The sun warmed her face as it shined through the white sheer curtains. A breeze blowing through the window shifted and folded the fabric, casting shadows onto the wall.
She rolled over; her head coming to rest at the edge of the memory foam pillow. She lowered the white down comforter, tucking it at her bosom.
She smiled and stared.
She always loved the way his milk chocolate skin seemed to glow in the morning, as if he were covered in a sheet of gold dust. The rhythmic rise and fall of his chest calmed her. She craved being skin-to-skin; his arms wrapped tightly around her back.
The cherry hardwood floors creaked underneath her bare feet as she slid out of bed. The ceramic bathroom floor sent a chill through her body. She turned on the shower, letting the steam envelope the room. It frosted the wide vanity mirror.
It warmed her.
The bathroom had a single sink and glass shower. One person fit comfortably; a little less so, when there were two. They spent countless mornings standing shoulder to shoulder as she watched him get ready for the day. The way pearls of water glistened on his back. The sweat on his brow. How his firm muscles seemed even more defined. The fastidious way he brushed his straight, ivory teeth.
Every Sunday they’d get dressed shortly after the sun rose and found themselves walking down the city street hand-in-hand. It was peaceful. They didn’t have to compete with the roaring chatter of commuters.
Their favorite coffee shop was just two blocks from their house. Circular, rod iron tables lined the café’s patio. Clear vases with a single pink Dahlia sat in the middle of each one.
“Your regular table?” the hostess asked, smiling pleasantly.
“Please,” she said.
She unfolded the white paper napkin and placed it in her lap and took a sip of the lukewarm water sitting on the table.
“The usual?” the server asked. His crisp, white apron sitting tightly at his waist, not yet tarnished with stains of a hard day’s work.
Two eggs – sunny side up; a slice of rye toast; a glass of orange juice.
He cut his eggs into equal pieces. Bit the toast, corners first, then the rest. Saved the orange juice for last. Always. She laughed as she wiped a dribble of orange juice off her chin. She was a lot less meticulous, and far clumsier. The first time they met she bumped into him and spilled an entire glass of red wine on his new tan suede loafers.
The sweet aroma of roses wafted in the air just outside flower shop that sat cater-corner from the café. “The Freshest Blooms!” a banner sprawled across the front window exclaimed.
Every week he’d bring her home a dozen white peonies. It seemed like he’d replace them with a new bunch before they even wilted. She loved the way fresh flowers perfumed their cozy loft. The fragrance permeating and bringing life to every space.
“Peonies are my favorite, too,” the cashier said, delicately wrapping the flowers in green cellophane and binding them with a white, satin ribbon. He handed her the bouquet.
Morning had turned to afternoon. The high sun baked the asphalt. If not for a cool breeze, it would have been unbearable.
On many summer afternoons they sought refuge from the heat under the shade a magnolia tree at the neighborhood park. White petals rained down on them whenever a stiff wind moved through. Reading each other works by Langston Hughes – he had a way of owning the words he read, making them come alive. Talking about the future. Enjoying one another.
She peeked over her book and smiled at a group of children playing frisbee. She loved the innocence of childhood. The way they existed carefree – little worries or pain.
Their time under the magnolia tree usually ended up with them being lulled to sleep by the rustling of the thick, waxy leaves. This afternoon was no different.
She was only startled awake by a neon pink frisbee hitting the bottom of her foot. A little boy ran over to retrieve it. She handed him the frisbee as she pushed herself up – an outline of her body embedded in the soft ground.
“One more stop,” she said.
A great part of their week was spent moving. Work. School. Social obligations. But they always alternated cooking Sunday dinner. It was their way of focusing on each other after days of dividing their attention between their many tasks. Time to talk, to catch up, to remember what brought them together and made them fall in love with one another.
Shoppers moved up and down the aisles of the grocery store like they were in a game of Pac-Man. Pasta. Heavy cream. Spinach. Parmesan cheese. Cherry tomatoes. Garlic toast. Everything she needed to make one of his favorite dishes.
“Did you find everything okay?” the cashier asked.
“Yes, thank you,” she said.
He never let her carry the grocery bags, even when she insisted. This often meant that he would grunt and groan all the way back home. The straps of the brown paper bags pressing firmly into the joints of his fingers. His palms would be gloves of crimson when he finally put the bags down. She was amused by his stubbornness – a trait she both despised and admired – depending on the circumstance.
One thing that sold them on their city loft was its openness. How you could see the living space from the kitchen. When it was her Sunday to cook, she spent most times watching him on the couch preparing for the work week.
The way his reading glasses were perched upon his nose. He had finally accepted that his eyes weren’t getting any younger. How he would glance up from his computer when something on the television caught his attention. When he would fall asleep if she was taking too long to finish dinner – and deny it when she woke him up.
She brought a pot of water to a boil, the steam rising to her face. She cut up the spinach and the tomatoes. Mixed the cream with butter and cheese.
She scooped a serving of the finished pasta into a spaghetti sauce stained Tupperware container and wrapped a piece of garlic bread in aluminum foil. Unfolding one of the crumpled, brown paper grocery bags, she placed the food inside.
A cool evening had taken hold of the city. The sidewalks were quiet save for a few neighbors walking their dogs. Choirs of crickets sang their daily songs. She walked a block away and through a gate, suddenly amongst a sprawling sea of emerald grass. She stopped and laid out a flannel blanket and sat cross-legged.
Running her hands across the smooth curves of the granite stone, she traced each letter and number intricately with her finger. Her face grew warm, her eyes salty.
She could feel his kisses on her neck in the breeze. She saw his eyes in the setting sun as it illuminated the rows of lives well lived in bright oranges and pinks. She could feel him all around her.
“I miss you,” she said, and softly exhaled.
She reached down into the bag and pulled out the plastic food containers. She ate the pasta, then the bread. She washed it down with a bottle of spring water. Her eyes closed as she sat with her back against the stone’s unforgiving surface. Her short brown hair stuck to her moist cheeks.
The evening grew darker. She pulled the dozen white peonies from the bag and placed them in a vase staked into the ground. She put the food containers back into the bag and folded the flannel blanket. She stumbled as she stood up on legs that had weakened.
“I’ll see you next Sunday,” she said, and wiped her face with her palm.