When I woke up, it took me awhile to remember that it was only a dream. Just a dream.
Well, you were there, at least. I don't remember where we were, what we were doing, but I remember you taking me by the hand, stopping me while whoever else we were with continued on ahead.
"I'm sorry," you said, "I was wrong."
Then you leaned close. I filled my lungs with your smell as you closed your eyes, touched my lips with yours. And I thought, God, I missed you.
When I woke up, it took me awhile to remember that it was only a dream.
Just a dream.
She wakes to the faint, delicate padding of the cat as he walks across the bedspread. She feels the light pressure of his paws as he climbs carefully over her legs to settle comfortably across her stomach.
Outside, down below, cars whisper past her building, leaving brown tracks in the newfallen snow. She watches them go by, imagines as she watches that they all have warm, comfortable places to go to.
A breeze snakes its way through her window and she shivers, glancing up at the steely grey sky before shutting her window and closing her eyes again.
"You know what," the girl complains, "You got some serious issues, you know that?"
He can only nod. She is righter than she knows.
She snorts in disgust, grabs her overcoat and slips her small, narrow feet into black rubber boots. Suddenly, as she stands before him, hand on hip, her expression furious, he is reminded of someone he used to know, someone who had mastered that expression by the age of five. He stands up, goes to her, touches her smooth, ivory cheek and pulls her to him.
"Fuck off," she says.
"I'm sorry," he replies.
She lets him pull off her boots as she crawls back into bed with him.
She digs out her old yearbook after she makes herself some oatmeal and puts on the coffee. She pulls it from the dusty box underneath her bed, holding it almost reverently as she sits on the floor and brushes off the dust.
The pages are stiff, and though she turns them carefully they crackle and rustle in protest. She finds his signature, his words to her on the day of their graduation.
"I love you," it says. She can almost hear his voice. She can almost see his eyes as he tells her.
She puts the book back under her bed, stirs brown sugar into her oatmeal and cream into her coffee and sits down to watch the news.
He goes to the bar alone, walks rather than catches a cab. Snow falls in heavy, wet flakes around him, the frozen crystals dancing in the glow of the street lamps. He breaks off an icicle, holds it with his sleeve covering his hand.
Despite himself, his tongue darts out to taste it, and he looks around sheepishly afterward. In the silence of the snow it feels like the city is deserted. He does not know that she inhabits these same streets, that she goes to the same post office and often rides the same bus.
He does not know that he is about to see her again, for the first time in almost longer than he can remember.
She unwraps her hair, shakes it loose around her shoulders, and pulls her coat on, buttoning it to her neck.
She nods; the man opposite her looks a little crestfallen. "I'm off in half an hour; if you feel like waiting around we could share a cab."
She smiles, hoping her expression is not as cold as it feels. "I think I'm just going to walk. But thank you."
She can feel him frowning at her as she pulls leather gloves onto her hands. The gloves smell warm and just a touch spicy, and she smiles a little to herself as she pushes the door of the bar open, breathes deeply in the rush of fresh, cold air on her face.
He does not recognize her, at first. He only sees her hair, a bright swatch of blonde against the grey city around her. He thinks of her, of course, right away, but he has never and cannot now bring himself to believe it might actually be her.
Then she turns. His breath catches in his throat and he can only stare until she turns away. He almost misses the light, and several cars screech to stop as he runs across the street.
She is about to round the corner when he catches up to her, puts a hand on her shoulder.
"Lizzie," he says breathlessly.
I missed you, she tells him. I missed you and I'm sorry.
I know, he says. I know. I forgive you.
He touches her hair, wipes a warm tear from underneath her eye. It sparkles like the snowflakes in the light.
When he holds her to himself she starts to cry. He can feel her tears against his neck, can smell the vanilla of her hair, hears her sniffling quietly into his shoulder.
He opens his eyes to weak, pale sunlight streaming though his window, and after a moment he realizes:
It was just a dream.
Only a dream.