This fall I wrote intertwined short stories Leaving (Chapter One and Chapter Two) and Absence (Chapter One and Chapter Two) that stand alone but together tell a fuller, richer story of an unraveling relationship. The stories, which I am deeply fond of, ended on a somewhat ambiguous note and I have been wondering ever since if they needed some kind of epilogue, a resolution. This is a Christmas gift of sorts for Felicia Denise, who is firmly in the resolution camp.
Rae and Jake were really got under my skin and their story inspired several of my poems including After, Moment of Truth, The Affair, Rae’s Song, Remember ? and You. I hope you enjoy falling into their world as much as I have. I continue to work on their back story.
Please see below for my suggested soundtrack
She walked around her studio apartment one last time, needlessly adjusting already artfully arranged throw pillows, wiping the spotless kitchen counter, straightening up the already aligned objects on her desk. Her eyes kept straying to the clock on the microwave, checking and rechecking the time. It was almost a conceivable time for the car she had arranged to drop him off. She was all nervous energy and butterflies in her stomach. It had been so long since she had seen him face-to-face. This was the longest they had been apart since that first life altering kiss.
Play it cool, she told her heart sternly. You could see him again and want to slap him across the face. Or punch him in the gut. She was not certain that she had completely forgiven him. She wasn’t sure if seeing him again was going to remind her of all the hurt, all the pain or if she was really ready to move past it, figure out together what remained of their relationship. All she knew right now is that she was acting like a teenager waiting for her first serious crush to arrive at her mother’s door, shy smile and flowers in hand.
She finally decided that playing might her soothe her jangled nerves. She went through the reassuring ritual of opening the guitar tuning app on her iPad and methodically tuning her steel string guitar first one time, and then a second. Carefully turning the knobs until the notes rang true. She played a couple warm–up cords- G E minor C D- over and over again before starting to move her fingers through the riff on the new song she and Gavin were working on, wondering idly if she would like an A7 better than that A major in the opening. Her head quieted down a bit as she played, some of the physical tension eased. She was starting from the top again, trying that A7 variation when there was a knock on her door.
She sat up quickly, startled. Her heart began pounding out her chest again, her mouth suddenly dry. She was up like a shot, noticing that her hands were shaking just a bit when she carefully placed the guitar back in the stand. She padded to her door in her bare feet, repeating the mantra over and over in her head, “Play it cool, play it cool . . .”
She took a deep breath and opened the door. And there he was. In his old navy pea coat and red hair wild from the wind. Large duffel bag over his shoulder, guitar case on the floor next to him on the landing. They stood just staring at each other for a moment, drinking the other in. “Rae. . .” his voice was husky and full of longing and suddenly cool went flying out the window and Rae found herself bridging those last few feet between them. Jake managed to drop the duffel heavily to the floor before catching her in his arms.
They held each other in the tightest embrace she could remember, as though they were trying to fuse into a single being. She could feel trembling and didn’t know if it was her, if it was him or both of them. Just when she thought that they might remain like that for eternity, the embrace eased enough for them to seek out each other’s mouth, hungrily kissing each other. Drowning in each other. It took her a few moments to realize that they were both crying.
She gently and slowly kissed his tears, taking his saltiness into her. “You’re really here,” she finally said, still firmly in his embrace in her doorway, their foreheads touching, so close that she could feel his breath against her face. “I’m really here,” he echoed, holding her just a little bit tighter.
“I know we have a lot to talk about. . .” Jake started to say. They certainly did, but Rae found her finger touching his lips, shushing him.
“Yes, but not now. Not now. . .” She kissed his beautiful mouth again slowly, conveying with her kisses how much she had missed him, longed for him all these weeks.
“Are you sure. . .?” he asked, searching her face.
“Yes.” And she was. Right now there was nothing she wanted more than to feel his skin against hers, his body stretched out alongside hers.
They somehow managed to get his duffel and guitar over the threshold without ever completely letting go of each other. Rae even managed to close and lock her apartment door before she started to unbutton his shirt slowly, carefully, wanting to slow down this moment, savor it.
Their clothes left a lazy trail from the front door to her bed under the skylight. His coat was followed by her sweater, which mingled with his flannel shirt, her bra draped over the back of the couch, his sneakers and socks scattered, their jeans puddled together on the hardwood floors, his boxers and her panties dropped at the foot of the bed.
They took their time reacquainting themselves with each other’s bodies, tracing curves and muscles with eager palms, gentle lips, teasing tongues. They looked deeply in each other’s eyes, part passion, part naked vulnerability before he whispered that he loved her and they finally joined their bodies, falling into each other, remembering what it felt like to move together in this way. To welcome each other. To offer sanctuary.
Later, they lay side by side facing each other, the way they had the first time they had made love. Jake tenderly covered her with the sheet and the comforter, draping his leg over hers to keep her close, to warm her. She reached out to stroke his face with its new full ginger beard, still a little in awe of his presence here, in her bed, in her arms. She was struck anew by the blueness of his eyes looking into hers, open, vulnerable, watching her, wondering. She knew she held all his hopes, his future in her hand.
She looked at his beloved face for a long time before saying simply, “Welcome home,” and kissing his mouth again tenderly. It was enough for now.