my stomach dropped like it does when you are a little child and fall backwards while holding onto the chains of a swing as you pump yourself high into the air in a pendulum.
i wasn’t even paying attention to my surroundings as i wandered with my dog along an old and familiar path. she was happily bounding from one side of the trail to the other, sniffing and trotting, heeling then running ahead of me so she could stop and look back over her shoulder with an open mouthed, panting doggie grin of joy.
the mid morning light was diffused through the grey fog and light misting rain; it had muffled forest noises and made crispy leaves soggy, along the path beside the meandering river. it was cool and i was warm, with a big wool sweater under my oversized raincoat with my hands buried deep in my pockets, shoulders hunched against my ears. the hood was up, my hair parted so it hung down on either side of my face and half way down my chest, silvered with minuscule water droplets.
i was watching another large droplet form, winding it’s way down a curling damp tendril, to fall into a rivulet down the slick surface of my jacket, over the swell of my breast before disappearing from view, when i heard his deep and familiar voice greet my dog.
gasping, i physically froze while every other sense went into instant awareness and tight suspense. eyes flying to his, i saw him bend a knee to ruffle her fur as she jumped around his calves, excited to see him and unable to hide her joy at greeting an old friend. i had a flash of jealousy. wishing for a moment that i could throw myself at him, like she did. jumping all over him as his hands pet and stoked me, trying to have him touch everywhere at one as i whimpered in exuberant happiness, raining kisses all over his face as he laughed and ruffled her back, cupping her face and smoothing the fur back over her head.
god he was beautiful. so beautiful it squeezed my heart when i looked at him. he had changed so much in the years which had passed since I’d seen him last and yet looked exactly the same. his beard was longer, he looked tired. was that a small scar on the far side of his temple? my heart was racing. my breathing suddenly catching and ragged. my mouth was dry, making me lick my lips. i could see his eyes crinkling at the corners, fine laugh lines becoming more dominant with his boyish crooked smile towards me, as i stood frozen, looking down at him, three feet in front of me.
he stood up, taking those last few steps between us. i watched as his eyes moved all over my face. he didn’t ask how i was. he reached for me. hands on either side of my face, fingers through my hair, meeting at the back of my head. his gaze had moved from my lips to my eyes. eyes that were quickly filling with tears. tears which were hopefully hiding the longing, the sorrow of our parting, for decisions made and not taken back, regret, promises, hopes, fear. i felt like my soul was vulnerable and exposed.
his smile slowly faded as his brows lowered; his countenance suddenly serious. our gaze locked and a million unsaid things passed between us. he looked as sad as i felt at that moment, just before he touched his lips to mine and my eyes closed, pressing the tears from my eyes to trail across both cheeks and which I felt him brush away with his thumbs. he kissed the corner of my mouth and then the salted trail of my tear, before pulling me firmly against his chest. one arm around my back, the other across my shoulders and pressing my head against his chest as my arms encircled his waist.
i took a deep and shuddering breath, inhaling the unique masculine scent of him, which he matched at the same time. we stood there in the misting rain, holding onto each other. it wasn’t until the dog shifted, off our feet, that we pulled apart. his hands came down my arms and he held my cold, wet hand in both of his. “i thought that was your car.”
apparently, this had not been the first time he had come to this trail which i had introduced him to. when he thought about us and longed for what was, he had made his way back over the years, sometimes alone and sometimes with his son. it made him feel close to the memory of when we were together. he had always looked for me. hoped he’d run into me one day as he turned a corner. and when he saw me that day, walking towards him in the rain, he was happy. he was sad. he was afraid. but most of all, he remembered how lonely he has been.
after all these years. both of us wandering along the same trail, thinking of the other, hoping that today would be the day and yet positive that it could not possibly happen. the worst thing about seeing him, was knowing that it’s all still there. every single desire, my incessant need to please him knowing he has the same. the ache was instant, intense and hit me hard. days later i can still feel the chance encounter; in the shaking arms, a sudden flutter, a deep sexual awakening that i believed gone, yet which had simply gone dormant.
as much as it was everything, it can never be anything, ever again.