‘Here is where I feel most at peace’ he’d said.
She’d rolled her body over to stare down at his beautiful face, bleached into purity by the early afternoon sun. His white-blond hair had fallen into a halo around his head and, against the parched grass he was lying on, she knew she’d forever carry this angelic image of him. She’d secretly hoped, one day they’d tell their children how they’d fallen into step with each other from the first Fresher’s Day and once they’d found themselves sitting beside each other in both Philosophy and Economics classes, they’d believed their fate was sealed. At least that’s how she’d imagined it. “And you fell in love then?” they might ask their mummy and daddy, “even though you both didn’t realise?”
‘More at peace than in Romeo’s?’ She’d laughed softly, nudging the side of his body with her own. His flawless face had creased then, a grin splitting the serenity of it. She’d wanted to capture the action and bottle it so her heart could always feel this full.
‘Romeo’s is different,’ he’d simply said, and she knew what he meant. They were both different at the nightclub; both freed from the restraints they felt during the day, and both of them young and abandoned—the way they might both might have dreamed they might become once they’d slipped the ties of their hometowns and begun to forge new independent lives for themselves at Uni.
‘I’m at peace wherever you are,’ she’d wanted to say. But she hadn’t. Hadn’t wanted to break the moment; hadn’t wanted to pop the bubble they inhabited together and more than anything hadn’t wanted the day to be spoilt by saying anything so reckless it might destabilise the fabric of their being. It could wait. There was time. They were at the beginning of their journey; she didn’t need to hurry it. So many people rushed into things these days and then wished they hadn’t. Taking time made things better. Even food tasted better the longer it cooked.
‘We had no idea,’ his parents told her outside the crematorium. ‘No idea he was so unhappy. If only he’d said something, opened up to us. We’d have understood; we were young once. We know what it’s like to be so far away from home and have nobody to turn to.’
His perfect face returned to her and brought with it the strength his presence always gave her. His father looked the way she’d always imagined he might after they’d been married for thirty years or more, softened, looser. She couldn’t say what she wanted to say: that he had been happy—or at least she thought he’d been happy—he’d been laughing that last afternoon, smiling, teasing as he’d poured drinks back at her room, telling her to paint herself pretty for later on because they were going to burn the nightclub down. She can still feel the tickles of butterflies in her chest as she carefully painted on the lipstick he never woke to admire.
She wanted to tell them how happy he made her, how much he made her laugh, how special just being beside him made her feel. She wanted to tell them how much in love they had been but was that the truth? She recalls him spiralling across the dancefloor at Romeo’s, his eyes closed and his head rolling with the beat of the music, his hips swaying and his torso gyrating to the thump-thump-thump. And she remembers how everyone would stare. At them both she’d always thought. But now she wonders if their hungry, admiring stares were actually just for him. And him alone.
A sudden jolt of panic; of dreadful realisation. Too late. She hadn’t known him, then. Not really. She’d been just like the others; in awe of his beauty, of his smile, his intellect, his humour and the way a room shone with the brightness of his just walking into it. She hadn’t known the deeper him, the sadder him, the one she said goodbye to after their wild nights out together; the one who locked himself into a different room.
But, she assured his parents, he had told her where he felt most at peace; where she was certain he’d be happy being set free to soar wherever the wind decided to take him.
Written in response to the www.creativewritingink image prompt October 26th 2017