a rusted antique bench.
The man is stretching, filling his lungs.
“It’s gorgeous out here… hey, are you cold?” His hand finds her back, making shirt stick to skin.
“No, the opposite,” she whispers, watching the dragonflies hurry away.
“Oh.” His arms cross over his chest. “Sorry, I’m used to girls pretending they’re on a date in some romantic comedy.”
“Ballads. Being caught in the rain and all that.” She grins, hopelessly.
“Here then,” she brushes the stands of hair from her face, “I’ll gaze longingly into your–” but she stops, seeing in his eyes what I already know.
The rumble is deep. Involuntary. Trees swing to the west.
She looks at me with narrow eyes. “Maybe it’s trying to tell us something.”
I tell them I just want what we all want–connection. They flinch at the crack in my cadence, but it hurries them on; he rolls long fingers down her bare arm.
Her hand moves to her forehead. “Maybe we should go.”
“Nah, we’ll be fine.” He’s already looking for shelter, warmth. Freckles crinkle at the edge of his eyes; in the heat, the sycamore curls its branches inward like welcoming fingers.
“There–under the tree, let’s go sit.” Their hands entwine; fingers between fingers, palm to palm.
We could all be so lucky.
They’re under the sycamore now. She is spinning around the trunk and he’s watching every part of her move.
“You look nervous,” he says.
“I–I’m fine. Just thinking.” Pieces of dry bark crackle and break free.
“One bad relationship doesn’t mean they’ll all be like that, Delia.”
Her laugh is deep, the kind no one laughs alone. “God, does everyone know? I feel like the whole world saw him dump me. No, he’s a jerk. It’s just that–”
“You don’t want to get hurt.”
She is still. The hard lines in her face draw him further in, under branches.
I sink lower. Closer.
“It’s a risk worth taking.” He shrugs his shoulders. “You can’t go through life keeping your distance from everyone, we all need–”
We all need.
“You’re just rationalizing,” she tells him.
He pulls a hand from his pocket and holds it out; his fingers tremble like stones before a stampede. “It’s a doomed fate. A beautiful woman like you, a guy like me,” he shrugs his shoulders, unable to hide a dimpling cheek, “but I can’t help it.”
“Josh… I have this stupid idea that I can control how I feel, what I do… instincts get me into trouble.”
Pressure builds, creaking against invisible edges.
His hands move to hips that don’t pull back. This is my favorite part, and I feel myself slipping.
It slides from the leaves, onto the soft curve of her cheek. He’s reaching out to wipe it away–no–his finger is running up her skin, to his mouth.
“You see that flash?”
She sees me through the branches, and her hands push off the knotted muscles in his arms.
“We should go.”
Please, don’t leave me.
She is out in the open now, away from the tree. His hands slide back into his pockets. They look at each other for too long; energy gathers underneath the surface, rearing up for the charge.
“Josh, It’s just–”
A rumble, closer to the surface now. Nearer to skin.
Her eyes find the ground. “Just–just walk me home, okay? Before we get caught in the storm.”
But getting caught is the best part. Let me prove it: I open slow, considerate. The long green grass begins to dance.
He folds back his wet hair; he is beaming, light in the dark.
“Sure, I’ll take you home.”
He’s turning on his heals. Walking toward the bench. He sits, runs his hand along the damp, coiling armrest, and stops.
“Josh, I’m leaving.”
The earth steams, softening as she moves toward the sycamore tree. She’s in front of him. They’re close enough to touch.
He takes her by the hand. She reaches out with her other, running her fingers inside the crease in his arm–skin glistening over skin.
“It’s raining.” Her voice shakes; trembling, humming, all of us.
His hands sink into to her shoulders, snug.
“So let it.”
I open wide.
Wet on white cotton, her body. The weight of water, his hands inviting, her legs ease out.
She sinks into his lap.
I feel myself going. I–I want to move with them. I’m–
She is breathless and hot under my chin. He is hard beneath me. Her nails dig into my back, his legs press forward into mine. She tastes like mint. He, like popcorn. We melt into each other’s arms, a single, rushing pulse.
Until death do us part.
Stacy Sinclair lives in Toronto, Canada with her international super-spy husband and cannibalistic cat. She writes for an advertising agency, selling her soul one product at a time. She spent last summer in Seattle, attending the Clarion West writer’s workshop.