The sunlight was beating down on my face as we hiked the snow capped mountains of Jesse’s favorite national park. The wind was blowing through my hair with so much force I had to redo my french braid three times. On the whole, trekking an icy forest in the dead of winter and middle of day with the morning sun directly overhead brought with it a whole cluster of sensations for me with which I was unfamiliar.
I was hot, but cold.
Freezing, but sweating.
Numb, but sunburned.
All in all, not the most comfortable experience.
The idea of laying…
Jesse was exhausted after we’d finished. He told me he loved, kissed me, and passed out immediately.
I, too euphoric to sleep, splayed myself across the down of his soft, ivory skin, listening to his heavy breathing in and out.
No other sound could compete with the peal of this precious rhyme. Clearer than the knell of church bells, sweeter to my ear than the clang of wind chimes.
I propped my chin up on his shoulder.
Jesse’s long black hair was wild and tangled, splayed across the pillow like seaweed. His jaw was unhinged, hanging open ever so slightly…
“Alright, Fiona, we’re here,” Jesse’s quiet, musical voice sounded.
I felt his hands meandering through my hair as my eyelids fluttered open.
“Where are we?” I asked groggily.
“Come outside and look,” Jesse whispered.
I rubbed my eyes and tried to muster the energy to erect my body, but failed, slouching over the seat.
He just laughed.
Jesse opened the driver’s door, got out of the car, and shut it, making his way over to my side.
A gust of ice cold air hit me as he flung open the passenger door, making me shiver.
Did he take me to…
“Jesse, when are you going to tell me where we are going?” I asked tiredly as we loaded everything into the car.
It was almost dark now.
All the walking from the previous day had made me so exhausted I could barely stand upright. My legs felt like noodles.
He laughed as he opened the passenger door for me. “I told you, it’s a surprise.”
I sighed warily, crawling in. I didn’t like surprises.
“Listen, Jesse, I can’t do any more hikes so if this is some — ”
He groaned. “Fiona, we’re not going on a hike, just relax!”
“Alright, Fi’, we’re back,” Jesse whispered.
My eyelids drifted open as he set me gently down on the ground.
I yawned. “What time is it?”
“A little after eleven,” he answered, and pulled me into the tent.
“Oh,” I muttered groggily. It felt so much later than that.
I crawled on the floor until I felt a pile of blankets beneath my hands and collapsed.
“Aren’t you going to change?” Jesse asked, a frown in his voice.
I heard his question but I couldn’t even come close to answering. I was too tired. Instead I used my last bit of…
When my pulse stopped beating, the rivers ran dry first.
Water draining, veins emptying all the way to the heart.
My extremities were next.
With the silk’s ebb, my edges are nothing but desert islands in the melting sun.
Further in, my limbs are dead and dying, callousing at the surface like driftwood, baking alive, held buoyant only by my saline brine.
If you want, you can see them wash up on shore from time to time.
And the rest of me — my halite crystals, my salt flurries, my calcium deposits, my glittering pearls, and my limestone cliffs —…
“I just don’t really go camping, Jesse.”
“I understand, Fiona. You said that already,” Jesse laughed, combing his hands through my hair, “but my question is why?”
Jesse and I were having one of our usual jocular back and forth’s. Well, it was jocular for him. I personally didn’t enjoy being skewered. At the same time, I knew how entertaining he found our little squabbles to be.
Having a lawyer for a boyfriend could be irritating at times. He was already smarter than me (on top of being better in every other measurable way), and because of the…
“You’ve gone quiet, Fiona. Are you okay?” Jesse asked, rubbing my back and playing with my hair as I laid naked on top of him beneath the sheets.
“Yeah. I’m okay,” I responded quietly, tracing the contours of his shoulder with my fingers, not elaborating.
I could tell he wanted more of an answer but I wasn’t ready to give him one just yet.
I was in deep thought.
The sex we were having was amazing. For me, earth shattering — seismic. It felt like my heart was rising from the ashes. I was so full of wonder at the…
I slowly began to rouse as the sun’s rays hit my face. The warmth was sweetly awakening, and the last few hours of sleep were peaceful, unlike the first.
I stretched and rolled over to face Jesse.
But when I opened my eyes, he was gone.
My heart sunk.
Where was he?
I wrapped myself in a sheet and crawled across the bed to peer into the kitchen.
Not there either.
It was at this point that I realized there was a pink sticky note stuck to my forehead.
I peeled it off.
Don’t move, love. …
I awoke with a gasp.
Consciousness hit me like a battering ram.
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t breathe.
All I could do was gag, because every time I tried to inhale my lungs were forcing me to exhale.
My chest was on fire. It felt as if I was being doused with accelerant then set ablaze over and over again, a conflagration onto a seemingly endless, continually replenishing supply of flesh to be scorched and re-scorched.
PUT OUT THE FIRE, SOMEBODY PUT OUT THE FIRE! I shrieked from the depths of my subconscious.
And I was gagging dirt at the…
And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.