Her fingers arc out, stretching. Trying to span the distance between who she's been and who she's becoming. To hold it within her hands, to feel the weight of this new world and know she will be able to bear it as her own. She closes her eyes, feeling the brush of cotton against her fingertips, imagining it skin on skin...
A tiny shudder. We both feel it. Excitement and revulsion. The ecstasy to come.
A ghost of a smile flutters across her lips - an unspoken promise, the tiny half-crescents that carve her cheeks translating the primal elements of language into the gentle, rhythmic pulses of galvanic response - and her shoulders press back, deep, against the welcoming slope of the bench. She works through the groups, one by one: neck, shoulders, upper and lower back. Abdomen. Quads and hamstrings, long and limber, tapering into calves that seize and clench, tight and strong, then flow loose — muscle memory vivid with years of long runs, how the miles slipped away with the steady course of blood and breath, impact and release. And her fingers, arcing, farther and ever farther, feeling their way across this undiscovered country, tracing the anatomy of hope and desire blindly, carefully, protectively.
It is an intimate braille; a mother tongue coded in protein chains and the silent barter of oxygen. A syntax of pheremones, there to be heard and understood by any who might listen. Who might learn it as their own, capturing nuances and inflections. Studying. Absorbing. Preparing for that moment of recognition: a native speaker?
A tiny shudder. I wonder if we both feel it. The anticipation of something wonderful drawing near.
She luxuriates in this thin shard of sunlight, the oblique angles of late October belying the warmth of a summer that lingers, reluctant to let go. She closes her eyes as her lungs fill, air tasting of pinesap and distant woodsmoke. Breasts swelling taut beneath thin white cotton. Saturating with warmth, and the knowledge of loving and being loved. Her fingers, stretching, arcing along with the lunar curve. And then she smiles - no ghost, this - and whispers, "A harvest moon" and the sugar maples tremble their leaves, a fluttering of wings in the warm autumn breeze, and the sky is a tumbling riot of reds and golds and in that moment ripeness is all and she cannot help but laugh and her voice
twisting along the dry edges of falling leaves, leaping upward from one to the next, spiraling and spinning and soaring, joy lighter than air, and
I shudder, chilled by the breeze and this deep shadow, secreted beyond the sun's reach. But I do not make a sound. I never make a sound.
A crow settles in a nearby tree, and cries once. It listens, carefully, for a reponse, and she honors it by doing the same. It is quiet, save the rustling of brittle leaves.
We wait. For now, we wait.