A bright smile, a blank smile, a smile that nigh-on breaks your heart every time you see it.
“Pretty,” a woman mumbles, feeling the needles of the tree, tousling a few between her fingers. “Beautiful.”
“Yes,” you say, swallowing the lump that has come into your throat. “Beautiful.”
The leaves are changing color. A few drift down as you watch, and the woman steps on one, delighted by the crunching noise it makes when her boot descends on it. Her musical laugh rings through the air, unheard by anyone except you. And you are trying your hardest not to cry. You must not show weakness. You must not give in to your own body; you haven’t in a long time. You might not ever again.
“Look,” you say, trying to distract yourself. “That crocus; it’s the last alive.”
The woman looks at the purple flower, its deep throat shining with a few drops of moisture remaining from the morning’s dew. “What’s a crocus?”
“A flower,” you say, hating he hitch in your voice, hoping it will go unnoticed. If it does not, the woman shows no sign.
A few moments of silence. The woman kneels on the leaves and touches the flower’s petals, stroking them as she would a lover’s flushed skin. Feeling the stem, running down it to the earthy soil below, as if she is trying to memorize every detail of the flower.
“What’s a flower?” she finally asks, looking up, her eyes pleading, panicked.
And that is almost it for you; you almost break down right then and there, and throw your arms around the woman and you sob into her shoulder until there are no more tears left in her. And as if you are a phoenix, she would heal.
“I still love you,” you choke.
“I’m sorry,” the woman whispers, ashamed, and you can’t take her lowered eyes, her careful glances away. “I’m sorry,” she repeats, and you lean up and kiss her.
You are not the passive you. You do not ask questions with your kisses, and you are rarely careful. But you smile into it, and you are relieved to feel the woman’s arms wrap around your back. Being the shorter of the two, your neck is craned upward, and it will probably hurt in the morning.
You do not care. You kiss her, and the woman kisses you back, and for just a moment, it’s like you could seal off the world and separate it from you. The two of you, just floating in some unknown world, forgetting earthly complications and things that don’t make sense.
Just the two of you, touching stars.