Mercedes M. Yardley

A Delicately Beautiful Haunting 

She reached out for his hand.  It was natural.  It was what they had always done. 
He wrapped his bony fingers around her soft ones. 
“Are you certain that you want to do this?” he asked her.  His voice was strained.  He wanted to blame it on his decaying larynx, but that wasn’t entirely it.  He cleared his throat, tried again.  The same tight, rough voice.  “You know that don’t have to.” 
She didn’t say anything for a long while, but stood perfectly still.  Her pink toes lined up neatly with the edge of the cliffs.  Water rushed and roared beneath her bare feet.   
“It’s beautiful,” she said. 
The wind tossed her hair around her face and pulled at her clothes.  It made a strange morose whistling through the holes in his cheeks.  For a brief moment, he was deeply ashamed of his appearance, of what he had become.  As if she knew what he was thinking, she tightened her grip on his hand.  
“I’m glad that you came back,” she said.  “You don’t know what it was like living without you.” 
Simple words simply said, but they touched what was left of his heart.  He would have cried if he had been able to. 
She looked at the sky.  “I thought that it would get better, that I would forget you eventually.  Isn’t that what they always say?” 
He looked at her.  Her eyes were sad, but nothing else had changed.  He spoke softly. 
“I don’t know if I want you to do this.  I don’t think you understand what you’re giving up.” 
She turned to him and smiled.  
“I just want to be with you.  It won’t work with you being on my side, so I’ll cross over to yours.”  She looked at the water and laughed.  “I think that I’m a little scared.” 
He took both of her hands and pulled her to him. 
“I’m with you.  Just look at me.  Think about something that will make you happy.  Remember when we first found your kitten? He was crying out in the rain, but the second he saw you, he ran straight toward you.” 
Her eyes lit up.  She remembered.  She remembered and it was time. 
He nodded his head slowly.  “Keep thinking about that.” 
He had planned to nudge her but she surprised him.  She took a deep breath and let herself fall. 
The sound of the wind and water blurred together.  He wrapped his arms tighter around her, protectively, as if he could somehow shield her delicate bones from the rocks and thrashing surf. 
He couldn’t, of course.  That was the whole point.  But he didn’t know if he could listen to her fragile body break against the stones, or failing that, watch her gasp for breath under the waves.  Would she cling to him?  Would she scream his name?  Would she push him away?  All of these thoughts came so quickly, but they had only been falling for two seconds, maybe three. 
“That song that you used to sing.  The moon song.  How do the lyrics go again?  After you died, I couldn’t remember them.” 
He was surprised but pleased.  “The wolf comes from the forest and howls at—“ 
When it happened, it happened in silence.  She made no sound, and his thoughts were swirling in the wolf-filled moon.